Independent Women

All the honeys who making money, throw your hands up at me… One of my favourites! 

I was watching ‘The People vs OJ Simpson’ over the last few weeks and while I know some of it was constructed for the drama, it got me thinking.

Marcia Clark, badass prosecutor, strong woman and very intelligent human being. But the media and the public appeared to totally take her apart based on what she was wearing or how her hair was styled. She was subject to a whole heap of sexism in the courtroom for all the world to view just 20 years ago. Nobody seemed to care for her inspiring dedication or her commitment to finding justice and the truth. Or the fact she was a mother who had a family at home to be strong for, provide for and fight for – she was going through an intense divorce throughout this case. In fact, having done some quick research, the defence team actually threw serious shade her way, accusing her of neglecting her children for working so hard! Her ex husband made her even more attractive media fodder by selling topless photos of her from a holiday, because that’s totally acceptable material for a newspaper to print about a professional prosecutor for the state. The media seemingly chose to focus attention on her for how pretty or sexy they thought she was, or wasn’t…

It’s like being at school! Dumbing down the clever girl to belittle her for something superficial because someone is intimated by her.

Thankfully, I think we’ve moved on from this time a hell of a lot. If anyone told me I was neglecting my children through working too much there’d be serious consequences (mainly me asking if they understand that children have 2 parents!) and some ‘oh no you didn’t’ comments returned.

But I can’t help but think I wouldn’t have ever looked to Marcia as a role model had I not seen this show, she was someone in the background (although Wikipedia tells me she made herself pretty and got a TV show). And young girls of today don’t have too many role models in their sights who openly display their intelligence rather than their body. Nor do they have too many aspirations of being intellects, politicians, scientists, judges, directors, producers – just the people in the limelight looking pretty claim to be ‘strong and independent’ when they have hoards of staff working to their every need. Why? Have we brought this about with TV and magazines? Where are the Marcia Clarks of today?

I really think we need to shine a light on the everyday heroes, the strong women of business, the justice system and politics, in order to raise the aspirations of our girls. I see issues in needing to demonstrate the power of women having an affect on girls’ aspirations as much as the boys’ – who need strong women to raise them. Someone who can show them that being successful and clever and even friendly is important and doing your hair and nails can always be done, but perhaps making it secondary to working on your brain. We need men who openly value the equality of their female peers to foster the attitude in our boys. Young girls need to learn to be confident enough to sell themselves into university or the workplace as much as the boys do already.
How do we do that though? 

I know a lovely young girl in the last year of primary school who is clever, beautiful, a great athlete with a very kind heart. She’s also bullied horribly by some spiteful girls in her class who are obviously jealous. Now some girls would cave and mould themselves, dim their shine to avoid the negative attention. Thankfully because this young woman has a strong mum and a good head on her shoulders she keeps her chin up and carries on knowing she’ll make new friends at secondary school and will probably do much better in life – it’s certainly not without tears and difficulty, but it’s definitely admirable. We need more like her, defiant and strong at a very young age. I worry that a lot of girls would simply change who they are and affect their life’s direction in doing so.

How do we get through to them? What do we have to do for young girls like my friend to simply be admired and celebrated rather than bullied? To teach girls that being a barrister or a doctor or whatever they want to be is not only possible but necessary! We can’t change a whole culture just by writing blogs. As older generations of womankind, how do we encourage high aspirations and friendly competition in our daughters, and build successful women in a world so focused on the exteriors of women rather than the interior?

Maybe we need to set examples and demonstrate that it’s ok if you go without makeup for a day but make sure you pick up your brain on the way out.

Answers on a postcard…