Single white political female. Did I say “single?” I mentioned she’s single, right?

Tasmania is a tiny island at the bottom of Australia. Most people outside of Tasmania know very little about Tasmania. Most people outside of Australia know almost nothing, but can usually bring a certain Warner Brothers cartoon character to mind if they try hard enough. But here is something cool about Tasmania that you will know at your next trivia night that no one else will: Tasmania just got its first woman Premier. Lara Giddings sits, smiling, in her new office overlooking Hobart Harbour

Lara Giddings was the youngest person ever elected to Australian parliament, winning her seat when she was just 23 years old (which makes this 23-year-old feel like a total underachiever). This week, she became the first woman to be sworn in as Premier of the state of Tasmania, after serving for two and a half years as the state’s second ever female Deputy Premier. This means that in addition to having its first woman Prime Minister, Australia now has a woman at the helm in three of our seven states.

Which is all well and good, I hear you say, but what of Giddings’ left ring finger? What of her UTERUS? Enough talk of gender equity and politics and leadership! Let’s talk about what really matters: does she have a strong manly husband and lots and lots of babies to offset the unpleasant fact that she is a woman with power?

The answer is no. She does not. She is 38, unmarried, childless and OH MY GOD FREAK OUT. The newspaper The Australian ran this headline earlier this week: “Leftist Lara Giddings Still Looking for Mr. Right.” The woman has just been made head of her state, and also its Treasurer, sure, and she’s the first woman to ever hold the job, but let’s focus on what matters, which is that she’s a picky lefty feminist who hasn’t settled down yet. Sounds like someone at The Australian has been studying at the Piers Morgan School of Using Journalism to Insult Powerful Women!

But The Australian wasn’t alone in focusing on Giddings’ pathetic, pitiable loneliness. Pretty much every newspaper article about her new job mentions the fact that she’s single, and at the press conference in which her takeover was announced, one female journalist asked, “As a single woman taking on the role, do you, are you concerned perhaps you’re giving up the potential to have a family? Is it compatible?” Which is a fair question, right? After all, it’s a question that male politicians get asked all the, er, never.

For her part, Giddings seems to have some thoughtful things to say about why, for women, politics and marriage often don’t mix. She believes it might have something to do with the fact that in our culture, powerful men are sexy, while powerful women are scary: “For some reason, men in politics seem to have a larger charisma and women drop around their feet,” she told The Australian. “I haven’t noticed that so much for me.” And so, she is single, and probably will never have children.

Clearly, this situation must be rectified immediately. If you are an eligible man who would like to marry, impregnate and raise children with the Premier of Tasmania, please consider applying for the position of Validator of Lara Giddings’ Existence. The ideal candidate will be manly enough to prove beyond doubt that the leader of Tasmania is not a lesbian, but not manly enough to prevent the newspapers from mocking him for being less powerful than his ball-busting wife.

Quick, the application period closes soon, as the idea of a single woman with power is too terrifying to be entertained for very long!

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7 Comments

  1. Posted January 28, 2011 at 12:24 pm | Permalink

    On the subject of powerful men versus powerful women, I have noticed in my own life a few troubling things. Societal conditioning and imprinting is so strong, that I’ve even seen even feminist women sometimes respond to a powerful man in completely different terms than a powerful woman. It’s really difficult sometimes to not let old habits and prejudices lead us in directions we know are unfair and unequal.

  2. Posted January 28, 2011 at 12:59 pm | Permalink

    So true. I am really ready for us to get our own scary single female leader.

    Actually, Minnesota’s new (male) governor is single, and he has gotten some questions about that. But mostly along the lines of, “Egads, if you are single, who will do all those ‘First Lady’ tasks for you?”

    • Posted January 28, 2011 at 1:39 pm | Permalink

      I’m not actually sure where you’re getting your information because Mark Dayton is married.

      • Posted January 29, 2011 at 6:13 am | Permalink

        Really? I live in MN and don’t remember reading anything about Dayton being married. Wiki, at least, says he’s divorced as of ’99:

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mark_Dayton

      • Posted January 29, 2011 at 1:24 pm | Permalink

        Governor Dayton has been divorced for about 10 years. He has gotten a lot of questions about “who is going to fulfill the ‘traditional’ duties of the first lady” and they are just as irritating as asking a single woman how she can function without a man.

  3. Posted January 29, 2011 at 1:42 pm | Permalink

    Here’s the comment I left at that theaustralian.com site, and just in case it gets caught in their filter here it is again.

    I think this is a very important thing to talk and think about for every aspiring politician, because the hand-wringing over her Giddings’ single status is about a very basic, deep belief we as voters have: namely, that you can’t properly have empathy for your constituents unless you actually share first-hand life experiences and life paths.

    In response to “Nemesis”, who brings up exactly this belief (though in their case, it’s doubt as to whether someone who’s been a politician for all her adult life can properly empathize with businessmen and others with “real jobs”):

    @Nemesis– why is SHARING the experiences of your constituents necessary to have empathy with them?

    If we don’t have the same life paths as those who elect us, we can’t exactly go back and get new lives in which we do have the same backgrounds.. Moreover, staying out of politics and/or sticking to our own kind of constituency– two “solutions” often proposed to pols who don’t “match”– are the easy way out of this conundrum. We just follow the societal script as to how best to gain empathy, and don’t find new ways of getting it.
    The best way, of course, is to find an alternative pathway to developing that empathy and connection with voters.

    If we’re to truly respect our individual differences, we have to get out of our heads this idea that ONLY shared first-hand experiences are sufficient to confer empathy.

    It’s the main reason behind our preference that our pols be married with kids, too: since most of us are married with kids. I wonder how many loveless marriages and unwanted kids exist, in fact, because we believe that we must have those things in order to relate to others?

  4. Posted January 29, 2011 at 2:02 pm | Permalink

    A second factor in tut-tutting over a politician’s single and/or childfree status has to do with our concepts of sociability. A lot of us still believe, despite the research, that only children lack a basic facility in relating to others, and the only way to properly learn interacting with peers is to grow up with brothers and sisters.

    We liberals and feminists easily see through the crock that is “she’s single so she must be a lesbian”, but we still have a tendency to believe, on a visceral level, that single people are lacking in social skills or psychological strengths relative to their peers with marriages and families.
    Humans are social creatures, constantly says the research. People like better those people who have similarities with them, says a good deal of scientific proof. We are healthier and happier when we have strong social support networks, say not only the medical media, but our own intuitions: we just feel better when we know others love us.

    The problem with all this is that nowhere is any mention made of the behaviors we engage in to keep our social support systems healthy; and unfortunately they involve more giving in to our worst tribal natures than we’d care to admit. Hiring and picking friends based on similarity and comfortability may be good for the psyche and endorsed by evidence, but it also results in good ol’ boys networks and reinforcement of the idea that one must share lifestyles to truly empathize.
    Most of all, this line of thinking encourages us to think of relationships as, primarily, pieces of evidence that we are likeable and emotionally healthy enough. Which, ironically for anyone with a progressive mindset, codifies yet another onerous societal script: a tyranny of who society says is the most sociable, and thus best fit to lead and inspire us. As well as, very likely, making those in relationship with us feel used.

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