Australian PM Calls out Sexism; Sets Example for US Politicians

Australia’s first female Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, has been the target of sexist remarks throughout much of her public career. Things finally reached a boiling point last week when she called out the Leader of the Opposition Party, Tony Abbott, for his sexist and misogynistic stances.

In her remarks to Parliament, Gillard identified and called out specific instances of Abbott’s inappropriate comments, which ranged from just plain sexist (as in the “Prime Minister needs to make an honest woman of herself”) to severely misogynistic (standing next to signs describing Gillard as a “man’s bitch.”)  Gillard was also clear in making the point that Abbott’s sexist attitude towards women affects his stance on political leadership. She quoted extensively from an interview that Abbott gave when he was Minister of Health in which he asked whether men’s having more power than women is a bad thing and posited that “men are by physiology or temperament more adapted to exercise authority or issue commands.”

Gillard’s strong speech, naming Abbott’s sexism and letting it be known that the remarks he’s made are not acceptable, has been met with largely positive reactions and has even prompted the Macquarie Dictionary to expand the definition of misogyny. This is consistent with research that has been done by Name it. Chance it. that shows responding to sexism and calling it out as such has a positive effect on a woman candidate’s favorability. Just as importantly, calling out sexism deters it from happening again and positions female leaders as powerful role models for future generations of women.

Kudos to PM Julia Gillard for standing up and calling out sexism and letting it be known that she will not stand for it! Hopefully she can serve as an inspiration for female leaders across the world, and especially candidates in the United States, in encouraging them to call out sexist comments in their elections.

Published by Kaitlin Sullivan on 10/18/2012

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