Author and commentator Jane Caro told a packed room of Business Chicks in Sydney yesterday that trying to be the best of everything all the time is not only exhausting, it’s distracting from the main cause – the campaign for equality.
Caro was joined by two other influential Australian women passionate about disrupting the status quo; Eva Cox and Tasneem Chopra, for a panel discussion led by Network Ten’s Natarsha Belling to celebrate International Women’s Day. All agreed the time for talking about equality has passed: now is the time for business leaders and men to start taking action.
“At the moment we are still asking men rather nicely, or rudely, to let us have part of what they’ve got instead of saying what they’ve got sucks and it’s about time we took over,” Cox declared to applause. “We never said women could do everything, we said we had the same right as men to try.”
Tasneem Chopra believes changing our language and smashing stereotypes is what’s needed to keep the cause moving forward, not just social media campaigns.
“Long after the hashtag is gone, the cause remains,” she said. “Let’s rethink the language we use. When we teach kids [stereotypical sayings such as run like a girl or act like a man] – it’s no wonder the doors are still closed.”
All women agreed language and the simple fact boys and girls sections in shops still exist isn’t helping. Caro is also worried efforts to disassociate young boys from showing their human side can in fact feed the ongoing cycle of domestic violence.
“If we train men never to show weakness, to never show vulnerability ….then they flip straight into anger. If you’re angry, you’re highly likely to get violent,” said Caro.
Yet it is supportive men who can help change the world we live in. Caro believes most successful women have a strong influential male figure in their life who has told them they can achieve anything they want to, not weighed them down by comments that are purely about their looks.
She also cited societies such as Norway where parental, not maternity, leave is encouraged and childcare is a parent’s – not woman’s – responsibility. Changing staunch religious views where a woman’s role is solely in the home will also help.
“The ‘job’ of feminism is to reattach men to their humanity and women to their power,” Caro said. “Women have done all the changing they need to – guys, it’s your turn.”
Cox also wants men to step up, and stop using long working hours as an excuse to get out of helping around the home or with parenting.
“Long hours are not productive,” Cox said. “They’re just a male plot to avoid housework.”
As for a cure to stop being so fabulous all the time? Jane Caro prescribes we should instead celebrate our successes, channel our inner lazy cows and drink a glass of wine.