19 Jan 2007, Comments Off on Julia, Julia, Julia

Julia, Julia, Julia

Author: Helen

I came late to Kill Bill. I missed it, and the sequel Kill Bill 2, when they came out, because I don’t generally do action flicks and fight scenes usually bore me into catatonia. When I got around to watching it, I was entranced. WHY HAD NO-ONE TOLD ME? Both movies are side-splittingly, sublimely silly (even if you have to watch some bits through your fingers) and the soundtrack is fabulous.

I’m sure Julia Gillard has seen both, and I feel she’s taken the message in Kill Bill 2 a little too much to heart. I mean the bit where Bea Kiddo / The Bride discovers she’s pregnant, and the thought-balloon voiceover muses (I’m paraphrasing this from memory) “As soon as I saw that blue line, I realised my career as a cold-blooded and ruthless chopper-offer of various peoples’ body parts would have to end”.

Quite right too. I don’t think “assassin” is an appropriate job description for a parent of either gender. If nothing else, think of the grief you’d get once the kinder and school committees found out. But Julia Gillard has been reported as saying that any woman who sees that blue line on her pregnancy test kit should also relinquish any thought of gaining the PM-ship. The field should be left clear for people able to give the job the proper attention, that is, people like (ahem) herself.

Beatrix realised too late that if she hadn’t been full of maternal guilt, she would never have bought young GoGo that customised meteor hammer with retractable blades.

This statement only stands up if you agree with the proposition that a woman’s partner will never be willing or able to be the primary parent (and I’m only dealing with women partnered by men, which I realise is only part of the story). This flows from an essentialist view of parents which says that only the woman can be the primary parent, because only women have that special child-rearing mojo. Which is demonstrably false. Although they’re still in a minority, the number of men who are primary parents is increasing all the time.

Not to mention the elements of social and governmental support that could be available if the political will was there.

Not to mention, also, the fact that we are living longer than ever before, and having fewer kids. Even if you did want to be the primary parent, why should someone be denied the top job for ever because of a single phase in what is, these days, a very long life? Please note, I’m not saying every woman has the responsibility to strive to get to the top for the sisterhood. Some people, like me, are quite happy pottering around the foothills of achievement so that they can do interesting things on the side, like blogging. But it’s not good enough to claim that it’s OK for a family man to be in politics but not a family woman. Even some male Liberal party apparatchiks recognise that, even if they generally assign a low priority to changing the social fabric.

I suppose it’s an advance of sorts that we’re no longer thinking “Pregnant, must give up paid work forever”, but if we just swap that for “Pregnant, must give up all ideas of going for anything super-challenging or to do with the blokey world of power and stick to the female-dominated jobs”, then we’re not quite there, I think.

All these arguments aside, I’m not in the least sure that Julia really said what the tabloids so gleefully reported and which numerous mouth breathers, as usual, jumped in to endorse (I’m looking at you, Benjamin of Newcastle). If you read what was reported here and here, it does appear that the news media played a bit fast and loose quoting her and she was, in fact, pointing out that it would be impossible for John Howard or Peter Costello to have succeeded as women (horrible thought), given that things are as they are. It is not an apologia for keeping things as they are.

At least, I hope that’s what she meant. The alternative is that she’s one of these people who genuinely believe that women who want careers shouldn’t have children, so that they can pass for a kind of honorary bloke in corporate- or political-land. That is not a twenty first century solution. It’s a nineteenth century one.

Comments (0)

  • Cristy says:

    I once had an interview with a Federal Court judge for an associateship (years ago) and he casually informed me that there would not be more women on the bench until “they stopped going and getting themselves pregnant”.

    My reaction to that comment probably didn’t help my career prospects very much, but I was so shocked!

  • Armagnac Esq says:

    I take it you tried to choke the stupid old roach with his wig? No? Well, whatever the reaction it sounds reasonable to me.

    I think Cast Iron that you’ve got the right quote but not the reason she said it. My impression was she was making a point in relation to the new expanded maternity leave, which if fleshed out might read something like:

    “Howard wouldn’t be where he is if he had to be a primary caregiver because our society doesn’t adequately support primary caregivers so that they can have kids without damaging their careers….. hence here comes our 2 year maternity leave etc”.

  • Cristy says:

    I hope that was what she was trying to say. It would be really depressing if she was making the opposite point…

  • Helen says:

    I just did what I should have done before (slaps self) and found the ORIGINAL quotation in the actual interview she gave. Of course, it doesn’t preclude the possibility that bits were edited. But here’s the money quote:

    Her partner Tim Mathieson is going with her. He’s a hairdresser; they met in a salon. Of course they did – she’s Julia Gillard, and her hair is her destiny. They don’t live together but they’re “serious enough to be in an ongoing relationship”. Besides, she jokes, “living with me is an academic concept” because she’s away from home most of the time.

    Gillard chose fairly early in her career not to have children. The constant comments about it don’t hurt her feelings, she says, because she’s comfortable with her choice. But she does resent them on behalf of other women.

    “If Peter Costello genuinely thought about it, could he be the mother of three children, have been treasurer for more than a decade, and be next in line to be prime minister? Could John Howard have been a mother to his children, as opposed to a father, and be in the position he is in today? The frank answer is no.”

    So, there’s really no clue as to whether she meant “they couldn’t do it given the lousy infrastructure we have for working parents in Australia”, or “they couldn’t do it, full stop”. It really was ambiguous.

    Pats and chirpy noises to the little bub, both of you (One in, one out!)

  • Cristy says:

    Thanks Helen.

  • […] Julia Julia Julia – Helen ‘Cast iron Balcony’ Smart on Julia Gillard’s bizarre utterances on motherhood and politics. […]

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