Sometimes it’s tough to be both a professional and a person.
Virginia Woolf suggested every woman needed a room of her own to write. To do our best work, perhaps we need our own space. Yeats said it was a choice between
…perfection of the life, or of the work,
And if it take the second must refuse
A heavenly mansion, raging in the dark
Last week was an interesting one in terms of the resurgence of feminist debate. March 8th was International Women’s Day, a day of celebration for women’s achievements, yet containing the implicit assertion that the remaining 364 days belong to men.
I support the celebration of great achievements regardless of gender, and can’t help but feel that by setting separate awards, days and so on, we perpetuate the notion that women’s accomplishments can’t be ranked alongside those of their male counterparts. How constructive is it to maintain the sense of women needing special or at least different treatment?
I have no argument with, for example, women and men entering separate sporting events; it’s obvious our physical capabilities are different (last I heard, there were no male entrants in the ‘giving birth’ sweepstakes). But when it comes to the cerebral, I fail to see why women are obliged to compete in the intellectual equivalent of the Paralympics.
Unlike many of my peers, I’ve been proud to call myself the apparently now dirty word ‘feminist’ for as long as I’ve been aware of the concept. I believe absolutely in feminism, as defined by the purity and clarity of thought of early feminists like Wollstonecraft, and uncluttered by the political infighting and schisms of later wave feminism. The most workable definition I can provide is:
the recognition that men and women do not receive fair or equal treatment as a result of their gender, and the desire to change that situation
Anyone wishing to quibble with the first clause need only refer to recent figures proving that salaries still differ hugely between women and their male counterparts. Anyone wishing to quibble with the second is probably not someone I’m going to waste my time engaging with or trying to convert.
I’m a passionate supporter and member of Girl Geeks for the simple reason that women involved with technology are still in the minority. Anecdotally and from personal experience I know it can be tough to flourish and be recognised in an environment where you’re the odd (wo)man out. But what’s really important to me is that both women and men are welcome at GGD functions and invited to contribute regardless of gender.
There’s something really wonderful about being in a group of like-minded women, and I’ve certainly found that such an environment can be more supportive than a mixed gender equivalent. But that’s all the more reason not to cloister ourselves away, but to bring these ostensibly ‘female’ skills to bear on every environment, every interaction, to the point that sharing, listening respectfully and encouraging the more inhibited to contribute will simply be a part of everyone’s “how to be human” toolkit.
That’s why I can’t be fully supportive of Social Media Women, although I remain a huge fan of its creators, fabulous women all. Hang out and talk shop with whomsoever you please, but I baulk at the association, through both my gender and profession, with an formalised organisation that actively discriminates, positively or not.
Digital Citizens (which I help to organise) held its first event last week – I’m obviously biased, but I think it went pretty well (and we scored a FourSquare Swarm badge – quite the high point for me..)
I wasn’t keeping score, but I think the number of participants and contributors was roughly equal in gender terms, and I certainly felt I could express my point of view and be heard doing so.
Rebekah Horne of MySpace said recently that
for women to succeed in this industry, they need to work fifteen times harder than their male counterparts.
If we want this situation to end within our lifetimes, the answer is to cease to recognise gender as a factor in our work and social lives.
Leave it at home; in your bedroom, your shower, your dungeon or wherever you like, but it doesn’t belong here.