Bushwhacked: Sexism battle is far from won

I SUSPECT that the father of three daughters could never be utterly sexist. I hope not, especially when other “residents” in the households have included three dogs, seven guinea pigs (at various stages) and three cats... all female expect for one cat and even then, there’s some confusion.

And it still irks me that sexism is around enough to still be an issue.

In the years when I edited the Addy. I occasionally toyed with the idea of banning “first female” articles. You know the sort of thing: “Young Jenny is the first female aardvark polisher” or whatever.

And there’d be a proud picture of Young Jenny smiling proudly among a group of otherwise clearly male aardvark shiners.

My theory was that this sort of article only emphasised that it was unusual to see a woman in that role, and that in an ideal world, such things would not be even notable, let alone reportable.

Often, I was convinced I was wrong (I know, I know, hard as that is to believe.). And then the theory was that it was only through the tsunami of “first woman” stories that the presence of women would come to be expected in that role.

There’s force to both arguments. Lately, I’ve been coming to a third way: keep on with the “first women” stories until it is shown that the genders have achieved equilibrium and then stop them. But I suspect this means we’ll be reading them for at least the rest of my lifetime.

It absolutely gob-smacks me that sexism in work and careers is an issue. Achieving women are not new.

What got me thinking about this again was an online reference I came across this week which said that 336 years ago precisely, a Doctor of Philosophy degree was issued to a woman for the first time.

And what a woman! Elena Cornaro Piscopia, from Venice, was an illegitimate child of a Venetian nobleman, and by the time she was seven, she was fluent in Latin and Greek and within a few more years had added Hebrew, French, Spanish and Arabic.  She wanted to be a Doctor of Theology, but the church thought that was a bit too much and opted for a PhD instead. She went on to lecture in a wide range of subjects from theology and languages to mathematics.

Her death was mourned in Venice, Padua, Sienna and Rome.

How, I wonder, would she have felt if she’d known that in 2014, our otherwise civilised society would be twisting itself inside out over equality of opportunity and equality of achievement? 

Journalism itself has been freer from sexism than many other professions – of course, there still were and are times when it fails – but does the idea of a female journalist surprise you at all? I’d presume not.

Female news editors and executives also do not cause even a mild comment.

But I recall as a young(er) scribe once having a question tossed at me by a crusty (why are they always crusty?) old editor: “If women are so equal, why aren’t they?”

I was confused about that for a long time, until I found an apt analogy: If your children are so smart, why do they need an education?

In the end equality is not just about abilities, it’s about opportunities.

In the meantime, if anyone has any ideas about how to get Boof the Boy cat to behave like a bloke, just let me know. He’s darkly gorgeous, but totally thick.

(Insert your own sexist comments here:    )


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