Julia Gillard, Australia’s first female Prime Minister, a former leftist who rose to power on the backs of malignant neoliberal forces, has been usurped by Kevin Rudd – who seizes back the power taken from him in 2010. She leaves a short and mixed legacy: one of both increased support for the disabled and severely reduced rights for refugees, of both forward-thinking carbon emissions policy and backwards-looking gay rights policy. I’m not going to write about the pragmatics and the machinations surrounding the move – I’ll leave that to people both more informed and more boring than myself. I have one profound hope for this period in Australia’s history: that we look upon it as a great national shame.
Gillard was the subject of a focused and singularly vicious campaign which revealed the rotting underflesh of both Australia’s grotesque sexism and its for-profit media machine. There’s an old adage which calls news “the first draft of history”. In Australia, it’s more like the first draft of an 18th century penny dreadful. Never before have we had a politician so regularly eviscerated for what they wore and how they wore it, for the nature of their relationships, for their childlessness. These snide accusations will never be levelled at Kevin Rudd, and they will certainly never be levelled at Tony Abbott. Every preening, mewling defence against accusations of misogyny by white, male baby-boomers only increased the magnitude of the insult.
We have a serious and profound problem with women in this country. Gillard spoke vague platitudes in her final address about how it will be easier for the next female Prime Minister. That won’t happen until we eject every last trace of limp-dicked masculism from our discourse. Our culture is profoundly and fundamentally broken on gender politics, as it is almost everywhere in the Western world. Want to argue that point? Shut the fuck up. You’re so far on the wrong side of history that they’ll one day hang burning effigies of you from the tallest towers in the land. Count on it.
I don’t know how Gillard managed to absorb the monstrous abuse lobbed at her by both an increasingly toxic media and a caustic public discourse. Goodbye, Julia. Australia wasn’t ready.