Women and Nation in Australia: The Politics of Representation

By Lake, Marilyn | The Australian Journal of Politics and History, Winter 1997 | Go to article overview

Women and Nation in Australia: The Politics of Representation


Lake, Marilyn, The Australian Journal of Politics and History


I propose that Australian women in the land of mateship, `the Ocker', keg-culture, come pretty close to top rating as the Doormats of the Western World'. Miriam Dixson.(1)

To say women and nation in the one breath is almost of necessity to say the gendered categories of citizenship: reproduction and birth for women, destruction and death in war for men. Chilla Bulbeck.(2)

Women as National Subjects

Are "women" and "nation" always at odds or do men and women become national subjects in different ways? Is the "imagined community" of nation, to use Benedict Anderson's famous formulation, gendered in ways unimagined by Anderson himself?(3) Are nations masculinist projects, born of "injured masculinities" as Cynthia Enloe suggests?(4) In this article I shall address these questions by identifying both the gendered nature of different nationalist discourses and the particular ways in which Australian women were or were not able to construct themselves as national subjects. I shall suggest that the self-conscious formation of the new Commonwealth in which women expected to become equal citizens made "Australia" -- for a short time -- a focus of intense nationalist identification on the part of (white) women and a sphere for patriotic action.(5) Feminist ambition imbued "love of country" with dramatic new meaning and feminists, as often as not, construed their emancipatory endeavours as nationalist projects. Thus Rose Scott conceptualised the issue of women's suffrage as a matter of patriotism:

Let us look at this question not as it concerns our Individual Interests

and prejudices, but as it concerns our country and its people, their future

nobility and greatness . . . we need to add to the minute and narrow truths

of Partyism the lofty and more extensive Truths of Patriotism.(6)

The "motherhood of women", Scott believed, was essential to building a righteous, generous and honourable nation and that -- at the turn of the century -- was a major goal.(7)

In their introduction to the Special Issue of Gender and History on Gender, Nationalisms and National Identities, published in 1993, Catherine Hall, Jane Lewis, Keith McClelland and Jane Rendall noted that in the contemporary and historical exploration of national identities, little attention has been paid to gender differences. There had been too little analysis of nationalist movements and the formation of nation-states which was "gender conscious". In their own discussion of the diverse ways in which women across a variety of countries have used, but also been used by, nationalist projects, they concluded that relations between nationalism and feminism were full of "contradictory possibilities".(8) Australian history illustrates fully these contradictory tendencies. On the one hand, as I argued in 1986, late nineteenth century nationalism could be seen as a masculinist quest, with the "bush legend" celebrating a unique national type who exemplified a specific model of masculinity -- the Lone Hand or Bushman. In this 1890s representation of national identity and in the 1950s writing which championed it, women were necessarily invisible or positioned as the enemy, for the celebration of the Lone Hand's independence and freedom was also an attack on femininity, domesticity and the Home as emasculating and confining. Australian nationalism was often an assertion of men's rights and in their battle over practices such as drinking, gambling, smoking and sexual intercourse, feminists and nationalists became locked into a political struggle for "the control of the national culture".(9)

In her essay "Contesting Australia", Gail Reekie pushed this line of analysis further, arguing that since at least the late nineteenth century, "Australian feminism has been fundamentally opposed to nationalism". In her narrative of Australian history she identifies a "fraternal nation" which has required unmitigated feminine sacrifice and abregation. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Women and Nation in Australia: The Politics of Representation
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Author Advanced search

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.