Dear Goddess Greer,
I am writing to discuss with you your recent column, published in the Good Weekend section of The Age. I am one of your many unworthy minions, out there every day supporting and defending feminism against the crazy imbeciles who have next to no idea about what feminism actually is. In short, I am unworthy – but please take pity upon me for a moment, because we need to talk.
Specifically, we need to talk about your opinions on this other strong, independent woman:
Good ol’ J- Gillard. J-to-the-nizzle. Joo-lee-ah. Jooooles. Aka, our current Prime Minister. One who is, albeit, struggling in a wee bit the polls, but who nonetheless deserves a bit of respect for simply obtaining the Prime Ministership in the first damn place. *insert feminist cheer and high-five here*
Germaine. Ms. Greer. Your Professorship. I am not here to tell you what to do (mostly because I am afraid you will destroy me with a single, withering glance). Rather, I am here to express my disappointment about the aforementioned article you wrote last Saturday.
Shall we begin?
“Few issues can be less important than what the Prime Minister wears. As long as prime ministers are male that is. Nobody knows how many suits a male prime minister might have, and nobody cares. An appearance before the public in a brown suit might cause a frisson, and blue isn’t seen all that often, but as long as the general impression is subfusc, he will pass muster. The issue of collar and tie has been resolved in even the torridest parts of Australia in favour of that combination.”
I cannot agree more. And yet, how hideous is it that this is the case – that a woman is still judged more on what she wears, rather than what she does? Why don’t we all stop this hoo-hah right now?
“For women heads of government the issue of what they wear is crucial. No matter how heavy her workload the female prime minister must appear ”groomed”, that is, with not a hair out of place, uncreased and uncrumpled. She must smile…..A female politician is expected to look serene and unruffled; if she looks as if she has any appreciation of the momentousness of what she may be called upon to say or do, she will be described as looking grim or worried. Julia Gillard wears her face like a china mask; even when she is sneering bitterly at an opponent, her face is smooth, her expression of the blandest. Her smile may not be dazzling but it is ready.”
Again, I agree that what women wear is crucial – and yet, I try to place as little emphasis on it as possible. I instead try to focus on what they do. Given, if Julia turned up to work in a bikini and board shorts (or, Lord forbid, some budgie smugglers) I might have a little trouble focusing on what she’s saying – but all this crying and pearl clutching over her jackets? No.
I am also in agreeance that Julia “wears her face like a china mask” – in that yes, she does sometimes appear to be a bit impassive. She’s probably wondering about what she’s going to have for dinner. If I had Julie Bishop and Tony Abbott bleating at me from across the floor in the House of Reps, I too, might tire of this after a while. And if I were her, my solution would be to get a bit more angry occasionally. But then again, I am not a political advisor, and nor am I Julia (because if I was, I would have marched across the House of Representatives to stick a well placed heel up Abbott’s arse. But I digress.)
My point here is this: by simply adding to the continuing commentary and criticism of Julia Gillard’s appearance and expressions, you are not doing anyone an ounce of good. Attack her politics, by all means. Attack her carbon tax, or her stance on gay marriage, or any other form of policy that has seriously pissed you and got on your goat in the last few years. But please, please, PLEASE do not attack her appearance. Because by doing this, you just add to the overloaded pile of shitty, snarky comments about What Women Wear and Why They Are Wearing It Wrong. And no one needs to hear that.
“Julia Gillard isn’t a clothes horse. She’s a hard-working professional politician, but she isn’t allowed to look like one. Hence the dreaded jackets. Underneath are her workclothes, the same black pants and black top she once would have worn under her gown for court appearances. The jackets are intended to brighten up her image, each one fresh out of the box. Instead she looks as if she’s wearing clothes that don’t belong to her, like an organ-grinder’s monkey.”
I am a little confused about this paragraph. Are you critiquing the system in which Julia is not allowed to look like a politician? Are you simply saying that she should dress more like a hard-working politician?
If it is the first one, by all means – carry on. If it’s the second, well, I am still confused. Because surely we can tell that she is a hard-working politician without consulting her wardrobe?
“There must be decent dressmakers left somewhere in Australia but Julia’s wardrobe-meisters haven’t found them. A jacket that rides up and creases between the shoulder blades is worse than no jacket at all. If Labour is not to be annihilated in the next election, something has to give. The Prime Minister’s stage-managed image is less interesting and engaging than the real person we used to know. I think Australians are big enough to cope with the sight of their female Prime Minister in shirt-sleeves.”
Okay. I see. In this part, you are critiquing the stage-managed image of Julia Gillard here.
If you were one of my university students (please, dear God, make this happen. But give me sufficient time to gird my loins beforehand), this would be the point at which I add a little comment saying, “You need to make this part clearer. Move this point up a few lines, and emphasise that you are critiquing the stage management of Julia Gillard, not the woman herself. Otherwise, it appears that you simply have a deep-seated hatred for Julia’s jackets.”
Make it clear, Goddess Greer. Make it clear. Because otherwise, you appear to simply be joining the uninformed masses in criticising a woman’s image, and not her actions.
Look, Germaine: you stand for a lot. You are everything I want to be when I grow up. You deal out snarky, cranky opinions on every single topic that pisses you off. You attract equal amounts of love and hate wherever you go, and you made a dent the size of an asteroid in the field of feminism. And for that, I adore you.
But it makes me immensely sad to see one woman critiquing another’s appearance. I understand that it happens, and that everyone does it to some extent. But your voice is so wonderful for feminism, and so loud, and so well-known that I can do nothing but beg you to please use it more wisely. Can we please not turn this into a Fashion 101 session for women, and instead focus on Julia’s politics?
Yours in true servitude and awe,