In breaking insult news this week, it was revealed that Hillary Clinton called Monica Lewinsky a ''narcissistic loony toon'' in the 1990s. This came after conservative website, the Washington Free Beacon, combed through the papers of former Clinton adviser and friend, Diane Blair, who died in 2000. Headlines have been hopping due to the zing of the loony line and reports that Clinton's ''closest friend'' painted her as a ''devoted mother'' but ''cutthroat strategist''. As the US looks around for who will run for president in 2016, the ''Hillary Papers'' conveniently include survey research, circa 1992, which found: ''what voters find slick in Bill Clinton, they find ruthless in Hillary''. While all this was swirling on Thursday, Hillary Clinton spoke at New York University to promote the Clinton and Gates foundations' new ''No Ceilings'' project - an initiative to secure the ''full participation'' of women and girls in the 21st century. In a packed NYU auditorium, Clinton told students that the best lesson she could impart to women in public life was one via Eleanor Roosevelt: ''grow skin like a rhinoceros''. ''It's important to learn how to take criticism seriously but not personally,'' she explained. The former US secretary of state and former first lady also noted that ''we're still developing what are acceptable styles of leadership for women''. ''You have to be intentionally thoughtful about this as you assume a role in the public arena, without it making you less authentic or undermining your confidence, and that is not an easy task.'' Clinton's advice - which will no doubt have many women nodding along - comes as the whole chicks-in-leadership-roles thing appears to have been put on the back-burner of Australian politics. Maybe it's just me, but has there been a palpable breathing out in post-election Canberra, because we're ''back to normal''? Neither of the major parties now need to calibrate their attacks to accommodate gender differences. Tony Abbott and Bill Shorten (both married, both with kids) don't need to worry about offending each other or any of their constituents with their ''lifestyle choices''. No one is talking about either leader's gender as a political strength or weakness. Or whether it is being ''played'' for political purposes. Since the election, the only time gender has seriously come up was during the selection of the first Abbott ministry. But after people counted up the five women on the entire Coalition frontbench and made noises about that not being very many, the issue drifted away. Of course gender itself has not gone anywhere. And in the new Parliament, there are green shoots sprouting to approach the issue anew. This week, more than 50 women from the House, Senate and press gallery gathered for an after-work beverage. It was a cross-party effort, hosted by Labor's Gai Brodtmann and Liberal MP Kelly O'Dwyer, along with Greens senator Sarah Hanson-Young. While it is not unusual for MPs and journalists to drink together, the event was females only - something that caused the odd ''what the?!'' from curious and thirsty men in the vicinity. It was held to raise funds for ovarian cancer, and awareness of the illness, but also billed as a chance for women in Parliament to get together. With a cynical cloche on, one might say that the enthusiastic attendance was down to the free champagne and macaroons. But there was a clear and strong feeling of goodwill as MPs and journalists chatted in a verdant corner of the Senate wing. O'Dwyer encouraged women to learn the poorly understood signs of ovarian cancer (big tip: it doesn't get picked up by a pap test), later noting that for all the political and personal differences, there were ''lots of things'' women in Parliament had in common. Brodtmann said the relationships between ladies in the building were ''not very firm''. This was a chance to start better networks. From the Labor MP's own experience, women were motivated to get into politics because they wanted to improve their communities. The requisite self-promotion that went with a political career was not at the forefront of their minds. While men were also motivated by policy, they were better at the self-promo work. The last Parliament, which along with the vagaries of minority government and Labor leadership woes, included attacks on Julia Gillard's private life and wardrobe. There is a fierce desire among many women in Australian politics not to repeat that culture. When the ABC's Emma Griffiths (who helped organise the event) spoke of the need for future, similar events in the 44th Parliament, she was met with vigorous applause. As we continue to feel our way about what is ''acceptable'' for women leaders, it is encouraging to think it could be a group effort. Judith Ireland is a Fairfax Media journalist.