There should be a shared directive to fight for equality, amongst those who refer to themselves as Feminists and otherwise.
In 2016, female politicians who refuse to identify with the word ‘feminist’ are immediately confronted with the cry that she is sucking up to the man’s world, spitting in the face of her suffragette forebears, and even casting doubt upon her own womanhood.
While it’s understandable that some feminists feel disappointed and indignant that a successful female politician does not describe herself, and indeed her beliefs about gender equality, in the same way that they might, one cannot expect others to fall into their own line all the time.
Indeed, it is understandable that feminists who have spent a lifetime fighting for the empowerment of women would find some politicians’ words, such as Julie Bishop’s statement that she “does not acknowledge” the glass ceiling which they understand successive waves of feminists worked to smash, ignorant and even naïve.
But when they insist upon policing and judging a fellow woman, aren’t feminists simply lining up hoops for a fellow woman to jump through which they would never impose upon others?
Men of all kinds of qualities are rarely asked to define themselves by their backgrounds. When Shaoquett Moselmane was asked to reflect on becoming the first Muslim to be elected to the New South Wales Parliament, he remarked to an interviewer, “As an Australian, irrespective of what one’s religion is, it shouldn’t be counted.”
If Ed Husic said that he saw himself first and foremost as an Australian, not a Bosnian Muslim, people would probably describe him as enlightened. If the youngest member of the Federal Parliament, Wyatt Roy, dismissed the idea of focusing on youth issues and instead wanted to drive economic reform, wouldn’t we admire his passion?
The truth is that Moselmane, Husic and Roy focus on the issues which drove them into Parliament, not the qualities that others allege were keeping them away.
But when non-feminist women attempt to do the same, saying that they neither accepts nor reject the label ‘feminist’, they are immediately branded as a traitor to their kind.
But why should women have to feel “grateful” for being in power? Didn’t previous generations fight for equality of opportunity so individual achievers wouldn’t have to turn around and say “thank you” for the fruits of their own hard work?
Well-intentioned feminists would do well to have a look inside their own ideology in their engagement with their fellow women. Surely, one of the rights feminists should champion is the right to self-definition; the right to self-determination; indeed, the right to not be a feminist.
By its own admission, feminism will only have succeeded as a movement in situations where it is no longer necessary. A woman who lets her actions speak louder than her ideologies is a glimpse into a world in which feminism has done its job.
Female cabinet members like Kelly O’Dwyer are the herald of a world in which the highest portfolios of power are open to women who work hard, overcome natural challenges and make difficult decisions on their own terms in order to accomplish their goals.
I can’t admire a brand of feminism which sees a woman hard at work, accomplishing all the things so many of us have been told are out of our reach, and refuses to acknowledge her for it until she agrees to become a postergirl for the cause.
The kind of feminism that I admire, and the kind of feminism that we need, can take its hat off to successful women merely for the sake of seeing a fellow woman succeed – no strings attached.