Let’s change our tone about feminism

I don’t feel like I’m disadvantaged in society, and I’m sick of reading that I’m supposed to feel that way.

A friend sent me an article last night, and both the article and her sending it bothered me. It is amongst a slate of articles to be read about women being objectified, unequal, having to ‘overcome this’ or ‘put up with that’.

Don’t get me wrong, there’s an awareness job to do here — you can’t create change, without awareness of a behaviour first — but I cannot help but feel down-trodden and angry when I read articles about how tough going it is being a woman.

A study in done in the States a couple of years ago showed that white boys’ self-esteem increased with TV consumption, because of the way they are represented on-screen (heroes, main characters, successful). In contrast, girls and black children’s self-esteem decreased as they are often represented as marginalised in some way.

You can probably see the parallel I’d like to draw between this study and the way women are being written about. How are we ever going to feel inspired, if the only way we read about ourselves is as marginalised?

It’s important for females to be exposed to female role models. Thus, we need to be thrusting inspiring representations of women into media, rather than continue to perpetuate a negative image.

To exemplify through my own circumstances, for which I whole-heartedly acknowledge is why I don’t feel disadvantaged by society, and for which I want to stress I am truly grateful — I have grown up surrounded by positive female role models:

My mother grew up in a time when she was not expected to be educated past year 10. Luckily for me, that meant she proactively pursued an education when she was older and I was around. So I grew up valuing that education allows you to develop a sense of empowerment, independence and identity.

I have also pursued a career in an industry that has a particularly high proportion of women, and again, I am personally lucky to have worked with a gamut of inspiring women who have ingrained a belief that I will achieve corporate success, and it isn’t at the sacrifice of compassion.

Beyond this, I’m so proud of my group of (female) friends for all their individual achievements and sense of self. Whatever they’ve defined as their path of personal success, it has been inspiring to watch them attain it.

None of these women have inspired me because they’ve told me about the hardships they’ve beared, they’ve inspired me just by being and doing. As is the case with any role model, they have simply led by example… and they just happen to be women.

My point is, that for those women who aren’t as lucky as me, we need to perpetuate an image that is inspiring. We need to tell as many stories about as many representations of successful women as possible.

We need to move past writing about what needs to change and start being the change.

To provide a topical example, I’m sure you’re familiar with the recent outrage over the lack of a Rey piece in the Star Wars edition of monopoly, following this mother posting her daughter’s letter to Hasbro online. It’s easy to lay responsibility on Hasbro to have created the character piece in the first place — and in fairness, they have responded to this onus. Now there is nothing wrong with this approach, but there is a more constructive story to tell:

Why not just create a Rey character piece with your daughter yourself, share instructions on how you did so, and use that story to insight change?

The undertone of the story changes from “another example of how women are being marginalised” to “let’s inspire the change that needs to happen”.

A great, topical, example of this is PBS and NASA’s efforts to inspire women’s interest in STEM careers by engaging them early with a kid’s TV show.

And so, I implore you to write and tell as many positive stories about as many sorts of women as possible. I implore you to share positive stories about women with other women instead of negative ones. I implore to you to BE the change, instead of talking about it needing to happen.