Published by the Faculty of Business, Government and Law, University of Canberra


Research and Stories through a Gendered Lens

BroadAgenda Wraps the Week – 23 October

Oct 26, 2020 | Weekly Wrap

Written by Pia Rowe

Oh baby.

It is somewhat baffling how easy it is for male leaders to say that women should have more babies.

Babies are good for the economy, you see. And Australia’s birthrate keeps declining. So as the mother of all strawman arguments goes, it is up to women (alone?) to hop to it and repopulate the continent to save us from the recession. Problem solved.

Not quite.

As Jane Caro writes in The Guardian, the declining birthrates should not come as a surprise to anyone. The enormous environmental factors alone are a major deterrent, especially since “younger people tend to both accept the science of climate change and understand that they are the ones whose future will be blighted by it”.

But for now, let’s focus on the economy. For all the talk about the importance of population growth, it is then thoroughly baffling for the same male leaders to take decisive steps to NOT support the future generations and the people supposedly responsible for their conception and care.

Minister for Women, Marise Payne argued that the 2020 budget measures were ‘gender neutral’. But as Ms Caro notes, the government “dedicated 0.038% of the total budget deficit to measures specifically aimed at women. A spend so small it is positively derisory”. Add to that the unaffordable childcare, the lack of support for female-dominated industries, the motherhood penalty, the proposed increasing higher education fees, the tax disincentives keeping women trapped in casual and part time jobs, the increasing poverty and homelessness for older women, and the list goes on.

Good citizens, if you were to listen to the likes of JFK and Peter Costello, are supposed to put the needs of their country ahead of their own. When it comes to women and babies, the time has well and truly come to scrap that.

Ask not when a woman will have a baby for the mother, the father, the country, or heck, the global economy, but what the country will do to support her if and when she chooses to do so.

Across the pond, our favourite role model Jacinda Ardern keeps going from strength to strength. But of course, no one can please them all, and despite all her achievements – and the recent landslide victory – some have gone as far as to call her ‘grossly incompetent’. It is indeed an interesting yardstick the good ol’ folks at The Australian are using here. For a more balanced account on the transformation of both Jacinda and her politics over the years, check out this article in The Conversation.

Also on the topic of leadership, research conducted in select European and Latin American countries showed that “women politicians are more responsive than men when people come to them seeking health care and economic support”. It is not entirely clear why that is the case, but it yet again shows that diversity in leadership will benefit all.

Writing in both The Canberra Times and BroadAgenda, the 50/50 Foundation co-director Professor Kim Rubenstein argues that the next two High Court judges should be women – and there are no excuses as to why this couldn’t become reality.

“Looking at who is available to fill the spots, tired claims of a dearth of women and talent have long fallen into desuetude (that quaint legal word). Around the country, the ‘traditional’ selection pool is teeming with talent.”

And speaking of talent – isn’t it high time we start recognising the trailblazing women of Australia, and name more federal seats after them? A joint submission from prominent female academics and community leaders argues as much, and suggests 10 women worthy of recognition.

For those of you who enjoy a bit of hashtag activism, this week it was the Finnish Prime Minister, Sanna Marin’s cleavage that raised some virtual eyebrows, and kickstarted the social media campaign #ImWithSanna. Women leaders, as we all know, should be feminine but not sexy. Tough enough to play the game, but not so tough they appear aggressive. One of the boys, but really, a girl.

And as the storm in a teacup du jour showed, heaven forbid they stray from the narrow path allocated to them, lest they want everything from their political achievements to their character and credibility questioned.

Speaking of restrictive gendered behaviour scripts, tired as we might be of Trump’s macho bravado, we ignore it at our peril. The ‘manly-man’ act, as Francine Prose notes, puts people in real danger.

Leaving you on a slightly lighter note this week, a fascinating read on how the queen of social media, Kim Kardashian West, changed the world.

Australia’s east coast is predicted to feel the effects of La Niña over the coming days, so where ever you are, stay safe and warm.


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