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What Feminism Looks Like In 2017

Women have got the right to work and vote, so what's next?

13/01/2017 1:49 PM AEDT | Updated 13/01/2017 3:16 PM AEDT
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We support each other.

Every day, women are breaking barriers. We're astronauts and doctors and judges. We raise children and juggle families. We are doing amazing things. Most of us acknowledge that we have a fair way to go yet and, in some places, a hell of a long way.

In my professional circles, this acknowledgement that we want to improve things for women in a male world has not only made some significant leaps but cemented the value of women's professional groups as a way to improve things for everyone.

It seems only now that women are realising the extraordinary value from really supporting the sisterhood.

It seems only now that women are realising the extraordinary value from really supporting the sisterhood, not just on face value but getting in there and fighting for the advancement of women in all areas of life.

Women have so much to offer one another and, finally, we're starting to see the dissolution of that perception that women are nasty to one another as we band together to get the job done. Supporting other women is going to be the key to making leaps and bounds, so here are a few easy ways we can promote the rights of women in 2017 and beyond.

1. Mind your language

As Tina Fey said in Mean Girls, if we call each other bitches, or sluts or whores, it is basically giving permission for everyone else to do so. When describing women, language tends to be gendered and loaded with connotations that are often unhelpful. At work, women are more likely to have assessments that label them bossy or aggressive. The blokes would be called go-getters.

The terms slut or whore are thrown around and label women sexually promiscuous, whether they are or not. This again just gives society the right to judge a woman's sexuality through the eyes of an 18th century nobleman. We teach people how to treat us and the less we teach them that it's okay to talk smack about us, the less they will.

2. Opportunities, networking and mentoring

I went to a conference earlier this year where a female colleague went out of her way to introduce me to dozens of people who could be of assistance to me when it came to getting jobs or giving advice. I was so grateful for the opportunities she really manufactured for me, I now make a point of doing the same as much as I possibly can and we all can, in big ways or small ways. Be that introducing two people or supporting someone or picking up the phone and making a call on behalf of another woman. Put women forward for jobs and encourage them to put their own hands up.

Acting as a mentor has allowed me to learn so much about my own skills, strengths and shortcomings. I also hope that I have passed along some of my tips and things to avoid. Women who are mentored perform so much better in the workplace than those don't get those benefits. With social media everywhere nowadays, if you can't find someone in your space who can help you, reach out online.

3. Play fair

Like a lot of Aussie girls, I grew up playing netball, which was the meanest contact-but-non-contact sport around. Things got vicious on the court and, as I grew older, that was explained away with the 'women don't like other women' bit.

You don't have to look far to see examples of women not supporting other women and everyone around them dramatising that interaction. It's expected that we will never help each other out.

Avoid being that girl who bad-mouths her mates or hooks up with an attached bloke. We have it hard enough, ladies, without turning on each other too.

Competition is healthy in personal and professional pursuits. It really can bring out the best in us. Using competitiveness as a guide to not play fairly, though, is bad form. It destroys the best support network we have (each other) and adds fuel to the fire that women hate each other.

At work, be fair but never unkind. Teach when deficiencies exist, don't just complain about them. This goes doubly in our personal lives. Avoid being that girl who bad-mouths her mates or hooks up with an attached bloke. We have it hard enough, ladies, without turning on each other too.

4. Support a charity

In developed countries such as Australia, women still have to battle sexism but, honestly, we have it pretty good. Especially when you think about all the incredible privileges we're afforded such as an education, the right to vote and autonomy that does not exist everywhere. Part of supporting the sisterhood includes supporting those who are less fortunate than we are both at home and abroad.

At home, I love Share the Dignity, who provide pads or tampons to women who can't afford them. Since the government still think taxing these little luxuries is okay, many women who can't afford protection have to suffer indignity during menstruation. Abroad, great charities such as Tostan and One Girl aim to educate and empower girls so that they may become leaders and break cycles of poverty, disease and abuse.

Above all, remember that we are much more alike than we are different and together, women's voices are strong enough to break down so many of the injustices in this world. We will never achieve this separately, so it's so important that we stick together.

Supporting each other will take the fight for equality to the next level. Imagine the hurdles we can clear when we do it together.


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