We live by different rules. One woman’s attempt at navigating them (um, that would be me)

An interesting Twitter exchange developed. I made an unusual comment, as I don’t normally jump into the political discourse. Our female Prime Minister announced the date of the election, with an unprecedented eight month lead in. I tweeted:

“in the 2010 election the PM wore pearls (credibility) and is wearing glasses (this time I mean business)”

The question came back from a person in my feed, “Do we talk about male politicians and what they are wearing as a mark of business or not?” A valid point, to which I added, “We really live by different rules”

A few others leapt into the discussion about comments made about other politicians (from the other side). I also recalled reading that in the 2012 US election campaign, Mitt Romney always had his shirt sleeves rolled up “ready to get working” was the message it sent.

In 2012 a well-known international feminist commentator and writer on Q&A, said about our PM “What I want her to do is get rid of those bloody jackets.”  If the sisterhood can’t seem to get it right, what hope is there?

My Kitchen Rules is a cooking competition by couples, who may be spouses, family members and friends. They are seeking to outdo one another and impress the judges.

Who knows what the audition process was looking for and then what was actually said across the evening of filming, but the editing guidelines seem to say,

“portray the women, especially the all-female pairs, as critical with a quick and cutting mouth. That will definitely get the viewers.”

I am so disgusted by the promos, that I won’t watch the program. But millions are.

We live by different rules. Once we can accept that, work with it.

So as a woman who is seeking to make a mark on the world how do I navigate this? A few things to accept:

  • My public comments are (and should be) under scrutiny.
  • The sisterhood won’t necessarily back us up.
  • The media prefer to present women in ways that pit us against one another (while the men passively observe)

We are all wired differently. When my children were small I wasn’t the stay-at-home-mum-type and went back to work fairly quickly and now, in my early 50s I enjoy work and am not looking toward retirement, as I find work to be energizing and engaging.

Again, part of me wants to clarify: there’s nothing wrong with being a stay-at-home-mum nor is there anything wrong with wanting to retire and play golf (or whatever they do). But, I don’t actually need to clarify, because when I talk about what’s good for me, I’m not criticising another.

What are my rules?

  • Be comfortable with who I am, not other people’s expectations of who I should be
  • Equally, be respectful, don’t put my expectations onto others, allow them to be themselves
  • Live to serve and encourage others, especially with my words
  • Know enough about what’s happening in the world, including sport, to communicate and engage with a broad range of people
  • Go with my strengths and identify (and fill) areas where I need help
  • Find creative outlets that fit me
  • Find a clothing style that makes me feel positive about myself
  • Understand the diversity of maleness
  • My opinion is an opinion, not what another person should or must do
  • Listen more and talk less

15 of my 17 years teaching were in boys’ schools and my husband and I have raised two sons. I think that this baptism into the male-world has helped me to navigate it relatively effectively, yet far from perfectly. I quickly learnt that I just need to say something once and then I need to give time to think about it. I have learnt a lot from the young boys I taught, and my husband and sons.

My desire is that I want to see women in places of leadership and influence in the breadth of spheres open to them. But our expectations need to be real. Considering ‘life’s big moments’, our career growth can be both incremental and successful, with the necessary pauses. Most importantly, relationships and especially those closest take priority.

We live by different rules. Work yours out.


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