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Standing On The Glass Ceiling

By Elizabeth Major on May 19, 2015 in Other

Photo: Richard Gere

Photo: Richard Gere

Somewhere between ‘I am woman; hear me roar’ and Germaine Greer’s criticism of the prime minister’s backside, feminism got lost. Shoved aside for more popular human rights movements, ‘feminist’ is now a dirtier word than ‘racist’, despite what this relatively newfound freedom has given us.

Somewhere in our delicate history of bra burning and unshaved armpits, the word feminist has become synonymous with ‘man-hater’. I hear my friend’s say it all the time; “I’m not a feminist,” they proclaim with an upturned nose as they tug down the 3-inch long skirt that persistently creeps up their thighs.

Of course, feminism is more than just the right to free love and expression á la Carrie Bradshaw. We also get paid more or less the same as men, can take any job that we are qualified for, get qualified for any job that we might want to go for and even take a year off from that job when we decide to have children. Girls, we may not need to march in the streets anymore, but it’s certainly worth remembering that our mothers did not always have those same rights.

Go back further in time and remember that women once weren’t even allowed to vote. It was just over a hundred years ago that Emily Davison, one of the pioneering suffragettes, threw herself under the hooves of Kind George V’s racehorse, dying so that we can now take to the polls.
Looking into the future, the gender restrictions in the military are dissolving next year so that women can apply for any defence force position that they might be able to perform. Even the USA, glorified leader of the free world, might soon see a female president for the first time in history.

In a world where women perform 66% of the world’s work and produce 50% of the food, but earn only 10% of the income and own just 1% of the property, the question of gender equality still begs some attention. In a spectacularly classist approach, most Sydneysiders will turn away from these alarming statistics with the practical reassurance that this occurs on the other side of the planet, to poor countries, and has no place in polite conversation, but it is exactly where we should be talking about it.

Women can’t drive without a male chaperone in Saudi Arabia, no woman will get to attend the next World Cup in Qatar, only half as many women as men in sub-Saharan Africa can read, women in Nepal are attacked with acid for giving birth to daughters and abortions are performed all over India to avoid the suffering that a girl will have to endure in her lifetime.

As part of our global community, it is up to us to be feminists. It is up to women in the free countries to acknowledge the amazing progress we have achieved and the work that still remains to be done in other countries. Who else can fight for the women who are still being oppressed if not those who are finally free from the oppression?

Feminism was a revolution from our not-so-distant past that was fought for, tooth and nail. Forget the sense of entitlement that equality demands and let us be feminists for those who are still in that fight. If not for us, then for our daughters, and if not for them, then for our mothers, because every single person who has ever lived owes their life to the woman that gave it to them.