Quick hit: Rachel Hills on Julia Gillard

Friend of the site Rachel Hills has a piece in this week’s edition of the UK magazine The Stylist, about the misogyny that marked Julia Gillard’s short but eventful tenure as Prime Minister of Australia. Gillard was ousted earlier this year, replaced by the man she herself had ousted just a few years before. Hills examines the role of misogyny and sexism in the taking down of Gillard:

To understand what happened to Gillard, it’s crucial to first paint a picture of Australia’s political culture, which is in equal parts ruthless and irreverent, full of brutal bon mots and poll-driven leadership changes. As an Australian woman, my earliest political memory is watching the debonair Paul Keating – no stranger to the parliamentary putdown himself – celebrating his victory over long-time collaborator and political ‘frenemy’ Bob Hawke for the prime ministership in December 1991. In my home state of New South Wales, the state Labor government changed leaders twice in one term. The BBC’s Nick Bryant recently described Australia as “the coup capital of the democratic world.”

In many respects, Julia Gillard’s rise and fall from power fits this dramatic pattern well. She became leader of her party in June 2010 when opinion polls suggested that Rudd would not win again. Then, when her own popularity tanked, Rudd swooped in to replace her. But while personal attacks are part of the seamy underbelly of Australian politics, those faced by Gillard had an extra unpleasant element. One look at the way some Australians described her (“witch,” “bitch,” “menopausal maniac” and a “non-productive old cow”) and it was evident that those gunning for Gillard were homing in on more than her politics: her gender.

“If Julia Gillard had been a man, she would [still] have been slandered,” acknowledges Rowena Bianchino, a 34-year-old psychotherapist from Coffs Harbour in New South Wales. “But the attacks on her were very gender specific.”

You can – and should – read the whole thing here. Hills does an excellent job of placing Gillard’s Prime Ministership in the larger context of Australian politics, and of the global project of changing the face of political leadership.

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