Gender shouldn't matter, but it does
Updated: Feb 25
“As a girl I never ever grew up believing that my gender would stand in the way of me achieving whatever I wanted to in life.”
Jacinda Ardern, Prime Minister of New Zealand
I too did not grow up believing that my gender would stand in the way of me achieving whatever I wanted. It wasn’t until my twenties that I started to realise that it actually might. I feel much trepidation in even appearing to oppose the idea that women can do anything, because I don’t feel that is productive. But the more I think on this issue, the more I think of my younger self walking home alone, late at night because I ‘shouldn’t have to be scared.’ I think of a group of high school girls I once spoke to were set on careers in heavy machinery and mining who didn’t feel that their gender would have any impact upon their career paths.
19 year old me should have been able to walk anywhere I wanted at any time I wanted. That group of girls shouldn’t have to consider their gender when embarking on any career trajectory. But women still get attacked when alone at night (and any time really), and are still highly discriminated against in some industries traditionally dominated by men. I am so conflicted between a reality I want to fight for and the reality we are in today and need to be prepared for.
In no way am I saying that every parent of a young girl should sit them down at the age of 6 and say “now just so you know, everything is going to be harder for you than for your brother, and you may not reach your dreams because of discrimintation.” I for one am glad I was raised with an understanding that I could be a pilot or the Prime Minister or a princess ballerina fairy, or anything I bloody well wanted. I’m glad that it took me over two decades to notice and feel the effects of gender discrimination. But I’m also incredibly glad I did notice.
The ones who never notice, or at least pretend they didn’t, are the ones who are trouble. The women who make it to positions of power and refuse to admit that being a woman impacted their climb are dangerous. These are the women who probably climbed over other women to get there, wedging their metaphorical Louboutin pumps into others’ metaphorical shoulders to scramble to the top. These women climb the ladder then push it off the building to ensure they aren’t followed.
It is the unfortunate reality that at some point, women need to understand that their gender might get in the way of their dreams. This isn’t to say that anything is impossible for a woman or that women should be discouraged from going after their goals, because it isn’t and they can. But they should know that it might get hard. Just as we teach children to look both ways before crossing even at a marked crosswalk, we must prepare women to fight. We must be prepared for an inattentive driver and we must be prepared for a world that is prejudiced.