Women of letters

From the glass ceiling to the surface of the moon, these pieces dissect the complications and contradictions of twenty-first century gender roles.

Quique Olivar Gomez from iStock

Holding the baby

Where I live, what I earn and my level of education: these will all influence not only my decision to have a baby but the experiences that baby will then have. These four factors – education, geography, wealth and birth rate – loop around one another in infinite iterations. People in regional and remote Australia have more children younger; they also have lower levels of educational attainment.


The first woman on the Moon will have to think carefully about her first words, as they will resonate for generations into the future. Neil Armstrong chose his famous ‘one giant leap’ line himself; but in this case, knowing what’s at stake, there’s bound to be a committee who gives this long and considered thought.


It was thanks to a series of deliberate decisions made during the nineteenth century that women’s critical labours were designated ‘unproductive’ and simply wiped from view. Key to these erasures was Alfred Marshall, the revered father of neoclassical economics, who advocated strict limits on women’s choices lest they behave selfishly.

The chemical question

It’s just that time of the month. It’s only the baby blues. It’s the change, it’ll pass. It’s just your hormones. Most women have experienced a dismissal like this at some stage in their lives, whether for a genuine mental health issue or for something as minor as offering a differing opinion. But the trivialising of issues deemed ‘hormonal’, and the dismissal of associated mood disorders, can have fatal consequences.

The unwritten rules

Patriarchal power and control occurs silently, without fanfare, through institutions and their structure, including legal institutions and the family. It is in this conceptualisation that the recent public discussion in Australia of misogyny and the ‘gender card’ became distracted, focussing on a personal hatred of individual women as key rather than the daily reproduction of significant structural inequality.

Not just good girls

Women in public life in Queensland experienced criticism and ridicule that was sharper and more personal than that directed to their male counterparts. They were often said to have abandoned their rightful roles as wives and mothers, were accused of being too noisy, too silent, too dumb, too much of a smarty pants. It was suggested that wealthy women had a ‘silver spoon’, while the few working-class women who struggled into the ranks above were said to lack grace and class.