In The Fitz Files today, Peter Fitzsimons wonders why Julia Gillard and Julie Bishop – two women with pretty much the only thing in common being that they have good jobs – can’t be nice to each other:
The venom between them is palpable, the delight they take in putting each other down in Parliament very obviously personal. One might have thought that as two accomplished women who are political pioneers, there might be at least a whiff of fellow feeling on the journey. And yet, quite the reverse. What is that about?
Now, leaving aside the fact that “accomplished” is never used to describe men who have good jobs, it’s disappointing that Fitzsimons sees respect in the Gillard-Abbott arguments – Despite their political divisions, it was so apparent that they respected the other’s political nous and abilities – but when it’s two women whose jobs require them to argue with each other, he says it’s personal.
Sure, politics is a tough gig for women. But saying that two women on opposing sides should be nice to each other simply because they’re women doing tough jobs suggests a rather shallow view of women. No one says that men must be nice to each other at work, that being nice is more important than whether they are good at their jobs, yet women still have to put up with this crap.
Pulling the ‘women should be nice’ card also ignores the reason why it’s a tough job for women: the mainstream media treats female politicians differently. Particularly columnists, who focus on the personal rather than the professional. I don’t regularly read his column so I could be wrong, but it’s unlikely that he’d write, “Hey, Rudd and Abbott both believe in God, why aren’t they BFFs?” Or “Bob Brown and Scott Morrison are both blokes, why aren’t they best buddies?”
When Kristina Kenneally became NSW Premier, a male colleague asked me if I was going to vote for her because she’s a woman. The rest of the conversation went something like this:
Me: Do you vote for a male politician because he’s a man?
Him: No, of course not.
Me: Then don’t insult me with such a stupid question.
And it is insulting to suggest that women would vote for a party simply because ooh look, vagina. It’s just as insulting to suggest that women should be nice to each other simply because they are women. Not to mention the sexism in suggesting that women need to be nice. Now, I don’t believe that Fitzsimons is sexist, so I’m looking forward to reading his thoughts on why Abbott and Rudd aren’t besties. Because what is that about?