Speak for Yourself

Claire Duffy's blog about public speaking and communication (in real life). Speak well, do well!

The Power of (that Misogyny) Speech

The roar in response to  Julia Gillard’s ‘misogyny speech’ has not died down (if I didn’t hate cliches I’d say something about ‘wildest dreams’), and for that reason I have no hesitation giving it a second run here.

Unlike everyone else, this blog has nothing to say about the debate itself. I’m just interested in its power  as a speech.

In 15 minutes a female Head of State created a sensation the world couldn’t stop talking about for two weeks.  The Macquarie Dictionary is revising its definition of the ‘M’ word as a result. She’s doing better in the polls than she has since February 2011. The speech has now had over 2 million views.  That’s two. Million.

Writing in The Australian George Megalogenis said:

The highest rating commercial television news program reaches one million people on a weekday and 1.4 million on a Sunday…Now consider the comparable data for Kevin Rudd…His parliamentary apology to the Stolen Generations should be an internet icon. But it has had fewer than 200,000 clicks on YouTube in 4 1/2 years.  His successor’s speech on sexism and misogyny has averaged 200,000 a day.

Be impressed. Be very impressed.

To seal the deal – at least from a communication coach’s perspective, Gillard’s speech has gone straight into The Eloquent Woman’s Famous Speech Friday feature, a (much needed)  index of  important speeches by women.  I’m proud  to have made occasional contributions to this resource, and I’m especially happy to learn that Gillard is there in company with two other political history makers: Eleanor Roosevelt and Hillary Clinton, who each have more than one speech included.

Many of my readers are young women, their parents and teachers. To you I say  this: lots of things keep women lower down the food chain than some of  us would like.  Being unable to make  your voice heard need not be one of them.   Men will not cease intimidating you if you allow yourself to be intimidated. Recognise it when someone is out of  line and  say so.  Tolerate being disliked  for it.  And take a look here at women who do speak successfully, absorb the advice on what they can teach us, and give yourself the power of speech.

Here’s what The Eloquent Woman says we can learn from Prime Minister Gillard:

  • On occasion, pointing works: Nine times out of 10, I’ll tell you that pointing with a single finger is considered among the most potent and offensive gestures a speaker can use, in almost every culture–and so I’ll counsel you to use other options. In this parliamentary setting, however, it works. You can see how it adds to the volume, drama and anger in Gillard’s remarks, helping to visually put Abbott’s words back on him as the speaker does the same.
  • A well-rehearsed speech should still take advantage of the moment:You can see Gillard referring to her notes before her in what appears to be a well-practiced, well-scripted diatribe. But she has an eye on her audience and on Abbott, so she’s able to work in one of the best lines of the day: “Now he is looking at his watch because apparently a woman’s spoken too long.”
  • Substantive arguments must underpin a salvo like this: This isn’t just strong emotion and personal attack. Gillard’s remarks include at beginning, middle and end several reminders of the parliamentary action at hand, and spell out her opposition on concrete terms, such as awaiting the outcome of a judicial action before parliamentary action is taken. They make her argument stronger, and the personal criticisms become the icing on the cake. Together, it’s a potent combination. Less well known: Gillard’s commentary mirrors actual research about how women’s speaking is perceived and shut down by men. It rings true, even if you don’t know about the statistical significance of her words.
  • When someone’s projecting on you, put it back where it belongs:This happens all the time in the workplace, and Gillard’s spirited effort to reverse the projected suggestion that she’s a sexist does the job perfectly. Her suggestion that the opposition leader “needs a mirror” is an overt reference to this. Keep that in mind the next time the office gossip accuses you of gossiping you haven’t done, for example, and fire back with a “but I was just thinking the same thing about you.”

My previous post on the Gillard speech includes links to the best coverage from round the world. And here’s a popular post from a few months ago:  Men are From Earth,Women are From Earth, Deal With It

Dinner time discussion

Dinner is a great opportunity for families to talk about issues.  Good conversation nourishes the brain,  as good food nourishes the body!

Conversation starters (first watch the speech)

  • Why has Julia Gillard’s speech received so much attention?
  • How do you go about it when you want to disagree with someone?
  • What does it mean to ‘play the gender card?’
  • The Macquarie Dictionary is changing its definition of ‘misogyny’, and in the words of The Irish Times “it’s not often lexicography makes the news”. What are they talking about?
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One comment on “The Power of (that Misogyny) Speech

  1. Claire Duffy
    22/10/2012

    Here’s a nice follow up. In the words of The Irish Times “it’s not often lexicography makes the news”. http://www.irishtimes.com/newspaper/opinion/2012/1020/1224325505122.html

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