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Which way forward for feminism?

Women have come a long way. When Julia Gillard was first elected Prime Minister it was a tick box checked for many feminists.

However the subsequent misogynistic vitriol she faced and the nature of her unseating revealed the nature of a patriarchy still very much in control.

But what way forward for equality when to speak about misogyny is to play the ‘gender card’ and many people believe equality is achieved, rendering sexist language acceptable or ironic?

The ‘women have never had it so good’ argument is foremost in the patriarchal playbook but Anne Summers puts the concept in context.

“Thirty odd years ago, Gough Whitlam put equality on the agenda and it’s still not achieved,” said Summers.

“Huge, complicated engineering projects have taken less time. The Snowy Mountains Hydro scheme was done in 25 years; the NBN will be finished in ten. So, why can’t we achieve equality?”

According to Chris Wallace, it’s a strategy we’re lacking. Caught up inside the discourse of past successes, the way forward is to get outside of our own positions and analyse the big picture.

Kristina Olsson agreed, adding that the public rhetoric simply wasn’t moving forward.

“We are still all ‘damned whores’ and ‘God’s police’ in the minds of many,” she said, referencing Summers 1975 landmark text.

Yassmin Abdul-Magied recognises the importance of language. She works as an engineer in the testosterone-soaked environment of an off-shore oil rig. Her stories of the casual use of sexist and violent terms in everyday language set heads shaking.

“What really struck me are the times that they’d look at me and say ‘Oh, I guess I shouldn’t say that anymore’,” said Abdul-Magied, “as though if I wasn’t there it would be ok to use that kind of language.”

All other measures become insignificant without the involvement of men, the panel agreed. If we are going to be successful, it has to be clear that feminism is not a women’s issue, but rather a matter of human rights.

The women on stage talked about the damaging effect of pornography, methods to change the conversation, and quotas. The regular break outs of applause and the impassioned response during questions demonstrated the inspiration generated in the session.

It was a woman in the audience whose comment cut to the bone of the issue.

“The only door we need men to open is the door to the boardroom.”

Emily Handley is a Southern Cross University Arts student.

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