I’m sure he’s lovely, but International Women’s Day is NOT about your husband

I’m sure he’s lovely, but International Women’s Day is NOT about your husband

In case you missed it, and I hope you didn’t, today was International Women’s Day.

My Insta and Facebook feeds have been filled with inspirational messages and images for and about incredible women doing spectacular work across the globe. It’s the one day of the year specifically carved out for us to say “thank you” to the women who inspire and educate us.

But in recent years I’ve seen a funny phenomenon happening. No, I’m not talking about the “But-When-Is-International-Men’s-Day” comments, because by now we all know International Men’s Day is held on November 19th annually. And hopefully we all know that men do, indeed, have a lot to speak out about. Such as the fact they face much higher rates of suicide than women, have a shorter life expectancy than women, have a 10pc chance of experiencing postnatal depression, not to mention the centuries of engendered toxic masculinity that systematically denigrates men who display emotion, who happen to be gay, or who choose to move into an historically female profession. The list goes on, so let’s talk about that more in November. Or even tomorrow.

Because TODAY is international Women’s Day.

A day for women.

It’s a day which serves a dual purpose. Firstly to recognise and celebrate the hordes of amazing women who fought tooth and nail throughout history in the battle for gender equality. There’s a brutal and disquieting history there – the women who led these movements were warriors, and many of them paid dearly for their part in the fight.

Secondly this day serves as rallying point in the continued campaign for equal rights, equal economic and political representation and pay parity. There is still much work to be done on all these fronts.

Which makes me wonder why, on this day of all days, are women choosing to dedicate today to the men in their life? This is the phenomenon I’m wondering about.

Have you seen it? This trend of women dedicating International Women’s Day to their husbands, partners, fathers, sons, brothers?

I see it happening – I see women I respect, admire and love doing it. But I can’t support it.

Here’s why I disagree with the concept of dedicating IWD to men, no matter how supportive or feminist he is.

It’s disrespectful.

It’s disrespectful to the women who came before us. Who endured incredible hardship and lack of agency. Who lived their lives as the property of men, and who never had the opportunity to dream of a life of freedom.

It’s disrespectful to the women who were imprisoned, punished, tortured, raped or even killed for daring to speak up, for daring to say “women are equal to men and we deserve equal rights”.

It’s disrespectful to the millions of women across the globe who, still today, don’t enjoy the same level of privilege that those of reading this right now, do. The women who are trafficked for sex, the little girls whose genitals are mutilated, who are married off as children to men thrice their age, the women who are prisoners in their own home as victims of domestic violence, the women who put up with sexual harassment in the workplace because they fear speaking up in workplaces still overwhelmingly run by men.

Celebrating women is not disrespectful to men. But celebrating men, on International Women’s Day, is disrespectful to women.

Let’s look at this from a different perspective:

Would you dedicate NAIDOC week to those caucasian colleagues you know are tireless supporters of Indigenous Australians?

Would you dedicate International Day of People with a Disability to the work of all those able bodied rehabilitation professionals who so valiantly work with people with disabilities?

No you wouldn’t.

Because you know it would be incredibly disrespectful.

So what makes THIS day different?

I understand why you want to thank your husband, your father, your sons.

I have no doubt they are wonderful, inspiring, intelligent men. So feel free, go ahead and thank them – tomorrow. Why can you not thank them on any one of the 364 other days of the year? What makes TODAY the best possible day to thank them? The day that you single them out, over and above all the amazing women in your life?

And have you spoken to them? Have you asked them how THEY feel about the fact that you’re dedicating International Women’s Day to them? What did they say? Is there anyone else they can identify who might deserve praise and acknowledgement today, before them? Have they posted on Instagram dedicating the day to YOU and your daughters, and thanking you for all you’ve done to further the cause of women’s rights? That wouldn’t be too much to expect, would it?

Yes, the support and advocacy of men is an important aspect of the push for women’s rights. And raising a future generation of males to be respectful and supportive of women is one of the most important things a parent of sons can do in our current day. But placing men on a pedestal for supporting women feels disrespectful – not only for women, but for men too. We shouldn’t need to laud men for being decent human beings. We shouldn’t need to heap praise on our husbands for doing their equal share of the dusting, or for doing school drop offs, or packing lunchboxes. We shouldn’t need to thank men for doing these things for us, because they ARE NOT WOMEN’S WORK. These are the tasks that are required to run a household and a family, and when a household consists of an adult male and an adult female, shouldn’t those tasks be shared equally, with both parties being equally as grateful to the other for undertaking their fair share part of the tasks require to keep a home?

We shouldn’t feel the need to mollify men on International Women’s Day. Because the men who “get” IWD don’t need appeasement – especially not today. And the ones who don’t get it… well perhaps they’re not entirely on our side anyway?

The Banana Split Theory of Feminism

The Banana Split Theory of Feminism

Please indulge me while I use a food analogy that popped into my head last night as I pondered the goings-on of International Women’s Day.

I feel like I can explain the current status of the women’s rights debate as if it were a banana split.*

A delicious, rich, indulgent banana split – with organic bananas, homemade chocolate fudge, hand-churned ice cream, King Island

Triple Cream, a scattering of crushed peanuts and a juicy, plump cherry – right on top.

Image Credit: Deposit Photos

A banana split that, until very recently, was only available to men.

When this banana split first came on the menu, women were in no way, shape or form allowed to be served this delicious dish. And of course, women eventually decided that was no longer acceptable – because they were no longer content to rely on a man to buy them a banana split, or share their own.

They fought hard, decade after decade, to claim their right to this dessert.

First they claimed the big banana – the right to vote.

Then came the ice cream – the right to own their own property.

Then over the years we were finally given access to the mountains of hot fudge and whipped cream that make up the bulk of the toppings – greater workplace participation, reproductive freedom.

We’ve even managed to get our hands on those delicious crushed nuts to sprinkle over the top of our already delicious creation. Provision of quality tertiary education and increased access to the halls of power.

And there you had it – women were finally completely entitled to our very own banana split.

And man, oh man, if it wasn’t delicious!! It was so satisfying to know that at any time we wanted we could order this delicacy and indulge ourselves on all these ingredients men had been privileged to for so long.

Because, for all intents and purposes – what we have now is in fact, regarded as a whole and complete banana split. If you looked at it’s description in a menu you’d say to yourself – Yes, that’s exactly what I want: a banana split – with delicious bananas, and ice cream, and cream and hot fudge and – woah – I even get crushed nuts – I LOVE crushed nuts.

And you’ll think this is everything you could ever want – by the time you finish eating it, you’re full, you’re content, and you’re pretty proud of yourself for choosing this epic banana split.

You look up to share your post-indulgent satisfaction with the rest of the room, And you look over at the man on the table next to you. He’s just been served up his banana split – and you’re about to tell him how great that dish is, and how much he’s going to love it. Until you notice something.

HIS banana split has a cherry on top.

Yours didn’t.

You watch as the man nonchalantly picks it up by the stem and chomps it down in one bite.

“Hey mate, did you ask for a cherry to be added to your banana split?” you ask the man.

“No I didn’t,” he replies. “There’s always a cherry on top when I order a banana split. To be honest, I never really noticed it there.”

“Oh, I didn’t get one on mine,” you say, crestfallen.

“Bugger,” he replies. “Well, I bet your banana split was still delicious anyway”.

And it was. It was delicious. Until you noticed the absence of that cherry, you thought that banana split was the best thing in the world. It satisfied you, you Instagrammed it, and you were totally intending on ordering it again next time you came back to this restaurant.

“Maybe it was just a once off,” you tell yourself – an honest mistake by the chef?

But then you look around at all the other people in the restaurant, and lo and behold, they’ve all got banana splits! What are the odds? You look closer and you realise that every man has a cherry on top of his banana split, but none of the women do.

You continue to watch with curiosity at what these men and women do. Some of them realise the cherry disparity. Some of the men spontaneously offer their cherry to the woman closest to them. Some of the men ask the waiter for a knife so they can cut their cherry in half and share with the woman. Some of the women look longingly at their male counterpart’s cherry, but dare not ask him to part with it. Some of the women ask the waiter for their own cherry from the kitchen. Some of the other women abuse their partner over the fact they got a cherry and she didn’t. Some of the men don’t even notice their cherry. Some men don’t want theirs, setting it aside on a napkin. Some men are so worried a woman will steal it they guard it ferociously. Some women notice there’s no cherry, but don’t care – they never really cared much for cherries anyway. Some men notice those women not caring about the cherry and surmise that’s how all women feel about cherries. Some women don’t even notice their missing cherry. Happily chowing down on that delicious banana split – just grateful they have access to it.

Me. I want that cherry.

I want that cherry for my daughters.

I’m going to be the woman in that restaurant who speaks up and says, “Hey, has anyone noticed that the women have cherries? Waiter, can you please bring cherries for all the women too. Maybe some of the women want them, and maybe some of them don’t, but I believe that all women should have access to those cherries, just as the men do.”

Because that cherry represents what we’re still working towards as women. Equal representation in the halls of power, equal pay, the ability to feel safe in our society, freedom from domestic violence and unconscious bias.

We may have equal rights, but we don’t yet have equal opportunity.

If the banana split is women’s liberation, the cherry is gender equality.

We’re now liberated. But we still have a right to that cherry.

#internationalwomensday #IWD2017 #feminism #genderequality #equalopportunity

* Please excuse the unintended gendered symbolism in the banana split analogy – it wasn’t until I was reading it back that my brain picked different links to the imagery of bananas, cherries, whipped cream and crushed nuts!


A Tale of Two Women

A Tale of Two Women

This morning a beautiful friend of mine is taking off to the Phillipines for 9 days for a business event, leaving her three gorgeous kiddos in the sole care of her more than capable husband. At the same time she was taking off, I was ensconced in a two hour volunteer induction session at my daughter’s school.

What do these two things have in common?

Not much – apart from the fact they’re both happening on International Women’s Day.

Just in case you missed it (and I’m not sure how you could if you’ve been anywhere near social media today 😉) but today is #internationalwomensday

My FB and Insta feeds have been filled with beautiful, empowering and uplifting quotes, sentiments and calls to action, from #women all across the globe. But it’s taken me until lunchtime to post something on the topic. Primarily because I was procrastinating, hoping inspiration would strike and I would suddenly be able to compose something that would be simultaneously empowering and motivating and beautiful. #nopressure

But as I sat there in that in that induction, surreptitiously sending a message to my jet-setting friend to wish her well on her journey, I realised that THIS is exactly what #internationalwomensday is all about.

It’s about allowing women the freedom, right and means to live their lives in a way that’s fulfilling and meaningful to them. Feminism can often get a bad rap – when debates rage around important issues such as the wage gap, reproductive rights, media representation and unconscious bias – shackles are raised, harsh words are spoken and unpleasantness emerges from camps on all sides of the debate.

But remember this: just several decades ago, today might have looked very different for my friend and I. Without the incredible toil and persistence of the generations of woman who came before us to fight for our collective rights, my decision to volunteer at my child’s school was likely to have been one of total expectation and at the mercy of my husband’s approval, rather than free choice. And my friend who is enroute to the Phillipines? Would she have freely had the opportunity and means to run her own business two generations ago? Let alone travel across the globe on her own, without her husband and children? How would the Edwardians have felt about that?

Today, on International Womens Day, women have more freedom and rights than at any other time in our history. But it’s also an unequivocal fact that the vast majority of people in positions of power, with the decision making rights in government, media, healthcare and education, are men. Which is why we still need feminism. Why we still need International Womens Day. It’s not shameful to call yourself a feminist. Just as there’s no need to reference International Men’s Day today (just another deference to the patriarchal culture we live in). I’ve seen women I love and admire do both today.

As a woman, and especially as the mother of two little women, I’m a proud supporter of women and the gender equality and feminist movements. I have been ever since I was a very young girl. Now as a business owner in the women’s health space part of my job is to advocate publicly for women, their rights and better, more informed female focused health care.

It is our right to campaign for equality. For an end to discrimination, both overt and unconscious. Feminism doesn’t aim to make us better or more privileged or more powerful than men. It’s aim is to give women just as much freedom, opportunity, and yes, power, as men have. We will need feminism until that day. And then we will continue to need feminism to protect that equality.

So here’s to you women of the world – whether you’re volunteering at an animal shelter, voting for your country’s leader, buying your own home, traveling around the world, adopting a child, packing school lunches, being CEO of a multinational company or having a pedicure (which, incidentally is what I’m doing as I write this!)

My wish for you is that you continue to have the right and opportunity to do all those things. Without shame, without fear, without judgement.

Happy International Women’s Day.

When celebrities share their experience of postnatal depression and anxiety.

When celebrities share their experience of postnatal depression and anxiety.

I can’t really imagine what it must be like to be a celebrity – having your entire life so publicly documented on a worldwide scale. It’s something I can’t really comprehend.

I can imagine the annoyance at having paparazzi waiting outside Starbucks, just hoping you’ll spill your triple foam, spiced pumpkin, caramel mochacino all over yourself.

But what I can’t imagine is how you possibly parent a child in the midst of such a public lifestyle. Motherhood is a time of such confusion, second guessing and flying by the seat of your pants – for any woman. But when every move you make is scrutinised and published to a worldwide audience within miliseconds of it happening. How do you cope then?

In the entertainment world where perfection at all costs is the norm – how do Hollywood actresses keep their shit together to manage this parenting gig?

And what happens when they struggle? When the black bitch of postnatal depression comes nosing around and making her presence known. Do you deny and keep face publicly – or do you open yourself up?

That’s what two of my favourite actresses have done in recent times – Kristen Bell and Hayden Panettiere.

Read the full article here, on the Mum Central website.