The future isn’t just female, part two.

Why I don’t agree with the slogan “the future is female” and other such musings
Olivia Williams

The views I am about to express are MY views, formed through MY experiences and I do not wish to presume to speak for any other person, ladyfolk or other. Having said that, I would like to add my opinion to the myriad of opinion pieces circulating all forms of media, as well as those dominating every aspect of Hollywood, a lot of politics, many staff rooms, and most family dinner tables … except that I do not know where to start because for some reason I have this fear that if I say the wrong thing, have the wrong opinion, or heaven forbid speak too loudly and with too much conviction, I will be faced with any one, or in some scenarios a baffling multitude, of the following reactions:

1. You’re a man hater
2. *listener shakes head and looks at me patronisingly*
3. You’re uneducated and misinformed
4. Where’s your evidence for that statement?
5. You’re not a feminist
6. Don’t you believe in equality?
7. Logic and reason shows …
8. You’re overreacting
9. You’re overemotional
10.You can’t take a joke
11.What kind of woman are you?
12.You can’t blame everything on the patriarchy

I could go on … but even I’m starting to roll my eyes.

The dominating narrative at the moment is “equality”, which is pretty much synonymous with feminism. For the sake of my own thought process, here, in bullet-point form, are a small number of high-profile events in the last few months that have added barrels and barrels of fuel to the “feminist” fire and appear to be the source of the current narrative driving the women’s movement:

• #MeToo
• Women’s march
• Larry Nassar
• Why I wear black
• Harvey Weinstein
• The Silence-Breakers

Perhaps what is missing from a lot of the mainstream coverage (remember that this is the kind that reaches the widest, and, no-offence intended, impressionable audience) about these events is the why. While we steam ahead clapping for Oprah, buying Time’s Person of the Year edition, and celebrating that the other F-word is being used by more and more people without apology I think some of us are forgetting that this is only happening because the conditions got so bloody crappy (for many groups of people but
here I am referring to woman) that woman threw up their hands and yelled “I’ve had enough!”

At this point, I would like to quickly refer back to possible reaction number 9. I think that a fair amount of the language that is dominating the entire rhetoric at the moment is emotionally-driven. BUT the main message behind the current movement should not be considered or rendered irrational just because there is an immense amount of emotion behind it. So for anyone out there reading this that even briefly thinks “geez she’s being a bit overemotional” no I don’t have my period (Sigh, I’m being facetious!). I think I’m just tired of not being able to find the “right” (read as “acceptable”) way to express my experiences, my views, my fears, and my feelings.

Question: What do the words Woman, Human, and Female have in common?
Answer? Without the suffixes ‘man’ or ‘male’ the words woman, human, and female fall apart.

Evidently we do not even have our own identifying word that can stand alone without the ‘other sex’ holding us up, apart from ‘girl’. The point that I am trying to make is that the everyday language we use can set us (all of us) up for failure in a multitude of ways – especially words that reflect and reinforce social norms (e.g. off the top of my head: “man-made”, “mankind”, “policeman/men”, “weatherman” (I realise I’m now just listing professions, and that I have parenthesised inside parentheses)).

I acknowledge there has been some changes and efforts made to ‘ungender’ some language, particularly those of certain professions (e.g. “police person” and “flight attendant”). I am however uncomfortable by some of the neologisms being used that are supposedly championing the power of females. I’m thinking of terms such as “girl boss” and “SheEO”. I think the purpose behind the development of these terms was to highlight that when we hear words such as “boss” and “CEO” an image of a man rather than a woman is more likely to pop into our head (what did you see?). Society/societal norms have conditioned us in such a way that many seemingly gender-neutral terms are now implicitly, unconsciously, coded as masculine.

How do we change when society as a whole is so blind to the many entrenched ways of talking and thinking that continue to minimise the worth and position of woman? Because the thing is that I myself am guilty of unintentionally maintaining social constructions of the gendered variety. So we can start by attempting to become more aware of ourselves first and foremost. I invite EVERYONE to become familiar with their unconscious biases.

One last thing before I move on, I think my real issue with the aforementioned neologisms (SheEO, girl boss etc), irrespective of whether or not they are used in a ‘tongue-and-cheek’ kind of way, is that for me they promote “us” v “them” thinking. I accept that men and woman are not the same (at a fundamental, biological level) but I do not want us pitted against each other in this battle for equality. I love men. Not all men…but then again, I do not love all woman either – so there you go, equality!

What has really triggered this rambling spiel of an opinion-piece I seem to have embarked on was a conversation I had with my brother; my extremely intelligent, caring, logical, and (mostly) considered big brother.

One day he sends me a link to a talk by Jordan Peterson on why there are so few women at the top.

The clip asks why there are so few woman at the top, when in fact the real question is why there are any people at all crazy enough to accept the burdens of being in those top positions. I believe Peterson makes some well-formed points regarding human behaviour and provides an interesting perspective on society. However, he, unfortunately, went on a tangent about how history tells us that woman prefer/value men who earn more, have better jobs etc etc – I’m not going to start a debate on the accuracy of that statement but I mention it because he said it. A well-off, well-educated, white, middle-aged male made, what I consider to be, a flippant statement to a room of students and scholars in which he presumed to speak for the behaviours, values, and wants of an entire group of people, which he isn’t a member of.

I replied to my brother that I did not totally agree with everything Peterson had to say but I acknowledged that he made an interesting point, “despite being delivered by a middle-aged white male”. Amongst other points, in response my brother questioned that
surely it shouldn’t really matter who is delivering the message if the information is rational and logical.

Except it 100% does matter who delivers the message.

It is significantly harder to digest the message of someone who hasn’t lived even a minute in the life of the person of who they are referring to in their arguments – reason and logic aside.

I consider myself to be an extremely privileged person. I am confident, I am fit, I have a secure career, and I am well-educated. I have two fantastic, supportive and loving parents, I have had access to quality education at all levels, I can afford healthcare, groceries, and decent clothing and on top of all that, according to Global Peace Index 2017, I live in the 2nd safest country in the world.

Yet despite all of that I am still not immune to the day-to-day bullshit that comes with being this sex and not the other. Even the most understanding and empathetic, of (I’m going to say men) men cannot begin to understand what it is like to be a woman, a female, a girl. For example, they have never had to experience anxiety (increasing heart rate, sweaty palms, and the desperate desire to quicken their pace or become invisible) and/or pretend to be stoic and unfazed every time they walk passed a construction site; they do not have to worry about the path they take when they walk home or whether they will reach their desired destination without being harassed (or worse); nor have they had to experience, for some reason, embarrassment when some nob head thinks he can whistle, toot, or yell an obscenity and/or offensive remark when they drive passed you in their car; and very rarely do they have to be told to learn to “take a joke” when being told a “joke” about the failings of woman.

For those who would argue that I could learn to take a compliment I would respond that there always has been and always will be a very clear distinction between complements and harassment. Yes some compliments may make the receiver feel uncomfortable or slightly embarrassed especially if they’re not used to being on the receiving end of kind words but unlike harassment, a compliment will never invoke a fear response in the receiver.

I would like to acknowledge that there are plenty of guys out there who are kind too – and who are not threatened by – women. I know plenty of guys who are happy for females to be on top, not just inside the bedroom. I think those guys are great and those are the kind of guys I would prefer to spend my time with. I commend them. I like them. I definitely want more of them. But I also do not think that they necessarily deserve a standing ovation for being so inclined towards women. They are of course evidence towards the fact that we can and we are evolving, socially at least, so I will tip my hat to
them and thank them.

Now I am asking myself what I want to get out of this yarn.

I guess awareness.

Awareness of all those implicit, unconscious, and predominantly unintentional everyday things that continue to work to demoralise females. Whether it be gendered-language, insults (“you pussy”, “stop being a sissy”, “girl’s blouse”), or ‘jokes’ (you know, the ones about woman belonging in the kitchen and crap like that). Or whether it be the more intentional actions such as catcalling, uninvited touching, and the purposeful manipulation of power to make a female feel like she has no other choice but to submit.

Oh and just really quickly, a special shout-out to those packs of guys that call-out or
whistle when I walk pass you – yeah I’m never going to sleep with you. But the guy in that pack that tells his mates to pull their bloody heads in – yeah I’d give you a chance.

Let’s go back to this notion of equal opportunity. This is not simply referring to an opportunity in the given moment (e.g. being considered for a job irrespective of one’s sex). I think it goes back further to some of that institutionalised stuff I have been referring to. That occasionally unintentional and intentional dialogue around a woman’s place or a girl’s ability that continues to oppress females and our progress, not only in the workforce but arguably in all aspects of life.  Viola Davies said, regarding the lack of women of colour in Hollywood achieving highly, that it was not due to a lack of talent but due to a lack of opportunity. Viola’s statement, I believe, transfers to all women. Although we, woman, are being told more and more that we can do more and we can be more. And more and more people are encouraging us to do more and be more; we still have a way to go before equal opportunity (and therefore equality) becomes a reality. This requires a change from all of us though.

So no, I do not believe that the future is female. For us, everyone, to continue to progress, thrive, and become bigger and better than we are now it requires all of us – regardless of the personal pronoun (or not) you choose to align yourself with – to be kinder, more compassionate, more considered, and just in general be better versions of ourselves. The best future we can hope for is one that is for all of us – equally.

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