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


Research and Stories through a Gendered Lens

Dear Gladys, you are breaking my heart

Oct 14, 2020 | News, Feature

Written by Broad Agenda

Oh, Gladys, you’re such a heartbreaker. Women everywhere wanted you to be so, so much better.

We wanted you to be the star school prefect we thought you were, in your thick stockings, sensible heels and spinster life.

I once read that you spent the Easter break reading a pile of books. You’d just finished a biography of Queen Victoria. I pictured you late at night, under a lampshade with your pot of tea, feet tucked up, a Bach cello concerto playing on your wireless. I could see you sigh as you ripped through Victoria’s racy life, all 752 pages of it.

Had some obscure website unearthed photos of you wearing a nun’s habit from a previous life, well, we wouldn’t have been too surprised. Curious perhaps, but not shocked.

But this! This sordid bombshell. This is not what we expected.

But this! This sordid bombshell. This is not what we expected.

With so few women making it to the top tier of politics, we know those who do ascend wear armour plates and have steel rods nailed to their spine. Just look at your opposite number Jodi McKay in parliament this week.

Locked in a leadership frame shaped by men, some of those gutsy women in the pit don’t shy from showing their metal and thrusting power with gusto. I love it when they raise their voice. And boy did she give you a mouthful. They don’t sit in the bear pit of parliament and cover their ears to block out the shouting, as you once did. Indeed, they might taunt their detractors with a provocative jab and high-pitched jingle … “I’m nobody’s girl!”. Or yell at you about your legal obligations when consorting with chaps under investigation over corruption.

It was hard to hear your sleep deprived voice about the Opposition’s bellow. But it was easy to feel sorry for you in all the commotion. Even if you have broken my heart.

But it was easy to feel sorry for you in all the commotion. Even if you have broken my heart.

You defy your namesake, Saint Gladys, the 5th Century daughter of a Welsh King, who was “a model as both a spouse and a parent, leading her husband and her children to greater holiness”, which, according to Thomas Aquinas College, “is the goal of all of us who answer the vocation of marriage”.

Thank goodness you didn’t take your namesake seriously. Because right now, a marriage extraction would be a real mess. (Even worse than the one you’re already in). Instead, true to your pragmatic nature, you focused on the job and stayed single. Thankfully. Had you married Mr-have-I-got-a-deal-for-you Maguire, your good girl halo would be very low wattage indeed. If at all.

So here’s the thing Gladys. Here’s why you’re such a heartbreaker? Which, by the way, has nothing to do with the unreasonable feminist expectations and female saintly essentialism I’ve loaded on to you. You’re a heartbreaker because women across the country had you on a pedestal, a place reserved for trailblazing women who never lost their wit around grubby men. Men who just needed “a tickle from the top”. Men who boasted about big deals that sounded “fanciful” and “pie in the sky” to you: or plain horseshit to anyone else.

Why, oh why St Gladys – former patron saint of smart spinsters – did you not see that this big talking, little thinking, bloke was so clearly beneath you (metaphorically speaking)?

The irony! We know what a hard slog it is for women to crack through the testosterone driven, male bastion of Australian politics. But you did it. Neat, careful, considerate Gladys did it. You out smarted any bully bloke who got in your way, only to be blindsided – in the end – by a daft, big talking, little thinking buffoon.

Must be love.





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