Hiya, sisterhood, how's it hanging? Long, loose and lots of juice?
OK, maybe not. That's not, usually, how women talk to each other.
We talk about our quotidian lives. We talk about politics. And for three years and three days, we talked about having a woman prime minister. That was a relief to me. Not because I want to be a politician, but because I want to be whatever I can be. Sadly, the options are running out at my age, I tell you. I want that for my daughters and for my son too; and for the young women and for the young men I teach.
I want as much disruption as possible to the status quo. It doesn't do women any favours and it doesn't do men any favours either. The status quo drops us into a culture of violence and oppression and stereotyping; and that's where we are trapped. All trapped.
The stereotyping. That's a bafflement, really. When do our ideas of what we are catch up with who we really are? Why does the reality take so long to penetrate our consciousness?
For three years I read that Julia Gillard, 51, was not representative of Australians. Female, single, barren, atheist, cold, wooden, unable to relate. Yesterday, for the first time in three years, I decided to look at those criticisms of Gillard to see if it was true that she was unrepresentative.
Female? There are over 200,000 more women than men in Australia. She's 51 and there are more 51-year-olds still alive than 55-year-olds, although Kevin looks to be in perfect health. The ''average'' Australian is a woman (she's also married with two kids, according to the ABS).
Single? In Australia, there are more people who are in de facto relationships or who have never been married than are in registered marriages. It's line-ball - but the registered marrieds only make up 49.2 per cent of the population over 15. We married folks are in the minority. I like my minority but I don't need everyone to be in it to prove it works for me.
Barren? Here's a tricky one. When representatives of the Australian Bureau of Statistics make their regular censual incursions into our lives, they don't ask men if they've ever had children. Which is weird. Since it usually takes one to make one. They do ask women, though.
Do you think being childless is rare? Julia Gillard is one of 2.7 million Australian women over 15 who don't have kids, just under one-third of the female population (check out table B24 of the ABS's Basic Community Profiles based on the 2011 census). And if Kevin Rudd was a woman with three children, he would be one of 1.385 million women with three kids. So, team no kids beats team three kids (I know you will all be saying that all women with children are on the same team. You could not be more wrong. Motherhood is not some stupidly homogeneous state).
And what of religion? The winning team is Catholicism - at least in Australia. The next? Atheists; and Julia Gillard was the ranking atheist in this country until last week. Kevin Rudd's Anglicans are a distant third. (Plus, don't know about you, but I still nominate team Judaism on my census form even though I only go for funerals. It's a cultural thing). Can't there be a bit on the form which asks for Cultural Judaism. Or Collapsed Catholic?
Cold, wooden, unable to relate.
There are, sadly, no statistics available for women (or men) who are cold, wooden or unable to relate. There are, however, plenty of testimonials from those who worked with the former prime minister who found she was none of those adjectives. Businesslike. I think that's what they call it when men do it.
No one has ever called me cold. But women attract a lot of adjectival hatred based on what society thinks we should be. And that is compliant. Warm. Maternal. Peacemaking. Peaceable. Attractive. Happy to be picked. Happy to take turns. Collegial. Family-minded.
By my own judgment, I'm a couple of those adjectives but not the others. And it's only because I'm old that I can laugh at the shit that rains on my head compared to the way men are treated when they are cold, wooden and/or unable to relate. When we are angry, when we are ambitious. Men are allowed to be grasping. Women are only allowed to be grasped. Sometimes class and privilege give us a hand; but often not. Gender is still used to undermine women on a daily basis.
Take a clock with you next time you go to a meeting and time how long the men speak compared with the women. You will find it very instructive (and then google thatsmyphilosophy and Catherine Deveny to find empirical evidence of male speakerdom).
None of this is to say we shouldn't criticise politicians. I am the first to say that none of them has a single clue about refugees. Or single-parent benefits. Or the way to sell a carbon price. Or, for God's sake, how to sell the motherhood statement of equitable education.
But what happened to Julia Gillard was not about her effectiveness as a politician. It's because ''we'' didn't like her. We made her an oddball. Cold, hard, wooden. Why did we allow that? Why were her personal choices demonised when they are the personal choices so many of us make? Why do we still yearn for a time when the Kevin Rudd model prevailed?
Look in the mirror. You'll see Julia Gillard more often than you will see Kevin Rudd. She is much more like us than we realised, much more like us than we allowed. PS. Feel free to pick apart my statistical analysis. I had long talks with people at the ABS. I can only blame myself if there are mistakes.