Julia Gillard attacks ABC's decision to finance sitcom At Home with Julia

Former prime minister hits out at broadcaster during an interview in the Atlantic about the ‘age of public misogyny’

Julia Gillard has singled out the ABC in an interview about the misogyny weathered by female heads of state, calling its decision to finance a comedy about her leadership bizarre.

Gillard was interviewed for a feature about the “age of public misogyny” that would be ushered in with Hillary Clinton’s presidency, published in the Atlantic and written by Michelle Cottle, a contributing editor.

Gillard spoke to Cottle in some depth about the sexist attacks she weathered while serving as prime minister from 2010 to 2013, saying that she was surprised they worsened over time.

“I expected the maximum reaction to my being the first woman prime minister to come in the first few months,” she said. “What I found living through the reality was that the sort of gendered stuff actually grew over time.”

Gillard singled out the ABC’s decision to fund a four-part sitcom titled At Home with Julia, which parodied her relationship with her partner, Tim Mathieson.

“They chose bizarrely, in my view, to finance a comedy where an impersonator played me,” she said of the state broadcaster. No similar program had been made of other prime ministers, before or since, she noted.

At Home with Julia, a Quail Television production for ABC1 in 2011, promised to “take viewers into the life of PM Julia Gillard and boyfriend Tim Mathieson, behind the closed doors of The Lodge.

“How do Julia and Tim find ‘couple time’ amid independents crashing date night, Julia’s security detail constantly suspecting terrorist plots against her and nonstop unsolicited advice from [former PM] Paul Keating?”

In one episode Gillard – as played by Amanda Bishop, who also cowrote the show – was depicted with Mathieson – played by Phil Lloyd – apparently naked and postcoital under the Australian flag.

Actors Amanda Bishop and Phil Lloyd as Julia Gillard and Tim Mathieson in the ABC’s political satire At Home with Julia
Actors Amanda Bishop and Phil Lloyd as Julia Gillard and Tim Mathieson in the ABC’s political satire At Home with Julia. Photograph: ABC

At Home with Julia was nominated for best television comedy series at the 2012 Australian Academy of Cinema and Television Arts Awards. The ABC declined to comment on Gillard’s statement.

Gillard agreed with an academic quoted by the Atlantic who said sexism was more socially acceptable than racism.

“In some ways, I think we put a burden on women in the face of gender attacks that doesn’t necessarily play out in the face of racist attacks.”

She singled out her announcement of the carbon tax in 2011, which prompted protesters to rally against her outside Parliament House, some wielding signs such as “Ditch the witch” and “JuLIAR”. Tony Abbott, the then leader of the opposition, stood in front of them while condemning the tax.

“I have made the point since that, if Australia had an Aboriginal Australian prime minister and the opposition leader went and stood in front of signs that said ‘Sack the black’, or inserted any of the dreadful words we have for Aboriginal Australians, it would have been a career-ending moment,” she told the Atlantic.

“And if an Indigenous Australian prime minister had complained about that, I don’t think people would say, ‘Oh, he is just playing the victim.’

“But that is what gets said about women who complain about sexism. There is an added kind of layer that women leaders are just supposed to take it on the chin and not complain about it.”

But though Gillard condemned sexist debate about a president or prime minister’s decisions, and called for “men and women of goodwill” to do the same, she added that trailblazing women were necessary “so we can hit a time where it’s so normal for a woman to be a president” that it was not worthy of comment.

She said the same applied to politicians belonging to ethnic minorities.

Cottle concluded by suggesting that if a Clinton presidency would usher in the “era of the bitch”, “forward-thinking women might want to start working to reclaim the word”.


Elle Hunt

The GuardianTramp

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