Why Feminism Matters

An Arts Matters Forum Co-presented with the Faculty of Arts and Sydney University Arts Association

22 March, 2010

Watch the film on ABC TV BIG IDEAS

Compared with 30 years ago women are now better represented in politics but there is still more to be done. Hillary Clinton and Julia Gillard are examples of women gaining important leadership positions, but not the top job. So how far have women come in terms of political leadership and shaping the public policy agenda? Do men and women do politics differently? Do women have different interests to men and how should these be incorporated into political decision-making? How might contemporary feminism contribute to improving women's position in politics.

This forum included leading international political scientists along with Australian academics and researchers in a robust discussion on the state of contemporary feminism.

Forum Participants

Rebecca Huntley is a writer and social researcher and Alumni of the University of Sydney. She is the director of the Ipsos Mackay Report, Australia's longest-running social trends report. The author of Eating Between the Lines: Food & equality in Australia and The World According to Y: Inside the New Adult Generation, she also writes regularly for Australian Vogue.

Karen Beckwith is the Flora Stone Mather Professor in the Department of Political Science at Case Western Reserve University. Former president of the American Political Science Association Women and Politics Research Section, she was founding lead editor of the journal Politics & Gender. Her book Women’s Movements Facing the Reconfigured State (co-edited with Lee Ann Banaszak and Dieter Rucht), was published in 2003; her most recent book, Political Women and American Democracy, with Christina Wolbrecht and Lisa Baldez, was published in 2008 (both by Cambridge University Press). She is the originator and organizer of the project "The Comparative Politics of Gender," to be published in March 2010 as a multi-article symposium in Perspectives on Politics.

Mary Fainsod Katzenstein is the Stephen and Evalyn Milman Professor of American Studies and is Professor of Government at Cornell University. She has written about political activism and social movements in the context of U.S., European and South Asian. Her study of feminist activism in the Catholic Church and U.S. military, Faithful and Fearless: Moving Feminist Protest Inside the Church and Military, won the American Political Science Association’s Victoria Schuck award for the best book on gender in political science in l999. Her book, Social Movements in India: Poverty Power and Politics, co-edited with Raka Ray (University of California, Berkeley), examines the way social movements including women's organisations strategise about poverty. Over the last five years, she has been working on issues about prison reform and incarceration and teaches courses on incarceration both at Cornell and at Auburn Correctional Facility in Auburn, New York.

Fiona Mackay is Senior Lecturer in Politics, and Director of the Graduate School of Social and Political Science at the University of Edinburgh, Scotland. Recent books include Women, Politics and Constitutional Change (co-authored with Paul Chaney and Laura McAllister, 2007) and the forthcoming Gender, Politics and Institutions (co-edited with Mona Lena Krook). Fiona has been active in the 50/50 campaign for gender parity in political and public life in the run up to devolution in the UK. She has provided research advice to women's organsations, politicians and government departments on women's political representation, equality policy and gender mainstreaming, and has represented the UK at a number of British Council international events on women, democracy and human rights.

Sue Goodwin is Senior Lecturer in Policy Studies in the Faculty of Education and Social Work at the University of Sydney. She has written about women’s participation in public policy in Australia and is co-author of the books The Sociological Bent: Inside Metro Culture (2005) and Social Policy for Social Change (2009). Her forthcoming book The Good Mother: regulating contemporary motherhoods co-edited with Kate Huppatz (Sydney University Press) explores representations of mothers in the contemporary Australian social and political context. She is currently working on a new book Gender Capital at Work with Kate Huppatz which examines how gender and class intersect in occupational choices and occupational pathways, to be published by Palgrave Macmillan, UK. She is also a 2010 Thompson Fellow. The Thompson Fellowships have been recently introduced at the University of Sydney to provide opportunities for women to develop and strengthen their research.

Forum MC: Lisa Forrest is a TV and radio broadcaster, actor and writer. An ex-Olympic swimmer, she represented Australia as a teenager at the 1980 Moscow Olympics and at the Commonwealth Games in Edmonton in 1978 and in Brisbane in 1982, where she won two gold medals. After retiring Lisa then did what no sports woman had done before her - made a successful move into the media. A well-respected commentator of sport, she was the first woman to host her own national sports program, Saturday Afternoon Football in 1986 on ABCTV. She again broke new ground moving into general reporting via The Midday Show with Ray Martin. She has since hosted television shows such as Everybody on ABCTV and her own radio program, The Evening Show featuring the Radio Quiz on ABC Radio 702 as well as performing as an actor in Channel 10's hospital drama Medivac.

International participants are guests of the School of the Social and Political Sciences, Faculty of Arts and the US Studies Centre at the University of Sydney, and the UNSW Faculty of Arts.