Former prime minister Julia Gillard has slapped down British TV host Piers Morgan during an on-air debate ahead of March 8’s International Women’s Day.
Appearing on Good Morning Britain on Tuesday (British time), Ms Gillard reacted coolly when former tabloid newspaper editor Morgan dubbed Australia the “epitome of misogyny and sexism”.
“I think that’s a little harsh on my country,” said Ms Gillard, whose 2012 speech in parliament against misogyny has been viewed more than three million times.
There are issues for women in politics right around the world and leading women in all industries, including the creative arts.”
Her mention of Hollywood was a nod to activist Rose McGowan, Ms Gillard’s co-panellist in the debate titled ‘Do men still have the upper hand?’
McGowan, 45, one of dozens of actresses to accuse former movie powerbroker Harvey Weinstein of sexual harassment, was barely given time to speak on the show.
Morgan, 53, continually interrupted his guests, who he introduced by commenting on their appearance: “If I may say so, looking like a pair of feminist power icons.”
He kicked off the segment with Ms Gillard – now chair of the London-based Global Institute for Women’s Leadership – although he was unsure of her credentials.
“Were you Australia’s first woman prime minister?” asked Morgan, who in October dismissed Meghan Markle as “patronising” and “fake”.
“Ah yes, I was. To date only female prime minister,” replied Ms Gillard, 57, who held the job from 2010 to 2013.
“In a country that many people for a long time presumed was kind of the epitome of misogyny and sexism,” he interjected, before asking how she found the experience.
Ms Gillard said she faced parts of the job that male prime ministers haven’t.
“For me, there was far too much airtime taken by irrelevant issues about gender, what I was wearing, the fact I don’t have kids, my body shape which got a fair bit of commentary from my earlobes to everything else.
“A lot, lot more than a man would get.”
Ms Gillard pointed to research showing the media coverage of the first two weeks of Theresa May’s prime ministership was “more gendered” than that of the same period for Margaret Thatcher in 1979.
“People will say, as they did say about me, she’s got a fat ass, look at that jacket, look at those cankles. People will put that in the newspapers,” Ms Gillard said.
She was mildly upbraided by one of the Good Morning Britain hosts for her use of ‘ass’. British broadcast regulator Ofcom says it should be avoided before 9pm.
Morgan tried to turn Ms Gillard’s observation back onto her and Ms May: “Theresa May has deliberately made her legs and her heels a key selling point for her brand.”
In between a rambling Morgan anecdote about a conversation he had with singer Ariana Grande in a restaurant, Ms Gillard said women leaders face a stereotype that they are “not very likeable, hard boiled”.
She said that “nasty and unlikeable are not necessarily bad things for a man to be but they’re thrown at a woman as detriments.
“There is a difference between being bossy and being seen as bossy — women are much more likely to be bossy than be looked at as the boss.”
Morgan put that down to women being “perhaps more sensitive”.
The former PM saved a final salvo for Morgan when he tried to joke about “radical feminists”, saying, “I’ve met a fair few, trust me.”
“Isn’t that part of the stereotype?” Ms Gillard asked.