In her 1992 classic, Backlash: The Undeclared War Against American Women, Susan Faludi argues that perceived or real strides toward gender equality are predictably accompanied by a “backlash” to inroads made. “If fear and loathing of feminism is a sort of perpetual viral condition in our culture, it is not always in an acute stage,” she writes. “Such flare-ups are hardly random … they have always arisen in reaction to women’s progress.”
More than two and a half decades later, Faludi’s words ring true in many spheres of life -- and not just in America. Just look to the great strides of progress made in women’s sport in Australia over the last few years. In February 2016, the AFLW arrived earlier than anticipated, and took its detractors and non-believers by surprise when it packed out Ikon Park -- a venue eight times larger than the one the AFL had originally set aside for it. Women and girls in particular experienced this moment as a kind of emotional exorcism -- an outpouring of grief and relief at more than a century of marginalisation and exclusion from the nation’s indigenous and most popular game.