IWD 2018: Cease whinging that feminism has gone too far. Truth is we are just getting started
Melbourne ~ Thursday March 8 2018
Have feminists gone too far? We're just getting startedBy Clementine Ford
The cartoonist Judy Horacek has a wonderful comic strip in which a group of women are shown walking down the street while a man leans against the wall looking at them.
"You feminists have gone too far," he says.
The women stop and stare at him.
: Good Ship Matriarchy (John Shakespeare)
"Yes, the party's back that way," he clarifies. The comic ends with the group (which now includes the man) walking back towards the direction they've just come from.
It's a gentle joke that still manages to say so much, and I think of it whenever that asinine-and-yet-inevitable argument is put forward. Feminism has gone too far. The #MeToo movement has gone too far. Women have gone too far. It's a witch hunt.
The idea that a liberation movement for women has gone "too far" is a common one, an admonishment designed to make us feel like naughty schoolgirls. Patriarchy is maintained in part by keeping women in our place and punishing us when we dare to step outside of it. But the truth is that feminism hasn't gone nearly far enough, as evidenced by the huge number of women around the world who still suffer disproportionately at the hands of men and the patriarchy that upholds them.
Australia's United Nations Women National Committee has declared the theme of International Women's Day 2018 to be "Leave No Woman Behind", and will be staging events that explicitly look at "the vital role that women play in humanitarian and disaster planning and response …[highlighting] the important roles that women play in risk reduction, rebuilding, rehabilitation and peace processes".
Girls are not encouraged to swim or climb so when the tsunami hit in 2004, girls and women in Aceh suffered disproportionately. (Angela Wylie)
Reading the UN Women Australia website, I was surprised to learn that women and children are 14 times more likely to die following humanitarian disasters. The tsunami that devastated regions in the Indian Ocean in 2004 killed four times as many women as it did men. As Philippa Ross wrote in The Guardian in 2014, "This discrepancy can largely be explained by cultural restrictions on women's behaviour."
"In Aceh, women and girls are often not encouraged to learn to swim or climb trees. At the time the tsunami hit, women were also in particularly vulnerable places, clustered near the shoreline at home, mostly caring for children."
Video: Australian Women who have changed the world. They are scientists, athletes, writers and activists. So many women have sparked positive change.
It isn't just disproportionate death rates that women and children need fear from natural disasters. As the journalist Jill Stark noted in 2015, "In the aftermath of a disaster, rape, child and women trafficking, maternal mortality rates and domestic violence all increase." Following the 2004 tsunami in particular, aid workers expressed concern for the wellbeing of young girls in an environment where so many women of marriageable age had perished. Survival means different things to different groups of people.
Do not be tempted to succumb to xenophobia in judging these cultural factors. Women and children in Australia are equally as prone to violence following natural disasters as they are anywhere else. For all of Australia's supposed "equality", groundbreaking research conducted by Women's Health Goulburn North East documented an increase in intimate partner and family violence following the 2009 Black Saturday bushfires in Victoria. In New Zealand, police recorded a 53 per cent increase in domestic violence reports following the Canterbury earthquake in 2010. Research conducted in the US has had similar findings, with a "four-fold increase in intimate partner violence" recorded after Hurricane Katrina, not to mention a "98 per cent increase in the physical victimisation of women". So not only do we have to fear the wrath of Mother Nature, we have to contend with men (the dominant perpetrators of family violence) beating us in its aftermath.
The Marysville primary school in ruins after the 2009 bushfires. Women have more to fear than Mother Nature when natural disasters strike. (William West)
But this backlash isn't limited to the heightened adrenaline of life-or-death situations. A 2011 US study examining the rates of domestic violence reports on Sunday afternoons during football season (amounting to 900 NFL games over an 11 year period) discovered a 10 per cent increase in areas where the local team had suffered an unexpected loss. That increase doubled when the loss was to a traditional rival. A 2014 British study found that domestic violence reports increased by 25 per cent following England's games during the 2010 World Cup, regardless of whether the team recorded a win or a loss.
In February, the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare released a landmark report examining the extent of family violence in Australia. It found that the six groups most at risk of experiencing some form of family violence or abuse are: Indigenous women, young women, pregnant women, women with disabilities, women experiencing financial hardship, and people who had witnessed abuse as children.
When people argue that feminism has gone "too far", they exhibit an ignorance not just about the history of feminism's aims but also for the reality of violence for billions of women around the world. The issues I've referenced here are just a tiny drop in an ocean of pain and suffering that is forced on women by virtue of our gender. As a society, we haven't even glimpsed the shoreline of that oppression yet, let alone steered the Good Ship Matriarchy out beyond the flags that supposedly signify equality.
Unless you are prepared to personally return for every last woman that the world's organisational structures, feminism included, has left behind, stop justifying your desire to maintain power by complaining feminism has "gone too far". We haven't even begun yet, I promise you that.