AS long as gender inequality exists in society, there will always be a need for International Women’s Day.
It’s true, women are highly visible in positions of power; in politics, on television, in the workplace. But the reality is that men still rule the world, or think they do, and still make up most of the rules that govern the world.
Yes, Julia Gillard was Australia’s first female prime minister, and deputy Liberal leader Julie Bishop is one of those named as a likely successor to prime minister Tony Abbott.
But they are the exceptions that prove the rule. Their high profile makes it seem as though women are equal players on the political field.
But the reality is that most of the positions that matter in Australian governments are still held by men.
Indeed, the latest global measures of gender inequality – a ‘‘gender gap index’’ compiled by the World Economic Forum – shows that Australia is slipping in relation to other countries. We ranked 24th last year from 142 nations, a steady decline from 2006, when we were 15th from 115 countries.
In everyday fields, most women still live lives that depend, to some extent, on the goodwill and largesse of men. Parenting is now much more of a shared experience than it was a generation or two ago, but women are still often cast in the role of the primary caregiver, while the man’s image remains that of the bread-winner. Some men – and perhaps some women – will say that is how it should be, and that gender roles are bequeathed to us by nature, not society. They may even say this division is not one of inequality, but of intrinsic, natural difference.
But modern experience tells us this is not the case. A crucial aspect of child care is that it provides women with choices if they want to contribute to the workforce, who wish to build careers for themselves.
Whether we realise it or not, the truth of the matter is that many of society’s conceptions of male and female roles are preconceptions, shaped by an often subtly acting group of biases and prejudices that we are often not even aware of until they are deconstructed.
And if there is one area of society that proves the amount of ground that men are yet to give, it’s in domestic violence.
Men are overwhelmingly the perpetrators, and the act itself – of male violence towards women – is always wrong. There are no excuses, ever, and we should not need an International Women’s Day to remind us of this.
Nor is the right to a life without violence something we should think of only once a year.
Australian society, indeed all society, benefits from gender equality. In 2015, the idea that a woman should enjoy exactly the same rights and privileges as men is not feminist dogma, it is simple common sense.