Politicking While Female: Julia Gillard and the “sex class”

The ABC News reports today:

Workplace Relations Minister Joe Hockey has suggested the Government’s work place policies are not as popular as Labor’s because he is not as pretty as Julia Gillard.
[…]
He says the Government’s poor poll results in the area of workplace relations may be due to image.

“Julia Gillard’s on the front cover of the ABC magazine, she’s in Women’s Weekly and all those things and I’m not as pretty as Julia Gillard obviously,” he said.

If there was anything that proved Twisty’s Sex Class Theory, this is it.

Any recognition a woman gains is attributed to her sex appeal. Women are not permitted the public display of brains, thoughts, ideas, policies, political power. If anything a woman says is being listened to by the electorate, it must be because she’s high on the pretty scale. It’s a convenient, effective way to dismiss both the individual woman and her entire gender as essentially ornamental and fundamentally irrelevant.

Gillard, the Member for Lalor, is the Deputy Labor Leader and Shadow Minister for Employment, Industrial Relations and Social Inclusion. Her record is particularly strong in Health; she is also strong on business, industrial relations, and most threatening of all, feminism and reproductive rights.

I hope Hockey gets the media smackdown he deserves.



Categories: culture wars, gender & feminism, Politics

Tags: , ,

16 replies

  1. It would be a nice matching smackdown for dopy old Heffernan’s “deliberately barren” remark. Could this Liberal Government make their disdainful bafflement with women voters any more obvious?

  2. Slightly OT, but I’d be interested in your responses – I find the Education Minister really vague and I think she comes across as unintelligent – probably lack of media training – but worrying in an Education Minister. This got me thinking about people like Lindsay Fox and Alan Bond (pre downfall) – two men who are proud of the fact that they left school early and are effectively self made men. What do you think is the attitude to women who left school early and have become successful?

  3. Sorry, Mindy, I got a bit confused there and thought for a moment “whut? Julie Bishop left school early?” but her bio says no, she did law. I see now that you’re referring to women generally. (Julie Bishop makes me grind my teeth. I have the same reaction to Abbott and have to read about their speeches etc because I just can’t listen to them. It’s visceral, I have no analysis to offer.)
    I’m trying to think of any women other than in the entertainment industry who left school early and became highly successful. I don’t think we can generalise from attitudes about members of the professional beauty fields such as films and pop music, because there’s always that slightly disparaging “bimbo” stereotype going on, and in any case the training that goes into such careers beyond school is extraordinary even if the public isn’t aware of much of it.
    Media: Oprah finished high school, and she had extensive broadcasting training in radio and TV for years before finding her format and huge success. Most other media figures have also at least finished high school, except perhaps sports commenters who tend to be ex-elite athletes. Speaking of whom, sportsfolk might leave school early, but again heaps of training beyond school, and prizemoney etc is not viewed the same way as money made through “business smarts”.
    Authors: JK Rowling is a university graduate as are most other authors with less than her thumping success.
    While I know of successful women entrepreneurs, I can’t think of any that trumpet a lack of education. Are you thinking of anyone in particular? Oprah probably comes closest in the way that she’s expanded her broadcasting talents into such a huge business empire after having had a dreadful childhood and an interrupted education, but she’s really proud of how she turned that around to finish school.

  4. Julia gave him a nice smackdown herself; saying that the public’s reactions are actually based on how they feel about workchoices and if he fails to listen they will see him as arrogant and out of touch (words to that effect). Every time they try and attack the opposition on this the gov manages to give the impression that they think the public is too stupid to understand- not a good strategy I think. Adding sexism to that is too stupid.

  5. Cool, su. Rounding up this morning’s news:
    The SMH, “Beauty Contest Turns Ugly”:

    THINGS just aren’t going the Federal Government’s way on workplace relations. A self-deprecating remark by the Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations, Joe Hockey, yesterday allowed his Labor opponent, Julia Gillard, to seize the moral high ground.
    […]
    The remarks ricocheted around news websites, prompting internet surfers to rush to Ms Gillard’s assistance. A Herald website poll attracted more than 5300 responses.
    One in five agreed that Mr Hockey’s comment was a sexist putdown. Almost as many said it was just a harmless off-the-cuff comment. Nearly 60 per cent agreed with the proposition: “Face it, Joe, she’s smarter than you on IR issues and that’s why she’s polling better.”
    Not that the former litigator needed any help defending herself. She said the minister’s comments showed he was not listening to the people on Work Choices. “The reason industrial relations laws from the Howard Government [are unpopular] is because they are bad for Australian working families,” Ms Gillard said. “I am offended on behalf of Australian working families that Mr Hockey counts their views for so little.”

    The Age: ”Politics no beauty contest, says Wong”

    Australians are not backing Labor because it has good looking frontbenchers, says opposition accountability spokeswoman Penny Wong.
    […]
    Senator Wong said she believed the Australian public supports Labor because of how it handled important issues.
    “I’m not going to comment on how Joe Hockey looks, but I will say this, if politics were a beauty contest I’m sure there would be many of us who wouldn’t be in parliament,” Senator Wong said.
    “I hope the Australian people are smarter then that, I think they are.
    “What they care about in their politicians is understanding the issues and that’s how we will be judged.”

    The Australian: ”Liberals sin-binned over Hockey remarks”

    AN academic hired by the NRL to educate rugby league players about women has sin-binned the Liberal Party over comments by Workplace Relations Minister Joe Hockey.
    […]
    NRL women’s issues consultant Professor Catherine Lumby said today that Mr Hockey should have known better.
    Prof Lumby, an associate professor at Sydney University’s Media and Communications program, said female politicians had to compensate for being judged on their appearance more than men.
    “Another example of this is the way that so much fuss has been made about Julia Gillard not having kids, or not being married, as though that’s the most relevant thing,” she said on Channel 7.
    “I’ve got to say, you would think the Liberals had learnt after Bill Heffernan comments about Julia Gillard being deliberately barren – it’s an outrageous thing to say.”

  6. Interesting situation. It’s fairly vapid / transparent / sexist that a politician is using the convinience of looks for failed policy.
    Also wanted to give you a heads up about an article I wrote about disproportional representation in the American system, especially in the disparity between male/female representatives. The most interesting tidbit is:

    Women of voting age represent 51.6 percent of the voting age population yet are 16.3% of the Congress, putting America below the global average of 17% female representation at parliamentary level. As of 2007, the US ranks 68th in terms of women holding office in the legislature “” this puts the US just above Turkmenistan, and just below El Salvador and Panama.

    [edited to disable the links, after further reading of the blog. Following further reading of his site, alec doesn’t get to blogvertise and hit-bump in my comments. If you wish to follow them, replace hxxp with http. …lauredhel]

  7. I’d like to warn Hoyden visitors that alec’s link contains attempts by men to “reclaim” misogynistic insults, pages and pages of defensive, sniggering excuses talking about the tremendous “irony” of their “sophomoric anything-goes humour”, “retard” jokes, a whole lot of “Can’t you feminists take a joke?”, and a logo depicting male violence against a woman.

  8. To be fair, the actual essay that Alec links to contains none of those things, but elsewhere on that site such things exist in plenty. There seems to be a particular relish found in objections made to its name and logo.

  9. Well, the link in the body of his post does include attempts by men to “reclaim” misogynistic insults (the site name itself), as well as the violent logo. The other pages you have to click for.

  10. Good catch. Yep, you can’t get away from the name and logo on the banner.

  11. I’m not trying to get in a flame war about this, but I don’t think we ever said ‘can’t feminists take a joke’. I think we did state that the idea of a superhero hitting anybody, including a woman’s behind, with a newspaper is funny. I don’t get the point of persecuting us as misogynistic when we display traits and qualities to the opposite. Thanks anyway.

  12. “Persecuting”? I didn’t seek you out.
    Let me know when you’re interested in _listening_ to women instead of instructing them on what humour is, and I might re-engage.

  13. Characterizing us as misogynistic is a more apt way of describing it. Not finding humor in the logo and name is fine: different people have different tastes. Calling us misogynistic based on this alone, I would characterize that as superficial. Instead of judging solely based on the facetious cover, I invite people to read the content and judge for themselves.
    You should check out ‘Physical Attractiveness, Opportunity, and Success in Everyday Exchange’, http://www.journals.uchicago.edu/cgi-bin/resolve?AJSv103p1565PDF

  14. alec, lauredhel did not call you misogynistic in all, but she did accurately characterise IMO “attempts by men to “reclaim” misogynistic insults” via the very name of your site.
    If you want the name and logo to keep on being the focus of discussion time after time after time that you enter a new forum, then by all means keep things just as they are. Like it or not, people do react strongly to the way things are packaged, and your site will be judged accordingly. If you want people to engage just on the content of your writing, you are marketing it badly. I guess it depends on what your purpose in writing is.
    I do appreciate that your link above is an attempt to get the thread back on-topic. Thank you.

  15. Hi, I’ve got a question about what has developed in the comments, but I do not want to hijack the thread. Where can I direct a specific question for an open and reasoned discussion?
    I’m unfamiliar with some of the connotations that come with misogyny and what it all means. I would appreciate an actual conversation with someone who is well versed in the issues instead of just reading a wikipedia page about it.
    More specifically, if misogyny is an action of an oppressor, how can anything be “reclaiming” it, doesn’t the concept of misogyny place it in the majority, and assumed social standard?
    I’m not trying to start a fight or corner someone, I’d really like to understand this viewpoint simply because I currently don’t.
    Thanks for anyone that is willing to talk with me about it.
    ~Charles
    heck, you can even call me at home. My phone number is (812)-339-3385. My name is Charles Pearce.

  16. Charles, the thread is already thoroughly derailed so let’s run with it but without flames, eh?
    I find it interesting that both you and alec aren’t distinguishing between misogynistic word usage and misogyny in general in your responses. Edited to Add: We were very careful to make that distinction, how come neither of you could manage it? -end edit
    In combination with your posting essentially the same post over at womensspace, it becomes even more interesting. Even the offer of the phone number is identical, which shows you either don’t know or don’t care that we’re Australian.
    Let’s just say this pattern seems extremely familiar to someone who knows who the meowers are and has read alt.syntax.tactical. Why haven’t we had our visit from Kit being reasonable at first and then posting something abusive that the moderator deletes? He’s visited all the other blogs you sent your link to.

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