On 18 December 2019, marks the 125th anniversary of womens suffrage in Australia, more specifically South Australia who was at the forefront of giving women a voice. In 1894, South Australia was the first state in Australia to give women the right to vote – and stand for members of parliament.
Yet while this was a good move for women to gain a voice and have a say in how things were done, the feminist movement was skewed towards white anglo saxon women. There was no evidence that their fight included women of colour, ability or background.
I attended the Feminist Writers Festival this weekend in Adelaide where female writers and researchers spoke about what inspired them to write their books. The afternoon was divided into two sections; part one was for the writers who wrote about our feminist foremothers, and the secone was stories from writers about the women our foremothers forgot.
Our feminist foremothers, when you look into their history closely, focused their movement on women just like them. English, white and of anglo saxon origin. There is no evidence that their movement included giving equal rights to other women. While they were heroes to the women of their time, they set the scene for the current and future women to build upon.
in Adelaide out Office for Women is leading the way in commemorating 125 years of womens suffrage themed “Their Triumph, Our Motivation”. While we recognise what our foremothers started; today’s generation of women can continue to move forward in their quest for not only an ongoing voice but be inclusive to women of all backgrounds, abilities, religions, etc.
The colours purple, green and white were signifcant to the wave of feminism because they stood for courage, hope and purity. By bringing women into the public realm and giving them the opportunity to stand for parilament was a strategy to bring morals and purity into politics. While we have women in political positions of power, there is still a long way to go on the equality front.
While tokenism can be seen as singling out to some; to the women our foremothers forgot, it brought opportunities for them to have a voice. One of the speakers at the feminist writers festival was Rosemary Kudmarto Wanganeen who spoke of how she was grateful for tokensim. She spoke how it gave her the opportunities to become empowered first as a human, a woman and then an Indigenous woman.
The most powerful part of Rosemary’s talk was her assessment of racism and Australia’s history. It is not about feeling guilty about Austalia’s negative history, it is about recognising the past and then moving forward. Racism is a learned behaviour and you have to take a step back and look at why the individual feels that way. Racism is not in our genes, people are not born racist.
Racism is what a person learns from observing and listening to those around them. We need to be mindful of the environment around us and our behaviours. No matter who we are or where we have come from, everyone wants to feel included.