We’ve come a long way!
Happy International Women’s day! While some countries will enjoy a public holiday today, others will continue to ignore it entirely. At least we have our internet community to celebrate womanhood with! This day is always a great opportunity to honour the women before us who fought so hard for gender equality & to celebrate the milestones. It’s also an annual reminder to shine a spotlight on gender discrimination issues that continue to affect us today & make efforts to eradicate the patriarchy for good. Its been over a century since non-indigenous women in Australia were given the right to vote, yet we still have so much work to do! (Indigenous women had to wait another 60 years!)
Firstly, can we please quickly talk about the F word? “Feminism” remains a controversial word, even though the definition of feminism is impossible to argue with – equal rights for all humans. When I post about feminism on my platforms it gives me the opportunity to weed out anyone who doesn’t agree that every woman & every individual has rights equal to that of a cis white man, no matter their race, religion, gender identification, sexual preference, or anything else. Gender equality doesn’t only disadvantage women. Our culture socialises men not to show any signs of fear or sadness, to provide financially & not emotionally. They are not encouraged to express their feelings & seek mental health support in the same way women are which has lead to an epidemic of mental health issues. We contribute to a culture that harms both men & women. Feminism is the hard work that everyone should put in to level the playing field in the best interests of all humans.
As I read over our Australian gender equality timeline I have so many “what the fuck” moments. Let me show you what I mean. Up until 1976 here in Australia, a man could legally rape his wife. WTF, right? Even though raping your wife had been illegal for 40 years by the time I was separated from my abusive husband in 2007, the hangover from these insane laws (or lack thereof) that reinforced the cultural belief that women are the property of men, meant that when I was raped I didn’t do a fucking thing about it. It just wasn’t a “big deal” to be raped by my husband, even though I was in the middle of filing for divorce. Unfortunately not processing this trauma at the time meant that 10 years later I started to suffer from anxiety & these incidents (there was more than one rape) were in fact a big deal after all.
It’s astonishing to realise that this ridiculous notion that one half of humanity should automatically have special rights & privileges over the other half has had such a grip on the collective psyche! The laws are just the first step, our internalised values come later. We still operate in a social structure that is male-centred, male-identified, male-dominated & which values qualities narrowly defined as masculine. I’m almost 37 & I am still fighting off my own deep-rooted chauvinism!
Patriarchy still lives on in domestic violence, unequal wages that stop equal access to opportunities, failure to talk about women’s achievements, defined gender roles, the list goes on. Women also continue to navigate a world that in many ways was designed for men. Here are a couple of quick examples; CPR training mannequins are predominantly male which means a man’s odds of receiving CPR in public & surviving are 23% greater than a woman’s. For decades car crash dummies had been based on the average male body which meant female drivers involved in crashes had a 47% greater chance of serious injury than their male counterparts & a 71% higher chance of a moderate injury. It’s all of the subtle daily reminders that men are more valuable than women that continue to fuel patriarchy.
International Women’s day always prompts me to examine our herstory & ignites a furnace in my belly that will fuel me for the rest of the year. Since I am Australian I have focused on a gender equality timeline from Downunder, but I encourage you to research your own country timeline & celebrate your milestones with me. We have shattered the fucking glass ceiling. Let’s keep going!
Australian gender equality timeline (paraphrased)
Photos & refernces; https://www.vwt.org.au/gender-equality-timeline-australia/
1902 – Non-Indigenous women win the right to vote & stand for Federal election
Women 21 years & older get to vote! But not all of them. Indigenous women – the traditional owners & custodians of the land, will have to wait another 60 years!
1903 – Women stand for Federal elections for the first time
Vida Goldstein (pictured) was the first woman in the British empire to stand for parliament. She was an advocate for equal property rights for spouses, the abolition of child labour & equal pay for equal work. A God damn superhero!
1956 – Marriage Bar lifted for women teachers
Female teachers were permitted to continue teaching after they married. Previously women’s teaching status was commonly restricted to ‘temporary’, as after marriage they were thought to be more likely “to follow a career path in the home rather than the education department”. After extensive lobbying by the Temporary Teachers’ Club, this was lifted.
1961 – All women are granted access to the contraceptive pill *with conditions
For the first time, single women can prevent pregnancy by taking the contraception pill. Previously available only to women with a prescription & a husband, the first contraceptive pill was also burdened with a 27.5% ‘luxury’ tax.
1962 – Indigenous women win the right to vote in Federal elections
Finally, Indigenous Australian women gain the right to enrol & vote in Federal elections.
1964 – Breastfeeding support group established but too rude for the phone book
A support group is established to provide mothers with quality information & help around breastfeeding. Since ‘breastfeeding’ was considered too rude to be printed in the telephone directory, the name ‘The Nursing Mothers Association’ was chosen. Now known as ‘the Australian Breastfeeding Association’, the group remains highly influential in advocating for & supporting mothers to breastfeed.
1965 – Women demand the right to drink in public bars
Up until now, women are not permitted to drink in bars. Two Queenslanders, Merle Thornton & Rosalie Bogner (pictured) famously chain themselves to the bar at the Regatta Hotel in Brisbane in an act of protest. They acknowledged that this was by no means the most important gender discrimination issue, but one they could make a quick impact upon. Women (especially Queenslanders) continue to enjoy cold frothies fresh of the tap today, especially this one (me) 🙂
1966 – Women are permitted to continue work after marriage.
Married women are no longer forced to relinquish their paid work, & forfeit their superannuation rights or compelled to attempt to conceal their relationship status upon getting married.
1967 – Aboriginal women & men are recognised as citizens
Indigenous Australians can finally call themselves citizens of Australia, & are included in the census. A 90% affirmative vote approved the constitutional amendment, passed by both Houses of Parliament unanimously. Think about how crazy this is for a second! Indigenous Australians can now be considered citizens of their own land!!!
1969 – First abortion rights granted (with conditions)
Abortion is now legal! However, only if there is an honest belief on reasonable grounds that an abortion is necessary & proportionate, based on a woman’s physical & mental wellbeing being in serious danger.
1972 – The right to equal pay
Women & men should now be paid equally! A million female workers became eligible for full pay, & an overall rise in women’s wages of around 30%.
1972 – Contraceptive pill becomes widely available
The Women’s Electoral Lobby pressured Labour to modernise Australia’s approach to contraception & the newly elected Prime Minister obliged, abolishing the luxury tax on all contraceptives & put the pill on the National Health Scheme list.
1972 – Federal Child Care Act passes
Mothers who were almost always considered the full-time caregivers of their children now have the option to work too! Centre-based daycare facilities were funded for children of sick or working parents, soon followed by family daycare, after school hours care & playgroups.
1972 – Single Mother’s Benefit Introduced
The benefit provides financial assistance to single mothers who are not eligible for the widow’s pension (eligible only to divorced women, or those whose husbands are in prison or a mental hospital). The benefit is later extended to include all single parents.
1973 – Paid maternity leave for Commonwealth employees
The Maternity Leave (Commonwealth Employees) Act, provides Commonwealth public servants with 12 weeks paid (& 40 weeks unpaid) maternity leave.
1974 – Equal minimum wage granted
Although the 1969 equal pay case had lead to some improvements in women’s wages, in 1974, the Commonwealth Conciliation & Arbitration Commission extended the minimum wage to include women workers. The following week Muriel Heagney, a long time campaigner for equal wages for women, died in poverty at the age of 89.
1975 – Women can file for no-fault divorce
The Family Law Act established the principle of no-fault divorce in Australian law. ‘No-fault’ means that a court does not consider which partner was at fault in the marriage breakdown.
1976 – Rape in marriage outlawed
It is now illegal for men to rape their wives.
1979 – Australia’s first transgender rights & advocacy organisations are established.
The Melbourne-based Victorian Transsexual Coalition & the Victorian Transsexual Association are established; these were followed in 1981 by the Sydney-based Australian Transsexual Association.
1987 – First woman to be appointed as High Court Judge
Mary Genevieve Gaudron becomes the first female Justice of the High Court of Australia.
1987 – Australia’s first legally recognized post-operative transgender person
Estelle Asmodelle became possibly Australia’s first legally recognized post-operative transgender person with the Births, Deaths & Marriages Department of New South Wales, & her transition helped gain recognition for transgender people in Australia. This was the first time in Australian legal history that a transgender Australian was permitted to change their birth certificate to a different sex. Soon afterwards the passport laws also changed to allow the sex on passports to be changed.
1994 – Coalition of Activist Lesbians Australia Formed
The Coalition of Activist Lesbians Australia is formed to end discrimination against lesbians. They are Australia’s national lesbian advocacy organisation & is the only United Nations accredited lesbian non-government organisation.
2008 – Abortion decriminalised in Victoria
Women gain the right to choose to terminate a pregnancy, & medical staff gain the right to perform terminations up to 24 weeks, free from the threat of criminal prosecution. Beyond the gestational limit of 24 weeks, a medical practitioner can provide an abortion if another medical practitioner agrees that an abortion is appropriate.
2010 – First female Prime Minister
Julia Gillard becomes Australia’s first female Prime Minister.
2011 – Slutwalk is founded in Melbourne
SlutWalk is founded after a Toronto Police Services representative announced that women could reduce their risk of sexual assault by not dressing like “sluts”. His comments sparked outrage & a global protest movement took roots, leading to the formation of a strong contingent in Melbourne.
2014 – Sex reassignment surgery no longer required for change of sex on birth certificates
The Australian Capital Territory abolished the sex reassignment surgery requirement for a change of sex on birth certificates, after a 2013 Law Reform Advisory Council report called it “inhumane”.
2015 – Victorian Royal Commission into Family Violence
The Victorian Commission into Family Violence saw that while both men & women can be perpetrators or victims of family violence, overwhelmingly the majority of perpetrators are men & the victims are women & children.
2017 – Launch of Women’s Australian Football League
Wait, what, women are good at sport too!?! After much deliberation & controversy, the Women’s AFL League is finally launched.
2017 – First woman to breastfeed while passing a motion in Australian parliament
Larrisa Waters breastfeeds three-month-old Alia Joy while passing a motion in the Senate. Things have certainly come a long way since 1964 when the word ‘breastfeeding’ was considered too rude for the telephone book!
2018 – No more tampon tax
It took an 18-year long campaign, but finally, state & territory governments voted unanimously to remove the GST tax on tampons & sanitary products for women which had previously categorised them as ‘luxury items’.
2018 – Matildas Earn Gender Equity with the Socceroos
The Matildas will earn the same pay as Socceroos players under a landmark deal announced by Football Federation Australia. This makes the Matildas the first female team in world football to be guaranteed equal pay to their male counterparts.
2019 – Tasmanian Government to Amend Gag Laws for Sexual Assault Survivors
Survivors of sexual crime in Tasmania will finally be free to speak publicly, with the state government set to amend a legislative loophole that has previously forbidden them from self-identifying in the media. The changes are the result of the powerful #letherspeak campaign which has been spearheaded by survivors bravely sharing their own stories of sexual abuse.
2019 – The first Gender Equality Bill
The Australian-first Gender Equality Bill was introduced into the Victorian Parliament, delivering on a key election commitment & making once-in-a-generation reforms to ensure gender equality is non-negotiable. This bill places gender equality in law for the first time in Australia.
Photos & refernces; https://www.vwt.org.au/gender-equality-timeline-australia/