The modern women’s liberation movement started over 50 years ago. On paper, women have achieved societal and more importantly perhaps, legal equality with men. But does that mean that women and men are equal in today’s society?..The answer may unfortunately be, no. (I say this reluctantly mind you, as a feminist and staunch supporter of women’s rights).
The fight for women’s rights has a long and established history, however it was in the second half of the 20th century that major advancements really began to take place. Across pretty much all spheres of public life, women’s rights were garnering unprecedented attention.
But visibility doesn’t guarantee equality. Neither it seems, does legal parity. Under Australian law, women and men are equal. Women have the same rights to vote, work, drive, and anything else you can think of under the law.
But changing laws does not necessarily change minds. Women are not equal to men in our society, not by a long shot. Although women comprise 45.9 per cent of all employees in Australia, according to the Workplace Gender Equality Agency, they account for less less than 20 per cent of the Australian ICT workforce. The lack of female representation at senior levels is even greater, according to professional services firm Deloitte.
Given that women haven’t achieved equality yet, what does that say about the state of gay rights and where we’re heading? While the new millennium has ushered in many legal advancements and increased visibility, true equality for the LGBT community hasn’t even really begun.
Equality can’t just be measured by legislature. Equality is seen in the daily lives or ordinary people.
What’s the point of having marriage equality if we don’t feel free or comfortable enough to invite family, friends or co-workers to our wedding? True equality comes when the laws are not only supported, but actually enacted, by the population. Marriage equality might be a great legal protection, but what protection do we have when we want to walk down the street hand-in-hand with our partner?
In Australia, we have a long way to go before we even achieve legal equality. Then there’s the societal and cultural acceptance that needs to happen. It’s a slow process that spans generations and takes decades. It’s also a process that doesn’t necessarily ever end, as we can see from the women’s liberation movement. It continues, changes and evolves over time.
There is a silver lining in all of this. Younger generations (those who are 25 years old and younger) have much more tolerant views towards the LGBT community. Support for same sex marriage in this demographic is consistently high and in the overwhelming majority. It’s just that it’s going to be a few good years before this generation is in power and calling the shots.
In the meantime, we all have a role to play in advancing gay rights. No matter how big or small our contributions may be, we are heading in the right direction towards equality. We’ll just hopefully get there sometime in our/my lifetime.