It’s International Women’s Day, the one day of the year everyone has to be nice to women.
It’s a day to highlight ongoing issues of inequality, from the threat of sexual violence, harassment and discrimination to the persistent gender pay gap and the way the pandemic has disproportionately negatively affected women.
There’s a lot more that we need to do to make women feel safe, from amending legislation to outlaw coercive control to putting in place initiatives aimed at reducing the despicably high rate of homelessness for older women.
But while we admit there’s plenty more work to be done, today’s also a good time to stop and think about what we have managed to accomplish in “unprecedented times”.
Here’s ten iconic moments from Aussie women over the last year that are worth celebrating today:
Grace Tame Spoke At The National Press Club
Just last week Australian Of The Year and survivor of child sexual abuse Grace Tame gave a rousing speech to the National Press Club. In it, she called on the media to change the way they report on abuse and rape so as not to retraumatise victims.
“Listening to survivors is one thing,” she said. “Repeatedly expecting people to relive their trauma on your terms, without our consent, without prior warning, is another. It’s sensation. It’s commodification of our pain. It’s exploitation. It’s the same abuse.”
Brittany Higgins Bravely Exposed A Toxic Parliamentary Work Culture
By coming forward in February about her alleged rape inside Parliament House, Brittany Higgins set off a chain of events that has led to an independent examination of the workplace culture at the highest levels of government.
It’s horrific that it took an alleged rape inside a senior minister’s office for society to not only interrogate the way sexual assault complaints are handled in Parliament, but to have a wider conversation about the language with which even the Prime Minister talks about the abuse of women. It feels like there’s finally a reckoning about the way women are treated by people with power and privilege.
Margaret Zhang Just Became The Youngest Editor-In-Chief Of Vogue
Margaret Zhang was announced as the new editor-in-chief of Vogue China in February at just 27 years old. That’s massive. The Australian-born Chinese director, photographer and writer, who started out as a fashion blogger in Sydney at the age of 16, is keen to focus on two main areas during her tenure: sustainability and diversity.
“I think everyone who appears in Vogue China should be someone people can look up to in a really substantive way and who are driving innovation, regardless of what industry they’re in,” Margaret said when her new role was announced.
Eight Aussie Teens Launched A Class Action Against The Government About Climate Change
The group of teens, majority women, including lead claimant Anjali Sharma and her litigation guardian Sister Brigid Arthur, launched a class action in September last year against the Federal Minister for the Environment, Sussan Ley.
The action seeks to nix a proposed coal mine extension project in NSW that the claimants argue would cause their generation grave future harm due to the impact of climate change. They say that the Minister has a duty of care to young Australians not to further destroy the environment. The trial in the Federal Court Of Australia in Melbourne took place earlier this month, with the judge reserving her final judgment at this time.
Lidia Thorpe Became The First Aboriginal Victorian Senator
In October, Lidia Thorpe was sworn in as the first-ever Aboriginal senator for Victoria, replacing former Greens leader Richard Di Natale in federal parliament. She entered the senate chamber at Parliament House wearing a possum skin cloak and holding a message stick with etching to represent the 441 First Nations deaths in custody.
She’s since gained notoriety as the woman who just plum forgot Pauline Hanson’s name (iconic) and for her impassioned call for the Aboriginal flag to be flown at half-mast across Australia on January 26 as a sign of respect to First Nations peoples whose ancestors died as a result of colonisation.
If it wasn’t official before, it most certainly is now. I’m so proud to be the first Aboriginal Victorian Senator and working alongside my Greens colleagues. Thank you so much for your well wishes. pic.twitter.com/CdNqcnbjfZ
— Lidia Thorpe (@lidia__thorpe) October 6, 2020
Chantel Contos Highlighted The Way Young Women Are Victim To Sexual Assault In High School
Chantel Contos, a former Kambala student, created a petition calling for consent education to be taught in schools at an earlier age in February. She also accumulated over 4000 pieces of testimony from young women who claim to have been sexually assaulted by their male peers in high school.
It’s a huge move, finally shining a light on the rarely heard and all too pervasive stories of young women, who were allegedly harmed by young men with no respect for women and their bodies, and who act from a position of toxic male entitlement.
You can sign the petition or submit testimony here.
Renee Barrett And Alisha Aitken-Radburn Hurling Ciarran Stott’s Ring Into The Ocean
On a lighter note, amid plenty of yucky masculine bravado, Renee Barrett and Alisha Aitken-Radburn harnessed the power of female friendship on Bachelor In Paradise.
When Renee finally came to terms with the end of her on- and off-again relationship with Ciarran Stott, who had apparently promised to try again in Paradise, she and Alisha waded into the ocean to dispose of a gift ring for Ciarran. They were empowered and invigorated, no longer encumbered by his empty promises. Fuck yeah, reality TV girl power.
A Woman Became The First Australian To Be Vaccinated Against COVID-19
Jane Malysiak, 84, became the very first Australian to be vaccinated against COVID-19 in February, the ABC reported. The Polish-born Australian survived WWII and ventured Down Under as a teenager. Here, she ran a corner shop with her husband in Sydney.
She told reporters when she received the first dose of the Pfizer vaccine that she wasn’t scared to be vaccinated, but was excited to be out of her nursing home. “I didn’t expect such a lot of people, I just thought they’d do the jab and take two pictures,” she said.
A Newcastle Uni Student Organised BLM Protests In Newcastle Despite Cops’ Opposition
23-year-old Taylah Gray went all the way to the Supreme Court in July to have the protest authorised, as the Newcastle Herald wrote. About a thousand people marched through Newcastle for the rally, drawing attention to the jaw-dropping rates of Aboriginal deaths in custody and rampant “over-policing” of minority groups.
The cops tried to shut the protest down, arguing that it could spread COVID-19, but Taylah took it upon herself to fight back and work to mitigate any health risks from marching, by wearing masks, using hand sanitiser and encouraging physical distancing.
— Taylah Gray (@Taylahmgray) July 3, 2020
Brooke Boney Called On Media To Make Meaningful, Not Symbolic Change To Counter Racism
Brooke Boney articulated why platforms simply pulling down old content that perpetuates racist stereotypes is just papering over the problem in a blistering segment on Today in June. She explained that erasing the past does not actually grapple with the problem of racism, when what we need to do is view the past critically so that we don’t continue to make the same mistakes, and become “more inclusive and more responsible with our storytelling”.
She also called on media companies to make actual change by hiring and supporting diverse new talent. “They need to open doors that have been closed to people of colour before,” she said.
"If these companies truly want to create lasting change and not just virtue signal in a moment of turmoil, then they need to support new talent," @boneybrooke speaks out on streaming services removing content that contain racist depictions. #9Today pic.twitter.com/d232RCdDzt
— The Today Show (@TheTodayShow) June 10, 2020