Female political stereotypes: ‘tis the season
Are you a Marilyn or a Jackie? We’ve come a long way since the 1960s. The madonna-whore dichotomy is too simplistic in this day and age.
Yet when I look around at the prominent female personalities both here and in the US, where election fever is in full swing, stereotypes abound. Let the pigeon-holing begin.
1. First and foremost, the woman behind the man
Lucy has been cultivating a nurturing grandma image, which reached its zenith on Mother’s Day, on the same weekend that Malcolm called a double dissolution election for the 2nd of July – precision timing, but you would expect nothing less from this power couple. She’s the yin to his yang, the softness to his tough persona. But don’t doubt for a second that Lucy is one tough cookie herself – refer to her resume, a record of overachievement. All the world’s a stage.
2. The career politician
Similar to the female corporate warrior, the career politician excels at what she does, outperforming her male peers. Like Ginger Rogers (she does the same thing as Fred Astaire, only backwards and in heels), grace and charm are essential elements in her artillery. Along with just the right height heels, of course – not too sensible, not too tawdry. Hillary Clinton types abound in the political sphere. Here at home, Julie Bishop is the woman of the moment.
3. The conservative commentator
The media didn’t quite know what to do with Peta Credlin. She had real power yet wasn’t an elected official. She’s neither a politician’s wife nor a mistress. Now she’s easier to pigeon hole, as one of News Corp’s female conservative commentators. Most of the Australian versions aren’t quite as right wing as their Fox News counterparts (nor as shiny and blonde), but there is something of a cookie cutter quality about all of them.
4. The ingénue
Kate Ellis played this role to perfection during her maiden speech. (Since then she has proven she has staying power and substance, gaining more credibility – good for her.)
Notably, although the Coalition get criticised for the gender imbalance among their senior ranks, what’s striking is the number of female Young Libs – many of whom tend to fall neatly into this ingénue stereotype. Despite being sworn capitalists, typically they genuinely want a more humane policy on small l liberal issues such as refugees and global warming. I know one such Young Lib who ran for a seat last year and, disillusioned, defected to another party.
5. The backstabber
Julia Gillard backstabbed Kevin Rudd. Then Penny Wong and all the other senior female Labor leaders backstabbed Julia. Oh, and Julie Bishop also backstabbed Tony Abbott … It seems whenever there’s drama in politics – or when we get a new PM every few months – there’s a female backstabber to blame.