Today marks 10 years since Australia's first female prime minister, Julia Gillard, stood at the despatch box to deliver an impassioned speech, eviscerating opposition leader Tony Abbott and striking a chord with women around Australia and the world who were fed up with the sexism and misogyny we're expected to silently suffer.
This marked the culmination of two-and-a-half years of incessant, visceral and public sexist scrutiny.
Gillard was ruthlessly attacked by Abbott, undermined by her predecessor Kevin Rudd, scrutinised by the mainstream media, and even vilified by the public. She experienced undue amounts of gendered, highly negative, even defamatory coverage that focused on her appearance, childlessness, sexuality, family life and relationship status.
Shock jocks called her a "lying cow" who should be put in a chaff bag and thrown out to sea; political cartoonist Larry Pickering bombarded all members of Federal Parliament with daily cartoons that often depicted a naked Gillard wielding a strap-on dildo; and, at a Coalition fundraiser, a satirical menu notoriously included a dish titled "Julia Gillard Kentucky Fried Quail - Small Breasts, Huge Thighs a Big Red Box".
Gillard was careful to avoid or downplay gender in the early stages of her term.
She knew there would be an initial frenzy when she became prime minister but thought this would fizzle out as time passed, so she refrained from calling it out.
But, as noted in her memoir, her assessment was wrong.
"It actually worsened [and] it seemed like sexism had been normalised," Gillard wrote.
After two years of near-constant sexist abuse, Gillard finally stood up and declared that enough was enough. Uttering the now-famous words - "I will not be lectured about sexism and misogyny by this man. I will not. And the government will not be lectured about sexism and misogyny by this man. Not now, not ever."
I hoped that things would change ... I was wrong. The speech fell flat among the members of the Canberra press gallery, who viewed it as a desperate attempt by Gillard to play the 'gender card'.
Gillard launched into a 15-minute speech calling out the sexism she endured during her time in Parliament. The speech went viral on social media and was an instant hit, receiving praise from other world leaders and celebrities.
As a 19-year-old watching the speech later that day on YouTube, I was excited that Gillard had finally called out the sexist abuse directed at her from all angles. I also felt solidarity with the many women who had been and continue to be subjected to demeaning comments from mediocre men who benefit from the patriarchal status quo.
I hoped that things would change, that this would be an opportunity for us all to reflect on the treatment of women in Australia.
I was wrong. The speech fell flat among the members of the Canberra press gallery, who viewed it as a desperate attempt by Gillard to play the "gender card", and predictably inspired a backlash from anti-feminist online trolls. I remember crying in my mother's arms after reading the media coverage and toxic commentary on social media.
I felt complete and utter despair that, despite all the toxic sexism our first female prime minister experienced day-in, day-out, her rallying cry could be so disparaged by so many. What hope was there for those of us with less privilege and power?
The misogyny speech might have been about a specific context and opponent, but it turned a spotlight on the toxic nature of Parliament.
At the time, however, the Canberra press gallery individualised the issue to silence the overarching problem. A canary in the coal mine, Gillard became an example to all women that this is what they would risk if they dared to follow in her footsteps. The media, too, had a misogyny problem.
Yet this speech would later be recognised as a watershed moment in breaking the silence over political sexism, and soon many more women in Australian politics would speak out.
Almost a decade later, we finally witnessed a reckoning for Australian politics as a rising tide of female staffers and politicians spoke out about the bullying, harassment, and sexual assault they experienced within the walls of Parliament.
The bravery of these women not only rocked Australia but tore a hole in the facade of Parliament House, revealing the rot within that Gillard alluded to in 2012 in what now seems to have been a prophetic declaration.
The misogyny speech continues to resonate precisely because it verbalises our anger and frustration over the sexism we endure each and every day.
This fury was at the heart of the March4Justice rally, which saw more than 100,000 Australians take to the streets in cities around the country in response to the sexual harassment and allegations spilling out of Parliament.
Like Gillard, we were fed up with a culture that prioritises the reputations of the powerful over our lives and safety. Or, as one placard put it, "we will not stay silent so you can stay comfortable".
Thankfully, much has changed since the Gillard era. We have seen giant strides in the media coverage of both women in politics and women calling out sexism, sexual harassment and assault, with many female journalists publicly leading the charge.
Sadly, but unsurprisingly, however, some sexist voices do remain in the deep dark corners of certain mastheads.
Sick of a masculine "bulldozer" government, women made their intentions clear at the 2022 ballot box, bringing in a more progressive government committed to the enactment of positive steps toward gender equality, such as pledging to close the gender pay gap and implementing all 55 of the Australian Human Rights Commission's Respect@Work recommendations.
This election also resulted in significantly more women - and, importantly, a more diverse group of women - in Parliament House who will hopefully help to further erode the toxic culture that Gillard exposed.
Though issues of sexism and misogyny are no longer buried as deeply as they once were, and the future looks promising, much still needs to change both within and outside Parliament.
We still have not yet had another woman in the top job, nor has another woman even approached this role as both major parties continue to be led by men.
A recent survey found that young Australian women feel more disenfranchised about politics than their international counterparts due to the sexism and lack of diversity in Parliament. Australia has fallen in global rankings of the Gender Gap Index, from 25th when Gillard gave her speech to 43rd in 2022. The pandemic has only exacerbated gender inequalities.
Additionally, we should not forget that on the same day Gillard delivered this speech, her government passed welfare reforms moving single parents (predominantly mothers) off the parenting payment and onto Newstart, cutting their income by $60 to $100 a week.
A 2020 Poverty in Australia survey found that 37 per cent of single-mother households were living in poverty.
These women continue to be left behind, especially as the cost of living only increases.
Ten years ago, Gillard held a mirror to our society to reveal the sexism that lurks beneath the surface, demonstrating that even the most privileged and powerful women aren't immune.
My take-home message both then and now is the need to keep fighting for all women, not just the privileged few.
To stand up against not only sexism and misogyny but also racism, ableism, homophobia, classism, and transphobia, among other persistent prejudices, we cannot afford to leave anyone behind.
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