Catriona writes:
I
found the article on booming sexism in Australia very interesting. I am
29-year-old professional woman who has just come back from living in
the UK for six years and I have noticed a marked difference in the
general respect women get in Sydney. I’m not about to guess why, in a
country that happily accepts page 3 girls as the norm, women seem to
have a higher position in society – but it is intriguing.

The
media certainly doesn’t help, with women constantly judged by their
looks, weight, and fashion sense, with little attention being paid to
their mental capacity or personality (though this is the same in both
countries).

I also don’t think it helps that John Howard’s
frankly pathetic social policies mean that women can’t afford to stay
in work, due to ever-escalating costs and a complete lack of available
childcare. The government claims it’s concerned with the reduction in
the workforce (ie reduction in tax revenue) if parents stay at home to
look after their children, and yet it offers no viable alternative.
Unfortunately, due to the pay gap, men earn more and are therefore more
likely to become the sole provider for the family – pushing women into
the traditional stay-at-home role that they have tried so hard to
escape.

Add to this the also non-existent statutory maternity
policy in Australia, and you wonder why anyone ever breeds. I don’t
have children at present and I will certainly not be having them in
this country. I’m lucky enough to have a British passport and will
happily leave my home country to live and work where I will be
supported and be happy to support the UK government with my taxes
(income and other).

Liz writes:
To claim that
feminism has been harmed by John Howard’s tax structures seems to imply
that you can’t be a feminist and a stay-at-home-mother. But mothers can
be feminists too, and stay at home to raise more little feminists.

Since
the 1960s I have been a mother and a feminist and I’m now a grandmother
and a feminist. Believe me, women are much better off now, whether they
are childless or not. Even with partners on low incomes they can choose
a no-frills life and stay home instead of outsourcing childcare when
children are very young. In fact I wonder why women bother to have
children if they aren’t going to spend much time with them. Long day
care and after school care is now available, much better than the
expensive, inconvenient and sometimes risky business of having your
darlings cared for at home by a stranger who may or may not be a good
carer. I only found out years later that one of my kindly grandmotherly
carers used to hang the children upside down over the high backsteps
when they misbehaved, and threaten to drop them.

PS: I believe I
tutored Elizabeth Meryment in journalism at QUT and, if my memory is
correct, she was one of the best in her year. But gee I never realised
I was thought of as a hairy legged lesbian. I have always depilated.

Investment banker Anna writes:
Australia
is one of the most sexist countries in which I have worked. I’ve been
working in investment banking and funds management and travelled to
most countries in the world. These professions could be termed sexist
in there own right. However, the gender mix in these industries
overseas is vastly different from that in Australia, and is a classic
example of my first statement.

In Australia I recall there
were only four women out of all the portfolio managers. In the US, many
were women (say 30%), in the UK and Europe even more (say 45%), and in
Asia a majority (say more than 50%) of the portfolio managers were
women.

Funds management is an interesting business. If someone
gets a foot in the door, performance (no other criteria) in getting
good returns is almost always given for promotion. Unlike many other
professions, where individual performance is difficult to pinpoint
since it’s influenced by so many external factors.

Given the
few portfolio managers who are women relative to men in Australia, the
only conclusion that could be drawn is that women in Australia in
particular must not be very smart.

Having been out of the
country for several years, and returning, the worsening of women’s
position in Australia is very apparent. Either that, or I was shocked
at how I was treated as a confident women going about her business and
interacting with others… whereas overseas I would be seen as a
confident women going about her business.

I had during my overseas tenure forgotten what the Aussie bob women do to apologise for taking up space.

Carmel writes:
A
wise woman once told me: “Women don’t believe that feminism has
anything to offer until they discover that ‘it’s not fair’.” We always
knew it would be one step forward and two back. But the mere fact that
some men are now recognising sexism is a step forward. We’ve always
understood that men don’t want their daughters to be subjected to the
prejudices of sexism.

You’re right; the media has usually given
feminism bad press – possibly seeing women power as a threat. What’s
more problematic is the more covert sexism: senior men who surround
themselves with clever women while they take the credit; men who boast
that they would rather employ women than men, yet not promoting them to
the top levels; television programs that promote sexism and enjoy the
outcry from the women who protest; women who want to be doormats; and
young men who accept some of those so-called sporting heroes as their
role models.

Paul Gilchrist writes:
If you want feminism, look to
the supposedly blokey New Zealand. The only position of power taken by
a man over there is coach of the All Blacks – all the rest seem to be
successfully occupied by women. Personally, I blame the women. They
haven’t grasped their opportunities, but choose to run to the safety of
the kitchen and wealthy males. Look at the endless parade of bimbos who
chase sportsmen and successful businessmen. The thing which might save
feminism is the war in Iraq. If it goes on long enough, and we have
conscription, then surely half the conscripts will be women. That’s
something all the blokes will support.

Peter Fray

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