Tuesday, July 2, 2013

just something I needed to say

Dear Julia Gillard,

I think you’ve been treated very badly and I wanted to tell you how sorry I am about that. Not because I had anything to do with it personally, but because the whole thing has left me reeling, questioning how far our supposedly equal society has come and wondering how I should encourage my daughters to be anything they want to be without inadvertently throwing them to the wolves.

I know it’s a week ago, and that most people have moved on, but it’s taken me that long just to attempt to get my head around what just happened. How does one of our most promising female politicians allow herself to be used as a pawn by ALP powerbrokers, in turn cauterising her career path and giving all naysayers the chance to say she didn’t deserve to be prime minister because she didn’t get there on her own merits. And as for the naysayers, the many and the vocal and the misogynistic, how does a nation bury its head in the sand while one of its most prominent voices calls for the brutal death of the prime minister? How does that happen? Years before Howard Sattler’s unbearable attempt at character assassination (only successful if you count his own character), Alan Jones was practically running a reprise of the Salem witch trials, with nothing to go on except his own hateful prejudice and a liberal (pardon the pun) dose of misogyny and sexism. The fuel for his fire and brimstone was an equally hateful audience of listeners, encouraging his every rant.

So now the haters have got their way. The men who played you for a fool back in 2010 are now seeing a catastrophic end to their little experiment, and it turns out the man they sacrificed was a little harder to slaughter than they realised. The fact that all these men now sit side by side in a massive circus known as our democracy is more than a little hard to fathom.

I was raised in a household where equality of the sexes was a given. Any other reality never entered my head. Why wouldn’t my parents be equal when they both worked to put food on the table, both loved and respected one another and both loved my sister and I? Perhaps my first glimpse of an unequal reality was when I started working as a journalist, but I was fresh out of high school - I still believed that hard work and due diligence would speak louder than a nice pair of heels. For a long time I tried to ignore all evidence to the contrary. But I told myself that in the ancient world of newspapers it might take a little while for things to change, like they had in the real world.

But whose reality are we talking about? Because the reality I thought I knew didn’t involve women being raped and murdered in city laneways for sport, didn’t include a ‘goddess’ being held by the throat in broad daylight by her abusive husband who then dismisses the whole affair as a ‘tiff’ and is excused, if not by society as a whole, at least by the local constabulary. This reality sucks. It makes me angry and it makes me scared. Which in turn makes me even angrier.

As I sat watching the vote last Wednesday night, Julia, knowing that your time was very nearly up, I felt sad that Australia had not grown up enough to treat a female prime minister with the respect you deserved. In the hour or so that passed while I waited for a result, my faith in the ability, intelligence and stamina of women never wavered. In fact, as I watched Leigh Sales and Annabel Crabb on the ABC in their unscripted discussion of the state of politics in this country, I marvelled at them. These two women, two wives and mothers, were consummate professionals without ever having to resort to superiority or spin. They were real, and they were spectacular.

I think that you were real too, but you just had trouble showing it. When you gave your final speech as prime minister, I heard your voice waver when you spoke of the women who will follow you into that office in years to come. I love that it was that line where you couldn’t conceal your emotion. It shows that no matter what the polls say, your heart was in it all along. You are a brilliant woman, a passionate politician, across everything from disability care to international diplomacy, but when it comes down to it, you’re just  a big girl. And I mean that in the nicest possible way.