Did Sexism Push Julia Gillard Out Of Office?

Australia’s first female Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, has lost the leadership of her party to the man she herself deposed three years ago.

On Wednesday, Kevin Rudd beat Gillard in a ballot of Members of Parliament by a margin of 57 to 45 to become Labor party leader. This is only the second time a sitting Australian prime minister has been removed from their first term in office by their party; Rudd was the first.

The infighting between the two has been going on for a while, and The Sydney Morning Herald explains what finally happened:

Gillard laid down the challenge to Rudd when she called on Wednesday for a do-or-die ballot, on the condition that the loser retire from parliament to end the debilitating Labor leadership war.

Shortly after the vote Gillard confirmed she would not contest the next election. This will lead to a cabinet reshuffle, and several former Gillard ministers have already stated their intention to resign.

In her resignation speech, which you can watch here,  Gillard spoke about her experience as party leader and Prime Minister:

“Three years ago I had the very great honour of being elected as Labor leader … This privilege was truly humbling,” she said.

She then pointed out that she had faced a minority Parliament and internal division within her own party.

“It has not been an easy environment to work in,” she said.

Was Gillard Forced Out By Sexism?

It’s certainly well known that women politicians have to endure sexist comments. Care2′s Kristina Chew cited the infamous fundraiser for the Australian Liberal Party that featured a Moroccan quail dish described on the menu as “Julia Gillard Kentucky fried quail – small breasts, huge thighs and a big red box.”

If you need more proof of how female politicians are derided, take a look at The Guardian’s “Top 10 sexist moments in politics.”

And yet, Gillard has much to be proud of. In spite of a minority government, her achievements include:

*  Australia’s first National Disability Insurance Scheme

*  Introduction of carbon pricing and an Emissions Trading Scheme which has reduced carbon emissions in Australia between 8-11 percent

*  A revolutionary overhaul of the entire primary and secondary education sector

*  Seeing Australia take up a seat on the UN security for the first time

*  Instituting life-changing policies for improvements in indigenous literacy.

Then there was her famous speech last year: “I will not be lectured about sexism and misogyny by this man. Not now, not ever.” By “this man,” she was referring to Tony Abbott, the leader of the Liberal Party.

Gillard Does Have Her Flaws

*  She has not legalized abortion in Australia: abortion laws vary by state, and leave very little room for a woman’s choice.

*  Her treatment of asylum-seekers and of aboriginal communities was atrocious, a human rights shame.

*  She oversaw cuts in payments to over 80,000 single parent families, which brought the United Nations to ask the Australian Government to explain this devastating attack on the rights of single parents.

*  Last April both Gillard and Tony Abbott rejected calls for a vote on same-sex marriage.

Targeted Because She Is Female

But Gillard has endured vicious taunts because she is a woman.

As The Telegraph explains, her detractors latched on to her gender as a weakness, and never let up:

Opposition MPs reminded the public that the childless and unmarried Gillard was “deliberately barren”. The opposition leader and members of his shadow cabinet stood in front of protest signs describing the PM as a “bitch” and “witch”. Radio commentators suggested her beloved father “died of shame” and that she should be “dumped in a chaffbag and thrown out to sea” and asked, to her face, if her partner was gay. She was criticised after showing her cleavage in parliament, and even Germaine Greer appeared on television to say that Gillard’s “arse was fat”.

No man would ever be subjected to such atrocious attacks.

She is however a very smart woman, and I believe she summed herself up accurately today, as reported by The Guardian:

“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.”
“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, and I’m proud of that.”

What do you think? Was Gillard ousted by sexism?


Photo: 1llustr4t0r.com/flickr


Jerome S
Jerome Sabout a year ago


Jim V
Jim Venabout a year ago

thanks for sharing.

Jim Ven
Jim Ven2 years ago

thanks for the article.

Mary T.
Mary T5 years ago

sad to see a female politician lose her office, and sometimes I do think sexism is in play, but here in California, our two senators are both females and both have been in office since the 1990s. need to have more women in politics

Connie O.
Connie O5 years ago


Anna Undebeck
Anna U5 years ago

No- I dont think it was because of that!
Ty for the article!

Sonny Honrado
Sonny Honrado5 years ago


Jonathan Harper
Jonathan Harper5 years ago

Not sure

Sue Brewer
Sue Brewer5 years ago

Thank you!

Robyn Brice
Robyn Vorsa5 years ago

Sexism and Rupert Murdoch. His joke of a newspaper the Daily Telegraph savaged her endlessly because she would not tow his line. Same as Gina Rhineheart's paper The Herald which used to be a fairly good newspaper back when it was Fairfax.
They went after her shamelessly and Labour panicked.
I have been a Labour supporter all my life but their cowardice in face of a media mogul was shameful. Gillard did a lot wrong buit she did a lot right.
Oh and if you think she was bad with asylum seekers and Indigenous people, wait until you see Abbott and Rudd.
I would have like Julia to have legalized gay marriage and settle the abortion issue in this country but sadly, she did not. But I think she was facing a lot of internal strife within her own party. She did try to settle the asylum seeker issue but Abbott kept sabotaging her at every turn, because that is what he does.
But the sexism and the ugly comments made about her by people like Abbott, Rudd, Jones and all the so called journos at the Murdoch rags were horrific.
I just wonder of the increasingly bi-polar Greer will comment on the size of Rudd's arse.
Trust me, now that Gillard is gone, it's proven one thing, that in this country, a media mogul can pick and choose his own government.
God help us all.