There was a moment, around half past nine this morning, after Julia Gillard had been announced as the new Prime Minister of Australia, that my heart suddenly caught in my chest.
We have a female Prime Minister.
Now the fact that she wasn't leader at the time of a federal election doesn't make it an "illegitimate" appointment. Sure, the circumstances were extraordinary, complex, with more than a hint of sadness - but it doesn't mean Julia Gillard isn't any "less" of a leader. We're not America, we don't elect our leader specifically - we elect a party, and the party chooses its leader. QED.
Sure, it will be even better when a female is elected PM after a campaign. And while I'm not saying it's "the same", the last time my breath caught like that was when Barack Obama was elected US President. It's that thought of "Finally, this has happened here. Finally, things are starting to even out."
It's not an endorsement of Julia Gillard. I am very aware that she is a politician, and like all politicians, is capable and most likely skilled at the tricks and deceptions of the trade. Just because you're a woman doesn't mean you can't be a prick. But for one moment, I felt the separation of the politics from the gender, and felt a breeze from a door opening.
Prime Minister Gillard is bound to face criticism. I would like to think this will be restricted to her policies, decisions and visions for the nation. The realist in me knows that talkback callers will focus on her funny-sounding voice, the fact she chose not to marry or have children, and probably her hairstyle for good measure. Best of luck to her in rising above what are likely to be harsher standards, at least to begin with.
And of course this appointment this doesn't mean magic pixies have fixed everything for women. Women will continue to be underpaid compared to men in similar positions. Women will continue to have to make hard choices when it comes to work/family balance. Women will continue to suffer dreadful abuse in many forms.
But all these things CAN change. And sometimes you need those big, bold changes to spark off a train of smaller, perhaps more meaningful changes. And criticising women just for being women is not going help in any way.
So to anyone reading - and particularly to women reading - HAVE that moment. One day soon it's going to be as normal as sunshine to have female Prime Ministers. But experience this moment, and remember it. Remember it, so you can look back on it and say "Oh, that's right. There used to be a time when women weren't Prime Ministers. How odd. Much like there was an earlier time when women weren't even allowed to vote. How... quaint."
Commiserations to Kevin Rudd, and congratulations to Julia Gillard. This didn't happen in an ideal way, but then, that's so often true of life, isn't it?