Australia’s first female prime minister, Julia Gillard, was forced to step down last week, ousted by the very same man she replaced nearly three years ago.
Kevin Rudd took over the reins of the Labor Party from Gillard after a tight battle for the party’s leadership by a margin of 57 to 45, the Guardian reported. Gillard had formed a minority government as the head of the same party in 2010, when she took over from Rudd, who had himself lost the leadership after three years in power.
Yes, I know — it’s a lot to wrap your head around. But the main point is this: Despite Gillard’s statement that she will not run in the country’s next elections, some of her supporters are claiming that the she may have lost for the wrong reasons — namely, because of her gender.
Through full-page ads placed in four major Australian newspapers on July 5, The Victorian Women's Trust, a leading woman’s rights group, acknowledged Gillard’s political achievements while lambasting the Labor Party, the Liberal opposition, and a male-dominated “hostile” media for their attitudes during her three years in power.
"From the outset, and despite its democratic legitimacy, the Gillard-led minority government sparked an unheralded series of hostile reactions from different quarters across the country," the letter read.
"Her many achievements went largely unproclaimed, while her mistakes were amplified — and continually referenced."
The letter added that permissive attitudes towards women in Australian society allowed "an unprecedented campaign of sexist and chauvinist abuse, denigration, double standards, gross disrespect for the office of prime minister, and gross disrespect for her as a person".
In her concession speech on June 26, Gillard noted the challenges that came with being the country’s first female prime minister. "The reaction to being the first female PM does not explain everything about my prime ministership, nor does it explain nothing about my prime ministership," she said.
"I've been a little bit bemused by those colleagues in the newspapers who have admitted that I have suffered more pressure as a result of my gender than other PMs in the past but then concluded it had zero effect on my political position or the political position of the Labor party."
In an interview with the Sunday Morning Herald, Gillard revealed that she had bonded with President Barack Obama on the struggles that come with being a “First” in power.
"I think there is a little bit of a spark there about the sense of being 'The First' and consequently having to deal with things that someone else who's in your position has never had to," she said (apparently she also received some interesting advice from Hillz, but that’s for a different story).
Despite the somewhat unceremonious end to her reign, a teary-eyed Gillard exited with dignity, and on a hopeful note: "What I am absolutely confident of is it will be easier for the next woman, and the woman after that, and the woman after that,” she added in her speech. “And I'm proud of that."
Do you think Julia Gillard was forced out because of her gender? Tweet me and let me know @anneesthercohen.