Thursday, November 13, 2008

Australia's very own Palin

By Chloe Angyal

Julia Gillard is Australia's very own Sarah Palin. Except that she's good at her job. And her ticket won. And really, the only thing she has in common with Palin is biology. But she's a woman in power, so let's back her! I'm just kidding of course - as Palin so deftly demonstrated, a uterus does not automatically make a person good leader for women (or for people), and certainly doesn't automatically represent progress for women.

But Julia Gillard, Australia's Deputy Prime Minister, apparently kicked ass this week in the absence of PM Kevin Rudd - she's acting Prime Minister while he's out of town. I'm a fan of Gillard because she's a very accomplished woman, and because she's successfully and calmly led her party through some pretty tough political times.

As Sydney Morning Herald columnist Annabel Crabb notes today, "there really isn't any doubt any more about whether Gillard has the killer instinct. The problem tends more to be how to drag her off the victim's body."

It's always exciting to hear about women in positions of power, but it's clear that they make people so very uncomfortable. Culturally speaking, leadership requires a "killer instinct," but a killer instinct is considered unladylike. Therefore, it's impossible to simultaneously be a good leader and a "good woman." And you hear a trace of this double bind in Crabb's column.

That said, I have a bit of a crush on Ms. Gillard.


At November 13, 2008 at 11:47 AM , Anonymous lizzie cruikshank said...

Initially I was about to pounce on the word "chick" in the article you shared about Gillard. Is Rudd often referred to as "dude" in the news? Then I was offended by the implication that she would need speaking notes to get through question time. Then I realized that clearly Rudd is the one being faulted here for his failure to explain reasonably his recent behavior and I saw that the "speaking notes" comment was not marveling at her ability in a vacuum; it was comparing her stellar performance to the less-than-stellar one of the current PM.

I didn't note the tension between being a good leader and woman in the piece. Sure, the phrase "Killer Gillard" was used to describe her and a sense of wonder at her attitude was apparent, but I didn't think it related in any way to her being a woman. I think instead it was a much more basic comparison between her and Rudd, who (though I don't follow Australian politics well so forgive me if I'm misinterpreting this) has been struggling to conceal that he almost definitely leaked the details of his phone conversation with Bush.


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