Why Tanya Plibersek is a feminist | Women's Agenda

Why Tanya Plibersek is a feminist

The Deputy leader of the Opposition Tanya Plibersek has outed herself as a feminist and she explains why in a column for Fairfax Media today.

“I am a feminist. Not because I’m a whinger, or a victim, but because I understand how very fortunate I am. And I’m grateful to the women (and men) who’ve made that possible.”

Plibersek goes on to list a myriad of reasons why she is a feminist:

…because I am grateful to be able to combine motherhood with a career that is intellectually and emotionally rewarding.

…because I understand that the 18 per cent gender pay gap is not there because women are less competent at work than men.

…because I know that the number of older women retiring with less superannuation than men is not because they are worse savers.

…because I know it’s unacceptable that one in every five Australian women will experience sexual assault and one in every three Australian women will experience domestic violence in their lifetimes.

…because I want my daughter to be safe walking home; because I want her to feel any profession is open to her, and that she is valuable for her intellect, her kindness, her sense of humour – not her looks.

…because I want my sons to know the deep rewards of an equal relationship with their life partner, the satisfaction of being a hands-on father, and the limitless opportunity of rejecting unhealthy stereotypes.

She finishes her piece by saying that having experienced the professional and personal life she has it would be unacceptable to say to other young women “you’re on your own”.

“If you don’t see the structural problems in society, you can’t fix them,” Plibersek concludes.

That right there is effectively the nub of the issue between those who identify as feminists and those who don’t. It’s not about semantics so much as it’s about intentions; regardless of whether someone calls themself a feminist, do they recognise the structural discrimination that exists between men and women? And, if so, what are they going to do about it?

Recently we published an insightful and considered explanation by Paula Matthewson on why women of the right don’t embrace the F-word. I absolutely accept the inherent conflict that exists between being inclined towards individualism and embracing a collective movement like feminism. If you’re inclined to believe in the power of the individual then any idea that tries to stymy that in favour of a group, is likely to be rejected.

As Matthewson says “women with a strong sense of individualism can view another woman using gender to explain her failure as resorting to self-victimisation rather than taking personal responsibility for that failure.”

There is some relevant political innuendo in that particular statement because it relates to Julie Bishop’s comments about Julia Gillard but it poses an important broad question. At what point do you recognise that the system rewards some individuals more than others? That the individual failings of women cannot fully explain the pay gap or the superannuation gap or the tiny percentage of women who occupy senior leadership positions?

As Tanya Plibersek says, if you don’t see those structural problems you can’t fix them. That will be construed as a typically “left” position but does it have to be? Wouldn’t tackling those structural deficiencies to ensure individual men and women actually operate on a more even playing field be a dream come true for those inclined towards the right? Am I dreaming?

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