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.