Kidz on the Coast – April/May 2019

Unless you have been off grid, under a rock or on a total social media detox you cannot be missing the debates and discourse around #metoo, women’s rights and gender equality.

In fact, in the last few years there has been a steady flow of discontent which now seems like a veritable tsunami of outrage.  Women are fed up.  And I am one of them.

I feel like as I edge closer to 50 I am becoming, as actress Ashley Judd at the outbreak of the Harvey Weinstein Hollywood scandal proudly declared herself to be, an ‘angry woman’!

Seriously, after 60 years of the feminism movement, why is there still a gender pay gap? Why is abortion still illegal? How can it be that women still face glass ceilings?

And don’t get me started on the so called ‘feminine’ professions that are now more than ever vulnerable to being reduced to part-time and contract employment, if not completely abandoned into the wilds of the gig economy.

There are rising rates of female incarceration which explode off the chart for our indigenous sisters.  Our girls still suffer harassment and sexual objectification. Some things seem to be going backwards – we’ve been lulled into an illusion we were living in progress – but some shadow gremlins never left and are now emerging to scare us again.

For example, not only do women still bear the bulk of the burden of child-rearing and domestic duties, she also has assumed an undue ‘emotional-load’ in domestic partnerships. This manifests with the burden of holding the big family ‘picture’, micromanaging the schedules and diaries, and directing and delegating tasks TO husbands to do. All this starts to become an overwhelming beast of burden on top of their own work/life balance.

At the first rise up of our voices, and pushback on the norms, a small yet powerful group of men bristle and cry reverse discrimination. They not only actively deny the existence of ‘privilege’ and systemic inequality but, in fact, double down efforts to “keep us in our place”.

Only recently on International Women’s Day did our Prime Minister say he was all for equality “as long as it is not at the expense of others [ie men]”.

Watch out gals, Gilead is possible.

It is time for a new rising up. A rising up for not only our girls but for our boys too.  A world of inequality does not serve them either and I see this at the coal face in my practice when couples come for marriage therapy.  This war is being fought in the trenches of the domestic division of labour and parenting, making both men and women unhappy and putting families at risk.

Humanity wins when we encourage all to rise up to our highest potential.

As a mother of sons, I’ve always accepted my role (and my husband’s role too by the way) was to guide them into being good men. Men who loved and respected women. Men who contributed and didn’t differentiate or discriminate.

But a recent conversation with my not so little ones now, Master 19 and Master 16, left me shocked at their belief that feminism is viewed with ridicule and as out of date, we don’t need it anymore, ‘there is no inequality’.  I was shocked. They truly can’t see it. It is invisible to them.

And so there is more work to be done.  This evolution begins at home.  It’s time for the conversation to be shifted to understand women’s rights and gender equality as benefitting all.  Redressing the balance for women is not a women’s rights’ issue any more but an issue for humanity.

How might this look for us in the home? What could this ‘revolution’ at the grass roots level of real families look like?

It’s about shifting men’s and women’s mindsets towards the acceptance that the home and domestics is a shared family environment.  Child rearing is a whole of family responsibility.

It might mean a more conscious effort to bring boys into the kitchen and showing them how to do the laundry. It might mean taking daughters into the shed and exposing them to car repairs and mowing the lawn.

Mums and dads let’s advance the EQ and empathetic muscles of young men by not stifling emotional expression for boys and stamping out their feelings and natural tenderness, not curbing their creativity, but rather building for boys and girls a new emotional literacy.

How great will the day be when girls aren’t judged on their cuteness, prettiness and bodies or directed solely into caretaking and service roles and professions? Let’s affirm girls for their actions, character and ability. Let’s encourage and widen their dreams.

Moving forwards, to ensure ongoing advances, our society will require for women and men to develop a zero tolerance for anything less than equal. It will need a new ‘language’ which might need to become less ‘gendered’.  It will need a new willingness to open hearts towards ideals of compassion, collaboration and the co-creative potentials of both and girls.

Let it be for our generation of kids to enjoy a society where there is universal equality and acceptance and when we all work together building up our strengths…we all win.