The women of this country have waited a long time for a fellow female to ascend the throne of Australian politics. We’ve had female premiers a-plenty, some of our top cops have been female and women are even running AFL clubs these days. But with the swearing-in of a female Governor-General, the only prime job left ungraced by the owner of a double set of X chromosomes was that of PM.
The sad part is, in the ways that matter, some of us are still waiting. It’s not that she’s been rolled in some super-secret party spill. It’s just that some time after becoming Prime Minister, the Julia Gillard we knew and loved went AWOL and hasn’t returned.
She admitted as much when she said the “real Julia” would no longer be subjugated by pollie-spin and election-speak. She would get out there and talk to the real people, she said. Well, she’s out there, alright, but in the dying days of the election campaign, I’m not buying what she’s got to sell.
First, there’s the kissing of babies. I know it’s a campaign and all but do we really have to have such clichéd clinches? Much has been made in the past of Gillard’s single and childless status. I’ve got no problems with that—I don’t have kids either. But every time I see Julia cooing over a baby I want to throw something at the telly. It all seems more than a touch contrived, as if she’s suddenly uncomfortable with the fact that she’s not having any kids of her own. Perhaps it’s really the ALP spin doctors who are uncomfortable—they’re probably the same ones who advised Kevin Rudd to trot his wife and kids out every chance he could get.
While Julia Gillard is about as far from Sarah Palin as red is from blue, one of Palin’s most “sellable” qualities was her disarming authenticity. Cheesy it may have been, but Palin excelled at being herself. And Middle America loved her for it. We used to love Julia for the same reason, ocker accent and all.
Though I don’t claim to be a feminist, I did get a lump in my throat watching that very first prime-ministerial speech and maiden media conference. Gillard’s poise, confidence and sheer statesmanlike command of the room were awesome (in the original sense of the word). But where are those intelligent, impassioned and inspirational speeches now? Silenced, by the cacophony of campaigning.
In her defence, Gillard has copped criticism from all sides since she took on the big gig. Too much makeup, over-sized ear lobes, more talk about her polish than her policies—but that’s all the external stuff.
What women really want is to see the first woman to take over The Lodge in her own right, be the woman she made us believe she could be.