PESKY thing, the subconscious.
One minute you're looking at a Prime Minister for a hint of vision or leadership or whatever it is a Prime Minister is expected to exhibit and the next minute, uh oh, the subconscious has registered that the PM is a woman and you've lost all judgment.
You just drop into automatic sexist mode and you don't even know it. Before you can stop yourself, you'll be calling her a feckless sheila.
This, anyway, is the view of Greens leader Bob Brown, who apparently is hyper-sensitive to this sort of thing.
"Quite a bit of the criticism [of Julia Gillard] is sexist and unfair and unrelenting and the Prime Minister needs a bit of a break from that," he declared yesterday.
"I just think the degree of relentless criticism on this Prime Minister coming from male commentators it's probably all subconscious but is sexist and quite ridiculous at times."
Setting aside the bothersome fact that the subconscious is a buzzword beloved by those who frown a lot but which is hardly used in psychology (Freud himself rejected it and psychoanalysts prefer the "unconscious", which sounds even more devious), Senator Brown's criticism seemed a little selective.
Male commentators? What does this say about The Age's own Michelle Grattan, The Australian Financial Review's Laura Tingle, a veritable newsroom of female ABC commentators and various other women of the commentariat who have, from time to time, said most unkind things about Ms Gillard? Subconscious fellow travellers of sexist blokes?
And what about us male commentators who have noted on occasion that Kevin Rudd is an insincere poseur or that Tony Abbott is a dork and Bob Brown is a shameless opportunist? It's probably OK. They all wear trousers.
The venerable Mike Willesee, brought out of retirement by Channel 7, didn't help his fellows much by inquiring during an interview with Ms Gillard on Sunday night: "Do you cry much?" It was, viewers screamed on Twitter, hardly the sort of question that would be asked of a male prime minister like John Howard or Paul Keating. Perhaps Willesee's subconscious got the better of him: Bob Hawke once wept copiously on a Willesee show.
Ms Gillard, anyway, didn't have much trouble batting the question to the stands.
"I'm not someone who would spend a lot of time with tears in my eyes," she said. "Does that mean that I don't feel emotions and sadness? Of course it doesn't everybody's different."
Quite. And Ms Gillard seemed perfectly able to take care of herself when she was asked at a press conference yesterday about the continuing media speculation that a showdown was inevitable with that troublesome male, Kevin Rudd.
Reporter: "Prime Minister, when was the last time you spoke with Kevin Rudd and have you got an assurance of his support?"
PM: "Look, I deal with Kevin Rudd frequently in his capacity as Minister for Foreign Affairs. On everything else I'll leave you to your fevered speculation which doesn't need any facts or any commentary from me for it to continue."
Or pop psychology, either, you might think.