What is the future of women's rights in Australia?

Susan Collins

I've found myself wondering a lot about whether a women's liberation movement still exists and if it does what it currently represents. I'm confused about what it is called, and the function it is supposed to serve in my life as an Australian woman.

I'm not sure if the women's liberation movement is called the Feminist Movement or the Women's Rights Movement. I have, over time, drawn my own conclusions, being that the progressive Women's Rights Movement of my mother's generation morphed into the more aggressive Feminist Movement of my generation, alienating both men and women alike.

Generations of women campaigned for my rights before I was born. They campaigned for me to be treated with dignity, equality and respect by men and society. My mother taught me to set firm boundaries and standards about how other women were treated and to never to condone them being denigrated. The Australian society that I grew up in also reinforced the values about women I was taught at home.

The lack of equality and human rights abuses towards women in non-western countries are vast and very well documented. Across Asia, Africa, the Middle East, Oceania, parts of Europe and South America the majority of women are held captive to misogynistic cultures and societies. Their quality of life depends on the mindset of their male relatives; in the case of the many maids from the Third World working in affluent non-Western nations, on the mindset of their employers.

The ideology of multiculturalism encourages migrants to form enclaves (physically and/or mentally) and retain their cultural beliefs and practices. And with women being cocooned mentally within their own ethnic community it becomes difficult for them to absorb the principles of the women's liberation movement in the West.

I suspect that for many, peering out from their enclaves, they witness predominately white women engaging in the extreme behaviours fought for by the Feminist Movement; scantily dressed, promiscuous, excessive alcohol consumption or drug taking, brawling under the influence, partaking in homosexual relationships (while I personally do not object to homosexual unions, many from conservative societies do). And this extreme behaviour reinforces negative stereotypes of white women, and the women's liberation movement.

I had a revealing conversation with some older women, closer to my mother's generation than mine. They expressed not contempt but deep disappointment to the lewd performances of the scantly clad Lady Ga Ga. To them, the women's liberation movement of their youth was about the rights of women, not about the right to dress like a harlot and cavort on stage.

Women's rights and suffrage in the West were fought for by many generations, and evolved over the decades. A kind of gender loyalty has developed over time where many Western women have strong boundaries and standards concerning the treatment of other women, which transcend age, ethnicity, class or personalities.

As more peoples from non-Western societies migrate to Australia, and as the ethnic balance changes, Australian women may find their rights eroded for these reasons:

  • many non-Western societies are misogynistic and multiculturalism encourages segregation rather than integration and embracing our progressive beliefs and values
  • extreme and excessive behaviours encouraged by the Feminist Movement have damaged the image of the women's liberation movement, causing many to have an aversion to it
  • no specific gender loyalty may exist within ethnic communities. The loyalty may be to the ethnic group / clan / tribe, religious sect or race
  • no strong tradition of campaigning for women's rights may exist within the ethnic community and the existing women's right may be taken for granted and misunderstood
  • anti-white racism and negative stereotypes of white women may cause them to become targets of race hate attacks and objects of derision from their attacker's community (and we can tick this one off the list, can't we?)
  • the balance of power may tip, allowing other civilisations to gradually gain control (for instance Sharia Law may be phased in over time).

I never fought for the rights that I have in Australia today as a woman; nor have most of the women from non-Western societies who have migrated here. What we have in common is that we enjoy them, take them for granted and we don't know how to maintain them.

August 2010