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.
Ah yes. When I rocked up to the local newspaper after finishing my degree aged only 19 and applied for an internship as a journalist I was told that I was not qualified. Why? Because I was engaged and female. I didn’t get married (that time, thankfully) but I also did not manage to convince the paper to hire me. And that was in 1987. In 1991 whilst working as a Brand Manager in the IT industry, a predominantly male-oriented industry in those days, I requested that my Sales Manager pull his finger out and make some more sales. He tried to punch me in the face. Two weeks later I was made redundant. Every step of the way in every professional role I’ve ever had, including some I’ve held recently (so much for a modern age!) I’ve had professional colleagues address my breasts, call me ‘licky Vicki’ in a conference call and experienced a whole variety of sexually charged behaviour, some might even say harassment. I tell my daughters to be smart and don’t get mad. Be smart and through your intelligence, you will get even. Hugs to you hun Vx
Ah yes,lucky you didn;t get that job – they sound like knobs x
Two words, Bianca…..HERE, HERE! Love your post xo
Thanks so much x
The last week has left me feeling quite overwhelmed. I am no huge fan of JG but she is our PM and should be shown the respect she deserves.
I will tell my girls they can do anything theywant, like I was told, but some days it feel like its getting worse not better.
Great post as always B. x
I feel the same sense of disappointed for the way the PM of our country is being disrespected. It’s ugly x
Nearly didn’t click on the link to this, not because it’s not an important topic, but because there is so much of it out there and little being said that makes any impact on me any more. But this did, glad I stopped by 🙂
I’m glad you did too. Thanks
Great post. Really well written Bianca. Thank you. I think women need to keep believing in their value and power and living that with our head held high. Continue to be the warm, gentle, strong, loving trailblazers we are and we will change the world as a result. I have two daughters too who I am raising in the same way. I have no interest in trying for a son. I absolutely adore being a mother to two girls. I think it suits me better.
I love your comment Caz. Thanks x
Great article. Don’t wait too long to teach your girls(or sons for those that have them). The sooner they learn that the gender divide is a social construct the better. We don’t have “boys” or “girls” toys in our house they are just toys. My older children have been raised that way and so far it’s working out.
I only clicked on this link because I’m the mother of 3 adult daughters & we told them the same thing. However I’ve felt so flat the last few days because of all the crap our PM has dealt with this week. The fact that I’m a fan of hers is irrelevant; she’s our leader, whether we agree with her or not she deserves basic respect & an attempt at dignified behaviour. My girls are now successful, capable young women but the stuff we’ve observed this week makes me fear for them in many ways – we deliberately exposed them to very positive males – have we prepared them well enough? – did we cheat them by not showing them what turds some men can be? Like you I also bristled when people used to ask us if we were disappointed when our third daughter was born- her birth followed a devastating miscarriage and was the result of a twin pregnancy where she only just survived – were they serious? – we were deliriously happy to have her safely in our arms (besides which my older daughters were adamant that no boys were to be brought home from the hospital – it was a sister or a puppy as far as they were concerned!); even my own sister wished that I’d had a boy as girls ‘were so boring’….I’ll say no more on that subject. My husband has been an involved, active and adoring father to his girls and with 3 daughters there was no shortage of boys around anyway! I’ll shutup before I step any higher onto my soapbox!, You write beautifully, I enjoyed your post and I’ll be back 🙂
I have a daughter, she is about to turn 5 and I am already telling her that she can do anything. I hope by the time she is older that views of women have changed.
I have worked in IT since leaving school and it is a hugely male dominated workplace. I have had men being blatantly sexist to me and others being subtle, pretending to be nice guys. Others presume I am a man because my name is Sam and when they talk to me or meet me they are shocked – NiCE ONE! Dickheads.
So well said Bianca. It is a minefield for us and our girls in many respects. I try and focus on the positives and myriad choices that women and girls do have today by comparison but it is sad to see how things are seemingly slipping backward in terms of not only how the opposite sex treat one another but how people treat each other in general. I have gotten to the point where I completely tune out the opinions of the mainstream media because they are nothing more than opinions of opinions rather than factual reporting. Tatum 🙂
I’m with you Tatum. It’s getting really frustrating the way things are reported in the media. OUr girls will be fine. x
Whoa lady. This is intense. On one hand, I’m like “Hells, yeah!”. But on the other, there’s something that feels counter-productive… like screaming at a the mess in my house instead of rolling up my sleeves, leading by example and getting everyone to pitch in to the damn job of cleaning it up.
Because this isn’t a fire that mums – or women in general – can put out by themselves. We can’t rage humanity into equality. This is a team effort: mums, dads, kids, grandparents – the whole freakin’ family needs to get on board.
And when it comes to sexist actions, voices and opinions that are frustrating – and just plain wrong – there’s only one thing more powerful than fuming about it: disregarding it. Tuning out of media that sucks. Not buying the products with ridiculous marketing. Turning away from sexism and stupidity and raising independent, thoughtful boys and girls equally capable of treating others with respect.
Great post, BTW. Your words have made me consider how I can try to do this better each day.