Each for Equal

In acknowledgement of International Women’s Day, we asked members of our team to reflect on what the theme #EachForEqual means to them. Drawing together their contributions into this blog post, I noted with a tinge of sadness that all of us feel that, despite the gains, the world is not yet an equal place for women. As the mother of two little girls, this is something I worry about often.

But I also observe a groundswell. Women who stand shoulder to shoulder with men who see us as unquestionably equal. Men who will not walk past inequality. Women who advocate for change, and who side with other women instead of knowingly exposing them to damage.

The #EachForEqual theme really resonates because it’s individually empowering. No matter our gender, we can all be responsible for taking action to support equality.

Growing up, I was told that ‘women can do anything’. I had the sticker stuck on my school bag, and my homework diary. When I joined the workforce and, later, when I became a mother, I realised that women can’t do everything. (I also learned the hard way that trying to be everything to everyone leaves you tied up like a resentful pretzel). It’s not because we’re incapable: far from it! And it’s definitely not because men are unwilling to be supportive. I work with, am loved by and fiercely love the men who stand up for me and with me when it counts. Women can’t do everything because, sadly, the structures of the world don’t support us to. Women and men suffer because childcare is prohibitively expensive, the school day is ridiculously short, and the holidays are unfathomably long. Women suffer because important meetings happen over breakfast while we’re wiping toast off the floor or ourselves. Men suffer when their employer has a paternity leave scheme they can’t access because their workplace culture frowns on it. This International Women’s Day, my commitment to myself, to my family and to the women and men I work with is to challenge the structural elements that prohibit equality, and to advocate for change where I can’t reasonably fix the structural problems myself (Emily)

It’s my hope that one day we do not even need to celebrate International Women’s Day because the role that women play in our society, the work they do and the contributions they make are just so well understood, recognised and widely accepted by everyone. Unfortunately, I feel that the world still has a long way to go for this to happen, and initiatives like International Women’s Day, are useful for reminding us of the achievements women have made, the sacrifices and the challenges they’ve experienced over generations and the amount of change and work still required moving forward. (Ken)

IWD is about reflection. It’s a reminder to look at my own experience and acknowledge the unfair benefits I have gained from gender inequality. It’s a reminder to look inward and search for the unconscious attitudes and beliefs that have an influence on my behaviour in the present and be brave enough to acknowledge and take accountability for them when they’re pointed out to me. It’s a reminder that it’s never really ‘just a joke’ and that I need to challenge gender stereotypes when I see them. (Anonymous)

In a world that appears to be falling down around us, perhaps it is time we stop acting within a patriarchal system and start working towards a new, matriarchal one.

I grew up in the 1960s and 70s: a time of changing attitudes towards women’s role in society. When my mother married in the late 1950s, she was expected to give up her own car and hand over her wage to my father. That loss of autonomy in her early married days was never forgotten and told as a warning to us girls. Keep control of your own money! These kinds of attitudes changed in the 1970s and were not sustained in our household by either of my parents. My mother is a strong woman and grasped her opportunities to work and make her own decisions. So, a belief in women being the equal of men is part of my DNA. But that belief also came from the messages of the women’s liberation movement so prominent in my childhood. It annoys me to hear younger women reject the label of being feminists; this is a source of pride for me. Don’t you know what your life would have been without the feminists? Germaine Greer’s book, The Female Eunuch was seminal for me. Being respected is also so important. I have been incredibly lucky. My parents always told my sisters and I we could do whatever we wanted in life and we all have, powered by both respect and self-belief. And they made sure we were also able to go to university, which was a huge financial burden for them. My partner in life has never felt the need to control what I do. But I am very aware that structural inequality remains part of our society and I am very attuned to these inequalities, as are most women. Most concerning of all is the deep hatred of women expressed by some men in social media or in how they behave towards their partners seeking to control and reacting violently, if they are unsuccessful. I often ask myself, is there something fundamentally wrong with our culture or will history see this misogyny as a marker of culture change? (Anonymous)

To me, International Women’s Day is a day where we recognise, celebrate and lift up women of all kinds. It’s a solemn recognition of those who came before us, and a celebration of those thriving alongside us. It’s a time where we recognise not only the triumphs and struggles of women in Australia, but of women in countries that afford them less rights than those here. It’s a time where we recognise queer and trans women, women of colour, women with disability—all women—and challenge what it means to be a woman. I can’t help but think of the galaxy of amazing women I have in my life, how we have shaped and supported each other, lamented, laughed and danced together, and how grateful I am for their unique contributions to my world.

The patriarchy is flawed. It has afforded most of us (white, middle class Australians) a degree of wealth and comfort, but its side effects are long lasting and long reaching. From the generational traumas of colonialism to the domestic violence epidemic and our changing climate; the patriarchy is not a nurturing system. In a track titled Future Feminism by the trans woman and recording artist Anohni (then, Antony and the Johnsons), she talks about (among other things) a matriarchal future, and what this might look like. In one quote that resonated with me, Anohni muses, “I’m someone who’s looking for a reason to hope, and for me, hope looks like feminine systems of governance being instated in … the major religious institutions and throughout corporate and civil life. And it might sound far-fetched, but if you look at your own beliefs, just imagine how quickly you accepted the idea that the ocean is rising, and the ecology of our world is collapsing. We can actually imagine that more readily than we can imagine a switch from patriarchal to matriarchal systems of governance—a subtle shift in the way our society works.” (Jack)

I wish it was ‘international feminine energy’ day so we could focus on balancing the masculine energy that so dominates western society to the detriment of the planet, its people and other inhabitants – change the game.

As a child, I watched my single mother juggle a day job with going back to university, while looking after my sister and me. I was proud of her. And grateful that she showed me the value of finding a profession with a purpose I was passionate about and that would make a difference in the world. But I didn’t think I could do what she did – I convinced myself I’d choose a career minus family. Even though I was ambitious and got a good education, I didn’t dream of becoming a business owner. I didn’t know anyone who was, let alone a woman who was. Neither did my husband, but that didn’t halt his conviction. He encouraged me to see that it was as much a possibility for me as it was for him – if I wanted it. Then the business partners at ARTD offered me an opportunity. My husband has also established his own company, which is great. But it’s hard not to notice that I am the one who gets the comments about my work-life choices and the impact of these, as well as the questions about when we are going to have children and how I will manage this – even if we want to manage it together. While we’ve come far, there is still a long way to go in terms of structures and attitudes. What I love about this year’s theme is that it recognises there are things each of us can do for equality. (Jade)

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