Elizabeth Reid: Australia’s forgotten feminist | ABC News

Elizabeth Reid: Australia’s forgotten feminist | ABC News


I was wondering if I could come and see you sometime soon about two quite important areas. What I’d like to talk to you about is how quickly we can get the recommendations of the Commission discussed and then subsequently implemented. You’re ready to roll? Okay, well let’s make sure our cameras are rolling, chappies. We’re rolling. Would you describe yourself as a women’s liberationists? If you could tell me what you meant by it. Well, I mean you disagree with marriage and as I understand it you only just tolerate children. Oh, on the contrary I don’t disagree with marriage and I love children. What problems do you see with marriage? I think that the institution sets up expectations in both the men and the women. They’re certain expectations about what the other person will be doing, that it is the man’s responsibility to bring home the money and the woman’s responsibility to keep the house tidy and to bring up the children. When I gave my first press conference on the first day of the job the only questions I was asked were about abortion, prostitution, lesbianism, rape and marijuana and so on. I was asked no questions about you know what do you think is really the problem facing women in Australia, what you intend to do in your job. The institution I think has problems… It was utterly offensive and degrading and humiliating. That they could say whatever they wanted. Liz Reid 33, who doesn’t wear a bra said in Canberra today. Or Liz Reid 33, whose daughter doesn’t live with her said in Canberra today. I mean they felt they had the right to do those sorts of things and not just the male journo’s either, some of them were women journo’s as well. What have you actually achieved in the time since your appointment or has the government relegated you to the position of token lady, without any real power or influence? The answer to the first one is very simple, I started out with relatively strong ideals and beliefs and opinions. I was sensationalised by the press and I was depicted in quite, in lights that I found not only personally unacceptable but which I found to be harmful to the job. Women that I’ve spoken to after you’ve given a speech or had a talk with them are mostly on sides as far I can see. They’re also critical aren’t
they, things like why doesn’t she wear any makeup at all. So you better answer that one I think. No time to put it on! I don’t know… I do not want my dress to alienate people just as I do not want my manner to alienate people. I think the areas are so important, the problems are so important, that I would hate to think that I either spoke aggressively and alienated people or dressed in a way that they couldn’t cope with. So I have compromised all along the line. I even wear makeup on occasion. Obstinate men are called strong-willed, obstinate women are called stubborn. Talkative men are called articulate, women garrulous. Better education for women, training and retraining, child care, health facilities and so on. To bring those about for the majority of women not just for the few. Elizabeth Reid is 33, country born, a teacher’s daughter, philosophy honors graduate, divorcee, part-time mother and for two years and
four months representative at court for six million women. A representative the press was quick to mold into their own image. When we came in we started a definite program. It was quite, there were various things in the lives of women that in all humanity had to be changed. Women had to have access to childcare facilities, women had to have fair workforce conditions, they had to get paid a fair wage and you know had to have access to the sort of health care they weren’t getting. We are of course at present in an implementing stage and what has to be done is to think out what next, and I really feel that I need a mountain and a bit of peace and quiet to do it in. And also I personally need a break, I need to get away and resuscitate and perhaps to refine whether or not as a person I still exist. It was an amazing lesson for me. That I was suddenly thrust into a world where I could no longer think through arguments and answer questions honestly, I had to ask myself, what question are they really asking and how will my answer appear in the papers tomorrow. It was, talk about baptism by fire or something.

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