opinion

The vicious treatment of Hillary Clinton is familiar, because Julia Gillard copped the same.

“She’s a LIAR,” spits a woman I know well. A normal woman. A nice woman. She is talking about Hillary Clinton, except she can’t even bear to say her name. That’s how visceral her hatred is. We are discussing the US election and I just assumed this woman would be as repulsed by Trump as me. Isn’t everyone? No. Unbelievably, some people are more disgusted by Hillary.

I cannot STAND that woman,” she insists. “She’s SUCH A LIAR.” She almost shudders when she says it, as if describing a serial killer or someone who harmed small children.

When I probe for details, for the reasons she hates Hillary so much that she would align herself with a racist, bigoted misogynist simply because he is running against this “LIAR”, she has none. She can’t even remotely articulate anything of substance that Hillary has done or said to inspire such an over-the-top reaction.

Listen to Mia discussing her obsession with American politics in full here. (Post continues after video.)

I can see she is overwhelmed by the force of her own hatred. As though Hillary has run over her dog and set fire to her house. As though she was personally enraged and seeking revenge.

It’s shocking to see this kind of venom coming from someone I consider otherwise mild-mannered and reasonable. And it’s an alarming up-close example of the kind of rhetoric we’ve heard again and again from Hillary’s opponents. The chants of “LOCK HER UP” at Trump rallies. The sneering, snide, aggression with which Trump and his surrogates speak about her at every opportunity. The sadistic glee with which they call her names and revile her as if she were not worthy of basic respect or decency — instead of someone who has dedicated the last 30 years of her life to public service and has worked her entire life to advance the causes of women and girls among others.

This unprecedented viciousness has lodged in my brain and niggled. It’s outside the spectrum of normal political or even social discourse. I’ve kept going back to it because there’s something familiar there.

And then suddenly I realised where I’ve heard that tone before: Julia Gillard.

A protestor at a climate change rally imitates Julia Gillard as Pinocchio. Image: Getty.
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That's the way her opponents spoke about her when she was Prime Minister.

Ju-LIAR. The venom and bile and rage and revulsion aimed at her was unprecedented. And just like Hillary, whenever you tried to press a detractor about why they felt so strongly, they grabbed wildly for justification.

For Hillary, people default to the emails, and the idea that she and Bill were somehow 'corrupt', using their political power for personal gain. Because no politician has ever done that before.

With Julia, it was the "backstabbing" of Kevin Rudd. Because no politician had ever replaced their leader before. The accusation of "LIAR" is invoked repeatedly about these two women in ways it never has been about any male politician in memory.

Listen: Mia Freedman and Amelia Lester discuss Donald Trump and the most jaw-dropping moments of the election. (Post continues after audio.)

Neither Julia nor Hillary have done anything outside the spectrum of decades of political behaviour. Oh wait, they've done one thing a bit different: they're women.

Politicians can be polarising.  But please do no even try to suggest that Kevin Rudd or John Howard or Barack Obama or even Tony Abbott or TRUMP HIMSELF has ever been subject to the same treatment as Julia Gillard or Hillary Clinton.

I watched last night as a Republican pundit was interviewed on Fox News and called Hillary "that crooked hag". Neither the interviewer nor the female pundit sitting next to him even flinched let alone pushed back on such repulsive misogynist language.

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Here are some of the 'fun campaign merchandise' that is available at Trump rallies and at the Republican National Convention back in July.

Image via Facebook.

Hmmmm, where have we seen that disgusting 'joke' before?

Image via Facebook.

When Julia Gillard was Prime Minister, we were treated to the revolting spectacle of Tony Abbott and others standing blithely in front of signs saying "Ditch the Witch" and "Ditch the Bitch".

Note the women standing there too. Bronwyn Bishop and Sophie Mirabella, both of whom were shadow cabinet ministers at the time the photo was taken. Misogyny is something that can be internalised by women too.

Sheryl Sandberg writes about the female likability index. The more powerful and successful a woman becomes, the less likeable she is. Direct correlation. Not just less likeable to men but also to other women.

That's what internalised misogyny looks like. We don't even know quite why we don't like powerful women. We just don't.

Alan Jones famously called for Julia Gillard to be taken out to sea and drowned "in a chaf bag'" Donald Trump leads his supporters in chants of "lock her up" (FOR WHAT? She has been cleared of impropriety by the FBI) and said to her face in this week's debate that if he becomes President he will seek to send her to jail. That is an open threat.

Some of Trump supporters attend his rallies wearing t-shirts that say, "I wish OJ had married Hillary".

Image via Facebook.

Trump himself has openly and publicly encouraged people to assassinate Hillary Clinton. More than once. In the debate this week he called her "the devil" - to her face - and insisted several times she had "evil in her heart".

Then there's the obsession on the actions of the partners of Julia Gillard and Hillary Clinton that no male poltician has ever been subjected to.. When not enough ammunition can be found to use against the women themselves, their opponents go immediately to the actions of their partners. Dating back decades.

For Julia it was an ongoing political obsession with a dodgy ex boyfriend in a bid to tarnish her by association. It went on for years despite her being exonerated of any wrong-doing again and again. With Hillary it is the actions of her husband Bill Clinton and the accusation (again, without evidence) that she was somehow complicit in the actions of someone else.

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When was the last time a male politician's spouse or ex girlfriend's actions were used to attack them?

Both Hillary Clinton and Julia Gillard have been branded "liars" by their detractors. Image: Getty.

It was once said of musical actress Ginger Rogers that she did everything her dance and acting partner Fred Astaire did but "backwards and in heels". The same can be said for female politicians, especially when they are seeking or in power.

The attention paid to their clothes. Their bodies. Their 'stamina'. Their sex lives and romantic histories. Their voices. How much they smile.

Watching Hillary Clinton on that debate stage this week, standing upright and staring down the lumbering, blustering bully who loomed over her in a deliberate attempt to physically intimidate while he made threatening remarks, I was struck by the idea of how women in power have to work twice as hard as men to be considered equal. This playing field is not even.

Which is why it's going to be an even sweeter victory come November 8th when she kicks Trump to the curb and strides over him and into the White House.

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