wire When the law fails women by alendar


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									When the law fails women
Nina Philadelphoff-Puren (23/8) was right in saying that we
need a woman’s perspective when looking at how the law
fails women. She made me wonder how come we as
women, like Terry Bracks, are not vocal, outraged and
more willing to speak out on our sisters’ behalf?

How come we are so reluctant to take a stand and ac-
knowledge that women still face huge barriers to being
heard and receiving the justice they deserve? On reflection
I realised that getting a woman’s perspective these days
is a challenge, largely due to the fact that we have been
lulled into a false sense of security that we have already
achieved equality so don’t need to struggle any longer.

A telling example of this occurred during a recent visit to
speak to graphic design students, the majority women
aged 18-20, who had been encouraged to undertake a
design project for WIRE, a women’s community
organisation. The lecturer had explained to me that the
majority of her students were apathetic, lived a cosseted
life at home with their parents and had little idea of, or
interest in, the issues facing women in Australia today.

Part of my preparing them to undertake the design
project was to ask them to talk in small groups about what
it meant to be a woman in Australia today. The groups,
particularly the women, struggled to speak, let alone
identify what it meant to be a woman today. In the end
the few young men amongst the group were the ones who
wondered whether much had changed for women
regarding walking the streets safely at night or being
discriminated against at work because they were women.

I was struck by how passive and disconnected the women
were. When they did speak it was to say that they did not
see being a woman as an issue. When I asked them who
in the room would find employment first, on graduation,
they immediately said that the men would, despite 80% of
the students being women.

Even this reality was acknowledged with little energy or
connection to themselves and the fact that they would be
those women passed over by employers in favour of men.
These young women are symbolic of our lack of connection
to the issues and ourselves and this lack of connection has
the potential to render us out of touch, and vulnerable.

Another elaborate trick being played on us is the way women are encouraged to wear less and
less clothing and that this is somehow linked to them being more in touch with their “girl power”,
thus in control of their sexuality. We falsely believe that we can buy and wear empowerment and
miss the important fact that current fashion further objectifies us, undermines our credibility and
perpetuates the myth that we are always ready and asking for it.

We mistakenly believe that punching the air and shouting, ‘Go girl!’ is uniting us as women, but
when push comes to shove we deny that this fashion also feeds a sense of competition and fur-
ther serves to divide us.

As a result women are left with a false sense of control, safety and power that is out of touch with
the real danger we still face on the street and in our homes, where the majority of violence is still
perpetrated by those closest to us rather than strangers. “Sigrid” is a perfect example of what can
happen if women relax for a minute and dare to feel safe in their own homes, let alone out on the
street. So while on one hand we are told to feel free, relax and love our bodies, on the other we
are still expected to bear the responsibility for men’s spontaneous acts of uncontrollable desire for

Because we have been sold the notion that we can now have and be anything we want, when
things go wrong we take it personally, feel our energy sapped and try harder thinking ‘it must just
be me’. The change of focus from ‘the personal is the political’ to ‘the personal is your problem’
results in an inordinate amount of energy being expended on taking things personally and leaves
little energy to look outward and wonder ‘am I the only one experiencing this?’.

The rhetoric of equality has sapped our energy and dissipated momentum around women’s
issues when even the most cursory examination of the status of women in this country reveals this
rhetoric to be a thin veneer. Women still remain chronically under-represented in decision-making
roles, in both the private sphere and in the bodies elected to represent us. Women, on average,
still earn only two-thirds of their male counterparts. wages and even less than they were earning
ten years ago. Domestic violence is responsible for more ill health and premature death in
Victorian women under the age of 45 than any other risk factor. Childcare is difficult to access and
workplaces and employment practices are still anything but family friendly. The list goes on.

The reality is that empowerment, for us as women, comes not through survival of the fittest but
through awareness and active involvement in taking up our power and authority individually and
as a group.

Feminists in the 60s and 70s knew this and understood the importance of consciousness-raising as
a tool for empowerment.

In 2004 we have come full circle. Women of Australia need to wake from their slumber and be
both alert and alarmed!

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