The F Word…

This week my world has taken on something of a feminist flavour. 

Not that I am not a feminist – I am.

(I am also sure that there’s a better way to deal with that double negative. Go ahead – comment away!)  

I didn’t actually plan it that way but when I look back there has been a definite theme to the events I attended, the things I learnt and the conversations I had. Might be the planets aligning, might be a raising of my feminist consciousness. Might be my current musings about what my future might look like. Who knows. But over the last four days there has been a lot for me to consider about the future of women.

On Wednesday, I listened to some amazing women (and one man) explore women’s roles in our modern world at the Women in European Business Conference. It featured an excellent panel discussion, an interview with the always fabulous Joanna Lumley and a fascinating 45-minute presentation from Harvard associate professor and social psychologist, Amy Cuddy on shaping who you are – literally. It was an inspiring night and it was thanks to the ‘oh I’ve double-booked’ mistake of a work colleague that I got a guernsey. And what did I take away from all of this? That there are many, many choices about my future, many potential pathways to explore and a myriad of conversations to have. Oh and a potential place on the invitation list for next year’s event.

On Thursday, I listened to a lively discussion on the Pinkification of Young Girls at Selfridges as part of The Beauty Project. This was the last in a series put on in partnership with Intelligence Squared who always offer controversial topics and provocative panelists and with the future of the world’s female population firmly in their sights, Alannah Weston, Tiffanie Darke, Tanya Gold and Katie Hopkins launched into a litany of opinions about the dangers (or not) of a rose coloured world and the potential of a ‘princess’ generation. 

It seemed to me that we came no closer to any answers and whilst it was an interesting discussion, it meandered around for a while then finished all too quickly. In the end, it did transpire that encouraging a questioning mind, a breadth of choice and a sense of confidence in our women of tomorrow were the keys – and also some of the prevailing themes from my previous evening’s WEB Conference. How on earth this is going to happen, I have no idea but that the topic continues to raise in profile is generally deemed a positive thing. But is it enough?

On Friday morning I listened to a less-than-seven-minute TED talk from Dan Gilbert called The Psychology of your Future Self. (You may have noticed over the last few posts that I am having a bit of a love affair with TED talks at the moment.) Anyway, Gilbert postulates that we all under estimate how much we will change in the future and he uses some really clever ways of demonstrating that our heads really are buried in the sand when it comes to envisioning our future selves. Think about who you were, what you were doing and what was important to you ten years ago. Then think about how much you think you’ll change in the next ten years. Doesn’t it stand to reason that the rate of change will continue? Well, apparently reason has nothing to do with it but given my recent reflections about what might lie before me in the next 40 or so years, it seemed another fitting piece to add to my puzzle.

And finally yesterday, when I opened this week’s Mental Floss newsletter, I discovered that LEGO will release a new series featuring female scientist figurines this coming August. Hurrah! (Imagine hooray in the posh, clipped syllables of the English.) The LEGO Research Institute set will show women exploring the world from three different angles – chemistry, paleantology and astronomy. 

Image source: https://ideas.lego.com/projects/15401

And not a skerrick of pinkification to be seen. Double hurrah!

The concept was submitted by Dr. Ellen Kooijman, a geochemist from Stockholm who, despite entering her concept last year, may have tapped into the zeitgeist by encapsulating the sentiments of Charlotte Benjamin, a seven-year-old girl who wrote a widely publicised letter to LEGO in January admonishing the toymaker to ‘have more LEGO girl people who go on adventures and have fun.’ 

So while the rate of change might seem snail-paced to those of us who are firm believers in gender equality, it appears that all it takes are the words of a seven-year-old to create a little momentum. At this rate, just imagine where she could be in ten years time.

So as I sit here on the comfy couch, tap-tap-tapping away and reflecting on the week that was, I am definitely left with some positive feelings about the whole feminist issue. But it still seems like we still have one hell of a mountain to climb and while I lean towards the side of a bright future ahead, I think that the visibility remains poor and the path ahead uncertain. Not only for the women of future generations but also for those of us struggling with how to create a world of choice and equality now. 

And it leaves me wondering just who and where I might be in all of this in ten years time.

Bears some thinking about doesn’t it?

Tall Poppies: The Art of Acknowledgement

We all want to be noticed a little. A nod here, a pat on the back there. Recognised for our talents. Acknowledged for our achievements. So why is it so hard to ‘be’ with it all when this actually happens?

I have had the kind of week that these dreams of notability are made of. Compliments have been forthcoming from all sorts of directions in every area of life – my work, my writing, how I look, how I act. And don’t get me wrong – it’s really amazing to be in the midst of all of this.  But at the same time, if I’m honest, I find sitting in front of someone waxing lyrical about me, however genuine, uncomfortable. And I don’t think I’m alone in this. Trying to give others compliments is almost as difficult – not to give them per se but rather to see the recipient actually feel the ackowledgement and take in what you are saying about them.

Mum always taught me to be gracious when receiving compliments, saying that it takes courage to acknowledge something about someone else in a way that makes them stop and accept it. I try to live by this. But letting it actually sink in, moving me, delighting me, let alone repeating it to others seems vain and narcissistic.  And not at all in keeping with my laconic, self-effacing Aussie style. After all I am born of the culture that cultivates none other than The Tall Poppy Syndrome.

94c21-poppies

As children we do nothing BUT seek approval and recognition. It’s what defines us. But it’s also what we live in to – how we behave and interact shapes others’ opinions of and interactions with ourselves. So our individual worlds are increasingly shaped by what we are willing to acknowledge about ourselves as it is mirrored in other people.

So when does this self-appreciation society stop?  Is it when we feel that we disappoint others and don’t live up to expectations?  Perhaps when others don’t live up to our expectations and fall off the proverbial pedestal?  Is it knocked out of us by well-meaning grown ups who tell us it’s not ‘nice’ to brag, or to show off? Or maybe in the playground at school in our first games of one-up-man-ship, child to child (and absolutely no adults required).

Psychology somewhere probably has a multitude of answers for this and I don’t envy parents who navigate the maelstrom of opinions and advice available on the subject in an effort to raise healthy, happy, resilient children.

But on the other hand, maybe there are no answers. Just the human condition, the society that surrounds us and our best guess at charting our own watery depths.

So in light of all of this, I have decided to do my best to bask, from my position atop the pedestal, in this unexpected deluge of appreciation. I may even resort to a little exuberant wallowing in it…some joyful splashing about perhaps.

But just a little mind.

Apparently, no-one likes a show-off.