While You Were Away…

Posted in Uncategorized at 9:13 am

Well.  Exciting times in the ol’ homeland.  Of course, we would have a leadership spill that results in a new Prime Minister – and Australia’s first female PM – the one time I’m overseas for a holiday.

I’m still trying to catch up on all the news; my husband Stuart and I returned home yesterday, and most of our time was spent sleeping off jet lag.  I mostly kept up with what was happening while I was away through text messages and emails from friends, and Twitter, with the occasional peek at the Age website.  Hooray for living in an age of digital communications!

So I’m not as well informed about Julia Gillard’s rise to the role of PM as I could be, but since that’s never stopped anyone from forming an opinion about anything, I’m going to post about it anyway.

I am…cautiously optimistic, but I’m witholding full optimism until a Gillard-lead Labor government is put into place by the people of Australia.  I think it’s worth noting that, even though we don’t directly elect our PM in the way that Americans elect their President, a lot of people seem to consider that we do.  And I don’t think that’s just ignorance of how the Westminster system works (although that probably accounts for some of it) – both Tony Abbott and Kevin Rudd have referred to the Australian people electing their PM, and one would think that they’re both pretty well-versed in how the system works.  It’s an acknowledgement of how much Australian politics is a game of personality, of good-old-boyness and appearing to be a Top Bloke.  John Howard played that game well enough and long enough that he had a enough voters convinced of his Top Blokeness, even as he put actions into place that would shaft a large proportion of the public.

So I guess that Gillard still needs to convince voters of her Top Nonblokeness, although there seems to be a lot of goodwill aimed her way.  I am certainly excited at the prospect of having a female, unmarried, non-religious Prime Minister.  I don’t think Gillard’s success is necessarily a blow for feminism though; if women getting into positions of political power were always a sign that we’ve achieved all the goals of our movement, then Margaret Thatcher would be a feminist icon. 

That said, part of the Top Blokeness of the past has relied upon pollies convincing voters of their squeaky-clean, upstanding personal lives, with faithful wives and 2.3 kids and blah blah whitepicketfencecakes.  The fact that we’ve got a leader who quite openly does not have those things, and who has weathered criticism from her opponents about not having those things with a great deal of grace, makes this recently married but cheerfully “deliberately barren” woman quite happy, because I think it’s a step forward regardless of gender.  Yes, we want our elected representatives to be upstanding people, but a person’s upstandingness does not hinge on whether they’re a “family” man or woman who’s done the marriage and children thing.  I’d like to think that maybe, this is a small step forward in moving away from so much political pandering to families at the expense of others.  I’d also like to think it’s perhaps part of a cultural shift away from traditional values about a person’s worth, when the Shadowy Figures who helped support Gillard’s rise to the top think that an unmarried, female, childless atheist with a unionist background is what the country wants.

Personally, I’m waiting for What Gillard Does Next (presumably not become a professional travel companion).  I’d like to see the internet filtering shenanigans ditched once and for all, because as a person who likes freedom of information and, for that matter, as a professional librarian who likes the same thing, DO NOT WANT.  I’d like to see a government that doesn’t pander to Big Mining (you may say I’m a dreamer…), and I’d like to see Gillard use her status to work towards improving the status of all women, which is what would make hers a feminist Prime Ministership.  And about a million other things.  I don’t ask for much.

In the meantime, I will continue for now to enjoy the little frisson I get when I’m listening to the radio and hear the words “Prime Minister Julia Gillard”.

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