Not taking sides

Tonight, one of my daughters asked me to download a version of the Macarena for a school performance, as they don’t have the internet in the hall. The performance is in a day or so and last-minute preps are aplenty. So, after looking for the aforementioned musical delight a full-screen popup appeared on my computer. It was a well-designed screen. The background was a series of women in varying state of undress overlayed with 3 equally proportioned circles asking me which woman I would choose tonight. Within each of the circles was an image of a young naked woman in a sexual pose. I turned to my daughter and asked her what she thought of the screen. Do you think this is okay? She responded with “this is weird”, “it’s kinda odd”, “why do we need to see other people naked on here?”. I kinda felt the same way… a lot! If a similar screen of naked men appeared I’d have the same response, alas these um “popups” aren’t displaying themselves on my machine. Quite the opposite. Email spam about how many women I can have and what I can do with them is also dehumanising. It’s when the objectification, dehumanisation and misrepresentation of women finds me in my own home, without my seeking or asking for it, that I am reminded of how difficult it is to raise people with a true sense of equality when the baseline is so skewed to serve men.

I am not in the business of taking sides when it comes to equality. It defeats the purpose of shared humanity, shared experience, shared opportunity. Every human being deserves equal choice and agency. I actively seek a balanced and higher connection with humanity at Feathersome. I have dealt with bias at every step of this journey, at various stages in my life both my own and others. I have been challenged both subtly and with sledgehammers from people who made no sense to me and had no fact upon which to base their challenge other than the comfortable and familiar lines around sexism and inequality. The numbers don’t lie people. This country is losing women at the hands of intimate male partners at a rate of over 1 per week. Every 3rd female over the age of 15 experiences sexual violence and one in 4 women are abused in their own homes. Isn’t home a place we are meant to feel safe? The mass media continues to represent women as chattels, sexual objects and faceless clothes hangers. 35% of internet downloads are porn related and the most common female role in porn is women in their 20’s portraying teenagers. This is designed to reach out to the 44% of males aged 11-16 who consume porn as it gave them ideas about the type of sex they wanted. My concern here is that porn in general demeans, dominates, is increasingly aggressive and focuses on the pleasure of the male only. This imbalance is influencing a whole generation around gendered role play and is setting a very narrow baseline for healthy sex. A quick scroll of Instagram reveals an array of young women professing “sexual empowerment” in lingerie, gym gear or bikinis. All angled to show their bums and boobs in the mirror yet they obscure their own faces. Tell me this is not a society that “likes” young women to be seen and not heard. What does this say about our current portrayal of women? Saying it again… a third of the internet downloads are porn related! Although this objectifies both men and women, we are not showcasing enough stories of intelligent, independent, whole, powerful and feminine women in their daily activities let alone in leadership roles.

Frankly, if women can’t see relatable and balanced female role models who lead their own lives then how can we grow and lead our own? The onslaught of stereotyped imagery and the narrowly baked recipe for what it is to be female today is thick, fast and insidious. We need to see, hear and value strong, unique voices. I believe gender equality will be achieved through a new lens of diverse, balanced representation. A part of that reality includes firm voices asking better questions, feminine decision making and female leadership. The pendulum is slowly swinging back to give air time to women and this feels very uncomfortable for the privileged. I agree that when you are used to having it all this voicing of truth, equality and the impending loss of the advantage you were freely gifted will feel like oppression… for a while. Eventually it will settle in the middle, though it is going to take some brave people to stand firm and forge the path in the meantime. The Feathersome team and partners showcase a variety of feminine leadership and highlight how women and girls can be brought to parity through the delivery of stories, events, workshops and creativity.

Leadership as a concept is gender neutral as is food, water, shelter and safety yet many people connect the term leadership with men and also with traits considered more masculine. Women engage with the world in ways that are different to men. We ask female centric questions from bodies that are physically different. We have unique needs and desires. We have sex differently, we relate to situations differently and we see the world through a feminine frame so inevitably it makes sense that we should look to leaders and lead our lives differently. There is a shortage of role models and diversity in the leadership environment. Can we change that? Yes, by reframing leadership.

Through the lens of humanity people share many threads, perspectives and structures. Unfortunately, there remain structures set up with the biased answers to questions asked from the mouths of the only people allowed in the room at the time. It was only men who were allowed to ask so the outcomes are naturally male centric. It makes sense. We get it… it was the way things happened but shift forward to a different time and we need to be considerate of all questions asked from all perspectives for the benefit of all.

As leaders, women have to bring all our feminine views to the table and the divergence and strength of a different perspective can offer better choices, inclusion and a deeper understanding for all humanity. It is time for this balance and to meet on this higher ground.

Alongside each other we all have to demand respect for humanity, find our common purpose and, in doing so, uplift everyone in the process. I am not taking sides, I am choosing to serve humanity. In your small and significant moments how are you actively listening, speaking, asking, serving and leading for equality?


Photo by Katherine Hanlon on Unsplash