Thursday, June 24, 2010

Newest woman head of government

About 3 hours ago Julia Gillard was sworn in as Prime Minister of Australia, the 1st woman to hold that position. "Gillard was greeted with a kiss by her partner Tim Mathieson as she entered the room for the swearing-in." She took the oath from the country's 1st woman Governor-General, Quentin Bryce.
Gillard (left) had been Deputy Prime Minister since 2007 (prior IntLawGrrls post). On September 29, 1961, she was born into a working-class family in Wales. The family immigrated when she was 4. Gillard earned her law degree from the University of Melbourne, and practiced law before becoming Chief of Staff to the opposition leader in Parliament in 1995. Three years later, she herself was elected, and has served in Parliament ever since. (credit for photo by Rebecca Hallas)
Gillard's selection Wednesday as the new Prime Minister brought tears to the eyes of her predecessor, Kevin Rudd, who lost a struggle to retain leadership of the Labor Party to which both belong. The Sydney Morning Herald reported that "Mr Rudd had decided to fight to the death after refusing to step aside last night for Ms Gillard."
A partial list of women heads of government or state to which Gillard now belongs:
Laura Chinchilla of Costa Rica, Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf of Liberia, Doris Leuthard of Switzerland, Pratibha Patil of India, Cristina Fernández de Kirchner of Argentina and Kyrgyzstan's interim government leader Roza Otunbayeva.
Can you name others?


Cassandra said...
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Cassandra said...

Julia Gillard has the courage and unapologetic leadership skills to take this position the way she has.

So why is it that within HOURS of being sworn in as the country's first female PM, this highly qualified, highly educated, strong leader has news items appearing which speak of the colour of her hair (she's a natural redhead) and her style of dress??? With headlins like "Enter the Style Police" and "Julia Gillard needs a new stylist". Why is it that a woman in politics is judged so much more harshly on her appearance than her male counterparts?

A few years ago when Hillary Clinton addressed a graduating class at Yale, an audience of America's most brilliant young women, she remarked with weary irony: "The most important thing I have to say today is that hair matters ... pay attention to your hair. Because everyone else will."

My guess is it's simply because it makes for popular media. Women in politics have had make-overs and been photographed for glossy mags, which can be seen as a degradation of their professional position, but it can also be seen as a way of speaking to women through popular media and demonstrating the many faces of the female role models we have. While it can be frustrating just how much attention was focused on what dress Michelle Obama wore to Barak's inaugrual ball, it can also be seen as a way of drawing popular attention to this strong, influential, intelligent woman in a position of power.

While it's a shame that women have to measure up to the fashion industry's judgment rather than be judged on her capacities professionally, I did learn something from Naomi Wolf's "The Beauty Myth" when I read it as a 16 year old: the popular media culture can be damaging in terms of what we are shown as the "perfect" yet impossible ideal of beauty which we are supposed to compete with and live up to, but it is also a means of mass communication which connects women automatically. In fact it may be an opportunity to display female role models in many different lights.

Judith Weingarten said...

It was force majeure Diane. Twice thanks for this post:

Diane Marie Amann said...

Thanks for your super comments, and, Judith, for the cross-post.

Judith Weingarten said...

Aha,finally: Johanna Sigurdardottir, prime minister of Iceland. Pretty cool.

Diane Marie Amann said...

Brava, Judith.
As you may have seen, she just married her longtime partner, author Jonina Leosdottir, making them the 1st couple to wed under Iceland's new law "defining marriage as a union between two consenting adults regardless of sex." See

Judith Weingarten said...

Thanks, Diane,for that addition: the news had not yet reached SE Turkey -- where I still am -- and Turkish TV 'haber merkesi' (news centre) passed over it in silence. So it goes up on my FB page instead.