On the surface, it seems the best time ever to be a woman in Australia. The prime minister, governor-general and the richest person are all female; women are at the forefront of almost every area of public life. Yet when Julia Gillard’s misogyny speech ricocheted around the world, it clearly touched a nerve. Why?
In the fiftieth Quarterly Essay, Anna Goldsworthy examines life for women after the gains made by feminism. From Facebook to 50 Shades of Grey, from Girls to gonzo porn, what are young women being told about work and equality, about sex and their bodies? Why do many reject the feminist label? And why does pop culture wink at us with storylines featuring submissive women?
Unfinished Business is an original look at role models and available options in the age of social media and sexual frankness. Goldsworthy finds that progress for women has provoked a backlash from some men, who wield misogyny as a weapon, whether in parliament, on talkback radio or as internet trolls. With piercing insight and sharp humour, she lays bare the dilemmas of being female today and asks how women can truly become free subjects.
“There is a charmed zone for a girl, shortly before she is ambushed by puberty. At eleven or twelve, she is usually taller than her male peers; more articulate; and more confident than she will be for years. She probably spends a lot of time in front of a screen, words and images flickering in her eyes. Facebook, Slutwalks, Lady Gaga, Girls, Mad Men, gonzo porn, Twilight,Fifty Shades of Grey. What messages are being broadcast to her, and what messages is she hearing? Are they going to make her bigger, or smaller?” Anna Goldsworthy, Unfinished Business
Anna Goldsworthy is the author of Piano Lessons and Welcome To Your New Life. Her writing has appeared in the Monthly, the Age, the Australian, the Adelaide Review and The Best Australian Essays. She is also a concert pianist, with several recordings to her name.