Tuesday 20 February 2018

Eilis O'Hanlon: Julia not a victim of gender politics

The Australian PM was ousted because she was going to lose – not because she's a woman.

WINNING IS EVERYTHING: Julia Gillard’s gender wasn’t enough to protect her from defeat when her Labor government’s unpopularity caught up with her
WINNING IS EVERYTHING: Julia Gillard’s gender wasn’t enough to protect her from defeat when her Labor government’s unpopularity caught up with her

Eilis O'Hanlon

Fat is a feminist issue, went the famous slogan. Now apparently failure is too, as Julia Gillard is recast as a martyr to the cause after being ousted as prime minister of Australia. Where was the sisterhood when the same thing happened to Margaret Thatcher? On the sidelines, cheering, as she packed her bags, I seem to recall. All female leaders are equal, but, in feminist eyes, some are clearly more equal than others.

Failure is a harsh assessment on Julia Gillard. It shouldn't be taken literally. She was the first female leader of her country's Labor Party and the first female Australian prime minister. That's a historic achievement by any standards. As she said when she was leaving office last week, she has also made it easier for "the next woman, and the woman after that, and the woman after that."

The multiple repetition of "woman after that" was a clever verbal riposte to the misogynists, reminding them that history ain't on their side. Too many gloom merchants cannot see beyond the limitations of their own era. Gillard was looking to the future. It was to her credit. I simply mean failure in the way that all political careers end in failure, as Enoch Powell once said, either with lost elections or lost leadership bids. Few get to choose the moment of their own going, either in politics or in life.

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