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Back You are here: Home Feminism & Pop Culture Feminism & Pop Culture Julia Gillard: A bad role model for women?

Julia Gillard: A bad role model for women?

Gillard_role_modelAn unmarried, childless woman recently became the Prime Minister of Australia. For some commentators, her lifestyle choices make her a bad role model for women. Tali Caspi believes otherwise.

Australia has a new female Prime Minister. Julia Gillard’s shock accession to the crown position recently left many Australians gasping, and some unable to breathe.

How can an actual female take the top job? And one living in sin with her partner? And a red-head to boot? Where are our morals? What has Australia come to?

In a recent Sydney Morning Herald article by so-called sex therapist Bettina Arndt, Arndt questions whether Gillard’s ‘lifestyle choices’ send a negative message to women:

How can not having children and shacking up with a paramour possibly be deemed acceptable? And to live in the Prime Ministerial residence, The Lodge, together without being married? Ghastly.

What could be more terrible than a woman who has worked very hard her entire life now reaching a position that she aspired to?

How awful it is that she has a loving and supporting partner who stands by her through thick and thin. How ashamed she should be that her womb stands barren, that no child was able to pass through her. How guilty she should feel for being only half a woman, yet the leader of a nation.

What a bad message to women indeed.

That you can reach the throne, and instead of being judged on your merit, you are ridiculed for the fact that for you children did not happen.

That you could set a bad example for women because they may think it acceptable to live with a man unmarried, and waste their child-bearing years in relationships that ‘go nowhere’.

That no matter what you do - your education, your skills, your personality, your work - your entire being is meaningless because as a woman you did not fulfil your duty to humankind to bear a child.

Maybe, just maybe, Bettina Arndt, a bad message to women is telling them, that unless you are married and have children you are worth nothing.

That you should just choose a man, and breed with him, because if you don't, society will pity you.

Despite high divorce rates, regardless of increasing levels of spousal abuse and the cost, both monetarily and emotionally of raising children, nothing else matters. Without husband and offspring your life is a sham.

Perhaps, a better lesson is that today the Prime Minister of Australia is a woman, and now little girls everywhere can aspire to lead countries and not just run households.

That they can choose the way they want to live their lives.

That anything is possible.

No longer defined by what might be possible, but inspired by what will be.

That indeed they can choose fulfilling lives of partnership and motherhood, and equally rich lives of service to their country. They can even choose both.

That as a woman it is possible to reach the top, and have a proud, loving and supportive man standing right there next to you.

And that you can live happily in sin with him. Who would have thought?

The truth is that Prime Minister Gillard is a fantastic role model for women everywhere. Regardless of her personal and political choices, she has shown that in the brutal man's world of politics, a woman can win.

That hard work pays off. That there are no limits to what is possible. And that regardless of society's preconceived judgements, a person may rise above their station to lead a country.

While only time will tell if Julia Gillard will be a good Prime Minister, picking her apart for her 'lifestyle choices' has no place in a modern Australia. 

The Prime Minister should be judged on her merit, her politics and her personality and not on whether she is married or has children. It has absolutely no bearing on her leadership. 

However, real progress will only be made when the fact that the Prime Minister of Australia is a woman, no longer matters and neither will this article. 

Tali Caspi is associate editor of The Scavenger.

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