Media focus on women’s continuing inequality as represented in newspaper opinion columns obfuscates the significant and salient facts about women’s attitude to women as entrenched social opinions of women still castigate men as culpable in a blame game that sadly plays the wrong hand. However, a much needed refreshing perspective in The Age on 11/12/16 was presented by a female principal researcher, Sarah Russell, at a company called Research Matters which studies public health, mental health and aged care, who detailed how a female opinion editor at the Los Angeles Times, Sue Horton, noticed how women were more likely to turn down requests for a solicited piece, often because they were too busy to do it well. Men, on the other hand, were more likely to accept the invitation without hesitation, adding that submissions from women were more likely to be from writers who were experts on the issue but contrastingly, some submissions from men she believed were no more than “dinner party op-eds”, pieces written because the author had an opinion on the subject, not because of any particular standing or expertise.
What category am I in? No question that I do not have the academic or professional credentials to claim “expertise” other than a lifetime of reading pertinent material, thinking for myself about what I read and trying to make sense of that using my personal experience to shape my opinions involving a holistic and encompassing integrity where gender, race or religion can be extraneous to what’s important. Understanding historic traditions of behaviour, attitudes and beliefs about gender among others are very relevant in assessing why women’s so-called inequality still persists. Maybe Horton doesn’t appreciate that women’s claim of being too busy can be, might be, but a camouflage for them not having the self-belief, confidence and self assuredness to present their opinions in the way many men do. Maybe too many women also demean their own opinions as not worthwhile or expert, albeit unconsciously. From my perusal of research studies and surveys over the decades, a lack of self belief and confidence by women and young girls inhibits and proscribes their ambitions and aspirations but no one seems cognisant of that as a possible genuine barricade to achieving gender equality. It seems an age of reason is still but a dream; a delusional fantasy where exploring and examining the complex reality of inequality and its underlying impetus remains shrouded in yet another stereotype of the too busy woman working and looking after home, children and husband. It’s a superficial scenario that denies asking the right questions to find more cogent and rational explanations as to why women seem unable to present “dinner party op-eds” as men do. I certainly have tried and indeed, keep on trying, to be rejected time and time again, able only to conjecture why including no prestigious title or status other than a 60yearssomething woman who’s engaged in my own research during my life. I can only postulate whether Sue Horton would publish one of my pieces on her op-ed pages, but The Age article has her position as editor in the past tense.
Moreover, when a woman does have the self-belief, confidence and knowledge she is too often perceived as a ‘threat’, even deluded about herself, not just by many men still controlling the mainstream media, but by many women too, unless she adopts the approved and feminist sanctioned philosophy of those women who have achieved some power in the media over the past couple of decades. I know only too well, not that any female would dare admit it, let alone even consider that rationally and logically as men fail to do too. It is not a gender exclusive issue as I understood in my late 20s and 30s with only increasing certainty since then and not just in the media either. It is a pervasive social reality that ‘experts’ in a myriad of fields just won’t confront, far less challenging and difficult to simply blame men and for women to lament they’re too busy. The Age writer, Sarah Russell, concludes “while opinion pages continue to privilege men’s voices over women’s, gendered social roles remain unchallenged. It is time for opinionated women to be valued rather than denigrated.” Indeed, but I contend it is as much about what opinions some women might entertain, particularly mine, that can be pertinent in rejection of those opinions. It’s not about how you write necessarily but what you write about as I have found out over my life, both as an employed reporter on mainstream newspapers and as a freelance writer. Some opinions just don’t win friends and influence people of whatever gender and in whatever media. It’s still about maintaining a status quo where certain opinions are valued more than others as they adhere to the accepted norm of being female and that we’re all sisters together. Aren’t we? After all, the catch cry of the 70s was just that: “the sisterhood is powerful” and if you didn’t subscribe to that philosophy and dared to opine a radically variant, even more embracing sociology that involved men as ‘brothers’ in the one human family, you were isolated as aberrant and cast out from the feminist fold. We can’t possibly blame ourselves, even look at ourselves as women, because it’s just too disturbing. It must not be about blame at all but rather to appreciate female limitations and shortcomings in an effort to transcend these and surpass the status quo with a new order of togetherness for both genders. Men too are no more endowed with confidence and strong self-belief than women but the men who are enriched by these traits seem to succeed where women exhibiting these same traits are somehow a disturbance and/or threat to be ‘denigrated’. Speak out about it all as I have done, and moreover written about some of these issues only guarantees rejection except on my own femmosexual website. It’s why I started it in the first place now nearly seven years ago.
Let me conclude with repeating a previous blog where a celebrated female media personality highlighted nearly three years ago how women can be “unkind” to women. It was on national TV and reported in a TV guide in The Age BUT, and here’s the really significant point, I have never read, seen or heard anyone, male or female, pick up her realisation let alone try and understand why it may be the case. It’s been totally ignored in all my media reading and listening and when I’ve written about it, in letters to the editors of different newspapers, or even in opinion pieces, of course I don’t get published.
The final word, for the moment at least, is attributed to a businesswoman, Dr Rebecca Parsons, the chief technology officer of software development company, ThoughtWorks, which this year beat Google and Facebook as the US’ top company for women in tech, who said “men and women are both harder on women that on men”, and more needs to be done to change that, especially in the traditionally male-dominated fields of science, technology, engineering and maths. Indeed more needs to be done to facilitate change but imperative to making changes is to first and foremost find out WHY and HOW both men AND women are in fact harder on women than men. Without exploring and examining that critical reality any change will be just a bandaid solution masking the causes impeding change that lurk beneath the surface. Moreover, it is not just in these STEM areas but my experience and that of other women I’ve read and listened to over the decades indicates that both men AND women are harder on women across the social spectrum at work, at home and at play. It is indeed depressing that no one wants to confront women’s treatment of women but that is as relevant and significant to implementing female gender equity as imploring men to change their behaviour and attitudes to women. They must go hand in hand to ensure change is not just a lip service convenience demanded by some but ignored by most, gender irrelevant. Enough already!