This years theme is #BalanceforBetter, a summon to seek equal rights for both sexes in in all aspects of life. Notionally, Australia does have significantly better equality among the sexes compared to countries such as Yemen or Saudi Arabia (Haines, G. 2017). But out of the top twenty countries listed, Australia does not get a mention but oddly enough Rwanda is in the top 5, which one could speculate that both sexes suffer equally in this war torn nation. Before I digress too much from the reliability of this source, in land down under, we as women are encouraged to hold gainful employment, permitted to vote and drive as well as have access to health care in comparison to Jordan and Pakistan. All reliable indicators of an equal opportunity. But as the Australian Human Rights Commission image in Figure 1 illustrates, women are still trailing behind in wages and in positions of power. The AHRC (2018) and Haines, G (2017) depict women in Australia at a high risk of personal safety. AIHW (2018) finds that that biggest risk factor for illness, injury and death for Australian women aged between 25-44 is not childbirth or war crimes, but rather just the presence of a partner in their lives. This fact is horrendous and continues to be a major issue across all Australian states and territories. One only needs to recall the tragedy of Dr Preeti Reddy’s brutal murder in Sydney this week as a frightening reminder of the brutality that can occur behind closed doors ( Gooley G., & Stewart S., 2019).
I was musing these thoughts as I was setting up my display for #IWD2019 and one of my regular lunch time visitors interrupted me. *Rick (name changed) could not understand why I was setting up the book display as “I had it good”. Whilst I was inclined to roll my eyes and tell him to shuffle off, I refrained. For those that know me, tact and discretion ARE NOT one of my strong suites so this was an unusual occurrence for me. Instead I asked him to help me with the rest of the display and racked my brain with what I was going to say.
It then occurred to me that out of the roughly ten thousand items we have in our library, I struggled to find biographies of modern women to put in my display. Granted we have a few books about Elizabeth I, Boadicea, Mary MacKillop, Cleopatra and Florence Nightingale; but our collection of biographies about strong successful MODERN women was limited. Even though the majority of our regular readers are girls and young women, we seem to have a plethora of books about male sports stars, political leaders, heroes and inventors, but scanty sources solely dedicated to women and their successes.
I recalled this video I saw a few years ago that illustrated the lack of book choices for our girls that portray strong female protagonists aka rebellious girls. Then it made me realise that unless our young girls are given the option to imagine being intelligent and tenacious, they will continue to shoebox themselves into the roles of damsels in distress or tire women of great men. Magras, D (2019) in her article surmises that strong female characters in books and movies show our young girls that their voices matter and that gender stereotypes can be challenged. It is common knowledge that books stretch the imagination, and it would amazing if books could challenge and inspire our girls.
Back to Rick* and his statement… Well in true Trish form, I plonked him on my chair, showed him the infographic I had put aside for this blog and then played him the youtube clip. Once it was over, I asked him what he thought of the video. He hummed and tried to vacillate but eventually settled for “guess you may be right Miss”. I have not have convinced him to become a feminist but maybe I challenged a stereotype in his mind about the need to push for a #BalanceforBetter future.
Australian Human Rights Commission (2018) Face the facts: Gender Equality 2018. Retrived from https://www.humanrights.gov.au/education/face-facts/face-facts-gender-equality-2018 accessed 6/3/19
AIHW (2018) New national statistical report sheds light on family violence. Family, domestic and sexual violence in Australia, 2018 Retrieved from https://www.aihw.gov.au/news-media/media-releases/2018/february/new-national-statistical-report-sheds-light-on-fam accessed 6/3/19
Gooley, C & Stewart, S., (2019) Sydney dentist Preethi Reddy’s body found in suitcase, ex-boyfriend dies in fiery car crash. ABC News. Retrieved from https://www.abc.net.au/news/2019-03-06/body-of-sydney-dentist-preethi-reddy-found-in-suitcase/10874212 accessed 6/3/19
Haines G., (2017) Mapped: The best (and worst) countries for gender equality. The Telegraph UK. Retrieved from https://www.telegraph.co.uk/travel/maps-and-graphics/mapped-the-best-and-worst-countries-for-gender-equality/ accessed 6/3/19
Magras D., (2019) Feminist AF: Hearing Their Voices: Supporting Female Empowerment in Middle Grade Fiction for Tweens and Teens. School Library. Journal. Retrieved from http://www.teenlibrariantoolbox.com/2019/03/feminist-af-hearing-their-voices-supporting-female-empowerment-in-middle-grade-fiction-for-tweens-and-teens-a-guest-post-by-author-diane-magras/ accessed 6/3/19
Rebel Girls (2017) The ugly truth about children’s books. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z1Jbd4-fPOE&t=10s accessed 6/3/19
Saner E., (2017) Books for girls, about girls: the publishers trying to balance the bookshelves. The Guardian. Retrieved from https://www.theguardian.com/books/2017/mar/17/childrens-books-for-girls-publishers-writers-gender-imbalance accessed 6/3/19.