Julia Gillard, The Misogyny Speech, 2012

Julia Gillard

Prime Minister of Australia (2010–13)

In 2012, Julia Gillard, Australia’s first female prime minister, spoke before the House of Representatives in an address quickly dubbed ‘The Misogyny Speech’. In impassioned rhetoric and unfazed by the jeers of audience members, she argued against a motion by the Leader of the Opposition, Tony Abbott, to have the Speaker of the House, Peter Slipper, removed. Abbott maintained that a series of sexist text messages sent by Slipper made him unfit for office. In uncompromising language, which soon went viral, Gillard points to what she sees as the hypocrisy of Abbott’s stance. What began as a medium-sized scandal in Australian politics touched off an international debate on sexism in political life: ‘The Misogyny Speech’ has been viewed online over three million times.

In her speech, Gillard reminds listeners of comments Abbott made regarding ‘the housewives of Australia’ doing the ironing (‘Thank you for that painting of women’s roles in modern Australia’), and of Abbott’s views on abortion: ‘I was very offended personally when the Leader of the Opposition, as Minister of Health, said, and I quote, “Abortion is the easy way out”.’ She calls him out for standing next to signs which described Gillard as a ‘witch and a bitch’, and for his friendship with Slipper. ‘Well, this kind of hypocrisy must not be tolerated,’ she said. ‘The Leader of the Opposition should think seriously about the role of women in public life and in Australian society because we are entitled to a better standard than this.’

The Misogyny Speech 2012

Thank you very much Deputy Speaker and I rise to oppose the motion moved by the Leader of the Opposition. And in so doing I say to the Leader of the Opposition I will not be lectured about sexism and misogyny by this man. I will not. And the Government will not be lectured about sexism and misogyny by this man. Not now, not ever.

The Leader of the Opposition says that people who hold sexist views and who are misogynists are not appropriate for high office. Well, I hope the Leader of the Opposition has got a piece of paper and he is writing out his resignation. Because if he wants to know what misogyny looks like in modern Australia, he doesn’t need a motion in the House of Representatives, he needs a mirror. That’s what he needs.

… He has said, and I quote, in a discussion about women being under-represented in institutions of power in Australia, the interviewer was a man called Stavros. The Leader of the Opposition says ‘If it’s true, Stavros, that men have more power generally speaking than women, is that a bad thing?’

… This is the man from whom we’re supposed to take lectures about sexism….

I was offended too by the sexism, by the misogyny of the Leader of the Opposition catcalling across this table at me as I sit here as Prime Minister, ‘If the Prime Minister wants to, politically speaking, make an honest woman of herself….’, something that would never have been said to any man sitting in this chair. I was offended when the Leader of the Opposition went outside in the front of Parliament and stood next to a sign that said ‘Ditch the witch’.

… Misogyny, sexism, every day from this Leader of the Opposition. Every day in every way, across the time the Leader of the Opposition has sat in that chair and I’ve sat in this chair, that is all we have heard from him.

… Good sense, common sense, proper process is what should rule this Parliament…. [N]ot the kind of double standards and political game-playing imposed by the Leader of the Opposition now looking at his watch because apparently a woman’s spoken too long.

I’ve had him yell at me to shut up in the past, but I will take the remaining seconds of my speaking time to say to the Leader of the Opposition I think the best course for him is to reflect on the standards he’s exhibited in public life, on the responsibility he should take for his public statements; on his close personal connection with Peter Slipper, on the hypocrisy he has displayed in this House today.

… I will not be lectured about sexism and misogyny by this man.

Julia Gillard