For the past few weeks, former Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard who served as Australia’s first (and so far, only) female PM from 2010 to 2013, has been promoting her memoir My Story on both national and international platforms. Written in the pages isn’t just a recollection of the leadership coup which brought Gillard to power but also, tales of the misogyny she faced immediately upon her ascension to the Premiership.

Such tales include the ‘menu’ created at a Liberal Party fundraiser, describing a dish as the Julia Gillard quail with ‘small breasts, huge thighs and a bid red box’ and her impassioned speech to Liberal Party leader and current Australian Prime Minister, Tony Abbott concerning his sexist and misogynist stances which included standing next to a sign of Gillard stating ‘Ditch the Witch’.

Whilst attacking Gillard based on her political record can be expected, criticising her appearance and likening her to a witch is nothing short of misogyny and wouldn’t have happened had the politician been male. It shows just how ingrained sexism in politics really is.

However, just as Gillard stated in her Newsnight interview, the issue of sexism isn’t just confined to Australia this being a ‘broader problem’. Gillard was correct in proclaiming ingrained misogyny and sexism within politics as a worldwide problem. It is an issue which is currently facing Presidential candidate and Democratic frontrunner, Hillary Clinton who is undoubtedly the most referenced politician when it amounts to sexist jibes aimed at her age, femininity, looks and style – issues that would rarely come into contestation if it was a male politician in the running.

In addition to all of the prior points, sexism isn’t just confined to remarks and images that female politicians have faced (whether it’s Clinton being heckled to ‘Iron my shirt’ or 2012 GOP candidate Michelle Bachmann’s cover of Newsweek) it is a broader problem facing female politicians and how we judge them on traditionally understood ‘feminine’ characteristics, emphasizing their fashion choices as subjects of prime importance rather than their policies. Due to this emphasis on the sartorial rather than the political, women in politics are deemed by some to be nothing but clotheshorses, unable to make any decisions for themselves, a notion which gives explanation as to why sexism remains so prevalent.

Unfortunately, this epidemic of sexism is also found in UK politics despite an increase of female MPs in Parliament. In 2011, David Cameron told MP Angela Eagle to ‘Calm down, dear‘ during a Commons debate whilst in June of this year, Alex Salmond patronised female MP Anna Soubry by telling her to ‘behave yourself, woman’ in a similarly heated debate to that of the Prime Minister’s.

Sexism in UK politics isn’t just restrained to disparaging remarks from within Parliament but is also present in every aspect of the political arena, including on the campaign trail. SNP leader, Nicola Sturgeon has faced sexism on an unprecedented scale from UK media outlets. The Daily Mail created a cartoon of then Labour leader Ed Miliband situated in between Sturgeon’s breasts, whilst the Sun photoshopped Sturgeon onto Miley Cyrus’ infamous ‘Wrecking Ball’ video under the title ‘Tartan army’.

Low-blow attacks on Sturgeon’s gender are representative of regression towards how we view women in politics; though women in politics are emerging on a national stage in larger numbers, the media’s attitude towards them is lapsing back to that of the 1970s. This suggests a troubling trend and highlights why sexism in politics is unlikely to end anytime soon.

No matter what their field, women all around the world face continual sexism and misogyny in a bid to be taken seriously, a fact which is no different for female politicians who grapple to be respected by the largely male-dominated political elite and are instead judged on their aesthetic appeal and mocked for their beliefs.

Though the number of women in politics is increasing, the sexism facing female politicians looks like it is set to remain. This is especially so when we consider how the precedent for sexism has been set so firmly and how very few current male politicians feel the need to combat misogyny ingrained within the political system, sometimes even actively participating in it.

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