Julia Gillard and Why We Still Need Feminism

As of June 24th, Australia now has a female Prime Minister. I’m not sure how big the news is overseas, but here, there’s been a lot of commotion. Julia Gillard is the 27th Prime Minister of our country – and the first female one.

On the morning of June 24th, she and our former PM, Kevin Rudd, had a contest for leadership of the governing Labour Party. Rumours said that Julia had more votes, but before they could be counted, Kevin stood down, making Julia automatic ruler. While this was happening, I was at school, frantically clicking ‘refresh’ on Google News while I was meant to be doing my Humanities project (oops...). When articles saying she had won began to appear, my best friend and I had a celebration. As Australia’s first female Prime Minister was sworn in by Australia’s first female Governor-General, Quentin Bryce, feminists around Australia smiled.

Who knows what Julia Gillard will do for our country? She may change it for better or for worse. We’ll just have to see. Without any evidence, we can’t judge. And yet, the backlash has already started. In this day and age, the public’s opinion can be discovered by looking at one’s Facebook newsfeed. When I checked mine, I was quite astonished. “We have a female prime minister... eww L ” someone said. “Wtf is Julia Gillard doing as pm?” said someone else. Someone even went so far as to comment that they thought having a female prime minister wasn’t right, because “it’s a man’s job and men have always done it”. When someone else pointed out that the latter commenter was being sexist, the response was, “no, I’m not being sexist, cos I’m a female, too”.

Then the groups and pages started appearing. “What do McDonalds and Australia have in common? They’re both run by red-headed clowns”. “Why is Julia Gillard Prime Minister? Shouldn’t she be in the kitchen?”. “Hey, Julia Gillard, if I vote for you, you’d better make me a sandwich”. “How is Julia Gillard going to run the country from the kitchen?”

How sad. How pathetic. It’s 2010, people. The middle ages were long ago. Having a female prime minister should be something to be celebrated, considering it’s the first time for our nation. Yet people are judging her already, without any evidence of what she’ll be like in the job. But they aren’t bagging her out for her policies. Some people focus on the fact that she has a defacto partner and no children. Others pick on the colour of her gorgeously red hair. If a man got the job, people wouldn’t look down on him for this sort of thing. Yet because she’s a woman, it seems ok to pass judgement on her personal life and appearance.

And the kitchen thing? I thought that sort of thing finished decades ago. That these sort of misogynistic attitudes are still around appals me. Women are not sandwich-producing robots who should be confined to the kitchen. Every time I see another page or group about women having to stay in the kitchen, I sigh and lose a bit of hope for humanity. “It’s just a joke”, people scoff, when confronted over these things. How is degrading someone because of their gender and lowering them to no more than a servant funny?

To those who say we don’t need feminism? We do. The proof is not just in those Facebook pages set up by a few sniggering sexists. It’s in the fact that hundreds, often thousands of people join. It’s in the fact that Australia has its first female Prime Minister and all people can do is ask why she isn’t in the kitchen, then say she’s incapable of ruling the country because she’s a woman. That these sort of attitudes still exist today is the very reason why feminism is still important and very much needed – not just in Australia, but in the world.

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Zoe G
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