I was amused to read in an article by Jane Caro that the word “post-feminist” has been used since 1911. It would seem that those opposed to the goals of feminism have been trying to prove that they’ve already been achieved since before women even had the vote in most countries. However, upon further reflection, I realised that I too used to be one of those people who thought we’d moved so far forward that feminism was somewhat irrelevant; it took time for me to realise just how significant it still is today.
Once I “came out” as feminist, I quickly learned that being outspoken about the subject is not easy. There’s a great deal of resistance to the term, and I met many people like my former self who were either too apathetic to care or who truly believed we’d “reached equality”. It took me months of searching to find feminist groups in Sydney and there didn’t seem to be much activity when I first began my investigations into local women’s groups.
That all changed as 2012 progressed. If ever there was a time for my generation to get involved in feminism, it’s now. This year we have seen a positive resurgence in the movement, with many important, rarely-discussed issues brought into sharp focus.
The media as a tool to slander and demonize women has become one of several hot topics this year. Both Kyle Sandilands and Alan Jones received widespread condemnation for their sexist comments on air, sparking successful petitions that saw Jones in particular suffering the withdrawal of most of his station’s advertising. An online campaign came about as a result of Jones’s “women are destroying the joint” remark, and it is still going strong with over 20,000 followers. We also saw examples, on TV and in the printed press, of the sexist vitriol hurled at Australia’s first female prime minister, a subject that was widely discussed after Anne Summer’s powerful speech in August.
Another hot topic has been the high rates of violence against women. The murder of Jill Meagher elicited a huge response both online and in the streets of Melbourne. I am from South Africa, where a woman is raped every 11 seconds and 42 people are killed a day, so for me it was refreshing to see the national outrage that came as a result of her death. We should be outraged, as in Australia, a country that is considerably safer than South Africa, a woman still has a 1 in 4 chance of being sexually assaulted. The fact that over 30,000 people took to the streets in Brunswick to display their anger at Meagher’s death proved that many people do care about this important issue.
In Sydney, the annual Reclaim the Night march reached the highest number in about a decade, with several hundred people turning up to march around Hyde Park. Feminist activism has sprung up everywhere, with new collectives forming in cities around the country.
Discrimination in the workplace has also been brought into focus, due, in part, to the thrilling rant delivered in parliament by Julia Gillard, in which she describes the misogyny she has encountered from opposition leader Tony Abbot. The 15 minute speech went viral on the Internet and brought the word “misogyny” back into popular discourse. Even the Macquarie Dictionary took note, modernising its definition of the word.
As 2012 wraps up, I have a good feeling about the prospects for feminism in 2013. Things have been set in motion now that cannot (and should not) be stopped. Australians are taking notice of the problems that are ingrained in the culture and there is a hunger to see them addressed. I believe we are going to see a great deal of feminist activity in the coming few years.