Verve talks to legendary feminist Jane Caro

Author Verve Team
Posted on 23 February 2019
Verve talks to legendary feminist Jane Caro

“My life, without the tampon, would have been bloody awful”. Amen Jane, Amen!

This was one of the first remarks from the legendary Jane Caro when she joined us at One Roof for lunch and to launch her new book — Accidental Feminists. The Melbourne Verve community mingled and munched before sitting down with Jane to talk about feminism today and the road we’ve taken to get here. Jane Caro is many things: a novelist, social commentator, facilitatory, speaker and author. Her most recent book, Accidental Feminists, feels particularly relevant to Verve as Jane focuses on the challenges facing older women–women who spent much of their lives caring for others, facing exclusion from the paid workforce, only to bare the brunt of a retirement system that has left them to climb an immensely steep hill towards secure financial independence. In just a short hour, Jane covered a lot of ground, here is some of her wisdom we wouldn’t want you to miss out on:

(Pssst you can actually watch the whole conversation, just click on the video below!)

It is your duty to share your privilege

I’m safer than a lot of people, so if I won’t risk speaking up to injustice, it’s a waste of my privilege. If you’ve got privilege, it is your duty to spread that privilege not keep it to yourself”.

We couldn’t agree with this more, we cannot ignore the varied layers of privilege in the women’s movement and the importance of being an ally and champion of intersectionality. For us at Verve, this means recognising the unique challenges and strengths of the different women who make up our community: women from culturally or language diverse backgrounds, women with a disability, or women who identify as LBTIQ. 

Don’t trade flexibility now for financial security later

“We took time out to have kids or went part time to care for aging parents, not realising we were trading flexibility during our youth for financial security when we were older”.

Jane explained how many of her friends from school were not allowed to go onto university or even complete high school education. Others were forced to give up their jobs when they married. The Government, and society, made it clear that women were expected to stay home and raise children. In many ways, this is still true today. We are still encouraged to stay home with children as the cost of child care continues to rise. It often just “makes sense” (or cents) to prioritise the higher earner in our households. Given the wage gap still exists, this higher earner is likely to be a man. These may look like the “choices” we make for a more flexible lifestyle, the choices we make as we take on the care-taking role for our families; little do we realise the “flexibility” of doing unpaid work, casual work, job sharing etc is impacting our longer term financial security.

When we make these decisions it’s important to consider ways to continue contributing to our super and our savings, whether it be through contributions splitting with your partner or making additional personal contributions during the time we take out of paid work. It is also important we continue to put pressure on legislators and industry to address the gap between men and women in retirement savings. These are structural issues that have an impact on all of us and the burden of solving these challenges should not be on those affected — ie. women.

Caretakers need to be paid super

“Every person who takes time out of paid work to care for others, the taxpayer should pay their super.”

YES, Jane! Women do over 75% of domestic care and unpaid labour in Australia. These women are supporting our community at every level. Not only does this work go unaccounted for economically and often unacknowledged socially, it also leaves women financially vulnerable in retirement.

Today one in three Australian women retires with no retirement savings. Single women over 55 are the fastest growing demographic experiencing homelessness in Australia. Jane made it clear that while the women of her generation often “did the right thing” by staying home to care for kids or aging parents (and parents-in-law) many are now “paying the price”. “These were “the good girls”, not the ones who were shamed for choosing work over full time childrearing and now when these women need our support and our care, we’re leaving them without a home and in financial despair.

If you’d like to hear more from Jane, watch the full conversation! And pick up a copy of Accidental Feminists from all good book stores.