The D@ily Byte

A blog on digital culture and new media

Politics and Social Media: Gillard goes viral with misogyny speech


It is hard to forget Prime Minister Julia Gillard’s parliamentary showdown will opposition leader Tony Abbot last week. After Abbott opened question time with a motion to have Peter Slipper removed as speaker over sexual harassment claims, the PM gave a fiery 15 minute scathing review of the opposition leaders past sexist remarks. She opened her speech by declaring:

“I will not be lectured about sexism and misogyny by this man, I will not. Not now, not ever….If he wants to know what misogyny looks like in modern Australia he doesn’t need a motion in the house of Representatives, he needs a mirror“.

Gillard then went on to say: “The Leader of the Opposition says that people who hold sexist views and who are misogynists are not appropriate for high office. Well, I hope the Leader of the Opposition has got a piece of paper and he is writing out his resignation“.

Her fiery retort immediately became an internet sensation. A video of her ‘misogyny speech’ has had over 1.5 million views in less than a week. It has been watched so much that totaling the amount of minutes viewed equates to over 14.5 years of ‘eyeballing’ and it has been ‘liked’ on YouTube 15,000 times. Furthermore, her speech is one of the most talked about topics on social media, trending under the hashtag #smackdown. International social media new sites like Storyful have played a huge part in making content like this available to major international media partners the minute it is available  [ ABC Online 2012].

ABC New Online reported that the traffic to the Gillard clip comes from a range of places. It was featured on the YouTube front page, embedded by a variety of international mastheads including The New Yorker and played back 57% of the time on mobile devices [ ABC Online 2012].

ABC News Online journalist and social media strategist Kieran Ricketts had an extremely insightful comments outlining the reasons behind the video’s phenomenal success.

Ricketts reports that ” As with many ‘overnight’ online successes, it’s the result of a long tail of strategic thinking…There are no happy accidents involved. ABC Innovation and ABC News Online have been participating in YouTube Partner Events over the last few months and gained some key insights into how we use the platform better.” [ ABC Online 2012].

ABC Innovation and ABC News Online have been actively looking for ways to use social media platforms like Youtube in breaking news. Ricketts comments that “We realise that audiences want content that generates discussion and debate, which particularly invoke powerful words and pictures…we’re looking for that content actively, and putting it where people are – on social media platforms – instead of waiting for them to come to our News website ” [ ABC Online 2012].

He continues by saying “The fact that the ABC has had such a strong reception to this content ahead of other broadcasters is a reflection of our ability to get it online, in the right place at the right speed – a competitive advantage our rolling news focus at ABC News Online and ABC News 24 enables us to really leverage”  [ABC News Online 2012].

Make no mistake, Gillards’s attack was not just your average parliamentary insult, but was in fact a very cleverly planned media stunt. The PM has capitalised on the ABC’s strengthened online presence and thanks to YouTube has now made Tony Abbott the the global face of sexism in Australian politics.

Even more importantly, by turning public attention to Abbott’s long list of gaffs and sexist remarks, Gillard has taken a lot of the heat off the government for their role in the Peter Slipper scandal. ipolitics Canada‘s headline “How to destroy an opposition motion, Australian-style”, pretty much sums up the entire purpose of the PM’s tirade on Tony Abbott last week.

Emma Barnett, a journalist for The Telegraph comments ” Watching a female Prime Minister tear apart the male leader of the Opposition with such aplomb, composure – but most importantly armed with a brilliantly impressive set of insults – backed up with dates and times of when each shocking comment was said – was the best card Gillard, ever the political animal, could have played in such a situation….this has completely and cleverly shifted the focus of the entire news story ever since [The Australian 2012].

And all the while Gillard has become a sensation amongst feminists and women the world over.

US feminist blog Jezebel described the Prime Minister as a “badass” and opinion website The Daily Beast noted that Ms Gillard’s speech would bring a smile to the face of former British leader Margaret Thatcher. Natasha Lennard of reported “If only the U.S. could borrow Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard to take on Congress’s misogynist caucus” [SBS 2012].

Who would have thought that Youtube and social media could be responsible for such a damaging blow to the leader of the opposition party. All’s I can say is well played Prime Minister, you go girl.


‘Social shift sees Gillard go viral’ [ABC News Online] [The Official Google Australia Blog]

‘Gillard’s misogyny speech goes viral’ [ABC News Online]

‘Gillard misogyny rant on Abbott goes viral’ [The Australian]

‘Awesome Julia Gillard Speech goes viral’ [SBS News]

‘TV news evolved: Taking ABC News to Youtube’ [ABC News Online]


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