In response to this Women’s Electoral Lobby invitation:
Julia Gillard has been receiving criticism from all sides and her popularity is at an all time low. Although it is certainly arguable that our Prime Minister does deserve some of the criticism it is worth looking at the nature of the criticism and the impact of the recent satire “At Home with Julia”.
Check out these articles and let us know what you think:
I’m about to make observations that could be attacked as gender biased if you were on the lookout for that kind of transgression.
It’s particularly shocking to me that Prime Minister Julia Gillard is determined to amend the Migration Act to enable the expulsion of women, men and children to Malaysia, because I don’t expect this of a female politician. After years of being highly educated in theories on the construction and performance of gender, it seems that deep down I still cling to the atavistic expectation that a female politician will care about the fate of asylum seekers, and I still feel shocked when she doesn’t. Hope over experience. Now there’s a trap to watch out for.
It isn’t yet clear to me if Gillard also intends to expel unaccompanied minors to Malaysia but if that is her intention, I’m gob smacked and quite frankly, tearful. I expect a woman to care about the fate of female and male children. I can’t bear it that she doesn’t. It’s like she’s betraying a core female principle. The shame of it.
This is as irrational as complaining that Gillard knifed an elected PM: I know we don’t elect our PMs, and I know the Westminster system allows political parties to replace their leaders without going to the polls over it. Nevertheless, I was and remain aggrieved that she did it. I was not among the feminists who rejoiced at the ascension of our first female PM. I found it alarming that those feminists decided to ignore the means in favour of the end. Things have only gone down hill since then.
There have been from time to time outbreaks of feminist indignation that the criticism, abuse and disrespect directed towards the PM are gendered. I’m going to add to the allegedly gendered criticisms by saying up front that I am horrified that a woman is acting without any care at all for other human beings solely for political gain. I’m not as shocked when male politicians do it: although it is just as despicable it isn’t very surprising. I am still not entirely en-cultured to the concept of men in politics being interested in caring in the way I’ve taken it as given for women.
I need to examine these gendered beliefs because it’s increasingly apparent that female politicians can be as care-less as men, and likely even more so if they perceive it to be politically expedient. I need to adjust my expectations to the reality that when the political chips are down, nobody much in politics cares about the fate of asylum seekers, regardless of their gender.
The women are up there with the men in the “don’t give a damn” stakes, and in this I include those Labor women who are saying nothing. I cannot bring myself to believe they have entirely abandoned the Labor principles currently being espoused by Doug Cameron. Yet their cowardly silence on their leader’s conspicuous lack of care indicates that if they haven’t yet thrown all ethical considerations to the winds, they don’t have the guts to come out and support the very few blokes who are attempting to restore some human decency to the discussions.
This morning, to my great relief, I read that my own federal Labor MP, Janelle Saffin, has bravely broken ranks to support onshore processing. Now let’s see how many others step up to support her. I’m ready and eager to eat my words. Congratulations, Janelle, you’ve got guts, girl.
This is an aspect of gender equality I for one did not anticipate. I would have liked to see the capacity for caring among male politicians raised to equal that which I was educated to believe is possible for women. Instead the country’s most powerful political woman has decided to lower our female caring standards to the point where she cares less than do many of her male colleagues. I didn’t think anyone could go lower in the uncaring stakes than John Howard and Philip Ruddock, let alone a woman.
This isn’t what was supposed to happen. This isn’t the kind of influence women were supposedly going to bring to government. We weren’t supposed to get up there and model care-less-ness to our girls. Our first female PM wasn’t supposed to make caring about other human beings (even if they aren’t exactly “like us”) a naff concept for our girls, or our boys for that matter.
So uninterested in giving a damn has the ALP become that the concept of caring about boat arrivals has absolutely no place at all in their asylum seeker discourse. Anyone who attempts to introduce it is thrashed, and then abused for bleeding out.
And I’m not fooled by the politically expedient and hypocritical concern for sinking boats. Treating people very badly to deter other people is a profoundly morally dubious proposition. Let’s not forget asylum seekers have committed no offence, and arrive here at our invitation. We aren’t attempting to prevent criminal behaviour with our harsh punishments and indefinite detention, because there’s no criminal behaviour in the first place.
I know I will be scoffed at for espousing a form of biological essentialism about the “caring nature” of women. Nobody can scoff at me as much as I’ve scoffed at myself. Nevertheless, is it such a bad thing to hope for a dimension of care in this dreadful debacle? Is it such a bad thing to hope that this dimension might be introduced and upheld by the women we’ve elected?
Of course I know both personally and professionally that women can be terrifyingly uncaring. Cruelty and ignorance are un-gendered. Has the struggle for gender equality revealed another unpalatable truth: that to expect and hope for caring women in politics is as naïve and sexist as to expect and hope for caring men?
On television the other Sunday evening I watched three young women prepare themselves for a Saturday night out. It was their right, they told the reporter, to go out and get as fall down drunk as the boys. The boys have always thought that was their prerogative, but those days are over we’re equal now.
The young women dressed up in pelmet skirts and very high heels, drank down more shots than I’ve ever had in my life before they even left the house, and the last we saw of them that night was in Accident and Emergency where one of their number was vomiting her guts up while the others milled round drunkenly, trying to stay upright and hold her hand at the same time.
Asked a few days later if they thought it was worth it, they claimed they did. Girls can do this now, they said proudly. In other words, girls don’t have to care anymore than boys do about their own welfare or anybody else’s.
And there you have it. Women have become equal in our right to abandon care, from the top down. Perhaps it was always thus and our liberation has merely exposed another fantasy.
And yet, and yet, and yet…