International Womens’ Day – The Age

It’s International Women’s Day this week and I’m wearing camouflage after my seven year old son handed me a tampon and said “here’s one of your vagina bullets.” It’s still a battle of the sexes. Quilting conventions, goddess weekends, hen’s nights, book groups, chick flicks, women’s studies and scrag fights aside the gender war is still raging. The rumored truce is a myth. Who said we’re waving a white flag? Listen closely and you’ll hear many still screaming blue murder. It’s a bit hard to hear them because most are gagged, bound and kept in cellars.

The gloves are off but we’re still wearing the matching belt. Although I’m not one of missing in action I have war wounds and battles to fight despite my thin veneer of shock and awe and my reputation as a shoecide bomber.

The truth is, for most nice middle class white women reading this, we’re pretty sorted. Shut up. We are. We have access to education, healthcare, welfare and we have freedom of speech. Sort of. More on that later. If you don’t believe we’re doing better than most ask any functionally illiterate single mother struggling on benefits with no financial assistance from the children’s father. Or the woman working full time raising her children and caring for her own elderly parents and her partner’s elderly parents. Or the asylum seeker with no extended family working nightshift while her children are cared for by their older siblings because her husband went to war and never came back. Or the alarming number of single women over 60 struggling on a pension despite having raised children, supported husbands and contributed hundreds of thousands of hours of unpaid labor to the community. Or the indigenous women trying to keep families together despite the epidemic of abuse, addiction and welfare dependency in many of their communities. Or women battling discrimination because of their disability, mental health issues, race, sexuality or religion as well as their gender.

White rich clever ladies are doing better than most but don’t be sucked in by those who try to make women feel as if they are doing us a favor by giving us 70 % of what we’re entitled to. We must keep rattling the cage for ourselves and our less fortunate sisters.

The Axis of Evil in our gender conflict still remains to be religion, government and media. It’s not only a battle for hearts and minds but for fertility control, economic equality, sexual expression, financial freedom, family friendly work solutions and healthy relationships.

I’d love to walk you through the endemic and relentless oppression of women by government and religion but I need to be at my son’s 21st in 2019. The alarming lack of females in mainstream media is what screams out even louder in 2009. Let’s reflect on that mirror into our society

Examine how often women are permitted a voice in print, on the airwaves or on telly. Take note of what they’re allowed to say, how they are expected to say it and how they’re forced to look. If we subverted the current gender balance things might be a little clearer. A show like Rove has seven regulars. Only one is female. If the gender balance was subverted it would be classified as a “woman’s show”. A photo of ABC radio 774 personalities in the Melbourne Comedy Festival shows five men and two women, and one women only broadcasts on Saturday mornings. Our ABC? Now that’s a laugh.

Panel shows are perfect microcosm of the excepted gender bias. More often than not the ratio is two women to five men. If you’re lucky. Commercial television aside, the ABC has a code of conduct that is, apparently, committed to gender balance.

Channel Seven’s local news presenters are two women and six men. Of Channel Nine’s national news presenters 20 are men and 10 are women. Network Ten comes out on top with 13 women to 17 men. But if you look closer a disproportionate amount of the women are weather presenters or weekend newsreaders.

This newspaper itself reflects the ingraied gender imbalance in media. It’s not uncommon for the opinion page to be middle aged middle class white man in a suit, followed by another middle aged middle class white man is a suit, followed by another middle aged middle class white man in a suit followed by Peter Costello. Of the last 69 opinion pieces published in The Age only 13 have been written by women. Four by NY’s Maureen Dowd, and of the 9 left only four had opinions. The rest were just ‘sharing experiences.

What does it say about Australian media and culture when the only loud, strong, funny and opinionated woman with any longevity in our country is Dame Edna? A man who lives in London. The gender battle is the mother of all wars.

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