real life

6 ways your life today is so different to your grandma's.

The fight for gender equality is by no means over, but let’s stay positive. Today we are going to take a good hard look at how far we have come, not how far we have to go.

So much has changed in the last three generations for women, just imagine how much can change in the next three (but let’s hope we don’t have to wait that long for true equality between the sexes).

These are the big leaps and the small that make our lives so different to those wonderful women who came before us.

1. Contraception

pull out method success rate
The pill became available in 1961. Image via iStock.

We may take our IUDs, birth control pills and condoms for granted now, but 60 years ago the process of not getting pregnant required a lot more luck. For starters, the pill didn't come onto the market in Australia until 1961, and even then it was "available only to married women and burdened with a 27.5% luxury tax".

These days, though, two-thirds of Australian women aged between 15 to 49 regularly use contraception and broadly speaking it's seen as a human right rather than a luxury. Because of it, we can determine when we work, how we enjoy our sex lives and if we want to become parents at all.

2. Going to university

australian womens rights 60 years ago
The tipping point for male female enrolments was 1987. Image via the University of Sydney.
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Along with access to effective birth control, one of the most significant changes in the past 60 years has been the rise in women graduating from university.

Since 1987 The Conversation reports, "female students have outnumbered their male counterparts ... and now do so by a considerable margin. In 2014 the sex ratio for higher education students was just 80 males per 100 females. This compares, for example, to 269 males per 100 females in 1970."

Power to the educated people!

3. Work

Speaking of work and 1961, it was at this time that just 34 per cent of the workforce was comprised of women. And we're not talking about CEO or management positions, either, to be clear.

Married women were banned from working in the Australian public service until 1966, maternity leave didn't get introduced until 1979, and workforce sex discrimination laws weren't enacted until 1984.

These days, though, all Australian businesses are required by law to offer maternity leave to its full-time employees and, while we still have a long way to go, the demand for greater female representation at all levels of business is slowly but surely starting to be met.

Listen: Domestic violence survivor Rosie Batty speaks to Mia Freedman on No Filter. Post continues... 

4. Sexual and physical assault by a partner

The idea that women could not be raped by their husbands was sadly an opinion held by Australian lawmakers until the 1980s.

Primary opposition against the laws that eventually passed consisted of "the fear of marital breakdown; the ‘vindictive wife’; and the difficulty of proof" and many believed women would lie about their relationship for financial benefit or to disgrace the reputation of their husbands.

Despite protective laws and greater public awareness, domestic violence still remains an epidemic-sized problem within Australian society, and it is estimated that one woman per week will die at the hands of her current or former partner.

In recent years the government has made millions of dollars of cuts to essential services such as women's shelters and refuges. Frontline social workers say it is now almost as hard for women to leave their unsafe homes as it was in the 1980s.

5. Money

Financial independence means everything. Image iStock.
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Ah, money. How good is it? You can pay bills with it, order takeaway when you can't be bothered cooking, and just generally live independently.

But, as history shows, there are huge inequities when it comes to women earning money compared to men.

Until 1969 we paid women 25 per cent less than men doing the same jobs. We wouldn't allow women to obtain store cards and credit cards without their husband or father's permission until the 1980s and Australia did not establish the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission grants equal pay for men and women until 1972.

Now, we not only have greater financial freedom than ever before but also a number of laws in place to protect what is rightfully ours.

6. Going to the pub

australian womens rights 60 years ago
Everyone should be allowed to drink at the pub. Image iStock.

Like most Australians knocking off from a hard day's work, women don't mind a drink at the local pub. Except up until 1963, women weren't actually allowed in pubs without a male escort. What they thought we'd be getting up to other than talking about work and having a cold one we're honestly not sure, but hey, gender discrimination is pretty illogical like that.

The fact that we can now actually take a seat in the beer garden, though, is largely thanks to two legends named Merle Thornton and Ro Bogner. (Merle is actress Sigrid Thornton's mother).

Unimpressed at the sexism being thrust upon their gender, the two women chained themselves to the Regatta Hotel in Brisbane in protest and drank beer with the men. In addition to opening the doors for us, the protest also lead to the creation of the Equal Opportunities for Women Association.

Let's all raise a pint to Merle Thornton and Ro Bogner!

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