A feminist response to That Speech by Julia Gillard

(Reblog courtesy of 99 @ Turn Left. 17th October 2012)


A feminist response to That Speech by Julia Gillard

by 99, editor of Turn Left

Just about every Australian who is a regular use of social media has probably seen That Speech by the Prime Minister.

A week later, people I know are still talking about it.

When Julia Gillard called out the Opposition leader for his sexism and misogyny – it changed everything.

Almost everything, mainstream media dismissed it, and carried on with their tired old narrative that everything in this country is wrong, and can only be fixed by a change of government.

(Well, let’s face it, that was the solution in 2007).

That Speech was a hit of social media.

Watching the speech live and following the tweets, even as it was happening we knew we were seeing history being made. Gough Whitlam’s speech to the crowd on the day of the Dismissal, Paul Keating’s ‘Redfern Speech’ and speech for the Unknown Soldier. And now the Julia Gillard Misogyny speech.

The silence the following day, and days after, in our newspapers and on our televisions highlighted the huge gulf between old and new media.

For those of who watched the speech live, we knew how we felt as those words were spoken. We were discussing it and dissecting it as it was happening. And yet, the next day the political opinion writers of old media were trying to tell us we got the context wrong, we had missed the point, it was bad for feminism, it was… who knows.

The fact was, it was old media which had missed the point. They were trying to tell us that our lived experiences of watching the speech was wrong, our reactions were wrong, our feelings were wrong, our emotions were wrong, and that the experiences, reactions, emotions, feelings of those we talked to about That Speech were also wrong.

It was that moment that sealed the coffin on old media.

The fact that they were trying so hard to convince us that what we knew was “wrong” was proof of Old Medias irrelevancy.

Like the Churches who said the Bible had to be in Latin, a language the population didn’t speak, in order for the priests to be the official interpreters of the Word of their God.

The Canberra press gallery are acting like old-time priests. They act like they are the only ones who can interpret correctly what was said in Parliament House. And like the Churches who lost power when the Bibles were printed in English and the people could read for themselves what the Word was, now people are getting their news direct from the source and the Press Gallery is surplus to requirements.

However, what is happening in Parliament House is just a small part of modern politics. Politics in this country is more than just politicians, it is in the home, the workplaces, the clubs, the social networks, it is the relationships between people.

Seventies feminists said ‘the personal is political‘, however, modern academics tells us ‘who cares what you think or feel, all that matters is that you can cite dead-white-European-males as a source‘.

During the battle between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton in 2008 for the Democrat nomination, famous lefties denigrated Clinton on the basis of her gender – from Michael Moore calling Clinton a ‘bitch’ to Randi Rhodes using the ‘fucking whore’ slur. These are people who should have been on the same side.

Gender is both the reason for the personal attacks and the reason these powerful women are told they have no right to defend themselves.

They – whether the women of the Liberal party or the talking heads of MSM – tell us that Julia Gillard somehow betrayed feminism for speaking out.

Feminists fought for decades, even centuries, for the right to be treated as humans. Here was one, speaking up against abuse in the workplace and we are told that She should have kept her mouth shut.

‘They’ said the Prime Minister was wrong for playing the gender card, but the basis for personal attacks and death fantasies from Alan Jones, Tony Abbott, Graham Morris is the gender of the Prime Minister.

These men abuse and bully women, then continue the bullying and abuse because their victims speak out.

The pushback is so strong because the people who oppose a female Prime Minister or an ALP government because they know That Speech has had an impact. If the speech was meaningless there would be no need to keep telling people just how meaningless it is.

No matter how conservatives try to reframe That Speech as being insignificant we, who watched it, know otherwise.

Only a weak man resorts to bullying and abuse against women when his intellect and policies (both lacking in the Opposition Leader) fail.

Now the story we are being told that is was not a moment for feminists to celebrate.

John Pilger wrote “Julia Gillard is no feminist hero” in The Guardian … Yeah, because nothing screams an understanding of contemporary Australian feminism like an old white male who abandoned Australia sometime in the previous century.

Quite frankly, Mr Pilger, no one cares what you think.

You are irrelevant to this debate.

To drag that speech out of Parliament and put it next to asylum seekers, single mothers on Newstart allowance, Gillard’s ‘no’ vote on marriage equality, jokes at CFMEU dinners and say those things cancels out the message of that speech. Put That Speech in with a whole list of other things doesn’t put it in context, it removes it from its context.

‘They’ say but look at all these other things first – therefore Julia is not perfect, and her speech is bad for feminism – but here’s the thing about feminism (at least my feminism) – it’s not about finding a feminist role model and then worshipping that person.

Apart from the fact that it tends to be the usual suspects – old white right-wing men – bitching about Julia Gillard’s speech, they fail to grasp what feminism is.

If someone is expected to be perfect, then they stop being human and become gods, and feminism is not a cult, worshipping Julia Gillard.

Feminism is not about a set of rules where everybody has to all believe exactly the same things at the same time.

However, back to That Speech – Julia Gillard doesn’t have to be perfect for That Speech to have impact in the lives of women and girls in this country.

If a woman has to be perfect in order to be a feminist role model, then that would make her a not very good role model, no one is perfect, and since no one can be perfect, perfect people make bad role models.

After years of implied death threats and vile sexist abuse, Julia Gillard named it for what it was, sexism and misogyny.

Incidents were no longer being dismissed with “boys will be boys”. Instead of convincing the entire country to live in some kind of silence about the abuse directed to the Prime Minister, which amounts to little more than “blaming the victim”.

We would not sit back and avert our eyes if this ongoing abuse was against any woman in a domestic situation, so why do we allow it in parliament?

This is what matters.

Feminism is about choosing those things that making your life better, it is about not putting up with second class treatment based on gender, it is not accepting less than being treated like a human being, what it is not is following a strict set of doctrine.

If the only thing women and girls get from That Julia Speech is ‘name and shame’ people who use sexism – then that can’t be bad for women. But for those watching, it was more than just naming abusers, it was also naming the abuse for what it was, and not hiding in shame.

Our silence is consent, It’s time to say enough is enough.

The shame is not the Prime Ministers because these things are done to her, the shame belongs to those on the Opposition benches who engage in daily sexism and abuse.

This is good for everyone, except those who are invested in and benefit from keeping women down. And, in the end, the Old Media couldn’t care less about the context of the speech, they only care about bringing down a democratically elected government.