It shouldn’t bother me that there is still a dismal representation of female thinkers and leaders in our profession. Nor should I feel sad that those who do lead seem to conform to that safe and comfortable female stereotype of being non confrontational, never to rock the boat. I am so glad that I don’t have a ballsy, outspoken daughter who would naturally be excluded for her ways, because it would break my heart. It’s been bad enough trying to build up the confidence of the countless talented girls I have taught over the last decade who never feel as though they or their work is good enough.
So with this in mind, I really want to see more outspoken, confrontational old and loud women in our profession. I want to see them speaking at AG Ideas and Sex and Drugs and Helvetica. I want to see them writing for Australia in Front. I want to see them running half the sexy rock start design studios, like Mother Bird. And why does everything cool and design related have to pertain to a man? Like Magic Johnson? So bring it on, because I want this to be the norm rather than the exclusion, so that young women have the role models that I have never had. I often wonder how strange everyone would think it was if the roles were reversed. If Sex and Drugs and Helvetica, the Pages of Desktop and Australia in Front, and AG Ideas were women only? with just the odd softly spoken compliant and self deprecating man popping his head up from time to time while we get hysterical over (god help it) old rock star women? Is this possible?
When I go to a design conference, I want to know that HALF the presenters will be old fat and kooky women. I know they are a bit hard to find, but they do exist. When I jump onto any other Design Blog, I also want to see half the featured people as being old fat zany women. Not that I have anything against sweet and young, just that this is not a fair representation of the population and want some fairness please. How can we ever value what these women have said and done when we all (and we do) treat them like lepers?
And when they turn forty, I don’t want to see the likes of Suzy Tuxen, Bonnie Abbott, Lucy Faegens and Anita Macaurthur dismissed, ignored and overlooked for compliant younger models that make us feel safe, just when they are starting to really know where its at.
So if you are a woman, do resist. Resist the social pressure to fit in and not rock the boat. Resist the pressure to simply acquiesce to someone because they are older and male (they must be smart and right?). Try to release your inner bitch and resist the social pressure to be funny, nice and entertaining in order fit in. Resist the social pressure to believe that if it is older and female it is like your mother (and who listens to or likes their poor mother?)
Women! Do start a revolution and speak up and make a ruckus, Sure people may not like it, but it should be ok for you to be confrontational, and have a valued opinion because you are smart, and you deserve it, and you should be valued for your contribution too. Shine, and help make change.
And the rest of you male and female, young and old, don’t disengage from a woman who is older, nor sneer at her, or become angry at her just because you disagree. That is actually misogyny. Don’t exclude or intimidate her, because if you open your mind, you might find that she knows a lot but is afraid to share it with you due to your closed apptitude.
If you fail do any of the above, the only excuse is that you don’t try. You owe it to your daughters. What sort of opportunities do you want them to have? Help make long overdue change.
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