By MIA FREEDMAN
This is not a post about politics.
This is a post about our first female Prime Minister. Because that meant something. It MEANS something.
When Julia Gillard was sworn into office three years ago, I was sitting next to one of the most influential women in my life, Lisa Wilkinson. My first boss. My close friend.
As we watched our first female Prime Minister sworn in by our first female Governor General, we gave each other’s hands a tight squeeze. I can’t speak for Lisa but I’m pretty sure we were both thinking of our daughters in that moment. And it’s one we will never forget.
Because you cannot be what you cannot see. And for the past three years, every woman and girl in Australia has seen a female Prime Minister. The power and influence of that cannot be underestimated.
Julia Gillard was the first and it meant something.
Everything is always hardest when you’re the first. There’s no blueprint for how you should behave, nor how you will be treated. And much of her treatment was shameful. Undeniably so.
But that doesn’t mean we weren’t ready for a female Prime Minister. We were. We are.
Yes the polls went south. Yes, she was replaced before the end of her term. And yes, there were some awful moments. But it would be disengenous, unfair and incorrect to say this was all due to her gender.
As Gillard herself said in her exit speech, referring to being the first female Prime Minister and some of the challenges she had faced internally and externally in the past three years: “It doesn’t explain everything. it doesn’t explain nothing. It explains some things. And it’s for the nation to think in a sophisticated way about those shades of grey.”
I couldn’t agree more.
Because for the first two years she was in office, she did not make mention of her gender.
Others did. She chose not to.And when finally, blisteringly, brilliantly, Gillard rose to her feet and delivered the misogyny speech – this was not ‘playing the gender card’ – it was an authentic, spontaneous and passionate defence of how she’d been treated.