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Is Australia Sexist?

A woman is catcalled in Is Australia Sexist? Source: SBS

A landmark survey on gender equality has found more than half of young Australian women have faced discrimination and feel that gender inequality exists in most Australian workplaces.It also found a large number of men believe the feminist movement has gotten out of control.

Is Australia Sexist?

That question is the subject of a new S-B-S documentary.

It will reveal the findings of Australia’s largest survey on sexism that gives insights into the experiences of almost 3,600 Australians.

Among its findings, that 60 per cent of women aged between 18 and 25 have experienced gender-based inequality.

It also found 44 per cent of women feel it is easier for men to get their dream job in Australia.

Macquarie University's Professor Catherine Lumby co-supervised the study.

She says the results don't surprise her but should alert the nation.

"I think it's a huge wake-up call. I think we still live in a society where most women feel hesitant about talking about the impact on a daily basis that gender discrimination has on them. Let's be clear, that includes being catcalled on the streets. It includes being less confident applying for a raise in male-dominant work places."

The study also reveals 22 per cent of men believe women should take being wolf-whistled on the street as a compliment.

Amnesty International Australia's Diana Syed says there is a need to upgrade Australian values.

"Whether men find wolf-whistling inappropriate or not, I think it's kind of irrelevant. What we know is that women are not there to be objectified. There are certain values within Australian society that need to have evolved beyond where they are currently sitting. And I think that line of questioning and reasoning is so archaic and out of date that it's astounding that we are even having this conversation at all."

A sociologist at Queensland University of Technology, Associate Professor Michael Flood,  says some types of behaviour still don't register as abuse with some men.

 "Men's recognition of domestic and sexual violence against women has improved in Australia. And men are particularly likely to recognise and see as unacceptable blunt forms of violence. A man hitting his wife or a man sexually assaulting a women who he doesn't know. But men's recognition of other forms of violence or abuse is much poorer. So many men don't see wolf whistling or unwanted sexual attention as a problem, as unacceptable."

The survey also asked participants about their opinions on early-childhood activities.

83 per cent of women believed it was okay for boys to play with dolls.

Only 60 per cent of men felt that way.

The Executive Director at Victorian Women's Trust, Mary Crooks, says gender stereotypes are still alive in Australian society.

"Every child that's born irrespective of their sex and their gender identity deserves to have a good crack at life. As a society we tend to impose expectations sub-consciously on what men and women can and can't do. When you impose limiting views on what people can do because of their sexuality then all the talents and experience around you is not kept fully."

 More than half ((52%)) of the men surveyed believe feminism has gone ‘too far’.

Associate Professor Michael Flood says gender roles and relations in Australia are shifting.

He says a minority of men feel some level of defensiveness because of the shift.

"Some men are struggling. Some men feel like they are being given contradictory messages about how to behave, how to treat women. I think some men feel they are being tarnished with the stereotypes of behaviour that other men engage in. I don't think that's true. I think feminism has very much been a good thing for men."

Indian Australian Sonal Sharma is senior executive with a multinational company in Melbourne.

She says, “Most of the time it’s not easy for us to secure promotions or even be placed in team leader position.”

Sonal also told SBS Hindi, “We have to prove ourselves each time we enter the boardroom.”

The documentary Is Australia Sexist?  will air on the fourth of December at 8:40pm on SBS.

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