On Thursday morning as he greeted ABC host Sabra Lane on the ABC radio current affairs program AM, Treasurer Scott Morrison said, “Happy Women’s Day.” He probably meant well but the words were discordant, sounding just a little patronising and perhaps misplaced.
Just how happy should we be on International Women’s Day? While it is certainly appropriate we celebrate the myriad achievements of women, we should also reflect on what hasn’t been achieved and is long overdue.
We should ask ourselves why, despite legislation being passed in 1969 mandating equal pay for equal work, there is still a gender pay gap.
Why is there still a glass ceiling preventing women realising their full potential?
Why has it taken so long for men in positions of power to be called out for sexual harassment and misconduct?
Why do young men – often under the guise of some form of millennial irony – still think it acceptable to objectify women? To rate them from one to 10?
Why in 2018 do our female Coalition MPs feel the need to start a fighting fund to help talented women make their way into a parliament still dominated by men?
Why is it that our Gilmore MP Ann Sudmalis observes that in parliament, and presumably in her own party, there are men who have trouble accepting women in positions of leadership?
Why are women still subjected to domestic violence, too many of them killed by males they know?
The points raised above concern a country that by world standards in reasonably progressive. In other less fortunate places, women are still denied basic human rights. They are subjected to mass rape in armed conflict, condemned to subservience by some cultures, trafficked around the world.
What can possibly be “happy” about any of this?
So, yes, there is much to fix before International Women’s Day becomes solely about celebration. But we are heading in the right direction.
The #MeToo movement has prompted an important and long overdue conversation about sexual harassment and has started to shift the balance of power. It has put men on notice that poor behaviour will be called out. It has sent the loud and clear message: “Time’s up.”
We have a way to go but we will get there.