The dominant ideology that colonised “Terra Australis” and went on to construct “Australia” was patriarchal. Describe how this gendered perspective is evident in works from Australia’s past. Support your argument with reference to specific examples. Does such a view persist in the contemporary production of culture in Australia? Introduction The dominant ideology that colonised Terra Australis and subsequently Australia is a dominant ideology that prevails within Western society today. This ideology has not changed dramatically over the last 300 years.
This ideology is based around notions of masculinity, superiority, capitalism, expansion and industrialisation which are inherently patriarchal traits. Today’s public audience is definitely more liberal and open to a wider range of ideas and views as expressed by an artist and are far more accommodating than colonial days. However, we do have a prevailing culture that is predominantly capitalist and capitalism is strongly grounded within a patriarchal discourse, which in turn is heavily influenced by masculine ideologies. Western Culture as a Patriarchal Discourse.
Western culture is deeply rooted in notions of patriarchal power and dominance, which have remained unchallenged for hundreds of years. A major component of the patriarchal system is understanding the placement of the “other” within this discourse. Patriarchal ideology is based around an historical and cultural language devised and set by the “superiority” of the male other. Even in terms of feminism, the female other has replicated herself on the male other for recognition and status within a patriarchal discourse. (Grosz, 1988)
The beginnings of Western patriarchal culture can be dated back to the classical Greeks. At a time when great philosophers like Aristotle, Socrates and Plato held great public voice – the “other” was given no real voice or platform from which to be heard. Indeed, Plato’s thoughts are dominated by a patriarchal hierarchy. His paper on the new world would see “man” superior to all other beings. Plato states “he who has developed his male humanity and can participate in the highest functions of man, politics and war”. (Elshtain 1973) The Church has also played a strong role in the definition of a patriarchal society.
Until recent times, the Church has been a major influence on society and culture, dictating the accepted roles of gender and representation within society, stringently upholding the divine rules of procreation and obedience and the reverence of civilised man above all else. (Weedon 1987) The prevailing discourse of settlers and explorers to the new land of “Terra Australis” was that they were adding to, not displacing the local inhabitants. The colonists saw themselves and their ways of being as far superior and more civilised than the local savages and the Aborigines were treated accordingly.
Notions of modern Australia were heavily influenced and biased toward masculine modes of thought. In this period we see women and Aborigines as being marginalised, if not totally ignored. This in part was probably due to work that still needed to be done to establish a new country. In Australia today, what we are more inclined to perceive, is a very superficial, politically correct democratic system, based around notions of equality for all marginalised groups eg ethnic races and gender groups. We have a legal system, that on face value, views all peoples as having equal rights and value within society.
However, this system in essence does not always follow through on its promises. One only has to look at the Judge who stated “when a woman says no, she may mean yes” or that statistically, violence against women in this country is actually on the rise. Kenan Malik views Western culture as still being inherently a patriarchal society, the “other” is still marginalised into a point of indifference. Under notions of multi-culturalism, these differences have been embraced in a public sphere, giving all minorities a public voice, temporarily alleviating any notions of inequality within the different minority groups.
What this course of action does in actuality however, is further marginalise minority groups by expounding and highlighting cultural differences. Not only does it highlight differences between gender, peoples and cultures it nullifies any political statements these groups would like to make regarding their placement within society (Malik, 2002) Colonial Artists and Public Discourse In the beginning of colonisation, Australia or “Terra Australis” was seen as something of a novelty country by European nations. Australian history, from a Western discourse, really only starts at the time of settlement as a penal colony (Eagle, Johns 1994).
Even through such harsh beginnings, Australia was viewed as a substitute for a “home away from home” by many of the British citizens inhabiting our shores at that time. There was really only one way and that was the British way. If Australia did not have what they were missing from home, they would endow her with it. This is particularly evident in social codes and behaviour from that period (I couldn’t imagine wearing all those items of clothing on a 40 degree day, living in a tent in the middle of the bush!! ).
During the 1800s Western culture was heavily invested in all things rational. The importance of the Church had slightly diminished with the advent of new scientific discoveries and it is with these discoveries that society began to believe that perhaps they could actually get closer to God if they understood the world around them better. Objects and art were placed into a classificatory mode and high art became a study into natural history and topography. These things were seen as necessary and imperative for the betterment of a civilised and enlightened nation.
It should also be remembered that the camera as we know it had yet to be invented, so there was a great emphasis placed on the artist to produce a replica or exact likeness of the image for educational and reference purposes. (Eagle, Jones 1994) These images became a pictorial history of new lands discovered. In fact the dissemination of knowledge back to the homeland was so important that British officers were trained in the art of drawing so that they could compose a visual diary of their encounters and new findings.
(Eagle, Johns 1994) The British Government of the time was very keen to illicit settlers to their newly occupied territory and employed the services of artists to depict a visual documentary of the beauty and bountiful landscape to be found in the new land. These pictures, enticed the new settlers by depicting a land that was vaguely similar to the British landscape, of one not as alien and foreign as one might think. Joseph Lycett was one such artist who imposed his own cultural codes and signifiers onto a newly discovered landscape.
In 1824 he published a series of articles entitled “Views in Australia” to encourage more British settlement in Australia. (Eagle, Johns 1994). Lycett writes: “Among all the various occurrences which constitute the history of human affairs, there are perhaps none calculated to excite such universal interest as the discovery of unknown countries, and the progress of art upon the soil and the people, which nature, on such occasions, resigns from her own creative hand to the care and culture of their civilised discoverers… “