Sexism in Australia over forever

You might have already heard that yesterday in Australia, where I was born and raised, a woman ousted a man for control of the Australian Labour Party, making her the first ever woman Prime Minister in the country’s history. She was sworn in by Quentin Bryce, Australia’s first ever woman Governor General.

Just as racism ended forever with the election of Barack Obama, sexism in my homeland is now OVER FOREVER. Australia will now become a matriarchal society, like bonobo colonies, or a feminist utopia where birth control and Ani di Franco CDs are subsidized by the government.

Except, not. The rise of one woman to the top spot (it’s not an election, because in Australia you vote for the party, and once in power that party is free to reshuffle its leadership as much as it wants) is a big freaking deal, and I’m really proud to be an Australian today. Julia Gillard, our new WOMAN PM – sorry, I can’t stop writing that in delighted caps – is a very impressive woman, and I have high hopes that this ouster will get voters’ approval in the upcoming Federal election. But one woman leader does not an egalitarian society make.

Gillard has faced her fair share of sexist media coverage (she’s 48, unmarried, has short hair and access to power, so I’ll give you three guesses as to what people assume about her), and it’s no coincidence that an ABC News headline referred to yesterday’s events as a “bitter divorce” between Gillard and now-former PM Kevin Rudd. Get it? Because they’re of opposite genders, and they had a falling out! Something tells me that if Obama and Biden had a disagreement, no one would call it a “lover’s quarrel.”

And of course, Australia is still a pretty sexist society, in many of the same ways that the US is – a 17% wage gap, under-representation of women in positions of corporate and government power and all the pop culture and advertising crap we deal with here. And the installation of a woman in Kirribilli House (that’s where the PM lives when s/he’s in Sydney – see, you learn something new every day) isn’t going to change that overnight.

But this is a start. Hell, yes, is it a start.

New York, NY

Chloe Angyal is a journalist and scholar of popular culture from Sydney, Australia. She joined the Feministing team in 2009. Her writing about politics and popular culture has been published in The Atlantic, The Guardian, New York magazine, Reuters, The LA Times and many other outlets in the US, Australia, UK, and France. She makes regular appearances on radio and television in the US and Australia. She has an AB in Sociology from Princeton University and a PhD in Arts and Media from the University of New South Wales. Her academic work focuses on Hollywood romantic comedies; her doctoral thesis was about how the genre depicts gender, sex, and power, and grew out of a series she wrote for Feministing, the Feministing Rom Com Review. Chloe is a Senior Facilitator at The OpEd Project and a Senior Advisor to The Harry Potter Alliance. You can read more of her writing at

Chloe Angyal is a journalist and scholar of popular culture from Sydney, Australia.

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