Let’s play a game

It’s called Things That Would Never Happen in American Politics. I usually play it with French politics, like when Ségolène Royale replaced her former common law husband, with whom she had four children, as head of the Socialist party, and ran against Nicolas Sarkozy.

Today, let’s play it with Australian politics. As you might know, last week Julia Gillard became Australia’s first woman Prime Minister when she ousted the leader of the Australian Labour Party, Kevin Rudd. Gillard is not married, but has a de facto partner, and now, it seems that a not-technically married woman will be moving into official residences (there’s The Lodge in Canberra and Kirribilli House in Sydney) and living in sin.

So, that concludes our special Australian edition of Things That Would Never Happen in American Politics. But you know what would happen in American politics?

A poll like the one being held by the Sydney Morning Herald, which asks: “Do you agree that Julia Gillard’s lifestyle is a bad influence for women?”

Emphasis mine. Even though de facto marriages usually involve a man and a woman (and sometimes two men, or two women, according to the 2006 Australian census) the Sydney Morning Herald, bless its pearl-clutching heart, is just concerned about the womenfolk.

And they’re right, of course. Gillard is the most powerful woman in Australia, having worked long and hard to get there, and having found long-term love along the way. She’s young, successful and in a stable relationship with her partner. Clearly, this sets a terrible example for the women of Australia. Who does this woman think she is? Hardworking, good at her job and in love with a supportive non-husband partner? She must be stopped, lest all Australian women start following her horrendous lead.

Want to play another round of this fun game? Check out what Gillard said when asked whether or not she believed in God.

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 chloesangyal.com

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

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Join the Conversation

  • Cassius

    Common law marriage is an outrage. Two people are saying, we do not really want to be married and the state goes ahead and says, we consider the 2 of you to be married anyway regardless of what either of you wants.

  • Comrade Kevin

    Common law marriage was originally designed to protect women against abusive boyfriends or in divorce proceedings, whereby otherwise the men could escape prosecution or paying their fair share in divorce settlements.
    As for this situation in particular, I really don’t understand the point. I co-habitat with my partner, we’re not married, we’re in no hurry to be married, and no one seems to have much issue with it. And, interestingly enough, in the entire apartment complex we call home, I believe most people who live here are in the exact same arrangement we are.
    Why does our expectation change if someone is in a position of power and authority?

  • minouette

    I have one – in Things That Would Never Happen in American Politics. As early as 1979, the wife of the Canadian Prime Minister, Maureen McTeer kept her maiden name and her career- and they are from the party on the right (the Progressive Conservatives, at the time).
    And I always thought ‘Progressive Conservative’ was an oxymoron.

  • marnanel.org

    For anyone who doesn’t want to sit through the audio, The Australian has a story on what she said about God. However, their headline confuses me. Why do they say she “has doubts” about God? She doesn’t seem to be in any doubt about her belief that he doesn’t exist.

  • Flowers

    Things That Would Never Happen in American Politics:
    An out lesbian with a long-term partner would be elected mayor of the fourth largest city in the US.
    Oh wait, it did happen. I’m pretty sure that Houston is still part of the US….. or do lesbians who live with their partners no longer count as non-married women “living in sin?”
    And btw, there was no poll regarding the effect of Annise Parker’s lifestyle on other women. Score one for American politics.

  • Chris

    “Common law marriage is an outrage.”
    Depends on definition and implementation.

  • Cola

    Ugh… aren’t leading questions great?!

  • Cassius

    I think American voters look for somthing to dislike to not vote a canditate, rather than for the strong points to vote a candidate, so the traditional couple is the most likely to offend the least people and thats who the big wigs put their money on.

  • marissafromboston

    this is not really how it is.
    you are not automatically in a common-law marriage just because you have a steady long-term partner. you could even have a child and property together and may or may not be common-law.
    to be considered truly and legally common-law, the couple must conduct their business in the manner of a married couple (like filing their taxes jointly), and present themselves to the world as a married couple (ie people know them as “husband and wife” or “spouses” or “partners” instead of just boyfriend/girlfriend).
    at least, thats how it is here in the state of texas.
    so i dont think common-law marriage is an outrage. it is a choice, just as traditional marriage.

  • Hamlet

    I couldn’t be happier that she’s an outspoken atheist, but unfortunately, she also seems to be against gay marriage.

  • cattrack2

    Wake me when Australia elects an Aborigine Prime Minister.