Australia’s First Woman Leader Surprised by Sexism



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Australia’s first woman prime minister, who was dumped by her party
ahead of September’s election loss, revealed on Monday she was surprised
by the level of aggressive sexism directed at her during three years in
power.
Julia Gillard made the comments in her first interview since she was
deposed in a ballot of her center-left

Labor Party colleagues in June by
a vote of 57 to 45 as public opinion polls pointed to the
administration heading for a catastrophic election defeat.

She was replaced by Kevin Rudd, a prime minister she had deposed in a
similar leadership showdown three years earlier in the face of poor
opinion polling. Rudd led his party to a crushing election defeat on
Sept. 7, causing some observers to ask whether the leadership change had
served any purpose.
Gillard, who turned 52 Sunday, told a sold-out audience of 2,600 people
in the Sydney Opera House in an interview televised nationally that she
reacted with “murderous rage” to the sexist attacks on her in social
media and elsewhere.
She was called “witch” and “bitch” on protesters’ banners, while a
popular Sydney radio broadcaster said she should be dumped at sea in a
sack.
“I was surprised by it. I had issues related to my gender before I
became prime minister,” she said, mentioning a senator condemning her as
unfit to lead because of her decision not to have children.
“There was this underside of … really violent, ugly sexism that came
forward, and I think it finds easier expression because of the social
media, but I think it would have been there anyway,” she said.
Tony Abbott, who became prime minister after his Conservative party won
the election, has been criticized for appointing only one woman to his
Cabinet. The 55-year-old former Roman Catholic seminarian was branded “a
misogynist” and “sexist” by Gillard in a speech to Parliament last year
that was lauded by feminists around the world.
Gillard, who did not run in the election, returned on Sunday from the
United States where she accepted a position with the Washington-based
Brookings think tank as a senior fellow specializing in global
education.
Gillard also met last week with Hillary Rodham Clinton in New York, and
said the former U.S. Secretary of State was “full of ideas” about
politics and the world.
“… wouldn’t it be fantastic to follow the first African-American
president with the first woman president?” she said. Clinton’s
supporters have encouraged her to run for president in 2016, but she has
not revealed her plans.
Gillard said her administration, and others such as President Barack
Obama’s and British Prime Minister David Cameron’s, has struggled with
the evolving media environment, which she felt contributed to her
political demise.
She said social media allowed governments to instantly get the truth “to
thousands and thousands of people in a way that you never could before,
but in an age in which lies and half-truths and odd political claims
and silly slogans can also get automatic and widespread currency.”
– abcnews
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