Presentation on theme: "History of Feminism in Australia. What is feminism?"— Presentation transcript:
History of Feminism in Australia
What is feminism?
Why are the words used so important? How does language shape how we see something?
A joke… A father and his son are in a car accident. The father dies instantly, and the son is taken to the nearest hospital. The surgeon comes in and exclaims "I can't operate on this boy." "Why not?" the nurse asks. "Because he's my son," the surgeon responds. How is this possible?
The surgeon is the boys mother.
What is feminism?
Used by those who supported women’s suffrage (1870’s and 80’s) Used scornfully – to denigrate women who did not fit in Used to signal change from – ‘women’s movement’ for the vote when they wanted new things Used to signal a desire for - political revolution and social revolution
What is feminism? Often seen in polar opposition to ‘women’s liberation’ movement Often questioned in making people different – different types of feminism – or including everyone under a imperialist framework. Sometimes seen as problematic – creating a binary distinction between men and women
What is feminism? Feminism is generally focused on giving rights to women Ideas of equality A changing term reflecting a changing viewpoint about what is equality and what should peoples rights be?
Waves of Feminism in the world Sometimes feminism is talked about in waves. Particularly as a worldwide movement. First Wave – suffragettes 1800’s – 1910’s – official inequalities Second wave – women in the 1960’s-70’s – unofficial inequalities Third wave – 1990’s – now – in response to backlashes
In Australia Often seen to be five phases 1. ‘Woman’s Movement’ 2. ‘Woman Citizen’ 3. ‘Equality of opportunity’ 4. ‘Sexual freedom’/ ‘Women’s Liberation’ 5. ‘Post-colonial feminism’ These phases often overlapped.
Women’s Movement 1880’s – 1890’s Campaigned for social reforms to protect women To ‘protect’ women and children Liquor reforms and restricting men’s sexual access to women and children
Aims Wanted to create an Australian identity with strong women as well. ‘New world’ of Australia was idealised as a secure and prosperous place for all. The Woman question was also a Man question. Freedom of women linked to the restriction of men’s liberties. Women as the moral agents of society have a ‘civilising nature’. Create an ideal country.
Aims / Identity Women wanted universal suffrage. There had been male suffrage in the eastern colonies since the 1850’s. Tried to raise age of consent (sometimes to as high as 21) In South Australia it was raised to 16 in 1885 (echoing Britain who also raised it to 16 in the same year)
Women’s Christian Temperance Unit of South Australia
Show clip from Australian screen education history women
Rose Scott secretary of the New South Wales Womanhood Suffrage League Deplored the fact “boys are taught by public opinion that it is manly to know life! To drink, to gamble and to be immoral…”
Concerns Why was alcohol a concern? Why did it become a ‘women’s issue’? Why was the age of consent a big issue? Why might men have been against these campaigns?
Progress 1884 first female suffragette society began Creation of the WCTU (Women’s Christian Temperance Union) which had a number of different branches. The most powerful being suffrage. - this helped to create a feeling of nationhood rather than different colonies connection (Australian rather than Victorian) 1895 first votes for women in South Australia (for all women including Aboriginal women) 1900 women get right to vote in Western Australia
Woman Citizen 1900 – 1930’s Women balancing desires between maternal mission of protection with feminist emphasis on independence. Moving in different directions from former ideals and focuses. Demands for equal pay, motherhood endowment, working with aboriginal women.
Aims To mobilise the woman’s vote To protect women by having women in public position as police/gaol wardens, health inspectors and doctors so that they were not in the hands of men. Still a protectionist role. Wanted a motherhood endowment Wanted women’s right to economic independence. Sex and citizenship seen as a contradiction.
Enid Lyons So we take comfort, Heinemann, London, 1965pp. 117 “Two months before the new baby was born I was asked to speak at the opening of the Federal election campaign . At five o’clock on the day of the meeting I was totally unprepared. I had had a particularly trying day, with no time to make a note or even collect my thoughts. And now it was nearly the children’s bedtime. I felt desperate... I was tired to death. The baby on my knee was crying with fatigue, the other children were quarrelling noisily. Suddenly I burst into tears. This was not fair. No man was expected to endure such things. When Joe prepared a speech I silenced the whole house so that he could concentrate on his task.”
United Association of Women (Pamphlet) – formed in 1929 “Woman’s point of view is not the same as man’s. Her sense of values is different, she places greater value oh human life, human welfare, health and morals.”
Report of the Royal Commission, WA Parliamentary Papers 1935 p.225 “No department in the world can take the place of a child’s mother and the Honorable Minister does not offer any valid justification for the official smashing of native family and community life.” Concerns about Aboriginal women.
Mary Bennett “Economic dependence is the root of all evil.”
Concerns Why were women still focused on ‘protection’ rather than equality? In order for there to be equality who had to be involved? What did equality mean in those times? Why were Aboriginal women a concern for these feminist groups? Why is economic dependence the root of all evil?
Progress 1902 – Federal suffrage 1903 – first women stand for Parliament Vida Goldstein, Nellie Martel, and Mary Ann Moore Bentley 1904 – votes in Tasmania 1909 – votes in Victoria. Victoria was the last to allow women voters. 1921 – First woman elected to Parliament Edith Cowan
Progress Creation of Maternal and Infant welfare clinics Women’s hospitals Maternity allowance Child endowment Custody and maintenance rights Appointment of women to ‘protectionist’ roles like police and health inspectors Censorship of film and books Restrictions on the sale of alcohol
Equality of Opportunity 1940’s – 1960’s Women wanted more involvement in public life No longer saw that women should be given the vote because they were ‘different’ and more moral. The maternal guardian was turned aside to become equality for all citizens.
Aims/Issues In the 1930s’ scapegoating of women workers Women were forced to defend the right of married women to work Wanted representation in parliament and not just to use their vote.
National Health and Medical Research Council Report 1944 pp Statements made by women to state why they were limiting their families “We women are on strike and we will stay that way until we get a fair deal.” “Confinement is generally understood to mean only the period of labour, but for many women life is ‘solitary confinement’ for long periods of time.”
Women’s comments (contd) “My family would have been bigger if I could have been sure of (1) reliable permanent domestic help, (2) freedom from financial worry, (3) a decent home. These are in order of importance.” “It is simply – we desire security. We desire to express our personalities in our own way, we desire obsolete customs eliminated, and certainly we desire a voice in our own destinies.” “You men in easy chairs say, ‘populate or perish’. Well, I have populated and I have perished – with no blankets.”
Women’s comments (contd) “The lack of medical science’s power to enable women to have painless childbirth. If scientists were to enable man to have the first child there would not be a third…”
Editorial, The Australian Women’s weekly, 25 September 1943 p. 10 “Both Dame Enid and Miss Tangney should have something worthwhile to contribute to the councils of legislators in the Federal capital. Their election is a step forward for the women’s movement here. Their achievements will greatly influence the future success of Australian women who seek parliamentary honours.”
Concerns What had changed during this time period that would affect the way that women and women’s roles were seen? What did equality mean for these women? Why were married women who worked scapegoated? What impact would this have?
Progress Equal pay for teachers in NSW in 1958 Married women could be employed in banks and public service in 1966 Women chained themselves to bars to let themselves be allowed within the ‘masculine’ environment.
‘Women’s Liberation’ – Also known as ‘Second wave feminism’ 1950’s, 60’s and 70’s Promised equality by earlier generations through the vote and representation in government. These promises were not being fulfilled. Break with the past – seeing all feminisms as part of the problem not a tradition to identify with. Reaction against the idealisation of motherhood and family Sexual liberation as freedom – no longer wanted to be bound to their reproductive potential
Aims Questioning terms like ‘sex roles’, ‘conditioning’ and ‘stereotypes’. Transformation of gender roles To be disruptive and subversive to challenge the hierarchy Avoidance of feminine identities – androgynous identities Revolutionaries rather than citizens. Suspicious of the government. Avoiding working with men. Questioning their own commitment constantly
Aims / Identity Collectivist and individualist Celebrating sisterhood but refusing hierarchies Revolt against domesticity Demands for 24 hour childcare, abortion and removal of luxury taxes on contraceptives were symbolic. Demand for equal opportunity and equal pay were extended. High maternal death rate due to illegal abortions rather than contraceptives being used to control reproductivity.
Adelaide Women’s Liberation “Women’s Liberation is a not a feminist movement ie., it is not narrowly confined to the struggle of women for equality with men in the present society. The aims of Women’s Liberation are total in the sense that the liberation of women must concur with the liberation of all individuals from a situation in which the only social acceptable mode of self-expression or development is in terms of pre-defined sexual roles.” (Adelaide Women’s Liberation 1971)
Show clip Australian history screen education
Protest march - Sydney
Women’s Liberation chants Men like birds; birds live in cages, They have done for ages; on second-class wages; Women's Liberation's going to smash that cage, Came join us now and rage, rage, rage.
Concerns Why were there such changes in women’s rights now? Why did they choose the term ‘women’s liberation’ to encompass their movement? What did they succeed with? How was this second wave of feminism have the potential to be self-destructive?
Progress 1969 – Equal pay – through Arbitration committee 1984 Sex Discrimination Act - federal Equal opportunity Act – Vic, SA WA Campaigns for centres for protection against sexual assault, rape crisis centres and women’s refuges.
Postcolonial feminism 1980’s onwards Changes in feminism to become more inclusive Less about ‘them’ and ‘us’ mentalities Ethnic and marginalised groups creating their own feminism rather than have this created for them. Can include domestic women as well as career women. Equality regardless of whether fulfilling or abandoning stereotypes.
Why feminism is still relevant? The Age May Pamela Bone The women of today live the benefits of years of feminism, writes Pamela Bone. They just may not notice it. My sister, who worked at the Sydney telephone exchange, didn't tell anyone at work when she got married because married women were not allowed to work in the public service in those days. She simply took off her wedding ring and continued to work under her "maiden" (obsolete word) name, as did many other women. When as a young mother I took a Saturday job at the local TAB, adding up and balancing sheets of figures in the minutes between the closing of betting and the running of the race, I was paid less than the man working alongside me, even though I could add faster than he could. I don't remember feeling terribly resentful about this. It was just the way things were. I didn't take part in any of the battles for equal pay or the right of women to drive trams or fly planes either, being knee-deep in nappies when these were going on. Other women did that for me. And yes, I know, you don't see very many women tram drivers today, but the point is, they can if they want to. I wonder what the young businesswoman (quoted approvingly by Virginia Haussegger on this page on April 23) who was reluctant to declare herself a feminist because "you don't want to get pigeon-holed" thinks it was all about? Would young women today - the majority of whom, according to various polls, do not call themselves feminists - really accept less pay for the same work or being obliged to find a male guarantor before a bank would give them a loan? The taken-for-grantedness of it all is, of course, evidence of its success. Which does not stop the periodic question: "Has feminism let us down?"
‘Feminism has just begun’ The Age Monica Dux September 27 th 2010 To claim the movement is a failure is not only wrong, it fails to grasp its complexity. In the past decade we've become used to gloom-and-doom announcements - that feminism has let women down, has been unsuccessful in delivering on its promises, and that the hoped-for feminist utopia has failed to materialise. And, of course, it's true that women everywhere still face problems, some of them enormous and daunting. But is this a sign of feminism's failure, or simply of how much work remains to be done? No feminist that I have ever met thinks feminism has ''succeeded'' in the sense that it is a completed program, with its work finished and all its goals achieved. Indeed, I think the feminist revolution has only just begun. Gender inequality is complex and pervasive, and it manifests in many different contexts around the globe. There is no quick fix; no simple solution to all the problems that women face.
Let me give an example. I recently came across a 19th- century discussion of so-called conjugal rights; a man's legal right to have sex with his wife - rape her, in effect - whenever he wanted. For the first wave of feminists in Australia, active in the 19th and early 20th century, the abolition of conjugal rights was an important goal. Yet it took a century for rape in marriage to be outlawed in this country in the state of Victoria. Should we see these early feminists and their ideals as failures because it took a long time to achieve this goal? Or should we see them as heroic women whose fight would be continued by other women, and whose aims would ultimately be achieved? Saying that feminism has failed is short-sighted and simplistic, because it misunderstands and underestimates both feminism and the problems feminism is seeking to solve. After all, who are these feminists that are said to have failed? We've usually got that archetypical feminist in mind - often she is the second-wave activist who marched for women's lib in the 1970s and became a femocrat in the '80s, hammering away at the glass ceiling. The feminists who fit that description did incredible work - they helped secure many of the fundamental reforms that we take for granted today - but still, they represent only one strand of feminism, and one approach.
Real feminism is constantly evolving and splintering; it's broad, it's dynamic. Feminism attempts to articulate and redress injustices against women in a dazzling variety of contexts. We don't have a bible. It's not a cult. And there never was a feminist central command, with Germaine Greer at the head of the coven, declaring that by the year 2010 a specific set of demands must be met. Yet reducing feminism to a simplistic stereotype, then declaring it a failure, is far easier, more entertaining and probably more satisfying than grappling with nuance. It makes a better headline for a Sunday magazine supplement. It just happens to be completely wrong. Yes, some feminists have failed to achieve their goals. Others manifestly have not. There have been mistakes made, and unintended consequences that still need figuring out. Yet feminism will continue anyway, even if there are occasional setbacks and failures, because at the heart of all feminist activity is a simple desire to create a better, more just world for women. This does not mean that we should never be critical of feminist ideas. It's not a love-in. Disagreement among feminists is a sign of health, not failure. The very fact that we are able to define and discuss the many complex problems that women still face is due to feminism; that words such as sexual harassment, domestic violence, sexism - words we now take for granted - have entered the vernacular. Feminism has given us a language to talk about these issues. And in doing this, in putting them on the public agenda, feminism has succeeded even if women's problems have not all been ''solved''.
Concerns How has our society changed in relation to gender? How do people see the term feminism now? What gender issues are we now concerned with? What progress has been made over the last one hundred years?