THANK YOU, GERMAINE
I was born in 1964.
My formative years landed right in the 1970s and were highlighted by watching Countdown, witnessing my beloved Tigers win premierships and being influenced by feminists.The message of the 70s was never “women can have it all”… Germaine Greer, at home in 1976.
I remember those years as if they were yesterday so am very confident of what I was told and how and by whom I was influenced. I can categorically say that I was never given the message “Women can have it all” by anyone. I never heard the expression “work-life balance”.
The feminist credo I received was “you have the power to create the life you want”.
So who gave me this message?
First, let’s start with my mum – a first-generation university-educated feminist who married in the 1950s before the contraceptive pill was invented and 20 years before no-fault divorce was introduced.
She made it clear to me that I could have a career, control my fertility and be financially independent. Her message was rather forcefully delivered, no doubt as a result of not wanting her only daughter to experience a life of missed opportunities. She saw her own life as certainly more liberating than her mother’s, but not as free as mine could be.
My teachers gave me the same message. And thanks to books like The Millstone by Margaret Drabble, and The Women’s Room by Marilyn French I got the message loud and clear.
I felt bold and confident as I entered my adult years.
This liberating message was delivered in the context of the sacrifices of women that went before us. I was taught that the struggle for equality had been hard fought. I learned about the Suffragettes who starved themselves in gaol to win the right for women to vote.
I learned that after decades of campaigning, Australian women workers won equal pay rates with men doing comparable work under an Arbitration Commission decision in 1972. In the 1970s we had a representative from the newly formed Women’s Electoral Lobby come to my school to explain how women could influence politics in Australia.
I recall in the early ’80s, a number of Australian women attempted to join official ANZAC Day marches because they wanted to commemorate all women who had been raped in wars. About 70 of those women were arrested and charged.
All these examples are of women who sacrificed and suffered much to make their point and ultimately to make gains for gender equality. My generation are the beneficiaries of that sacrifice.
But their struggles are not the end of the story. And herein lies the heart of the issue.
The struggle is not over. Yes, it is hard juggling a career with motherhood. Yes, it is hard climbing up the corporate ladder and breaking through the glass ceiling. And like many feminists before, you will not always take the majority with you. Women as well as men can be detractors of gender equality. But who said equality came easy?
The message of the 1970s was never “women can have it all”. In fact, it was quite the opposite. By observing the mums of my school friends taking on the lion’s share of home duties and by being educated about the barriers and flaws in our society, the message was crystal clear that women cannot have it all.
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