Nicola Vincent-Abnett

Nicola Vincent-Abnett
"Savant" for Solaris, Wild's End, Further Associates of Sherlock Holms, more Wild's End

Tuesday 26 August 2014

The Politics in Sexual Politics

I’m going to say it again, for at least the second time this week: I am a feminist. I’ll say it louder, I AM A FEMINIST!
Sometimes a feminist looks like this.

Are we all clear on that?


I want doors opened and that glass ceiling well and truly shattered. It hasn’t happened yet, but women everywhere are working to get it done. I admire those women more than I can say. I celebrate their existence and I pray that more women will stand shoulder to shoulder with those who are already fighting the fight.

I seethe when I see women being bullied, vilified, marginalised and threatened simply because they believe that women are equal to men and for stating that belief.

If women are politicised I’m glad of it. It’s what we all need. We need more women to be more involved in gender politics.

For the purposes of this blog, it’s what happens after the door opens and what happens after a woman punches through that glass ceiling that really interests me. 

As women, we still have a great deal to fight for, but those women who make it through the door and those women looking down through the plate glass instead of up have a job to do too. The successes among us get to be our ambassadors. How they behave, what they achieve and how they’re perceived matters.

Historically, of course, they’ve been like politicians. There’s been a risk that successful women have had too much of the attitude, if you can’t beat them join them. They’ve been token women who acted too much like men in a man’s world, playing their game by their rules.

I hope that modern women know they are the equals of men without feeling that they have to be the same as men. We are individuals too. We have our own strengths and weaknesses, and some of those might be particular to our gender.

I heard a story about one of those women who got through that door. She got into the room for a meeting. She’d worked hard at something she was good at, and she was rewarded for it. She got the job. Good for her.

She also got lucky.

The woman in question is also a feminist. She’s political, very political and she’s very outspoken. 

The job was not related to politics.

I happen to know the man who was in that room that day, in that meeting. He’s one of a rare breed: He’s an enlightened man. He wants to work with the brightest and best, and he wants to work with women for all the best reasons. He hired that woman because she was qualified and because she was the best person for the job, of either gender. 

He hired her despite the fact that she took gender politics into the meeting. He was sympathetic to her cause, but he wasn’t impressed by her tone, and he felt that there wasn’t room for the subject to arise in the interview. The interviewee didn’t enter into a discussion, she embarked on a tirade. The interviewer made allowances for personality and interview nerves. He made allowances because the interviewee had a great cv.

It’s a hell of a balancing act.

I’m more than pleased that another woman has opened another door. I know that she’ll be active in advocating for women from her place on the high side of the glass ceiling. She might even be instrumental in shattering it for other women. Brava! Well done her!

She took a chance, though, and she could so easily have made a terrible misstep. This woman was interviewing for a job. There are politics involved in that too. I’m guessing the other candidates didn’t embark on political tirades during their interviews, and I’m sure one or two of them might have felt strongly about animal rights, Palestine, equal marriage, or any of a number of important issues. If other women were interviewing, I have no doubt that they were probably feminists, too.

Our lives are permeated with this stuff. The fight never goes out of us, because we’re faced with the misery of living in an oppressive patriarchal society every hour of every day. But sometimes we just have to be the perfect women we are. We have to rise above it for our own sakes, and for the sakes of other women. We don’t have to forget that we’re women. Trust me when I tell you that men don’t. For the best reasons, the good men don’t forget we’re women, just as for the worst reasons, the bad ones don’t. There’s balance in that, too.

I’m not suggesting we shouldn’t speak out, of course we should. I’m not suggesting that this woman won’t do great things for the rest of us along the way, because I’m hoping that she will; she certainly has the will to do so. 

There is still a time and place for everything.

In three years or five, when that woman is in an interview for her next job, when she’s climbing that corporate ladder to reach the next rung, when she’s approaching another ceiling and the glass is thicker and tougher than before, the person doing the interviewing probably won’t be a woman and it might not be a man who’s prepared to cut her the kind of slack that my friend cut her. Competition will be tight; it always is. I hope that her feminist politics will play fair with her and make her want the job and to advance women’s rights and opportunities in a very real way. I hope her feminism will make her act on her credentials and experience and not simply open her mouth and offer a political diatribe.

Actions speak louder than words.

Feminism won this time, but it was because a woman’s past actions outweighed her present words. If another man had been in that room things might just have worked out differently.

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