Thursday, March 8, 2012

International Womens Day: Be Inspiring

I’m sitting here at my desk, taking some time out of my work in Project and Change Management, to think about my place in the world.
Last night I was wondering if perhaps IWD didn’t apply to me. I’m not fighting to break through a glass ceiling, or to access health care or to survive on the streets. I’m not equal to a man yet; I suspect that if I was a man doing this job, my salary would probably be higher, but I’m dealing with that. Nothing is stopping me. I know that there are still venues I can’t get into and things I can’t do, but I don’t want to join the Tattersalls Club, and I don’t want to pee standing up.
But in not being equal, I’m also not “less” than a man. Neither am I superior. I am a woman.
I recall of one of my favourite scenes from The West Wing, where Emily Proctor’s character Ainsley Hayes explains her feelings on the ERA – America’s Equal Rights Amendment.

It's humiliating: a new amendment we vote on declaring that I am equal under the law to a man. I am mortified to discover there is reason to believe I wasn't before. I am a citizen of this country, I am not a special subset in need of your protection. I do not have to have my rights handed down to me by a bunch of old white men. The same article fourteen that protects you protects me and I went to law school just to make sure.
That speech has always resonated with me. My mother and her generation did enough work for women’s rights to allow me to make my way in the world. I don’t feel hampered or held back or limited in any way by my gender, and I don’t need to take advantage of special assistance programmes that favour my gender over the male gender.
Women are no more a big lump of homogenised oestrogen than men are a chunk of testosterone. We’re not all the same and as such, our needs as female-gendered humans are individual. That IWD isn’t a day when I can fight for my equality doesn’t mean we don’t need to fight for other women (and by “we”, I mean all of us – men included.)
The theme of this year’s IWD is about being role models for the next generations of women coming through. My Prime Minister, Governor General, State Premier and State Governor are women. There are some role models, right there.
The proportion of female board members in Australia is still far too low at 13.8%  – and yet people like Gail Kelly make it. If she can do it, I can too…if that’s what I want to do. It's worth looking at the roles those women on boards are in - a few CEO and Operations Executives, yet most of the female directors are in more typical female areas: HR, Communications and Marketing and a few finance experts. Is this a sign that women are still facing barriers in male-dominated executive roles, or is it just that women play to their strengths?
And that’s an important consideration. Men and women are not the same, so why assume that men and women have equal ambition to serve as company directors or as frontline troops or as drivers of enormous mining machines.
But too much of this conversation seems to be around careers and independence, and that’s not where the inequality lies.
It’s 45 years since Aretha sang about RESPECT. We need more than a song.
·         Australian Shock Jock Kyle Sandilands called a female journalist a fat slag
·         Kyle Sandilands’ said  Magda Szubanski would lose more weight in a Concentration Camp. Magda’s family is Polish.
·         Kyle Sandilands referred to a pregnant journalist as a “fat lying toad”
·         American Shock Jock Rush Limbaugh called Sandra Fluke a slut because she campaigned to have contraception included in a health plan
·         Australian Senator David Bushby “meouws” at Senator Penny Wong because she spoke up in Parliament
·         “Ditch the Bitch” placards aimed at Australia’s female Prime Minister
·         Facebook’s ban on pictures of breastfeeding
None of these examples are about physical abuse; this is just name calling and undermining women because they can. I could blog until the end of time about the abuses we don’t see, physical and emotional; the common thread is respect – or the lack of it.
I don’t believe all women should be respected simply because they’re women. I believe all women should be respected because they are people. After that, all people – male or female – get to build on that respect, or in some cases, lose it. It’s nothing to do with gender. We have a responsibility to our mothers and our daughters to be better, more respectful role models.
This International Womens Day, and for each day after this, be inspiring.

Update: I wish I’d written it down somewhere and had it date-stamped and witnessed. I probably tweeted it, but that would have been some months and many thousands of tweets ago. We can assume there’s no record of it, but I said it. I swear I said it. I said it over and over again: Sarah Palin is not done with the 2012 Presidential Race. Let’s just say that the door is open more than a crack. So far, I’m not seeing anyone who can beat Obama, and that includes Ms Palin.

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