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Be a #nastywoman

Sunday, March 12 2017

I am surrounded by difficult women. I should say Iím surrounded by women that other people call difficult.

I consider myself to be surrounded by women of substance, hardworking, honest, fiercely loyal and no nonsense. I donít know when this became a bad thing.

Arenít we as women not supposed to lay down and let others wipe their feet all over us? So why is a woman who stands up for her rights and demands fair and equal treatment difficult? After the last American election, it became clear that the world is rearing women to be strong and outspoken and tells them they are equal with men but the women that dare to take that message literally are swiftly taught a lesson. It seems that no matter how qualified and competent a woman is, she will always lose to any loudmouthed nit, just as long as itís a man.

There was a study done a few years ago that tested peopleís perception of others. They gave a quote based on a workplace scenario and attributed it to one of two pictures, either a man or a woman in business attire. The man was seen as efficient, and praised for having good management skills, while the woman was perceived as bossy, pushy and rude. Same script, but the only difference was the gender of the person the words were ascribed to. What that shows is that we have some deeply ingrained gender constructs, because both men and women shared the same prejudice.

The traits that the participants found so offensive, are the same traits that keep women from promotions at the office, keep them earning 54 cents for every dollar a man earns (Yes, itís true, figures show wage disparity is that bad in our country). While more feminine behaviours keep salaries in female dominated professions artificially low, cause employers to think itís ok to deny maternity leave or fire a woman while she is on maternity leave, and keep female unemployment at twice the rate of male.

It is really disheartening to think of just how little progress has been made in gender equality. I think the suffragettes would be extremely disappointed to see that while women can vote, get an education and earn a living, very little else has changed. When I think of the radical nature of women like Emmeline Pankhurst, and our own local Beatrice Grieg, I feel the complacency of current generations has betrayed their legacy to a degree.

The recent unpleasantness of the spate of brutal murders of bright, young women got all of Trinidad talking. I have to confess I was horrified by the comments I heard fall out of the mouths of some of the men I interact with. The concept of gender equality has passed them by like a full bus and they are still driving an ox cart. Suffice it to say, I gave a few of them quite the upgrade to their ideas of gender. Thatís not just in Trinidad and Tobago though, itís difficult to be a woman in most of the world. The World Economic Forum issues The Global Gender Gap Report which is an index that ranks countries by certain indicators such as womenís access to education and healthcare, representation in government, ability to be financially independent etc. On the list, Trinidad and Tobago dropped from 36th in 2013 to 44th by 2016, ie things arenít simply not good, theyíre getting worse.

We teach our young women that they can do anything a guy can do, and educate them well but when they come out to look for a job or try to find a partner, they find out the reality is very different. Itís like the society has pulled a collective prank on us all. Sure, we can be anything you want, as long as it fits in the traditional gender constructs set out for women. As if.

I know a lot of high achieving women, who go out and do well in the working world, who reach high positions in their organisations. I am aware that I am surrounded by extraordinary women, who have or make conditions that allow them to excel. At minimum, a Masterís degree is the norm in my circle, but thatís because I come from a background of educators. There are others who come from a background of small business owners and entrepreneurship and they excel in that. I know a few women who work in male dominated trades as well, three of the five best welders I know, are women.

Women are capable of anything if they have equal access to opportunities.

There is much more to women than men can imagine. We can multi-task because we are so used to being everything all the time. Yes, I have two brain cells to rub together as well as the papers to prove it.

The fact that I am a devoted mother and a domestic goddess are just the icing on the cake. I am not trying to live up to some domestic gender stereotype, I just love clean surroundings and good food but itís not the same for everyone. Some women have no talent in domestic matters and thatís ok too. You donít have to be everything to everybody.

What can we do as individuals to change the current state of gender relations? A lot, believe it or not.

Donít settle for abuse in the workplace and unequal salaries. Start your own business, entrepreneurship really gives women a chance to ful_ l their potential, use whatever skill or talent you have and _ nd a way to make it earn you an income.

Learn about money, how to manage it and how to invest it so it will make more. Financial independence is the quickest way to protect yourself from abusive relationship. If a woman can stand on her own, she wonít stand for nonsense. If the roof over your head and the pillow you sleep on are your own, youíre automatically less vulnerable.

Stop waiting for Prince Charming. Life is not a fairytale and there is nobody coming to rescue you. Get on with your life and save yourself. Become an accomplished and self-sufficient woman. Want a diamond ring? Buy your own. When your prince eventually comes, you can be an equal partner.

Know that you are perfectly _ ne to live your life the way you want to. Want to be a mother, wife and homemaker? Thatís great. Want to grow up to be a single, childless, cougar? Thatís good too. Like climbing trees and dressing like a boy? Thatís good as well.

Are you the ultimate girly-girl obsessed with makeup and all things frilly? You go girl. My point is there is no single way to be female and no one way to express womanhood, as long as youíve got the chromosomes, whichever way you choose, is just as legitimate as another. I am just as female with my oversized, aggressive, opinionated self as another woman who is delicate, submissive and demure.

Mothers and fathers treat your children equally. Stop reinforcing gender stereotypes, there should not be, boys do this and girls do that. A boy is not going to become less masculine if he can wash dishes, cook his own food or is capable with a vacuum. Learning household chores is vital if you want your children to grow to be competent adults, donít deprive your sons of that opportunity. Ingrain in them the knowledge they will need to be equal partners in their adult relationships and teach them the skills they need to do it.

The best thing you can do to improve gender relations is to be a difficult, #nastywoman in your everyday life. Know your rights and demand them because discrimination of any kind thrives on ignorance. Use your voice and speak up, if you think you donít have a voice, _ nd it and fast.

Surround yourself with difficult women, or _ nd the most obstinate, difficult woman in your circle and latch onto her, some of her willfulness might just rub off on you. Youíd be surprised how liberating it can be to cast off gender stereotypes and just be yourself.

.



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