In our final instalment to celebrate International Women’s Day for 2018, Judy Friedlander, our Founder and Director closes out the series with shares her thoughts on International Women’s Day, Feminism and what it all really means to her.
I heard someone say on the radio this week that there have been four stages of feminism. I remember the first two – I think I was too busy raising children, working and studying to learn about the third. As for the fourth – I guess that’s where we are at the moment. But rather than now spending time reading up about it, I will muse about what it may mean.
(The first stage by the way was the radical, ‘burn your bra’, Germaine Greer, take no prisoners approach – which achieved a radical change in our way of thinking which was more than necessary. I remember the term ‘lipstick lesbian’ being bandied about in the second stage. Reflecting on this, I think it conveyed that sexuality and femininity were completely entwined. It’s great for sexuality to be celebrated but, as usual, this historical stage objectified women in certain ways and the nuances and differences were ignored.)
But we have, apparently, moved on.
What does feminism mean to you? What does International Women’s Day mean? Does it infer that 364 days are not women’s business? When are they going to have an International Men’s Day?
I look around and I see contradictions. I see so many women – young and old – with fish-plumped lips, chemically treated hair and eyelashes apparently taken from llamas. I see Hollywood actresses who espouse equality and being taken seriously, present their argument after obviously spending a full two days a week at the cosmetic surgeon, gym, stylist, hairdresser and nail artist. I read the #metoo comments on social media and the bloodletting about powerful abusers and I wonder why the ‘leader of the free world’ was voted in by so many women after boasting ‘you just grab them by the pussy’.
It’s enough to get seriously confused.
Have women advanced? Does a fourth stage of feminism mean that there have been incremental developments?
Perhaps an experience I had this week could reveal some insights. I was chatting to the nail artist and she asked me what I was doing for international women’s day. I thought that was a strange question but continued with polite conversation. Our conversation uncovered the fact that she had moved to Australia from Vietnam 18 months ago, was working two jobs – one at a nail salon and one at a supermarket, and at 10pm to midnight, she learnt English so she could sit for an exam and be awarded a working visa. Then she was going to study nursing which would cost her $75,000. Hence the two jobs. She had already done an international finance degree in Vietnam and through learning about micro-financing, turned to social work to help impoverished women. She also set up a small business to fund the local Vietnamese communities. I was reminded of the old adage which I uttered: ‘Give a man a fish and he will eat for a day, give a man a fishing rod and he will eat forever.’ (Although I changed the adage to ‘woman’ and ‘chicken’).
Sam, the nail artist, corrected me: ‘No, give the woman an education and she will eat forever’.
Taking a well-earned break from my PhD, work and other commitments, celebrating my two children who have excelled in university life and found meaningful careers, encouraged by a very supportive husband in everything I do, I still felt guilty being in the nail salon and told her so. ‘No, you’re helping me,’ Sam said. So, I guess it’s about education, remuneration, opportunities and positivity. And taking advantage of everything life throws at you.
But we still need a fifth and sixth and possibly more stages of feminism. So that there are more Sam's learning nursing and other qualifications and less time spent by women worrying about what they look like. I’m not sure if that means I give up nail polish though. But I’m obviously behind in the feminism stages.
Happy International Women's Day