Kara Beavis (MA, Grad Cert, BA) is a gender and violence against women specialist based in Sydney. Kara has worked in women’s policy management roles in Sydney, Brisbane, London and Johannesburg. She most recently worked for Australia's National Research Organisation for Women's Safety (ANROWS) in Sydney and currently works as a Research Affiliate with Monash University’s Gender and Family Violence Focus Research Program and the Department of General Practice, University of Sydney. She is a sessional lecturer in gender analysis of public policy at Flinders University and proud Australian Women and Gender Studies Association (AWGSA) member.
Volume 36, May 2017
In 1988, brilliant New Zealand feminist economist and former politician Marilyn Waring told a story of market dependency on women. In her groundbreaking book, Counting for Nothing: What Men Value and Women are Worth, Waring posited that economic systems touch all lives, yet women’s labour does not appear in records of a country’s productive activity. By way of fieldwork, Waring counted women’s unpaid work internationally. She found that every government failed to accurately measure gross domestic product. Waring’s methodical and compelling research revealed what feminists have always known: government and business could not afford to pay for what women produce. The book illuminated that gender inequality — and other forms of structural oppression — is fortified in labour, capital and the means of production.
With critical acclaim from Gloria Steinem and David Suzuki, Waring’s influence on economics is prodigious but so is her less well-known political contribution throughout the 1970s and 1980s. Her process of ‘becoming woman’ took place on the political stage. As the only woman in New Zealand parliament, she crossed the floor on the defining issues of the day, including abortion, South African apartheid and voluntary unionism. Waring’s unremitting rise through the “House of domestic violence” while pursuing the morally just offers an invitation to see our houses of parliament in a new way: as more than places where only white, heterosexual male experiences are welcomed.
Along with excerpts from a rare interview with Waring, her contemporaries in Australia – Eva Cox AO, Dr Margaret Power and Professor Rhonda Sharp – reflect on the legacy of the front-runner of feminist economics. ‘Being counted’ is vital in shaping how policies are modelled, costed, and the spoils divided. Being counted means being included in how a society sees itself. This story must be told again to pose a contemporary alternative.