The Image of Women

More than 100 people attended the recent Sir John Monash public lecture, held at the Monash Gallery of Art on Thursday 25 July. The event, which focused on the social construction of gender, was the most highly attended in the history of the event. The keynote speaker, Dr Leslie Cannold urged the audience to ‘join a domestic revolution’ she called ‘the work/life movement’. She challenged audience members to stop thinking of child care and housework as ‘women’s issues’, rather a shared responsibility of both men and women. “We all need to find the time to care,” she said. “The costs of rigid gender roles are high for men as well as for women. There is intense pressure to stick to social norms that perpetuate inequality and poorer health for us all.”

The photographic exhibition, by one of Australia’s great feminist photographers Carol Jerrems, acted as a perfect backdrop to the event. Jerrems captured a time of social change: women’s liberation, social inclusiveness for street youths, and Indigenous people, in the cities who were campaigning for justice and land rights. Shaune Lakin, curator of the exhibition, said Jerrems was an agent of change.

Laura Wood, Prevention Practitioner, from the Generating Equality and Respect Program explored the link between gender inequality, equal and respectful relationships, rigid gender roles and violence against women. “Societies which have greater inequality between women and men tend to have higher rates of violence against women. Violence in all its forms – physical, emotional, psychological, social, financial – is one person exerting their power or control over another person to get what they want. Violence can be seen as a tool for obtaining and maintaining this power and control.” The evening prompted much discussion and debate, and supported people to reflect on their own lives and how ‘gender’ (the idea of what it means to be male or female) can impact their own and others perceptions, attitudes and behaviours. Perhaps a quiet revolution is starting in Monash.

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