|Hand drawn and typed, excerpt from "Towards Non-Sexist remediation", 1980|
In 1974, when the guidelines were published, Joan Beck asked in an article in the Chicago Tribute "Will we ever change?" and hoped publishers would adopt "non-sexist language that makes sense". She commented on the (then) new guidelines by writing "The new editorial guidelines aren't really difficult. All you have to do is remember that women are people, too".
Recently in Australia, some have asked, as Beck did all those years ago, "will we ever change?" Former Prime Minister Julia Gillard and departing Liberal Senator Sue Boyce have protested about sexism in the Australian parliament. Social media campaigns like #yesallwomen and #destroythejoint are active in questioning misogyny and sexism, but as Stevenson (2012) has pointed out in her analysis of Gillard's treatment, "Gillard's inability to fulfil acceptable political stereotypes and apparent transgressions of 'feminine' qualities caused a negative media backlash" (p. 55).Gretta Scacchi (2014) recently wrote: "As a feminist, I am dismayed a lot of the time, wondering where the struggle I felt I was engaged in has brought us."
Unlike Scacchi I am not "dismayed". I know that the aspirations I had as a young feminist in the 1980s have been punctuated at times by stiletto heels. But I also know that initiatives like the Ban Bossy- Encourage Girls to Lead project offer newly imagined visions for girls by new generations of young women. I don't know what Emmeline Pankhurst or Huda Sha`arawi would have thought of my small efforts in the 1980s. I do know that I joined a hum that echoes backwards and forwards in time, and constructed small but enduring moments of change. My tinkering in 1980 formed the basis for later work I did related to women and fire fighting in Australia. The struggle for equal rights endures, and as bell hooks argued, is characterised by the interconnectivity of race, capitalism and gender, and their combined ability to produce and perpetuate systems of oppression and class domination. Were I to re-do my 1980 project in 2014, inclusivity would shift to include cultural competence, and I'd be more explicit about power relations and social disadvantage. We didn't have our analysis sewed up in the 1970s and 1980s, just as we still have a way to go. My use of the word "towards" in 1980 made sense then, and makes sense now.