By Lionel Bopage –
Today is the International Women’s Day. It is 41 years since this day came out as a result of an event the Socialist Party of America organized. The Feminists have been mostly focused on balancing the gender numbers, getting women to important positions in the political and bureaucratic hierarchy. There has been some success. For example, the proportion of women in workforce has substantially increased and comprise about 46 percent of the Australian workforce. Women hold about 40 percent of the senior executive positions in the Australian Public Service. About 39 percent government board positions are held by women. Despite achieving formal legal equality, and some success in the numbers game, women have not been so far able to put a stop to the misogynistic approaches prevailing in male chauvinistic environments.
A struggle that commenced as part and parcel of the struggle for social justice and equality simply became inwardly focused. It became a gender power game of getting numbers and positions rather than driving an agenda for social justice that was inclusive of an entire gamut of fellow sufferers. In the numbers and positions game there has been some success. There have been several women Prime Ministers, a number of Ministers and many Members of Parliament. However, it appears those who have been in the women’s numbers and positions game, have also become entrenched and trapped in the world views of the ‘male dominated’ political world. Many of they appear to have become part and parcel of the oppressive system of governance. Those who have not succumbed to these neo-liberalist, self-focused, market-driven trap are those enlightened women, who still consider themselves belonging to the layers subjected to oppression.
Demand for gender equality against macho-culture was so self-centred that they almost excluded wider social equity issues affecting the workers, farmers, students, migrants, NESB, LGBT people etc. How can one forget that the very same women who fought for gender equity were the ones who supported incarceration of asylum seekers and their children off-shore? They simplistically equated social progress with gender equality, which was exactly what macho-dominated, neo-liberal oriented, market-driven forces focused on saving the unjust and unfair system of privileges and interests wanted. The women in powerful political and bureaucratic positions have become mirror images of their male counterparts. How many of those women in positions of power and influence are willing or committed to changing the status quo, or implement any social and cultural changes? Problematic, isn’t it?
What a devaluation of the struggle that came out as a result of the work of the likes of Clara Zetkin, Rosa Luxemburg, Alexandra Kollontai, and Eleanor Marx.? These glorious women had the vision to distinguish between the causes that they have been fighting for from those of the “middle-class women” of their days. Anyone fighting for justice and fair-go today need to be aware of the machinations of neo-liberalism, market competition that drive individualism against collectivism. Collectivism has been the foundation of almost all successes achieved from eight hour working day to equality of treatment. How serious is the modern day feminist movement willing to collectively fight for abolishing existing systems and austerity measures that reinforce the existing socio-economic and political inequities in society?
A song on Women’s Liberation composed and sung in Sinhala in the late 1970s is available here.