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Women’s movement legacies in Australia Marian Sawer, ANU Protest, dissent and activism symposium Victoria University of Wellington 16 October 2010.

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Presentation on theme: "Women’s movement legacies in Australia Marian Sawer, ANU Protest, dissent and activism symposium Victoria University of Wellington 16 October 2010."— Presentation transcript:

1 Women’s movement legacies in Australia Marian Sawer, ANU Protest, dissent and activism symposium Victoria University of Wellington 16 October 2010

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3 Mapping the Australian Women’s Movement Three components — protest event database and analysis – longitudinal institutional mapping — online discursive legacy

4 Multiple repertoires, 1972 WEL ‘outsider’ strategy - demonstrations and ‘demands’ At the same time as ‘insider’ strategy - submission to Tariff Inquiry, arguing for removal sales tax from contraceptives

5 Multiple repertoires, 1976 Direct action to unlock the cage WEL submission on structure of women’s policy machinery (‘wheel’ model) implemented in Australian govt

6 Multiple repertoires 1979: IWD march Sydney Protest events continue Health cover for legal, safe abortion WEL also forum shopping, institution- building in different jurisdictions

7 Multiple repertoires, High Court September, 2001 WEL defending access of single women to IVF, inside and outside High Court of Australia

8 Women’s Movement protest events, SMH,

9 Women’s institutions per year

10 Trajectories Protest events peak beginning 1980s Institution building peaks 1970s but continues into 1990s, in different states — women’s services — women’s policy units, intergovt bodes —cultural spaces Vocational institution-building continues in 21st century

11 Cultural spaces Feminist presses ( 1980s: Sybylla, Redress, Sisters Publishing; 1990s: Spinifex) Feminist bookshops ( from 1974, now only 1) Feminist journals (eg Refractory Girl ) Newspaper ‘women’s pages’ (eg. Age ) Radio (eg, Coming Out Show, ABC, ) Film (eg, Women’s Film Fund/Program ) Online blogs, e-Lists

12 Can institutions sustain movement goals? Exogenous influences on women’s services — collectives give way to hybrids (accountability) — professionalisation — deradicalisation of language — competitive tendering

13 Can institutions sustain movement goals? 2 Endogenous influences on women’s services —Professionalisation & individualisation: experts & clients rather than democratic service delivery —Loss of institutional, political memory —Generational shifts: querying relevance feminist organisational models BUT…

14 Institutional persistence Sexual assault counselling for women & children Community education & training 24 hour crisis support and advocacy

15 Can institutions sustain movement goals (3) Women’s policy agencies —Effects of NPM —outcomes not processes, product format —‘evidence-based’ policy + market research —Idea of agency capture (see public choice) — resistance to disaggregated analysis — ‘Mainstreaming’ 1990s

16 Changing discursive context Rise of populism and public choice — ‘special interests’; ‘rent-seeking’ — agency capture — conspiracy against public —redistribution at expense of ordinary taxpayers Discursive shifts more important than partisan changes

17 State/NGO relations From operational funding of advocacy organisations to strengthen weak voices  project funding (in a/c govt priorities)  competitive tendering, excluding political functions  'silencing dissent’ – gag clauses and threats to charitable status

18 Precarious nature institutional legacies Institutional innovation threatened both by —surrounding institutional norms —changing discursive contexts —endogenous shifts, lifecycle, generational Adaptation may make it difficult but not impossible to pursue movement goals

19 Discursive legacies online Feminist blogs — eg links to off-line actions such as rallies for abortion rights 9 Oct 2010 — Down Under Feminist Carnival Social networking — Twitter, Facebook build stronger connections, draw attention to contentious issues, events

20 Down Under Feminists' Carnival Call for Submissions: Thirtieth Edition at Fat Lot of Good,of Good, 5 November 2010 Blogosphere

21 Redheads ‘no other match’ Pam Debenham – Canberra artist, limited edn, August 2010

22 Women as % of Liberal and Labor MPs

23 Women’s movement legacies in Australia Marian Sawer, ANU


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