3 women who inspired me this week

                                                                 Jean Lijoi- untitled

A friend of mine shared with me a funny story the other day about her professor who was reading her Phd manuscript. He corrected her on something and said that she needed to make a certain point a little more clear. She answered back by saying that she did not feel that she needed to make that point clearer because she assumes that her readers are not idiots and that they can follow an argument. Her professor looked at her from reading her manuscript, glasses on the edge of his nose, peering up at her, and said ‘Always assume your readers are idiots!’

Well I want to say I don’t assume you are all idiots. I assume that like me you are reflective, thinking yet practitioner types who want to change the world and you believe that one clearly read, articulated or ‘practiced’ thought can bring about that change. So I want to mention three women whose spoken thoughts and practices have changed my world this week and I think have affected women around the world also.

I wrote a ‘blog’ the other week for my church and the community, titled ‘Invisible people’ and how there are certain people in our community and world that we look through rather than look at. Women I think are still a part of that group. But this week I heard a few women speak out, I saw them rise up and I felt their anger about the issues that burned in their hearts. These thinking practitioners encouraged me this week and certainly became visible through my eyes anyway.

Prime Minister Julia Gillard. 

Despite what we think of her, everyone noticed that this week that Julia transformed from the usual cautious, guarded, politically correct diplomat into a fiery woman who let everyone know how recent comments about her personal life were infuriating her. Basically if you don’t know, Tony Abbott the opposition leader said that those who have sexist views are not fit for high office. He was referring to Speaker of the House Peter Slipper who had sent some sexist texts that week. This must have been the tipping point for Julia because she then launched into a speech clearly, concisely and methodically pointing out the several times that Mr Abbott had recently made sexist comments. Here are some of his comments;

What if men by physiology or temperament are more adapted to exercise authority or to issue command?

Person one: I think that it is very hard to deny that there is an under representation of women (in Government)
Mr Abbott: But now there is an assumption that this is a bad thing

What the housewives of Australia need to understand as they do the ironing..

Then Julia says in the speech, ‘I was offended when the leader of the opposition went outside in the front of parliament and stood next to a sign that said “ditch the witch”.I was offended when the leader of the opposition stood next to a sign that described me as a “man’s bitch”. I was offended by those things. Misogyny, sexism every day from this leader of the opposition’.

If you read the rest of the speech transcript you get a sense of how personally offended she has been as a result of Mr Abbott’s comments. When I read the whole transcript I couldn’t help thinking about the accumulated criticism that has been progressively weighing on the Prime minister’s back that forced this eruption of emotion, something that she is not know for showing very frequently.

I don’t necessarily agree with everything that she said or her tone, all I am interested in is that she said it. Women who hold roles in authority often feel very hesitant to talk about the ‘women’s issue’ and how comments made affect them personally. I actually am not sure why that is. But I know from my experience and the experience that many of my female colleagues have had, most of the time they avoid getting involved in any ‘gender wars’ even if they are in the middle of one themselves. It seems to be that we as women either  let men speak for us or we simply stay silent on the issue perhaps thinking that we will be labelled ‘feminists’, ‘angry’ or ‘hard to get on with’ and that this will make our role more difficult. Maybe deep down we hope that no one is noticing that we are female and we can all just get on with the job. I understand that way of thinking. But I just don’t believe anymore that this will bring the change that many people are desiring regarding gender issues.

So Julia inspired me this week to speak out when I feel looked past, through and by as a female. She encouraged me that a quiet, ‘eyes to the ground stoicism’ is not always the best approach if we want to bring change. She also encouraged me as a woman to sometimes share in my work environment, my feelings about negative comments which affect me personally rather than trying to turn those feelings off.

Secondly Malala Yousafzai. 

(Please take a moment to watch the half hour documentary on ‘Class dismissed- The death of education for women’ which features Malala)

Malala is only 11 years old. She wants to be a doctor when she grows up and when she talks about her ambition she cries, and shares about how much she wants to get the education she needs to fulfill her dream. She has spoken actively and with boldness for the rights of girls in Pakistan. Her father speaks emotionally about how much he loves his daughter and how when he first saw her as a baby he ‘loved her’. I love hearing a father talk about his daughter in such a way…especially in a country where the culture is that generally speaking, women are seen as second class citizens….Malala’s father is a dad that runs counter to the culture.

Today we read in the papers that the Taliban shot Malala for fear that her ideas of liberating women might lead to a revolution, they feared that her ideas might change the world and that women in her part of Pakistan would be educated. I can’t believe the irony that this has all happened around the first international day of the girl. 

Malala inspired me this week that a young girl could speak out so boldly in a resistant culture for change. She first came to public attention in 2009 and gained more awareness as a children’s rights activist but it is only now that people are starting to take notice about what is really going on in Pakistan. Please pray for Malala’s recovery and for change in nations that stop girls and women from getting the education they need to change the world. (If you want to connect with this issue talk about it with others and look out for organisations like this one )

Thirdly Annabel Crabb

Her show Kitchen Cabinet with Annabel Crabb made me crave more TV shows presented by intelligent women! Last Wednesday night’s episode showed Annabel interviewing Politician Joe Hockey as they prepared and shared dinner together. During dinner they spoke about politics and ethics and we were given a chance to listen in on the conversation. As all good women do she made the dessert and brought it, and as all good men do he was suitably impressed and said so. It was interesting to see politics discussed in such a usually feminised environment- the kitchen. Even though you could tell Joe was a little awkward and the conversation was stilted at times, I think this is the point. The kitchen on this show was a space that enabled a breakthrough from the facade of normal political spin and it shed new light on this animal we call the politician.

It is so inspiring to see women like Annabel because it conveys to those who want to narrow down and stereotype the role of women, that women can do the ‘typical’ female role like cook but they can also be interested and competent in more traditionally male topics like politics.

It reminded me of when I was growing up and we had family gatherings. The men would always go outdoors with drinks in hand and discuss politics and other very serious topics, well anyway what I thought were serious topics at the age of eight. The women would be in the kitchen talking about fashion, recipes, housework and TV soaps. I remember being ambivalent about where to go. When I sat with the men, we would have great discussions but after a while I’d get restless. So then I would move to the kitchen with the women and talk about various types of recipes and how we could try them out. After a while you guessed it, I got bored with that. Round and round I’d go at family gatherings! Annabel Crabb for me is modelling that women can fully engage in both spheres of life- private and public….and her work shows no shame about displaying a strong female flavour either.

There are plenty of women who are making a difference today and they are changing the world. Some in small ways others in big ways. We just have to open our eyes to see them. This week anyway I was just glad for the ‘wrath’ of Julia, the incredible courage of 11 year old Malala and the wit and creativity of Annabel.


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