Published by the Faculty of Business, Government and Law, University of Canberra


Research and Stories through a Gendered Lens

BroadAgenda Weekly Wrap – 18 October

Oct 18, 2020 | Weekly Wrap

Written by Julie Hare

There has been one story dominating the news this week: the very public humiliation of Gladys Berejiklian. Imagine for a moment what it must be like to have your guarded privacy stripped bare, to have phone calls played, conversations relayed, your relationship with a cad picked apart – thread by thread – by the state’s anti-corruption body. What an absolute horror show.

Few media outlets had been following the inquiry into Berejiklian’s erstwhile lover – the former politician Daryl Maguire who has admitted to using his public office to make money.

The very public humiliation of Gladys Berejiklian.

That was until Monday, when the witness list for the week was published and all hell broke loose. Our Gladys. The capable confident Gladys who guided NSW with a steady hand through fires and pestilence. “St Gladys – former patron saint of smart spinsters”, as Virginia Haussegger wrote in BroadAgenda.

Why do smart, intelligent, capable women get attracted to me who are, well, sub-optimal?

Also at BroadAgenda HQ, we turned our attention as to why smart, intelligent, capable women – women who can maintain their dignity as the torch gun of public scrutiny and commentary gets applied to their fragile skin –  get attracted to men who are attracted to men who are, well, sub-optimal.

Over the ditch, two other smart and accomplished women will find out on Saturday who will be the next Prime Minister of New Zealand – the incumbent Jacinda Ardern or the contender Judith Collins.

Both have remarkably different styles (actually Ardern has a remarkably different style to pretty well every other national leader across the globe) which “may help explain why they each evoke such different emotions in voters”, notes Suze Wilson, an academic from Massey University.

“Judith Collins often adopts an overtly combative, masculine style to appeal principally to a more traditionally-minded voter base,” Dr Wilson writes.

“There are clear echoes of the former British prime minister Margaret Thatcher — the so-called Iron Lady — in Collins’s approach. She presents herself as a potential prime minister who would be tough, in command, in control, brooking neither dissent nor failure.”

Jacinda Ardern’s unique style has connected with voters.

Dr Wilson points the “double bind” that affects all women leaders. “If they display traditionally feminine behaviours, focusing on relationships and concern for others, they risk being seen as a good woman but not an effective leader. If they display masculine behaviours they risk being seen as a competent leader but a ‘not nice’ woman.”

(Update: Ardern won).

Kamala Harris, Joe Biden’s running mate for the US Presidential election, has what can only be described as a quadruple bind – the double bind amplified by the blight of racism.

President Trump disparaged Kamala Harris as “totally unlikable” and a “communist.” Then, twice, he called her “this monster”.

“The morning after Senator Kamala Harris became the first woman of colour to [stand on the] debate stage as a member of a major party’s ticket, President Trump disparaged her as “totally unlikable” and a “communist.” Then, twice, he called her “this monster”, The New York Times reported.

The “dehumanising language [was] extraordinary even by Mr Trump’s own standards”, the article noted.
It said that a top Google search around that time had been – echoing the birther conspiracy Trump promoted about Barack Obama – whether she had been born in the US.

“She was, in California. But the interest in that question … spoke to how differently she was being treated than the white vice-presidential nominees who came before her.”

Also, in the US Amy Coney Barrett, President Trump’s nominee to replace Ruth Bader Ginsberg on the Supreme Court, is also being asked a question that would never be directed to a man.

“Republican senators, one after another, marvelled at a role that doesn’t appear on her résumé: mother of seven. They described her mothering as “tireless” and “remarkable,” clear evidence that she was a “superstar.” Senator Josh Hawley asked her for parenting advice.”

Conservatives have marvelled at Amy Conan Barrett’s ability to bear children and have a career.

It’s another double bind. As the article went on to explain: “For American women in public office, being a mother has become a powerful but tricky credential. A woman who is professionally successful and ambitious is often seen as threatening or off-putting, researchers have found in multiple surveys of voters, but being a mother tempers that. It makes women seem warm and relatable — and suggests they can relate to voters’ lives, too.”

No man has EVER had to explain his parenting style, or how he juggles school drop-offs and piano lessons with his amazing career.

No man has EVER had to explain his parenting style, or how he juggles school drop-offs and piano lessons with his amazing career. Surely it is time to move on.

Speaking of successful women, an article in The Conversation argues that there is no evidence whatsoever that women who adopt male strategies – boldness, charisma, extraversion – in the workplace get ahead any faster.

“Imploring women to adopt behaviours that characterise successful men creates a culture that paints women as “deficient” and devalues diverse working styles,” Leonora Risse from RMIT writes.

A fixation on fixing women — without proof it pays off — steers resources away from anti-discrimination initiatives that could actually make a difference.

But not all women are successful – or even employed. The Guardian profiled Deborah Jacobs who “has tried everything to stay out of unemployment”.

“And yet, at 63, Jacobs finds herself languishing on unemployment and in poverty – discarded by an economy that refuses to make room for older women.”

In 2001, women over 50 made up 5% of JobSeeker recipients. In 2019 the figure was 20%.

It’s a shocking statistic and one that governments are being implored to address. But as we all know, the federal budget on October 6 failed miserably to take women – especially women like Deborah Jacobs – into account.

Writing in the Canberra Times and BroadAgenda, 50/50 Foundation co-directors Trish Bergin and Kim Rubenstein had this to say: “What is lacking most of all is women’s voices in the upper reaches of government and within the echo chamber of corporate opinion that provides the comforting voice of agreement and confirmation that the world is as it was – male-centred and tone deaf.”

There’s never been a truer word said.

Highlighted article

Other highlighted articles

Recognising diverse perspectives in environmental accounting

Recognising diverse perspectives in environmental accounting

Have you ever heard of the concept “what gets measured, gets managed”? It means that when we put a value on something, people are more likely to pay attention to it. This approach is traditionally used in business settings but has become increasingly relevant for...

What Sam Mostyn’s appointment as Governor General means

What Sam Mostyn’s appointment as Governor General means

This morning we woke to the news that Sam Mostyn will be the next Governor General of Australia. Since the announcement, I’ve been wading through emails and social media posts celebrating the appointment. I agree with all of them, but I’ve been struggling to...

Dreaming of a life in politics? Apply now!

Dreaming of a life in politics? Apply now!

UC program paving the way to greater female political representation It’s 2023 and nineteen women find themselves standing on the steps of Old Parliament House. They don’t share a cultural background or come from the same age bracket. They don’t even share the same...

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This