I didn’t watch the debate. I’m too much of a coward. I couldn’t bear to see Hillary humiliated and abused by Trump the Clown. Later, I saw news clips that suggested she’d won hands down and I was hugely relieved because she’s obviously the only safe choice for the White House if Trump is the alternative.
My relief was founded in fear. As in Julia Gillard’s time as Prime Minister of Australia, there has been so much misogyny surrounding Hillary’s run for the US Presidency that I was grateful she’d overcome another hurdle without being subjected to more crazed attacks by a man who has become a master at feeding lies and nonsense to the media without ever being held to account. Not fully. Not properly.
Bizarre whispers and conspiracy theories spread through social media until they become mainstream; myths and lies about her past, her health, family and sexuality that I won’t dignify by repeating.
Perhaps there’s little difference between today’s global gossip and the whisperings of people in villages centuries ago. The sort of fears projected onto women who stepped out of prescribed roles as mothers and helpmates to exercise power as wise women, healers and crones.
Women who were frequently burned as witches.
Remember this? It says it all, doesn’t it?
A few days after the Clinton-Trump debate, I heard Julia being interviewed in America. She was articulate, intelligent and charming. She was treated with the utmost respect, as a woman of substance, a former Prime Minister, a friend of Hillary. Yet I still cringe at how she was treated in Australia during her period as Prime Minister.
In an article in ‘The Age’ newspaper this week, Professor Catharine Lumby suggests the nonsense about Hillary is able to gain traction in mainstream debate because “there are deeply embedded cultural myths about women of Clinton’s age owning their power and expertise.”
How difficult is it for a woman to run for high office? Margaret Thatcher, Golda Meier, Indira Ghandi, Julia Gillard, Angela Merkel, Theresa May. Did they all have such a rough ride?
Gender is a slippery beast. So too are cultural myths. Julia was not only living with a partner in an ‘unmarried’ state, she had no children. Shock, horror, not a mother! She also has red hair. Let’s not look into that can of cultural worms with connections to witchcraft!
In her political memoir, ‘My Story’, Julia says:
“Of all the experiences I had as Prime Minister, gender is the hardest to explain, to catch, to quantify.
If you point to specific examples they sound trivial. There’s the television footage of me getting into a car, the lens trained at my bottom, not something done to male Prime Ministers. The front-page image, followed by frame-by-frame spread of me tripping over in India. A television network commissioning and airing a full comedy series about my prime ministership. Something never done before and with no sign of it being done again now that we have a male Prime Minister.
In contemporary Australia, despite so much progress being made, both women and men continue to be trapped in a prison of their own gender.”
There are times in Australian politics when people grow disheartened and jokingly threaten to move to New Zealand. With Trump, Brexit, refugee migration, ISIS and Aleppo on the world stage, I’ve become increasingly interested in space travel!
But even if it was possible, I couldn’t go. I want to be here to see Hillary defeat Trump the Clown. I want to gain strength from her determination and self-belief. I want to see her become the first female President of the United States.
Because, in Julia’s words, “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.”
Brave women, both of them.
Hillary Image: REUTERS/Mark Makela – RTX2LBMO