The roles of women in modern day society have undergone tremendous change since the emergence of the Women’s Liberation Movement in the 1960’s. After decades of gradual progression, the assemblage of Australian women to unite under a common cause has led to liberation. Their resorts to often desperate measures has ensured unparalleled achievements.
The Women’s Liberation Movement was a direct result of Feminism.(1) Sparked by various feminist organisations at the time, the movement aimed to create freedom and equality for women in a well-informed society. The movement encouraged women to question and recognize their true value in society but also, to redefine societal values. It challenged the sexist beliefs held at the time, gradually compelling society to perceive women with a different attitude.
Initially, the Women’s Movement of the 1960’s saw an equality struggle between men and women. This led to the emergence of various social groups which campaigned for women’s rights. These Women’s “libbers” (liberationists) marked the beginning of the Women’s Liberation Movement. It was to be the largest social movement in this second wave of feminist activities.
The movement changed women’s views by allowing them to stand up for what they believed in. As a result, the 1960’s saw women entering the workforce, with recognition of the value of education. As in Source 1, many women recognized their value and self worth. They were passionate and ambitious in their unified goal – to create equality. The push for self-education and self-expression was paramount. By the 1970s, many women broke from the traditional moral views of the church (concerning sex before marriage), contraception, the sanctity of marriage and male authority.
The movement throughout the 1960’s and 1970’s revolved around the need to equalize men and women, as equally classed citizens. They demanded equal education opportunities, equal pay for equal work, sexual freedom, legislative reforms, elimination of discrimination from the workplace and economic independence. The invention of the pill and other contraceptive techniques such as abortion presented women with the basic rights for sexual freedom. This forms the basis for their liberation.
Various legislative reforms were introduced by the Australian Government towards the late 1960’s. This was the direct result of Women’s “libbers” lobbying to pressurise politicians but also, the re-education of women concerning their lack of rights. This proved to be an effective means to achieving women’s rights. During the 1960’s and 1970’s, women had further opportunities to participate in decision- making bodies, paid employment, rights in their personal lives and positive discrimination that would ultimately affect legislation and attitude towards Australian society. In 1969, Australian women achieved equal pay for equal work.
By the 1980’s, the women’s movement had accomplished a great deal, with none of the great advances of the past two decades. Still, the continual efforts of the women’s movement had brought about some of the greatest law reforms in Australian women’s history. The Federal and State Governments had introduced legislation to counter gender discrimination. The Sex Discrimination Act of 1984 and the Equal Opportunity for Women Act of 1986 were significant law reforms in women’s liberation. In the 1980’s, the Women’s movement campaigned for equality between males and females in the world of power.
By the 1990’s, the third wave of feminism takes place. It has come to a time where women realise they do not have full access to the public sphere. Women from all domains experience what has become known as the ‘glass ceiling’. (2)They find themselves having to juggle work and motherhood above all else.
The Women’s Liberation Movement has played a crucial role in changing the attitudes towards women in Australia’s society. Through law reforms, independence, liberation and freedom, their resulting achievements were singularly, phenomenal.
“I find it hard to remember myself before I joined WEL. They were heady days of working with women who believed as passionately as I did that we could change the world for women”.
(1) Feminism – the “advocacy of equal rights and opportunities for women” (Macquarie Dictionary).
(2) “glass ceiling” – an invisible barrier which prevents advancements beyond a certain point.
Retroactive 2; ANDERSON, CONROY, KEESE, LOW; John Wiley & Sons Australia, Ltd, 2000