girlpower, or the day we got our first woman prime minister

This afternoon as I was sitting on the steps waiting for the school bell to ring, one of the other mothers raced in and with a big grin on her face, put her fist in the air and proclaimed "girl power". I guess I wouldn't call Julia Gillard, who is a year older than me, a girl, she is most assuredly a strong woman in the prime of her middle age, but hey, I totally got the exuberance. I've been feeling it all day. Today, Australia got our first female Prime Minister and it feels historic and special. As feminists, as women, how could we not celebrate?

Change was in the air and it was definitely the talk around the school yard this morning. As I did a load of washing and the dishes, I had my ear to the radio. At twelve, I sat down with my knitting to listen to the outgoing Prime Minister - Kevin Rudd - make a speech that was just so excruciating, so raw, but also so good that I couldn't help but admire him. He might have been a crap boss but he achieved some good things. Like the apology, of which we can all be proud. I also noticed at work that when Labor came to power, things changed, a softening around the edges if you will. More money for the poorest of our poor. Not enough, but more than before. And if homelessness hasn't exactly been tackled, at least it is firmly on the agenda. 

To the winner

So as I ripped back my knitting ( in depth knitting post due soon) and placed the stitches back on the needles I listened to Julia Gillard address the press. And wasn't she impressive! So intelligent and assured. I greatly like how she is clear that she can't let the country fall into the hands of Tony Abbott. That education and health are too important, that she called the mining companies to the table to negotiate the super profits tax but that she is clear that all Australians deserve a fair share of our mineral wealth. I watched her again on the 7.30 report and she makes no apologies for being a politician and avoiding certain questions. Indeed she does it with a great deal of grace. But it's not the specifics that are important really - I'm sure on some level she will disappoint, she has admitted as much herself and after all she is a politician and politics is is full of compromises and deal making. Or as one of my friends (that would be Mel M) said on Facebook and I quote "Governing a country is like riding a massive beast with 100 heads and 100 heads trying to go in 1000 different directions, while every kind of spear is thrown at you from the sidelines. Whether some of us like it or not - and whether anyone in the Greens except Bob Brown ever matures enough to realise it - democratic government is, by its very nature, incremental." Somehow I think Julia is up to it, inasmuch as anyone can be. And that makes me happy.

I also admire how she has decided not to move into the lodge until after winning the next election. Practical and symbolic. And how she brushes off the first woman Prime Minister thing. Sure it's important but that's for us to make a fuss of, not her. She's got a country to lead. It also intrigues me that she may well be our first unmarried prime minister - so she could be living at the lodge with her manfriend, or even on her own, both of  which seem very modern to me. There were comments today on the radio and there has been controversy in the past that she can't lead because she doesn't have a family and therefore doesn't know the issues facing working families (to use a Ruddism) but that's utter rubbish. Of course she has a family, she didn't emerge into the world fully grown or magically appear under a cabbage. It's just that she has chosen to follow a career in politics. And why shouldn't she? Choice is meant to be one of the important things feminism gives us, and her choice has been to pursue a life other than motherhood. It's not my choice, but I have a different, much more ordinary life. Obviously. But somehow I imagine I and others will benefit from that choice of hers. Anyway I can't imagine how one would balance being PM with motherhood, or even with fatherhood for that matter, but that's a whole other issue. Although I'd be interested to see if we could have a PM who was also a mother. I'm also wondering how she will do without a "wife", will her manfriend fill that role? does it matter? Obviously she has already geared her life so that she can operate as a high level politician. And I guess that's what excites me, I can say to Grace that our Prime Minister, the boss of our country is a woman. That a girl can grow up to Prime Minister. That men can be led by women. Please let her win the election. Because I would really like to see how this pans out. I expect remarkable things. I really do.


Leah said...

Yes! I've never been much of a political animal, but boy (girl?) I am at the moment! Actually, I was shocked at how exhilarated I've been, and yes.. the school pickup was absolutely buzzing. It felt important.

kate said...

I was home sick yesterday, so I sat on the couch with my quilt and the internet and the tv and my knitting. We tried to explain our excitement to Dan with pretty limited success.
I was pleased to see Annabel Crabb reporting the events, not least because she tweets about getting her kids to Canberra for the event (she had to take them, she's breastfeeding) and that the scarf she was wearing was handknitted by her Mum. I love her for being honest about the impact of her work and family on each other, for messing with the idea that being "professional" means pretending your family responsibilities don't exist.

Stomper Girl said...

I think if Kevin07 had spoken as well as he did in the farewell speech he wouldn't have been where he wasn't today. I also found the pic of him sitting lonely on the backbench very sad. On the upside I think Julia will be great. I really do. She inspires me with confidence. Now what I want to see is her win an election and have the job in her her right, so to speak.
Did you see that when she and Tony Abbott shook hands in parliamnet she said "game on". Funny.

Karen said...

Fabulous post, Janet!
I love that you were knitting and washing while listening to the unfolding of history. "Women's work" has just expanded massively!
I have thought a million things about all this since yesterday - I'm glad you said some of them for me.

Fiona Claire said...

So well said Janet, you put so many of the threads together. As Karen said, I loved the picture of your life occurring while you listened and thought about the political changes and what this means when you tell your daughter that women can do these things - not just because we say they can but because it is really happening!!
Sad about K Rudd because he started out with such promise, but at least he slayed the Howard beast, and got the apology done with such aplomb.
All the way with Ms J now!!

Alby Mangroves said...

Janet, you've summed up my feelings about this in every way! I was so disappointed to see stupid, arrogrant Facebook comments immediately following the spill, because I'm full of hope for her and for her government. I'm so glad that others feel the same way, and see Julia in a similar light; an intelligent and capable person who is going to give it a real go.