Category Archives: Feminism

2016 Australia Day Honours – another sausage fest

Congratulations to everyone who was awarded Australia Day Honours this year.  This post in no way is to take away from the awards and the good work that has been done (and is still being done for the most part) by these people.  This post is to look at the stark gender disparity in these awards, to draw attention to the fact that despite women making up half of Australia’s population, we are recognised at a significantly smaller proportion than men.

This is really a data post, there will be graphs and tables, and links, and it will be short, because apart from pointing out the obvious issues, it’s a bit hard to say much else apart from NOMINATE MORE WOMEN EVERYONE.

I pulled the list of awardees from the ABC website, pasted them into Excel and then started noting their gender.  This is problematic for anyone who doesn’t identify as male and female, and may have resulted in me misgendering someone who is gender queer.  I am unaware of any genderqueer people being honoured in the very quick research I’ve put into this, so if I have made a mistake, please let me know.

Where I was unable to identify the gender of the honouree at first glance, I went and looked them up.  The Sydney Morning Herald listed the titles of the awardees, sometimes making it easier, and where they had a gender neutral title, I went looking for them online, until I found a biography or photo.

So, the data breaks down as follows:

Women Awarded Men Awarded Total Awards % Women
AC 3 7 10 30%
AM 46 128 174 26%
AO 15 30 45 33%
OAM 117 258 375 31%
Grand Total 181 423 604 30%

Half the population, less than a third of the awards in total.

Inga Ting at the Sydney Morning Herald has written:

Even if every woman nominated for an Order of Australia award this Australia Day had been successful, women would still have taken home only 40 per cent of awards, figures from the Governor-General’s office show.

Women are more likely than ever to succeed when they are nominated, but they remain no more likely to be nominated than a decade ago, according to historical data.

This year, 75 per cent of women nominated in the general division of the Order of Australia Award made the Honours List, compared with 72 per cent of women nominated in the five years to 2016 and 59 per cent in the five years to 2006.

What can do you do to help?  Think of the women in your life, communities, schools, workplaces, etc that do amazing things.  Nominate them for an award.  Work with others to put them up in lights for the great things that they do. Let’s start recognising each other and winning these awards which we clearly deserve for the work we do.

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Men are mourned, women mourn

My trip through parts of Europe last year really drilled home how little importance has been placed on the lives of women throughout history.  In Italy, church after church had funerary monuments dedicated to important men, with statues of women mourning around the monument.  Women, when they existed at all, had small plaques outside the church.  Only men were important, women were decorations.  This shouldn’t be all that surprising, but after having previously travelled through Germany and France where prominent women are more likely to have been acknowledged, even if not at the same level as the powerful men, it did come as a shock.

In Cologne, Germany, some Abbesses had funerary monuments inside churches, and many of the men buried inside the churches were either prominent priests or bishops, or Kings/Lords of the region (sometimes both, Cologne is odd).

In France, there are less people buried inside churches, but there were still some recognition of prominent women, St Genevieve (Patron Saint of Paris) and Joan d’Arc in particular.

On one hand, it’s tempting to say that this is all in the past, that women are now (more) equal with men and therefore if those same churches were built today that there would be far more women recognised.  However, I don’t think that is true.  In Paris, the honour to be interred at the Parthanon goes by far more to men than to women.

President François Hollande, who had been strongly urged for more than a year to add more women to those awarded the honor of burial in the Panthéon, named two women on Friday — but also two men.

In doing so, he disappointed feminist groups and others who had lobbied on behalf of an array of women and who wanted to see only women added this time.

The Panthéon, a huge building in one of the oldest parts of Paris, has been the nation’s monument to worthy historical figures since the French Revolution. Of the 73 people honored there, 71 are men and include figures like the philosophers Voltaire and Jean-Jacques Rousseau, as well as Louis Braille, who invented a system of reading for the blind. Marie Curie is the only woman to make it on her own merits (the other was included at her husband’s insistence). [New York Times]

Yes, the Parthanon is not a new institution, and so the number of men will outweigh the number of women, but there are many prominent women in France that have not been recognised for their contribution to that country.

But have things really changed since the Renaissance and the French Revolution?  Are things much better in Australia, a nation that prides itself on being much more egalitarian?  Sadly no.  Australia was Federated in 1901, which is when we became a country and not a collection of smaller countries/states that struggled separately.  Women won suffrage shortly after that (1902) Federally, and then the States had to follow (though South Australia and Western Australia led the way granting suffrage to women before Federation).

This means that when someone prominent dies, someone who has contributed to society in a meaningful way (usually politics, sport, military service, arts, philantrophy, etc) the Government (State or Federal) will offer the family a State Funeral.  Now remember that Australia is egalitarian, but not equal.  Women’s involvement in the public sphere is still relatively recent, so there are less known prominent women in Australia than men.

That said, the number of women who have been offered State Funerals is really very low.  Most recently, State Funerals have been offered to Dame Elisabeth Murdoch, AC DBE, Hazel Hawke, AO and Margaret Whitlam, AO (whose family turned the offer down).

Some prominent Australian women have either not had offers made, nor had their request for a State Funeral accepted.  Janet Powell, AM, former leader of the Australian Democrats, and the second woman in Australia to lead a political party, was refused a State Funeral in 2013.

In the last few weeks of her life, a number of women assisted Janet’s family to make a formal request to the Victorian Premier for a State Funeral for Janet.

It was refused. We were told it was a Federal matter. And so we went back to the Prime Minister’s department. Time was of the essence. Finally came the ever-so-polite email.  Apparently it has not been customary for successive Australian governments to accord a former leader of a recognised minority party with a State Funeral. The email went on to say that occasionally a distinguished Australian is recognised, who has made an outstanding contribution to Australian society. Not surprisingly, the names given were all men.

In our social history thus far, few women have been accorded the fitting honour of a State Funeral. Such tributes customarily have been made for major party leaders, Ministers, Chief Justices, footballers, racing car drivers and yes, wait for it, many other – men.

Edith Cowan, MBE, Australia’s first elected woman to Parliament was not offered a State Funeral.  Vida Goldstein, the first woman in the British Empire to stand for election into a National Parliament, and who worked tirelessly for feminism and suffrage, was not offered a State Funeral.  May Holman, the first female ALP politician in Australia, who served as MP for 14 years before her untimely death in a car accident, was not offered a State Funeral.  Dame Annie Florence Gillies Cardell-Oliver, DBE, who until recently held the record for the longest sitting woman Parliamentarian, was not offered a State Funeral.  Dame Nellie Melba, one of Australia’s greatest performers, was not offered a State Funeral.  Queensland’s first female politicians, Irene Maud Longman, who was barred from using the Parliamentary dining room, and who had to cope with the fact that there were not female toilets in Parliament House, was not offered a State Funeral.  Victoria’s first woman elected to Parliament, Lady Millie Gertrude Peacock was not offered a State Funeral.  The first Victorian woman in Federal Parliament, and co-founder of the Aborigines Advancement League, Doris Black, was not offered a State Funeral.  Margaret Edgeworth David McIntyre, OBE, the first woman elected to the Tasmanian Legislative Council was not offered a State Funeral.

This is not to say that women haven’t been offered State Funerals, but they seem to be exceptions to the norm.  The earliest offer of a State Funeral to an Australian woman that I could find (it was turned down by the family) was to Emma Miller in 1917.  Other State Funerals include:

  • Dame Enid Lyons, AD GBE – The first woman to be elected to the Australian House of Representatives and the first woman appointed to Federal Cabinet.
  • Dame Mary Gilmore, DBE – An Australian literary icon and the first writer to be accorded a State Funeral since Henry Lawson’s death.
  • Joan Child, AO – First woman to be the Speaker of the Australian House of Representatives
  • Dame Annabelle Jane Mary Rankin, DBE – the second woman member of the Australian Senate, the first woman from Queensland to sit in the Parliament of Australia, the first Australian woman to have a federal portfolio and the first Australian woman to be appointed head of a foreign mission.
  • Janine Haines, AM – the first female federal parliamentary leader of an Australian political party, the Australian Democrats. She was also the first member of that party to enter the federal parliament after the party’s formation.
  • Dame Roma Flinders Mitchell, AC, DBE, CVO, QC – first female Governor in South Australia (and probably all of Australia), and more kick arse than you can imagine.

All together I could only find evidence for 8 State Funerals conducted for prominent Australian women, and 2 funerals that were offered but were declined by the families of the deceased.  I’m sure I’ve missed some in my afternoon of research, but it seems rather unbalanced that there are only 10 easily found State Funerals for women.  In Australia as in the rest of the world, men are mourned and women mourn them.

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Are Women People: A Book of Rhymes for Suffrage Times

I found this book on Project Gutenberg and it’s by Alice Duer Miller, I thought it might be an interesting read and I was wrong, it’s a fascinating read.  Miller picks apart many of the arguments used against suffrage, sadly arguments used against women and feminism today, and neatly takes them apart in poems.  I’m going to quote some of my favourites below and comment underneath (as appropriate), but I highly recommend you pick up a copy of the book from Project Gutenberg if you can – it’s not very long but is very entertaining.

The Revolt of Mother(“Every true woman feels….” – Speech of almost any Congressman)

I am old-fashioned, and I think it right
That man should know by Nature’s laws eternal,
The proper way to rule, to earn, to fight,
And exercise those functions called paternal;
But even I a little bit rebel
At finding that he knows my job as well.

At least he’s always read to expound it,
Especially in legislative hall,
The joys, the cares, the halos that surround it,”How women feel” –
he knows that best of all.
In fact his thesis is that no one can
Know what is womanly except a man.

I am old-fashioned, and I am content
When he explains the world of art and science
And government – to him divinely sent -I drink it in with ladylike compliance.
But I cannot listen – no, I’m only human –
When he instructs me on how to be a woman.

Sound familiar?  Our lovely Prime Minister Tones has often instructed us on how to be women.

The Maiden’s Vow

(A speaker at the National Education Association advised girls not to study algebra.  Many girls, he said, had lost their souls through this study.  The idea has been taken up with enthusiasm)

I will avoid equations,
And shun the naughty surd,
I must beware the perfect square,
Through it young girls have erred:
And when men mention Rule of Three
Pretend I have not heard.

Through Strum’s delightful theorems
Illicit joys assure,
Through permutations and combinations
My woman’s heart allure,
I’ll never study algebra,
But keep my spirit pure.

Miller studied mathematics and astronomy at college in the late 1800s, so she must have thought it terribly funny that someone was advising against learning algebra.  Of course, the idea that maths is hard and not for girls is a poison that still lingers today, thankfully though we’re not being told we’ll lose our souls if we study algebra (which I quite enjoy).  Though I do wonder why boy’s souls are more robust at surviving algebra.

“Oh, That ‘Twere Possible!”

With apologies to Lord Tennyson

(“The grant of suffrage to women is repugnant to instincts that strike their roots deep in the order of nature.  It runs counter to human reason, it flouts the teachings of experience and the admonitions of common sense.” N.Y. Times, Feb. 7, 1915.)

Oh, that ’twere possible
After those words inane
For me to read The TimesEver again!

When I was wont to read it
In the early morning hours,
In a mood ‘twist wrath and mirth,
I exclaimed: “Alas, Ye Powers, These ideas are fainter, quainter
Than anything on earth!”

A paper’s laid before me.
Not thou, not like to thee.
Dear me, if it were possibleThe Times should ever see
How very far the times have moved(Spelt with a little “t”).

The Times Editorials

Lovely Antiques, breathing in every line
The perfume of an age long passed away,
Wafting us back to 1829,
Museum pieces of a by-gone day,
You should not languish in the public press
Where modern though might reach and do you harm,
And vulgar youth insult your hoariness,
Missing the flavour of your old world charm;
You should be locked, where rust cannot corrode
In some old rosewood cabinet, dimmed by age,With silver-lustre, tortoise shell and Spode;
And all would cry, who read your yellowing page:”Yes, that’s the sort of thing that men believed
Before the First Reform Bill was conceived!”

And this is certainly how I feel about The Australian and most of Murdoch press.

Why We Oppose Pockets for Women

  1. Because pockets are not a natural right.
  2. Because the great majority of women do not want pockets.  If they did, they would have them.
  3. Because whenever women have had pockets they have not used them
  4. Because women are required to carry enough things as it is, without the additional burden of pockets
  5. Because it would make dissension between husband and wife as to whose pockets were to be filled.
  6. Because it would destroy men’s chivalry toward women, if he did not have to carry all her things in his pockets.
  7. Because men are men, and women are women.  We must not fly in the face of nature.
  8. Because pockets have been used by men to carry tobacco, pipes, whiskey flasks, chewing gum and compromising letters.  We see no reason to suppose that women would not use them more wisely.

Given the dearth of pockets on women’s clothing today, I can only assume that fashion designers took this to heart and have been denying us pockets.

But Then Who Cares for Figures

An argument sometimes used against paying women as highly as men for the same work is that women are only temporarily in industry.

Forty-four percent of the women teachers in the public schools have been more than ten years in the service, while only twenty-six per cent of the men teachers have served as long.

The Bundesrath of Germany has decided to furnish medical and financial assistance to women at the time of childbirth, in order “to alleviate the anxiety of husbands at the front.”

How strange this would sound: “The Bundesrath has decided to furnish medical assistance to the wounded at the front, in order to alleviate the anxiety of wives and mothers at home.”

When a benefit is suggested for men, the question asked is: “Will it benefit men?”

When a benefit is suggested for women, the question is: “Will it benefit men?”

I suspect that this final question still holds true today, even though it’s pretty awful.

Why We Oppose Votes for Men

  1. Because man’s place is the armory.
  2. Because no really manly man wants to settle any question otherwise than by fighting about it.
  3. Because if men should adopt peaceable methods women will no longer look up at them.
  4. Because men will lose their charm if they step out of their natural sphere and interest themselves in other matters than feats of arms, uniforms and drums.
  5. Because men are too emotional to vote.  Their conduct at baseball games and political conventions shows this, while their innate tendency to fore renders them peculiarly unfit for the task of government.

“Mother, what is a Feminist?”
“A Feminist, my daughter,
Is any woman now who cares
To think about her own affairs
As men don’t think she oughter.”

I love that this still holds true today.  I’m tempted to get this on a T-shirt.


Last year the shops were crowded
With soldier suits and guns –
The presents that at Christmas time
We give our little sons;
And many a glittering trumpet
And many a sword and drum;
But as they’re made in Germany
This year they will not come.
Perhaps another season
We shall not give our boys
Such very warlike playthings,
Such military toys;
Perhaps another seasons
We shall not think it sweet
To watch their games of solder men,
Who dream not of defeat.

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Stereotype threat in the workplace

This is a slightly edited copy of a blog post I wrote at work.  We’re encouraged to blog about stuff, so I decided to blog about work related feminism – because why not.

I first learnt about stereotype threat a couple of years ago while reading the book Delusions of Gender: How Our Minds, Society, and Neurosexism Create Difference by Cordelia Fine, an Associate Professor at Melbourne Business School, Australia, and a Senior Research Fellow at the Department of Psychological Sciences at the University of Melbourne, Australia.  Dr Fine explained stereotype threat in an interview following the release of her book as follows:

When we’re trying to do something that’s traditionally regarded as being the specialty of the other sex – for example, maths or understanding another person’s thoughts and feelings – we do so under the cloud of ‘stereotype threat’. Gender stereotypes are primed in our mind, and this interferes with our ability and interest in the task. There’s a growing body of fascinating research into this phenomenon, trying to unravel how and why it happens. But what I find most striking are the studies that show what happen when you blow the cloud of stereotype threat away. You can do this, for example, simply by telling women that on the maths test they’re about to take, women do just as well as men. And when you do, women perform significantly better than you’d expect from their course or test scores. As Catherine Good and her colleagues have put it, dispersing stereotype threat unleashes mathematical potential in women that is usually suppressed.

In another interview Dr Fine added that stereotype threat:

… refers to the difficulty for people who belong to a group stereotypically seen as being not very good at a particular thing they’re trying to do. For a woman doing a math test, she has an acquired stereotype threat that if you do badly, people are going to judge you because you’re a woman and that you’re going to confirm what everyone already “knew,” that women are bad at math. It creates a whole host of harmful psychological effects in people’s minds. And psychologists have discovered if you make gender seem not relevant to a task, then men and women perform equally well. Right now, when it comes to women in traditional male domains, it’s like a track star running into a headwind — their performance is impeded.

Caryn J. Block, Sandy M. Koch, Benjamin E. Liberman, Tarani J. Merriweather, and Loriann Roberson published an academic paper, “Contending With Stereotype Threat at Work: A Model of Long-Term Responses“, looking at the long-term impact of stereotype threat in the workplace.  Block et al (2011, pg 573) state:

Thus, when an individual encounters a situation where there is a negative stereotype about his or her group, that individual will experience heightened arousal, resulting in fewer cognitive resources available for performing the task. These cognitive resources are tied up in self-regulatory thoughts such as task-related worry and negative thoughts about one’s own performance. This can result in a cycle of lowered performance and lowered expectations for performance in this domain.

Block et al (2011) are concerned that the longer someone experiences stereotype threat, the greater the impact on their self-esteem, and the more likely they are to feel “discouraged and depressed if they are unable to meet their goals” (pg 578-579).  Stereotype threat can lead to individuals feeling that they have to prove that they are not like the stereotype and work at disassociating themselves from their social identity group, which may be a short-term fix, but not one that can be sustained long-term without negative effects (Block et al 2011).

Block et al (2011) do suggest that there are ways to combat stereotype threat in the workplace that will help individuals with combating the negative effects of it.  Two of the main strategies focus on building resilience and finding positive ways to identify with your group (pg 584):

Collective Action Another strategy used in resilience is seeking to change the context so that it is more inclusive for those who share one’s identity through collective action (Roberts, 2005). There are many contextual factors that create the conditions for stereotype threat, such as skewed demographics and a pressure to assimilate to the dominant culture or buy into workplace norms (Steele et al., 2002). When individuals realize that they are not alone in contending against negative stereotypes, they may choose to join with others in an effort to change the context. These group-level strategies consist of engaging in collective action and social change for the betterment of the group’s welfare. Many large corporations have employee network and affinity groups that provide social support, developmental opportunities, and advocacy for women, people of color, and LGBT employees. The National Science Foundation’s ADVANCE program for the advancement of women in science and engineering careers has a national agenda that serves to change the context for women scientists by increasing representation and retention of women in science, fostering an environment that will result in leadership among women and shifting institutional cultural norms that are more inclusive.

Redefining criteria for success. A further strategy used in response to stereotype threat when resilient is to redefine one’s own criteria for success at work. This involves establishing what success means on one’s own terms, not based on others’ standards for evaluation or upward progression (Steele et al., 2002). It incorporates shifting priorities to what one values and choosing to acknowledge that as a standard by which to measure success.

The good news for my workplace is that they support and actively encourage employee network groups such as Women in Technology and an LGBTI network.  They promotes diversity as a positive attribute within the company, recognising that a diverse company that is as diverse as the population base it operates in, is an overall positive and that supporting employees to feel that they belong and are valued results in higher productivity and loyalty. Their support of employee network and affinity groups reduces overall stereotype threat for those employees who are affected by it.  The other programs that my employer has in place, such as supporting women in senior technical and people manager positions also significantly reduces the effects of stereotype threat.

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Why we still need International Women’s Day

Happy International Women’s Day for 2013.  I’ve been meaning to write for a very long time about why feminism is still required and how the fight for true equality has a long way to go, and what better day than today to write such a post.  The saddest thing for me is that since I first conceived writing this post, with a title more along the lines of “Why we still need feminism”, I’ve continued collating frequent examples of sexism, violence, double standards, misogyny, etc.  These stories are not single instances of bad behaviour or individuals whose attitudes date back to the 50s, all of these stories are current, the issues, violence, at horrible attitudes being things that women have to manage daily.  This isn’t good enough and society (and I’m looking at you men) needs to do better.

As Elizabeth Broderick, Australia’s Federal Sex Discrimination Officer said at the recent TEDx Women event in Melbourne, women have fought and gained a lot in the past 100 years, but it’s time that more men joined the fight with us, because it’s time that men started changing men’s minds.

Continue reading Why we still need International Women’s Day

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