Thursday, January 27, 2005

What does being married have to do with it??

I apologise to my international readers as if they have no interest in politics then they will have no idea who these politicans are. To give you a brief run down, the ooposition leader here in OZ took very ill and decided to pull the pin, there are 3 front runners to take his place...Kim Beasley (male), Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard. So, do you agree that
We should ask questions about MPs' character, not personal status.
Some questions raised this week about Julia Gillard's suitability for high political office made me cranky. No prizes for guessing which ones. The question marks raised over Gillard's head because she is - gasp! - single and childless.
Excuse me? What year is this? What century? Oops, for a minute there I forgot. It's not the Whitlam-Fraser epoch (think equal pay, merit principle) any more, nor the Hawke-Keating era (think Sex Discrimination Act, Office of the Status of Women, Access to Justice initiative, Mary Gaudron on the High Court).
No. We are at the end of a decade of Howard Government and (mainly) Beazley opposition.
All political bias aside, both Howard and Beazley have considerable and undoubted merit as leaders.
Yet comfort with - let alone instinctive attraction to - the agency of successful, outspoken working women is not a standout feature of either man's political portfolio. Which seems odd, because there are lots of women like that in Australia today.

And, as concerned commentators keep reminding us, many women like that in their 30s and 40s are, like Gillard, single and childless.
Just like married mothers, not all single and childless women are personally content, professionally successful and psychologically stable. But very many single and childless women are all those things, and Gillard shows every sign of being one of them.
The hostile knee-jerk reaction to her lack of a nuclear family to call her very own wasn't about whether she'd be up to the job of political leadership. It's the product of a political culture that is now sort of OK about women being around in public life in credibly high numbers, but is still really only comfortable when they're functioning as lower-to-mid-level ornaments to the game. As geisha girls, not geologists, to bastardise my favourite line from the movie Japanese Story. The problems seem to start when they actually want to steer the four-wheel-drive, make no apologies about it, and feel and are no less feminine for all their feistiness.
These missed questions on policy vexed me even more than the 'sit down girlie' line."
At one level this is as simple as double standards. Most prominent Australians, competent in fields from politics to sport to business, are neither single nor childless. Many of these married men and women are occasional or serial adulterers, however, and many of these parents barely see their own children in daylight hours due to the demands of their office. Yet these arguably perverse permutations of family values seem not to raise the kind of automatic doubts that stalked Gillard's leadership bid.
I'm no great fan of Gillard as a politician. Mainly because she rose to prominence on the back of a refugee policy that should and could have better resisted the xenophobic pressures coming from outside and inside the Labor Party, including from her own faction, then she shamelessly used her brand-status as a (British) immigrant to market it.
Forensic attention should have been paid this week to that policy, in terms of both content and process, in the context of any sensible analysis of candidature for Labor leadership.
That would have revisited some difficult questions about Tampa flip-flop Beazley too, of course. And Kevin Rudd might have come out smelling of some stronger roses.
These missed questions vexed me even more than the "sit down girlie" line of challenge to Gillard's leadership competence. These questions should have been asked about all leadership contenders, because they would have gone to the heart of the concerns so many Australians have about the condition of our political culture.

3 Comments:

Blogger Jack the blogger said...

I'd like to put ten bucks on Rudd.

6:19 AM  
Blogger English Professor said...

If she did have a spouse and children, they'd question whether or not she was willing to put in the long hours it takes to be a leader, to sacrifice time with her family for the demands placed on her.
(Just ask the president of Harvard, in the U.S.).

2:25 PM  
Blogger Michelle said...

Jack ~ his my choice but unfortunately is not running due to lack of numbers.

EP~ i know your absolutely correct!

8:31 PM  

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