Jan 25, 2011

‘So what if she doesn’t have a male handbag?’: female ex-MPs fight back

Crikey asked three female former politicians for their take on women in politics and whether anything has changed.

Amber Jamieson — Freelance journalist in New York

Amber Jamieson

Freelance journalist in New York

Lara Giddings became Tasmania's first female premier yesterday, after her predecessor David Bartlett resigned to spend more time with his family. When Giddings was first elected at just 23-years-old, she became the youngest female ever elected to parliament in Australia. In 2008, she was elected deputy-premier, only the second woman ever to hold the position. When announcing his departure, Bartlett declared that as far as he was concerned, "Lara has always been heir apparent."

Yet The Australian greeted readers this morning with this front-page story, proclaiming "Leftist Lara still looking for Mr Right.":


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39 thoughts on “‘So what if she doesn’t have a male handbag?’: female ex-MPs fight back

  1. Tom McLoughlin

    I was wondering what the gender balance in The Greens parliamentary party was? No guernsey?

    Also this is probably trite – isn’t there an inherent gender bias in the above analysis, just as male commentary would also be biased of course. I have no idea how to transcend that. Well I may, but then I would say that wouldn’t I.

    Which is why this topic is inherently corrosive.

    And the real issue surely is at 38 years, what is the new premier’s compelling work and educational credentials. The voters should know. It may be impressive, but we are not to know it seems.

    I suppose great leaders in past ages were quite young, but the boomers take alot shifting these days. What I heard on news radio was the new premier referring to Doug Lowe. Wow that’s Franklin Dam all over again. One of the good guys. But then in the same breath praise for the rednecks who came after. So all things to all people?

  2. elbl

    I hope as the baby boomers begin to leave seats of power younger generations can overcome former treatment of women in positions of power. I’m not blaming a generation, but hoping that the ones to follow can act differently.

  3. David

    I expect nothing more from the unAustralian, creeps.

  4. Julian

    The media conference at which Lara responded about her relationship status was just an example of a weakness being picked up by the media. I found it pathetic that Lara even answered the question (I didn’t hear the question, only her response). She displayed every vulnerability that it seems people expect exists in a near 40 year old single woman.
    It’s not that the question was asked but that it was answered with such an embarrasing helplessness. If women are surprised that this can happen in 2011 then perhaps they don’t understand the basic blood lust that exists in people. While it illustrates that women are still treated differently to men, it also shows that women behave differently to men. Place any prominent male politician in this situation and imagine what you would see, quite different I suspect.

  5. zut alors

    ‘When Giddings was first elected at just 23-years-old, she was the youngest person ever elected to parliament in Australia.’

    More thorough fact-checking required here, Amber. I was still wet behind the ears when Andrew Jones won the federal seat of Adelaide in 1966, he was 22 years 184 days old. He was then touted as the youngest ever – but not according to Wikipedia.

    One discovers Jones was only the second youngest MP ever elected. If Wiki can be believed Edwin Corboy was 22 years old when he won the federal seat of Swan in WA way back in 1918.

    No doubt this sensationalist ‘youngest ever’ description nicely fills the copy space in Oz news sheets but it’s inaccurate.

  6. Liz45

    @DAVID – I agree with you. In fact, the best thing to do about anything the “unAustralian” publishes, is to ignore it. It makes me wonder about the person who wrote that article. Thank goodness I’m not living with them. I can only imagine what they’re like!

    One day, this sexist crap might cease! (sigh)

    @JULIAN – It’s not that the question was asked but that it was answered with such an embarrasing helplessness. Yes, and if she curtly responded that it wasn’t anyone’s business, can you imagine how that would’ve been reported? It is OK to make those sorts of comments if men and women were already being treated as equals – they’re not! Therefore, women can’t win! She’s damned if she does etc.

    There’s a few articles around that discuss the ‘male privilege’. I suggest you do some research and educate yourself – then in time, you might be part of the solution, instead of being part of the problem!

  7. Amber Jamieson

    @Zut Alors: Absolute correct, it is supposed to be “youngest female ever”. Now updated. Thank you.

  8. Julian

    steady on there @Liz45. So what I said was not OK and I must educate myself because I am part of a problem? Forgive me for not undertaking womens studies. I was trying to tell it how I saw it and you’re blaming things on me. I’m not sure that you’re adding anything constructive to the situation.

    I was thinking that perhaps Lara had looked at the journalist in question as if he/she had just arrived from another planet and moved on to the next question?

  9. FriendlySavage

    The grammatical and spelling errors in this article stand out more than the comments. Sorry, just cannot read it all. Probably why I didn’t resubscribe…

  10. Elan

    Itza a bugger init, I luv BGO? (I’m not keen on resubscribe me sel’ but spell check sayz itz OK).

    Sorry LIZ (honest!), but I agree with JULIAN.

    I’m young; I’m considered good enough to get myself elected. I am considered good enough by my peers to make Depooty Premy (ha! ha! F SAVVY!);-now I am Premier.

    …………..without question I would have- politely- demolished the little turd.

    Giddings has done alright up to now. She needs to assert herself. If she’s criticised for that, then tough goolies. It is the better of the two options.

    This kind of attitude is not just the domain of The Oz. Why did Lee Marvin say “I love Australia, they still beat their wives there”? And he did say it.

    Giddings needs to make it abundantly clear that she will not answer questions that are not relevant to the job she’s doing.

    We DO buy into this. It is time we stopped.

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