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"...public opinion deserves to be respected as well as despised" G.W.F. Hegel, 'Philosophy of Right'

picking on Julia « Previous | |Next »
September 17, 2007

Just for the hell of it, I've been trying to find an explanation for the irrational hatred and apoplectic rage some white Anglo males of a certain age feel for Julia Gillard, other than the obvious feminist ones.

The weekend edition of the local Gold Coast Bulletin looked like a promising source of ideas. The front page was covered in women. Three sisters whose genetic inheritance gives them a much worse than average chance of developing breast cancer, the "Gold Coast's greatest modelling export, Kristy Hinze" and Maddison Gabriel who, at the criminal age of 13, is "the face of Gold Coast Fashion Week". Her mum and the Bulletin are on her side, but commenters are divided. As far as I can tell nobody of any political news value said anything about the breast cancer story.

Anna Bligh is the big topic beyond the cover, but columnist Sue Lappeman thinks the worst thing about Bligh is that she says 'arks' when she means 'ask'. Our Anna has doled out responsibilities in unusual and impractical clusters, but she's sort that out eventually. There's a shot of Bligh surrounded by five other female members of the Queensland Parliament. It's part of a three page feature written by Robyn Wuth on women in politics who, globally, appear to be popping up in plague proportions. Maybe that's the problem. Maybe Gillard is just another one of too many women?

Our local old school columnist Peter Cameron is upset there are no Gold Coast MPs in the Bligh cabinet, but he's furious to the point of spontaneous combustion that the tourism portfolio has gone to a woman. An "old duck". From Cairns. This decision clearly demonstrates that Bligh couldn't give a toss about the Gold Coast or Queensland tourism, even though she's a Queenslander from the Gold Coast. Though he doesn't mention that bit.

Cameron makes his living out of being a white Anglo male of a certain age, so his attitude comes as no surprise. He's one of the eastiest targets you could hope to find from a feminist perspective. A 13 year old fashion model could make mincemeat of him. Surely there's something more challenging to all of this?

But wait. As well as a handbag full of steak knives we can now offer a new angle from neuroscience. Social neuroscientist David Amodio spends his days looking for biological explanations for social attitudes. A recent study has found that the conservative brain isn't terribly good at dealing with change. Those with liberal political leanings are quicker to adapt their behaviour when something new and unexpected comes along. Does Julia Gillard count as something new and unexpected?

It's an interesting proposition. For one thing it suggests that some white Anglo males of a certain age can't be held entirely responsible for their attitudes. Maybe they can't help it. Instead of condemning their attitudes maybe the liberal minded should be offering sympathy and organising 12 step programmes. Surely a reluctant anterior cingulate cortex counts as a handicap.

But there's something else going on here. These stereotypical white Anglo males of a certain age are happy to accommodate all the change on offer when it comes to free trade, liberating the market and the apparently necessary change in industrial relations. Change of that kind is not startling in the least but, on the contrary, a logical necessity in our new global environment. There's a whole new world out there and we need to change to keep up with it.

Back in May when Bill Heffernan made his "barren" comment and Joe Hockey thought Julia Gillard had better approval ratings than him because she was prettier, Jocelynne Scutt argued that sexism in politics is a red herring. Comments like these are strategic devices for drawing attention away from more weighty concerns like unpopular IR laws. We're so accustomed to thinking politics is sexist we don't even stop to consider possible alternative explanations, so it works every time.

The problem with Julia Gillard is not that she's a woman or redhead or pretty or barren, but that she's the opposition spokesperson on one of the government's weak spots. And white Anglo males of a certain age are the logical pawns in this game, since they're just conforming to stereotype. It sounds like a viable explanation to me.

| Posted by Lyn at 2:35 PM | | Comments (13)


Bligh in my book is an improvement from Beattie.
As for Gillard;
I don't feel that shes a real contender for P.M and that has to be looked at. Say Rudd wins and is hit by a bus or gets cancer or something. Gillard as P.M.??? Never! And if she not genuinely the next best candidate she is little more than an opportunistic accessory for Rudd.

Yes I noticed the woman thing with the paper too. It made look at the back pages but I counted 12 pages in before there was a pic of a woman. Funny I thought!

Les, Gillard probably would never get a chance for a try as PM because of the scungy faction system operative within the ALP, which is dominated by the social conservative and misogynistic Right factions.
Can't see she should would do any worse than the unconditionally successful NZ leader Helen Clark who is similarly charismatic and smart.
Which brings us to the reason she's copping "attention". Simply because she actually is a top level performer who puts the fear of God up mediocre rivals both on the Tory side and her own.
She'll play Keating to Rudd's Hawke, or Costello to Rudd's Howard, but its only luck and prejudices of gender and ideology that'll keep her out of a job that would be as much naturally hers as any other current politician, based on the criteria of ability alone.


That's the argument Scutt makes. Her enemies go for the gender stuff because there's little else to criticise her for.


Why is Gillard not a real contender?

Gillard for PM I say. To hell with some white Anglo males of a certain age.


Some white Anglo males of a certain age are definitely past their use by date. Gillard is clearly not. Every time the SWAMs open their mouths they just make the contrast more obvious.

As I said before Oz is ready for a female PM I think but I don't think it would be her. I don't say that because of the party she represents just that I don't think she is a person that will get the numbers. I wonder whether she may have a use by date on the back of her head now the work choices issue seems to be waning. But still even if she is Rudd's man bag it was a good choice they made. If they had picked swan as deputy the polls would be very different I think.
I don't fit into your demographic because I actually find her quite attractive in a country sort of way.
Now Helen Clarke I would chew my arm off rather than wake her in the morning!

We'll just have to wait and see Les. Gillard has successfully transformed herself into deputy material and may yet become whatever it is that people expect prime ministerial women to be. They can't all look and sound like Margaret Thatcher and Hillary Clinton.

Yes it may happen in the future who knows. Its all about being the right thing at the right time. Margaret Thatcher or for that matter Bob Hawke wouldn't get up now most likely.
Hillary has been improved by Bills doings. Sort off comes from the school of hard knocks after all that saga. That is a large part of her appeal apart from her smarts and the fact that most hate Bush and want the Anti-bush.

On one hand we have Kevin Rudd who seems as connected to the working man as Alexander Downer appears to be Australian and Julia Gillard who proudly recommended her Slater and Gordon buddy into politics with an anecdote about how sneaky he was and how he used to shuck work by leaving his jacket on a chair pretending to be around and who has as much political self control as a Stalinist on May day - and on the other hand a strong politically savvy survivor in the form of John Howard who, however unlikeable, does know how to get the dirty jobs done coupled with a financial genius who's honesty is second to none in the form of Peter Costello. They say if you don't vote Labour when you're young, you have no heart. But I have to say that if you don't vote Liberal given these choices, you don't have a brain.

re your commentThat's the argument Scutt makes. Her enemies go for the gender stuff because there's little else to criticise her for.
Scutt's claim can be contested. Gillard wasn't that great when she held the health portfolio.


It could probably also be contested on the grounds that she doesn't need to be great at her job to make Workchoices look bad.

I think that she is good at her job. She plays hardball to Rudd's softball and she does it well.

I see that one P.P. McGuinness is writing in the Australian that 'Julia Gillard is not yet to be taken seriously as a policymaker, though she may emerge as such if in power'.

I presume that P.P. McGuinness, a former editor of The Australian Financial Review and current editor of Quadrant magazine, is another example of the stereotypical white Anglo males of a certain age that you refer to.