Monday, March 08, 2010

Have we really come a long way baby?

There’s nothing like International Women’s Day to reawaken my inner feminist. Not that she ever was asleep, more suffering from RSI of the jaw from lamenting the lack of change.

I came of age in the ‘80s. We were feisty, stood tall and were happy to call our selves feminists. While we still earned less than men, we were certain that would change. I had no doubt that in 20 years there’d be an equal number of men and women in parliament, chairing boards, as CEOs of leading companies and that childcare would be if not free, then heavily subsidized and accessible to all.

I knew women happy to have children on their own or with their female partner, kids who grew up in dynamic shared households who were exposed to varying political and cultural viewpoints. I couldn’t wait 'til the tots of the mid-80’s were my age, enjoying a world without gender, racial and political barriers.

What went wrong? Did we take our eye of the ball? Did Margaret Thatcher ruin everything? Did our hairy armpit generation create such a backlash about hursuitism that launched a million Brazilians? (Why is there such a lack of commentary about how fcked up it is that adult women aspire to have a vagina that looks like that of a prepubescent girl’s?)

So at home we spend more time on depilatory activities, do more paid work (though many of us continue to earn less than men) but still do twice as much housework as male spouses.

While women were assuming a greater role in the workplace, they did not compensate by reducing work around the home. Women spent around the same amount of time on household work (which includes caring for children as well as domestic activities and shopping) in 2006 (an average of 33 hours and 45 minutes a week) as they had in 1992. Australian Bureau of Statistics


With the first batch of tots in my peer group have hit their 20’s a new phenomena is emerging. While few of their parents saw the point of getting married, their kids seem to be getting engaged in droves.

As Catherine Deveny points out women persist, if not changing their own surname on marriage, in offering flimsy excuses as to why the patrilineal naming of offspring continues.

Nothing has changed, except the vehemence of the backlash, including that of young women and a few bitter 40-somethings.

Do I blame feminism for hitting 40 childless? No, it wasn’t what I expected but the choices were freely my own. Though feminism strengthened my resolve in an odd way that any child of mine deserved to have the presence of an active father, one who did 50% of the housework and childrearing and wouldn’t feel emasculated if he didn’t earn more than his partner.

Rapists continue to get away with their crimes too frequently, women still live in fear in the ‘civilized’ Western world but its just the tip of the iceberg in developing countries where women may be killed or publicly lashed for having sex with a man other than their husband. And lets not forget that female genital mutilation is still rampant. AIDS has bought a new horror, with young girls and babies raped in parts of Africa in the misguided belief that unprotected sex with a virgin will cure the disease.

Nothings changed. Except it might actually be worse than the ‘ 80s.

There’s even greater pressure on young women, even preteens, to have sex. I don’t think I knew what oral sex was at 12, let alone performed it on my peers.

Germaine Greer continues to outrage the masses, who fail to get what she’s about. She wants people to think and to question their assumptions. She is deliberately provocative and not afraid to be ridiculed. Sadly, it seems even the West is still afraid of strong women. Even an educated playwright like Louis Nowra falls back on outdated arguments, playing the man (sic) rather than the ball. “..she looked like "a befuddled and exhausted old woman" who reminded him of "my demented grandmother".” In the meantime exhausted old men still dominate the media, dominating primetime television and social commentary.

I make these observations as a middle class, self-employed white woman. What about our indigenous sisters? Equality? Be damned!

Nothings changed.

Think about it.

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3 Comments:

Blogger Pixie said...

interesting isn't it, that we aren't doing anything about it really are we? just getting on with our middle class lives that our 20 year old selves would've riddiculed, and feeling offended by the youngsters calling themselves chicks. and sometimes even getting waxed. Just don't tell 20 year old me, K?

8:09 pm  
Blogger Johanna GGG said...

I sometimes wonder what happened to feminism and what or who drives the cycles of history.

I particularly hate those 'post-feminists' who think the battle is won so we can have pole dancing for recreation and offensive clothes sold at high street stores. Huh?

While I agree the political is personal, I would love to have more public discussion on all these issues!

11:37 pm  
Blogger Another Outspoken Female said...

I don't know Pixie, every time we say out loud in public that we are feminists, it's a start. The difference between me and my 20 yo self is I pick my battles better.

Johanna, 'post-feminists' just don't know any different. Just as all of us post-war kids don't know about living in fear and hardship. We just have to keep writing, talking and living it :)

8:35 am  

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