brisbane writers festival 2013 – the f word

THE F WORD

BRISBANE WRITERS FESTIVAL 2013/ STATE LIBRARY OF QUEENSLAND

Moderator – dale spender

GIVEN THAT WE HAVE JUST GOT THROUGH AN ELECTION (AND A CHANGE OF GOVERNMENT) I WOULD LIKE TO START WITH A REMINDER OF THE GREATEST POLITICAL VICTORY EVER. WHEN WOMEN WON THE VOTE!

WHEN THEY WERE DEPRIVED OF EDUCATION, PROFESSIONS, AND NOT ALLOWED TO OWN PROPERTY – ALONG WITH A LONG LIST OF OTHER DEPRIVATIONS – THEY PERSUADED MEN TO SHARE POLITICAL POWER – TO VOTE FOR VOTES FOR WOMEN  – AND THEY DID IT WITHOUT FIRING A SHOT, OR CONSULTING A SINGLE  POLL!

WOMEN IN THE ROOM TODAY SIT HERE – ABOUT TO DISCUSS THE F WORD – AS A RESULT OF THE COMMITMENT, CAMPAIGNS AND CAJOLING OF COUNTLESS BRAVE WOMEN OVER TWO CENTURIES, WHOSE BASIC AGENDA WAS EQUAL EDUCATION, FINANCIAL INDEPENDENCE –

AND OF COURSE THE VOTE, SO THEY COULD ACHIEVE THESE ENDS

– AND FURTHER REFORMS IN WOMEN’S INTERESTS  – FROM CHILDCARE TO RAPE CRISES CENTRES AND DOMESTIC VIOLENCE REFUGES AND MUCH MORE.

AND MANY OF THE ACHIEVEMENTS THAT WE TAKE FOR GRANTED, THEY WOULD SEE AS BEING BEYOND THEIR WILDEST DREAMS.

ACROSS THOSE 2 CENTURIES THERE HAVE BEEN WAVES OF FEMINISM – ABOUT EVERY FIFTY YEARS; WHAT WE ARE WITNESSING AT THE MOMENT IS AN INCREASED INTEREST ONCE AGAIN IN THE FEMINIST AGENDA (REALLY ONLY 30 YEARS THIS TIME – THINGS MUST BE SPEEDING UP) AND THERE ARE QUESTIONS AS TO WHY HERE AND NOW?    AND WHAT?

A WOMAN PM WAS CERTAINLY A CATALYST – BUT THERE HAS ALSO BEEN A VIRTUAL EXPLOSION OF BOOKS COMING OUT OF THE USA, WHERE THERE IS NO WOMAN PRESIDENT, AND WOMEN REPRESENT ONLY 17% OF CONGRESSIONAL MEMBERS.

BOOKS AND WRITERS HAVE BEEN AT THE CENTRE OF FEMINISM SINCE MARY WOLLSTONECRAFT WROTE VINDICATION OF THE RIGHTS OF WOMAN IN 1792 – RIGHT THROUGH TO GERMAINE’S FEMALE EUNUCH OF 1971 (WHICH IS STILL IN PRINT AND SELLING WELL!)

THESE BOOKS CHANGED MILLIONS OF LIVES.

AND THEY ARE STARTING TO DO SO AGAIN

IN AUSTRALIA WE HAVE HAD

STALKING JUIIA GILLARD, KERRY ANN WALSH:

DESTROY THE JOINT EDITED BY JANE CAROW AND

THE MISOGYNY FACTOR, BY ANN SUMMERS

AND A WONDERFUL ESSAY BY

ANNA GOLDSWORTHY UNFINISHED BUSINESS: SEX, FREEDOM AND MISOGYNY  (QUARTERLY REVIEW)

 

THE AUSTRALIAN ONES ARE A MOTLEY BUNCH IN COMPARISON WITH THE RECENT AMERICAN PUBLICATIONS WHICH ARE MUCH MORE CONCERNED WITH THE ECONOMIC CRISIS – AND WITH PRIVILEGED WOMEN, AND THEIR PROGRESS TO THE TOP!

AND THE SOCIAL IMPLICATIONS OF ROLE REVERSAL – AS MORE WOMEN EARN MORE, AND MORE MEN EARN LESS.

LEAN IN BY SHERYL SANDBERG, THE CHIEF OPERATIONG OFFICER OF FACEBOOK: (STAND UP FOR YOURSELF – GET A SEAT AT THE TABLE)

THE RICHER SEX (MEANING WOMEN) BY LIZA MUNDY;

(WOMEN AS BREADWINNERS AND THE IMMENSE SOCIAL CONSEQUENCES)

NICE GIRLS DON’T GET THE CORNER OFFICE BY LOIS FRANKEL;

HOW TO WALK THE THIN PINK LINE BETWEEN BEING ASSERTIVE AND A NICE GIRL – VERY HELPFUL

AND MY FAVOURITE

WHICH I DELIBERATELY CARRY AROUND WITH THE COVER ON DISPLAY WHICH SHOUTS IN BLAZING RED PRINT ON A BRIGHT YELLOW COVER

THE END OF MEN AND THE RISE OF WOMEN – BY HANNAH ROSIN.

IT’S REALLY ABOUT THE END OF THE MIDDLE CLASS AS SEEN IN THE USA, AND THE BEGINNINGS OF THE MATRIARCH SOCIETY  – THAT SHOULD CAUSE A BIT OF A FUSS

LET ME TELL YOU WHEN I CARRY THIS BOOK AROUND IT DOESN’T TAKE LONG TO PROMOTE A DISCUSSION  – OR AN ALTERCATION  – ON THE F WORD.  AND THE F WORD THAT IS USED IS OFTEN NOT ASSOCIATED WITH FEMINISM

WHY THESE BOOKS AND WHY NOW?

AND HOW ARE THEY SHAPING THE FEMINIST AGENDA: WHAT DOES THE F WORD STAND FOR IN THE 21ST CENTURY?

THERE ARE CERTAIN CHANGES UNDERWAY IN THE WESTERN WORLD THAT AMOUNT TO A SOCIAL REVOLUTION ON AN ALMOST UNIMAGINABLE SCALE

IN AUSTRALIA AND THE US FOR EXAMPLE, WOMEN ARE ABOUT 60% OF THE UNIVERSITY STUDENTS AND ARE GETTING HIGHER GRADES. AND THEY ARE INCREASINGLY INFILTRATING AND BECOMING THE MAJORITY IN A NUMBER OF PROFESSIONS – ACCOUNTANCY, AUDITING, GPs, PHARMACY AND VET SCIENCE, AND LAW – JUST FOR STARTERS.

IN THE USA THIS ACCOUNTS PARTLY FOR THE FACT THAT 40% OF WIVES NOW EARN MORE THAN THEIR HUSBANDS. AND THEN THERE ARE MANY HOUSEHOLDS HEADED BY SINGLE WOMEN (I THINK THE OVERALL TOTAL IS ABOUT 60% AND I THINK ITS 60% OF CHILDREN ARE NOW BORN OUT OF WEDLOCK!  FUNNY NAME WED-LOCK!)

THIS SOCIAL UPHEAVAL IS ATTRIBUTED TO THE FINANCIAL CRISIS THAT HAS REDUCED THE BLUE COLLAR JOBS, AND INCREASED THE DEMAND FOR WORK IN THE INFORMATION AND SERVICE INDUSTRIES.

THE TRADITIONAL PROFESSIONS OF WOMEN – NURSING, CHILDCARE, EDUCATION, HEALTH, AGED CARE ETC ALSO CONTINUE TO EXPAND.

WHILE THERE IS STILL A GENDER PAY GAP (MUCH SMALLER THAN AUSTRALIA’S) THE TREND IN THE USA IS FOR WOMEN’S WAGES TO BE GOING UP, AND MEN’S TO BE GOING DOWN.

THIS HAS SIGNIFICANT IMPLICATIONS FOR MANY LIFE CHOICES; SIMPLY PUT, FOR WOMEN WHO HAVE TRADITIONALLY MARRIED UP – THERE ARE SIMPLY NOT ENOUGH UPS ANY MORE FOR THEM TO MARRY.

(IT IS QUITE A STRETCH TO BLAME FEMINISTS FOR THIS PARTICULAR DEVELOPMENT – BUT I HAVE PERSONALLY BEEN ACCUSED OF HELPING TO CREATE A MAN-SHORTAGE!)

IT IS HOWEVER THESE REVOLUTIONARY CHANGES AND ROLE REVERSALS THAT THESE AMERICAN WOMEN WRITERS ARE FOCUSING ON, AS WOMEN’S SKILLS ARE IN DEMAND. AND THEY TAKE ON THE ROLE OF BREADWINNER.

(HOUSE-HUSBANDS – HUGE SPIKE IN TOP OF THE RANGE KITCHEN EQUIPMENT AS THEY BECOME CHEFS RATHER THAN COOKS OF FAMILY MEALS.)

IN AUSTRALIA – WHERE WOMEN HAVE SO FREQUENTLY LED THE WAY – THIS IS NOT THE CASE; THE GENDER PAY GAP IS INCREASING BUT I DON’T HEAR A LOT ABOUT IT.

IT WAS A SMALL ITEM IN THE SMH ON TUESDAY 3RD SEPTEMBER – WHICH ALSO INFORMED ME THAT IT WAS EQUAL PAY DAY!  I DIDN’T EVEN KNOW ABOUT IT!

THIS GAP CANNOT BE EXPLAINED IN TERMS OF EDUCATIONAL QUALIFICATIONS AS 60% OF AUSTRALIAN UNIVERSITY STUDENTS NOW ARE WOMEN, AND THEY ARE ENTERING THE PROFESSIONS AT WHAT SOME MIGHT THINK AN ALARMING RATE.

AND THE FACT THAT SOFT SKILLS, AND EMOTIONAL INTELLIGENCE ARE NOW PRIORITIES – IT WOULD HAVE MADE MORE SENSE IF WOMEN’S PAY HAD INCREASED. (THIS SUPPORTS ANNE SUMMERS’ ACCOUNT OF THE EFFECTS OF THE MISOGYNY FACTOR!)

AUSTRALIA AVOIDED THE FINANCIAL CRISIS THAT HASTENED THE END OF BLUE-COLLAR WORKERS AND THE RISE OF CORPORATE WOMEN IN THE UNITED STATES: BUT I SUSPECT THE WRITING IS ON THE WALL AND THAT WE CAN EXPECT A SIMILAR IMPACT HERE OVER THE NEXT DECADE.

SO TO THE F WORD AND WHAT IT MEANS  – HERE AND NOW  – AND IN THE FUTURE.

WHAT SHOULD BE ON THE 21ST CENTURY AGENDA?

WHO ARE GOING TO BE THE FEMINISTS IN THIS WAVE?  AND IF FEMINISM HAS ACHIEVED SO MUCH FOR WOMEN  – WHY SUCH A BAD NAME! AND HOW TO CHANGE IT?

I GET A BIT CRANKY WITH THE CATCH CRY – I’M NOT A FEMINIST BUT I BELIEVE IN EQUAL PAY AND BETTER CHILD CARE ETC.

ALL IT TAKES TO BE A FEMINIST IS A COMMITMENT TO REMOVING BARRIERS TO THE DEVELOPMENT OF WOMEN’S FULL POTENTIAL – WHICH OF COURSE IS REALLY AN INVITATION FOR A SOCIAL REVOLUTION.

 

I’D LIKE TO INTRODUCE THE PANEL TO YOU WHO WILL HAVE ALL THE ANSWERS;

I’M DELIGHTED TO HAVE THE EXPERTISE OF MONICA DUX – WHO IS THE COAUTHOR OF A RECENT VERY READABLE AND ILLUMINATING BOOK THE GREAT FEMINIST DENIAL: AND WHO MADE ME RETHINK THE ROLE OF GENDER STUDIES IN THE ACADEMY AND THE EXTENT TO WHICH THIS MADE MANY WOMEN FEEL DISQUALIFIED TO HAVE AN OPINION ON THE F WORD

MONICA DUX

MONICA DUX IS A WRITER AND SOCIAL COMMENTATOR, WHO CAN BE HEARD REGULARLY ON ABC RADIO AND 3RRR AND HAS BEEN PUBLISHED WIDELY, ESPECIALLY ON WOMEN’S ISSUES. HER NEW BOOK THINGS I DIDN’T EXPECT (WHEN I WAS EXPECTING), WAS PUBLISHED BY MELBOURNE UNIVERSITY PRESS IN MARCH 2013. HER PREVIOUS BOOK WAS THE GREAT FEMINIST DENIAL (2010)

KATE DE GOLDI

KATE DE GOLDI WRITES SHORT FICTION, NOVELS AND PICTURE BOOKS FOR ALL AGES.  SHE IS A TWO-TIME WINNER OF THE NEW ZEALAND POST CHILDREN’S BOOK OF THE YEAR AWARD.  HER NOVEL, THE 10PM QUESTION, HAS HAD WIDE INTERNATIONAL PUBLICATION AND IN 2011 WAS AWARDED THE CORINE INTERNATIONAL BOOK PRIZE YOUNG READERS AWARD.  HER MOST RECENT PUBLICATION, THE ACB WITH HONORA LEE, EXPLORES THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN A GIRL AND HER GRANDMOTHER WHO LIVES IN A DEMENTIA CARE REST HOME.

DAWN BARKER

DR DAWN BARKER IS A CHILD PSYCHIATRIST AND AUTHOR. HER DEBUT NOVEL, FRACTURED, WAS SELECTED FOR THE 2010 HACHETTE/QUEENSLAND WRITERS’ CENTRE MANUSCRIPT DEVELOPMENT PROGRAMME AND WAS PUBLISHED IN 2013. SHE EXPLORES THE ISSUES OF A FAMILY’S MENTAL HEALTH WHEN AN OTHER WISE HIGHLY SUCCESSFUL WOMAN IS CONFRONTED WITH A NEWBORN BABY AND CANNOT COPE. SHE LIVES IN PERTH, WESTERN AUSTRALIA, WITH HER HUSBAND AND THREE YOUNG CHILDREN.

I’M GOING TO ASK EACH AUTHOR TO SPEAK FOR ABOUT 5 MINS – AND THEN OPEN THE SESSION UP MORE GENERALLY TO EVERYONE  — BUT AN HOUR ISN’T A LOT OF TIME TO COME UP WITH AN AGENDA TO CHANGE THE WORLD.

QUESTIONS:

MONICA – CAN I START WITH YOU FIRST – AS YOU DID AUTHOR A RELATIVELY RECENT BOOK ABOUT WHY FEMINISM HAS SUCH A BAD NAME. WHICH I THINK IS A CRUCIAL ISSUE – DO YOU THINK THERE IS A REVIVAL UNDERWAY – AND IF SO – HOW ENTHUSIASTIC WILL OUR NEW PRIME MINISTER BE ABOUT IT?

DAWN:  YOU HAVE FIRSTHAND EXPERIENCE OF THE WAY OTHERWISE HIGHLY COMPETENT WOMEN STRUGGLE WITH THE REALITY OF A NEW BORN BABY AND THE MENTAL HEALTH ISSUES THAT ARISE – IT’S THE TOPIC YOU EXPLORED SO POIGNANTLY IN YOUR AWARD WINNING NOVEL, FRACTURED    IF WE ARE FORMULATING A FEMINIST AGENDA FOR THE 21st  CENTURY – WHAT WOULD YOU WANT TO SEE ON IT IN RELATION TO SUPPORTING NEW MOTHERS?

KATE – I HAVE ONLY READ THE 10PM QUESTION – AND I THINK IT IS A WONDERFUL EVOCATION OF AN ANXIOUS YOUNG PERSON IN TODAYS WORLD. I SO ENJOYED THE ANGST OF IT. FEMINISM HAS OFTEN CARRIED THE CODICIL  – WOMEN AND CHILDREN – AND I WONDERED IF YOU WOULD LIKE TO TALK ABOUT EXPLORING THESE ISSUES IN FICTION

GENDER PAY GAP (IN CASE NEEDED)

AVERAGE PAY GAP BETWEEN WOMEN AND MEN

2004          14.9%

 2012           17.5%

  • PAY GAP WIDENED IN TWO OF AUSTRALIA’S MOST FEMALE DOMINATED INDUSTRIES
  • HEALTH CARE AND SOCIAL ASSISTANCE  – WOMEN OUTNUMBER MEN 4 TO 1
  • FULL TIME MEN IN THE SECTOR PAID 32.3% MORE ON AVERAGE  – 1% MORE THAN LAST YEAR
  • TWO OTHER SECTORS, FINANCE AND INSURANCE, AND PROFESSIONAL, SCIENTIFIC AND TECHNICAL SERVICES,  – AVERAGE PAY GAP OF 30%
  • ACROSS ECONOMY GENDER PAY GAP AVERAGES OUT AT 17.5% WHICH IS 2.6% HIGHER THAN IT WAS IN 2004 AND 1% HIGHER THAN IT WAS IN 1996
  • AVERAGE WORKING WOMEN NOW EARNS $266.20 LESS EACH WEEK THAN AVERAGE FULL TIME MALE – WORKS OUT AT  $13,842 A YEAR
  • EQUAL PAY DAY IS A REMINDER THAT WOMAN HAS TO WORK 64 DAYS A YEAR LONGER THAN THE AVERAGE MAN FOR EQUAL PAY
  • AUSTRALIAN COUNCIL OF TRADE UNIONS – PAY GAP OVER THE WHOLE CYCLE – MAN WITH UNI DEGREE AND CHILDREN CAN EXPECT TO EARN ABOUT $3.3 MILLION OVER WORKING LIFE  – NEARLY DOUBLE THE AMOUNT FOR WOMEN N THE SAME CATEGORY ($1.8)
  • AVERAGE PAYGAP BETWEEN FEMALE AND MALE UNIVERSITY GRADUATES MORE THAN DOUBLED LAST YEAR FROM $2,000 TO $5,000 A YEAR
  • IMPLICATIONS FOR SUPERANNUATION  – AVERAGE SUPER PAYMENTS 42% LESS THAN MEN’S

 

QUESTIONS COMMENTS IN CASE NO ONE COMMENTS!

 

AFFIRMATIVE ACTION

I HAVE ALWAYS BELIEVED IN QUOTAS : 50% MEN! BUT WITH WOMEN DOMINATING AMERICAN UNIVERSITIES, THE PRIVATE ONES – NOT SUBJECTED TO GOVERNMENT CONTROL –  HAVE NOW QUIETLY INTRODUCED AFFIRMATIVE ACTION FOR MEN: MALES GET A 6 % LOADING ADVANTAGE AT ADMISSION PROCEDURES, IN ORDER TO PREVENT THE UNIVERSITIES BECOMING ‘FEMINISED’

DOMESTIC VIOLENCE – ON THE INCREASE – ALL AROUND THE WORLD – SOME IN THE UN LINKING IT WITH EMPOWERING WOMEN! (1 IN 3 WOMEN IN THE WORLD EXPERIENCE SEXUAL OR PHYSICAL VIOLENCE)

ROLE REVERSAL ON A MASSIVE SCALE  – WHEN TIMES GET TOUGH? WILL AUSTRALIAN WOMENS WAGES GO DOWN RATHER THAN UP AS THEY HAVE DONE IN THE USA?

3D PRINTERS IN EVERY HOME – LIGHT BULB GOES – DOWNLOAD THE CODE FROM THE NBN AND PRINT IT OUT ON THE 3D PRINTER – THE END OF STANDARDISATION MANIA AS WE MOVE FROM THE FACTORY SYSTEM TO THE BEGINNING OF TAKING WORK BACK INTO THE HOME! LIFE WORK BALANCE – PRE-INDUSTRIAL AGE? MERGING?

ISSUES RAISED:

HOW FEMINISM IS STILL TREATED AS MEDIA VERSION OF HAIRY LEGGED MAN HATER  — SEEMS THAT NO-ONE ACTUALLY KNOWS ONE OF THESE SPECTRES BUT THEY ARE ENOUGH TO PUT QUITE A FEW OFF!

KEEP AN EYE ON TONY ABBOTT AND REPRODUCTIVE RIGHTS, WHICH ARE BEING WOUND BACK IN THE USA

HOW YOUNG WOMEN WHO SAY THEY AREN’T FEMINISTS PROBABLY HAVE NO REASON TO BE – BECAUSE MANY OF THE OBVIOUS BARRIERS – EDUCATION, RIGHT TO OWN PROPERTY ETC – HAVE BEEN REMOVED.

BUT  — SAID THE PANEL IN UNISON – WAIT TILL THEY HAVE CHILDREN!

COMMENTS ON HOW MANY FELT THAT YOU HAD TO STUDY FEMINISM IN UNIVERSITY TO REALLY KNOW ANYTHING ABOUT IT….AND HOW THAT HAD PRECLUDED THEM FROM IDENTIFYINF WITH IT – COMMENTING ON IT

MONICA SAID ITS SIMPLE:  IF YOU ARE AGAINST SEXISM YOU ARE A FEMINIST

MANY COMMENTS ABOUT DEEP MISOGYNY PLANTED IN CULTURE – WELL EXPLORED IN AANNE SUMMERS BOOK — DALE HAD A FEW WORDS TO SAY ABOUT THE ROLE LANGUAGE PLAYS IN THIS!

‘I LIVED IN A WORLD WHERE THERE WAS NO SEXISM OR SEXUAL HARASSMENT – NOT BECAUSE IT DIDN’T GO ON, BUT BECAUSE WE DIDN’T HAVE THE WORDS FOR THESE BEHAVIOURS; AND WHEN WOMEN WERE ABLE TO NAME WITH JUST ONE WORD WHAT IT WAS THEY WERE TALKING ABOUT – AND HAVE IT UNDERSTOOD BY MEN  – THE POWER SHIFTED.

INSTEAD OF ENDLESSLY COMPLAINING AND TRYING TO DESCRIBE WHY THEY FOUND SUCH BEHAVIOURS OFFENSIVE – (AND EARNING A REOUTATION AS A WHINGING FEMINIST) WOMEN HAD A NAME FOR IT!

SEXISM AND SEXUAL HARASSMENT HAVE MADE A HUGE DIFFERENCE TO WOMEN’S SENSE OF SELF, AUTHORITY, AND LEGAL PROTECTION FROM UNINVITED AND UNACCEPTABLE BEHAVIOUR

DALE APPEALED FOR WOMEN TO WRITE ABOUT SUCH EXPERIENCES  – WHERE WOMENS EXPEREINCE OF THE WORLD REMAINS UN-NAMED  – ‘THE PROBLEMS WITH A NAME’ – (Betty Friedan 1963) AND PUT THEM ON HER WEBPAGE!

 

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