Feminism is Another Word for Equality
BroadAgenda, 18 December 2017
With sexual harassment scandals roiling Hollywood and Washington, we need more feminists, not fewer. With the gender pay gap about where it was two decades ago, it’s time for men to do our part for greater equity. With Australia’s corporate boards still three-quarters male and our federal parliament still two-thirds male, men need to join women in talking about how fair representation brings better results.
To be a male feminist today is to take responsibility for gender inequity, rather than seeing equality as ‘women’s work’. For my part, I’ve written for Mamamia the fact that the gender pay gap in Australia is exacerbated by rising economic inequality across the workforce. Among the lowest-paid occupations in Australia at present are child carers (97 per cent female), hairdressers (89 per cent female), and cleaners (65 per cent female). Among the highest-paid are surgeons (13 per cent female), financial dealers (17 per cent female) and actuaries (35 per cent female). If we let the pay gap between child care workers and surgeons grow, the gender pay gap will grow too.
Being a male feminist means taking on hard conversations such as family violence. Data released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics last month showed that 17 per cent of women had at some point suffered violence at the hands of an intimate partner (compared with 6 per cent of men). As a White Ribbon Ambassador, I’m committed to speaking out about this issue in public and private. It’s not just that I want young girls to grow up in a safer world – it’s also that I want young boys like my three sons to live in a society where relationships are based on mutual respect, not power and dominance.
Being a male feminist also means taking the time to look at issues from a gender perspective. This year, Joanna Richards joined my office for a few months in order to write a gender equity toolkit. The toolkit will be made available as a resource for campaigners who are lobbying or advocating for parliamentarians to take action on gender equity. My team and I learned a great deal from working with Ms Richards, and I hope others will benefit from her toolkit.
A favourite poem of mine is Martin Niemöller’s “First they came for…”. It’s a reminder that the strands of justice are intertwined. So that’s why I’d happily call myself a campaigner for disability rights, for ending global poverty, for marriage equality, for Indigenous reconciliation – and of course for feminism too.
Andrew Leigh is the Federal Member for Fenner and the Shadow Assistant Treasurer.