The opening line to Gillard’s misogyny speech ‘I will not be lectured about sexism and misogyny by this man’ is delivered with righteous indignation and at once affirms her integrity and casts considerable doubt on the integrity of the leader of the Opposition. In 1995, Paul Keating, then Prime Minister, launched a vehement reply to a censure motion moved by John Howard, then Opposition leader with the line ‘I reject out of hand’ (Australia, House of Representatives Motions, 1995, pp. 385-387).
Gillard’s projected depth of feeling was as politically masterful and media astute as Keating’s.
The passion in her speech can be likened to others.
Speeches do not have to be forceful to explain policies or demonstrate character but a key characteristic of rhetoric is that public speakers cannot be ‘impartial’, they must take on a firm stance (Yack 2005). In 1999, Independent Tasmanian Senator Brian Harradine delivered his ‘I cannot’ speech in casting his vote against the introduction of the GST (Australia, The Senate, 1999, pp. 5515-5517). His speech was well-constructed with order of information, frankly disclosed all of his political reasoning in reaching his decision, and told the story which reflected his humanity, his belief in the country and his compassion for his family and future generations. In less than an hour, the country learned more about Brian Harradine as a Senator and as a person, than they had in his thirty year political career. United States President Barack Obama made his ‘I’m really proud’ speech to a group of campaign volunteers a day after he was re-elected (News Yahoo 2012). This speech was a semi-private moment between him and his volunteers that brought tears to his eyes. His emotion is convincing because he’s not performing for the public.
So why did her speech cause an international media storm?
Gillard’s misogyny speech was newsworthy because of its content, passion and the insight into her character.
She executes the speech with confidence and passion and she presents herself as a brave, assertive woman.The usage of the personal pronoun ‘I’ is highly effective as she is not only representing herself, and not just Australian women but women around the world. She creates a dialogue within the speech through the quoting of Abbott’s sexist comments then linking back these statements her own argument, “If it’s true, Stavros, that men have more power generally speaking than women, is that a bad thing?”. She then goes on to declare
“This is the man from whom we’re supposed to take lectures about sexism”.
Gillard appeals to a female audience and branches out her feelings of offence onto this audience ‘I am also very offended on behalf of the women of Australia’. Each time she repeats the words ‘I am offended’, ‘on behalf of women’ is omitted but implied.
This speech is important and must be remembered. In a time where political attacks with substance are so frequent, a precedence must be set.