Before a discussion is held about feminism in Australia, it is very important to understand the meaning of the said social movement. In simple terms feminism is the rights of a woman on the basis of equality of sex. It is a whole array of political movement, ideologies and the social movement which are all connected with a common string so that women gain equality in the field of politics, education and society as well. There has been a past history wherein women are considered to be weaker in front of men and due to this they are often deprived of their right to education, speech, travel, work etc. Due to this deprivation, countries across the globe have taken this up as a crucial social movement for the upliftment of women power so as to make the world aware that both the sexes in the society hold similar stand. It is an international phenomena and is taken up differently by different countries.
The paper helps to identify the socio-economic and cultural benefits of feminism and how it has helped to changed the position of women in the society. However the way feminism had been taken up in Australia earlier and the present scenario are distinctly different. It focuses its attention towards the various areas such as education and work and the various strategies adopted for the achievement of change (Beasley, 1999). Lastly it discusses about the extent to which feminism has been a success in Australia steering towards the fact whether the same is still prevalent in the country or not.
Rise Of Feminism In Australia
In Australia, women are viewed as subdued figures in front of male counterparts. Prior to any such social movement, women were looked upon as simple house makers who would give up their own interest for fulfilment of the family interests. They were taught to be dependent on their male counterparts. Women inheriting property was a strict no. However, all these issues gave rise to feminism. Australia has been the second country in the world to allow women to vote and the first to allow women to be elected to be a part of the National Parliament.
However, today’s feminists of Australia are lucky enough to get such rights for which the women have fought in the sixties and seventies Women in the country today do not have to face the brunt of sexual and educational discrimination that was prevalent years ago. So much that Australia has got its first female Governor General. Feminism has further been defined as the freedom wherein the women have the freedom to define themselves rather than anybody else defining their identity and position in the society. Even now women are required to fight for themselves, the believes that people hold, the kind of behaviour people expect from them which are hurdles for their progression (Gaskell & Taylor, 2003). Thus if the same is not addressed well on time then there will soon be a scenario wherein the women would opt for entrepreneurship for their own benefit and it would in turn be a loss to the corporate world.
Strategies And Tactics Adopted
A. In The Field Of Education
The status of women was secondary in the field of education in the seventies era. They were not allowed to wear western clothes and their field of education was diverted towards home-economics from mathematics and science. The first educational movement was the Australian Women’s Education Coalition (AWEC) which was formed to address the educational policies with regards women and girls. A newsletter ‘bluestocking’ was introduced which included articles about the men who were against sexism, Gay teachers and students and narrating the curriculum which was relevant for the females. Similar to this there were movements in the eighties as well and by the end of the era these movements had a great implication and things had changed in the educational system. Unfortunately the same was losing its essence in the eyes of the public as the interest changed towards addressing issues related to race and sex (Anderson, 2012).
The fiscal rationalism played a vital role in formulating the agendas in Australia in the 1990s. However the attention had shifted from equal opportunity to the females to the equality in gender where stress was given on males. The National Policy for the Education of Girls was reviewed and revisited in the year 1992 wherein it set out certain priorities i.e. construction of gender, elimination of sexual harassment and improvisation on the final outcome of the females after they complete the basic schooling and accomplishing and paying heed to the needs of the girls who were at risk (Yates, 1993).
Employment with regards feminism calls for equality in pay, equality in the work place and the conditions. Economic independence has always been a matter of concern for the Australian women. However in the recent times there has been a significant development in Australia with regards achieving the equality in the work place with men. Women have become leaders and also are found to be a part of the Board. In the year 1984, the Sex Discrimination Act came into force which defined law against discrimination on the basis of gender, sex and family accountability. However, when it comes to workplace, Australia has not been able to achieve equality in the true sense. Even though more than half of the university graduates are females yet only 9 percent of the women hold executive positions and only 4 percent are a part of the board of the ASX 200 . Women are even now paid less than men even if they are outperforming (Johnson, 2015).
Three Waves Of Feminism In Australia
The movement for the women which is also known as Women’s Liberation Movement, the Feminist Movement and the Suffrage Movement works upon various issues such as domestic violence, marriage, girl abortion, sexual harassment, education as well as equality in pay. The feminist movement has been described in three waves. The first wave which occurred between 19th century to the early 20th century basically dealt with the suffering of the women. The second one concentrated upon cultural and political inequality and the third one is looked upon as a continuation and a change brought to fight the failures of the second wave.
The second wave is the main one which talks about how the policy machinery formed for the rights of the women is being eroded and is gradually losing the interest of the public. However there were many conflicts about the extent to which the social movement would be carried which was termed as ‘femocrat strategy’ (Teghtsoonian, & Chappell, 2008). At the start of the seventies, the Australians developed a model very different from usual of the women’s policy machinery as the entities such as WEL made an attempt to the state asking for an answer to the demands put forward by women. However the said policy had started to diminish which was very evident from the shift of the Office for Women from the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet in 2004 to the Department of Family and Community Services (Andrew, 2009). This was a time of political activity.
The country is facing the rise of the third wave of feminism in Australia where feminists are seen taking part in revolts for gender equality and an end to sexual violence in the present century. Towards the end of October, the new Women’s Equality Party (WEP) launched its policy program wherein it defined the equality in depiction in the field of politics, business and the industry as a whole wherein they are given pay as per their calibre, women should be treated in equality by and in social media and lastly sexual violence should be put to an end. Thus it can be rightly said that the first wave was formulated to get the voting rights for women, the second wave was formed so that feminist be able to get equal opportunity and the third wave helped in providing equality in power ad position for making decision which would help to shape the future of the nation (Government of South Australia, 2014).
Organizations In The Feminist Movement
A social movement organization is not same as a social movement. In fact depending upon the kind of organization which is upholding the social issue, the orientations, success and aims of the movement is determined. The organizations formed for supporting certain social movements are different from the other organizations as they are formed to bring about a radical change and not adopt itself to the changes. The structure of these organizations is highly volatile and the individuals work in a hostile environment unlike the other organizations. A social movement organization lacks legality and it is more committed towards forcing the law making authorities to formulate laws in satisfaction of the movement they support (Irefin, 2012). Thus it can be rightly said that the organizations formed to support the said social movement are tightly held and even unstructured since they are not ruled by any such legal barriers.
Is The Social Movement Still Prevalent Or Is It Over?
There is a big misconception in Australia that the movement for the rights of the women does not exist anymore. Although the visibility of the influences of the movement is not as stark as it was in the seventies, yet the same is very well alive. The section discusses about the way the movement is still alive via various institutions and the internet and how it is still found within various inundated networks, the cultural developments and the in the day to day life of the citizens. It is often assumed that all the social movements are active for a particular time period and it subsides once the activists become less active (Maddison & Sawer). However, feminism is one such movement which has a long standing. The same is alive via the institutional legacy which contributes to a large number of services for women which addresses issues such as domestic violence, rape and health issues of women.
Various non-government organizations have also come up which are more focussed towards upliftment of women and have a more strong voice. However, it is very saddening to see that the institutionalising of the movement is unable to survive the loss of the visibility thus the section also highlights the loss and compromises that the social movement activists had to suffer due to lack of visibility in the movement presently (Epstein, 2001).
The loss has been simply because the movement and the aggression in the same has ensured to achieve a lot for the women in Australia and hence it is no longer seen on the streets of the country and neither do the social movement activists have anything new to offer. Although the main height of the movement was in the seventies and eighties but even in the nineties the same was not invisible in totality. But the reducing discernible acts for the favour of women has led to a loss of the interest of the government as well (Sylvester, 2002). The women NGOs had increased in number which has led to fragmented movement. Each time there is a change in the Government, there has been restructures of the policies which has by default interrupted the work of the women. To the surprise of people, non government segment has been able to uphold their services in spite of suffering from resource constraints.
Even though the social movement towards feminism is not noticeable as it was at the start yet there have been many blogs and groups of writers where a number of women share their experiences, issues thus generating feminist claim. These blogs are enabling creation of new ways of doing feminism specially in the area of intersectional feminism. Thus via blogging the females are creating a protest against feminism but not by walking on the streets with banners but via interventions in the daily attitudes and walk of life.
Thus the fact that whether feminism movement is still alive is clear from the fact that the nation has a female prime minister, governor, governor general. Australia has come out of various issues related to women. As an outcome of the first and the second wave feminists, rulings have been spelt out allowing equality in gender within the political regime, economical development and the society framework as well. Just passing laws will not help, the individuals have to always be in action. Addressing of the attitudes and beliefs of the women and men are the present day demand for fighting the issues relating to feminism. Thus it can be said that the social movement is prevalent, just the way and method has undergone a change.
Furtherance To Feminist Agenda In Australia
Bluestocking Week is a programme of the National Women’s Action Committee. The blue stocking week runs from 11th to 15th August. The main reason for it to come back was to raise the voice for women which were being suppressed. The same was again on in the year 2016, from 15th to 19th August, and its theme was concentrated towards the continuous attacks which were being done on women who fight against the rising power of males in the filed of media, politics as well as cultural side of the society.
During the initial stages of the social movement, women had to literally fight to get seats at the universities since people were of the opinion that women were incapable of obtaining higher education. But in today’s scenario, there are more educated women in comparison to the men who study as well as work. Unfortunately, women still face the brunt of gender inequality in the public life as well as jobs front. Even though the neoliberal universities are clinching on to the gender equality policies and rules, even those the women staffs are asked not to be too loud and often find themselves in vacuum. Thus the National Union of Students and the NTEU decided to get back the NSU’s 1990s Bluestocking Week Initiative five years ago (Rea, 2016).
On analysing the reaction of the Australian Government to second wave feminism and the impact it had on the women of Australia, takes the readers to the era of seventies and defines it as a period of social growth for women as they gained an insight about the politics and feminist realization. As soon as women became aware about their position in the society they raged issues to be listened by the political sphere. Feminism has seen a shift in thinking from a movement that was mainly concentrated on specific women to some who hold and have a respect for the change in the position of women in the society. In the past three decades the various individuals who fight for feminism have emphasized for developments of various means to account for the distinction between men and women and if women want an equal footing as that of men in the society then they should exercise control over their bodies in terms of sexuality.
Thus on a concluding note it is understood that Australia still needs feminism even if people are under this illusion that it is a modern country and gender inequality is dead in this country. Unfortunately this is a myth as there still exists many inequalities within the country’s culture and society. The report highlights the past which led to the rise of feminism in Australia and the fact that even if it is not loud and clear as in the seventies and eighties, but it is still prevalent amongst the people in the form of blogs and other write ups. The walking on the streets has been modernized and the social movement continues to work but in a more subtle manner. It also talks about the organizations which take forward the social movement and are not guided by any law or rule but are tightly held due to common interest of the participants. In Australia the relationship between the feminism movement and the bureaucracy has destabilized, but the policy written reflects a tone for struggling over the politics of dissertation and progression in the feminist theory.
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