I was an adolescent in the seventies. The success of the second wave of the women's movement meant my world was very different from the one my mother had known. Career opportunities for women were much wider than in my mother's generation, and the notion that a woman had to give up her job/career when she married had been overturned. Attitudes to love, relationships, work, and career were definitely changing.
Many women no longer saw marriage as the way to secure social standing, economic security, and happiness. However, like the travellers in Star Trek, young women and their mothers were in unchartered territory. The central question for young women was: When I grow up, who and what will I be?
Like many other young women, I looked to novels and other people's experiences for guidance. Contemporary writers like Jackie Collins, Judith Krantz, Barbra Bradford Taylor wrote about worlds and people far removed from the Australian scene and that had little to do with the issues women and men faced here. Australian writers still wrote about outback and pastoral life. The world and the concerns of people I knew remained mostly unexplored and ignored in fiction.
By the 1990s, for many women and men in Australia, the boundaries between sexual liberation and promiscuity were blurred. The old codes that had defined interaction between women and men of my parents' and grandparents' generations had become labelled as out-dated and had been dismissed. What had once been common male acts of respect for women, shown through a range of courtesies and related manners, had mostly disappeared.
In many instances, men who held fast to old courtesies and manners were labelled as sexist. Vocal women's groups argued that male sensitivities to the status of women, be it in social spheres or the workplace, were out of place in the modern world.
In the subsequent vacuum, a new culture grew in an ad hoc manner where women and men 'worked it out' as situations arose within families, relationships, and in the workplace; this was not always done successfully.
The ripple effect of life in a community without clear codes of social interaction continues to be felt today: in football clubs, in workplace ethics as demonstrated by the recent lawsuit against the CEO of David Jones, and, as in the most recent news, at universities such as the Australian Defence Force Academy.
It is ironic that vocal women's groups argue the reverse now.