A Captive Audience

The Politics of the Prime Ministerial Wardrobe
August 16, 2010, 3:36 am
Filed under: Research | Tags: ,

For some reason I woke up last night thinking “It’s all about Julia Gillard.”  I had read an article in The Age by Mia Freedman.  In the brief interview with Freedman, Gillard claims “I do get sleep and that helps. It’s not like I’m lying awake at night anxious; if I’m in bed, I’m asleep.” So I chanted that mantra to myself until I too fell back to sleep, along with the promise to dissect it in the morning.  Come morning and I’m not sure the significance.  To my mind, the “lifestyle” media is still getting its head around how to report on our first female prime minister.  While Tony Abbot’s speedos are fair game for everybody, the lifestyle media is politely tiptoeing around Julia Gillard at present.  There seems to be an inevitability that a woman in public life must comment freely on her fashion preferences, grooming tips and personal lifestyle choices.  Lifestyle columnists such as Freedman appear to want to present this information as if it will reveal the ‘real’ person.  Gillard herself appears to accept this inevitability that an if not glamorous, then at least polished image is necessary, despite not caring about this at all.  ” … In this position so much of how you look becomes public property, you can’t afford to be too psychologically hooked up about it.”  I think that because Gillard doesn’t really care, she merely does what is necessary, it makes it hard for the lifestyle press to know what to do with her.  She IS the first female prime minister, so she can’t be ignored by them, but it’s really hard to find much to say.

“You know I declared 2010 the year of nice nails,” is about as much as Freedman can uncover on Gillard’s beauty ambitions.

Earlier, in one of her regular columns for Sunday Life magazine, Freedman had pondered the reactions the new PM might attempt to cultivate towards her appearance:

“As it turned out, Julia nailed it on both counts and by this I mean there was nothing memorable about her hair or her outfit. This enabled her to neatly elbow any discussion of her appearance off the front pages, which instead focused on what she said and the circumstances of her ascension.

“For 24 hours.

“On day two as PM, Julia wore a multicoloured coat dress and the world spun off its axis. People were loudly shocked and horrified.

“Offended and outraged.

“Me, not so much. I mean, they’re clothes, people, not tattoos. They come off.”

The August Women’s Weekly features Gillard on the cover along with an interview and photoshoot.  According to editor Helen McCabe speaking in The Australian, the issue was currently selling well, however, “she still believed the long-held rule of women’s magazine publishing that “politicians don’t sell”.

“The feedback I get from the readers is they just don’t want to read about politicians and politics,” she said. “(Ms Gillard) was definitely the exception because she’s a fairly interesting woman and we are in an election.”

So, no conclusions as yet, but I will keep wondering about and observing the politics around the Prime Minister’s dress…


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