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Shafting Kevin – not such a great day for feminists

The ascendancy of Julia Gillard to the office of PM has feminists going gaga.

‘OMG! A female PM’, has been the uncritical response I’ve been hearing of Julia Gillard’s slaying of Kevin Rudd from feminists everywhere.

We’ve all heard reports of women rushing to screens to watch Julia’s first speech, feminist workplaces ringing with tears and cheers, and inboxes running hot with images of Julia emblazoned with the words: ‘Yes she can.’ And yes, she did.

At last, a woman in the top job. But although I hate to be a party-pooper, is this popping of champagne corks a little too early? Do we really want to celebrate a woman who has behaved in a way feminists have been complaining about for a century or more, or are we just as happy to say ‘game on’ and play dirty with the big boys?

If feminists hope for less aggression and chauvinism, not to mention fair play from women who smash through the glass ceiling, then Julia has failed on all counts. The execution of Kevin Rudd by hit-men in the night exposes the ugly pursuit of power at whatever cost. No matter the circumstances, no matter the polls or any other justification presented, Julia decided to fly with the birds of prey.

Sadly it seems that Julia will go down in history for all the wrong reasons. She has betrayed feminists and the Australian people in a quest for power that sees her sleeping with the enemy from the ALP Right, and now it seems she’s about to get into bed with the mining industry. Hardly an auspicious or encouraging start.

Much is being made of Julia’s commitment to the feminist cause yet the only cause she appears committed to is her own. Our new PM has been party to all the policies that have alienated the Australian public and already she’s ramping up the tough talk on refugees, many of whom are women and children. Her support of Israel suggests little sympathy for the plight of Palestinians, including Palestinian women whose children have died in alarming numbers. She’s been silent on welfare benefits that force people, a great proportion of them single mothers, to live below the poverty line, and loud on rhetoric about gutting Work Choices, yet the ALP keeps in place much of what Howard and Abbott held dear.

And don’t let the Kath and Kim accent and Altona address fool you into thinking Julia is in touch with the daily lives and struggles of working women. Yes, we now have paid parental leave but it hardly goes the distance when compared to what’s on offer in other OECD countries, and while Julia has said she supports equal pay for women, there’s been no push on her behalf beyond lapping up the publicity and kisses in a recent campaign, to make equal pay a reality.

Women are still over-represented in casualised, poorly paid jobs and there’s been no repeal of misogynist legislation that requires pregnant women to keep looking for employment up until 6 weeks prior to the baby’s birth if they want to continue to receive benefits. Another policy to which Julia has lent her support is the proposed roll-out of the Northern Territory income management to the rest of Australia – a policy that will have an enormous and deleterious impact on already marginalised women.

It is deeply disappointing that a number of women who rise to the top of politics, most famous among them Margaret Thatcher, appear to do so not just because they’re the smartest person in the room but because they are as ruthless and as hungry for power as a Bob Hawke or a John Howard. In Julia’s case, more ruthless than anyone could have imagined.

Kevin Rudd, whatever we thought of him, was voted in by the people and he had the right to govern. Indeed, the Australian people should have had the right to vote him out, too.

An Australian woman has become PM, but it seems a crying shame that overshadowing what would otherwise be an extraordinary achievement are the circumstances which made her rise possible, and the precedent she and her cronies have set for future prime ministers, including Julia herself.
Surely there’s much more to being a feminist than gender, and much more we should expect Australia’s first female prime minister to bring to the office than just biological difference.

Perhaps in the run up to the next election, feminists should calm down and examine the policies of the new PM and the government she now leads, and ask if we want women in power to mimic patriarchy – or challenge it.

Overland is a not-for-profit magazine with a proud history of supporting writers, and publishing ideas and voices often excluded from other places.

If you like this piece, or support Overland’s work in general, please subscribe or donate.

Trish Bolton’s novel, Stuck, was the recipient of a 2018 Varuna PIP Fellowship and a 2015 Varuna Residential Fellowship. In 2017, Stuck was longlisted for the Mslexia Women’s Novel Competition (UK) and Flash 500 Novel Competition (UK), and in 2016, was the joint-winner of the Fellowship of Australian Writers (FAW) Unpublished Manuscript Award.

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  1. Pingback: Tweets that mention Shafting Kevin – not such a great day for feminists « Overland literary journal -- Topsy.com

  2. As one of those ‘feminists’ who went ‘gaga’ I object, as I suppose is intended, to the characterization of my responses to Julia Guillard’s ascendancy. I don’t have a naieve, uncritical response to Guillard or her policies. In fact, I don’t plan to vote for her. But do I think it’s a big moment that we have a woman leader for the first time in colonial history? Yes, I do. Do I think it is important for younger women to think it’s possible to aspire to political position? Yes I do. I admit though, that I do like it when a woman, aggressively as it happens, says ‘Game on’.

    I don’t take issue with your wider points -but just don’t assume that all the women out there who felt it was an important moment are fools. And don’t tell me to ‘calm down’,

  3. Hi Trish, I agree with what you are saying regarding Gillard’s policies, she is after all, part of the Labour party, the same party that Rudd was leading, and I am definitely NOT voting for her. But I agree with Sophie on this, we do have to celebrate that a woman got to the top job. Yes, she played dirty, but she got there, and there will be little girls sitting at home watching her on TV thinking, I can do that too. It is a gender thing. It’s a great day for feminists. GIRL POWER!

    • I really see where you’re coming from Koraly and agree to a large extent but I wish Gillard’s lesson to young women had been that you can get to the top without having to play quite this dirty.

  4. Sophie, thanks for making these points. When I first heard Julia Gillard was PM my first feeling was one of elation for all the reasons you mention but the more I read about it and thought about it the more sorry I was that Australia’s first female PM had taken power this way. I was also concerned that the new PM will inevitably owe a debt of gratitude to men whose politics have taken the ALP to the right. I don’t want to see someone in office, whatever their gender, who supports detention centres and talks tough on refugees nor who claims to be of the left but puts in place policies that would do the right proud. I don’t for a moment consider women who take hope in Gillard’s appointment as naieve or foolish, just that she be judged on her policies. However, when I look back at those policies I don’t have much hope that she will be much different to the man she deposed.

  5. So what are women supposed to do? wait until the world changes before they take power??

    Do you think that one morning the power brokers were going to wake up and give away power nicely?

    Of course she played dirty politics, there is no way she would have got to the top of the Labor party playing nicely. To get there she would have to have been ruthless, very tough, and very capable.

    Being an idealists does not mean closing your eyes hard and pretend the world is other than it is. By all means judge her by her policies and by how successful she is changing the world, but to attack her for being a ruthless politician is completely unfair, if she was not ruthless (amongst many other things) she would never have become the first female Australian PM.

  6. Trish, I think you make some very good points. Actually, all the points I would have made if I was going to reflect on the ascendency of Julia. Except much better written!

  7. Of course I’m not saying that women should sit back and wait but that Gillard could have waited until after the next election.

    • Gillard could not wait. The system for choosing Prime Minister’s in Australia is a caucus election, and you have to make your run when the caucus is ready to act. No matter what the media or outsiders say, the caucus geared up to act now. Gillard had to fit in with that momentum.
      You get power by being good at playing the game by the rules of the moment – not by using some other set of rules for a different game.

      Any female prime minister is a win for feminism. Whether PM Gillard’s politics will be feminist, or feminist enough, is a different question. But it does not take away from the importance of a woman finally securing that post.

  8. I don’t expect a lot of Overland in terms of intelligent gender politics, but this is kind of remarkable. Trish, when you use hyperbole like ‘The execution of Kevin Rudd by hit-men in the night’ (and refer to Gillard as ‘Julia’ in the same sentence, incidentally) what you think took place. Serious question. Do you think he was actually murdered? Because this is what happens when leadership is decided by voting.

    As Yair has already said, polite deference and feminine reticence was never going to help male politicians hand the top job to a woman, and I’m delighted that Gillard is confident and cool enough to take it when it was offered to her without a gram of false modesty.

    Reading your post charitably I think you’re right to say there needs to be a bit of reflection on whether joining institutions is the best way to bring gender equality to society. But I have discussed the new Prime Minister with nearly every woman I know, including a whole lot of bright-eyed young undergrads, and not one of those conversations which went on for more than a few minutes didn’t feature just that note of ambivalence. That’s where your post is actually pretty insulting, in implying that celebrating women haven’t already weighed the issues up and made their call mindfully.

      • Tara, thanks. It’s a question I should have asked, too. I can say or comment much more freely on the Overland blog than I can anywhere else in the media. In fact, one of my first pieces on the blog was about feminism – I would never have had it published elsewhere. And to Laura, surely I can be critical of feminists without seen to be insulting of them. I

        • Trish if you would like to be seen to be being critical of ‘feminists’ (and it’s you who have lumped some otherwise unspecified group of people together in this category, not me) without insulting women, then you need to reconsider language like ‘gaga’ (a slur on mental illness) and perhaps not tell people whose views you don’t happen to agree with that they ought to calm down.

          • Gaga – thinking Lady Gaga not mental illness – hook to open piece; calm down – be more measured.

    • I was wondering the same thing.

      Look, while I can see that Gillard’s ascendancy might be a win for certain feminists (Anne Sommers, Lesli Cannold, Germaine Greer, you, Lucy), it is not a win for anyone interested in human rights.

      How do Gillard’s policies affect feminists and women and Australians alike? Because surely they are the questions we should be asking. What the fuck does her gender have to do with her politics or policies?

      We should celebrate because now a woman’s capable of the same xenophobic rhetoric of a man?

      What does having a female PM change for working women? Same-sex couples? Indigenous Australians? Palestinians?

      I have some ideas.

      I’m going to go further than Trish and say: there is nothing to celebrate about her assuming leadership – for feminists, or anyone else.

      And I find your argument crass, sexist essentialism. Gender equality is supposed to be about eliminating discrimination, not furthering it.

    • Laura, to answer your question as to whether I think Kevin Rudd was actually murdered, then the answer is of course no. But murdered that night was a long-held democratic tradition: that Prime Ministers not be deposed by other than the people. I did not vote for Kevin Rudd, I despised his policies, his leadership and his spin. But I believe in the right of the people who elected him to vote him out, not a bunch of self-interested (male) nasties who (even if by default), your argument supports, will lead Australia to a place where it won’t matter who’s in power – Gillard or Abbott. And there are more important things in office than gender, especially the busting-through-the-glass-ceiling-feminism which while important, does little to address the needs of CALD women, Indigenous women, single mothers, women who are victims of violence, women living in the newly far flung outer burbs, women changing the towels and vacumning the carpets in the hotels feminists populate when attending conferences – mea culpa. Again, to the insult of my post to feminists, surely we are more than “four legs good, two legs bad.”

      • The people who removed Rudd were our elected representatives in the Parliament, Trish.

        I think that by doing so they’ve given the many capable people who came into the parliament and government at the last election (yes, those ‘self-interested (male) nasties’ in your sophisticated analysis) a fighting chance of actually governing and debating policy in the way that ALP is supposed to work rather than via the autocratic, inefficient, top-down governing Rudd had instituted.

        I expect that by opening up, and properly managing, the actual business of governing to the participation of more MPs, even if only through the mechanism of a re-functioning caucus, the Gillard government will produce better outcomes for women. Maybe I’m overly optimistic, but I’m certain that giving it a try was the absolutely correct thing to do. Because the bottom line is, however much Gillard is inevitably going to disappoint and fail us, she will never, ever be as disastrous a leader for Australia as Tony Abbott would be, and avoiding that eventuality is what matters most of all to me.

        • This is the classic ‘rock and hard place’ bind of the two-party capitalo-parliamentarian system; in which elections act as a pressure valve that allow people to let off steam, but ensures the perpetuation of the neoliberal order. The Liberal bogeyman herds decent people into the ALP tent as the lesser of two evils.

  9. Laura, I would just ask this: would all women, for that is what your post suggests, support this action had it been a male who deposed Kevin in this way?

  10. When you answer my question I might consider answering yours, Trish, although while you’re at it you can help me out by showing me how my comment implies anything at all about all women and what they’d do if a man had succeeded Rudd as PM.

    • Well, perhaps you could answer Tara and Jacinda.
      In fact, I’d be interested in knowing what you were implying with the snark about Overland, given that the print journal’s published more women (and men) writing on gender politics than any comparable publication.
      If the gibe’s directed at the blog, it’s equally bizarre, given the calibre of women regularly contributing here.
      As to the substance of the argument, well, yes, symbolism has its place.
      But even the symbolism is ambivalent in this instance: Gillard’s rise might suggest that anyone can make it to the top but that’s not exactly the same as a symbolism that relates to fighting oppression.
      In any case, if we think that there’s structural impediments to women’s equality in contemporary society, surely we have to ask what Gillard’s actually proposing to overcome them. What’s her position on key demands like abortion rights, equal pay, etc?
      In her statements so far, she’s made it clear her priorities: 1) taking a harder stance against refugees, 2) softening the government’s stance toward mining corporations.
      It’s not just that this represents a right-wing government moving even further to the right. In both cases, women will suffer disproportionately. The difficulties faced by female asylum seekers are well documented; if the government cannot collect revenue from rapacious mining billionares, there will be less resources for the kind of social redistribution that benefits ordinary women, not just future PMs.
      Maybe that’s fine with you. Whatev. But it’s a bit rich to get all snippy cos people on a leftwing blog aren’t exactly in the tank for a revival of the Pacific Solution and more tax breaks for resource pirates.

  11. Jeff, I’m not going to renew my sub to Overland. If you really want to know why, you can email me and I’ll try to explain.

    Meanwhile, reread Trish’s post and see if you can pick the bits that are desperately insulting and condescending to women who think the appearance of Australia’s first woman prime minister isn’t a calamity of the highest order, especially since she’s got a chance of keeping Tony Abbott out of office.

    • I’m sorry that you are not going to resubscribe. But, as for being condescending to women, well, dismissing all the women connected to OL with a line of snark that you’re then not even willing to publicly defend (even when two women ask you about it), is that not just a tad condescending?
      I’m not willing to speak for Trish. But I’ve tried to explain, both in this thread and elsewhere, why I think the Gillard ascendancy is a disaster — and I’ve never suggested that’s got anything to do with her gender.

      • I don’t want to go into it publicly because it has to do with matters that I’m not at liberty to discuss publicly as well as relatively straightforward conclusions I’ve reached after reading various things. Maybe I shouldn’t have led off with that remark. Put it down to me being very, very angry at Trish’s post. There are so many ways to dissent and to say, hey, let’s look at this thing from all sides, which don’t involve simply calling people mad and overwrought.

        • Please do comment publicly Laura, to make your comment transparent – perhaps then I may address what you imply. What various things have you read? Perhaps you could actually have read my post as asking that we do look at things from all sides. The allegation that I called people mad and overwrought is the worst possible reading of my post.
          Over-enthusiastic maybe, but mad – please do not put words in my mouth.

        • If I got angry every time someone called my perspective mad, I’d be angry all the time!

          One of the refreshing things about the Overland blog is the fact that it does get a bit passionate and angsty and folks put arguments forth in a format that insights debate (and I should know!).

  12. Would also like to point out that feminism is one of the broadest political movements. I certainly wouldn’t want to be lumped into the same category as Condoleeza Rice, Hilary Clinton or Julia Gillard.

  13. “it is not a win for anyone interested in human rights.”

    Anyone interested in human rights knows should know enough about international affairs and history to be aware that using words and phrases like ‘slaying’, ‘execution’ and ‘power at whatever cost’ in reference to last week’s events in Canberra is actually kind of obscene.

  14. This article is so badly thought out and reasoned. To begin with it says “Kevin Rudd, whatever we thought of him, was voted in by the people and he had the right to govern. Indeed, the Australian people should have had the right to vote him out, too.” Kevin Rudd was not voted in by the people of Australia. He was voted in by the people of Griffith. His party elected him PM. The party has now elected Julia Gillard PM in exactly the same way. This is the way things have happened since year dot. Kim Beazley was elected by the residents of his seat, and appointed as PM by the members of the party only to have Rudd oust him in a particularly nasty way (on the same day his brother died). That is how Rudd became PM. ‘The people’ didn’t put him there. This is how it’s done in politics. Australia does not have a presidential system. Gillard has been PM for a week and we are yet to see how she will approach it. She has limited room to move as she is in more or less a caretaker position. The people did not elected the labor party for whatever new and previously unannounced policy ideas she may have. She simply cannot make sweeping changes without a mandate. It’s just the way it is.

    The article seems also to suggest that Gillard is responsible for Rudd’s/labor’s failings (ie retaining the ABCC). She is not. She is part of a government that decided on that and other courses dubious of action. The article also seems to suggest that cleaning up the labor party rests with its women members like Julia Gillard, and not with the male members. This is ridiculous. The article says things like “Our new PM has been party to all the policies that have alienated the Australian public” and “while Julia has said she supports equal pay for women, there’s been no push on her behalf beyond lapping up the publicity and kisses in a recent campaign, to make equal pay a reality”. This is outrageous. All members of the ALP were parties to their policies. Does that mean none of them can be PM? If not, then why does Gillard get this special treatment? Because she is a woman? How feminist of you. And as far as a ‘push’ on her behalf for equal pay for women, she is the Minister for EDUCATION! It is not her position to make such ‘pushes’. After the next election, if she is still PM, then she can discuss all these and other issues.

    The article says “Women are still over-represented in casualised, poorly paid jobs and there’s been no repeal of misogynist legislation that requires pregnant women to keep looking for employment up until 6 weeks prior to the baby’s birth if they want to continue to receive benefits” – what does this have to do personally Julia Gillard more than any other member of the ALP? All you are suggesting is that because the ALP has been so weak and so wrong in so many ways, and because Gillard is a female member of the ALP, she must not be allowed to lead the party.

    The article also says “It is deeply disappointing that a number of women who rise to the top of politics, most famous among them Margaret Thatcher, appear to do so not just because they’re the smartest person in the room but because they are as ruthless and as hungry for power as a Bob Hawke or a John Howard. In Julia’s case, more ruthless than anyone could have imagined.” Why is this same criticism not levelled at men? Are they simply allowed to because they are men? Are women, by virtue of the fact they are women required to behave with higher (though completely unarticulated and subject to change) morals? This is not a feminist thesis. This article made me really annoyed. The author should probably go back to women’s studies, and also study the Australian political system a little bit before writing such garbage.

    • I do not argue a feminist thesis. Nor do I argue that a woman has to be something more than the man she replaced. I want to ask however, based on what we know about what Gillard has said and not said, what we are celebrating. Are we celebrating a woman ascending to the position of PM or are we celebrating someone in that position who will make the lives of ‘ordinary’ women different, or who indeed has shown they care enough about the lives of the most marginalised and of those who cannot speak for themselves. I am arguing in this instance, that there are some issues in which Gillard has been found sorrowfully wanting, that transcend gender.

      • If you are not writing a feminist thesis, why did you call this piece ‘Shafting Kevin – not such a great day for feminists’? You are not being very honest here, Trish. Obviously you are attempting to draw (albeit extremely tenuous at best) conclusions that somehow relate back to feminism. You even say “Do we really want to celebrate a woman who has behaved in a way feminists have been complaining about for a century or more or are we just as happy to say ‘game on’ and play dirty with the big boys?” and “If feminists hope for less aggression and chauvinism, not to mention fair play from women who smash through the glass ceiling, then Julia has failed on all counts” and “She has betrayed feminists and the Australian people” etc etc.

        I find it difficult to see how this article is anything other than a fairly dodgy comment on feminism – you cannot just conveniently back away from that now.

        Your colourful language is also disappointing. I hope that you levelled the assassin comments at Rudd when he took down Beazley, and when Hawke was dumped as PM. Oh wait. They’re men so they are treated differently.

        The comment that “murdered that night was a long-held democratic tradition: that Prime Ministers not be deposed by other than the people” is particularly colourful and ridiculous. Apart from what is clearly a total lack of understanding of our political system and history (‘the people’ do not elect party leaders, the party does, and this is not the first time a PM has been ousted by his own party), I am gobsmacked at your blatant use of dishonest rhetoric to put forward a point that isn’t even clear. Are you serious about your writing or not?

        Thanks Laura for your fantastic comments.

  15. I am definitely overjoyed to have a female prime minister – to show that is possible. It’s historic and long overdue.

    I dispute the suggestion that Gillard has betrayed feminists, because she hasn’t promise us anything in the first place. Why should she bring to the job more than biological difference? I have no illusions that Gillard is going to be a perfect PM and I agree with many of the comments criticising some of her policies. As Kevin Rudd showed, a career in the top level of party politics opens one to compromise – there was plenty to be disillusioned about at the end of the Rudd govt. So I don’t feel betrayed, just a cynic a little more confirmed.

      • Must I list the reasons? A lot of them have already been said – lack of honest and transparent reasoning (feminism 101), criteria unevenly applied, random conclusions drawn based on nothing….

        • I haven’t studied gender politics or even feminism 101. I don’t pretend to have an expertise or to be an intellectual in this or any other area. I wrote from my own perspective about issues that matter to me. I had thought there would be disagreement but imagined a number of feminists were troubled by the same issues or wanted to think them through and so brought them up for discussion. However, a couple of things: I’m not sure what honest and transparent reasoning is. And finally, I had thought there were many feminisms, not one, but thought they were united by one aim and that is to work toward all women achieving equality.

          • If the issues matter to you now with Gillard coming to power, then they should have mattered equally to you when Rudd came to power. There is no difference. Rudd sat by while his party went ‘me too me too!’ regarding appalling asylum seeker policy etc, and then he ousted Beazley, but for some reason none of this applied to him then. If Gillard coming to power was a bad day for feminists then so was Rudd coming to power. Also, if you’re going to make such bold claims on such an important issue, then you probably do need to have some expertise and knowledge in the area. As a feminist I take issue with your lack of basic reasoning. I don’t dispute that at a basic level feminism(s) is about achieving equality. Unfortunately this article doesn’t relate in the slightest to that premise. It also misses the point that women and men are equally responsible for furthering the cause of equality.

  16. Nic, please do not be overjoyed. Consider instead, the female PM’s statements and promises, or lack thereof, on policy that will make a difference or not, to women’s lives.

    • And perhaps do the same for every other leader too, as a conscientious voter. The need to think about these issues has not just arisen now. I hope (though I sincerely doubt) that Rudd’s ‘statements and promises, or lack thereof, on policy that will make a difference or no, to women’s lives’ were equally scrutinised. Perhaps as a man his responsibilities were fewer.

    • Karen, why do you assume these issues did not matter to me when Rudd came to power or when Beazley was leader of the opposition? For this post I was writing about the issue of the day. Why do you presume that because I do not support the way Gillard rose to power that I support men in whatever way they have acted. You couldn’t be more wrong. And yes, men and women are equally responsible for women achieving equality. Yet, history shows us this is not the case. It seems rather elitist to say that because I do not have expertise that I am excluded from having an opinion. I may be wrong but my understanding of feminism, as opposed to patriarchy, is that it is inclusive of all perspectives – especially those of women.

      • I think I have missed the issue of the day. It’s not clear in any case from your article. Is your thesis that Gillard’s position as leader of the labor party is a dark day for feminists? If so, why? Because she took power in a particularly treacherous way? If that is the basis of your argument, you need to explain how it was any more treacherous than any other leadership change, and why other leadership changes were not also dark days for feminists. You should also outline the options available to a party that was moving scarily closer to losing the election to the mad monk if they continued with Rudd as leader. You also need to think about the natural conclusion to your assertions. By your reasoning, none of the labor party is worthy of leading the party, not just Gillard. They have all been silent at best on the Palestinian/Israeli conflict etc…(and what that has to do with feminism I will never know).

        Or is your thesis that it is because Rudd was PM rather than leader of the opposition, and therefore his position as leader was sacred no matter what damage it was doing to the party? You said it’s a long held democratic right that only ‘the people’ can depose a prime minister. This is patently not the case. You have fundamentally misunderstood our entire political system at the same time as conflating unrelated issues (that are not specific to Gillard, but to all members of the labor party) into supposedly feminist arguments.

        If you don’t agree with the methods of the party for dealing with leadership, that is fine. But don’t suggest that it is the fault entirely of Gillard, or attempt to magic up a link between that and some vague ideas about ‘feminism’.

        • Karen

          I interpret the ‘not such a great day for feminists’ as referring to the exultation surrounding Gillard’s ascendancy – as if a woman in this position was going to lead to a new political landscape – rather than how Gillard took power.

          I also take issue with your simplistic and limited definition of feminism.

          There are many types of feminism – radical feminism, socialist feminism and liberal feminism, for a start. They have fundamental political differences and objectives. I can see how for liberal feminists, as Sophia mentioned, this was a day to celebrate.

          Regards
          Jacinda

  17. “But murdered that night was a long-held democratic tradition: that Prime Ministers not be deposed by other than the people.”

    I am sure Withlam and Hawke would have been happy to hear about that tradition.

    I agree that the fact that some power brokers can change PM overnight is a problem in our system, but I cannot see How Gillard can be blame for it personally.

    Would you agree that if Gillard was convinced that Rudd was about to lose the elections and Abbott was about to become PM than it was her responsibility to act whether she liked it or not?

    Also can you please explain how Gillard support for Israel is in any way relevant to her credentials as a Feminist or to the rest of your article?

    Thanks.

    • Yair, you appear to be unfamiiar with the plight of Palestinians, and Palestinian women in particular.

      • Jacinda, I would be very grateful if you could explain how you got that impression from what I wrote.

  18. You seem to cast women in the age-old role of being seen and not heard. What, someone – whether male or female or feminist – should sit idly by and not act to make change when they have the power to do so? Like Laura and others, and as a feminist, I am deeply offended by this shallow, (anti-)populist post. We do not directly vote for the PM in Australia, and the structures that exist are patriarchal and highly problematic. BUT the “opposition” in this two-party system, this thin veneer of democracy, is a Catholic misogynist – what are you recommending or suggesting? Because some constructed “due process” of what you say is The Feminist Way has not been followed, we should let someone who is OBVIOUSLY not a feminist take control (and that could very well have been the scenario had Labor not decided to move).

    Anyway, to borrow from Thatcher, who you mention: who are these “feminists who have complained… for a century or more” about not following due feminist process against a patriarchal, white, male, corporate elite? (This is perhaps beside the point.)

    Gillard has not claimed a victory for feminism, nor do I expect she will; however, it must be more positive having a person in The Lodge who is a woman, than a man who is still bolstered by too many patriarchal constructs and structures to mention. It is for me. And she ain’t no Maggie Thatcher either.

  19. Gillard has indeed not claimed a victory for feminism nor will she nor has she the right to. And look closely, she is only where she is (I am referring to the last few days) by virtue of patriarchal constructs and structures.

    • very good Trish, but for argument’s sake, should a feminist not use those very structures to make change if they can?

  20. I do love the word “unfeminist”. Almost as much I love the word “unaustralian”. I might make a dictionary of “unwords”. An “undictionary”, if you will.

    There are parts of the article that are a little dramatic, “execution of Kevin Rudd by hit-men in the night” is one of those. But then it’s a pretty dramatic turn of events.

    I think the visceral effect of having the first female PM will have on women is not to be discounted – despite being brought in by the Labour right. Though on an intellectual level Gillard’s sudden ascendency is not as meaningful for women as having a female PM voted in, or having a PM of either sex elected for their feminist policies.

    My favourite part of this situation is how it’s shaken everybody up. Folks who hated Rudd last week now feel terrible for him. Discussions like this where people are very very far away from any kind of consensus on the matter are happening everywhere. And poor old Abbott and his trademark sexism rearing its ugly little head for us to watch him fumble around awkwardly trying to cover it back up again.

  21. Yes I feel lots of danger signals about the ALP Right putting Gillard there, the fact that it was a stoush with corporate interests that had a role in causing Rudd to lose support, along with the noises she has since made regarding refugees, climate change (backburner until a consensus is reached), gay marriage etc. Suddenness of events of last week felt like a “coup” and swift movement rightwards.

    But in a strange way the the blog post in its talk of disappointment and betrayal appears itself to have illusions in Julia Gillard, illusions in Labor, the parliamentary system etc. Is Gillard really to be criticised for her aggression? Gillard has come up through Labor ranks from student politics days, worked in the machinery, stood for parliament, ascended to power. What’s the likelihood that she is not going to play the game along with everyone else? Why wouldn’t she now play the political game? Because of her gender?

    As Sophie said at least some of those who took a moment to celebrate a first woman PM did so without illusions. I would imagine this was similar somehow with the election of Barak Obama and those delighted to see an African American assume presidency. Would you deny African Americans that moment of celebration? I’m not imagining for a minute that those people I know personally who celebrated this — smart and savvy as they are — are going to become uncritical of the ALP around issues of refugees, climate change, corporate interest, gay marriage and so on. And if that’s the case, hard to see what point the blog post is making other than a kind of blindingly obvious thing about JG not being here to institute a society based of socialist and feminist principles.

  22. Yes, like this word, too. An ‘undictionary’ – it will sell like hotcakes or is that hot-cakes? I plead guilty to a little drama or hyperbole – it can create interest. Though be careful what you wish for

  23. This article has really upset a lot of people and I think some of you are missing the point. Julia Gillard has replaced Kevin Rudd because the Labour Party[they took u out ages ago] wants to retain government and I suspect there own polling told them Julia is the person for the job. Thanks Meer for the political education but I think the point that Prime Ministers should have the right for their government to be held accountable by entire electorates is a fair one. Trish Bolton is being attacked for saying what any intelligent person can see as the bleeding obvious, that is very little is likely to change in policy under Julia Gillard’s leadership. For example will still be the lapdog of American foreign policy and remain fighting the unwinnable war on terrorism in Afghanistan. The economic and social inequities that determine all that is wrong in our society will remain. Finally it seems that Trish was writing with some humour, this seems somewhat lacing in the responses.

  24. One of the most naive and irritating articles I’ve read for a long time, too. It’s irritating on many counts–the nonsense about who elected Rudd as PM and the hyperbole about ‘slaying’ and ‘execution’, to start with. And it’s naive about lots as well– for instance, how decisions are made in either of the big political parties, and, more importantly, the unfortunate fact that the real world of politics can never be about ideological purity. Real politics is about achieving the best, given extraordinarily complicated circumstances.

    The bottom line is that at the next election one of two parties will be elected. If Julia Gillard’s election as leader makes it more likely that the Labor party wins, that’s better. The ALP is appalling; it’s also better than the only current alternative.

    • Are you suggesting we should settle for dumb rather than dumber or bad rather than worst – well, they do say people get the government they deserve.

  25. Thanks Jacinda
    I for one appreciate your intellectual discrimination. I remember when debates about various forms of feminism eg liberal, radical etc were daily mind food. Liberal feminism, like liberalism as a belief system, focuses the advancement of the individual. We, the unknown, the ‘ordinary’ are meant to get some sort of gratuitous pleasure out of this. Why? As an individual ie unique human being, she may be found wanting. As a representative, she doesn’t convince either.For in our system, women like Julia Gillard will always be exceptions. Just one last word: liberal parliamentary democracy which advances rare women like Gillard isn’t the only democratic form. Instead of focusing on the push and pull of political leaders and their ‘personalities’we could mount a systemic critique.

    • Thanks for this eloquent and thoughtful response to many of the issues raised in this blog.

  26. In our system it is safe to assume that when a person decides to become a member of a big political party they do so because they want power and they believe in changing things from within.

    Big political parties are about pragmatism, Expecting Gillard to behave like a member of the Greens
    (or any other small idealist group) makes little sense, if she did she would not have survived.

    The argument between idealists and pragmatists is a old one and this article contributes nothing to it. If she could be bothered (which she obviously won’t because she has more important things to do) Gillard could point out that if she allowed Abbott to become prime minister of Australia she would be partly responsible for the (possibly substantial) damage he caused.

    Pragmatists would accuse people like Trish of selfishness, they would say that people like Trish value having a clean conscience more than they value actually changing the world.

    Radicals claim that the pragmatists would sell their grandmother for power, and will provide all sort of “slippery slope” arguments.

    None of this is new in anyway, people that thought about this a little would usually agree that in a healthy society we need both pragmatists and idealists. Left to their own devices pragmatists would sell their grandmother, while idealists, left on their own, would martyr themselves on some ideologically pure crusade (more often then not a crusade lead behind the scenes by some pragmatist that is using the idealists as cannon fodder but that’s beside the point).

    Meanwhile here are two direct questions about the article which I asked before which I am hoping Trish (or someone else) answers:

    Do you agree that if Gillard believed that Abbott was going to win the elections and that she could stop such scenario she had the responsibility to act?

    How does Israel have to do with the topic of the article? Trish do you really believe that it is impossible to be a Feminist and a supporter of Israel at the same time?

    (apologies for bad grammar etc. English is not my first language)

  27. Yair, I do not believe that Gillard and those who supported her acted out of anything other than self-interest – that is to stay in power. I would be more likely to accept this for-the-greater-good claim if I were able to distinguish between the opposition and government’s policies but there is little difference. I don’t want to repeat myself so won’t raise examples raised in previous posts to this blog but did we hear even a squeak about removing or reducing funding to private schools during Gillard’s time as Minister for Education. What we got was school league tables. But enough about The Leader. This whole focus on the leader distracts from the real issue and that is the policies of the party. The ALP and Australians would have been much better served if the ALP had examined their policies and revisited what they stand for (once stood for) rather than dumping Rudd. But the precedent has been set and future political leaders are likely to be far more concerned about polls than they are now in case they too get ousted. The slippery slope beckons.
    Feminists have long been critical of the impact of war on women and children and as such I find Gillard’s silence on the Gaza invasion and her seeming support of Israel contradictory. I also find it reprehensible.
    No wonder Gillard has the support of Andrew Bolt and Janet Albrechsten.

  28. The role of the press is the elephant in the room, surely. Why is it that the Greens are a fringe, implausible party? They may the only one whose policies (if replicated worldwide) offer a chance of averting ecological catastrophe. Dismissing them is entirely irrational (I’m not, of course, suggesting that *you* are irrational, Yair, on the contrary, you are sensibly reflecting the reality of Australian politics).

    So why is it the case? It is through the media – overwhelmingly corporate-controlled – that the discourse of the nation is shaped. And the ideology of the media is one of profit, of economic growth, of the accumulation of wealth. The Coalition and the ALP stick within the confines of what is acceptable to the media’s ideology. If the ALP strayed from the script of capital and truly represented the interests of working people, they would be branded dangerous radicals and unelectable – a self-fulfilling prophecy, prescribing in the guise of analysing.

    Similarly with Gillard. We can assume from her origins in the Left that she once had her heart in the right place, and that her current deeply compromised policy stances are the result of hard-headed political calculation. She may be the best the system can offer, who knows? She certainly thinks so. So much worse for the system. All the identity politics stuff is a sideshow. Anyone from the capitalist class with a vested interest in the status quo (which happens to operate via patriarchy) will read this bickering comment thread and laugh, I’m sad to say.

    I call for solidarity against the oppressive and exploitative political duopoly of capitalism that is elected every time. We cannot be distracted by the fact that Gillard is a woman, any more than we should ignore the depredations of the USA because they happen to have a black president.

  29. Joshua, you’ve made so many good points here. It is interesting that I nor anyone else has mentioned the Greens when it’s very possible they’ll hold the balance of power after the next election. But I guess the bigger question is why we aren’t voting for them in greater numbers given the increasing cynicism of the voting public. And the media are of course a big player in all this especially given the concentrated nature of media in Australia i.e. in all but two states in Australia newspapers are owned by Murdoch whose right-wing commentariat support Gillard’s appointment (of course, I’m ignoring the internet but the same owners hold sway there as well). I was reminded of the power of the media to influence opinion on ‘Insiders’ on the ABC a couple of weeks ago when one of the ‘Big Issue’ vendors was being interviewed about the mining tax. He said that it was unfair (or words to that effect) to expect miners to pay more tax and that it would be bad for Australia and bad for jobs.

  30. It is not surprising that any woman who believes that Julia Gillard’s ascendancy strikes a blow for women is offended by Trish Bolton’s article.

    The political success of Julia Gillard, whose policies and actions look to be based essentially on furthering her own political career, and the manner in which she gained power and who she is beholden to, does not progress the interests of women.

    Trish Bolton’s article and replies from others have covered well some of the human rights and other important social issues for which Julia Gillard has failed to stand. Well done Trish Bolton for being brave enough to reveal the emperor (or is it empress!) has no clothes.

  31. Well, well, what a fascinating post on so many levels! If nothing else, Julia and Trish have caused a stir – it’s nice to see the word ‘feminism’ and ‘feminist’ bandied about with such gay abandon. I have many thoughts – but need time to digest all this discussion. In my dilettante way, at present all I have to offer is this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R6uexPmL0fk&feature=related … principally for the lyrics:
    Julia you set the standards for me
    Walk to your door
    Beggin for it just to be more and
    Julia I couldn’t do much better than you
    Said so yourself

  32. Wow! . . . I’ve never seen so much mud-slinging outside the walls of parliament.

    Laura, I’ve never met you, and never heard of you outside this post, but it seems you’ve come ofer all hysterical. Andrew Bolt is smirking the smirk of the righteous.

    Joshua, thank you. Your level head is a credit to your gender. Would that one of the enlightened feminists had dropped the kitchen knife, and raised these points so eloquently.

    It constantly frustrates me that the public knows it’s a two party system, but refuses to vote outside those parties. That being said though, I’d have a lot more confidence voting green if they had more convincing policies regarding the health system and the economy.

    The PM represents the party, the party represents the people who put them there. If the PM stops representing the party, the party votes them out. If the party stops representing the people, the people should vote them out. If the people aren’t going to look beyond 2 increasingly right wing parties, those people get what they collectively deserve, why should the PM step out and fight for us when we won’t fight for ourselves? JG is operating within a machine. We can blame the patriarchy if we think it would help, but the reality is that it’s the voters who keep these parties in power, and half of those voters are women.

    Of course it would be naive to assume that JG is going to change the world just because she’s a woman. Still, it’s nice to see that the system finally placed a woman in the top job – an unmarried atheist, no less. It will be nicer to see it when the people finally put a woman there, whether that’s JG or someone else. It will be nicer yet when we start voting for a party that represents our views rather than choosing between the 2 popular options. Personally, I’d rather see a change in policy than a change in gender – and while she must work within the confines of the party, I think JG has a chance to make a difference, and may well take that chance and run with it.

    Rather than taking time to slag each other off in an online flaming war, it would be better to direct the energy where it might actually make a difference: write to your local member, vote for someone else. It’s not a perfect democracy, but it’s the one we’ve got.

    . . . or you could bust out your Che t-shirt and take it to the streets.

  33. John,

    What is not accountable about this situation? Australian people elect their local members. The people of Griffith elected Rudd, and he is still their local member. The party elects its leaders, not the people. This is the way it has always been. When a leader is not performing as Rudd clearly wasn’t, another member of the party either gets a tap on the shoulder, or steps up to challenge. It is completely normal practice for the old parties.

    I’m not sure what the thesis of the article is, because it covers so much territory, and draws conclusions from sets of ‘facts’ that are completely irrelevant to the (extremely vague) points being made. Perhaps the main point of the article is that “Kevin Rudd, whatever we thought of him, was voted in by the people and he had the right to govern. Indeed, the Australian people should have had the right to vote him out, too.” This is misguided on a number of levels. First, the people of Australia did not appoint him as PM. His party did. The people of Griffith voted him in as their local member, which he remains. Second, he came to the leadership midway through Beazley’s term as leader. I would like to see a link to the thoughtful, ‘feminist’ article Trish wrote when Rudd deposed Beazley in much the same way as Rudd himself has now been deposed. Or does the same principle not apply when it is not a woman doing the deposing? And John, you say that “Prime Ministers should have the right for their government to be held accountable by entire electorates.” What does that have to do with the supposedly feminist thesis of the article? If Trish wanted to discuss that theory, then she should have discussed that theory, and perhaps looked at the experiences of Hawke and Gorton who were both also dumped as PMs. It is an outrageously long bow to draw, that it is a ‘dark day for feminism’ when a leader that isn’t performing gets replaced by the party, because the person who replaced them happens to be a woman. I find it difficult to believe that such ill thought out sentiments can be taken seriously by anyone. Also, Gillard is being accountable. She has not announced any policies that differ in any way from Rudd’s mandate. That is the definition of accountability. She will announce her party’s policies prior to the election, and implement those policies if her party gets re elected. That is the time you get to judge her policies, not now, because the current policies are Rudd’s.

    This article makes conclusions that are not supported by the information it provides, and it seems to place responsibility for all the ills of the world squarely on Gillard’s shoulders which is patently ridiculous. It also, quite dangerously implies that there are two sets of rules – the far more rigorous set for women and the set for men whereby anything goes. It also suggests that as Gillard is a member of the ALP, she is implicated in their dodgy policies, and is therefore not fit to lead. If this is the case, then by extension, nobody in the ALP is fit to lead because they have all accepted their party line without protest, presumably because they all agree it is the best way of retaining power. Incidentally that is a major flaw of the old parties – ideals and ideas and the common good come a distant second to power itself, not a point that can be precariously tied back to feminism. The article simply does not stand up to any real analysis – it is just not watertight. It is flimsy at best, and downright damaging at worst. I think that people masquerading as feminists or academics or writers or whatever need to do a far better job before publishing the first thing that pops into their mind.

    • “It also, quite dangerously implies that there are two sets of rules – the far more rigorous set for women and the set for men whereby anything goes.” A dangerous implication, for sure, but this comment made me laugh out loud.

      Is reCAPTCHA mocking Kevin? It says Mr expended

  34. Meer, I did not seek to write a watertight argument just express an opinion as have many others about how I see the events of the last few days from a feminist perspective. People will agree or disagree but to say what I have written is downright damaging or infer that I masquerade as a feminist on top of the many other ill-informed assumptions you are making seems a little bit of an over-reaction.

  35. Ah, so now it is a feminist perspective (though there is nothing feminist about this article). The last thing you said to me was that it is not a feminist thesis – you can see why I’m confused. It is an opinion piece, it is a feminist analysis, it is not a feminist thesis. It is so many things! It’s fine for you to have opinions, but you should base them on facts and a genuine understanding of the issues and our political system and history. Not to do so is misleading, and yes, damaging. She has been in the job a week, and you are already commenting on her track record. I can’t think of any male leader lucky enough to receive such an even handed ‘feminist’ appraisal after one week. I am sure you can see the issues with what you have done here.

    • Meer, don’t you think that her roles as acting prime minister, deputy prime minister and MP since 1998 are sufficient to judge her track record?

      • I am saying that the ascendency of Julia Gillard is no more a dark day for feminists than the ascendency of Rudd or any other leader. Gillard is being subjected to rules that are not applied to any other leader. Gillard’s apparent policies are being questioned and torn to shreds, when in fact those policies are the policies of the Rudd government. Gillard has been leader for one week and, quite properly, has announced no new policies – she does not have a mandate until after the election.

        If you are going to judge her track record as deputy PM, acting PM and MP, and then claim that it is a dark day for feminists, then the same must be done of leaders, including Rudd. Strangely I saw none of these sorts of debates when he came to power in equally if not more dubious circumstances.

        Also, if Trish is going to claim that because Gillard was privy to the Rudd government’s bad policies she is unsuitable to lead the party, then the same must equally be said of each and every member of the ALP. Perhaps she wants nobody to lead the party – that would be a fantastic outcome for them.

        I have never seen such nasty and unhelpful things written so quickly about a male leader, and I question the basis for this entire article. The article is factually incorrect and very poorly reasoned.

  36. Meer writes: ‘If you are going to judge her track record as deputy PM, acting PM and MP, and then claim that it is a dark day for feminists, then the same must be done of leaders, including Rudd.’

    Meer, if you have a look at past blog posts, you’ll see that most people writing here were very critical of Kevin Rudd, who was, after all, the most right wing leader Labor had ever had — until now.
    If, as is being reported this morning, the ALP has caved in to the demands of the mining companies, well, a disastrous precedent has just been set. Again, let me refer to Clive Hamilton’s excellent article on why the struggle against the miners was so important. He noted, a few weeks ago, how

    A small group of obscenely rich people are acting in concert to bring down an elected government that wants to tax super profits. They want to install a new government sympathetic to their interests.

    Well, if the breaking stories are true, it seems they now have.
    That’s why this issue about the Labor leadership matters. Personally, I don’t much care about the way Labor parliamentarians behave to each other. It’s not my party, after all, and in any case I suspect they’re all as ruthless as each other. Had the roles been reversed, Rudd would quite happily have deposed Gillard.
    But any analysis of the spill needs to take into account the issues that provoked it. I haven’t seen any commentator challenge the notion that Rudd was axed because of, amongst other things, the mining tax.
    To quote Hamilton again, ‘[t]he dispute over the super profits tax is a defining moment in Australia’s democratic history, because here we see in its starkest form a conflict between the raw power of capital and the public interest.’
    A victory for the miners on this issue sets a terrible, terrible precedent for any forthcoming showdown with the big end of town. How do you think there’s ever going to be, for instance, even the tiniest moves toward a solution on climate change without a confrontation with the resource companies?
    That’s why, personally, I find very little to celebrate in all of this.

    • Rudd was replaced because he was highly unpopular with the public and within his own party.

      What kind of a leader can’t sell a mining tax anyway? Every other mineral rich country in the world does this. His handling of this very basic issue was pathetic.

  37. Gillard’s policies/leadership and her gender are two entirely different things that shouldn’t be confused. They should be looked at in isolation. It doesn’t matter how she got there the point is that she got there, and this should be celebrated. I’m sorry Trish but I find this article offensive to women. It is SO hard out there in the workplace, and if us women need to play hard ball to get to the top then we bloody well should or else we will never get there and it is SO important for other women to see Gillard there, women NEEDED this in Australia, needed this to happen, to motivate us, to show us that we can make it, because it’s so easy to be swallowed by the sexist world we live in. Trish, really, we have to celebrate this. I wish her all the best, as a WOMAN, but as a PM and member of the Labour party which is an entirely SEPARATE issue, I don’t like her. We need to not confuse the two.

    • and also, I see this as a stepping stone to something better. Sure, I don’t think Gillard is going to do much but her getting there may have inspired some 17 year old girl who has now decide SHE CAN DO IT, and she is going to be the first PM of Australia, elected by the people, and she is going to fight for feminism. How inspiring! This is a good thing Trish! And the alternative being, more and more men…please…

      • I’m for this version – I hope it’s true. A young friend of mine texted me on the day to ask if I was pleased we had a woman PM – I texted back that I will be, when she’s heading up a cabinet 51% women; or better still – an all woman left-leaning parliament. Unbalanced? Would be after 600 years. haha reCAPTCHA is in fine form today – says some groans 🙂

  38. I utterly reject as has been mentioned in a number of posts that I believe in one rule for the blokes and one rule for women, in this instance Julia Gillard. I was attempting to point out in my post that feminists, me included, have argued (and worked) long and hard so that we might have a fairer more equitable world if many more women held power or were in leadership positions. I still cling to that. The argument has also been that women bring different qualities to these positions and that women would be more fair, more just, less paternalistic and so forth. But the argument feminists have been putting for decades and longer, seems to have shifted to women needing to play the game if they are to make it to the top in politics. What then is the point of a woman in power beyond the symbolism? I too, would love to see women fairly represented at every level of society, but I want those women to much more than symbolic. If we are to accept the argument that just having a woman as PM is what matters then why not Pauline Hanson for PM.

    • But by writing this post YOU ARE using one set of rules for women and one for men. Leaving gender out of it, if Gillard was a man, the public might make a passing comment about how he came to power but that would be the end of it. What Gillard did was no different to what others have done in the past. This is how our government works. But instead you criticise Gillard for what she did, and her policies and her stance on this issue and that issue because you believe she has to perform based on some moral code of feminism? Don’t you think you are being a little hard on her? So not only does Gillard have to deal with doing the top job, she also has to watch how she is acting and what she is saying because she has to also be true the feminist voice? Did you stop to think that maybe Gillard isn’t a strong feminist? Does she have to be? No, she doesn’t. She just has to be her, and whatever she stands for. It’s almost like you’re saying that you prefer Gillard were a man just so your view of feminism isn’t tarnished.

  39. Dear Trish, it’s such a complicated issue – I guess we’ve at least moved on from debating whether women have souls http://www.leaderu.com/ftissues/ft9704/opinion/nolan.html

    Girl babies are handled differently from boy babies … the sexes are dressed differently – and why is it that it is demeaning for a man to wear women’s clothing but empowering for a woman to wear men’s? A female ‘way’ – a male ‘way’ – how can we even know, the way we carry on with our oppressive gender stereotypes. Now you can get ‘girl’ and ‘boy’ disposable nappies in ‘traditional’ pink and blue. But I digress… or do I?

    I feel very ambivalent about Julia – not because of the way she came to power (that is the system we vote for), but because I wish she was still a Leftie and because I think she could be a great force for Australian humanitarianism, but won’t be – much the same disappointments I felt about Kevin. And if she saves us from Abbot – well: good.

    As a symbol – yes (I did cut out the picture of our woman PM and our woman Governor General, despite my misgivings about the politics of both of them)and no, as you say Pauline, or Cheryl … both symbols of women in power: Yetch.

    I remember my mum’s generation being so excited when Joan Kirner became our first woman Premier. But the glass ceiling has a kind of ‘Terminator’ elasticity that resists all breakages and after Joan, came Jeff Kennett. *sigh*

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XGyD2hn7d3Y

  40. Australian people have the right to feel pleased that we finally, after nearly the entire rest of the world, have a female prime minister. It is representative of the fact that women, like men, play important roles in public as well as private life. Beyond that there is nothing much to talk about. Julia Gillard is not known as a feminist and you would have to be mad to think that her ascendency might be a signifier of some sort of great world change. Aside from being a woman in politics which is not the norm in this country, Gillard has said nothing to suggest that she is a trailblazing feminist or a person with particularly progressive or feminist principles. Neither did Rudd incidentally, but that doesn’t seem to matter.

    Lumping Gillard in with Thatcher is also ridiculous. A quick glance at the literature (or having been there) would be enough for anyone to realise that this is an extraodinarily serious error.

    The labor party, whatever it stood for in the past, will never be home to progressive ideas or a platform for sound feminist principles – it’s a giant machine and principles come second to retaining or achieving power. If you don’t like that then don’t vote for them. Don’t draw crowd pleasing conclusions from nothing. If Gillard is unfit to lead because she sat by while her party made foul policies, then Rudd was also unfit to lead for the same reasons. And so was Creen and Beazley etc.

    • I think you’ve completely missed the point. There was one issue here: some feminists were celebrating the ascension of Gillard. Trish’s simple argument was not to let the symbolism of the moment outweigh the material reality on people’s lives.

    • I have not claimed at any stage that Gillard is a feminist nor a trail-blazer. I have many criticisms of Rudd, Beazley, Crean – the whole of the ALP in fact. I have not voted for them since September 11 here in Melbourne in 2000 – the then Premier of Victoria, Premier Brack, put the final nail in the coffin for me. But the men of the ALP were not the subject of my this post. In fact my concern is I don’t want more of the same – man or woman.

  41. This discussion speaks volumes of the Overland blog readership’s interests and gender balance. I’ve never seen such a lively thread. Thanks to everyone for their contribution because, surely, this is kind of vigorous debate we need in order to maintain vigilance.

    Gillard’s ascendancy is undoubtedly good for Labour and she is obviously the preferred PM candidate over Abbott. However, I agree with the general point made or implied by most of the contributors to this thread, that her leadership is yet to prove itself, in much the same way as Obama has had to prove his, after the election eurphoria died down. As pleased as I am that we have a woman PM and the historical victory it represents to sections of the feminist movement, I am wary of uncritical celebration.

    Let’s be honest, the political drama played out in the mass media is a great distraction from the meaningful, focused action that needs to be taken if there is to be any fundamental, historical shift in the values and governance of this nation. The policy platforms of both major parties are underpinned by a political philosophy that privileges infinite growth, infinite consumption. As an alternative, the Greens is the strongest public voice for genuine democracy and sustainable economic and environmental management. The broad Left appears to me to be unfocused and splintered albeit well-intentioned. Political theory and lofty sentiments are no subsitute for concerted action and that, it seems, is where the Left falls over.

    I am aware that this may not be a popular view to express on the Overland blog and I mean no personal offence to anbyone by stating it, but it really does seem to be the main problem facing progessive politics in Australia. The Left is disorganised and, as a result, a relatively marginal political force. The loss of its traditional base in trade unions, the collapse of the Soviet Union, the shift to state capitalism in China and the success of global capitalism in delivering a consumer lifestyle to increasing numbers of people, have combined to leave the historical Left stranded as a political force.

    Yes, GetUp! is a good thing. 350,000 members and strong on issue based campaigns. Yes, the Greens have made great advances in occupying the open ground created by the demise of the Democrats and attracting disaffected voters from both sides of politics. Yes, the work of international activists like Naomi Klein and some of those that have organised in non violent action based on issues articulated in her analysis, have merit. The Left has substantial intellectual heft but demonsrates a profound inability to coalesce around a cohesive, intelligent approach to engaging with the electorate at time when there is widespread cynicism towards the two major parties, and, more broadly, the political culture.

    I will go further, the Left has a moral duty to organise, to move on from the weary old rhetoric of the past and engage the electorate in a conversation about sustainable, equitable prosperity. As cynicism towards Australian political culture rises, the opportunity for dangerous authoritarian solutions also rises. This cannot be allowed to happen. This profound lack of faith needs to be arrested by a revitalised vision of what Australia could be.

    I know I’ve moved off topic here but I’m trying to frame the thread in a wider context.

    • Thanks Boris, you have framed the wider arguments/concerns very well.

  42. As Koraly and Meer eloquently explain, the article judges Gillard by a different set of rules because she is a woman.

    Trish also chooses to mention Gillard’s support for one particular state (Israel), and uses it to challenge Gillard’s credentials as a feminist. Israel policies cause enormous suffering to many Palestinians, but they are not targeted to cause more suffering to Palestinian women than to Palestinian men.

    From the point of view of women’s rights, equality between the genders etc. Israel is without a doubt one of the most progressive states in its region (and not too bad comparing with the rest of the world).

    I realize that the argument is heated enough as it is, and including discussion about the Middle East has the potential to de-rail it, but it seems to me that mentioning Israel as if it was the worst state (or even just a particularly bad state) for a Feminist to support, shows yet another case of double standards.

    Israel can be criticized on many many grounds, but when compared with other states it is doing alright when it comes to gender equality. One must wonder (or perhaps Trish should ask herself) why did she choose that particular example.

    • I think Jacinda summed that up when she referred to women in Palestine, rather than Israel. But Yair, doesn’t it depend on what kind of Jewish traditions are followed – gender equality in Israel? Unfortunately, supporting Israel in 2010 is a little like supporting the South African Reunited National Party on their apartheid policy back in 1948 – it does matter. And all issues are feminist issues as far as I’m concerned.

      • not that I’m trying to answer for Trish – she is more than capable of doing that for herself 🙂 I agree with Boris: a lively thread indeed.

      • It doesn’t depend on which Jewish tradition, Clare. In fact it has nothing to do with Judaism at all, one only has to go to any Israeli university to see a very large number of Jewish and Arab women.

        Orthodox Judaism does discriminate against women (as does fundamentalist Christianity and Islam), and the marriage laws in Israel discriminate terribly against Jewish women, but when you compare to Hamas or Iran or Saudi Arabia, Israel is light years ahead.

        Claiming that Israel is causing more suffering to Palestinian women than say Hamas or fundamentalist Islam is ridiculous.

        Claiming that a feminist could not possibly support the state of Israel is extremely offensive to the many feminists like Shulamit Aloni ( http://bit.ly/abJOYY )that work tirelessly in (and often lead) the Israeli Peace Camp. It also Ignores the existence of people like Israeli Parliament member Haneen Zoabi ( http://bit.ly/92P9Pi ) an Israeli Parliament member that actually participated in the Gaza Flotilla, and ignores completely things like the kibbutz movement.

        I agree that all issues are feminist issues.

        • Thanks for the links, Yair, I look forward to following them up. I was lucky enough to work with teacher and storyteller Limor http://lisb.wordpress.com/about/, who is also an orchestra conductor in Israel. It was she who told me there were vastly differing communities living within the conglomerate ‘Israel’ and very differing attitudes to the emancipation of women.

          I agree that Hamas, (Iran and Saudi Arabia) haven’t exactly shown themselves to be lights of the women’s revolution, but don’t you think Israel’s military is adding to Palestinian women’s burden with their punitive/criminal approach?

          • Of course Israel’s military is adding to the suffering of Palestinian women, interestingly the IDF is an army in which women have always played a major role.

            The blame for Israel’s significant contribution to the suffering of all Palestinians is squarely on the shoulders of Israel’s government. A criminal government which I abhor.

            None of the above changes the fact that Trish claiming that Gillard’s credentials as a Feminist are in doubt because of her support for Israel ignores the fact that many feminists support the state of Israel.

            I don’t want to stray off topic, I do suggest though that perhaps Trish ought to spend some time considering who in the Middle East are her comrades, and in the future she may want to consider being a little bit more subtle when mentioning a complex issue like Israel

    • Again, I do not see Gillard as a feminist. Israel (that is its government not its people) stands out as a nation guilty of appalling human rights abuses and where such abuses occur, women and children often suffer most. Of course, I could have chosen any of those groups or countries you mention in your later thread, but they are regularly and widely condemned, whereas the support given Israel allows it to continue to behave like a rogue nation.

      • Fair enough. If after thinking about it you still think it was the right example then so be it.

        I apologize If I responded too critically. The topics your article touches on are heavy topics.

        We all learn from experience.

        • Many thanks Yair – I have certainly learnt much from this experience. And I respect your passion and commitment to issues important to you.

  43. “Trish’s simple argument was not to let the symbolism of the moment outweigh the material reality on people’s lives.”

    If she’d put it as simply, clearly and reasonably as that, instead of indulging in an over-excited wholesale scattershot-trashing of every woman in sight who wasn’t following her own agenda, she would have copped a great deal less flak than, in the event, she has.

  44. I apologise to all for having been so offensive when I really meant to mix serious comment and be entertaining.

  45. Of course I don’t mean that I wanted to be entertaining but that I didn’t want to take myself or indeed the topic too seriously.

    • Trish, I don’t think you need to apologise for anything. You’ve just hit a raw nerve and attracted a record number of comments on the blog. (Is that right, Jacinda?) It’s opened my eyes to the readers and their interests. You’ve copped it in this discussion and yet when I re-read your post I think it reflects some reasonable and widely held views about Rudd’s removal and Gillard’s role in it. My eighty year old mother has been a rusted on Labour voter forever but she’s so angry she tells me she won’t be voting ALP at the next election and she is a woman of her word. I’ve put my views on the episode elsewhere on the blog. I’m of a more pragmatic mind when it comes to ALP power plays, whatever the gender of the protagonists.

      • Boris, I have very much admired your posts and your analysis, so thanks! My father, a staunch union man who hailed from Yorkshire and absolutely devoted ALP supporter, voted Greens in the last election.

      • I believe you’re right Boris – record number of comments. And I agree, you’ve got nothing to apologise for, Trish.

    • I’m with Boris. Absolutely no apologies needed. It’s just one of those naturally emotionally heightened topics. I read it the way you intended, though I don’t necessarily agree with what I understand of your whole thesis. It’s an important discussion to kick off and I’ve enjoyed reading all the comments.

  46. Just to let everyone know, we’ll be closing this comment thread shortly.

    • Thanks all for your comments – I never anticipated such a response. Indeed, I thought that like my previous post on feminism, it would go pretty much unnoticed. No doubt there’ll be lots more about Julia Gillard on Overland and I look forward to what are sure to be many more interesting debates. Trish