Yesterday, as I learned while driving along Burke Road listening to PM, Lara Giddings had just replaced David Bartlett as Tasmanian premier, and DID A JOURNALIST IN THE PRESS CONFERENCE JUST ASK THIS QUESTION? OH YES SHE BLOODY WELL DID. *Head threatens to explode*.
…As a single woman taking on the role, do you, are you concerned perhaps you’re giving up the potential to have a family? Is it compatible?
I like to think there’s a split second where Giddings gives the journo a death-ray glance before she breaks into her, apparently signature, charming smile. But that’s probably wishful thinking. Like most of our politicians, she knows she has to roll over and play nice for the press gallery, however shit her immediate questioner may be. They have the power to make her look bad. And she knew she was wedged. So instead of saying “what an appalling question, and beside being not relevant to the topic and none of your bloody business, you wouldn’t be asking a single man that if he was in my shoes today”, (Headline that day: Tasmanian PM proves Feminists Have No Sense Of Yumour!1!”) she said
If I had the choices, then, uh, it might be an issue for me, but I’m yet to find that man.
Which broke my heart. No, not because she hasn’t found a man! Because a woman who’s being interviewed on a rather important achievement and should be in a position of authority still has to submit to insults like this and laugh along.
I don’t know who the “female reporter” was, although I have my suspicions, based on level of reporting fail, proximity to Hobart and obsession with femininity performance.
Although Giddings tried to have a red-hot go at talking about her actual policies and qualifications for the job, this was what the Australian put on its front page today – “Leftist Lara still looking for Mr Right”. FFS.
To those of you who are going to say this is trivial and not political and build a bridge, this stuff matters. Sure, little girls are watching and learning that they can become Premier. They’re also learning that if they do, people will quiz them in public about their marital status and sex life and that for a woman, not being partnered or having children is a terrible loss of face. And they will get the message, still, that if you’re a woman and you want to aspire to the top jobs, you risk having to give up the family thing, but men don’t. (And, no, reporting family matters about Tony Abbott or Kevin Rudd isn’t the same thing.)
Journos, I know you’re having a difficult time of it, but is wilfully choosing braindead stupid questions really necessary? And does advancing the male-as-default-woman-as-curiosity narrative really have to be part of your job description?
Crossposted at the Cast Iron Balcony
Categories: gender & feminism, Politics, work and family
Great post Helen. Unbelievable question for a Premier.
That Australian article is particularly awful. Totally disgraceful to focus on her current marital status and past relationship history. Of greater interest would be her views on Green politics.
”She suggested she had probably made sacrifices in pursuit of a career in politics, including failing, so far, to find a life partner.” (my emphasis)
Failing? Failing? Since when was finding a life partner a competition?
I saw it “reported” on Channel 9 news, and yes, you guessed correctly, that was the video grab that they used. It was so bizarre – the newsreader announced the story, “Lara Giddings replaces David Bartlett, blah” and then they cut to the video. Complete non sequitur, but don’t worry ’bout that, folks. It’s important that we get this statement to air!
Later in the article, she says this:
While respecting Mr Bartlett’s “courage and honesty” in citing his desire to put the needs of his two young children ahead of the job, Ms Giddings said she and other MPs believed he should have “finished his task . . . as our leader”. She suggested she had probably made sacrifices in pursuit of a career in politics, including failing, so far, to find a life partner.
Which suggests to me that “looking for Mr Right” is something she puts secondary to the responsibilities she’s assumed – certainly less deserving of being the subject of the headline. At least the headline now includes her last name.
Isn’t it all so frustrating? blue milk, you say it is unbelievable – I would like to agree, but unfortunately, I think it is all too believable 😦
I like Anne Summers’ opinion piece on this precise topic (and hairstyles) in the SMH today.
From Anne Summers article: ”It is one of the great paradoxes of Australian society that as the numbers of women in public life grow, we seem to become more anxious about whether they are “real” women; whether they are married and have children. We seem to fear that power erodes femininity, which just goes to show that we still retain unexamined, and perhaps unconscious, assumptions about political power being masculine.”
One of the things I hated about the last Federal election campaign was the Women’s Weekly story about Julia Gillard, and those photographs where she really didn’t look the the Julia we see on a normal day. The pressure to submit to that sort of trivialisation must have been enormous for her to have done it. Yet apparently thousands of readers loved the story.
The focus on appearance and marital status (even the word status implies a value judgment, don’t you think?) and family structure for women who hold political power is the same as that seen in the office of Stirling Cooper in Mad Men. I suspect Giddings’ interviewer might watch that show and gasp and tut tut and say how awful things were then, though she appears completely blind to it in her own work.
Sometimes I think women perpetuate these assumptions about femininity, masculinity and power, as often as men. sigh.
Definitely – we’re all swimming in the same false gender binary soup. Women are hardly immune, indeed women get the gender policing stronger in early childhood, IMO, through being told there’s all those things that little girls don’t do, and even just dressing girls in impractical clothes and then telling them that ‘little ladies’ take care to keep such pretty clothes nice and clean. Boys get some gender policing from parents too, mostly about appropriate dress-up clothes and toys, but I think they get more seriously limiting gender policing from peers in prepubescence and adolescence.
More commentary from Jeff Sparrow and Kim at LP.