My All-Time Favourite "F-Word"
I’m traveling through New Zealand as I write this blog. The time off the grid is allowing me to reflect on my all time favourite “F Word”. This blog has been in the making since earlier this year when I heard an influential woman talk about her journey of feminism.
This year has been a huge year of growth for me. I have experienced setting up a new company, building a social media brand, building a website, building a powerful women's network and stepping up to visibly and vocally own the brand “feminist!” Some of you reading this who know me have just choked, as you may have seen me as an avowed feminist from the word go. I don’t disagree.
I am a feminist from the core and always have been.
However I am an ordinary woman who like many other women, has chosen when and where to claim my feminism. I’ve chosen consciously and subconsciously to have varied approaches to my feminist beliefs throughout my life and career. My choices have been anchored in how safe the environment was or how prudent it was (right or wrong) to express my beliefs. Lets face it, feminism gets a bad rap. Hell, there’s even an anti-feminist movement by women! So the expression of my views about feminism have always been with a healthy dose of self-preservation in mind. Courageous? Nope. But hang in there...
The Oxford dictionary defines feminism as “The advocacy of women’s rights on the ground of the equality of the sexes.”
I grew up believing myself to be equal.
Thanks in no small measure to my Mum (love you Veronica) who, as a feisty feminist and the mother of three girls, knew that we WERE equal and that we had the right to do whatever we wanted to do. Then I grew up and entered the world of work, men, society and peer pressure. And so began the four stages of feminism.
I can’t take credit for the four stages of feminism. I must credit Holly Kramer (Best & Less, Ford Motor Company, PBL, Telstra, and Pacific Brands) who I heard speak about her career and life journey at a conference earlier this year. When Holly talked about her four stages of feminism she had me mesmerised and nodding my head vigorously. She could have been describing my life.
The four stages of feminism perfectly captured how I grew up and into feminism.
Stage 1 Oblivion: I am a privileged, educated young white woman with the world at her feet. I have choices laid out in front of me, I will be self sufficient and conquer the world. What inequality problem? Of course the way is mine to have. Feminism? Inequality? Bias? Huh! Not me!
Stage 2 Awareness: Wow, women are just not being treated equally. You just have to be part of the boys club. What a shame. But hey, things are going great for me, so no sweat right?
Stage 3 Outrage: You’re joking!! Why are there no women on that board? How is it that I get paid 27% less than men? Why do I have to organise all the cleaning, caring and cooking, on top of a full time career? Why is Australia not even in the top 20 nations for gender equality? Where are all the female policy makers? Why wasn’t I considered for the top job?
Stage 4 Advocacy (with a healthy dose of resignation) : OK, so its time to stop sitting back and admiring the problem. I will only buy from female owned or companies who have gender equal boards and executive teams. I will advocate strongly for quotas wherever I can. I am taking matters into my own hands by building a business, a career and a personal brand linked wholly and solely to advancing women. I will open the hatch, extend my hand and help shatter the glass ceiling into a million pieces.
I hover between outrage and advocacy on a daily basis.
However, what I have also learned in recent times is to never let a crisis go to waste. And we are in a crisis. Women are not equal. They should be. I’m not going to spout more statistics to you. What I do is take action, each and every time the opportunity arises.
I am a feminist.
When I start a conversation, when I introduce myself to a new person, people or gathering, I ALWAYS state my reason for being. I make sure that my audience (whether it's one person or one thousand) hears my all time favourite F Word. Feminist. Because it starts a conversation and even debate. Which is healthy because then comes awareness. With awareness comes action. With action comes change. So to honour great women like my mother, like Holly Kramer, like Hillary Clinton, like Gloria Steinhem and many many more… I loudly and proudly claim my all time favourite F Word. Feminism.
Article by Michelle Redfern
*Michelle is an astute businesswoman & keen entrepreneur who has founded a business to advise women about how to shatter the glass ceiling & be successful, in whatever way they define success. Founded by a woman, run by women, for women and the organisations that employ women. Michelle is a coach, mentor, consultant, runs events & speaks about her vision to create a gender equal world. Michelle’s business supports, advocates, activates and champions women of all ages and stages.