By FIONA ARMSTRONG
Growing up in rural Queensland during the 70′s, I have been exposed to more than my fair share of sexism.
This was the era of Joh Bjelke Peterson after all, and women were largely invisible in public and political life.
Insulting women on the basis of gender was a national sport, and attitudes to women in that state at that time was in part responsible for my decision not to return to live there following my first overseas trip at age 20.
Sexism was an ever present issue for the period of my professional life spent working as a registered nurse and – during that period of reflection that motherhood affords – one of the reasons I chose to change career.
I chose journalism – also a profession notorious for its sexist treatment of women, but while I was certainly witness to sexism, I was largely unaffected by it. And in the career I now have – in advocacy, research and communications in the health and environment not-for-profit sector – I’m pleased to say I have had the privilege of meeting and working with more men genuinely supportive of female leaders than in both my former careers combined.
But while I have witnessed plenty of sexism, it’s not something I have ever felt compelled to campaign on, or even respond to, preferring to simply avoid sexist environments and people.
That is, until Julia Gillard became Prime Minister.
The events of the last week have highlighted this in a way that has meant even the most reticent of observers now concede the treatment of our first female Prime Minister has been shockingly disrespectful, degrading, offensive and sexist.