We’ve come a long way, baby! Isn’t it interesting how there’s an International Women’s Day but not an International Men’s Day? Now before you shout through your computer monitor – “It’s International Men’s Day every day!!” – let’s have a real think about this. For countless generations, men have been referred to as ‘the stronger sex’, and in many ways, that’s been true. But over the last century or so, women have been able to prove their own might and earn the respect they deserve.
World War I
In the first World War, women didn’t only sit at home knitting vests and packing parcels for the war effort overseas. Around 3,000 rolled up their sleeves and served in the Australian Army Nursing Service (AANS) and a small number worked as doctors in theatres of war. Back home, Aussie wartime women rose up and actively campaigned around conscription, some for and others against. The issue reared its ugly head again when the Vietnam War rolled around.
World War II
While the men were off fighting in the trenches, women enlisted to make up labour shortfalls. 200,000 women entered the workforce, displaying grit and determination and proving they could do as good a job as the men. Many became agricultural workers in the Australian Women’s Land Army (AWLA). Over 24,000 women joined the Australian Women’s Army Service (AWAS) to fill roles originally held by men who’d been shipped off overseas. And typing and cooking weren’t the only tasks! WWII women got their hands dirty in factories and shipyards, fixing cars and packing artillery.
Bra burning in the 60s
In 1968, the Miss America contest inflamed feminists and civil rights advocates who protested that beauty pageants oppressed women. They argued that women were made to feel inferior because they couldn’t measure up to such lofty beauty standards. Bra burning protests became a statement for women’s rights both here and abroad and feminists went bra-less in public to demonstrate their views.
Gillard cracked the code
In 2010, we elected our first female Prime Minister, Julia Gillard which seems late in the grand scheme of things, given that the likes of Benazir Bhutto and Margaret Thatcher were such forces to be reckoned with several decades prior. While Julia Gillard finally nailed the top job and Jacinda Ardern has been an exemplary role model for New Zealand, could 2021 be the year that the USA inaugurates its first female President?
Let’s celebrate all women
Among the Ash Bartys, the Fiona Woods, the Bindi Irwins, the Cate Blanchetts and the Turia Pitts of our generation who inspire little girls and women of all ages to reach for the stars, we want to make special mention of the busy, frazzled masses. Every mum who’s just changed her kid’s 3,470th nappy, every chick who’s done her time in a fast food joint before embarking on her ‘real’ career and every hard-slogging, bus-catching, run-ragged babe who’s putting in an honest day’s work deserves a special thought … not just today but every day.
Happy International Women’s Day, ladies! Here’s to another year of striving, mostly succeeding and always looking forward.