One of the sessions that sparked the most passion at the Byron Bay Writers’ Festival 2013 was by iconic author and feminist Anne Summers and journalist, political commentator and author George Megalogenis.
“We should all thank Julia Gillard for the speech she gave on June 26,” said Summers, to an audience that overflowed from the marquee on an unusually warm August 1 afternoon.
It is belated yet perhaps timely to post a few days ahead of former Prime Minister Julia Gillard’s conversation with Anne Summers in Sydney on September 30 and Melbourne on October 1. (Both events sold out rapidly and the conversation will be live on ABC 24 on Monday, 6.30 p.m.)
Called The Misogyny Factor, the same title as Anne Summers’ book, the BBWF session looked at many topics other than the former Prime Minister Julia Gillard and these are touched on in an earlier post.
The country handled the experience of having a first female prime minister very badly, said Summers. “But why? It wasn’t just that Gillard was a woman, single, childless, atheist a migrant, or had a particular kind of voice.”
“These are the things we have to talk about. What was it about Julia Gillard that we found so hard to deal with?”
“Gillard would make a good teacher. She is a bit of a schoolmarm and she has given us some homework,” said Summers. “Our homework is to have a mature conversation about what it meant.”
Australia was one of the last countries in our region to have a female leader. In the world there have been 63 elected women.
We cannot overlook the extraordinary campaign of vilification, hatred and mockery to which she was subjected that had an incredibly corrosive effect on her legitimacy, said Summers. In what would be her final interview as Prime Minister, Julia Gillard told Anne Summers did not expect to win the 2010 election.
The Kevin Rudd orchestrated leaks were fatal to Gillard in the 2010 election campaign, said Summers.
“What’s happens if a bloke’s not good? Did the Labor party kick out a bloke who’s no good and say they would never have another bloke?”
We have a bit of a double standard where it’s OK for a bloke to knife another bloke but not OK for a woman “What’s happened now?”
“She’s gone and not sticking around to do to Kevin what was done to her.”
And now they are attempting to excise her from memory and we should not allow that to happen, said Summers. “There are bipartisan national policies for the National Disablity Insurance Scheme and the Gonski reforms and Child Sex Abuse Royal Commission and the apology to victims of forced adoption and bipartisan policies that would not in place that would not in place if Julia Gillard had not been Prime Minister for three years,” she said.
Summers spoke about ‘That speech’ saying Julia Gillard had reacted with white hot rage when Tony Abbott used the word ‘shame’ after the comments by Alan Jones.
“People think that speech was an attack on Abbott but it was only partly.The powerful thing about that speech that she said was this had happened to her, that she had been treated badly, that the ‘ditch the bitch’ signs had offended her,” said Summers. “She had shed the victim status. She made it OK for women to object.”
“Huge numbers of people are angry and we should be getting together in groups around the issues that concern us. That’s the point I made in book,” said Summers.
Women need to have organized lobbying in Canberra. It needs to be a professional, she said. Until now, we have not been good at recognising this has to be put on a professional footing.
Summers said in Byron Bay that “we need to do the homework Gillard set us.”
Perhaps next week in Sydney and Melbourne we may receive a progress report.