A salute! To all women breaking barriers, breaking their backs to fend for their young; to all the mothers bearing and raising babies (oftentimes by themselves) and bawss-ladies leading from the boardrooms, research labs, TV screens and lecture halls â€“ I salute you! Today, the 8th of March marks the international, annual celebration of womenfolk.
I watched a movie today that made me reflect on a conversation that I had just over a year agoâ€¦.
A couple of classmates and me were complaining, as students usually do, about how tough and strict one professor was on us. We all agreed that this particular professor was very smart and very competent, but very tough as well. Did I mention that the lecturer in question is female? One classmate, letâ€™s call him John, one I considered particularly smart and poised for â€˜successâ€™ (whatever that means) then belted out, â€œSheâ€™s such a slave-driving **t**, man!â€ (Do excuse my language. No, actually, excuse John. Iâ€™m just quoting. 🙂 )
Oh. No. You. Did’nt! As Germans would say, â€œDa hÃ¶rt der Spass auf, Junger.â€
When I asked John if heâ€™d just heard himself, he turned beet-red, and tried to explain by saying that he â€œhadnâ€™t really meant it that wayâ€. When out of interest I prodded further and asked if he would have insulted a male professor in a similar manner, he muttered, â€œProbably not.â€ Iâ€™m not quite sure whether John appreciated the full implicationsÂ of his statement. I fear that that was not the last time I will hear such a comment about women who are considered â€˜bossyâ€™ or â€˜pushyâ€™ in comparison to their male counterparts who would be lauded for their â€˜assertivenessâ€™ or â€˜strong-willed charactersâ€™ when exhibiting the same or similar characteristics.
While incredible milestones have been reached in advancing the rights of women across the world, rights that I gratefully enjoy, research shows that (subconscious) prejudices against assertive, confident women still remain in the corridors of corporate power. And no, it is not only men, but also sometimes even other women who suffer from the PHD syndrome (PHD: Pull Her Down). While I havenâ€™t personally experienced that yet because I havenâ€™t been in these corridors too long, research shows that itâ€™s real. Thatâ€™s scary, and sad.
The movie I watched today was Selma. Exactly 50 years ago, on March the 8th 1965, thousands of people of all ages, creeds and races crossed the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama. They marched with their arms linked in unity, solidarity and bravery for the voting rights of African-Americans. It was not the lonely effort of a single group of people, but the collective effort of many groups coming together. It is not enough to raise girls to believe that the world is their oyster. Boys too, boys especially, should be raised to understand the social and even economic value of supporting the women around them. Then weâ€™ll have less people with John-like mentalities. â€œWe Should All Be Feministsâ€ is the title of my favourite author, Chimamanda Adichieâ€™s, viral TED talk – I suggest you watch it.
Assignments beckon, so I have to dash. But not before I propose a toast, to all the women and men that have gone before us and have stubbornly made it possible for girls today (in many parts of the world) to have dreams and be able to strive towards them. Women that were, that are, and to those that are to come in business, education, science, the arts, television and many other fieldsÂ – a salute; not just today, but everyday!
To all the women, phenomenal women, the bawss-ladies of this world: Keep doing your thing!