Speak for Yourself

Claire Duffy's blog about public speaking and communication (in real life). Speak well, do well!

Catching the waves of feminism

Evangeline photoShortly before  PM Julia Gillard’s  Misogyny Speech went viral, feminist  author and journalist Anne Summers  made her ‘Newcastle Speech’, arguing that  the extreme sexist and discriminatory  abuse Gillard was  subject to  breached federal laws  protecting her rights at work.  

Be warned when you read the  transcript – it is shocking. The video of the presentation is below. 

Inspired by Summers’ outing of the bullies,  seventeen year old Sydney school student Evangeline Read spoke her own mind on the issue, in a speech that won her the 2013 Australian Speech Communications Association Student Scholarship.  Here it is.

Feminists. Bra burners, man haters. They’ve got their equality, what more do they want?


I would love to say that we live in a post feminist world, where gender equality has been reached. The first wave of feminism, before the first world war, gave women the right to own land and vote. The second wave moved on to rights in the family, workplace and reproduction at a time where women were advancing in the workforce. The third wave was concerned with how women were presented in the media and changing gender stereotypes, it was this wave which was alive in the 90s with revolutionaries like Naomi Wolf and Susan Faludi.

Right now it seems that we have entered a new wave or perhaps, the third wave has really just hit. There is no way of claiming that gender equality has been achieved when one looks at our society in Australia. When radio host, Alan Jones claims that “women are destroying the joint” and it is deemed socially acceptable to call our Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, derogatory terms relating to her gender.

To fully evaluate the problem we need to look at where it all starts, at childhood. Fairy tales, written by Perrault and the Brothers Grimm feature the damsel in distress who awaits her knight in shining armour. This image of females being helpless is the message that is put forward in childhood. It is this latent content that feminist writer, Angela Carter, exploits in her collection of tweaked fairy tales, The Bloody Chamber.

Perrault and Grimm’s works are products of their context, both men writing to dupe women into subservience and reinforce the importance of the patriarchy. It is therefore in childhood that the issue of gender inequality begins. Children are being taught out of date values that do not correspond with what women have achieved through feminism.

Disney is a culprit of this especially with the recent film, Tangled, a retelling of Rapunzel. Disney avoided the name Rapunzel because it would not concern the male audience and thus they changed the name to make it less female-centric.

Ed Catmull, president of Disney Animation Studios, stated that “if you make a movie about a girl, they will think it is for girls”. Yet there seems to be no problem with girls watching movies with male protagonists. In fact in 2011, women only accounted for 11% of lead protagonists in film.

And so the Bechdel Test was created. To pass the test the film must answer yes to the following three questions.

Are there at least two female characters?

Do they talk to each other?

Do they talk about something other than a man?

Very few films pass this test, which means that women do not have a voice in film nor do they hold a voice in the media. 80% of spokespeople and experts who speak in the media are males. Each week on the ABC’s Q and A, four men are featured on the panel alongside two women. It is in this “post feminist” Australia that men dominate stories in the news. That women are told to shut up because we have achieved equality yet the percentages of women who are CEOs or on company boards is still in single figures.

Men’s rights activists fear that women are superior and are out to destroy men. That all power which women hold belongs to men and that equality is a perceived loss for them. There is a general idea that for women to be liberated men must sacrifice their own needs. I am surprised when I hear that apparently women have transcended thousands of years of oppression in less than a century, but when I look around me this is not what I see.

These issues have come to the forefront with Alan Jones’ continuous remarks about women and in particular Julia Gillard. How it is in any place, at any time, to anyone, socially acceptable to say that someone’s father died of shame escapes me. But I guess if Gillard had been thrown out to sea in a chaff bag as he has earlier asked for, or if we had ditched the bitch like members of the Liberals have jeered, apparently John Gillard would still be alive. Old age is no longer a factor.

It has been Alan Jones who has now dug his own grave with the backlash of sponsors on 2GB pulling their advertising. In less than 48 hours 50 thousand people signed an online petition that has been mentioned on the front page of every national newspaper. With Telstra, Mercedes-Benz, Woolworths, Coles, Freedom Furniture, Bing Lee and Dilmah Tea -to name a few- pulling sponsorship, it is evident that enough is enough. That no matter whether you are Labour or Liberal, pro-Gillard or not, there is no way that such comments should be tolerated. The federal government is discussing a blanket ban for all members of parliament appearing on Jones’ show.

But perhaps Jones is not the only culprit. The Labour party have now condemned Abbott for creating the culture of personal abuse and giving the green light to people such as Jones to ridicule our Prime Minister. Julia Gillard has now spoken in Parliament about how she is under personal attack due to her gender by Tony Abbott. In the words of Gillard, “if he wants to know what misogyny and sexism looks like he should look in a mirror.”

Before I continue and go on to expose issues concerning Julia Gillard and how she is a victim of misogynist Australia, I am at no point going to refer to our Prime Minister as just Julia. It is the use of her first name and repetition of “her” and “she” that lacks respect she deserves and no male prime minister has ever been referred to solely by their first name.

It was only when Anne Summers in her graduation speech to Newcastle University students at the end of August last year, that the public realised the extent of sexism against our Prime Minister. Summers exposes how it was Tony Abbott who coined the name Ju-liar after Gillard had to go back on her word regarding the Carbon Tax in order to form a coalition with the Greens. How he has been whispering “liar” in Gillard’s ear for the past 2 years, for this he became the first leader of the opposition party to be asked to leave the House. It may be “unparliamentary” to call someone a “liar” but this hasn’t stopped Abbott. The Prime Minister has been attacked, vilified and demeaned due to her sex from day one, her treatment goes against the Sex Discrimination Act and for what the Liberal Party has been doing would result in job loss or heavy fines in another workplace.

It was in the second wave of feminism that Germaine Greer among others fought against sex discrimination in the work place, where it was accepted and common that women would find pornographic images in their lockers. Yet in this “post feminist” Australia Julia Gillard logs on to her computer and sees herself naked in connotative memes. It seems that the only thing that has changed is technology.

So then we move into the generation that believes that feminism has been won, that we don’t need to fight anymore. Believe me, my English class has had many debates about it. And it worries me that suddenly my generation thinks that we don’t have to fight.

But the truth is dawning on the delusional as it did with Sasha Burden, a University student who went for an internship at the Herald Sun. It was Burden who felt the patronising attitude from acts of chivalry that she deemed sexist. Burden realised that the gender equality she thought had been achieved was not reality.

Feminism will be an issue until gender equality is reached, we are not fighting for superiority just simply equality. It is going to continue to be an issue until men stop making cruel remarks and patronising women. When women have equal voices in the media and film and are respected in all aspects of everyday life. We can no longer live in the dark ages. We have come a long way but we have certainly not achieved equality yet.

I do, in fact, agree with Alan Jones on one thing. Women are destroying the joint and we are proud of it. The joint is misogynistic, patriarchal, old fashioned, it is about time we destroyed it, once and for all.

Here is the original Anne Summers’ speech.


4 comments on “Catching the waves of feminism

  1. Pingback: Why are Women still a Minority in Positions of Leadership and Power? | Silent Observer

  2. Pingback: We can do it again! | BULL Magazine

  3. Pingback: A-Z Challenge; F is for Feminist Movement Mental Moment | Running Naked With Scissors

  4. Pingback: We can do it again! – BULL Magazine

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