Gender: doesn’t explain everything, nor does it explain nothing

Posted on Jul 26, 2013

When I heard that Kevin Rudd had succeeded in becoming the leader of the ALP, I realised that my confidence in Gillard succeeding was severely misjudged. The news was delivered to me at the start of a dinner with the chief national campaigner of a newly started political party (which I shall not name). He saw this change of leadership as an event that may help the party for which he worked achieve their own political goals. Somewhat unsurprisingly, he cheerfully explained that it may also help keep Abbott out of the top job.

Contrary to his optimistic take on the situation, I couldn’t help but feel a blow to the plight of women. The first woman Prime Minister was defeated by the opposite sex.  Would this hurt the chances of another woman becoming a major party leader?

I remember when Gillard got the job. I saw the coverage on a commercial television station, stood up from the couch when it was announced and felt a sense of pride, joy and nervousness when I realised I was witnessing a monumental moment in Australian history. A similar intensity of emotions occurred when I listened to Gillard’s farewell speech on ABC radio.

Gillard’s expressed her understanding that essentially ‘politics is politics’. Her party voted her out, and without bitterness, forwarded an understanding that it was a crucial move, if there would be any success for the ALP at the next federal election.

The line that really got me, was Gillard addressing the ‘gender’ issue. In my previous blog, I mention my admiration, and the lack of media coverage of what became known as Gillard’s ‘misogyny speech’.

In a similar rational tone, she stated:

The reaction to being the first female Prime Minister does not explain everything about my prime ministership, nor does it explain nothing about my prime ministership.

She is neither quick to blame, or quick to defend. She is appealing to the audiences’ logic and disengages on an emotional level. Gillard sarcastically stated:

Me playing the so-called gender card because heavens knows no-one noticed I was a woman until I raised it

What it has taught me is that while we might like to think we are ‘impartial’ to gender, ethnic, age bias, sometimes it’s impossible to escape those. I know that I warmed to Gillard because she was the first female prime minister despite disagreeing with several of her policies but then again I don’t warm up to every woman politician. My own gender – just like Gillard concisely put, doesn’t explain everything nor does it explain nothing.

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