The Cambridge Handbook of the Social Sciences in Australia

By Ian McAllister; Steve Dowrick et al. | Go to book overview
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business sense, or becoming bogged down in the sameness–difference debate concerning the best legal treatment of women, Harper focuses on 'bank's advantage'. In the present climate, banks obtain risk-free loans with almost no obligations towards the party who takes on the risk and gains no financial advantage, the women who become guarantors for their male partners. Despite claims that young men are different from their fathers, Donna Chung's doctoral thesis on violence in young people's sexual relationships identifies the tensions of pseudomutuality. Young women 'know' they are equal with men, and so must deploy a range of strategies to explain (away) violence and inequality.They claim their greater maturity in doing the emotion work of which men are incapable; they suggest that the violence they have experienced (always in a past relationship) has made them a better person.

These strategies, which lay all explanatory power on individual behaviours rather than the structures of sexuality, allow the practice of masculinity to proceed largely unchallenged (for example, see Chung 2002). Chung's research indicates that young women's subjectivities are different in the so-called postfeminist age. How women born since women's liberation understand themselves, their politics and their futures is a growing research area. Anita Harris (1999, 2001) has studied young feminist women's politics as expressed in fanzines and Internet exchanges, noting that their double denigration as 'youth' and 'female' makes young women suspicious of adult culture, including corporate culture.

Indeed, it will be interesting to see what young women make of their adult worlds. Despite thirty years of feminist research and women's movement activism, gender relations remain deeply embedded, in our practices (the failure of many men to overcome their aggressive responses to women), our psyches (the persistence of the 'good mother' stereotype) and our public discourse (notions of sexual difference justify inequality). However, young women do have different experiences, particularly of education and paid work, and alternative subjectivities; for example, their presumption of gender equality and an apparently greater tolerance of difference.They, too, will live in interesting times.


Notes

I would like to thank Lois Bryson and Cora Baldock for their reflections on feminism in Australian sociology.

1
Recognised as a specifically Australian contribution to international feminist knowledge in

Barrett (1988:xxix) and a special issue of Hypatia:A Journal of Feminist Philosophy (15(2), Spring 2000) called Going Australian: Reconfiguring Feminism and Philosophy, which identifies Australian 'corporeal feminists'.


References

Albury, R. 1999. The Politics of Reproduction:Thinking Beyond the Slogans. Sydney: Allen and Unwin.

Alcorso, C. 1993. 'And I'd like to thank my wife …': Gender dynamics and the ethnic family business. Australian Feminist Studies 17:93–6, 101–6.

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