from unleash16 December 2011-January 2012
by Stephanie Elise Latin, who thinks that sometimes women can be their own worst enemies.
On 27 June 2010, Julia Gillard was sworn in as the 27th Prime Minister of Australia, becoming our first female PM. The way in which Gillard came into power was heavily criticized and labeled ‘undemocratic’, as the Australian public (and media) forgot that our political system involves our voting for the party - not the person.
Despite the fact that the majority of the public remains ignorant of Australian politics, there continue to be critics. And not just of Gillard’s policies either, but of her appearance, her style and of her personal life.
The first female in history to lead Australia’s political party does not have Australia’s respect.
Yes, we are living in a country where it has become an unofficial tradition to challenge politicians; it is part of our democratic culture to question and challenge political leaders’ policies. But rather than challenging what she stands for, we challenge her: the ‘dowdy redheaded woman in the poorly custom-made suit’.
The fact of the matter is that if Julia Gillard were male, her hair, outfits and naked finger would not be under constant scrutiny, nor would it be commonly featured ‘news’ on page six.
When I asked certain members of my generation what they thought about Australia’s female Prime Minister, I received an alarming number of responses that focused on Julia ‘the woman’, rather than Julia Gillard ‘the Prime Minister’.
Regardless of whether she’s a ‘ranga’ or a brunette, fat or slim, short or tall, married or single, these factors do not have any relevance to her role as the Prime Minister of our country.
Sadly, it seems that it is women who are often first to criticise Julia Gillard. Perhaps we are our own worst enemies when it comes to preventing the ‘glass ceiling’ being shattered. Rather than holding the ladder sturdy for one another; encouraging each other up, we rattle the railings; making it even more difficult to succeed.
I am the first to acknowledge an individual’s right to have an opinion. However, people need to distinguish between an informed opinion, and an ignorant one. Wherever you stand on Julia Gillard and her policies, she is the first female Prime Minister of Australia and that is historically significant. Rather than focusing on her physicality, clothing or relationship status, maybe we should start focusing on her ability as leader of our great country.
DID YOU KNOW?
The term glass ceiling refers to an unseen, discriminatory barrier that prevents minorities and women from rising to positions of power or responsibility (or from rising ‘up the corporate ladder’), regardless of their qualifications or achievements.