As we worked our way through high school and university in the '70s and early '80s, girls like me listened to our mothers, our trailblazing feminist teachers, and the outspoken women who demanded a better deal for all women. They paved the way for us to have rich careers.
They anointed us and encouraged us to take it all. We had the right to be editors, paediatricians, engineers, premiers, executive producers, High Court judges, CEOs etc. We were brought up to believe that the world was ours. We could be and do whatever we pleased.
Feminism's hard-fought battles had borne fruit. And it was ours for the taking.
Or so we thought - until the lie of super "you-can-have-it-all" feminism hits home, in a very personal and emotional way.
The idea was to be autonomous, hence the slogan of "doing and being whatever we pleased". However, since it was careers which made women independent, women were to aim not at doing whatever they pleased but at a powerful professional career.
And Virginia Haussegger succeeded at this. She became a high profile news and current affairs journalist on Australian TV. But at a cost. She had a loving marriage but when she worked in a different city to her husband the relationship foundered. After her divorce she embarked on a series of casual encounters with men. By the time she met her second husband in her mid-30s, her fallopian tubes had been damaged beyond repair by chlamydia. She had lost the chance to have children of her own.
She wished that she had received a different message from her feminist role models:
The point is that while encouraging women in the '70s and '80s to reach for the sky, none of our purple-clad, feminist mothers thought to tell us the truth about the biological clock. Our biological clock. The one that would eventually reach exploding point inside us ...
And none of our mothers thought to warn us that we would need to stop, take time out and learn to nurture our partnerships and relationships. Or if they did, we were running too fast to hear it.
For those of us that did marry, marriage was perhaps akin to an accessory. And in our high-disposable-income lives, accessories pass their use-by date, and are thoughtlessly tossed aside.
Frankly, the dominant message was to not let our man, or any man for that matter, get in the way of career and our own personal progress.
Autonomy and careers were what mattered. Men were "accessories" to be tossed aside if they got in the way of a woman's "personal progress".
But, in the long run, it didn't seem worth it. A career and a single girl lifestyle made for a comfortable but alienating existence:
The end result: here we are, supposedly "having it all" as we edge 40; excellent education; good qualifications; great jobs; fast-moving careers; good incomes; and many of us own the trendy little inner-city pad we live in. It's a nice caffe-latte kind of life, really.
But the truth is - for me at least - the career is no longer a challenge, the lifestyle trappings are joyless (the latest Collette Dinnigan frock looks pretty silly on a near-40-year-old), and the point of it all seems, well, pointless.
I am childless and I am angry. Angry that I was so foolish to take the word of my feminist mothers as gospel. Angry that I was daft enough to believe female fulfilment came with a leather briefcase.
It was wrong. It was crap.
And now Virginia Haussegger herself is playing the role of a feminist mother, being the guest speaker and "chief feminist flag waver" at an event at the Australian National University. And what advice did she give the young women?
The same advice that she called "crap" back in 2002. She thought it great that the young women had a strong sense of entitlement; she highlighted professional success as what mattered; and she spoke at length of women being held back from achieving career success and pay parity.
Think about this. In 2010 she is telling young women that they will be oppressed by their lack of career and pay opportunities. In 2002, it was a very different story. She admitted then that she and her friends had not been held back at all in their careers and income. They had great jobs, high incomes and a glamorous, comfortable lifestyle. But she had learned that career and money weren't enough for fulfilment. She should not have treated men and relationships as secondary, as mere "accessories".
So why not tell the next generation of women this? Why not spare them from making the same mistake? Why not let them know that they can be oppressed not so much by discrimination but by failing to take the time to nurture relationships? That career and money alone can seem pointless?
Worst of all, why discuss motherhood in such negative terms, as a "breeding creed" that might upset a woman's "career and income ambitions"?
Virginia, aren't you repeating the sins of your own feminist mothers?