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Stream and mountains

Grace Tame; The Controversial Feminist of this Era

Elina Banerji

Behave. Smile for the camera. Good girls don't make their real emotions evident. These are the norms, the tropes, the expectations for a woman's entire life. These are the standards that Grace Tame dared to defy.

Communicating her disdain for the suppression of female voices and advocacy in politics, her actions (whilst justified), have caused much controversy and a new wave of the urgency at which society needs to confront the prominent gender debate.

The last official engagement for 2021's Australian of the Year, the 25th of January, marked the end of the feminist icon. Grace Tame's hold on the honourable position, commenced a powerful social movement within feminism, advocating against patriarchal politics in society’s core. Her cold demeanour and disposition upon greeting Scott Morrison, especially under the perceptive eyes of national journalism, signified to many that a statement was to be made; one of reformative relevance and a vitality at which to be addressed. Evoking an array of opinions via social media, front-page tabloid features and news headlines, her behaviour sent shockwaves throughout Australian society. It sparked discussions with several perspectives emerging; many deemed her conduct to be "immature" and "entitled", whilst others believed it to be a stand of contemporary feminism.

Representing the fatigue of the consistent application of double standards for the sexes in society today, a multitude of journalists, especially female journalists, rose to Grace's defence. They discussed her actions as a challenge to society to eliminate the harsh hypocrisy surrounding the standards placed on women, juxtaposed with those placed upon men. In this context, several online threads demonstrated the public reactions to a similar situation, in which a male firefighter refused to shake the PM, Scott Morrison's, hand. The reactions to the event were mostly complimentary, however, in contrast with the reactions surrounding the much-similar event in which an influential female; Grace Tame, approached the Prime Minister with animosity, there was a distinct difference. In essence, the reactions towards the male were positive, and the reactions towards the female, were negative. Ultimately, the gender bias, institutionalised male privilege and harsh judgement towards women in power, constituted these differences.

Journalistic personalities such as Peter van Onselen stated bluntly and scathingly that Tame was a, “recalcitrant infant”, that "her political opinions were justifiable and appropriate, yet shouldn't have been expressed in a public forum", and the most invalid of all: "if she didn't want the honour, she shouldn't have been in attendance". Inspired by his communal expression of his and other writers' brutal comments, innumerable members of national and international society expressed their similar opinions; those of hatred and disdain for Grace Tame's actions. However, what initially instigated the impact of nationwide hatred towards Tame, inadvertently provoked a dialogue of why feminists are not taken seriously. This is the societal status quo.

We live in a society of unjust expectations of the two sexes, a society of unattainable standards and unrealistic pressures, a society of male privilege and bias. One of sexism, one of misogyny, one of patriarchy - present in all facets of our life; our politics, our history, our opportunities, our education, our employment, and most vital of all, our voice. Embedded within our lives, lies the denial of womens voices, lies the inadvertent discrimination, and preconceived notions of what a woman's role is, of what a woman's life is. But the reality is that the socially constructed ideals in play for a woman no longer fit the rate at which we are evolving, and soon will no longer be able to fit in the age of feminist reform. Grace Tame realised this and acted on it. Grace Tame was silenced.

When Tame made the statement that she did, the nation didn't care that her actions had truth. They didn't pay attention to the fact that her motivations were pure. They did pay attention to one thing though; that Grace was beginning to unfurl the carefully constructed social fabric, a fabric so tightly-knit that it would take a feminist movement so influential, and so monumental, to unravel and reconstruct it in a new era of justice and equality. This was exactly what Grace was doing; exactly the response she wanted to elicit and exactly the movement she wanted to ignite. Upon this realisation, society had no choice but to silence her - the social construct couldn't be threatened, the social construct couldn't be altered, women would have to continue in a cycle of oppression.

But it doesn’t have to be this way. It is imperative, now more than ever, that we as women of the 21st Century utilise our voices. We must harness our activism, and coalesce, so that the women of the near future will never have to undergo what we had to fight for, will never have to suffer the same pain we feel, and will never have to be marginalised. This cycle of oppression, inequality and injustice must end with us. It is time, at last, to disentangle the social fabric.


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