Dressing the part: women, power, fashion - and that bloody jacket!

N2rsv6mj-1366611645A germaine point… lost in the furore around comments over Julia’s jackets was a genuine insight into the relationship between power and attire. AAP/ Lukas Coch

Germaine Greer had been responding to a questioner on the ABC’s Q&A program (March 19, 2012), who asked what advice the panel would give to the Prime Minister Julia Gillard on her image problem.

Gillard’s style was dry and somewhat terse, Greer said, but there were lots of good things about her. She was an administrator, who knew how to get things done. “It’s unglamorous, it’s not star material but it’s what she’s been doing… What I want her to do is get rid of those bloody jackets!”

The last comment was a flash of mischievous insight that seemed to take Greer herself by surprise, following the rather sober way she’d approached the question. Clearly enjoying the instantaneous response from the studio audience, she added: “They don’t fit.” If only she had stopped there, but by now the impulse to stir was irresistible. The jackets didn’t fit because they were cut too narrow in the hips. “You’ve got a big arse, Julia. Get over it.” That was the line that went viral, and Greer was widely condemned for a betrayal of feminist principles. At her next appearance on Q&A, she was called to account but was unrepentant, and provoked a kind of scandalised hilarity as she expanded freely on the matter of the Prime Minister’s body shape and the need to rejoice in the fullness of female anatomy.

Somewhere in all this, a genuine insight was being lost: that at some level, the cut of the Prime Minister’s jacket does matter, and that to get it wrong signals a lack of one of the many competencies required in the role. Greer’s fix on the jacket question is in line with her fierce concern for technique and construction across a whole range of things, from car engines to Shakespeare sonnets. As a literary scholar, Greer also has a finely tuned instinct for metaphor, and at that particular stage in the political cycle, Julia Gillard risked looking as if she was not cut out for the role of prime minister; her preference for over-sculpted jackets bearing no comfortable relationship to her body shape served to underline the impression that there was a lack of fit.

It is quite possible that a change of style for a female political leader could help to reverse a slide in approval ratings, but Germaine Greer was making a more particular point before she veered off track. She was, quite explicitly, targeting the jackets, and the exhortation was not to get better ones but to get rid of them. This, when you think about it, was a bold and radical piece of advice. A political leader with no jackets?

As a garment conceived to give form to the human silhouette, the jacket expresses a relationship between form and formality; and as a staple item of business attire, it is a mandatory part of the western male dress code for formal occasions. Women have other options, but women in prominent political roles have generally resisted exploring them. There is a feminist issue here, though not the one that was running in the blog lines about the exchanges on Q&A. The earnest principle that professional women should not have to deal with a primary focus on their appearance has become over familiar, and Greer was deliberately flouting it, but in doing so she may have touched on a more interesting question: a question about the relationship between male and female dress codes and the ways in which power roles are culturally defined.

Aung San Suu Kyi’s flowing garments connote traditional female dress.

There are examples of female political leaders from non-western cultures who have adapted traditional female dress to create a personal image free of any suggestion that they are in roles defined by masculine conventions. Benazir Bhutto and Aung San Suu Kyi show how a woman in long skirts of beautiful fabrics, with a veil over her head or flowers in her hair, can look strong, elegant and distinctive. Yet western dress conventions for political leaders of both sexes are based on masculine traditions of business attire, in which the suit works to standardise the personal silhouette, creating smooth, subdued outlines for the lower body and with all the visual accent on the collar area, to draw attention upwards to the face. There is a literal aspect to focusing on the “head” in business. Attempts to feminise the look – through diversified approaches to the cut of the jacket, the introduction of bold colour in fabric choices, and the addition of pearls and crusty brooches – only make the anomaly more conspicuous.

‘Dress for Success’

What is called “power dressing” is essentially a phenomenon of the 1980s, belonging to the culture of social conservatism, economic rationalism and corporate ambition associated with that era. Following the publication of John T Molloy’s book Dress for Success in 1975, the image of the career woman gained increasing currency, but it was Margaret Thatcher who really established the look. When she stood outside 10 Downing Street in May 1979, prepared to cross the threshold as the newly elected Prime Minister, Thatcher’s appearance was contrived to go with an artificially softened voice and sentiments to match. Against the black stone of the building and the grey of the London street, the vibrant blue of her suit, complemented by a light print blouse, still carried vestiges of a prettiness belonging to a former era. The short jacket, contoured around the waist, and mid-calf skirt flaring out in sunray pleats recalled Dior’s 1947 “new look,” and the return of a womanly silhouette after the austerities of the war years.

Margaret Thatcher’s image defined the conservatism of her politics. AAP

As she grew firmer and more assertive in the new role, her suits evolved accordingly. Lapels were accentuated with contrast fabrics, shoulders widened, skirts straightened, blouses were tied off with a flourish in outsized bows at the neck. The blues intensified, becoming more royal, and alternating with black and white or red as chromatic anchors. Her hair was swept higher and wider around the temples so that her head quite literally seemed to expand.

These tendencies coincided with general trends in the fashion world of the 1980s, a decade in which the hippie ideals of the postwar baby boom were abandoned and Generation X focused on the competition for advancement on the corporate ladder. Thatcher set out to be the mould of form but not the glass of fashion; her image served to define the conservatism she expressed in her policies and every outfit she wore was ‘on message’.

Over the ensuing decades, though, the message appears to have got lost somewhere, as leading women from both sides of politics continue to observe a dress code that is caught in a timewarp. Some obvious factors come to bear on the choices they make. Politicians who are at the mercy of constant opinion polling are understandably risk-averse in the business of creating and maintaining a public image, and women in positions of corporate leadership must command the confidence of peers and shareholders. The shifting aesthetics of the fashion world are dangerous ground for those who must project a sense of stalwartness and personal consistency, so a look that is only marginally influenced by style trends is the safest option.

For those who work an exhausting schedule involving international commitments, there is also an aspect of sheer convenience. Hillary Clinton’s adoption of the pantsuit as a personal uniform is a way of opting out of the whole business of personal styling, in order to concentrate on matters of larger importance.

Power and pearls: While fashionable, IMF head Christine Lagarde’s choices centre around the masculine convention of the suit. AAP

Angela Merkel, with a similar approach, has a range of long-line jackets in different colours, all cut to the same pattern and worn with black trousers. Such conscious stylists as Christine Lagarde and Condoleezza Rice are more various in their choices, but operate within the same set of conventions, assembling their outfits around versions of the sculpted jacket and fitted skirt or pants, accessorised with pearls.

Power dressing paradox

So-called power dressing is a vexing paradox. It is associated with risk avoidance rather than adventure, conformity rather than trail blazing and innovation. It is a form of stylistic paralysis. In December 2012, Hillary Clinton addressed delegates at the NATO headquarters in Brussels wearing a jacket with edged lapels that might have cut on the same pattern as many of those in Thatcher’s wardrobe. It’s curious that women in powerful positions choose to present themselves in a style that is an anachronism even as they grapple with the most urgent issues of the moment in an endeavour to set directions for the future.

When it comes to offering advice on the image challenges of the Australian Prime Minister, a call for “the real Julia” has caused enough problems already. But perhaps this also points towards the heart of the matter. One of the hurdles for any woman who sets a precedent in a leadership role is the sneaking suspicion that she is not the real thing, but positions of power necessarily involve role play. There is no getting away from it, and there are weaker and stronger approaches to fashioning the role. The fact so many women in key positions are still trapped in the codes of power dressing is a reflection of the degree to which modern democracies shackle those in leadership to a set of negatives. In politics, those who live and die by opinion polling cannot afford to offend or confuse. They must never appear eccentric, or be open to accusations of inconsistency.

Hillary Clinton’s pant suits were an attempt to opt out of the gender-loaded issue of styling.AAP

To break out of the negative cycle involves projecting courage and a sense of sustained inner conviction, and being able to capture the imagination of the public with vision and inspiration. This is where there is something to be gained in revisiting the dramatis personae of female theatres of power.

“Get rid of the jackets!”

The trouble with Gillard’s clothes, Germaine Greer said, is that they don’t look as if they belong to her. How can those women who have followed Thatcher on the world stage expect to generate an effective presence if they persist in wearing clothes that belong to Margaret Thatcher, and that were designed to be on message for an intensely conservative politician of the 1980s? Presence is about being in the present, and a political leader should look as if their energies are drawn from the here and now.

Generational change is a factor that is due to come into play here. I got my first professional appointment as a lecturer in 1983, and celebrated by buying a pantsuit. At the time it was an exciting but acutely stressful transition in my life and looking back on it, I’m aware of how I was part of a wider social transition, as for the first time it became the norm for women in early adulthood to see their future in terms of career goals. We need to reflect on how recent this is, as a social and cultural transformation. The identity-shift for women is still in a phase of relative immaturity, but we need to look back as well as forward in order to find future directions.

Second-wave feminism took its impetus from an overblown critique of the status quo. Women were perceived to be essentially disempowered, and traditional forms of feminine control came under suspicion as being born of constraint, and having their basis in manipulative sexuality. As a consequence, the career woman of the 1980s who set out to be everything she could be was a figure cordoned off from deep and various traditions of female power. All those witches, queens, courtesans and divas were to be banished from our imaginative world. Banishing the jackets might help to prompt a more fundamental process of rethinking what women of power have been and may become.

This is an excerpt of an essay by Jane Goodall, which appears in the current edition of the Griffith Review 40: Women and Power, edited by Julianne Schultz.

Tony Abbott highlights Liberal candidate Fiona Scott's 'sex appeal' during campaign event - ABC News (Australian Broadcasting Corporation)

Nearly made me throw my laptop across the room. How frustrating is this man?  And if he is about to be our new PM I just don't know what I will do... - G


Tony Abbott highlights Liberal candidate Fiona Scott's 'sex appeal' during campaign event By political reporter Latika Bourke, staff Updated Wed Aug 14, 2013 12:09am AEST

VIDEO: Tony Abbott says the Liberal candidate Fiona Scott has 'sex appeal' (ABC News) PHOTO: Tony Abbott has attracted criticism for his comments about candidate Fiona Scott. (AAP: Alan Porritt) RELATED STORY: Gillard raises abortion issue in gender attack on Coalition MAP: Sydney 2000 Opposition Leader Tony Abbott has highlighted a female candidate's "sex appeal" while spruiking her credentials for election.

Mr Abbott was campaigning in the Western Sydney seat of Lindsay yesterday when he was asked what the Liberal candidate Fiona Scott had in common with the last Liberal MP Jackie Kelly.

"They're young, feisty, I think I can probably say have a bit of sex appeal and they're just very connected with the local area," he said.

Mr Abbott was standing between Ms Scott and his daughter, both of whom laughed at the sex appeal comment.

Ms Kelly told the ABC she had two children, was organising school art shows and was pushing 50 years of age.

"There's not much sex appeal here," she said.

VIDEO: Exuberant Abbott skirts sex appeal comment (ABC News) Labor frontbencher Kim Carr seized on the remarks, labelling Mr Abbott "pathetic".

However, Mr Abbott said later on Tuesday that he was simply being "exuberant" when reporters asked him about Ms Scott, who is running for the seat held by Assistant Treasurer David Bradbury by a margin of 1.1 per cent.

"She's a mate of mine, I was exuberant, she's a hard working candidate who knows the electorate inside and out and I'm really proud to be associated with her," he said.

Keep up with all the happenings on the campaign trail with our live election blog. 'He's pathetic, he really is pathetic': Carr

AUDIO: Listen to the story (PM) The Government says Mr Abbott's remarks sit against the backdrop of former prime minister Julia Gillard's attacks on the Liberal leader, when she called him a misogynist during a speech to Federal Parliament.

Labor frontbencher Kim Carr says Mr Abbott is stuck in the past.

"He's pathetic, he really is pathetic," he said.

"Sometimes we should think Tony Abbott really hasn't crawled out of the 1950s."

However, Coalition finance spokesman Andrew Robb says people should not be "too precious" about Mr Abbott's comments.

Mr Robb says the comment was made "largely in jest" and no offence was meant or taken.

"He's got three strong-minded daughters, he's got sisters, one of whom's gay, he's got a highly competent and strong wife ... a very pleasant wife in Margie," Mr Robb said.

"Look - he's an average sort of person as far as these sort of things go and we've just got to not start to get too precious about this."

New South Wales Family and Community Services Minister Pru Goward, who is also a former sex discrimination commissioner, has told Macquarie Radio she sees nothing wrong with drawing attention to a candidate's sex appeal.

"I think a lot of politicians are described as sexy," she said.

"I mean, I didn't think Bob Hawke or Paul Keating were particularly sexy.

"I liked them but I didn't think... their sex appeal was often said.

"I think it's not unsurprising that people who want to take on leadership positions have a bit of pizzazz... a bit of charisma."

A day earlier, Mr Abbott said "no one is the suppository of all wisdom" when criticising Prime Minister Kevin Rudd's campaign style.


Show Opening! 28th August

It's happening! The artists are working hard to finish their works in time. We have some wonderful pieces in the making. I will upload some teasers shortly. In the mean time please revel in the marvellous poster.  


Alarming Global Statistics

The Global Gender Gap Report is published by the World Economic Forum and was first produced in 2005.  The Report analyses four critical areas of inequality between men and women in 130 economies globally, which covers over 92% of the world’s population.  The four areas include:

1.  Economic participation and opportunity – salaries, work participation, and access to employment

2.  Educational attainment – access to basic and higher level education

3.  Political empowerment – representation in governments

4.  Heath – including life expectancy

I’m sure many of us would assume that Australia would rank higher than most other countries globally (certainly higher than most developing countries) in the areas of Women’s Health, Education, and even political empowerment.   Economic participation and opportunity is another story which I blogged about in October.

Big Picture:

Australia scored 72% overall – which is ranked 23rd- not terrible, but lower than I would have thought.   Not surprisingly, the Scandinavian countries fared well:  Iceland 85%, Norway 84%, Finland 83% and Sweden 80%.  Our sibling that is NZ came in above us at 78% (we hate that, don’t we?!)

Other countries that surpassed us included:  Philippines, South Africa, Sri Lanka and Mozambique.  And we beat Cuba, Namibia, and Mongolia only by a whisker (about 0.5%).

Australia is in fact going backward.  In 2006, we ranked a much higher 15th.


Mad as hell and not ready to make nice - Anne Summers

Get over it, girl, I am being told. Move on.

Accept the new reality. What’s done is done and, besides, you can’t argue with the polls.

Whatever you might think of Kevin Rudd or how it was done, people are saying, (they tend to be Labor people), it needed to be done: he has brought Labor back to a competitive position. Heck, we could even win.

So shut up with the gender stuff and the so-called bullying of the former prime minister.

We all know she was a dud.

In the 17 days since she was deposed Julia Gillard has been thoroughly trashed.

She was “incompetent”, wrote Graham Richardson, relying mainly on errors in the 2010 election campaign rather than her record of government for this assessment. “She lacked authenticity and never gained the trust of voters”, asserted Troy Bramston, overlooking the years of sabotage, stalking and sledging by the man who now wants voters to trust him. Laura Tingle even referred this week to “the Gillard experiment”, implying the ALP won’t be going there again. Meaning what? No more women? Or lawyers? Or single, childless, atheist Welsh redheads?

People hated her, I am told by way of justification for Gillard being hounded out of office, just look at the polls. Her party turned against her. OK, so there were only seven votes in it, but winning is winning. Don’t jeopardise the chance to stop Tony Abbott by banging on about it being un-Australian for bullying to be rewarded.

This is a very big ask.

I am not the only person who feels a range of emotions from utter sadness to irrepressible rage at how our first female prime minister was got rid of. I have had dozens and dozens of communications from people, most of them women, since June 26, many of them in the wake of reading my interview with Gillard, her last as prime minister. Without exception, these people are upset and angry. They are not ready to move on. Not yet, anyway.

What will it take?

Kevin Rudd is now undeniably back in charge. He is setting a cracking pace as he zips around the country laying on hands, dispensing his “fair dinkum” homilies, soaking up the love and consigning to the grave the “old politics” of negativity.

But while he might be pointing at Opposition Leader Tony Abbott while he talks about “old politics”, his sights are in fact set on Julia Gillard. Her three years and three days leading this country are now being systematically either derided and ridiculed or else totally airbrushed from history. It’s almost as if it is being suggested that we were not actually being governed for all that time.

Never mind that Gillard served longer as prime minister than Gough Whitlam. Or that Kevin Rudd will have to win the next election if he is to ever exceed her time in office. (And if he does, he could be stuck in there for a very long time under the proposed new leadership rules he sprang on the ALP this week).

On the night he regained his old job, Rudd acknowledged, without any specifics, that Gillard has “achieved much under the difficult circumstances of minority government”, but since then a cone of silence has descended.

At the National Press Club on Thursday he referred to the Hawke government, the Keating government and to his own “first” and “second” terms in office.

He did not once refer to Julia Gillard or her government. He paid no tribute to her stellar legislative record: some 590 pieces of legislation passed, despite the hung parliament, and including measures such as pricing carbon and the NDIS that he had not been able to achieve.

If Kevin Rudd wants generosity from those of us who are still upset about the way Gillard was treated, he had better start exhibiting some himself.

He could start by telling the truth.

He did not, for instance, replace “Gonski” with the “Better Schools” program. Gillard had already changed the name.

He criticised her for choosing September 14 as the election date because it falls on the High Holy Day of Yom Kippur.

As if Gillard was not aware of this. She had one of her senior advisers, Bruce Wolpe (who happens to be Jewish), consult Jewish leaders immediately after the announcement. “It was an inconvenience,” Wolpe told me this week. “But what made it acceptable was that we gave the community seven months’ notice and we pledged additional polling resources in those electorates where it would be an issue”.

(In fact since Australian elections are always on a Saturday, it’s always an issue for observant Jews. ”That’s what postal votes are for,” says Wolpe.)

Rudd took credit on Thursday for a paid parental leave scheme that (” ‘we’ launched”, he said) would not exist had Gillard not set the policy in motion by a reference to the Productivity Commission in 2008.

Instead of respecting Gillard’s legacy, he continues to throw barbs: “I have never believed in class warfare,” he said on Thursday. This of course is code, used by Martin Ferguson and others, for claiming the Gillard government was anti-business.

Nor does he “see things through the prism of gender,” he said last week. “I never have and I never will.”

Well, no, Kevin, being part of the dominant group, the one that is back running the joint, you wouldn’t. It would never occur to you.

But it remains an issue for a lot of us and, especially if you are a woman, it is hard not to see parallels in your own life when a female leader is so brutally felled.

In 2003 a member of the Dixie Chicks, the Texan all-girl group, rebuked President George Bush for invading Iraq. As a result they were told they needed to apologise. No way, the group said. Not Ready to Make Nice was their major hit song three years later. “I’m not ready to back down. I’m still mad as hell … ”

Originally published: http://www.smh.com.au/comment/mad-as-hell-and-not-ready-to-make-nice-20130712-2pv9d.html

Oxfam Facts on Gender Equality

You’re more likely to be poor if you’re a woman. That’s a fact. And if you’re a woman, you’re also likely to be doing most of the work.

Discrimination and injustice are major causes of poverty worldwide, and women and girls bear the brunt of it in all aspects of their lives.

Today women:

  • Make up two-thirds of the world’s illiterate population
  • Comprise two-thirds of the exploited informal workforce
  • Own one per cent of the world’s resources and earn one-tenth of the world’s income
  • Occupy only 18% of seats in the world’s parliaments
  • 70% of the worlds poor are women
  • 80% of the worlds refugees are women and girls (UNHCR 2002)
  • For women aged 15-44 gender violence accounts for more deaths and disability than cancer, malaria, traffic accidents and war (WHO 2005)

Yet women are the powerhouses of developing countries: they produce most of the food, make up a third of the official labour force and care for families and homes.

Help a woman, and you’ll be helping lift whole families out of poverty.

That’s why ensuring women and men benefit equally from our work is such a vital part of what we do. All our projects – from supporting sustainable farming in Vietnam to working for peace in the Solomon Islands –are designed to ensure both women and men enjoy equal rights, opportunities and outcomes.

Find out how our work is addressing the issue of gender in order to lift both men and women out of poverty.


Gender Equality

Gender Equality

Australia prides itself on being egalitarian, but does this sense of fairness extend to gender roles and equality? Gender inequality still exists in Australia despite the progress achieved over the past 40 years. Many observers claim that efforts to attain equality between men and women have stagnated, and may even be going backwards. How wide is the ‘gender gap’? This book examines a number of issues, including sex discrimination and the law, sexual harassment, women in decision-making roles (e.g. management, government), paid maternity leave, domestic load sharing and work-family responsibilities between men and women, gender stereotypes, equal pay and the ‘glass ceiling’.

Fast facts:

  • Despite efforts at local, national, and international levels, women and girls continue to face discrimination. Gender-based discrimination and inequalities violate the human rights of both women and men and affect the wellbeing of all children.
  • More than 30% of Australia’s small business operators are women. Women make up more than half of the Australian public service workforce (57%) and hold around 36% of senior executive positions. In the private sector, however, women hold only around 12% of management jobs. Women hold 34% of all seats on federal government-controlled boards and around 23% of chair or deputy chair positions. However, women hold only 9% of private board directorships.
  • The 2007-08 UN Human Development Report ranked Australia second in the world on the gender related development index and eighth in the world on the gender empowerment measure.
  • Australia’s commitment to its international human rights obligations is reflected in domestic legislation, such as the Sex Discrimination Act 1984. Equality between men and women is a principle that lies at the heart of a fair and productive society. It is also the key goal of the Act, which aims to eliminate discrimination and sexual harassment and promote greater equality in all aspects of the Australian community. Under the Act, individuals can lodge complaints of sex discrimination and sexual harassment with the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission.
  • For men, the average time per day spent on total domestic activities, at 1 hour 37 minutes in 2006, has not changed since 1992. For women, the average time spent on domestic activities has declined over time, from 3 hours and 2 minutes in 1992 to 2 hours 52 minutes a day in 2006 (12% of the day).
  • Sex discrimination means being treated unfairly because of your sex or marital status or because you are pregnant or potentialy pregnant. It also includes being dismissed from employment because you have family responsibilities. Discrimination also exists where there is a requirement (a rule, policy, practice or procedure) that is the same for everyone, but which has an unfair effect on particular groups.
  • A national telephone survey conducted by the Australian Human Rights Commission in 2008 has found that 22% of females and 5% of males had experienced sexual harassment in the workplace at some time, compared to 28% of females and 7% of males in 2003.
  • Sexual harassment is a form of sex discrimination that can occur at work, school, uni or in social settings. Sexual harassment in the workplace is any form of unwelcome sexual attention that is, or that you find, offensive, humiliating or intimidating that occurs anywhere you carry out any task for your employment. Sexual harassment can be written, verbal or physical. Both males and females can be the victims of sexual harassment.
  • In 2008 the number of companies with no women executive managers rose sharply to 45.5% from 39.5% in 2006. At board director level there were more than 10 men to every one woman and at CEO level there were 49 male CEOs for every female CEO in the ASX200.
  • Women’s average earnings in Australia have dropped from 87 cents for every dollar earned by a man in 2004 to 84 cents in 2008.
  • The average female employee in late 2007 earned about $690 a week compared with $1060 for the average man. In other words, women, on average, earned just 65% of what men earned, meaning a pay gap of 35%.


Fun fact: Today Women get 17.5% less

Australian women are paid 17.5% less than men doing the same work. Our friends, partners, sisters, daughters and mothers deserve better than this.

In 2012, full time women workers need to work 64 extra days to get the same pay as men doing similar work.


International Day of the Girl Child

Millions of people across the world will join together on 11 October 2012 to celebrate the International Day of the Girl Child; to address the challenges they face and promote girls’ rights, so that every girl can reach her full potential.

In many countries, simply being born a girl will mean a child is subject to widespread discrimination and abuse.  The girl child is at greater risk of malnutrition, hunger and disease compared to her brothers.  She will have fewer opportunities for an education and a career.[i]


  • In many developing countries one out of seven girls marries before the age of 15.[ii]
  • Pregnancy and childbirth are a significant cause of death for girls and young women aged 15 to 19 worldwide.[iii]
  • As many as 150 million girls and young women under 18 have experienced forced sexual intercourse or other forms of sexual violence involving physical contact.[iv]
  • In Australia, girls are more likely to be the subject of substantiated sexual abuse than boys.[v]

One of the most pressing challenges facing girls across the world is access to quality education. There are 75 million girls out of school globally.[vi]  In South Sudan, a girl is more likely to die in childbirth than to finish primary school.[vii]

Investing in education for girls not only makes a difference for them, it also makes a difference for their families, their communities and for global prosperity. Educated girls are empowered girls.

Empowering girls requires their active participation in decision-making processes and the active support and engagement of their parents, legal guardians, families and care providers, as well as boys and men and the wider community.


  • Each additional year of school for a girl has the potential to raise her income later in life by 15 per cent.[viii]
  • When mothers can read, their child is 50 per cent more likely to survive past age five.[ix]
  • HIV/AIDS rates are halved among women who complete primary education.[x]
  • Educated girls are better able to contribute to social, economic and political decision making.[xi]

In Australia, while a majority of girls who start high school are likely to study until Year 12, we’re still seeing low numbers of women going on to complete degrees in science, engineering and technology and later obtaining employment in such male-dominated sectors.[xii]

Girls and boys in Australia today should have equal opportunities to achieve lifetime economic security and become business and community leaders of the future.  Achieving gender equality not only benefits women and girls but the entire Australian community.


  • Raise your hand and help improve the lives of four million girls. Visitwww.becauseiamagirl.com.au to find out more about the Plan in AustraliaBecause I am a Girl campaign.
  • Attend the free Plan International event at City Square in Melbourne on 11 October 2012 and “Raise your Hand” for girls’ education. The event runs from 9am-2pm with the official welcome and address with host Imogen Bailey from 12.30-1pm.

Attend the UN Women Australia Sydney Chapter – International Day of the Girl Child Lunch and Panel Discussion in Sydney on Thursday 11 October 2012.



How to revive feminism: A primer by Christina Hoff Sommers

 Christina Hoff Sommers

JUNE 12, 2013
 mediaservices@aei.org (202.862.5829)

In recent surveys, 70 percent of American women rejected the label “feminist.” Why? In Freedom Feminism: Its Surprising History and Why it Matters Today (AEI Press, Values & Capitalism Series, 2013), author Christina Hoff Sommers explains that even though a flourishing women’s movement needs the support of both conservative and liberal women, feminism has devolved into a one-party system in the US. It has become associated in the public mind with the beliefs of hard-liners who claim that American women are held down by a system of global oppression, or “ruling capitalist patriarchy.”

“The work of feminism is unfinished and too important to be left to the existing [strident] lobby,” notes Sommers. Instead, she believes in a feminist renaissance through “freedom feminism,” which she defines as the moral, social, and legal equality of the sexes — and the freedom for all to pursue happiness in their own distinctive ways.

Freedom feminism is a synthesis of two movements: an “egalitarian school,” which regards women as independent agents and aims to liberate them through universal rights, and a “maternal school,” which is family-centered and argues that educated, responsible women can be a force of good beyond the family through enlightened social policies and charitable work.

To revive freedom feminism, Sommers suggests that Americans:

•    Take back reason: correct more than 40 years of feminist advocacy research;

•    Be pro-women but not male-averse: acknowledge that the health, education, and welfare of males are pressing public issues;

•    Pursue happiness: allow women to follow the paths they want to pursue — and respect their decisions;

•    Support women as they are: respect them regardless of the different paths they choose;

•    Forget about political litmus tests: understand that freedom feminists can be libertarian, liberal, or conservative.

The quest for equality has hardly begun for women in most of the world, and Western women should not take for granted the rights of equal citizenship and social status, advises Sommers. Instead, their success should provide a road map for women in the developing world.


Excerpt from http://www.aei.org/press/society-and-culture/how-to-revive-feminism-a-primer-by-christina-hoff-sommers/ 

Top Ten Most Influential Feminist Books

The following are infoplease.com's picks for the books that have been the most influential on feminism and the women's movement.

by Jennie Wood

The Second Sex by Simone de Beauvoir

Related Links

February 19, 2013, marks the 50th anniversary of the publication of Betty Friedan's The Feminine Mystique, a book that helped reignite the Women's Movement in the United States. Here's a list of books that have had a lasting impact on feminism and the Women's Movement.

The Feminine Mystique
Betty Friedan
A nonfiction book published in 1963, The Feminine Mystique sparked the second-wave of the Women's Movement in the United States, a movement that lasted until the early 1980s and, unlike the first-wave's focus on the one issue of suffrage, expanded its agenda to a wide variety of issues such as sexuality, reproductive rights, the workplace, and more. Friedan's book came about by accident. For her 15th class reunion, Friedan was asked to conduct a survey of her Smith College classmates. In talking with them, she realized how unsatisfied they were as housewives. Afterwards, she expanded her research to include other women and the media's use of advertising. She pitched her work to a variety of magazines, but when none of them wanted to publish her work as an article, she extended it into a book.
The Second Sex
Simone de Beauvoir
The Second Sex was another work credited with igniting the second-wave of the Women's Movement. Published in 1949, it covered how women had been treated throughout history. French author and existentialist Simone de Beauvoir wrote it in 14 months and published it in two volumes. The book made the Vatican's List of Prohibited Books.
A Room of One's Own
Virginia Woolf
A Room of One's Own, a long form essay by Virginia Woolf, was first published in book form on October 24, 1929. The material came from a series of lectures Woolf gave at two women's colleges, Newnham and Girton, at Cambridge University in 1928. In the essay, Woolf made the case that women writers should have a space of their own. She meant literally and figuratively. She also pointed out that the literary world was dominated by men. Woolf brilliantly used a fictional narrator to make her case.
The Vagina Monologues
Eve Ensler
The Vagina Monologues, a play made up of a series of monologues, premiered in New York City in 1996. Written by Eve Ensler, the monologues covered a variety of topics from a feminist perspective. The topics ranged from sex to menstruation, birth, rape, female genital mutilation, and more. When the play first premiered, Ensler performed all the monologues herself. Once she left the production, three actresses divided up the monologues.
Sexual Politics
Kate Millett
Published in 1970, Sexual Politics was the first academic take on feminist literary criticism. The book was based on Millett's PhD dissertation, in which she dissected the work of D. H. Lawrence, Norman Mailer, and Henry Miller, among others. Millett pointed out how the three authors wrote about women in a sexist way. The book added fuel to the second wave of feminism, which had started in the early 60s. The book was controversial, receiving national attention and a strong backlash from men.
The Female Eunuch
Germaine Greer
The Female Eunuch became an international bestseller after it was published in 1970. Greer divided the nonfiction book into four sections: Body, Soul, Love, and Hate. She explored the self-perception of women throughout history. Translated into 11 languages, it was a key book in the feminist movement during 1970s.
The Beauty Myth
Naomi Wolf
A nonfiction book published in 1991, The Beauty Myth was an instant best-seller and won the praise of many feminists. Of the book, Gloria Steinem wrote, "The Beauty Myth is a smart, angry, insightful book, and a clarion call to freedom. Every woman should read it." In the book, Wolf made a case for a reevaluation of society's current standards of beauty. She explained how women were constantly under scrutiny in these five areas: hunger, religion, sex, violence, and work.
Their Eyes Were Watching God
Zora Neale Hurston
Since its publication in 1937, Their Eyes Were Watching God has become an important work in womeTime magazine included the book in its list of the 100 best novels that have been published since 1923.
The Color Purple
Alice Walker
Published in 1982, The Color Purple won a National Book Award and Pulitzer Prize for fiction. The novel, set in Georgia, dealt with the lives of African American women in the South during the 1930s. The novel won the praise of feminists because many of the characters breakaway from traditional gender roles.
A Vindication of the Rights of Woman
Mary Wollstonecraft
One of the earliest feminist works, A Vindication of the Rights of Woman was first published in 1792. Wollstonecraft began work on it after reading Charles Maurice de Talleyrand-Perigord's French National Assembly report. In the report, he advised that women should only be educated in domestic matters. Wollstonecraft used the report as an example of double standards. The book was well received when it was published. Wollstonecraft was working on a second volume when she died.

Read more: Top Ten Most Influential Feminist Books | Infoplease.com http://www.infoplease.com/entertainment/books/top-ten-feminist-books.html#ixzz2aLBENtrJ


Excerpt from http://www.infoplease.com/entertainment/books/top-ten-feminist-books.html


Fun things in the works

A little excerpt from a conversaion between Andy and myself



A: I'm not quite sure how it'll look once it's done but I'm planning on making work using long human hair. I find attitudes towards hair have some parallels with society's views towards women. Hair has obvious connotations of fertility, femininity and life. When it is attached to the head it is admired, adored and envied. The praise, attention and attraction only apply when the hair is still attached. Once it has become detached from the head people's attitudes towards it change dramatically to one of repulsion and baulking. This shift from desire to disgust is not dissimilar to the attitudes towards women once they move outside of a sphere society has claimed to be "acceptable". This is inclusive of identifying as a "feminist", or expressing ideas, objections or opinions that differ from that of the patriarchal society. 

I am trying to make a work that is visually simplified so that the viewer can focus on the materiality and experience their own reaction.

G: I think once it's not on your head, like for example body hair is a massive thing also. I mean I'm not fussed by it but I still find myself waxing my legs even though I can't afford it sometimes. Every time I do it I'm like, who am I doing this for? I find it so strange that men and women both have hair growing all over their bodies and always have, yet why is hair on a women's body looked at differently than on a mans? It's designed to keep us warm. Are we warm already therefore we (women) remove it? And why are people judged so harshly if they so choose to keep their body hair? 

A: Exactly my thoughts. Why does the idea of armpit hair repulse me? I see it on other women and I'm all "YEAH! EMPOWERMENT! DO WHAT YOU WANT! ANSWER TO NO ONE YEAAAH" but then I look at my own and recoil and try to get rid of it quick smart. And isn't it interesting how hair has become an identifier of feminism? It has almost become a costume or uniform of feminists, particularly in the 90's, but does that make a hair-less feminist less authentic? Isn't the purpose of feminism freedom of choice and an unapologetic attitude for one's decisions regarding their own body and behaviour? The policing of hair from both ends if a curious phenomenon.

G: But how interesting that when women shave their heads that it is so confronting to people too! Instead of a symbol of control and power its usually considered to be threatening and confusing for people. 


Welcome to the F Word Blog!

'The F Word' is an upcoming show I am curating focusing on the f word, feminism. Something I am passionate about and want to contribute something to our society in which we can expand people's perception of feminism and further strive for gender equality.

 So far I am finalising the artists involved but it seems we have a large, awesome group of talented individuals contributing. Show will be the last week of August with the opening being on the 28th. Very exciting stuff to come. 

Deborah Paauwe

Deborah Paauwe