I hate to see the death of talent. In these past months we have been forced to watch the apparent death throes of two highly intelligent and very competent women, both in the top echelons of their professions.
For any woman who works in a profession, and I don’t care what profession it may be, there is an adage: “You have to be twice as good before you can be considered equal.” I first heard this saying in the early 70s when I worked in a predominantly male domain. Unfortunately it applies as much today as it did 40 years ago.
The likely demise of Julia Gillard as Prime Minister raises certain questions involving the role of the broad stream media, the current world wide political dynamic that is irreconcilably divisive, and the deep seated misogyny that shows itself to be still a fundamental part of Australian society.
Since Gillard’s ascension to the main job it has been interesting as well as dispiriting to see how she has been treated by those institutions in Australian society that come with influence and power. The lack of respect or deference to the office of Prime Minister has been evident. In many ways Gillard’s treatment has run in parallel with the treatment of President Obama by similar American institutions.
Australia has a woman in the top job, in USA a black man is President. Both leaders have had to endure a level of vitriol, unsubstantiated criticism and out and out lies, all fueled by misogyny on the one hand, and racism on the other.
If you look at the record of both, major changes have been achieved against all odds in a deeply polarized political environment as well as in the face of a cataclysmic international economic climate that has yet to reach its conclusion. These changes are fundamental with far-reaching benefits for a larger part of the community who were previously disenfranchised.
Gillard’s legislative achievements as a minority government will be forever on the history books as being truly remarkable given the context and constraints within which she had to work.
Why the demise ?
Gillard needed the support of the right wing faction to overcome Rudd and move into the Lodge. The reasons behind this are well known. A seriously dysfunctional Government led by a person who likes to micromanage and getting so inundated with decision making unable to make decisions. This conundrum is not unusual for those who like to control all.
The problem about those not from the right receiving support from the right is the right wing’s belief that they own you and have an inherent right to manage you. (Oh and haven’t they been doing such a bloody terrific job of it this past decade, especially in NSW.) Certain compromises must be made. That is a political fact. But problems arise when those compromises so obviously fly in the face of fundamental and well-known beliefs and values
Gillard was prepared to compromise what the rest of the population perceived as a core value for her. Why? -To keep the likes of Joe de Brun happy campers. In a man the public will forgive flip floppery, sexual peccadillos and the like. Not so a woman. A woman in politics must preserve that which she holds important as something almost sacrosanct – ‘To thine own self be true’ stuff. – A double standard? – You betcha! But it is one that exists so ignore it sisters at your peril. Thank you Julia, lesson learnt. Tell de Brun and his ilk the answer is no, because if you are a woman and it is important to be seen to be driven by conscience, not political expediency. A double standard? – You betcha! Howard and Abbott flip flopped on supposed core values. Not a squeak was heard, in the case of Howard, nor is with Abbott , from the mainstream media. After all, the mainstream media now has an agenda and it reaches in to the political arena. The media outlet is just one little branch of a larger conglomerate, and often is not even profitable but in terms of clout, immeasurable.
You are ultimately as good as those who are your advisers, and Gillard’s office from the get go, has been questionable in their policy advice, strategic planning and communication skills. At every critical stage they have apparently suggested pulling the wrong lever. In the end Gillard has to accept the responsibility for not organizing a better advisory and support group. Her team has not done her any favours.
Those who have set out to demonise her, and they include the more conservative elements in Australian business, religious and political circles, have lost all sense of proportion, appropriateness, and especially in the name-calling, decency.
In this regard the mainstream media is also culpable. As part of the commercially driven businesses now owning them, media outlets perform as players rather than as dispassionate and analytical observers. It is as if, from the beginning as Prime Minister, Julia Gillard’s being a woman, however competent, made her more open to a level of abuse that would not be accepted if a Howard, a Keating, or even a Rudd, were occupying the Lodge.
To those younger women who now occupy reasonable positions within the professional workforce, make no mistake. The struggle to overcome the entrenched and deep-seated misogyny that is a blight on this country is far from over. I had hoped, but fear I will not live, to see its demise
We are seeing the same scenario playing out in parallel in the USA where in this instance the malaise that stops them from progressing as a civilized society is racism. It is so easy for those who are happy to live with a personal toxic level of political opportunism and cynicism, to use fear as a political engine driver, manipulating large numbers of the public by appealing to their most basic concerns. Racism, sexism, and religious bigotry are the result. This takes generations of more reasonable policy to overcome and restore the veneer that civilizes us as a society.
The final shock for me has been the performance of Michelle Grattan. Grattan has been a journalist who, in my mind, has been an exemplary journalist of impeccable integrity and, for the last near 40 years, one of the few journalists whose work I relied upon. Her work when discussing the Prime Minister this past year has lacked the usual clear, dispassionate, analytical thinking, and instead, it has been coated with a certain level of venom. Grattan’s reputation and gravitas earned over the last four decades and which she always brought to any topic have now been pissed up against the wall. The reasons why she would undermine her reputation in such a way appear unclear, well at least to me at any rate. Her work smacks of a personal dislike or appears driven by some personal history. Journalists, like the rest of us, have personal baggage that’s accumulated through life’s journeys. The really good journalist is able to recognize the baggage and compartmentalize it so that it doesn’t taint the work done. Why Grattan appears not to have been able to do this when covering stories about the Prime Minister is unknown and is a great shame. For those who wish to read her last missive, the one that has prompted this piece as I found it nothing short of a disgrace from a journalist of such standing, I have included the following link.
Please read and judge for yourselves.
Unfortunately reminds me of this:
I was at Sydney Uni at the time and now I feel very old. In 1970 there was still a cap on the number of women who could enter the professional degrees, such as law and medicine. My much younger female friends, when reminded of this, are stunned. It is so easy to forget even when it’s history that is within a life time. Thank you for your support. Best wishes. J.
Yes, I remember the 1970’s too…however, even earlier….my parents did not believe in educating their daughter….who in her latter years took advantage of PM Whitlam’s free university education with great joy and appreciation! Yes it is so easy to forget history within our life time…and also easy to re write history !
My mother tells a similar tale. That is why she was determined my sister and I would have an education. We were the first in my mother’s immediate family to go to university.
Yes, I was the first in the whole extended family…not the first daughter …to attend university…and might I add..do rather well. Mother, I guess knowing she ought [is that hardening of the oughteries? ] acknowledge this …delivered a sugar bowl as her gift! My father? no acknowledgement whatsoever…. Tis an interesting phenomenon being the only female [now matriarch] in the whole extended family …
Well said. I too am dismayed at the underlying thread of misogyny that has characterised so much of the MSM and public’s criticism. Of course Gillard has not always performed that well, but agree she is criticised in ways men are not. Even Labor supporters view her replacing Rudd as some wicked act – yet men do it all the time. (Keating/Hawke, Abbott/Turnbull etc). With regard to Michele Grattan, I have stopped reading her articles for the reasons you describe. I too used to respect her objectivity. As a professional woman myself I recognise all too well that special brand of vitriol reserved for successful women by some women who actually prefer to “stay with the boy’s club”. Grattan fits this mould, and this latest article is proof.
Many thanks for your comments and I agree wholeheartedly. I could sit and weep over the quality of Michelle’s work this past year. For me the example included in my blog piece is a “what in hell was she thinking” moment. There are so few women at the top of their profession. We all know how hard it is to overcome the many obstacles that still exist to attain such a status. It is awful when you see a talented woman self-destruct in such a way as Grattan has. Speaking of two women who are aiming for the moon and deserve support, Monica Attard’s and Angela Cattern’s The Global Mail is launched today. You can follow it on twitter @theglobalmail or contact them on http://www.theglobalmail.org
Good piece. My only comment is re this:
“Since Gillard’s ascension to the main job it has been interesting as well as dispiriting to see how she has been treated by those institutions in Australian society that come with influence and power. The lack of respect or deference to the office of Prime Minister has been evident.”
So many people seem to have short memories about the way John Howard was utterly reviled by the left. I haven’t seen effigies of Gillard being burned yet, for example: (http://www.highbeam.com/doc/1P1-43876412.html)
That’s not to excuse the way she has been spoken of – it’s disgusting. What annoys me is the suggestion that it is because she is a woman. The denigration is sexist denigration, but she is getting it because she is PM, not because she is a female PM.
Dear Mr T,
The criticism she is receiving, some justified, comes with the job and I agree with that. It is how that criticism is expressed which raises the issue of misogyny and sexism. The size of her butt, her looks, her clothes, the tone of her voice, her domestic status. It is how she is treated in interviews by the media, the snide headlines and choice of photos, etc, etc. There is no doubt that there is a difference in how she is treated and that comes with her gender. So much of the media expressions come with a snide intro and that always then sets the tone of the piece that follows. Quite frankly I’ve had enough, hence the article. However, there are political issues and realities that must now be faced and considered. As always I like indeed value your input. Don’t for get The Global Mail launched today. Best wishes to you as always Mr T. J.
Spot on in all areas but completely so of Grattan. Well done Joan.
I’ve thanked you on twitter but I’ll thank you again. Don’t forget Monica Attard’s The Global Mail launches today. You can follow on twitter @theglobalmail or on http://www.theglobalmail.org It would be nice to have an independent media outlet that doesn’t make me nauseous. Best wishes. J
I have just discovered this post thanks to my twittering friends. I could not agree more.
Hawke ousted Hayden in similar circumstance to Gillard’s ousting of Rudd – and I can’t recall anyone turning a hair. Yet Hawke was already known as a sleaze with an alcohol problem; he was party to an airline strike which benefitted a corrupt business friend; and on leaving politics entered into various dubious business ventures including the Australia/Vanuatu betting biz. Haven’t noted Gillard operating at this level to date. So what’s the difference? Sexism.
Re the mainstream media, I am an ABC/SBS person, loathe the Murdoch press after living most of my life with no other option but Rupert’s Rags, and – now in Melbourne – read The Age. I have become increasingly critical of the ABC and The Age (which probably is proxy for the Fairfax press in general). I have noted the Grattan situation but have been unwilling to articulate it. I rely on senior Fairfax journalists + Paul Bongiorno on Ten for intelligence, moderation, and a newsworthy perspective.
I am reliant more and more on new media and social media for my information – and I don’t have to rely solely on an Australian viewpoint. I think for the foreseeable future we will have two media strands/streams: the old media trying to build a profitable presence on line; and the new media trying to find its making-ends-meet way while establishing a respectable and well read new form of journalism.
Many thanks for your comment.I agree with your analysis. Bongiorno is one of the few commercial TV commentators who appear balanced. The problem with watching 10 news is Bolt, a man for whom I have no time at all. Monica Attard’s new on-line paper. The Global Mail, started today. It can be reached by clicking on http://www.theglobalmail.org and registering. It can also be followed on twitter at @theglobalmail Again many thanks for your support. J.
This should be on The Drum, to get a wider audience. Then again, being exposed to the comments of so many on that forum who can only be described as slabs of hardwood means you need a thick hide.
Anyway, it’s a top piece of writing. Would an American woman president be exposed to such venom and hatred by large sections of the press? Not in the same way, at least, as being bawled out by the execrable Alan Jones for daring to be late getting to his studio. How many interviewers called Howard ‘John’, or Keating ‘Paul’ when interviewing them on air?
No PM in memory has had to deal with a political environment so difficult and so vicious. I thought we prided ourselves on the ‘fair go’ principle, or at least, admitting to when a person hasn’t had one. I’ve disagreed with several of her stances on various issues, and wondered what the pressures were exactly that put her into intolerable positions. Why were there not more analyses of these?
There were so many times when she showed her mettle but no credit was given by a hostile conservative press and their shock-jock lackeys.
Fair go? Never again. It may well be back to the Boys’ Club. Leadership undermining has a certain momentum, and there comes a point, as Hawke and Hewson and Rudd, among others, found to be unstoppable.
The Drum? I don’t think so. I think I’m far more content to just continue musing away, not on anyone’s radar, and those who follow and comment are more than welcome. My interests are far too eclectic as you no doubt can tell from my blog. I’m still a rookie at this blogging game and would just like to continue to mull away at my own time and in my own little mulling bubble. Thank you for the comment on the quality of the piece. That means a lot. I agree with everything you say in your comment by the way. Depressing isn’t it? Best wishes. J
just look what happened to @annabligh
the game is not over by a long shot, media biases do have an impact, and there seems to be such a high number, but then 18 months of driving home messages, and who knows what we may be doing.
Formidable talent may yet succeed.