Foreign Minister Julie Bishop has said it is “insulting” to suggest she cannot have a serious career because of her femininity, and reiterated she does not describe herself as a feminist but “if others wish to, that’s fine”.
“I don’t think we should apologise for our femininity. I don’t think we should apologise for our interest in fashion,” Ms Bishop, 60, told Stellar magazine.
“I have always loved fashion and beautiful clothes and magazines and all of that.
“That doesn’t mean I can’t have a serious career and hold deeply complex, serious conversations about world events with people. To suggest you can’t do both is insulting.
“If you are confident, if you are relaxed in your own skin, don’t let them define you. Don’t let other people define you.”
Ms Bishop became Australia’s first female Foreign Minister in 2013, after four years as shadow minister for foreign affairs and trade.
Bishop does not call herself a feminist
But Ms Bishop, also deputy leader of the Liberal Party, reiterated she does not describe herself as a feminist.
“I don’t call myself a Marxist, I don’t call myself a feminist, I don’t call myself a range of things. If others wish to, that’s fine,” she said.
“I don’t know why this is even raised, I must say.”
Ms Bishop said former prime minister John Howard was just stating fact when in September, he told the National Press Club the Liberal Party is unlikely to ever achieve its goal of having equal gender representation in Parliament because women still play the greater caring role in society.
“The point he didn’t go on and make was how can we ensure that Federal Parliament can be more family friendly, so women can take part in politics,” she told Stellar.
“It’s not only Parliament, it’s the 24/7 nature of the job, and I don’t know if that’s often understood. You are essentially on call seven days a week.”
‘Would that have occurred if I were male?’
The magazine said Ms Bishop arrived for her photo shoot with a “pile of Armani clothes from her own wardrobe”.
When she was asked to wear clothing selected by their fashion editor, Ms Bishop said: “I am not a model. I am a foreign minister.”
She told the magazine holding her ground was an important part of her role.
“In all meetings, you have to be confident, hold your ground, and not take a backwards step,” she said.
“That’s not about being a woman, that’s about representing your country.”
But she said she had encountered potentially-sexist language and situations and “things that are said or done”.
“It runs through your mind: ‘Would that have occurred if I were male?’ But I don’t let it get to me,” she said.
During her time as foreign minister, Ms Bishop said she had met some fascinating people.
She said US President Barack Obama is “very easy to get along with”, while US Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton is “very professional, very charming, very direct”.
British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson is “very intelligent, very quick-witted, but is also taking his role as foreign secretary very seriously”, she told the magazine.
When asked about the possible election of US Republican candidate Donald Trump as president, she said: “I am pragmatic. You have to work with the hand you are dealt. You can’t wish the world to be the way you want it to be, you work with the world that is.”