Thursday, 27 August 2015

Women, wives and their lives

By Caroline Yun Tung


What did 1900’s contraception look like? According to distinguished author Kate Grenville: ‘After the act, run around the room three times, jump and cough vigorously’.

Grenville in conjunction with the very witty political commentator, Annabel Crabb, tackled this and other big-time thought-provoking questions on the evolution of feminism in a wonderful MWF session entitled: Wives and Mothers.


Crabb’s storytelling was wildly animated, humourous and, as usual, full of personality.

She gave the audience insights aplenty  into her sometimes chaotic life. Revealing the panic she felt when her son gave her just four minutes to find a ‘newsworthy object’ to bring to school. How could her son-of-a-journalist son not turn up with something – think of the embarrassment. What kind of mother? What kind of journo?

Stories such as this from both women had the audience in stitches throughout the session.

The humour was tempered by reference to the books these two were there to promote:
Grenville’s One Life tells the story of her mother, an independent woman struggling against the constraints of 20th Century cultural expectations, as one of the first generation of women to gain financial freedom and access to contraception.

Crabb’s book The Wife Drought: Why Women Need Wives and Men Need Lives takes a new look at workplace inequality. She argues that women should stop worrying about ease of access to the workplace, and instead, start worrying about men’s ‘ease of egress’ from paid work.

She defines a ‘wife’ as ‘a person who pulls back on paid work in order to do more of the unpaid work that accumulates around the home’.

The subject matter of these books inevitably led to the question: ‘Can women have it all?’ Crabb answer was to express exasperation: why is it that many women feel responsible to take on more roles after the marriage by splitting themselves in three ways. Grenville’s mother tackled this question from another angle suggesting: ‘a women can have it all, just not all at the same time’.

The lively conversation generated some big questions for audiences to ponder over: How have expectations changed? How far have we come?

The audience was treated to an entertaining discussion, facilitated by ABC radio host Hilary Harper, on topics ranging from household chores to Virginia Woolf, ‘buying the business of romantic love’ (why women subscribe to criteria on online dating sites), how have expectations changed and how far have women really come?

 Edited by Rupa Ramanathan


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