Julie Bishop feminist? Liar, liar, red shoes on fire

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Cartoon by Mark David / @MDavidCartoons

A pair of red shoes and a white frock loosely reminiscent of the suffragette movement, do not a feminist make. (Even if they are killer designer heels and an elegant, well-cut dress with price tags bigger than most people’s power bills.)

Yet former Foreign Minister Julie Bishop, from her new post-Coalition ministry vantage point, appears to be rebranding herself as a feminist role model. And she is being ably assisted by the mainstream media — once again.


As Maya Angelou famously said:                      

“When people show you who they are, believe them the first time.”

And Ms Bishop has certainly shown us who she is — at least in public life.

While representing James Hardie Industries against asbestos victims in the 1980s, Julie Bishop (then Gillon) was reportedly

“rhetorically asking the court why workers should be entitled to jump court queues just because they were dying."

As Foreign Minister, Julie Bishop privatised foreign aid spending contracts. Such contracts were awarded under her watch to companies like Palladium — one of the biggest beneficiaries of that spending, with contracts in the vicinity of $500 million. A few short months after resigning her position with the Liberal Party – apparently in breach of ministerial standards – Bishop has recently accepted a role as an aid contractor with Palladium.  

Back in 2014, addressing a women-in-media group, Bishop said,

"feminist [is] not a term that I find particularly useful these days."

Apparently, these days, it is useful, however.


Ms – or should that be “Miss” – Bishop, told a gushing Andrew Denton in an insipid PR appearance on Seven's Interview on Tuesday night (13 August), that, as usually the only woman in the room, she was largely ignored by her male colleagues. She also spoke of “misogyny” and “gender deafness”.

Bishop further opined the only way to fix said misogyny was by having 50 per cent women in Parliament.

Of course, it would be hard to find a professional woman who would say they had not experienced such “gender deafness”. Nor would anyone (male or female) with an iota of intelligence be blind to the obvious sexism within the Coalition — especially given that more and more Liberal Party women are now speaking out about it.

Bishop did not speak out about such sexism when she was Deputy Leader of the Liberal Party, though. And when leaving Parliament, though clad in her famous white “suffragette” outfit, Bishop remained mute on the subject of quotas within the Liberal Party.

But it is during this interview with Denton, suddenly, it seems, Bishop discovered post-Parliament sympathy for Julia Gillard. Bishop shared an apparent epiphany with Denton that “misogyny” was displayed toward then Prime Minister Gillard, describing it as “grotesque in its brutality”. That would be brutally grotesque misogyny on the part of Bishop’s colleagues. The ones with whom she worked alongside and actively supported for 20 years. When it was useful to her.

The latter point was in reference to a Liberal Party fundraiser, which Ms Bishop attended and which featured a printed menu with the following course:

'Julia Gillard Kentucky Fried Quail – Small Breasts, Huge Thighs and a Big Red Box.’

A printed menu item at a Liberal Party fundraiser (Screenshot via Seven's 'Interview' program)


However, back in 2014, Bishop reportedly

‘... denied there was an element of gender in how former Prime Minister Julia Gillard was received by the public and the media.’

And she would know. Because Bishop was not only there, she actively, if oh-so-delicately, laid her expensively-heeled boots into Gillard at the time, piling on with the best of the male perpetrators, including infamous misogynist Tony Abbott.

Interestingly, while Bishop also claimed in her Denton interview to be opposed to a political culture where people “were encouraged” and where it was “almost mandatory to be aggressive and adversarial [during Question Time] in order to score a political point on your opponent”, this did not seem to bother her when it came to Australia’s first female prime minister.

Bishop stood next to Peta Credlin – then Abbott’s chief of staff – as she held a giant file in Parliament, believed to be a dirt file on the Prime Minister, labelled 'Gillard/AWU' (in capitals large enough to be visible from space).

Bishop said not one word as her party’s leader and then Opposition Leader Tony Abbott stood in front of signs calling Prime Minister Gillard a liar, a witch and a bitch.

When Julia Gillard did a cover for Women’s Weekly, Bishop told the Daily Telegraph:

I don't think it's necessary to get dressed up in designer clothing and borrow clothing and make-up to grace the cover of magazines…


You're not a celebrity, you're an elected representative, you're a member of parliament. You're not Hollywood and I think that when people overstep that line they miss the whole point of that public role.'

Yes because, clearly, the whole point of a public role is not only to appear on covers for magazines but to actually attend glittering openings, sports events and Hollywood galas in eye-wateringly expensive designer apparel. And, also, to accept obscenely-priced gifts from exclusive designers. That’ll show that glass ceiling!

But, let’s give credit where credit is due — Bishop did donate a pair of shoes in the spirit of the feminism cause, announcing:

“I give my red shoes to the Museum of Australian Democracy as a tribute to the aspirations of all women."

Though they were, according to Bishop,

“simply a pair of comfortable working boots.’

Of course. Most women (not only politicians or exotic dancers), active feminists or not, always work in red satin, bejewelled designer heels. Any wonder the 'sparkly red heels became an instant symbol of female empowerment'.


And Bishop went one step further (or should that be back?) in her role as a senior minister within the Abbott and Turnbull governments. Yes, Julie Bishop, when given the chance to make strides in the area of gender equality by effecting policy that leads to equality, such as on the gender pay gap, on domestic violence, or, in fact, the development of any policy remotely resembling the advancement of gender equality, Julie Bishop did absolutely nothing.

As Labor's then spokesperson for women Senator Claire Moore observed back in 2014:

‘How Ms Bishop "likes to define herself is a matter for her. But … the May [2014] Budget disproportionately hurt women, and that speaks volumes".'

Interestingly, as reported in The Examiner, when Julia Gillard gave her now-famous "misogyny" speech: 

Ms Bishop said that she was surprised when Ms Gillard described Mr Abbott as a misogynist.


"It was such low politics,'' she said.


"I lament the lost opportunity that Julia Gillard had to be a role model for young women...


...Instead, when her own inability to perform the job well became apparent she resorted to a victim status and I thought that was a most unfortunate message to send to young women in particular."

Finally, there’s the issue of the white dress Bishop wore when leaving Parliament. If the only concession to feminism a role model for women can make is the wearing of a designer white dress in symbolic tribute to suffragettes, it should not even rate a mention, except to point out its empty tokenism.

Kind of like the person herself. A person whose only motivation in politics seems to have been power, perquisites and permanent self-promotion.

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You can follow executive editor Michelle Pini on Twitter @vmp9. Follow Independent Australia on Twitter at @independentaus and on Facebook HERE.

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