Thursday, November 29, 2007

Women's Business

Much is being made of the fact that the Deputy Prime Minister is suddenly OMG a woman and that her opposite number, a Tory for chrissake, is also of the female persuasion. Kevin Rudd is also rather proud of the fact that there are four women in the Labor cabinet - Gillard, Jenny Macklin, Nicola Roxon and Penny Wong - which tops the female count of even Howard's most feminine cabinet.

It's a brave new world. One would expect nothing less from a man who, apropos his wife's dodgy industrial relations practices, proudly asserted that his wife was no appendage of her husband. Nosir, although she did subsequently sell her multi-million dollar business in deference to her husband's political career, apparently content to spend the next God knows how long obsessing over curtains à la her Lodge predecessor. Oh, well. I suppose if manchester doesn't prove fulfilling she can always fill the time planning her Hillary manoeuvre.

Nor, when you think about it, is four women in a cabinet of twenty much to write home about. Forty years since the Second Wave, and we're only at 20%? Germaine Greer will be outraged, if she ever snaps out of her current Oz-dissing, young-boy-admiring daze.

I'd like to think we've progressed beyond the stage where a leader has to explicitly state that he didn't choose women for his cabinet just for the hell of it. But the fact is, however much we may snigger at the Coalition MPs who've suddenly discovered the joys of family life after all these years, politics is damned unfriendly to those who want any kind of balance in life. The hours are ridiculous, the job stressful, the travel requirements strenuous. I think that, more than, say, a lack of ambition or qualifications on the part of women, or sexism on the part of men, is the reason for the current gender imbalance in politics. Until the paradigm shifts to a point where women and men actually do share the business of child-rearing equally, women are going to be underrepresented in Cabinet, in the outer ministry, in Parliament.


Diego Luego said...

Don't be like that Lucy!

At least Labor are trying, and we will have a woman Prime Minister for a few days next week while Charlie Brown is away. Is this a first? I can't think of any others.

Go Gillard!

Something in the back of my mind disturbs me though, does this mean that we have caught the American disease and having a multi-millionaire wife is useful in being elected Prime Minister?

Lucy said...

You're right, Labor at least are trying. The old boys' club culture seems to be dying slowly, thank goodness, and Julia is indeed the first woman to act as PM. Being a woman is only one of Gillard's merits: she is extremely bright, solidly left-wing, and naturally possesses the common touch that Charlie Brown had to learn from scratch. It's really only the pundits who don't like Gillard: right-wingers who think she's a Communist, and soft-left urban Labor types who think she's gauche.

The rich businesswoman/successful politician partnership is standard in Australian politics. Think Rudd, Bob Carr, Joe Hockey, etc.