Friday, March 9, 2012

International Women's Day

It was yesterday. But we know that I can't be trusted to blog about events on the date on which they fall.

That would be asking far too much.

Besides which, International Women's Day is still on my mind. I have been pondering it intermittently over the week, wondering what the day means to me in a country that doesn't overtly discriminate against women, with my upbringing that never made me feel second best for being female.

The International Women's Day website notes that the day is to celebrate the economic, political and social achievements of women in the past, present and future. There is a particular focus on supporting women in developing countries, many of whom still have limited access to education, employment opportunities, and freedom outside of marriage. However, the day is also about recognising the positive changes that have occurred for women since the day was established in 1911.

We're having random photos today folks

Part of me wonders how we would feel if there was an International Men's Day and not an equivalent (edit - apparently there is an International Men's Day, on the 19th November each year from 2002), but of course I recognise the history of the occasion and the ongoing discrepancies between women and men in so many places and in so many domains - in opportunities, educational achievements, and employment progression and income, to name a few. I am grateful that we have a day to highlight these issues in their past and present form.

I have still been pondering though.

You see, I grew up with the belief that I could be anything I want to be. A doctor, a teacher, a mother, a writer (all things I seriously considered as careers)...whatever I wanted.

I also grew up with the expectation, even understanding, that I would go to university. My parents placed great value on education and I naively assumed that anyone and everyone could head there, irrespective of gender, class, colour, or other background.

As a teenager, my parents were perhaps more strict with me than they would have been if I was a boy (certainly they were more strict with me than they were with my brother) but I never thought I was inferior for being female. I went to an all girls' high school and the messages there were the same - girls can do anything. Science and Mathematics were promoted, challenging the stereotypes that we should stick to English or Art (although, of course, we could do those too).

I did go to university and I did pursue the career I wanted to pursue. I don't consider that I have ever been discriminated against due to my gender.


But.

My high school education included home economics - sewing and cooking. My brother's equivalent was woodwork.

I learnt at an early age that it matters how you look. Especially if you are female. High school popularity seemed to correlate with the right hair, the right face, the right clothes, and the right make-up.

My friends are now taking maternity leave and making decisions about how to balance motherhood with their careers. Some are opting out of careers to stay at home. Others are navigating the tricky balancing act between the too.

I iron Mr Bite's shirts. By choice. I also do most of the cooking, whereas I like to leave outdoor and/or DIY tasks to him.

I can't change a tyre on a car. Or at least, I am sure I could (I can do anything, remember?) but I have never learned and feel no desire to do so. And the idea of getting involved with my car's engine terrifies me.

At the age of 28, with friends having babies at surprising frequency, I am also made aware of the very real nature of female biology. There will come a point where I either have children or I do not. Clearly, my life in 20 years time will be influenced quite considerably by which of those outcomes occurs.


I don't have any answers as to how strides towards gender equality should incorporate differences in male and female biology, childbearing and child raising roles included, or in how we should balance those biological differences against social gender stereotypes that shape us all from infancy onwards.

I suppose there are no definitive answers. For my part, though, here are the results of my ponderings, and the things I would hope for in 10 years time. I would love to hear your list if you have one.

  • Comprehensive education for all children, of all sexes, everywhere in the world
  • Taking appearance out of the self-worth equation. How you look does not define who you are, but too many children - especially girls - continue to learn that it does.
  • More family friendly workplaces. Flexible employment options, for men as well as women, to support parents with young children.
  • Ongoing efforts to make employment equitable and career choices free of gender stereotyping.
  • Let girls be girls for as long as possible. The shift towards younger 'fashion' trends and make-up on 8-year-old children makes me sad. 




On other matters, and taking a complete side step, today is a significant day for another reason. Those deadlines I mentioned in my February recap post - the ones that were making work loom larger than life and my head spin with anxiety and too-much-to-do thoughts? - they are are done.

Submitted. Gone. As of 12pm today. I feel a bit dizzy with it all. I also did a work presentation today, so things have really been on the over-wrought side. So much so that I decided today would be an appropriate day to go home early.

I've been home since 2.15pm (!!) and the weekend is looking, frankly, beautiful.

I hope yours is too!

22 comments:

  1. i thought it was really nice that a few colleagues organised for us to go out for an IWD lunch this year as I often wish I was more organised to do something for the day.

    Despite living in a time that is generous to women, I believe that sexism is alive and well and sometimes it seems to have got worse. More worryingly is the trend towards equality sometimes seems to lie in men developing similar problems to women rather than eliminated problems - eg more attention paid to how males look rather than less to how females look.

    One dot point that I would like to add to your list: That we all remember our history and understand just how much women's lives have changes and improved over time. Maybe that would mean that people don't take our current situation for granted.

    congratulations on meeting your deadline - hope you enjoy your weekend

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. A lunch sounds like a lovely way to commemorate the day - I actually had very few 'real' experiences of its passing, just the news headlines. I do share your thoughts on sexism being alive and well in a number of ways and definitely share the concern about 'equality' sometimes being in the wrong direction. I like your extra dot point too; particularly important today when the history of feminism is not always known to girls and teenagers.

      Delete
  2. Congrats on finishing your deadliens, such a joyful feeling.

    I have also wondered about a, "International mens day." It sounds so silly when you say it aloud because we are not used to it. We have a women's resource center at my university, (as well as multicultural/ under-represented) but nothing for the men- esp. the white ones.

    I used to be heavily involved in the motorcycle crowd in my area, and it's mostly men. The (few) ladies and I would get together every now and then for all-girl motorcycle rides, which were loads of fun b/c girls don't ride motorcycles nearly as stupidly as men do (this sounds sexist, I realize, but men have all this testosterone and uncontrollable urge to "compete" and "be the best rider", particularly if there is 1-2 girls there!) Every once in a while, a guy would chime in on our online discussions complaining about how it, "wasn't fair" that we had all-female rides and, "How would you feel if we had all men rides?!" (To which we replied that most rides ARE all mens rides. ha"

    Anyway, long story short- it's interesting to think about!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Your experience with the motorcycle rides made me smile - very funny :) And of course, you're spot on - we need women's events precisely because the default versions are so often male!

      Delete
  3. Congratulations on making that deadline!

    I'm not gonna lie...lots of times I scoll through blogs and mostly just look at the pictures. But I actually read this post and I thoroughly enjoyed it. Well said. I also grew up with supportive parents, knowing I could do "whatever I wanted." It's shocking how much our gender is molded by society when you truly step back and evaluate it.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you Alexis, that is really kind :) I tend to focus in on pictures too so it means a lot that you read this one - and related to it.

      Delete
  4. What a great post. I'm one of five girls and so my father encouraged all of us to have a tertiary education and pursue a career. I've never felt second-best to the male gender. I agree with you about young girls - We shouldn't be forcing them to grow up too quickly. xx

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you - and so interesting to hear you grew up as one of 5 girls. Credit to your father for taking such a positive stance!

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