Saturday, 8 October 2011

Cheryl Kernot: the "Scarlet Woman"

Cheryl Kernot was the leader of the Australian Democrats (1993 – 1997) and Federal MP for the Australian Labor Party (1998 - 2001).

Cheryl Kernot had a bit of a dream run in her early political career, as far as her treatment by the press goes. Unlike Joan Kirner, she was portrayed in a flattering yet serious light and her political clout was not questioned – perhaps in recognition of her role as leader of the minority party holding the balance of power.

Things changed on her defection to the Labor Party and as details of an affair with a former pupil came to light. In 1998, in an attempt to reverse her slipping popularity, she posed for the Australian Women’s Weekly. The photo at right of her wearing a long red dress with black lace bodice, a feather boa around her shoulders, proved symbolic of her personification as the “scarlet woman”.

Once the press were able to hold up this visual evidence of Cheryl the seductress, her credibility was diminished and her political decline assured.


  1. I'm familiar with this cartoon, but I've never seen the original cartoon before. Poor Cheryl, she actually looks really nice in the photo.

  2. Interestingly, just watched Cheryl being interviewed on Compass. She still very clearly resents the red dress and fears being remembered for nothing more than that. Also, her comments about the adultery having made it virtually impossible for her to find employment in Australia, whereas her partner in that crime, Gareth Evans managed further employment and even promotion highlights the enduring existence of the double standard for the genders in public life.