Let’s look at a couple of recent facts. On 25th Feb 2017, Jacinda Ardern won the Mt Albert by-election; on 1st March 2017 she was elected Deputy Leader; on 1st August 2017 she became leader of the party; 7 weeks later, after running an inspirational campaign, she then negotiated successfully with not just one party but two & became the youngest female Prime Minister NZ has ever known. From List MP to Prime Minister in under 8 months, that’s staggering. No matter which party you support.
All good, but she has made two possibly fatal mistakes. One, being a woman & two, being a woman and conceiving. Unfortunately, our society does not condone a woman being in a top job and simultaneously having a baby. After all, this simply places the business or enterprise in severe jeopardy and so is an absolutely selfish act and should not be condoned. Being in the top job and getting pregnant? Unforgivable. Even more so as she knew she was pregnant as she was negotiating with Winston Peters (aka the Devil, apparently!). Also, she’s not even married!! So, she must stop being selfish, step down & devote herself tirelessly to the upbringing & wellbeing of her child. Presumably, a new election should be called so we don’t have to endure the old Devil as PM?
Writing these words, even tongue-in-cheek makes me cringe. How, in our progressive, modern society can we hold such outdated, misogynistic views? Well, if you are male then sorry, because you are a massive part of the problem. I am 57, male & I was brought up in an environment and time where women were best suited to part-time, low paid, low-skilled work, because even or especially if they were talented, they couldn’t be trusted to remain consistently in work for two reasons; they weren’t emotionally stable enough for the business environment and they always got pregnant. Seriously! One of my first managers told me to avoid hiring a woman because they always caused more problems… A bit like my father being advised to start smoking when he went for an interview with a tobacco company. Different times, but not so long ago.
The biggest issue, and the reason why there are so many biased, slanted, vitriolic & mistaken opinions being published or self-published, is that this male club has not gone away, it has simply slunk underground. A bit like thieves in the night can get away with things they never could when seen in the light of day. Our society does not value women or the roles women play. Why? Because historically men used their physical strength to dominate & have utilised the advantage that gave them ever since. If men really recognised women fully as equals, their entire world, as they see it, would be threatened. Equal pay? Equal status? Give it up, women frankly would dominate practically everywhere. They are emotionally more capable of handling multiple complex tasks, they are infinitely better at people management and networking & in my experience, they make by far the best managers.
OK, I have opinions like everyone else, but most of mine have been forged working with & seeing the effects of what I say & do on people. Much I am not proud of, especially in my early years, but I think I have reached a point of clarity where I understand the enduring & damaging legacy of male domination through history. Equal can never mean equal, as some like to parrot. Of course men & women have different strengths & roles. But the enduring nature of equality is that opportunities should be equal & individual’s choices should be supported. One of the most ridiculous & damning of statements I read in the gutter (or social) press recently, was that things would only be equal if “men could have babies”. For goodness sake, men do have babies! They don’t physically grow them in their bodies & push them out into this unforgiving world, but to say men don’t have babies is simply to absolve them of all responsibility! And who would want that, I wonder?
What would men do if all women decided to simply stop having babies? Exactly. So breeding the next generation is a joint & several task (a legal phrase that means two or more) that we must all be involved in & take responsibility for. This means adjusting our society’s & business’ expectations to allow women, when they are going through the actual physical gestation period, the space & support they need to get through it comfortably. But a pregnant woman is not incapacitated. She is not suddenly incapable of making rational & intelligent choices. As the carrier of our future society, she should be nurtured & protected, not neutered & sidelined. Of course, every woman’s experience is different, but just because some women do not have the ideal time does not give them the right to judge & dictate another woman’s choices. Jacinda has proven herself to be (& even this ‘justification’ should not have to be said) incredibly capable & I am certain she will make the right decisions for herself, her baby & this nation. If things go a bit awry, then we must be there to offer support, but if she feels temporarily incapable of withstanding the political stress, I am sure she will move aside for a time & we must support her in that as well.
I feel I have to labour this point because it is one concrete thing that can be done that will change so much. Businesses have to accept that they are part of society & they do not exist to deny opportunities to a large sector of the population, simply because they are the ones that have the biology to physically produce the next generation. They have to embrace that fact & adapt their ways to actively support it. That is the moral & human way. That allows much more equality. Men should not feel proud about anything they do at work if the company they work for does not do everything it can to allow women to be, women. Money, is not the end goal. What you can do with it is. And doing things alone ain’t no fun at all.
This life is about other people. Parents and children, grandparents and grandchildren friends, business associates, partners, soul mates. We have teachers, mentors, heroes. We do not walk through life alone. We are influenced all the time & equally we can influence others. The thing that most people forget when they try & impress themselves on others, is that they can really affect others, and not always in a good way. Why do some people feel that they are better than others because they were born into a certain body type? Why do men, who are born of women, grow up to think they are superior? Life is a partnership, at all levels, and those that cannot see that inclusiveness is humanity frankly don’t deserve a hearing.
The bottom line is, if men cannot see, value & support women for the strengths they have & recognise that they are more than capable of leading a full and active life, even when blossoming with nature’s gift, then those ‘small’ men need to look long and hard at what they are really afraid of & understand that real character is developed from support, not aggression or dominance. Of course in the generalisation of ‘men’, I accidentally denigrate those good, modern, supporting men who are happy being equal with women, like Clarke Gayford by all accounts. In all my years of photographing pregnant women, it is inevitably the men that need the support more, but don’t like to admit it. Let’s just be completely equal & accept that we all need some nurturing & protection at different times. To torturously paraphrase an ancient wise man, “Let those who are without fault or need of support, let them cast the first aspersion”.
(Oh, and please stop reading the complete drivel that comes out the UK’s gutter press & is unfortunately re-published or re-purposed here in NZ!)