Domestic front key to gender equality

Anna Uren
Women's Coordinator

Those attending the Damned Whores and God’s Police conference in September spent three days examining and debating in detail the challenges and issues women and feminists are facing today.

The conference marked 40 years since the publication of the book by the same name by Anne Summers. The central thesis of the book was that society allows basically only two types of women, and that these types have been used to control and restrict women’s choices for centuries. The purpose of the conference was to consider how far woman have moved from that dichotomy and how far they still need to progress toward gender equality.

In a session focusing on women and work, ACTU President Ged Kearney highlighted that Australian women still contribute 13 billion hours of unpaid labour (usually in the form of care), which equates to a donation of more than $390 billion to the economy each year. Discussing the issue on a panel with columnist Annabel Crabb and academic Marian Baird, there was a general consensus that true gender equality could not be achieved in the workforce without also doing so on the domestic front.

Giving advice about campaigning for equality, Destroy the Joint Facebook page founders Jenna Price and Sally McManus emphasised the importance of looking after each other. Campaigning of any sort can be a hard road, particularly in an online environment, where women activists and public commentators are regularly exposed to the threat of violence on a regular basis. Sally and Jenna gave plenty of tips for successful campaigning, all of which can be easily transferred to our work as teacher activists.

  • People need to be angry enough to take action, so you may need to spend time educating and communicating so people really understand the issue before they will take action.
  • Don’t expect everyone to give the same amount of time and energy to the campaign. Small actions can be just as powerful as big ones, so be sure to welcome everyone and value their contributions.
  • Successful campaigning identifies and takes advantage of everyone’s strengths. If you have one person who is a confident speaker, they can be the spokesperson in a meeting. If you have another person who is very organised, they can develop a plan of action.

A wide range of subjects was covered in sessions and the conference, including the future of feminism, women’s representation in history, female genital mutilation and the intersection of gender with other factors (such as race and disability) in feminism. The conversation continues via the event’s website and on Anne Summers’ website.