When I was 10 I decided I was going to be a barrister. I saw it through, almost, too. I got my Law degree and went to Bar School. Before that though I’d set my heart on being an aeroplane pilot. I’d speculated about being an air hostess but my Dad has said why not be the pilot? Why not indeed!
That was in the 1980’s. My Dad, born in 1949, believed that the world was my oyster.
So why do I feel like we’re going backwards? Why do I feel like the glass ceiling is turning into cement? Were we naive, was it ever any different? I certainly felt like I could try.
But this week. The UKIP punch up. Why was the alleged punch thrower allowed to liken their “altercation” to a girls fight? Phrases like, “handbags at dawn” were used by Mike Hookem as he explained the fight to the press. Trying to minimalise it he explained it was, “…girl on girl”.
And no one seems to have challenged this. No one has said, hey, hang on Mike. Are you living in the dark ages? Why are you suggesting that your terrible behaviour, your thuggish brawl, was in anyway about being a woman? Why are you implying that the fight was so pathetic that it could only have been a woman that partook in it? Why is your language so derogatory to women?
Probably because the story was quickly extinguished by the latest Donald Trump fiasco. Donald Trump was shown out as a sexist, disgusting, ignorant dick this week. He suggested (in old interviews) that if he wanted a woman he got her, after all he’s rich. If she didn’t want him he just grabbed her between her legs. I guess that is just such a turn on to any woman? Gross.
He said it was just locker room banter. Now I know about locker room banter. And it doesn’t just happen in the locker room, it happens in the board room and it happens in management meetings in most organisations where white, middle class men, hold the seat of power. It was prevelant in the police. I remember being told by a man that they lost a bit of respect for a high flying female officer when she giggled along with the sexist jokes being touted in the room. Sadly I know that’s about surviving. When you’re the only woman in the room you don’t get to stand up to it. It eats you up. You might have stood up to it once and ended up on the receiving end of the whole room mocking you. Never again. Or you might have challenged it so many times that you aren’t even sitting in that room! You become unpromotable if you don’t cast yourself in their likeness. If you don’t laugh at awful, sexist, hateful jokes about women.
Donald Trump and Mike whatever his name is aren’t exceptions. We all know that. But I also know there are far more men like my Dad. And my husband. Strong men who respect women. Ive always thought the locker room humour was kind of false, a bit of bravado made to make men feel like men particularly when some of the poor things are feeling threatened by highly compent women. Look at at Hilary Clinton. It is said that no one in history has been as prepared for the job as she is. And that’s on the money. I remember going to a talk once where men and women’s attitudes to job adverts were discussed. If you needed 10 skills for the job a man would say I’ve got 4 but I can bluff about the others. A woman would say, I’ve got 9 so I’ll leave it until next year and work on developing number 10. So true! When I decided I wanted to be a sgt on the murder squad I found out the skills you needed to evidence and I worked for 4 years to getirrefutable evidence of each. I stormed that interview I tell you!!
Life is different for women. Partly because of attitudes but partly because of our behaviour. And that’s a bit of a vicious circle because surely our behaviour is borne out of how we’re treated.
Somehow women need to work out how to avoid acquiescing anymore. But how do we do that without being labelled as bitches or bossy? How do we stand up to the men without hampering our prospects? How about quietly? Together? How about by bringing our boys up to challenge the behaviour? Because we must accept the behaviour is real and we must accept the behaviour is unacceptable. So many times I was told by women there wasn’t a problem when there so clearly was. No more heads in the sand. There is a problem. We must strive to make the future brighter for our daughters.
And men. Just be respectful. It’s not difficult. Women aren’t out to take your job. They just want to contribute as much as you do. Women aren’t a threat. Women are an asset. If you make these jokes. If you degenerate the women in your organisation you degenerate all women. Be brave. Challenge it. Don’t laugh. Look stony faced. Say, erm that’s actually not funny.
And then let’s just get on with the job.