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Mixed news for feminist issues on IWD



While I agree with the sentiment that we shouldn't be focusing on women for just one day, International Women's Day is as good a day as any to take stock of where we actually are in terms of current feminist issues and how much we still need to accomplish.

Close-up of five women stacking their hands (Getty Creative)In the plus column, one million Australians were able to take leave because of domestic violences clauses in the workplace contract. The MeToo movement is global and only getting more traction. Year 12 completion and early childhood education has improved for First Australians. Victoria will be the first state to ban SOCE, otherwise known as gay conversion.

But as much as there is progress to celebrate, to take a glance at the news is like a confirmation of our own worst fears about ourselves. Even with an increased social awareness of violence against women, there still seems to be no slowing down of women dying: according to Counting Dead Women, 11 women have already died from violence this year and 69 women died in 2018.

There is still on average one in three women experiencing physical or sexual violence in Australia; those numbers go up if you're queer, disabled and/or Aboriginal.

Each day seems to come with the news that another public figure or institution has abused their power with impunity. It's endemic and disturbing. Yet there are those who will always try to protect the perpetrators and cast doubt on the victims, as though it is somehow more likely that a victim would face the intense scrutiny of the court system or public opinion to lie, as opposed to confronting the reality that the perpetrator is guilty. The extent to which people will go to victim-blame shows how entrenched loyalty to those with institutional power still is.

For Aboriginal women, who experience the double discrimination of both race and gender, the most recent reiteration of the promise to 'close the gap' in February can only ring false when there still isn't a meaningful attempt to listen to the concerns of Aboriginal people.

And while ScoMo makes policies that are questionable in their practical benefits, Aboriginal children are still being taken away from their homes at disproportionate rates and Aboriginal women are the 'fastest growing' prison population.


"Writing this article feels like I'm chipping away at a never ending wall. Each word is painful and I don't feel like my words are really enough. But this IWD, I remember that I still have a responsibility to do what I can."


In a twist that shocked no one, marriage equality did not solve every problem in the LGBTQ+ community. Trans and intersex people are still fighting for autonomy to their own bodies and identities. And according to the study of queer women in workplace 'Where are all the women?', women are 12 per cent more likely not to be out at work and 79 per cent of same sex attracted women reported that their sexuality and gender both played a role in inhibiting their career progression.

Everywhere you look, the facts are discouraging. With every success comes the knowledge that there is still many other problems without easy solutions. At times, the most you can do is to take care of yourself.

While trying to unwind, I recently read a historical novel called An Unconditional Freedom by Alyssa Cole. In the author's note, Cole describes one of the main characters, an African-American man, as 'unable to process his trauma in a country that was still hurting people like him'. Cole admits that she found it hard to write her character finding any hope in an America that is still plagued by racism. She writes that she was inspired by this quote by Betty Reid Soskin:

'There is still much, much work to do. But every generation I know now has to recreate democracy in its time because democracy will never be fixed. It was not intended to. It's a participatory form of governance that we all have the responsibility to form that more perfect union.'

Writing this article feels like I'm chipping away at a never ending wall. Each word is painful and I don't feel like my words are really enough. But this IWD, I remember that I still have a responsibility to do what I can. I can speak up for myself and uplift the voices of the many, many women whose experiences are different to mine.

I can support the work of women who are raising awareness and creating and fundraising. I can remind myself that while there is much work to do, that doesn't mean we should stop trying.



Neve MahoneyNeve Mahoney is a student at RMIT university. She has also contributed to Australian Catholics and The Big Issue.

Today is International Women's Day. The 2019 IWD campaign theme is #BalanceForBetter.

Main image: Getty Creative

Topic tags: Neve Mahoney, International Women's Day



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Existing comments

Neve, today is my birthday. I think I've been a feminist sinceI could talk, and I've certainly had quite a bit of formal education in feminist theory I the last 70 years. As a gift to you,I'll offer the following advice. 1. Write much more carefully. Re-read what you've written, sentence by sentence and paragraph by paragraph, and check it in the light of respect for your reader. An excellent and effective writer always does this. (For example, a careful writer would not say that Victoria is going to ban gay conversion. It isn't. ). 2. Try to see that there are shades of grey in all human persons and organizations. Your opinions are not always ultimate truths which you battle to promote. (It's not helpful to put everyone who expresses a view contrary to your own into the basket of deplorables. And not everyone who claims to be a victim is either a victim or a deliberate liar. Finally, do you really think the Church is more powerful in Australia than the communications media? Whose power is actually being wielded most successfully in Australia at present? I admire your passion - now balance it with compassion!

Joan Seymour | 08 March 2019  

Joan Seymour: "...a careful writer would not say that Victoria is going to ban gay conversion. It isn't." The Age, Feb 3 2019 (opening sentence of article): "The practice of gay conversion therapy will be banned in Victoria". I trust Adam Carey has been advised of his journalistic delinquency.

Richard Jupp | 12 March 2019  

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