Julie Bishop and co are looking like quite the 'nasty women'
Advertisement

Julie Bishop and co are looking like quite the 'nasty women'

You'd never pick it from her historical statements about not needing to call herself a feminist, but it turns out Julie Bishop and co might be quite the "nasty women".

Women in red: Kelly O'Dwyer and Julia Banks in parliament.

Women in red: Kelly O'Dwyer and Julia Banks in parliament.Credit:Alex Ellinghausen

This is the label then-presidential candidate Donald Trump slapped on rival Hillary Clinton to try to shut her down, which backfired spectacularly when it was grabbed and run with by American women's rights activists to re-energise the movement under the new banner Nasty Women.

Now, if you are all about equal opportunity and equal representation of women in the halls of power and influence, "nasty" is a compliment. It is a compliment the increasingly overt equality campaign among federal Liberal women is starting to justify.

Their colour of choice is fascinating.

In the US, the Nasty Women push has spawned a trendy choice of "I am a #NastyWoman and I Vote" T-shirts, hoodies, baseball hats and even baby rompers emblazoned with "My Mom is a Nasty Woman".

Advertisement

And, like Julie Bishop's now-famous "I'm a fighter, not a quitter" post-coup press conference statement heels, the colour of nasty is hot red.

Julie Bishop's now-famous red shoes.

Julie Bishop's now-famous red shoes.Credit:AAP

It is the same shade that came to symbolise the contemporary equality struggle after being globally embraced on International Women's Day in 2017, and the one seen at Handmaid's Tale-style women's rights protests across Trump's United States.

As American third wave feminism's pop cultural it-girl, Lena Dunham, noted last year, red has become so wedded to the modern women's movement, "the revolution will wear red lipstick".

It was also the shade women were urged to don for the Day Without Women international protest (also on International Women's Day 2017) to mark dissatisfaction with "economic inequality, prejudice and insecurity faced by women in the workplace".

Liberal MP Ann Sudmalis has announced she will not recontest the next election, blaming local party members.

Liberal MP Ann Sudmalis has announced she will not recontest the next election, blaming local party members.Credit:Alex Ellinghausen

Here across the Pacific, thanks in part to its unlikely patron, Julie Bishop, the red wave is breaking in the most unlikely place - on the blue benches of the Houses of Federal Parliament.

Though Bishop has long favoured a red shoe emoji, her choice of real life killer-red heels for her "I ain't going anywhere (despite the fact an extremely capable woman was passed over - again)" presser put red protest on the local map.

That it was then grabbed by a bunch of female Liberal MPs in Parliament to watch Ann Sudmalis' incendiary announcement she would not recontest her seat due to shocking intra-party bullying, was a promising sign. Maybe the great wall of sitting Liberal women's silence around the party's stark lack of females with power is starting to crumble - and fast.

When I interviewed Women's (and Jobs and Industrial Relations) Minister Kelly O'Dwyer on the eve of the shock ousting of Malcolm Turnbull in August, she noted that although some high-profile Liberal women have thrown themselves visibly into the fight for a fairer go for women, because of their political colours their action is not widely acknowledged.

Loading

It is certainly true in her case, given the scant credit O'Dwyer had been paid for efforts including raising $50,000 to start a fighting fund to support more Liberal women into winnable seats, and given her establishment of a cross-party Parliamentary Women's Network to help women support each other in a torrid, male dominated, workplace.

Fast forward a couple of weeks and O'Dwyer nailed her colours to the feminist mast (something she says she has "never shied away from") when she came out on the ABC's 7.30 program to damn the bullying treatment of women MPs by some supporters of Peter Dutton as the coup got dirty.

She said it was “clear to me that people were subject to threats and intimidation and bullying”, and named the Liberals' women problem: ''There’s no question that the Liberal Party can and should do better when it comes to getting more women into Parliament.

“And we need to do a lot better at keeping them there when we actually get them there.”

Possible Liberal House of Representatives MPs after the next election.

Possible Liberal House of Representatives MPs after the next election. Credit:Alex Ellinghausen

Bishop put aside the enigmatic symbols when she stepped out at the Australian Women's Weekly Women of the Future event a few days later, backing up O'Dwyer's comments with the strongest indictment yet by a sitting MP of her party's culture towards women.

I have seen and witnessed and experienced some appalling behaviour in Parliament, the kind of behaviour that 20 years ago, when I was managing partner of a law firm of 200 employees, I would never have accepted. But in Parliament, it's the norm.

“When a feisty, amazing woman like Julia Banks says this environment is not for me, don’t say ‘toughen up princess’, say ‘enough is enough’.”

Hot on the blood red heels of that, we have seen the red (jacket) alert being raised by the solidarity collective of five female Liberal MPs.

As a powerful swing against the Morrison government is tipped to have the potentially devastating (for the equality cause) effect of reducing the number of female Libs in the lower house to five, including just one from the most populous states of Victoria and NSW, no doubt plenty of quietly feminist, "conservative" women will be hoping Bishop and co can keep the red momentum going.

Wendy Tuohy is the editor of Daily Life.