Home' The Canberra Times : FEMME 2011 Contents 10 - SPECIAL SUPPLEMENT - THE CANBERRA TIMES - MARCH 8, 2011
A CELEBRATION OF INSPIRATIONAL WOMEN
a platform to
Whether it be on equal rights or body image, social
commentator Mia Freedman says women must have a
voice. Karen Hardy writes
Mia Freedman is wondering
when feminism became a
dirty word. As an author,
social commentator, and
publisher of Australia's leading
independent website for women, she's
noticed a growing trend.
''When you talk about feminism
there's a distaste that women, particularly
younger women, have to calling
themselves feminists these days. I find
that very sad and I worry,'' she says.
''Why? Because all the battles haven't
''You say to someone, 'Are you a
feminist?' and women will say, 'Oh no, I
don't march in the street and I don't have
hairy legs' and you say, 'Do you think
women should be paid the same amount
for doing the same job as a man?' and
they go, 'Obviously', you go, 'Well
currently in Australia they're not'.
There's a huge complacency about
''We have to keep having a voice.''
Freedman believes the advent of the
internet has enabled women to have that
voice. That women have ''reclaimed
some airtime'' and are now connecting,
interacting, expressing ideas on sites
much like her own.
''I like to think of mamamia.com.au as
an independent voice for women,'' she
says. ''My writing is never just about
what I think, I mean you can't speak for
a whole gender, but I'm always interested
to share different view points and the way
many women think.
''Our opinions and experiences are
often kept to ourselves and I think it's
really, really important for women to
share our struggles as well as our
triumphs. I think it's a really old-
fashioned attitude to talk about women's
issues because they're life issues.''
It would be easy enough to dismiss a lot
of Freedman's concerns as trivial. On her
website, and in her weekly newspaper
column, she's more often than not got
something to say about the latest
celebrity, or how to deal with children's
birthday parties, or the latest beauty
''I'll admit that some of it is not the
stuff you'll see on the six o'clock news,''
she says candidly. ''It's about breast
versus bottle, about controlled crying,
about navigating social media with your
children, it's about infertility. But all of
those things are the stuff of life. They're
no more or less important than a lot of
stuff that's discussed in serious circles.''
But if you dig deeper, it's about so
much more than that.
''For example, yesterday on the
website we had something about Italian
PM Silvio Berlusconi next to a post about
breastfeeding versus bottle feeding,
written by a woman who chose to bottle
feed her child after breast feeding went
really horribly wrong, she was able to
speak up and say she felt so guilty,
criticised and judged by other women.
''There were hundreds of comments on
that and hundreds on Berlusconi and
today we've posted about the funerals of
the asylum seekers and there are hundreds
of posts about that too.''
Freedman is pleasantly surprised at
how fast the website has grown and how
fast it continues to grow.
''The fact that I'm able to present
different voices on my website, not just
mine, and women come and listen to
those voices and interact with them and
contribute their own opinion, for me to be
able to do that has been a delight.''
One issue that is close to Freedman's
heart is that of body image. It always has
even during her time as a magazine editor
in the 1990s. Freedman began her career
in women's magazines, initially at Cleo,
before becoming editor of Cosmopolitan
in 1996 at just 24. Just one year later she
instigated the magazine's Body Love
policy where diets were banned and non-
models sized six to 16 and of different
skin colours were featured in every issue.
In 2009 the then Minister for Youth, Kate
Ellis, established the National Advisory
Group on Body Image, Freedman was
named as the inaugural chair, a position
she still holds.
''I become more and more alarmed as
every year passes about the portrayal of
women in the media and advertising and
magazines,'' she says. ''It's past the point
of being unrealistic to being outright lies.
''We're constantly being shown these
images of women who don't exist,
pictures of women who are stunningly
beautiful in the first place, women like
Miranda Kerr, who are then not deemed
to be good enough and are airbrushed
further. The image that we see then is
someone Miranda Kerr can't even be.
''To me that is hugely damaging and
insidious and toxic for women and I will
never get tired of banging that drum.''
But what can be done, it's been almost
14 years since the Body Love policy was
evoked. ''We can vote with our wallets,
we can stop supporting companies and
publishers who continue to peddle these
images and make our voices heard.
''As an online independent publisher I
can keep pulling back the curtain and
exposing these images for the fakery that
they are. It's so important we educate
ourselves and our daughters.
''There seems to be little regulation of
corporate responsibility . . . on the Body
Image Advisory Council we brought in a
voluntary code of conduct -- of course it
'' We're constantly being shown these images of women who don't exist, pictures of women who are stunningly
beautiful in the first place, women like Miranda Kerr, who are then not deemed to be good enough and are airbrushed
further. The image that we see then is someone Miranda Kerr can't even be. To me that is hugely damaging and
insidious and toxic for women and I will never get tired of banging that drum
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