Rudi MaxwellEditorial

One of the most enjoyable aspects of being the editor of The Echo is that I get to meet a wide cross-section of the interesting and fascinating people who live in our community.

This week, as it was International Womens Day, it was all about the chicks.

Unlike many women, I am proud to call myself a feminist, but I sometimes feel we are our own worst enemies and lack realistic perspective.

To quote from The Female Eunuch: Female revolt takes curious and tortuous forms, and the greatest toll is exacted by the woman upon herself.

Also, I think its short-sighted to exclude men from any conversation on womens rights and that happens too often.

In a climate where many young women are choosing to overtly advertise a form of aggressive sexuality without the confidence that experience and critical thought brings, the younger generations seem to be ignoring the lessons of feminism to their peril. They seem to equate burning your bra with wearing no knickers. Its not the same thing. One is a symbolic gesture to cast off the shackles of the patriarchy; the other is a misguided attempt at owning sexuality through attention-seeking.

It took a 14-year-old Lismore High School student and a recent migrant to Lismore to restore my faith in the womens movement, particularly after the worlds most notorious feminist refused my extremely polite request for an interview (damn you Germaine Greer, I really wanted to know what it was like in the Celebrity Big Brother house).

Before I returned to Lismore and The Echo I had been working in sports journalism, without question one of the most male-dominated fields in the world (well, apart from prison chain-gangs, and thats one industry Im grateful to be excluded from on gender basis). I cannot recall ever being patronised by a man for simply being a woman. Sure I had to prove I knew what I was talking about but thats a rite of passage and, once initiated, you have your colleagues respect. And, if you do your job well, the readers dont care what gender you are. The only problem I ever had came from a more senior woman who appeared to delight in trying to humiliate me and other female colleagues in the workplace. Whether she was defending her territory or thought younger women should be grateful to her for her pioneering role, or trying to make us tougher and better journalists, I do not know.

We eventually went to the Australian Journalists Association (which has to be the most useless union in the country after it merged with Actors Equity I mean, honestly, what sort of industrial action can you take with actors? Threaten to make Home and Away more boring? Refuse to make any more episodes of Blue Heelers?) who told us to make an official complaint of bullying. We didnt but made the choice to be conscientious objectors and respond to her abusive tirades with polite and dignified answers. I also decided to take it as an example of how not to treat other women, something I hope Ive stuck to. And a reminder that young women need encouragement from as many quarters as they can get it.

On Friday I was encouraged and gratified to meet and speak with Sarah Hort, a year 9 student from Lismore High who addressed an IWD rally with humour, grace, passion and eloquence. Ms Hort spoke about the stigma still surrounding breastfeeding and the need for equality in the workplace.

But the last word belongs to Monica Matoc, a Sudanese mother of seven who moved to Lismore in 2004, after living for many years in a Kenyan refugee camp.

On Friday, Ms Matoc addressed a lunch at the Goddess Pavilion at Oakes Oval, where 150 women were having a networking lunch. She said she was grateful for the friendly faces in Lismore and simply that she wasnt being shot at anymore.

Hows that for perspective?


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