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Changes in Society: Feminism

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I've just returned from a 3day biennial conference in Melbourne of the Women Educators of Australia and it was wonderful - marvellous speakers, some of our leading women thinkers/writers/educators. The theme was really around what we've achieved in the last few decades, but is it regresssing under the new right-wing, neo-Liberals/Conservatives? The fight to gain equality for girls in school has resulted in a backlash about boys' education, and is it really justified?

Here in Oz our leaders would like to push us all back into a 1950s scenario of the little woman at home caring for her hard working bread winner!

Any thoughts?

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It has to be remembered that the feminist movement was always fairly small. This group suffered a great deal from the mass media. As a result activists were portrayed as male-hating, burners of bras, etc. Despite this, feminists did have the support of left-wing males and some anti-sexist legislation was possible in the 1960s and 1970s.

Most young women are unaware of the struggle. I know that most of my female students have been fairly unsympathetic to the feminist movement. One of the reasons for this is that they have acquired a stereotypical image of a feminist as being someone who is an undesirable role model. I used to shock them by arguing I was a feminist (well as much as a man can be) and that they should be proud of their achievements.

Of course the struggle for equality is far from over. Women are still under-represented in high status jobs and they still earn on average less than men. Unless we see a revival of the feminist movement women will continue to suffer from inequality.

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I also meant to add that the week before in Melbourne, I went to hear Germaine Greer deliver a visiting lecture on Women in Shakespeare - she was as great and feisty as ever and looking much better in real life, at 65, than she does on TV.

I also find that young women think there is nothing more to achieve. They are often amazed when I tell them that I started work on unequal pay, had to resign each time I had a child, had no superannuation for years, as a long-term temporary had no holiday pay and now as a result have a very limited pension payout. They think all their benefits have always been around.

Some interesting stastics from the Conference:

Women in Australia earn on average 64% of male average salaries. 44% are part time and 70% of those are casualised (bigger than OECD average of 26%) Less than one third of families are the traditional male breadwinner variety.

US and Aust are only countries in developed world that don't have paid maternity leave. In the state of Victoria's education dept, 73% are women while 8% are Heads.

In 1996 67% of Australian women didn't work, in 2004 it's 45%. 62% of couples now have 2 wage earners. Less than 3% of men stay home to rear children full time.

In 1997 women did twice the work of men in the home, now very little different.

message to young women - you can do anything as long as you're prepared to do most of the housework as well.

Now 28% of Aust women won't have children.

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