By Rachel Baxendale
As someone who soon hopes to find a job as a paid journalist, I was gratified earlier this week when the Canberra Press Gallery managed to do what it’s paid to do–and what many journalists overseas and many in the blogosphere and on social media failed to do–and provided necessary context to political events.
I am, of course, talking about the reaction to question time on Tuesday, when Julia Gillard gave a fifteen minute speech, refusing to be lectured on sexism by Tony Abbott and labelling him a “misogynist”.
It was an audacious speech and a great piece of political theatre, and Gillard went on to detail numerous instances of Abbott demonstrating gross insensitivity to sexual politics.
Although “misogyny”–literally the hatred of women–may have been too strong a word to use, Gillard’s rhetoric resonated with many who felt Abbott had it coming.
The speech was viewed more than 300, 000 times on YouTube, Gillard trended on Twitter, and news articles such as this one were posted tens of thousands of times on Facebook.
Australia’s cultural cringe being what it is, such validation was readily accepted as evidence of our own press’s insularity.
Many on Twitter, and in blogs and articles like Tim Dunlop’s on The Drum, saw the Canberra Press Gallery’s more subdued reaction to Gillard’s speech as evidence that they’re ready to be superseded by citizen journalists and social media.
As someone who takes more than a passing interest in politics, and who happened to listen to most of question time on Tuesday, I’m with the real journos.
Gillard’s speech did a great job of illuminating Abbott’s hypocrisy.
But the question that desperately needed to be answered was that of the future of disgraced speaker Peter Slipper, and Gillard’s speech was a skillful evasion of that.
She chose to give a man capable of sending truly grotesque text messages one of the highest offices in the land in order to shore up her own numbers, and she avoided taking responsibility for that decision.
As a feminist, I’m always disappointed when sexual politics are used, by men or women, to evade serious moral questions.
I think it does the overall cause of gender equality a great disservice in the long run.
As rousing as Gillard’s speech was, and as valid as some of her points were, I think it needs to be seen in its proper context.