What is a feminist? Rebecca West (1892-1983) said “People call me a feminist whenever I express sentiments that differentiate me from a doormat”.
Our name “Feminist” – CLICK to read about it.
Germaine Greer at the Opera House. Read what Sarah Macdonald, of “Daily Life” reported from the “F-Word” forum in 2012. “Each time she speaks, the author of “The Female Eunuch” shows us how to be fearless. Germaine Greer bemoans the fact that women are socially conditioned to appease and please. By refusing to be either, she shows us how to cause a stir and to consider not being so ‘goddam nice’. She genuinely doesn’t care if she annoys or alienates men – or women. In not caring she shows true liberation.
Feminist Colours and Symbols. White (for purity) was used by the 19th century Women’s Christian Temperance Union and was an important element in the suffrage campaigns in Australia and New Zealand. The largest and longest-established organisation, the National Union of Women’s Suffrage Societies (NUWSS) adopted the colours red and white to advertise the first big suffrage demonstration in London in February 1907. Mrs Pankhurst, leader of the more militant Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU), planned a rival event to take place a week later and adopted the colours White for purity in public and private life, Purple for dignity, self-reverence and self-respect and Green for hope and new life. The Women’s Freedom League (WFL), to which the Australian suffragette, Muriel Matters belonged, used the colours gold, green and white. These colours are still used by feminists in South Australia. Victorian Vida Goldstein, who attended a 1902 Washington meeting of the International Alliance of Women, almost certainly introduced the Purple, Green and White colours.
OUR HISTORY – 50 YEARS!
WEL article February 2022
WEL to put heat on Federal Government over Women’s Issues.
By Iola Mathews*
Fifty years ago, on 27 February 1972, the Women’s Electoral Lobby was formed in a Carlton lounge-room. That led to WEL’s survey of candidates for the federal election and the publication of its famous ‘form guide’ which helped propel Gough Whitlam to power later that year.
Now a new generation of WEL women are finalising a ‘Party Policies Score Card’ on women’s issues for the forthcoming federal election, due by May this year. The results will be released two weeks before the election and widely publicised through social media.
The survey will build on the growing calls for women to be put at the centre of the nation’s politics since the March4Justice in Canberra in 2021, and put pressure on the Morrison government, which has come under fire from prominent women such as Grace Tame, Brittany Higgins, Julia Baird and others.
In a nice coincidence, the March4justice2 will be held on 27 February this year, all around Australia. Like WEL, it is campaigning for women’s equality, but with a particular focus on ending gendered violence.
WEL’s National Convenor Jozefa Sobski AM says the scorecard is an opportunity to make women central to the election. ‘The Coalition and Morrison have a ‘woman’ problem’, she says, ‘we have analysed the issues and offer solutions. Our fiftieth anniversary is a great time to draw attention to this.’
In the last federal election (2019) WEL conducted a similar scorecard, and found that Labor and the Greens were well ahead of the Coalition on their policies for women.
Jozefa Sobski says there is no point interviewing candidates any more, because they are given a standard response from head office. Instead, WEL will assess the three main parties – the Coalition, Labor and the Greens. They may also examine the policies of some key Independents.
The scorecard will rate the Parties on a wide range of topics, for example, will the Parties commit to:
• 50% female representation in parliament
• Implement the 28 recommendations of the Jenkins Report on the workplace culture in Parliament
• New funding for the next National Plan to End Violence Against Women and Children, 2022-2032
• Funding for 300,000 new social housing properties and 200,000 affordable homes over the next decade
• A national transition to free early childhood education and care
• Remedies for gender-related undervaluation in pay.
The scorecard, with a brief summary of WEL’s policy priorities and each party’s position on them, will be condensed down to a couple of pages for distribution.
WEL will seek support for its campaign from other national women’s organisations, unions, academics, researchers and influential women.
The 1972 WEL questionnaire arose from an article in Ms magazine that published a survey of U.S. presidential candidates and their attitude to women’s issues. The late Beatrice Faust AO, a writer and political campaigner, called together nine women in her Carlton lounge room to see if they could do the same.
The women were handpicked for their skills. Sally White and I were journalists with The Age, Carmen Lawrence (later Premier of WA) was a psychologist, and there were some sociologists and a librarian.
WEL spread quickly to Canberra and Sydney and by the end of the year membership was up to several thousand, with branches in all states and as far away as Darwin and Norfolk Island. In November the form guide was published in The Age.
The Prime Minister, Billy McMahon got a score of 1 out of 40, while the Leader of the Opposition, Gough Whitlam, got 33. In general, the Labor candidates did much better than the Coalition, and that helped them win votes when the results were distributed in each electorate.
In those heady days of the ‘second wave’ of the women’s movement our lives changed forever, and we formed life-long friendships. Our poster said Think WEL before you vote, and the song of the moment was I am Woman, by the Australian singer Helen Reddy.
When Whitlam became Prime Minister in December 1972, he immediately started implementing reforms for women. Over the next three years he acted on practically every reform in the questionnaire.
WEL women went on to positions of power and influence in politics, the public service, business, academia and the community sector, spreading reforms for women in new ways.
Many became prominent, like the late Susan Ryan AO, Minister assisting the Prime Minister on the Status of Women in the Hawke government, and Marie Coleman AO, head of the Social Welfare Commission, and still active today in her eighties, as founder and advisor to the National Foundation for Australian Women (NFAW).
In the 1970s, there were numerous WEL activities and WEL-inspired reforms. In the 1980s, the state branches joined together as WEL Australia and affiliated with the International Alliance of Women (IAW).
More recently, WEL was revitalised in NSW when it received two large bequests and was able to hire part-time paid staff. It became more visible at the NSW and national level and is now driving the work on the 2022 Election Scorecard.
The early activities of WEL have been recorded in Making Women Count: A History of the Women’s Electoral Lobby in Australia, by Professor Marian Sawer with Gail Radford, my book Winning for Women, and in the 2020 film Brazen Hussies, directed by Catherine Dwyer, about the women’s movement of the 1960s and 1970s. Professor Judith Brett is currently writing a biography of Beatrice Faust.
WEL will be celebrating its fiftieth anniversary with a range of events, including a conference and a dinner towards the end of the year. Now a new generation is ensuring it is ‘Alive and WEL’ and keeping the pressure on politicians to deliver justice for women.
• Iola Mathews OAM is a co-founder of WEL and author of Winning for Women: A Personal Story (Monash University Publishing, 2019).