Ok so I have stolen my header from the title of a book written by Ann B. Ross but it seemed appropriate given that this week I finally had my first opportunity to photograph the incumbent Prime Minister of Australia... Julia Gillard. Much has been written, discussed and debated about the present PM which is natural given she is a political figure... but much of what has been written, discussed and debated has not been about her stewardship of the country. Now I have had the pleasure (or not... depending on your politics) of photographing three other former Prime Ministers at close quarters and many, many MP's... both federal and state... and I have often noticed that the impressions I receive from training a lens on them are often quite different to how the general public perceives the people who are charged with leading the country.
I mean...so who is Julia Gillard really?
I would have to say she is possibly the most underrated Prime Minister we have ever elected to run the country. Not because I agree with all of the policies of her party or the way she initially became PM BUT and it is a big but (hehehe...no pun intended) because she is in fact our FIRST WOMAN PM and no one seems to have comprehended what an incredible achievement that is...Let alone run a parliament full of such a diversity of characters such as the 'Mad Monk' or 'Backdown Barnaby'...
Julia Gillard is no Margaret Thatcher (thank goodness) yet one of the leading lights of 70's feminism, Germaine Greer, has, rather than focusing on the incredibly positive aspects of being a woman PM, simply and naively played into the hands of the peanut gallery by making a comment about the Prime Ministers body shape and choice of clothes.
In all sorts of ways that is wrong.
I often ponder what it is that drives people to succeed in their chosen field. I know my own personal journey began when I was about five or six when I acquired a little exercise book that I used as a diary. I was astonished when I found it about thirty years later and I had rather perspicaciously written in it that I wanted nothing more in my life than to be an artist and travel all over the world...
I wonder if Julia Gillard woke up one day and said to herself "One day I will be the first woman Prime Minister of my country"?
I think if she had and knew in advance that instead of people celebrating the way she has governed the country as a very different style of Labour Party leader...( lets face it Australians aren't as a whole used to a quiet achiever, all the Prime Ministers I can think of have been very distinct personalities... I mean Bob Hawke and Gough Whitlam are flamboyant, Paul Keating is a sharp wit, John Howard is a patriarch and Kevin Rudd is earnest)....and concentrated instead on the size of her derriere, what jacket she was wearing the fact she forgot to have children, didn't get married and by the way is a non-believer as well.... then she just might have given up in the battle to break through all of the prejudices to get the top job.
Which she is not doing too badly at all.
Australia is one of the few countries that is not in complete economic decline and while you can argue the two speed economy is hurting many sectors of the community Prime Minister Gillard is not responsible for Reserve Bank decisions.
So where is the credit for her on a personal level?
Several of my friends have talked about this, with one female friend saying that obviously while we all like the idea of a woman leading the country the reality is no-one really is comfortable with a childless, unmarried, atheist doing it.
As little as 16 months ago I was working a job contract where my superior (in a job hierarchy that is) actually told me that I had no idea how to organise a task based on the fact I haven't had children. His actual words were "Do you have children? If you did you would know this (way of organising something) won't work". Having had experience of organising the particular situation previously I obviously knew exactly what I was doing... I am not an imbecile and I am not incapable but this man's attitude towards me left me gob smacked. I am sure if we had sat down, compared our qualifications, experience and IQ's it would have been a no contest...He obviously had no idea...
So I have a certain amount of empathy for Julia... When I photographed her to begin with, her media training kicked in but she seemed quite vulnerable and self conscious. Well who wouldn't be after suffering Germaine Greer's childish schoolyard taunts...But when the private part of the function began she was much more at her ease and had a dry and quite incisive sense of humour...plus she "got" some of the wise cracks I made so I have to say she is far warmer and jollier than she may appear through the general media perception.
But I have to leave the final comment to "Stan the Man" my motor mechanic, who like four of my male friends (unmarried and no children) have all echoed the same thought...
"If she wasn't a woman she would be the best Prime Minister we have ever had"
Put that where you drawing attention to Germaine!