There was a bit of a debate on the BBC recently about whether men are conditioned or born to be aggressive, win everything, and have to learn how not to behave like a 60s character from Mad Men etc. The speaker, male, inclined to view that it was in their nature and they had to learn to repress their natural instincts. They were prompted by Stephen Pinker’s work, a psychologist, who thinks men are changing their behaviour and that there is less aggression and warring in the world than there used to be.
It was an interesting discussion not least because we don’t hear much debate about feminism and women’s rights on prime time media (you can listen to it here.)
Despite being pleasantly surprised to hear John Humphries of the BBC saying out loud that women have never been equal and that men rule the world, and loving Beatrix Campbell having a go at the patriarchy of the BBC, I found myself feeling strangely subdued and a tad depressed about it all.
As a plain human right half the population should be represented at ALL levels in society. Society has been constructed (at work particularly) so that male values/mores/behaviours etc triumph and are the norm. That’s what needs changing. We need gender neutrality and equality and that is hard but it is possible. I am not especially pro women’s groups at work per se as this should not be seen as a woman’s problem, ( I know, that’s weird coming from someone who runs women’s courses …more on that here) but a societal one. It is wrong that one half of society is rewarded by their gender alone, while the other half is penalised.
I was recently asked what women bring to the table vis a vis work, if I could share some evidence that having more women at higher levels was a good thing. Sorry to shout but…women are half the population of the world! That’s what they bring to the table. It doesn’t need to be a case of having to prove anything, to have to behave like men to get anywhere or prove themselves as capable or better than men. It needs society as a whole, men and women, to think gender equality in everything. Male behaviour should not be the yardstick, human behaviour should.
Conditioning clearly pays it part in maintaining the status quo; good grief even Lego have gone stupid with gender divisive bricks! Clearly we need to recognise just what we need to change re that conditioning, or nurturing. That is one of the reasons I do what I do. I want to fill women women with the confidence to challenge the status quo, and to recognise that the oft quoted ‘lack of confidence’ at work may be nothing to do with them but attributable to the world of work they inhabit which ‘conspires’ to keep them in their place.
On one level it doesn’t matter one jot to me whether it’s nature or nurture; the only thing that matters is that women are under represented at every level in every society in the world. And women make up half the population. The arguments about ‘natural attributes and instincts’ are so redolent of excuses made through time when powerful men didn’t want to give up their status and power. Remember, at one time we were told it was OK to have slaves because they weren’t like us? Their brains were different? That’s a slippery slope to go down. I don’t care if I’m different. I know I’m different to men! Don’t teach me how to behave like a man to get on. I’m not part of a minority group needing special attention and classes. My gender is half the population! I am a woman! I demand equality as a basic human right.
I think we all know where I stand now…tea, anyone?
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Posted on June 4th, 2013 by Jane