Seeing my social media explode today in what I really hope and feel is a step-change in the way our society treats women and the way those women think about themselves and their relationships with others, both men and women, has prompted me to finally write a post I’ve been thinking about for a long time.
I’ve never had a boyfriend.
I am most definitely not alone.
I’m a professional.
I’m a manager.
I’m a teacher trainer.
I regularly speak at conferences.
I organise teacher training at my school, and encourage and support women and men to be part of them.
I own my own flat.
I very rarely worry about what other people think of my decisions – they’re mine, not theirs.
I work hard to be the best person I can be.
I try to help other people whenever and however I can, though I often feel like I could do more.
I try to think about my impact on the environment, though I also feel I could do more here.
I travel alone without thinking about it.
I go to the cinema alone without thinking about it.
I eat at restaurants alone without thinking about it.
I swear. It is a normal part of my speech. I don’t have a problem with hearing other people swear when it is appropriate to the situation. I think about the people who I’m around when doing so.
I’m (now) happy with my body. It took work. When I catch myself now, I can stop those thoughts. They almost never come now.
I enjoy choosing clothes. This also took work, and was directly related to the point above.
I never wear make-up, after trying it a few times and deciding it wasn’t for me. I don’t feel this is a problem. Or that it should be. (Though I did once buy lipstick – when I asked for help because I’d never bought lipstick before, the woman in the shop said ‘You poor thing’.) I believe this should be a choice, and that men should be allowed to wear make-up if they want to.
I am good at using computers and other technology. I understand the basics of HTML.
I am good at maths and mental arithmetic.
I used to describe myself as being into a lot of ‘male’ things: fantasy, sci-fi, science, games, computer games, ‘nerdiness’. I no longer believe they are male and that I am unusual as a female for enjoying them. They are mine.
The fact that I’m a woman doesn’t generally make that much difference to my life, at least in terms of my decision making.
I know what I want from my life, and yes, that does include having a family at some point. But a family that is shared. I expect to be in an equal partnership, if I have a partner.
I’m a romantic. I would also like to be romanced.
I don’t believe the previous two points negate anything else I’ve written.
I’m white, I’m British, and I was born in the European Union. I know this gives me an advantage in many arenas. I can’t change any of those facts, but I can use them to try to help others. I can also remember that I’m nowhere near the most downtrodden or underrepresented population in the world. Not by a long way.
Most importantly, I’m happy.
I don’t remember ever seeing or reading about ‘me’ in popular culture. (Please prove me wrong in the comments.)
Women who are there to be the love interest, check. (Note the 3 pages of male love interests v. 9 of female love interests on this wiki)
Women who are dividing their life between work and family, check.
Important women from history, check. (And it’s great that a few more of them are being noticed.)
Women who are there to demonstrate that women are as good as men, check. (Though only one at a time, of course.)
Women in the role of the villain, check, just. (And that’s important too – really important – men are most definitely not all bad and women are not all good!)
Women who are there to make up the numbers, check. (We need more diversity, so how can we fit a woman in?)
Creeping towards balance, check. (And with a minor mention of it in reviews…I hope this is the norm one day, but we still need to celebrate when this is achieved at the moment to make others sit up and take notice.)
Women who talk to each other about something other than men, check, sometimes. (The Bechdel-Wallace test helps, but it’s not perfect.)
It’s not to say I don’t enjoy that culture. I do. But I never see myself there, single, not chasing a man, would like children, 30s, professional. But I guess my story isn’t interesting for film-makers, reviewers or readers.
According to the line that culture is throwing at me, I’m over the hill and should definitely have settled down with a husband by now. I know I’m not, thanks to my friends.
I should most definitely have had more sexual experiences than I have, says the media. Why yes, that would be nice. But sex shouldn’t define me, or any woman, and nor should the lack of it.
And if I’ve done this thanks to the role models I’ve been lucky enough to have, how many more women need to see, hear and read that they can be them and there’s nothing wrong with that?
So what now?
If you think that harrassment and bullying should be a thing of the past, visit ELTtoo. (I’ve been on the receiving end of institutional bullying, instigated by one person, and causing problems for both women and men in that institution. I left. They didn’t all have that freedom, though I believe most of them have gone now a few years down the line. The institution still exists and the same people are still running it. As far as I know, none of us have really said anything about it publicly and nothing has really changed.)
If you are a woman with a facebook account, the Women in ELT group may be of interest to you.
If you are of either gender and you’re organising a conference or event, or are a woman who wants to start speaking at them, have a look at Women Speakers ELT for more information and support to run more gender-balanced ELT events.
Let’s keep talking about it, all of us, women and men.
Let’s keep up the pressure.
Let’s change the future for those who follow us.