Unruly Women_Fight for Feminism - R Towns

History of
Feminism in
What is feminism?
Why are the words used so
 How
does language shape how we see
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
How is this possible?
 The
surgeon is the boys mother.
What is feminism?
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
 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
 Sometimes
feminism is talked about in
waves. Particularly as a worldwide
 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
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
 To ‘protect’ women and children
 Liquor reforms and restricting men’s sexual
access to women and children
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
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
 ‘What
 Bulletin
 Bicycles
 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…”
 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
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
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
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
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 [1922]. 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
“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
 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?
 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
Creation of Maternal and Infant welfare
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.
 In
the 1930s’ scapegoating of women
 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. 70 -73
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
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.”
 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
 Why were married women who worked
scapegoated? What impact would this
 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
 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
 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
Protest march - Sydney
Women’s Liberation chants
 Men
like birds; birds live in cages,
 They have done for ages; on second-class
 Women's Liberation's going to smash that
 Came join us now and rage, rage, rage.
 Why
were there such changes in women’s
rights now?
 Why did they choose the term ‘women’s
liberation’ to encompass their
 What did they succeed with?
 How was this second wave of feminism
have the potential to be self-destructive?
 1969
– Equal pay – through Arbitration
 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
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 3 2003 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
27th 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 19thcentury 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 - 1985 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''.
 How
has our society changed in relation
to gender?
 How do people see the term feminism
 What gender issues are we now
concerned with?
 What progress has been made over the
last one hundred years?

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