Getting intimate with Julia

20 Comments
Julia Gillard Facebook

As a society, we are fascinated with the private lives of our politicians and celebrities. Affairs that were once discussed only with our intimate relations are making news headlines: relationship statuses, physical appearances and personal life choices. In light of recent events and the publicity of PM Julia Gillard's personal life, the boundary between our personal and public identities is fading.

Perhaps the trend has emerged from the virtual world of online media where personal matters are publicised. Facebook encourages its users to share with the public 'What's on your mind?', a matter traditionally discussed with intimate relations. On 28 July, Ivy Bean, the world's oldest Twitter user died aged 104 in Bradford, England. She had spent the last two years of her life 'twittering' once an hour from her nursing home. Her final days and weeks, traditionally a deeply intimate time, were shared with more than 56,000 followers.

Politicians and celebrities, through their use of such social networking sites, have become 'normalised' and, in a sense, humanised. In the past, celebrities were individuals larger than life and while celebrity gossip did still exist, rarely were their intimate choices scrutinised so intensely.

In a recent press conference Julia Gillard was asked if she had any plans to marry and whether her partner, Tim Mathieson, would move in with her to the Lodge. Gillard's declaration that Mathieson would share residence with her hit news headlines the following day. Since being sworn into power on 24 June, Gillard has faced questions regarding her unmarried status, her decision to remain childless and her physical appearance. Gillard's response to such an intense period of scrutiny is no surprise: 'The decisions in my personal life I will make for personal reasons.'

Yet perhaps our obsession with the private lives of celebrities and politicians stems from the lack of real intimacy in today's society. In a world where the illusion of intimacy infiltrates the virtual, online world, real intimacy is absent.

Traditionally, intimacy is about a connection with another person that allows our guards to be let down and our true identity to be exposed. Social networking sites prompt the illusion of intimacy by allowing us to create a 'profile' of ourselves to be viewed by and shared with others. Yet in many cases the person we 'create' for ourselves is a hip, ideal version. The very experience of intimacy is not intended to be shared with hundreds of other Facebook friends or Twitter followers.

It is no wonder that we look to celebrities and politicians for a genuine portrayal of intimacy. Psychologists refer to two kinds of loneliness: social loneliness derived from a lack of friendship ties and emotional loneliness which comes from a lack of intimate relationships. Robbin Moulds, a Salvation Army officer who has spent many years working with Sydney's most disadvantaged people, believes 'very few Australians will die of hunger or thirst. Social isolation and loneliness is the greatest killer.' Loneliness causes us to crave intimacy. We yearn to know what Gillard's life looks like when her guard is down. We desire to learn her motivations and core beliefs because our own experiences of intimacy are often lacking.

This habit of creating virtual 'profiles' for ourselves does not stop at our own identities. We have reached the stage of creating ideal 'profiles' for our politicians and celebrities, urging them to 'do' intimacy in a certain way. For Gillard, to be unmarried and childless does not fit the profile. So we question it, scrutinise it and engage ourselves so obsessively with an 'ideal' Gillard that we lose any sense of reality altogether.

While, in a sense, we have always been quick to pounce of the human foibles of public figures, social media has validated the publicity of private matters.  

Our quest for intimacy is at the expense of public figures. The merging of private and public affairs has destroyed the deeply personal, subtle and sacred experience of intimacy. Whose right is it to steal from someone an experience so integral to our humanity?

Regardless of how society's experience of intimacy is changing, the publicity of intimate matters still remains a personal decision. Yet we will continue to be fascinated by Gillard's defacto relationship, indiscretions from Mathieson's past, Gillard's decision to remain childless and her physical appearance. Why? Because intimacy is craved.


Ashleigh GreenAshleigh Green is a media and communications student at the University of Sydney who is passionate about the ethical issues surrounding new media.

Topic tags: ashleigh green, julia gillard, tim mathieson, facebook, twitter, social networking, intimacy

 

 

submit a comment

Existing comments

yes, intimacy is craved but marriage and children are not the only ways to demonstrate intimacy
intimacy can be a lot of different interactions with people including a deep understanding of people's struggle which julia has articulated very well and experienced within her own family

i don't care if she never marries or has children, it is not relevant to how she manages the nation
as for her partner, he has some baggage, who doesn't!

i like flawed people with baggage.
rhonda | 03 August 2010


Ashleigh Green says: "Yet perhaps our obsession with the private lives of celebrities and politicians stems from the lack of real intimacy in today's society. In a world where the illusion of intimacy infiltrates the virtual, online world, real intimacy is absent. Traditionally, intimacy is about a connection with another person that allows our guards to be let down and our true identity to be exposed. Social networking sites prompt the illusion of intimacy by allowing us to create a 'profile' of ourselves to be viewed by and shared with others. Yet in many cases the person we 'create' for ourselves is a hip, ideal version. The very experience of intimacy is not intended to be shared with hundreds of other Facebook friends or Twitter followers."

Pure speculation. Not a single piece of evidence. Just because a theory sounds good it doesn't follow that there is anything in it.
Fr John Fleming | 03 August 2010


That preoccupation with public persons, and even mucking around on twitter and the like, is a vicarious form of intimacy is an interesting theory. Actually, I think it is more a sort of voyeurism - demeaning the individuals concerned and showing how trite the perpetrators (often media) can be. Regarding politicians, robust, disinterested scrutiny of their policies and promises would advantage the common good much more than tedious intrusions into their private life and life choices. It could help us all 'move forward'!
Caroline Ryan RSM | 03 August 2010


Channel 7 morning TV is obsessed with the mainly trivial inclusion of news items about the lives of American Film stars - why idoes this media slush flow so freely?
Greg Jones | 03 August 2010


Oh Father Fleming, loosen up. When I first read Ashleigh's article I thought it would expose the generation divide that keeps us oldies ignorant of the issues younger people have to contend with in this digital age. Seems my speculation has proved correct.

Dr Gabrielle Gwyther | 03 August 2010


Interesting that Ashleigh didn't comment on the gender factor. - men don't have their hairstyles critiqued, nor do they usually get asked whether their partner is going to live with them, and physical appearances too are not commented on - but get a woman in leadership and the comments go mad - Helen Clark also had that to cope with, and Penny Jamieson the first Anglican woman bishop in NZ.

What's the difference? Why the prurient interest?
Pat Lythe | 03 August 2010


Our preoccupation of celebrities and politicians' trivia is more than just a cover up of our own lack of "real intimacy" as Ashleigh Green accurately identified. It's more about the absence of a national value system that concentrates on the general good for all. After more than a decade of Howardism, we now have a majority of population that is self-absorbed and self-centred. One only has to observe the behaviour of people of all ages in public places to see what we have become. It is the very core of conservative principles that only the fittest survive.
Alex Njoo | 03 August 2010


We can't be intimate if only success, preening and pleasure define who we are. The media highlight these elements of our charachter. I think the electorate is desperate for more intimate dialogue from our politicians, challenging us to define love and understanding as primary social motivators.
Religious values and traditions help orient us as a society to intimacy. Religious dogma and orthodoxy stifles intimacy as much as poulist greed and selfishness.
peter quin | 03 August 2010


Ashleigh Green neatly and clearly outlines the impact of the digital media on individuals (self-created virtual identity) and on society, as the focus of media scrutiny is on the private lives of politicians rather than on the substantive policies they present. How wonderful for the world for the pain of isolation to be healed by true intimacy. Well presented commentary.
Anne Walker | 03 August 2010


Fr.John is correct.

I note that the writer is a media student. She should look in her own backyard as therein lies the answer.

The media in this country is little more than a rag-bag of vacuous lightweights with the attention span of a ferrett. It is they and not the rest of us who are obsessed with irrelevancies.
Peter | 03 August 2010


"A rag-bag of vacuous lightweights with the attention span of a ferrett." Yes ... and what a well-informed contribution to the forum! And did you know that all airline stewards are gay, and that all unemployed people are bludging on the taxpayer?
Brian | 03 August 2010


I log on to Eureka Street because I am interested to read as many Catholic publications as I can. It is disappointing to see how many contributors do not share Catholic values - Pro-God, Pro-family and Pro-life. But it is refreshing to read Father John Fleming's contribution bringing some sanity to the debates.
Ron Cini | 03 August 2010


Julia can hold her head high firstly for devoting her life to the Labor Movement, and secondly for the fact that Labor govern for 'all the country' not just the top end of town.
Karen-Maree Kelly | 04 August 2010


Perhaps it is not intimacy that is sought but the sating of curiosity, pandering to the public voyeur. It is natural to many to want to look into the open window and check out the details of a strangers life. Even more tantalising are those who choose to live under the scrutiny of the public eye. Maybe rather than intimacy being sought it is the need to chop down the tall poppies?
Shelley | 04 August 2010


An interesting paper Ashleigh. We live in a society obsessed with the here and now and self fulfillment at the expense or exclusion of others, so none of this comes to me as any surprise.The concentration of the acquring of happiness through material possessions, the "McMansions" and other signs of a materialistic society means we do not have time for others in our lives. Therefore we turn to the mass media to fill the void in our lives. If it didn't sell, they would not publish it!

I have been blessed with a loving, caring and thoughtful relationship for over 27 years. I am sad to see so many of my friends and aquantances' relationships break up. I often wonder why?

I think we need to think outside the square and reorient our piorities, we need to discover the joys of our own lives . Maybe then our obsession with the intimate parts of the lives of celebrities will fade away...I live in hope...
Gavin | 04 August 2010


Media = image = the game that celebrities play = posed photos + one sentence statements. Media = image = the game that political leaders have been forced into. Gillard and Abbott are both attractive, personable, intelligent people. Let's suppose they are pretty well equal at this level. I suggest that they are both forced to act through media (same as celebrities) and focus groups (equals audiences for film etc). Now investigate the media presentation of both. I suggest that the Gillard image is facing immensely more scrutiny/invasion because she is a woman. The Glass Ceiling is still alive and well.
Jane Hillier | 05 August 2010


one should ponder the changes that have taken place in the concept of marriage itself in recent years. It was not so long ago that people living in a de facto relationship were considered as "Living in Sin" In these days of gender equality marriage is seen as a relationship between equals. In all relationships the important thing is that integrity and self esteem are respected without any form of intimitation or physical and emotional violence.
John Ozanne | 05 August 2010


Here we go again with 'Father' John Fleming. I have expressed my enquiry as to his status in the Roman Catholic Church in this jourmal as well as to the Archdiocese of Adelaide and the Diocese of Parramatta. All have ignored me. Since of recent times John Fleming has become a board member of the 'AngloCatholic' at what table does he feed. Please someone including John enlighten a mamber of the RC Church !
philip | 05 August 2010


I do not care about Julia Gillard's relationship with Tim Mathison nor do I care about her deceision to remain childless. What concerns me is that she is a member of Emily's List - an organisation that actively supports abortions.

Is not the Catholic Church strongly opposed to abortion so how can Cardinal Pell declare that she is a "known friend of the Catholic Church" when she is a member of such an organisation.

Perhaps the Catholic Church is prepared to look the other way when money is involved.
Karen | 08 August 2010


Emily's List supports is pro-choice, not pro-abortion. There is an important distinction and that's why I am a member. By the way, both my 16 year old daughter and I found your ideas very engaging Ashleigh, thank you.
Leanne | 11 August 2010


Similar Articles

Tax pain is our gain

  • Fatima Measham
  • 11 August 2010

In Sunday's Liberal campaign launch, Tony Abbott repeated the phrase 'big new tax' five times. Through taxes, we invest in a civilised society that would provide for us in times of need. Taxes are therefore not a necessary evil. They are a necessary good.

READ MORE

Why harassment claimant wants to rock DJs

  • Moira Rayner
  • 06 August 2010

Kristy Fraser-Kirk has flabbergasted David Jones with her pursuit of $37 million in punitive damages after allegations of sexual harassment against the company's former CEO. The retail giant says it is still interested in settlement. She doesn't want to settle, mate. She wants to make a point.

READ MORE

We've updated our privacy policy.

Click to review