Monday, June 30, 2008

We've come a long way, baby.

Growing up, I've pretty much lived my life without feeling discriminated against because of my sex. Hell, woman have had the vote here since 1893, we've got a woman PM, had a female Governor General, the Speaker of the House and the Chief Justice are all women. I grew up surrounded by boys ( next door neighbours were three boys, plus an older brother ) and, more often than not, I generally work with blokes.

But I still remember the first time I felt discriminated against because I was a female, as clear as day. I was eleven and our teacher was a bit creepy. He clearly favoured boys over girls - something, in hindsight, I believe was to do with his own sexuality. He would always ask a boys if their hand was up before he would ask a girl. That quietly irked me.

We used to catch the bus to school each day. Our bus stop was beside a dam so I became pretty good at throwing things, cause how else do you witter away the time while you are waiting for the school bus, if you're not throwing stones into the dam, competing with the boys? And if you throw stones into the dam on average about three days a week, about forty weeks a year for about seven years of your life, how can you not develop a good arm, unless you are a complete un-co? So, by the age of eleven I had developed a throw that was just as good as any of my male class colleagues. I didn't throw like a girl.

On this particular occasion I remember we were being picked for a game of inter-class softball. Mr Creepy had a boy pitching, another boy in at backstop, another short stop and had two boys on bases already. Everyone who wasn't picked was going to be scattered over the outfield. I was desperate to be on one of the bases because that was where all the action was, and besides I knew I was more qualified to be on one of the bases than one of the two who were already there.

My hand was firmly up, but would old Mr Creepy pick me, or any other of the girls with their hands up? Nuh-uh. He picked another boy for the last remaining base. Not one girl had been given an interesting position. And that just did it for me.

Now, I am not a tantrum thrower, have never been one. I can't even remember the last person I shouted at (possibly a recorded message?) It's just not the way I am made.

Except, it transpires, when I am not allowed to be on a base for softball.

I threw an eleven-year-old tantrum.

I remember it so clearly. I was wearing a red t-shirt with coloured butterflies on it and a denim skirt. I stamped my foot and bellowed, 'You didn't pick any girls!' I promptly got sent way into the outfield where I quietly fumed refused to participate in the stupid game of softball.

Mid-game I gathered my anger and skulked off to the classroom (which was quite large behaviour for someone who was generally a goody-good, within reason). Mr Creepy came into the classroom to give me a telling-off but I was having none of it, I started walking out of the classroom and he grabbed my t-shirt to stop me. He was demanding that I apologise and I pulled out of this grasp and said hotly, 'I am not saying sorry, you like the boys better than the girls and IT'S NOT FAIR!!'

He obviously knew there was some truth in what I said, because there was no further disciplining and next time there was a class softball game, the bases were flush with girls.

The other time I blatantly experienced it was when I was on a job in Malaysia. I had organised the entire trip, there were four of us - three blokes and me. We had been given an Indian minder, he was about fifty. Our first story was one at the National Day parade and it had been his job to get us press passes. He picked us up from the airport and said (first pointing at the boys), 'I have passes for you, you and you. But not you.' (Pointing at me). 'Now, what is every ones' jobs?'

When it transpired that the reason he didn't get a pass for me was because I was a female we were all stunned, and we all started sniggering as it dawned on us that this guy was a complete sexist pig. It was quite sensational, his sexism towards me. He refused to ask me any questions, preferring to ask the boys what was the schedule for the day, where they wanted to eat etc.

So we refused to play his game. Any question he would ask the boys, they would just say, 'Don't know, ask Kate.' I particularly enjoyed telling him his two jobs, on a long journey north, was to find us a place we could buy LOTS of beer. (I took all the money, walked out and merrily informed him I'd bought every last bottle in joint). And I also loved telling him that he had to find us a place that served beer, with Star Television so we could watch the Bledisloe Cup.

'We will stop at my friend's along the way.'

'No we won't, we will be drinking beer and yelling at the television, you do not want us in your friend's house.'

Sadly shaking his head, 'Oh you people drink too much. Oh and as for you.....' He stopped his sentence because I think he feared I may have clocked him one. (Which is actually a complete lie, he wouldn't have thought that at all, I am a shrimp. )

The point of these stories is that I my life has been lived pretty much scot-free of sexism. And last night I watched Mad Men.A drama about one of New York's most prestigious ad agencies at the beginning of the 1960s, it's been created by one of the writers for the Sopranos and it's won a swag Golden Globes. Wikipedia will tell you that, 'The series depicts authentically the roles of men and women in this era while exploring the true human nature beneath the guise of 1960s traditional family values.' And somebody else on the Internet says, 'Not only is it a fascinating insight into the history of advertising and how it has evolved but the show depicts the era's social norms which make for uncomfortable watching in today's society.'

Yeah it's a good show, but 'uncomfortable' doesn't even come close. Oh how it makes my skin crawl. The way woman are depicted, treated and the way they behave is truly frightening.

Getting told how to dress more saucily by a sleazy boss, and being openly discussed while in the room, 'Why do you get all the good looking secretaries? Can I have her? Or are you taking this one?'

Men actually said that stuff?

Without getting punched?

And women put up with that shit?

As I said in my previous post, if I lived in that era and under those circumstances, I would have either ended up in a place with padded walls, jail or chugging large quantities of Valium.


Medbh said...

LK, I watched one episode and quit it. I feel no nostalgia for when women were doormats or fucktoys alone.
I don't care how good the writing is or any of that.
Same reason I don't watch "Big Love."
I don't need to watch the hardline patriarchy for entertainment.
Good for you for telling the fuckers off.

laughykate said...

Initially I thought they were taking the piss, Medbh.