Now that the Prime Minister’s speech has put sexism and misogyny, no matter how you define it, into the forefront of the national debate, here are my two questions:
Hands up all the women who have experienced sexism in the workplace from male colleagues?
And now, hands up, everyone who has experienced collegiality, support and friendship from male colleagues in the workplace?
My guess is that the numbers would be roughly equal.
I think most women, certainly of my age and in my line of media work, have their fair share of horror stories from the trenches of the gender wars, and it has been sobering to read Tracey Spicer’s account of this.
Men who are patronising, fail to believe a “girl” can do the job, rely on “fuckability” as a gauge of employability or are just dismissive as a perverse way of self-aggrandisement.
I’ve worked with those men. But I think most of us have also experienced the flip side of the equation.
Men who hire, or perhaps even fire, you on the basis of your qualifications or the tenor of the job you have done.
Men who ask your professional opinion.
Men who may take you to task for a sloppy job but in exactly the same manner they would berate the “boys”.
Men who go the extra mile to lure you back into flexible work after you’ve had a baby, offer you a hug when your Mum gets ill, who keep in touch when your career paths diverge so you can catch up for a drink or a meal.
Men who offer their friendship and collegiality easily.
Men who never single you out as the only woman at a meeting and ask for a cup of tea.
Men who never look you in the breast rather than the face.
And what about your female co-workers? Can you put your hand on your heart and say you have never been demeaned by a woman you worked with?
The kind of woman who undermines you with the boss, criticises your appearance, comments negatively on any perceived weight gain and tries her hardest to keep you in your place.
Sometimes she may be a woman who has already seized her spot near the top of the hierarchy and doesn’t want another woman in sight. We used to call them Queen Bees.
Or maybe she’s not in charge, but seems dead set on making sure you never are.
I’ve had that kind of colleague too.
Discrimination in the work place or anywhere else is unfair, unwarranted and unacceptable, whether it’s sexism, racism, ageism, weightism or xenophobia.
But they shouldn’t blind us to the presence of the good will that also exists in most of our workplaces and most of our lives.
*Jebby Phillips is an editor and executive producer at ABC TV news. She has worked as producer for Mornings with Kerri-Anne and Today for the Nine Network and on Today Tonight for the Seven Network. Jebby has also worked as a producer on many TV shows both here, in the US and the UK including Good Morning America and London Weekend Television. She is also has extensive experience as an on-air reporter and presenter.