SYDNEY – Julia Gillard, Australia’s first female prime minister, has opened up for the first time on the sexism that plagued her leadership and famous misogyny speech in her final interview before being ousted.
Gillard, an unmarried atheist lawyer, was dumped as Australia’s prime minister by her ruling Labor Party last month, almost three years to the day since she toppled Kevin Rudd — now reinstated as premier in a shock coup.
Her time in office was marred by slights on her gender and sometimes violently sexist commentary, especially from members of the conservative opposition, prompting a fiery speech about misogyny last year that went viral and earned her global accolades. The galvanizing speech on the floor of parliament saw her become a torch-bearer for women around the world.
The Welsh-born Gillard opened up for the first time at length about the sexism she faced in what would ultimately be her final interview as prime minister, telling author Anne Summers that you “wouldn’t be human if you had no reaction to it.”
Gillard said conservative leader Tony Abbott had tipped her over the edge, portraying himself as “some convert, or someone with a real understanding about what it’s like to face the world as a woman and to feel the weight of that?”
“I just wasn’t prepared to suffer through that in anything that looked like silence,” Gillard said in the June 10 interview published Friday, adding she had been energized by the response to the speech.
“The reaction to the misogyny speech did give me that sense that there are moments when I can talk about it that will have that resonance in other women,” she said. “However, they vote or whatever they think of me, they will actually say, ‘Yep, I know exactly what she’s talking about.’ ”
Gillard revealed she had spoken to former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton about the travails of female leadership.