It’s Been 10 Years Since Julia Gillard’s Famous Misogyny Speech — But A Lot Has Stayed The Same

Many of us will remember what we were doing and how we felt when Julia Gillard made her famous misogyny speech in Australian parliament in 2012. I was at university, on the cusp of considering a graduate corporate role with the knowing fear that I'd be up against a pool of male candidates, who may one day be paid more than me or promoted faster. Her words in that moment were exactly what I needed to hear.
"I will not be lectured about sexism and misogyny by this man... the government will not be lectured about sexism and misogyny by this man — not now, not ever," Gillard sternly said in the House of Representatives.
As the country's 27th prime minister at the time — and still the only female PM — Gillard's speech, which was directed at the then-opposition leader, Tony Abbott, made a mark on the discourse around challenging sexism and the problematic treatment of women in politics, and still does to this day.
It's been 10 years since Gillard uttered these words, yet the audio of her speech has since become a viral TikTok sound and Gillard herself is currently on a 'Not Now, Not Ever' tour to speak about not only how much has changed, but also how much has stayed the same.
In the decade since, Australia has not seen another woman hold the government top job. While the number of women in Australian parliament has risen from 25% in 2001 to 39% in 2022 (only?!), many women at various levels have continued to feel discriminated against by both men and women while working in politics.
Minister for Foreign Affairs Penny Wong and Greens Senator Mehreen Faruqi are two examples we've seen in the past fortnight alone. Last week Wong delivered a powerful speech in parliament in support of Senator Faruqi after One Nation politician Pauline Hanson tweeted that Faruqi should "piss off back to Pakistan".
Sexism, racism, homophobia and any other form of discrimination don't belong in any workplace, let alone Parliament House. There's no question that like any other industry, we need more women to hold positions of power in government, yet whether young women feel inclined to enter this space is another question.
A new report called Equal Power Now: Girls, Young Women and Political Participation, has revealed that many young Australian women do not feel that politics is an equal or inclusive space.
The report is based on a global survey of 29,000 girls and women aged 15-24, from 29 countries, including Australia, conducted by girls' charity Plan International. The results indicate that 60% of Australians surveyed disagreed with the statement that politicians act in the best interest of girls, and 57% believe "that female politicians suffer abuse and intimidation and that they are judged for how they look or dress."
“It has been a tumultuous couple of years for women in Australian politics,” said Susanne Legena, CEO of Plan International Australia, in a press statement provided to Refinery29 Australia.
"But, even so, these results are disappointing. Australian girls feel irrelevant and disenfranchised when they should be being encouraged to take part in political discourse and the political process."
Gillard's treatment by politicians and the media while she was PM from June 2010 to June 2013 has impacted how many young women perceive a political career. Plan International Australia youth activist Janice Rodriguez is one of them.
"I think back to when I was in school and Julia Gillard was prime minister and just how much backlash she got," says Rodriguez.
"I remember in school we studied Shakespeare and there was always a villain, and so many other kids would always make Gillard the villain in these interpretations of plays we did – and that was all because the media’s portrayal of her.
"I remember feeling that as a woman in politics, that was what you would have to expect or deal with if you chose that path."
Melbourne high school student Harleen Singh recalls the day Gillard became prime minister.
"It was a memorable moment for me because I'd never seen a woman in a position of politics being represented on TV, especially in Australian politics. It was always old men," she previously told Refinery29 Australia.
"I could ask a white man [where he sees himself] represented in parliament and he could name like 50 different old white guys," said the 16-year-old. "And if you ask me, I could think of like two people on top of my head."
Legana says that while young women are finding their own ways to be politically engaged and spark change through activism and grassroots movements, ultimately Australia needs to do more to "remove the barriers to entry and make women feel like they have a place in parliament."
"Politicians and other power holders must stand with girls, for girls, as they change the face of politics."
While Gillard's misogyny speech is iconic and continues to inspire us to challenge the status quo, here's hoping that Aussie politics becomes more inclusive and respectful towards women — so much so that one day there won't be a need for another woman to make such a speech.
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