I remember Maggie Thatcher being elected to the Prime Minstership of the UK and the wave of hatred that she engendered as her tenure progressed. Within a few years many of us were out on the streets protesting against her policies and fighting desperately (and without success) to control the excesses her administration imposed on the UK population.
Yet despite her gender I honestly don’t remember gender based vitriol targeting her, or her husband Dennis, in the way that has been aimed at Julia Gillard, the Australian Prime Minster. Her tenure as Prime Minister has been repeatedly marred and jarred by a level of sexist aggression unheard of (to the best of my knowledge) in any other country.
Jibes have been constant ranging from criticising her hair colour to the shape and size of her body and onwards to the sexual orientation of her partner. Politicians *have* to expect a lot of flak about their physical appearance and their personality, but surely the level of offensive sexist vitriol directed at Ms Gillard is unprecedented.
A lot of this seems to have been generated by right wing media in an attempt to undermine her hold on power, but the most obvious and regrettable result has been a loss of respect for the office of prime minister itself. Is there anything that can be done to remedy the situation? Not easily. It has begun to dawn on me that one of *the* main reasons Margaret Thatcher didn’t suffer the same sort of rudeness is because she was a conservative and the darling of the right wing. Julia Gillard on the other hand is leader of the Labor party and as such is the figurehead of the left wing (regardless of whether you consider the Labor Party to be fundamentally ‘socialist’).
If this analysis is correct change will be a long time coming so I’m afraid that until a female is elected to lead the Liberal Party and becomes Prime Minister the sexist rantings will continue unabated. Happy thought eh?