In her 2004 book, Media Tarts, journalist Julia Baird offered a range of tips for women to be successful in politics. "Establish a serious profile, as someone who is policy-oriented and has the respect of your colleagues," she recommends, along with other practical advice. "Avoid the celebrity shots, posing in ballgowns or bikinis." "Steer attention away from your personal life." As a young woman, interested in politics and a loyal member of my party - the Labor Party - for just over a decade, I couldn't have failed at following her guidelines more spectacularly. I was on the right track back in 2018 - a media advancer to then opposition leader Bill Shorten, flying around the country organising his events and managing his stakeholders. I was having serious conversations with serious people. I unpacked our negative gearing policy with grandmothers who'd come to listen to the leader at their local RSL, discussed renewable energy with men in hard hats at an industrial harbour and clarified our healthcare funding commitments to a high-powered CEO. Then I left my respected role in Parliament House in favour of an appearance on reality TV show The Bachelor. A decision that was the antithesis of serious, for a show not renowned for attracting respect and definitely not very policy-oriented of me. I'd made the ultimate mistake for a woman in politics - I'd chosen to do something different. And I didn't just participate in one season of the franchise, I went on to feature in three different seasons, the first being The Bachelor courting Aussie larrikin the "Honey Badger" and two stints on the island spinoff, Bachelor in Paradise. Over my time on reality TV, I appeared in approximately 32 ballgowns and bikinis that would shock the most progressive preselector. As for steering attention away my personal life, given I first said "I love you" to my now husband on a grand finale episode broadcast to over half a million Australians, it's apparent that I've failed at that part too. Yet in the revised 2021 version of Media Tarts, Baird offers some hope, a new perspective on how woman can succeed. She writes in a postscript that her practical tips in her seminal work are now the part that she's reflected on most, a part that she rues now. Baird writes that she cringes at some of her previous advice and that women should just be themselves and blow up a system that would shame and tame them. MORE GREAT READS: On cultivating a serious profile and gaining the respect of your colleagues, Baird writes that respect should be automatic. On ballgowns and bikinis, she implores women to do whatever they want. I was happy to read it because it spoke to something deep within me. I've never understood why Cheryl Kernot's red dress and feather boa nullified her achievements as leader of the Democrats and a member of the ALP. Why Natasha Stott Despoja going to clubs and raves meant that she was a bimbo or why, recently, Anne Aly wearing a branded belt in the chamber negates her very real lived experience of poverty and struggle. It all seemed a bit arbitrary to me and profoundly hypocritical in a world where we insist women can be everything that they want to be. But blowing up a system that shames and tames is easier said than done. It was a member of my own party - a member of parliament - who first told me I'd brought the party into disrepute as I came back from filming my first season of The Bachelor. Over a glass of wine, at favourite Canberra bubble haunt Hotel Realm, she told me I'd degraded myself, that I should be embarrassed. I'd chosen ballgowns and bikinis over bills and bureaucracy. The two worlds could not co-exist. It's this delineation that I explore in my upcoming memoir The Villain Edit. The Villain Edit similarly does not follow the rules. It unpacks both the political and the personal, my time working in Canberra and my seasons in the Bachelor franchise broadcast on Channel Ten. It's about representation, production and performance - how we do it in politics, how we do it on TV and how we do it in our personal lives. When reflecting on mine, I wonder whether, if I do dare to desire to pursue politics again, how much of my own life will require a heavy-handed edit. How much of my narrative will I need to adjust and repackage? What behaviour will I need to moderate, what aspects of myself will I need to hide away? Baird writes that the lessons of the 1990s and 2000s were to "keep your head down, don't attract too much attention, shave the edges off your personality, fit in a box and stay there". Though she now calls for the women of today to resist the system and disrupt it instead, if my experiences in politics are anything to go by so far, I fear the 2004 rules still apply. We've made it a whole lot easier for you to have your say. Our new comment platform requires only one log-in to access articles and to join the discussion on The Canberra Times website. Find out how to register so you can enjoy civil, friendly and engaging discussions. See our moderation policy here.