Controversial British media personality Piers Morgan has branded Australia the “epitome of misogyny and sexism” during an interview with former Labor prime minister Julia Gillard.
Gillard appeared on Good Morning Britain on Tuesday where she was joined by Hollywood actress Rose McGowan to discuss feminism and women’s rights ahead of International Women’s Day on March 8.
McGowan was instrumental in launching the #MeToo movement in 2018 and was one of the first women to accuse movie producer Harvey Weinstein of sexual assault.
Morgan, who has been an outspoken critic of many aspects of the #MeToo movement, began the chat by asking Gillard her thoughts on the progress of equality and feminism since she left office.
“Can we start – what does International Women’s Day mean to you as – were you Australia’s first woman prime minister?” Morgan asked Gillard.
“Ah yes I was, to date only female prime minister,” she replied.
“In a country that many people for a long time presumed was kind of the epitome of misogyny and sexism,” he interjected.
Gillard was quick to defend her home country’s stance on women’s rights and equality, but said she was subjected to far more criticism about her looks and personal life than any man who has held office in Australia.
“I think that’s a little harsh on my country because there are issues for women in politics right around the world and leading women in all industries, including the creative arts and Hollywood,” she said.
“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.”
Gillard famously made headlines in 2012 when she delivered a fiery speech in parliament directed at then-Opposition leader Tony Abbott, who she accused of having a long history of displaying sexist and misogynistic views.
The speech resonated around the world and has since been viewed more than three million times.
Speaking about women in leadership roles she told Morgan and his co-hosts that women in top jobs are often viewed as “not very likeable, hard boiled”.
When Morgan responded that former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher wasn’t viewed as particularly likeable but still got the job done and was respected by many, Gillard replied that many women are judged at face value rather than for their work.
“I think as a percentage there are as many nasty, unlikeable men as there are nasty, unlikeable women. What we shouldn’t do is look at a woman leader and put a stereotype on her,” she said. “We should get to know her and assess her and evaluate her leadership, but not through the prism of gender.”
The chat then turned to harassment against men, with Morgan claiming he was subjected to online bullying on a daily basis because of his looks and suggested women are just more sensitive to criticism.
His comments raised eyebrows from McGowan, who told him that while it may be true men in the public eye are victims of harassment, there’s a vast difference between the amount of abuse men in the general public cop compared to women.
“Men don’t get as much of it if you are a public figure, if you’re on TV, it’s open season on you,” she said. “The man walking down the street doesn’t have it much that way. When it’s a private citizen, I think it’s a different matter.”