[Image source: Sociological Images.]
Yesterday’s Sydney Morning Herald featured a story about the Federal cabinet reshuffle. While I certainly applaud the promotion of these talented female politicians, it is disappointing to see the newspapers focus on their roles as mothers.
The article in question is headlined, Gillard: ‘Nicola, Tanya and Julie understand the challenges Australian women face as they seek to build a career’
Nicola Roxon, a mother of one, has become the nation’s first female Attorney-General. She has been replaced as Health Minster by Tanya Plibersek, a mother of three. The newest minister, Julie Collins, has three children. All the women are in their 40s.
It is only later in the article that the women’s achievements in previous portfolios are mentioned.
I like these letters from today’s paper in response to the article above.
Mira Crouch of Glebe writes:
It may be pleasing that our Labor Prime Minister will be so well advised on the bourgeois point of view of the woman building a career while having a family (“Gillard: Nicola, Tanya and Julie understand the challenges Australian woman face as they seek to build a career”, December 13).
However, Julia Gillard also needs to understand, and consider, that most Australian women (and men) work in jobs which do not provide opportunities for upward career paths. Nonetheless they, too, seek to build something – a decent life for themselves and their families (if any) in a community which respects and supports the run-of-the-mill person as much as an aspirational one. Lead the way, Prime Minister!
Another letter points out that these women can only manage to juggle the career-climb and motherhood because they earn a salary big enough to pay for childcare.
But my favourite letter is the following one, because it points out the double standards involved when we talk about female and male politicians…
Suzanne Marks of Dulwich Hill writes:
Thank you to the Herald for highlighting that the three women appointed to the cabinet are all mums and how many children they have. I’d also love to know if Bill Shorten and Greg Combet are dads and how many children they have. (I’m not interested in Mark Arbib). Or do we only learn this about men when they muck up their portfolios and leave politics to spend more time with their families?
Can you imagine a headline that read “Bill and Greg understand the challenges men face when building a career”? Firstly, if it was in the Australian press, they’d be referred to by their surnames Shorten and Combet, because they’re blokes. Secondly, no, we can’t imagine such a headline, because the struggle to combine paid work with being a parent is still thought of as something that only women face.