By JAMILA RIZVI
No, Minister Bishop. I repeat: No, Minister.
Earlier today you told the National Press Club that you’re not a feminist. When asked the question directly from a journalist, you said “I don’t find the need to self-describe in that way [as a feminist]… [it’s] not a term that I find particularly useful these days”.
Now, I recognise that being a feminist isn’t a label that would be warmly embraced in Liberal Party circles. Your female parliamentary colleagues such as Michaelia Cash and Fiona Scott have both publicly distanced themselves from feminism; maintaining it contradicts their belief in advancement based on ‘merit’. And I suspect few, if any, of your counterparts in the federal cabinet – male or female (oh, wait, you’re the only female, right?) – would self identify with the term.
Feminism in Australia has become increasingly associated with the the left of politics, particularly after Julia Gillard’s prime ministership came to the end. So it makes sense that a high-profile, conservative political figure like yourself might have misgivings about using the word to describe yourself.
But here’s the thing, Minister – whether you call yourself a feminist or not. You are one.
You may chose to reject the label but that doesn’t mean your behaviours and achievements aren’t consistent with the movement.
You are a feminist because you are a product of feminism. You benefit each and every day from the achievements of women who came before you and you are forging a path that will make it easier for the women who come after you. Your very presence in federal cabinet as the lone female voice, makes you a partner in the fight for gender equality in this country. And you don’t have to own it for it to be true.
Julie Bishop. The lone woman in Cabinet.
J-Bish – sorry, I get over-friendly and excited when I talk about the achievements of remarkable women – you’ve had a phenomenal career.
Let’s re-cap it just quickly because the details are important.
You graduated with a law degree from Adelaide University. A considerable achievement given that at the time less than 25 percent of law graduates in this country were women; today they are the majority.
You went on to practice as a lawyer in South Australia and then in Western Australia, ultimately becoming managing partner at law firm Clayton Utz. This is something you couldn’t have done had you been born 40 years earlier, when women were not permitted to practice as solicitors in Australia. What changed that? Feminism.
In 1998, you entered the federal parliament as the Member for Curtin; the first woman to ever hold that seat. You followed in the footsteps of Enid Lyons, who just 55 years before you, became the first woman to sit in Australia’s House of Representatives. Due to…..feminism.
Then, in acknowledgement of your considerable talent and experience, Prime Minister Howard elevated you to his front bench and you became a Federal Minister. Amongst other ministerial roles you served as Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for Women’s Issues, where you dedicated your working days to advancing the cause and status of women in this country. Which is….feminism.
In Opposition, you were elected as the first female Deputy Leader of the Liberal Party and today you serve in one of the most illustrious roles in the Abbott Government, that of Foreign Minister. You are the first woman ever to hold that position in our nation’s history. Because of… feminism and merit. These two things are not mutually exclusive.