When I worked in newspapers the photographer and I were always told by the news and picture editors to make sure we got a “good looking bird” in the story. It didn’t matter what the story was about, it was a directive straight from the top that pretty young girls helped sell newspapers.
When there was a story about childcare or equal pay or family friendly workplaces they were considered “women’s issues” and would be labelled as such and written by the Women’s Affairs writer. I always found it ironic that the women writing these stories were getting paid less than their male counterparts. They were also often referred to as bitches and uptight.
When I decided to pursue business reporting as my speciality, I wasn’t prepared for the condescending manner businessmen and stockbrokers would talk to me. I made it my mission to learn my craft, I made some brilliant contacts (men and women) and grew a thicker skin. Instead of getting flustered when someone I was interviewing started patronising me, I’d step up my line of questioning. I remember a broker saying: “Would you like me to speak a little slower”. “No, I am quite adept at understanding the vagaries of the Australian Stock Market thanks. How about you? Do you need me to explain my question so you can understand it?”, I replied. It was amazing how quickly they’d stop being an ass when they realised I could expose them as such.
Later in my career, when working for a news wire service as their National Industrial Relations Reporter, I stood in a room full of trade unionists and journos at a Christmas party. I can’t tell you how many times men, one of whom is now a Federal Minister, spoke to my tits and the tits of other female reporters. It wasn’t so much a sexual advance, it was a power trip. And it was offensive.
Now I write a “Mummy Blog”. The whole idea of pigeonholing women bores me.
When we go out with the kids we’re often asked if we’re going to “try for a boy” so my husband has someone to hang out and play “footy with”. Firstly, we don’t want to have four children. Secondly, my husband hates football. Thirdly, women play football too. Fourthly, shut up it’s none of your business.
When I watch television I’m bombarded with advertisements for cleaning and lunch box products aimed at “Mums” and the car ads tell me there’s special compartments for my high heels and extra room for the kids I’m ferrying around. On the news, our PM is being treated abhorrently, women are getting raped and murdered all too often, sportsmen are hailed as heroes, while sportswomen are delegated to the back end of the sports report (if at all) and men saying stupid nasty things are being slapped on the wrist publicly, yet slapped on the back behind closed doors.
Magazines are filled with diet stories and women are dissected for what they wear, not for what they think. The mens mags are filled with women spreading their airbrushed legs and pushing their boobs together.
Girls toys are pink. Boys toys are blue. Girls play with vacuum cleaners and babies, while boys shoot things.
Women are sluts or bitter spinsters. Men are loveable rogues and eligible bachelors. Men turn a “distinguished grey”, women get hair dye.
Many men in my life are amazing, but there are many out there who are not. Every day I am reminded of my gender inequality. And I count myself extremely lucky for not living in a country where my genitals are mutilated or I’m stoned to death or forced into sex slavery. My issues pale into insignificance.
I tell my girls they can do anything. One day when they’re older I’ll need to tell them how to navigate all the shit along the way.