I really should start off by saying that I’m an educated and employed white male from a developed economy.
This means I really have no remit to have an opinion about absolutely anything, let alone gender, seeing as though my ilk is arguably to blame for the majority of the problems in the world (though in thirty years or so if I’m still childless I’ll have cause to blame population numbers for everything, according to Monbiot).
So really when I comment on Australia having its first female Prime Minister, I’m not exactly coming from a position of strength or authority. And perhaps that’s why I didn’t personally feel any great flood of emotion as one of the great glass ceilings in Australia was broken.
I know that plenty of my female friends felt differently, and I can empathise with them. I can see how having a female Prime Minister will be a direct inspiration to so many girls and women around the country.
Yes, Australian women have a lot of other great role models, the Governor General, a couple of Premiers, writers, sportsstars, public figures, the list is long, but the Prime Minister is different. She’s the leader of the government. The leader of the country. It’s a big deal.
It’s also be a big deal for a lot of males around the country. What a great thing for all boys to grow up in an era of improved gender equality. There are a lot of sexist twats and misogynists out there, carrying on the legacy of their upbringing and teaching their sons and daughters behavior and beliefs which just reaffirms archaic and discriminatory gender bias. It’s not even exclusive to men – many mothers teach their sons and daughters similar lessons through example. So how wonderful that whatever gender lessons parents unwittingly teach their children, this coming generation will be able to look at Julia Gillard and know that gender is no barrier to political power.
It will be a wonderful thing to for those immigrating to Australia from countries where that gender balance is even more skewed towards men: countries where women have no control over their reproductive rights; where girls are not as valued offspring as boys; countries in which for women a university education, having a job or control over their own lives is a far off dream, let alone leading their country.
So I can acknowledge that Julia Gillard becoming Prime Minister is a fantastic step for gender equity in Australian society, I still find it curious though that I don’t feel any kind of emotion. Regardless of the politics, shouldn’t I feel something, if only for an instant?
I don’t think it’s that I’m a robot – I’m a hyper-sensitive empath so emotional that I still cry in the same three sections of Little Women every time I watch it.
I’m thinking it’s because my family is full of amazingly strong women. The strength of character of my mother, sister, aunts and grandmother are core to who I am. My close female friends are little different. I know that there’s nothing the women in my life cannot achieve because I’ve seen them achieve it.
So I guess that while I appreciate and applaud that Julia Gillard has smashed forever a significant glass ceiling in Australian society, for me, in my life and the way I try to live it, that ceiling has always been an illusion.