Who has the energy to care about misogyny anymore? by Lisa Jackson

Posted by on January 4, 2013 in General, Summer 2012

The day after Julia Gillard’s famous ‘misogyny speech’, there was a lively conversation in my workplace – like those around Australia. The views ranged from: “She sounds like a whinger...“Huge mistake. She’s shown weakness, they’ll eat her alive”, to “Women will love it...no-one rates a victim.  She’s shown real backbone, best thing she’s ever done.”

And so the conversations went. Julia’s ratings turned skyward. The opinion pages were filled with analysis. Academics, journalists and commentators pulled the speech apart. It went viral on You-Tube, with well over two million views. International leaders phoned her. Julia got a spring back into her step. Taking on misogyny was good for business. Peter Slipper and Alan Jones faded away – Julia powered on. But what are the young women out in the suburbs thinking?

I spoke to plenty. White, black, young, middle-aged-but-still-young-like-me. I was taken aback by the lack of impact or even acknowledgement. I was universally met with furrowed brows and stares into the middle-distance. “Huh? What speech?” “What does misogyny mean?” “Oh yeah, what was that about again? I remember something, but I’m too busy to engage with it all.”

Fair enough. Most working women have always been too busy to be active feminists. But as a working woman, a mother of two young daughters and a person with a life-long commitment to social justice, I am dismayed at the lack of ‘cut-through’ a fantastic speech by our first female prime minister has made.

Julia Gillard’s misogyny speech is important because the personal is political. Always has been, always will be. And in the current climate, where the federal political scene is the muddiest, most mean-spirited and downright dirtiest it has been in living memory; it was time for the parliament to take a breath, and a collective wash. I made my daughters watch the news highlight of the speech. They don’t care, or even particularly understand, but I hope that somewhere in their sub-conscious, and in the sub-conscious of women everywhere in Australia, an invisible line was drawn.

It’s long been ok for women to identify sexism in their homes and workplaces, to articulate it, and to say that it is just not ok. But Julia has shown us the experience is universal. We are all too busy, too tired and too turned-off by current politics to acknowledge it, but surely, surely, women have it in their heads. “Far out, even the Prime Minister of this country gets bullied in her workplace. That is just not good enough. She stood up. I can too.” When they have the time. And the energy.

Simplistic, yes.

Naïve, no doubt.

Hopeful? Desperately.

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    Lisa Jackson

    Lisa Jackson is the administrator of community museum in South-East Queensland

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