Well done dear! – Changing attitudes is not for the faint hearted!

Patience is not a virtue I possess, so I recognise many of my frustrations regarding the way women are tolerated in business is simply because we are still so new at it. I understand we only have 60 years of being taken relatively seriously under our belt and the equal pay act only came into being in 1970 but I continue to be disappointed and often outraged at the perceptions of some men who STILL believe women should be full time home makers and mothers ONLY. Everyone is entitled to their opinion but many of these men control our industry, the media, our political landscape and our public sector. At this point their pre Victorian values and pontificating become an issue for all of us.

I accept we are still learning to play the game and striving to be taken seriously but sexism is endemic and quite often so subtle it goes unnoticed and unchallenged. Here is an example that raised my temperature this month……

On the drive home from the city the other day I was listening to BBC local radio’s coverage of the region’s Inspirational Women Awards 2012. The winners were interviewed by a male host as they left the stage holding their trophy. The winner of the media category was the first women ever to hold the position of Editor of a pretty well known and reputable regional newspaper. The host patronised her for a few moments then went in for the kill by asking her if she was a Mother? When she answered yes he then responded and I quote ‘ Wow, you must find it tough to manage such an important, high profile job with being a mother and caring for your family. How do you do this? At this moment my heart sank, but I remained hopeful that she would answer with confidence, certainty and a touch of indignation at the relevance of the question. I was disappointed, but not surprised by her answer.

She delivered the script many women do when faced with this blatant sexism. She expounded the saintly qualities of her very patient and supportive husband and expressed her gratitude and appreciation of her daughter who put up with her neglect as she sneeked into the back row of the school plays, always late and only had quality time to share with her at weekends. Arrgh! Why do we do this to ourselves?

The interviewer oohed and arrghed his way through her reply and finished with the classic ‘But do you think they will both be proud of you today eh?’ translated as ‘maybe they will forgive you for your constant neglect because now you can show them you are good at your job’!

Some of you will argue that he was not sexist in his approach, he was simply asking real questions that women want to know the answer to. I disagree, I subscribe to the Caitlin Moran definition of equality here. Ie. It is sexist behaviour if the same questions/approach is NOT acceptable to both sexes. So in this instance, would the interviewer have asked a man just picking up an award for excellence the same question ‘So Bob, well done on your award, are you a father and how do you manage to balance your career with caring for your family?’ No No NO, I think not!

Sometimes, in fact quite often, sexism lies just under the surface and it becomes so endemic we barely notice it let alone challenge it, but if we continue to walk around with our eyes closed and think we are rising above this attitude, we are in denial and nothing will change and we will only have ourselves to blame when we look behind and our daughters are NOT following us.

Breath Jane, breath!

2 Comments on Well done dear! – Changing attitudes is not for the faint hearted!

  1. Jane you’re obviously and very clearly right and I, too, do tire of women’s biological, marital ad fertility status always being the prime concern of ‘professional profiles’ whereas it’s barely mentioned for men. However, I’m not sure I agree with your feeling that this woman’s answer was a ‘script’ which makes other women unite in a sense of self flagellation. I’m pretty sure it was a fact that she has a supportive husband and that she’s late to pretty much everything her daughter wants her to be at. It’s not physically possible to be in two places at once nor even very likely that we’ll even get everywhere on time. That’s what having it all really looks like – trying to do everything ok-ish. The fact that it is different for men is largely because it’s a sexist world but also because men and women have different barometers. They often do in business, they often do at home. I passionately agree with you that we are in denial if we don’t recognise we live in a sexist society, but I think we are also in denial if we think men will act like women or view the world like women, or really want to live their lives with the same kind of balance women crave. Did anyone hear Bradley Wiggins interviewed last night? He was charming, funny, self-deprecating. He was asked about sacrifices and he said that he’s missed heaps of children’s birthdays or even being around at all; that he sleeps in a tent for weeks on end preparing for races and that what he does “isn’t conducive to being a father. Or a husband.” But he is still both. His wife chooses to put up with that. That’s their life and their choice. It wouldn’t work for many people and we do have to remember the divorce rate is up at 40-odd%. I think where women risk beating themselves up the most is thinking / hoping / expecting that men will think, behave and act the way we would prefer, rather in the way they prefer (I’m talking more specifically at a domestic level here; professionally of course we need to keep making strides for technical and formal equality everywhere). It’s such an interesting dsicussion! I’ll stop droning on, as I’m aware that everything we are saying opens up reams of discussion as it is!

    • jane kenyon // October 5, 2012 at 3:21 pm // Reply

      Claire
      loved reading your response here so thank you. And to clarify I def do not want ment to start behaving like women any more than I want women to be forced to behave like men at home or at work, I just want respect and parity and I am not prepared to give up my femininity for anyone!

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