Women in the Political Public Eye


Last night, around dinner time I was rung up by a journalist for the Herald Sun newspaper (tabloid in Melbourne) and asked to comment on racing identity Gai Waterhouse’s blog comments about our Prime Minister Julia Gillard needing some help with her image.

“She desperately needs a make-over. It wasn’t the carnage behind that gave me the horrors, but the woman standing in front of it.
“Can’t our leaders be stylish? With popularity waning she needs every card up her sleeve.  Said Gai on her blog.
One commenter on the Courier Mail newspaper blog wrote in response to the article: 
 Of course how a woman dresses is the first thing everyone notices and sparks an interest – yep it’s judgmental but in the real world that is how it is. One look at Gillard would not rate a second look or any interest. A stylish makeover is a necessity for Gillard or she is just simply boring boring boring and droning as she does only confirms that. It amuses to look at amused looks on world leaders faces when they meet Gillard there is no respect there at all – it is a tough gig and she has yet to earn her stripes. (here or overseas).

What I want to know is, do the female leaders of other countries get the constant attention on their appearance that Australian Prime Minister Gillard is subject to?


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  • Hillary Clinton and Sarah Palin were scrutinized for their appearances so much during our last primaries, voters knew more about their wardrobes and hairstyles than they did about anyone's platform. I love satire and snark as much as anyone, but I felt it really got out of hand. Now I still hear about how fabulous Michelle Obama looks more often than I hear actual useful information!

  • I think Clinton was/is criticised in the same sort of way that Gillard is.

    I do remember there being some talk about the "obscene" amount of money spent on outfitting Palin once she was tapped for VP, so it appears one cannot win either way.

  • She can't win either way. Either she is dowdy, unstylish and an embarrasment on the world stage, or she will be accused of being too interested in clothing (what a typical woman!), and thus frivolous, vain and an embarassment on the world stage.

    The constantly-changing goalposts mean women are able to be constantly criticised no matter what they do, and thus it can always be argued that they are not suitable for public life.

    Can't win, either way.

    BTW, do we even know what brand of suits Tony Abbot (leader of the opposition) wears? I wonder why we don't even care?

  • I think she is appropriately dressed for the situation. A political leader making a fabulous fashion statement is not appropriate during a natural disaster.

    This is a very interesting issue. I notice also that it is a woman who is making the comments about what she is wearing – do male journalists/minor celebrities make comments about Julia Gillard's clothing?

  • What a shame that Julia Gillard was publicly denigrated by another woman who through her own experience with the media should know better. Male leaders dont seem to get the scrutiny about their clothes that female leaders get. Sure, we may have opinions about what she wears but lets get perspective…shouldn't our concerns be about her leadership? What a shame Gai Waterhouse couldn't have remembered our mothers' wise words….if you cant say something nice, dont say anything at all!

  • I believe that Julia has not represented well on the world stage on many levels. The fact that she always looks like she is swimming in her ill shaped clothing does nothing to help her present herself and our country well. My husband and I have had many comments and discussions amongst ourself about how her lack of personal presentation is only exacerbated by a wardrobe that looks awkward and misplaced. A perfect example is where she is sitting at a HUGE table of chineese leaders and every single person at the table is wearing some shade of black and Julia is wearing a very unflattering BRIGHT red jacket. She was not dressed appropriately for the occasion and in turn made Australia and all our resources that they are chomping at the bit to buy look dodgy and unprofessional.

  • Yes, yes and yes. And it's so unfair! I'm from Germany and our chancellor (chancelorette? ^^) Angela Merkel is the first woman to ever do this job. Just for reference, our chancellor is the boss. Our president is almost exclusively decorative (but don't tell him ^^). She has even been #1 of the most powerful women on the Forbes list for quite some time, and maybe she still is! And although I don't conform with her party's views that much, I think she does a terrific job, and she's a physics PhD to boot. Granted, she is an easy victim, as she is not blessed in the looks department. And I admit that the last male chancellor before her had to face some gossip about if he dyes his hair or not. But seriously, what do we want? A Barbie doll or a serious woman with both feet on the ground to lead the country? Well, I know what I'd prefer… And I think it is inacceptable to talk about Gillard that way. She's standing in front of disaster, right? What kind of fancy dress would she wear then? Geezus!! I can't stand it when serious newspapers blab about looks before news. I do get it when the yellow press does it, although I still don't really like it.

    Relatable Style

  • Shortly after Secy. Clinton visited Afghanistan for the first time as Secy of State, she was pictured arriving in Afghanistan, in an Afghan embroidered coat. http://tinyurl.com/ya6byql The headline on Huffington Post, was: Too hippie or hip? And readers were invited to vote. Women want public leaders to be chic and competent. Just think of the time it takes to be chic!

    No matter how a female public figure conducts herself, she will be scrutinized differently than a man will be. It is unjust.

    I think women should lay off criticizing women for not being perfect.

  • This is the romanian ministress of tourism

    She broght high heel shoes to country women after a flood that destroyed their homes, almost a year ago. Here is the tv news that shows her doing just that: http://stirileprotv.ro/stiri/social/elena-udrea-le-a-dat-sinistratilor-din-saucesti-pantofi-cu-toc-si-ciocolata.html
    She gets a lot of attention and people talk about her appearance but it's the other way around: she is too opulent, she doesn't dress according to the occasion. I think that your Prime Minister is dressed more appropriate for the situation.

  • I think she looks fine. What do we expect? She is a middle aged woman, not a super model. Personally I thought she looked good in the red jacket with the men in black. Red is a tradition Chinese colour and she matched the decor nicely.

  • yes, as others have mentioned, hillary clinton can't escape the critique, and michelle obama can't escape the fashion-laude. i get tired of it both ways; i want to hear about their actions and contributions, not their stylist's decisions.
    good food for thought, imogen. as always.

  • Chancellorette? Ministress? Oh my God.

    I know you guys are just being sarcastic, but I'm sure there are people out there who think they are real and appropriate terms.

    People can be so strange about gender.

  • LB is right – you get it in the teeth both ways, so you may as well suit yourself. And for a world leader to obsess about clothes is just not appropriate, boring is a lot more to the point, just like a man would be. In this case, I think Gillard is perfectly appropriate, you shouldn't be wearing cocktail dresses to a natural disaster.

    Yes, every other female leader gets this kind of scrutiny. Is it right? Absolutely not. But women are frequent offenders, so please girls, just stop it.

    And emcrorie has an excellent point about not throwing suits when you wear glass hats :-)..

  • In short, yes, and we might recognize it for what it is: an expression of hostility against women and an attempt to minimize our talents and power.

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