I like this advert. I think it is thought provoking and worth a watch. However, as I watched it for a second time, I realised why it didn’t really hit home. It felt alien to me and I felt pity rather than anger and certainly no resentment or even indignation.
When I was 11 years old I told my Dad I was going to win the village running race (that meant beating all of the boys too). He believed me, believed in me, trained with me and supported me with all his heart and all his energy. I don’t think it even crossed his mind that according to our societal and cultural norms, girls were not supposed to beat the boys…
I didn't win the race, but that's not the point. The point is that in my mind it was possible.
Over 20 years, and many running races later, he still believes in me, supports and counsels me… and I still don’t think the possibility of me achieving less as a woman (than I would if I were a man) has entered his head. Laci Green would say he’s a feminist, and I’d tend to agree.
There were three children in our house growing up. Our household was “traditional” in the sense that my Dad went to work to earn money and my Mum supported the business, running all of the administration and bringing up the children at the same time. Not so “traditionally”, the household chores were divided equally; my sister, my brother and I all used to take turns to help milking the goats, feeding the chickens, hanging out the washing, vacuuming and dusting, unpacking the dishwasher, changing the bed-sheets. My Mum told me repeatedly to make sure that I never had to be financially dependent on anyone.
I passed my eleven plus exam and went to an all girls grammar school. It was fantastic. The teachers were wonderful, I was top of the class in a few subjects, in many of the sports teams and remained blissfully unaware that “girls were not supposed to beat the boys”. I continued to try my hardest to be the best (that I could be) at everything I did. I am convinced that – of course, in addition to my home life - attending an all girls secondary school, and not being subjected to the expectation that boys are somehow destined for greater things than girls, helped me. I realise it is not a long term solution, but until we are completely rid of this notion that doing something “like a girl” is no longer negatively perceived, by anyone, in any way, my daughters (if they ever exist) will be sent to all-girls schools.
I only really started to think about gender inequalities very recently, since entering the working world where women are under-represented at senior levels, where nobody has a male personal assistant/ secretary and very few men are “stay at home Dads”.
We can do something about this.
As parents, we can ensure that both our sons and daughters give equal opportunities and expectations to people of both genders. Only a few days ago, this photograph of Chrissie Wellington was published in Womens Health Magazine. Many people commented on it saying that they would like their daughters to be seeing more images of women looking strong and powerful like this. I think it is just as important that our sons see women like this.
Sometimes I finish races as the first woman but I don't think I have ever, in my entire adult life, "beaten all of the boys". That doesn't stop me trying.
Thanks Dad. Thanks Mum.