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What does the ADFA skype sex scandal have in common with the Jackie O saga?

13 Apr

Over the past couple of weeks there have been two major stories in the media, vastly different in many ways, and yet, both directly connected to one thing – women’s rights. To briefly recap, the first was the Jacki O saga in which The Daily Telegraph published a photo of radio personality, Jackie O, feeding her 3 month old baby daughter while crossing the road. A storm erupted with politician, Pru Goward, likening Jackie’s actions to that of Michael Jackson dangling his child over a balcony, while a (female) Daily Tele journo questioned why Jackie had returned to work so soon after giving birth. The second story concerned the female defence cadet who was filmed (without her knowledge or consent) on a webcam having sex with another cadet. The footage was broadcast over skype to six other cadets. This has triggered the Government to announce a range of inquiries into the treatment of women in the military.
All of this could well end in women being given the right to serve in military combat roles. As I say – two very different news stories – and yet – both extremely revealing in terms of the ongoing fight for gender equality. Ask any woman between the age of 15 and 40 whether she is a feminist and I suspect they, like I, would pause before answering. These days, the term ‘feminist’ conjures up images of radical, bra burning activists of the 1960s. And yet, at its heart, ‘feminism’ refers basically to the campaign for women to have the same opportunities and choices as men. Who wouldn’t want this? Why are we afraid to proudly declare ourselves ‘feminists’? I hate to say it – but it feels as if Gen X and Gen Y have become a little complacent about the need to continue fighting for women’s rights. So much has been achieved by our forebears – the right to vote, paid parental leave, improved divorce laws and stronger domestic violence laws – that perhaps we feel the work has all been done, and there is nothing left to achieve. But – as the Jackie O saga reveals, women are still judged harshly (often by other women) on the decisions they make concerning work and motherhood. And – as the ADFA sex scandal reveals – there are still organisations and institutions (the NRL and AFL particularly come to mind) in which sexist attitudes towards women remain rife. It’s also clearly established that women still receive less pay for doing the same work as men – and women are highly under-represented at the board level of most companies. If we think that women have achieved gender equality – we’re kidding ourselves. Recently, I was horrified to hear a friend’s story of returning to the workforce from maternity leave. She works in a heavily female-dominated organisation, which at its core, concentrates strongly on teaching young women that they can do anything in life. Except, it seems, if you’re a mum who wants to work part-time. My friend’s request to her female boss for a part-time position was rejected – even though she has the kind of job that lends itself to part-time roles. The hypocrisy was breathtaking. But – it’s not an unusual story. Most of my mummy friends have struggled to find meaningful part-time work, as to work anything less than 5 days seems to imply that you are less than committed to your career. Not fair. So what do we, as women, do about it? Well, for a start, I’m not going to be afraid of calling myself a feminist. And I’m going to teach my little girls that they too shouldn’t be afraid of it either. If feminism means allowing women to have the same opportunities and choices as men, without being judged differently – then I am all for it.