Marie Claire Australia

WHAT WOMAN WANT

POLITICIAN KATE ELLIS on SEXISM IN PARLIAMENT

Soon after I entered Parliament in 2004 I was approached by a political staffer at work drinks who had a question. In the coarsest possible terms, he asked how many men I had to sleep with to launch my political career. I am quietly confident that John Howard and Kevin Rudd were never asked this question, though I have no way of knowing for sure.

“So what?” some people might say. Sexism, misogynist slurs, all this neanderthal nonsense happens in all walks of life. Indeed it does. It is bad when it happens anywhere. And it is bad when it happens within the nation’s number one decision-making forum, the place that wields power over us all, but where 51 per cent of the population hold just 30 per cent of the seats in the House of Representatives and struggle to wield power at the Cabinet table.

We need to make politics more attractive to women. In 2017, one survey of young Australian women said zero per cent – zero – would consider politics as a career. Perhaps this isn’t surprising. There have been many reports of the treatment women receive in politics. We have seen two cases go to court that centred on the “slut shaming” of female members of parliament. We have seen allegations that women are bullies. We have had studies confirming that women MPs don’t only face a disproportionate focus on their appearance, clothes, hair, makeup and body shapes, but that the problem is actually getting worse. A recent

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