Why Julia Gillard's smackdown speech was brilliant.

Prime Minister Gillard’s speech yesterday was a triumph for feminism. It was a game-changer. It had me dancing in my car, prancing down the corridors with glee, and fist-pumping in the office whenever the video was played on the news. It had me yelling “Julia Gillard has arrived! This is what leadership looks like, amigos! Our first female Prime Minister has done us proud!

Since taking office, Gillard has been careful and deliberate not to cry sexism. By doing this, her opponents have been able to get away with some appalling behaviour. But yesterday, after Tony Abbott’s gob-smacking and highly provocative use of the Alan-Jones phrase “died of shame”, she let rip.

I watched the full 15 minute speech twice yesterday, and again first thing this morning. I woke up with a smile on my face.

But when I read the news, I felt like I’d seen an entirely different Question Time yesterday.

Either Peter Hartcher’s television is broken, or he dozed off and missed the part where our Prime Minister BROUGHT IT.

Hartcher wrote in his Sydney Morning Herald column this morning: “If Gillard won’t defend respect for women, what will she defend? Just another politician indeed.”

And this: “Gillard’s judgment was flawed. All she achieved was a serious loss of credibility.”

WHAT NOW? Defending respect for women is exactly what she did yesterday – with a fiery eloquence I’ve never seen from her before. Her judgment, like any other politician, is often flawed. But not this time. This time, she made a courageous choice to be honest and to be publicly angry, and I will not have any columnist take that away from her. Or from me.

Julia Gillard during question time yesterday

Peter Hartcher says we should have expected more from Gillard. To be honest, I expected less. I haven’t been proud of the Labor party like this in so long. I didn’t see this glorious political smackdown coming at all. Neither did Abbott – just watch his face.

My favourite feminist blog Jezebel called Julia Gillard a “motherfucking badass” and celebrated her speech. Feminist Caitlin Moran tweeted in support.

Buzzfeed have even created this brilliant list of GIFs with the best bits of Gillar’d speech that’s current going viral.

And The New Yorker has also praised her, claiming that Barack Obama could learn a thing or two from Julia Gillard.

The Feminist Ladies and Gentlemen of Twitter have united in praise for our PM.

Many are saying this speech will be an iconic one in the history of Australian politics and international feminism.

So why are so many of our local mainstream journalists denying the significance of yesterday’s events? Why have so many of them missed the reason why so many people were impressed?

Yes, PM Gillard’s speech began as an argument against Tony Abbott’s motion to expel Peter Slipper from his position as Speaker. But it turned out to be so much more than that. Anyone who characterizes yesterday’s speech as a defense of Peter Slipper is pitifully mistaken.


It was an erudite, honest speech on the sexism that has repeatedly been levelled against her by her opponents, led by Tony Abbott, with language including “ditch the bitch” and “make an honest woman of her”. To miss that is to completely miss the point.

The Prime Minister’s speech had about as much to do with Peter Slipper as a superb double-twist-summersault dive does a diving board. The Slipper case was nothing but a catalyst for a more important debate. It was, frankly, long overdue.

Yet almost instantaneously, Gillard’s behaviour in parliament was described as “aggressive.”

I prefer words like strong, fiery, resolute, honest, brave, and wonderful.

Dennis Shanahan from The Australian called it “a ferocious personal attack.”

Tony Abbott during question time

I prefer “triple-awesome political smackdown.”

Deputy Opposition Leader Julie Bishop said PM Julia Gillard has “let the women of Australia down.”

I think not. I think she’s given us hope, and for that I am so thankful.

Columnists and politicians have warned the Prime Minister that she will rue the day she took Tony Abbott to task.

I, for one, hope she will be eternally proud.  I will always, always, remember the day she stood up and spoke out about the incorrigible trend of sexism towards her. And I will be breaking into my Feminist Victory Dance for days, if not weeks, to come.