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Don’t Be Too Polite, Girls

Ahead of her upcoming event in Ballarat, we speak to Wendy McCarthy about how feminism has changed the world for the better and why the next wave of feminists are shifting the conversation.

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You’ve been at the forefront of feminism for half a century. How would you compare the state of feminism in 2022, compared with feminism in 1952? 

 In 1952 I was 11 years old and had never heard the word feminist. In 1962 the world had changed, and I was reading books by feminists such as Betty Friedan. In 1972 I was a feminist activist. In 2022 I feel very confident the world has changed for the better because of feminism. The balance sheet is positive.  

How are young feminists today changing the conversation? 

Through the use of social media and by standing their ground in public discourse. By exploring issues that have not traditionally been spoken about such as gender fluidity and intersectionality. And they are looking through a different lens on reproductive rights. 

What are your hopes for the future of feminism? 

I’m excited about the strong emergence of First Nations female leaders and how they are shining a light on the particular needs of their communities. Finally, they are being heard. 

What is most important about having women in leadership positions in politics? 

Seeing women in prominent leadership positions is essential role-modelling for all of us. 

Why did you choose to name your memoir after the powerful feminist song by Glen Tomasetti? 

Don’t Be Too Polite, Girls is a clever reworked version of an old shearing ballad. The words written for the equal pay case became an anthem, but we still don’t have equal pay.  Keep singing! 


Wendy McCarthy is appearing in conversation with Tierney Khan at Ballaarat Mechanics’ Institute on Wednesday, 8 June 2022. Tickets available now.

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