Julie Bishop’s nationally publicised position on feminism has got people talking about the women’s movement.
The Newsroom spoke to three prominent women in journalism, Tracey Spicer, Dr Karen Brooks and Rebecca Wilson, to gauge their opinions of the Foreign Minister’s controversial stance. The responses were as diverse as the definition of feminism itself.
Harpers Bazaar last month named Julie Bishop Woman of the Year for her political efforts in 2014. The title was followed by her controversial remarks at the National Press Club, where she stated she was not a feminist.
“It’s not a term I find particularly useful these days,” Ms Bishop stated.
“I recognise the role it’s played. It’s not something I describe myself as. I’m not saying I reject the term. I don’t find the need to self-describe in that way.”
Feminism and feminists come in many forms. In its purest form feminism is defined as the advocacy of women’s rights on the ground of the equality of the sexes. However, over the years the term has taken on different meanings, depending on who is adopting it. From the 19th and 20th Century Suffragettes to the 2014 Cats Against Cat Calls art protests, feminism has been a controversial topic.
Feminist, social commentator, author, journalist and academic Dr Karen Brooks said the term feminist was confusing for some.
“Somehow [feminism] has become synonymous with man-hating, which is utter rubbish and driven by a very vocal minority who are seen to represent the whole,” Dr Brooks said.
“I found [Julie Bishop’s] comments so unhelpful, so inappropriate and frankly anachronistic, so out of touch.
“I felt like it undermined so much good feminism does and also showed a gross misunderstanding of what feminism is. I just found it really sad.”
Similarly Tracey Spicer, journalist, newsreader, mother, wife and proud feminist, felt Ms Bishop’s comments were unwarranted.
“I was horrified she used it to reject the concept of feminism,” Ms Spicer said.
“And I am further offended she has come out in Harpers Bazaar to tell women to stop whinging. To tell a group with relatively less power to stop whinging is just appalling.”
However veteran sports journalist for The Daily Telegraph, Rebecca Wilson, said while she supports feminism, identifying yourself as a feminist can have a negative effect.
“The moment you use the word now, you get this sort of nasty backlash from those who think you have become somewhat of an activist,” Ms Wilson said.
“Feminism is a form of activism; it’s not extreme activism, it’s about believing you are equal and can achieve whatever a man can achieve.
“Julie Bishop was right, in that [the word] now has negative connotations.”
Shellharbour student Cynthia Harb, 18, is one woman who feels feminism is holding women back.
“I do believe women should be able to work in any work field they please; I don’t believe it is because of feminism that they are able to do it now,” she said.
“They treat males like criminals before they are treated like humans with their rape culture ideology which is pathetic. I don’t think a man cat calling or checking you out is rape.
“I could never classify myself a feminist.”
Australian women may hold diverse views for and against feminism, but a good portion believe that if feminism is to truly succeed it must destroy itself.
As Tessa Barratt, President of Sydney Feminists, points out, a gender pay gap of 18 per cent, starting from the day a woman graduates, still exists and in NSW women are still not entitled to abortion on demand, hinting that there is still some way to go. – Lily Mayers
Top photo from Polish Institute of International Affairs’ Flickr photostream.