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According to merit?: Making headlines for (mostly) the right reasons

Every Issue

Cite as: May 2011 85(5) LIJ, p.81

Our Governor-General and women around the world continue taking steps to fight inequality.

I am writing this column shortly after International Women’s Day (IWD) 2011 and shortly after a group of women who collectively were instrumental in the start of Victorian Women Lawyers and Australian Women Lawyers met for lunch.

Unfortunately, for reasons that put me firmly on the mummy track, I missed that lunch. However, I felt empowered by reading the collective group of emails celebrating the opportunity to catch up.

To anonymously quote one email: “The spirit and community – all happy, healthy and thriving – just goes to show how out there women can demand it all”.

In a continuing theme, I felt empowered by the article I read on the front page of The Age the following day [8 March] in which Governor-General Quentin Bryce spoke of the need for quotas to improve the representation of women in leadership roles in our community.

Noting with disappointment the relative paucity of women in business on boards and in top decision-making positions, she noted that, in some circumstances, “special measures are a very constructive way to go”.

In the world news section of the same edition, the focus was on the meaning of IWD to women in different communities around the world.

We learned that women in Italy were marching against objectification of women a month before Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi was due to be tried over allegations he paid an underage prostitute for sex. In Cairo, women were protesting to be involved in the political process and government, while US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton spoke in support of their rights to remake their governments as “responsive, accountable and transparent” bodies.

The list of women around the world demanding that the society in which they live meet their fundamental rights to dignity and equality continued, with reports of women marching against “honour” killings, in favour of eradicating poverty that is experienced unequally by women, against forced marriage and in favour of basic education.

The back page of the news and business section ended on a positive note, promoting an IWD concert to raise funds to promote and protect the rights of vulnerable women in impoverished communities close to Australia.

One of the women due to perform spoke of how privileged we are to live in a community in which women are treated and respected as equals.

If only I had stopped reading there.

Checking the latest in the cricket World Cup, I found the sports section had its own spin on women – and particularly their role in inflicting pain on the St Kilda Football Club.

With his institution under threat from a 17-year-old girl, St Kilda captain Nick Riewoldt had much to say at the club’s annual general meeting in a we-won’t-be-broken stand for solidarity against the media, an outraged community and a young woman who met representatives of the team at a school event.

Oh, and as I write this, ads for 2011’s first instalment of a well-known contributor to the positive role of women in society, The Footy Show, are promoting its first high-profile guest.

I wonder what further contributions the show will make to equality as the year progresses.

DR LIZ BISHOP is a lecturer in health and human rights at Monash University’s Department of Epidemiology and Preventative Medicine.


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