WEL, you did ask about Julia

14 Sep

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:  

Unsettling home truths,  Julia undeserving of At Home with …and so are we

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…


19 Responses to “WEL, you did ask about Julia”

  1. David Horton September 14, 2011 at 11:42 am #

    Well yes Jen, I take your point and share your disappointment. The factor you are missing though is that if she did “behave like a woman” she would be slaughtered by the media to an even greater extent than she is now. To paraphrase an old saying, a female leader has to act twice as tough and nasty as a male leader to be considered half as legitimate, and this is very difficult.


    • Jennifer Wilson September 14, 2011 at 11:52 am #

      Well, as Gillard apparently isn’t widely regarded as “legitimate” anyway, she hasn’t got much to lose by modeling how to give a damn.
      It’s too late now for her to change tack, however – and it doesn’t look likely that the coalition are going to help with the Migration Act amendments. Actually, why should they, they can address that when in government without losing face, and arguing their case for Nauru.

      Thanks for linking my octopus piece!


      • AJ December 2, 2011 at 2:10 pm #

        At the risk of sounding anti-feminist I have to question some of the equal rights achieved by the movement. The right to get drunk, the right to cheapen yourself through increasingly tawdry behaviour, the right to drink yourself to oblivion, the right to act as violently or even more so than badly behaved men….I truly question if this is “feminism” at all and more an argument of “Nowdays if your a woman, who gives a toss what you do”. I am old enough to remember when the reasons for the feminist cause among moderates was still worthy. The right to an education, have a career and untie the apron strings….going back further the emancipation in the 19th Century from an existence limited to servant maid, prostitute, barmaid or street dweller for women in London city, being examples. Interestingly the social urgings of womens groups at the time strongly rallied against the love affair with the gin bottle and favoured the opening up of educational opportunity as a means to improve women’s lives. In my humble opinion, the women now living the life of free access to inebriation and squabbling over high heels are not part of this moment, and simply the modern reversion to an unenlightened age.


        • Jennifer Wilson December 2, 2011 at 3:33 pm #

          I saw a Sixty Minutes one night in which three young women took a camera crew along on their Saturday night out. One ended up in casualty, the other two with her, roaring pissed . A few days later they said on camera that women are equal now and have the right to get as pissed as men. I did shake my head. That isn’t quite what equality was supposed to be about, but once you let the tiger out of the cage who knows where it will go!

          I don’t have much time for the squabbling over high heels and body hair variety of feminism.


  2. gerard oosterman September 14, 2011 at 12:01 pm #

    Come what may, any alternative away from Labour would be a dive into the past. Some of those coalition fans are no doubt even buffing up remnants of The White Australian Policy, perhaps ferreting out bits and pieces that could be used to some advantage keeping out those hordes that are so keenly threatening to darken our doorsteps of our beloved Anglo Kingdom.
    They are licking their lips with the prospect of giving generous tax breaks to those big ten boys and girls who now own thirty, forty, is it fifty billion? More than entire countries. Now, that’s free enterprise for you!
    They’ll open new coal-mines, sell off everything, including jails, refugee centres, all hospitals, old age homes, the Salvation army, The Smith Family, everything capable of making a buck.
    Yes, a dive into the past indeed!

    Get out your Pat Boone collection if Abbott ever gets in.


    • Jennifer Wilson September 14, 2011 at 12:10 pm #

      Yes, agreed, Abbott and his gang are no alternative. Rocks and hard places comes to mind.


    • Marilyn September 16, 2011 at 3:41 am #

      What’s wrong with Pat Boone? Moody River is one of my all time favourite songs.


  3. Steve at the Pub September 14, 2011 at 12:18 pm #

    Don’t know what the surprise is about. There is nothing in the background of the PM to indicate any compassion, humanity, or anything except a carefully crafted climb to the top. She’s tramped upon everybody & everything. Her whole life is a constructed sham, right down to the house in the working class safe seat.

    The only surprise has been how incompetent she is. And how clueless.


  4. Marilyn September 15, 2011 at 5:00 pm #

    You did not read her Lowy speech did you? She told us why refugees leave home and then outlined the steps she would take to stop them doing so.

    Like gloating when the Sri Lankan navy act on our behalf to stop Tamil refugees leaving – we do dirty deals with all the spivs and warlords and then blame the victims.

    For the record Jennifer, Gillard has not ever cared a toss about refugees.

    She did not make one speech demanding the release of kids when she was shadow minister to Ruddock and now she spouts his drivel without regard for the victims.

    She can try to overturn the high court but to do so she will have to do two things,

    1. withdraw from the refugee convention for everyone
    2. try and write out the court of first appeal and be the loser again because she needs a referendum to do so.


    • Jennifer Wilson September 15, 2011 at 9:21 pm #

      Somebody just told me that Gillard is playing mother of the nation on the next junior masterchef.


  5. Marilyn September 16, 2011 at 3:42 am #

    Oh good lord, a spinster as mother of the country.


    • Jennifer Wilson September 16, 2011 at 7:30 am #

      Yep, women are breaking all kinds of taboos in this great country. How can something so good feel so bad.


  6. paul walter September 16, 2011 at 3:54 pm #

    Marilyn, too true and not to be confused with Moon River, of the same vintage and also a smash hit. Gillard’s lot as Marilyn and Jennifer have conceded, also have attempted good things,but their incapacity to comprehend and deal with the refugee issue appropriately when they are capable of dealing other difficult tasks, does remain bewildering. There’s definitely a big psychological trait exposed in
    Australians, through asylum seekers, but why after so much time have Aussies been so slow to wake up to it and see where it fits in with the overall picture. People are funny bastards..


  7. Marilyn September 16, 2011 at 4:26 pm #

    REvealed today in the AGE is the fact that 400 of the people Bowen wanted to illegally push away were already refugees because their husbands and fathers are here as refugees and another 100 were unaccompanied kids in his care.

    This is what the cowards are trying to write out of the refugee convention but without the odious TPV’s

    The Conference,
    considering that the unity of the family, the natural and fundamental
    group unit of society, is an essential right of the refugee, and that such
    unity is constantly threatened, and
    with satisfaction that, according to the official commentary of the
    ad hoc Committee on Statelessness and Related Problems (E/1618, p. 40),
    the rights granted to a refugee are extended to members of his family,
    Governments to take the necessary measures for the protec-
    tion of the refugee’s family especially with a view to:
    (1) Headline added.
    (1) Ensuring that the unity of the refugee’s family is maintained particu-
    larly in cases where the head of the family has fulfilled the necessary
    conditions for admission to a particular country,
    (2) The protection of refugees who are minors, in particular unaccompanied
    children and girls, with special reference to guardianship and adoption.
    (Welfare services) (1)
    The Conference,
    considering that, in the moral, legal and material spheres, refugees need
    the help of suitable welfare services, especially that


  8. Marilyn September 16, 2011 at 5:49 pm #

    It’s not online through normal channels, we have a service in SA where we can read all papers front to back through the SA libraries service.

    You need to check if your state has the same service.


  9. Marilyn September 16, 2011 at 6:09 pm #


    Like this in Victoria I assume all states have the service.


  10. Marilyn September 16, 2011 at 6:18 pm #


    Just gone online.


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