On face value
On page 18 of the edition dated 1 August,1973, The Leader Messenger interviewed two women for their feature ‘Tea Tree Plaza news’. Fay McGilvray was in charge of three departments at Myer and Paula Darby was employed as the Promotions Coordinator at Tea Tree Plaza.
The article was entitled ‘Attractive women who work at TTP’. Reading this title might give you a chuckle but then you would cringe and reflect on the sexism of the past. Were these ladies considered attractive just because of their physical appearance, because they were successful, or was it a combination of both? How did the Messenger Press select the women featured? Did they approach Centre Management at Tea Tree Plaza to ask if any female employees were interested in taking part or just walk around the shops looking for potential ‘talent’?
In 1973 the Women’s Movement was active in Australia. Internationally, large numbers of women campaigned for change and an end to discrimination. Some women strove to get an education and forge a career, when the workplace was still dominated by men in senior roles. Women were paid a lot less than men. Many women became homemakers once they married and had a child. Germaine Greer’s monumental book ‘The Female Eunuch’, which was published in 1970, encouraged women to embrace their sexuality and to not hate themselves. But this is different to being portrayed as a sex object. One of my colleagues once remarked that in the 70s sexism was rife “You were just a piece of meat at work.” Note that both Fay and Paula were photographed in poses which we could describe as alluring. They are not standing tall and proud.
Whatever the intention of the journalist, in modern times you would not usually read about women in business described as attractive. Nevertheless, based on the experience of another of our staff members who has worked as a newspaper journalist in Queensland, the media is still focused on appearance, because that is supposedly what readers want. Newspaper picture editors were invariably male and they would only select photographs of attractive girls and women for publication.
We still have much to achieve.