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The Sydney Morning Herald had an article yesterday about Julia Gillard, who is the Deputy Prime Minister; Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations; Minister for Education; Minister for Social Inclusion and currently the Acting Prime Minister.

From the article, which is called “Australia’s love affair with our acting PM”:

Flowers, cards and even jewellery such as brooches and necklaces continue to pour in to Ms Gillard’s office from an army of devoted female admirers, ecstatic that at last one of their gender can occupy the top job, even if temporarily.

Ms Gillard yesterday described as “huge” the response from women when she first acted as Prime Minister, in the absence of Kevin Rudd overseas.

The attention female politicians received because of their gender might be passing partly as a result of her position, Ms Gillard said yesterday.

The story of 12-year-old Amanda Tangas’ admiration of Ms Gillard is pretty heart-warming. It’s great that so many young women around Australia have the deputy PM to look up to!

I’m concerned about the gendered gifts sent to Ms Gillard. Sending jewellery sends a message of “you might be powerful, but you’re still a woman, and we don’t know how to relate to you as simply a politician”. This is not to say that the achievement of being a woman in her position should not be called attention to; the manner in which this is done is a sticking point. Ms Gillard seems to appreciate these gifts: the article goes on to say that the paper ‘has been told that women devotees have also sent modest pieces of jewellery and Ms Gillard likes to wear these in Parliament.’ And it’s very nice of the senders to give them. But why the gender reinforcing? This seems a negative kind of attention toward a pioneering politician.

I think it’s more complicated than this. Assuming it’s only women sending these kind of gendered gifts, what does that say about women’s perceptions of themselves and keeping a tight hold on femininity? It’s a bit strange and confusing, with the mixed signals of support and establishing Ms Gillard’s womanhood with jewellery. It takes on this flavour especially with the aid of the negative comments that have been made about her femininity and womanhood. I don’t think the media has stopped talking about her hair since the Labor Party came to power. And it’s pretty hard to forget the comments made by Liberal Senator Bill Heffernan to the effect that Ms Gillard was unfit for leadership because she was ‘deliberately barren’. With the slightly nauseating headline, it all comes together.

And in the same tradition is this piece from the Courier-Mail on the 28th of last month:

Ms Gillard has spoken out on how politicians should be judged on their performance and not their looks.

But she has also opened up to The Courier-Mail about her ever-changing hairstyles and her beauty regime.

[…]

Amid her juggling act, which included introducing transparency into education and methodically overhauling the former Howard government’s unpopular industrial relations laws, Gillard was this year voted in a men’s magazine as the second sexiest woman in Australia.

Um. Looks like the good people at the Courier-Mail are performing a juggling act of their own, trying to appear to be doing a piece on Ms Gillard’s political life while really trying to keep her all feminine and stuff. Because we can all relate to her better that way, or something. And the comments are gold.

Now, on to Senator Guy Barnett. He launched a bid earlier this year to amend Medicare regulations in order to stop government funding for abortions between 14 and 26 weeks. You can read about it in tigtog’s post from September. Be sure to read the comments there, too, but for different reasons. Naturally, I’d been wondering what on Earth was going on with that, because there were meant to be hearings in November, about which I couldn’t find any information of substance. I did a Google news search yesterday and found this from the ABC, published on the 22nd of December:

Senator Barnett is considering whether to reintroduce a motion to stop Medicare-funded second trimester and late-term abortions.

So there’s not a lot to go on, but what with that line and the fact that I would have most likely heard if Senator Barnett had been, erm, successful in this matter, it probably didn’t work out for him. I doubt that’s the last we’re hearing on reproduction from the senator.

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