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Being a feminist in the workplace

Author:
Office Professional Occupation Business Corporate Concept

By Lauren Ewing

This summer I am at my first real adult internship. Although I am in college and have done seminars and attended lectures at other universities for fun, I’ve never had a learning experience like this before in my life.

To me being a feminist means being confident in yourself and especially as a female. However, I have constantly been self-doubting myself. Normally some self-doubt is not a bad thing. It makes me focus and double check my work, however here I’m constantly trying to strive for perfection. And this time this attempt of perfection is what is causing my downfall. It is making me slower on tasks, and I’m making a bunch of errors.

Now you may be thinking it is the environment I’m in that is causing me to be this way – after all, my internship is with a prestigious law firm – but it’s not. My internship is with a great group of people. My boss is not only female and super stylish, but she is also a strong leader and is always on top of her game. It can be stressful sometimes in the office, and I have never seen her lose her cool. Truly she is an inspiration to me. Also, my other co-worker is the sweetest person ever. She helps me catch my mistakes and makes sure I’m on the right track. So trust me this is not an environment issue.

So what is making me so doubtful when it comes to my internship? After much reflecting I realised, I haven’t found a way to be a feminist in the workplace. Don’t get me wrong being a feminist is part of my identity and something that is uniquely part of me. I have no problem being assertive or calling people out when needed. I can easily spot inequality and speak up. I am part of organisations on my campus that try to improve the conditions of young girls in my community. However, somehow when I’m there part of my identity got disconnected.

To combat this issue, I went to the books. Currently, I am reading a great book called The Art of War for Women. Yes, the art of war finally has a version just for women and it is amazing. There is a ton of workouts in the books where you can analyse all your strengths and weakness as well as areas you would like to improve upon. This book is incredibly helpful as you become ready to transition into the working world.

One of the greatest lessons I have learned so far in reading this book is the power of knowing yourself. When you truly know yourself, you know what to do in a situation you may not have control over. The author, Chin-ning Chu is great at breaking down Sun Tzu’s intricate work. She also gives practical advice for the business world and how to compete with men even when it is a male dominated field. Chu’s explanation of Sun Tzu’s work also allows for more feminism in the workplace.

Another great read is Women Don’t Ask. Although this book is a little older, I find it to be true in every sense. Not only is it about the women in the workforce, it is about women in general, we simply don’t ask for things. After reading this book, I found myself constantly wanting to be more involved with my life. I wanted to participate more in class and ask for more leadership opportunities.

After looking over information and reminding myself of the lessons, I have learned over the years that I shouldn’t hold myself back even if I think I’m unqualified. I learned that it was okay for me to feel like I was under-qualified. This was an internship, an opportunity for me to grow and to ask questions. This opportunity wasn’t the place for me to know everything.

Dear Young Women

Author:
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By Beatrix*, Guest Blogger

Dear Young Women – we aren’t welcome in Politics. That’s why there needs to be more of us.

I’ve a bit of a reputation for being positive. Relentlessly so. I can be a bit of a whirlwind; pitching up to events, finding the funny and re-enthusing tired activists. People think it’s a skill, and in part it is. But it’s also a way of coping with the fact I live and breathe a world where women – and especially young women – are not welcome.

I could recount the instances of sexism and ageism I’ve experienced in my 10 months working in Politics; the male colleague who flirted with all the subtlety of a brick, asked me out and when I said no ignored me for the best part of a week. The other male colleague who took such delight that I couldn’t translate a piece of legislation that he felt the need to tell the office next door. And the next one after that. And then bring it up at the group meeting later that day. Then there was the time an older woman sent a personal attack via email to an entire committee because she didn’t like that someone ‘in their twenties’ was in charge of social media. The male boss who told me to smile no less than 12 times in one day.

The list goes on. It’s relentless and it’s exhausting but Politics for many young women is a catch 22. The more you want to leave, the more you realise it’s so important to stay. The less you feel welcome, the harder you have to fight to make your voice heard.

There are beacons of light. There are incredible and strong women who have experienced all of this and more yet still stand for selections, elections and for their beliefs. It’s stopped being scandalous to hear of the women who are elected receiving rape and death threats now; it’s expected. Unfortunate perhaps, but not a surprise. Yet these powerful women stand strong and fight for what they believe in – sometimes – nay often – at the expense of their own wellbeing.

I wish I could make this blog inspiring. I wish I’d overcome a challenge that meant I could put out an authentic call for more young women to become involved in Politics, but I can’t do that in good faith. What I can do is leave you with three nuggets of wisdom for those who do:

  1. Stick together. Have each other’s backs.
  2. Know that what you are doing is really fucking important
  3. Speak up. I know it isn’t easy, but if we all chip away at this giant, ugly, macho wall then we can and we bloody well will knock it down.

*This name is a pseudonym

Work Experience at The Sun

Author:

folded-newspapers

The author of this piece has asked to be kept anonymous.

It was 8.55am and I was relieved to have arrived at reception with five minutes to spare. I felt feelings of excitement and trepidation; with budding aspirations to be a writer and journalist, securing work experience at the biggest read family newspaper in the country was a massive deal – especially as my previous journalistic endeavours had remained in my local Essex Chronicle. As I smoothed out my newly pressed trouser suit and pinned back my flyaway hairs, I felt the image of professionalism, ready to start my first day of work. The receptionist assured me that a Reporter was on his way to collect me. With that I waited.

Until 10.07am

‘Hello love, sorry for keeping… my Christ, aren’t you a pretty little thing? Can I offer you a drink?’ Considering the fact that I had already had four lattes to pass the time, I thanked him and declined.

As we got into the lift, a series of standard questions ensued. He seemed surprised that I wanted a degree from King’s College London: ‘I doubt a Russell Group university would offer a hairdressing degree,’ but I was quick to correct him that English Literature was my chosen subject. Of course, he didn’t mean it (or that’s what he assured me); I should learn to have a sense of humour rather than being so sensitive, he said.

It was when I admitted that I was born and raised in Essex that his eyes returned to their previous, opportunistic readiness: ‘Wheyyyyy we have an Essex gal in the office? Shame, I expected you to be caked in fake tan and eye lashes. You don’t even sound like you’re from Essex! Regardless, you will fit in perfectly on the Showbiz desk. Rewrite this Cheryl Cole interview in Heat if you will. Make it seem as if we did the interview. Thanks love.’

Simultaneously flustered and disheartened at my position, I asked if I could tour the other departments – a choice that did little to salvage my enthusiasm. Sport seemed full of boisterous footy fans, the News Desk yielded such basic grammar that my own sixteen-year-old intelligence felt insulted and finally… we came to Page 3.

I could not believe my eyes at the room of ‘journalists’ enlarging, shaping, and photo-shopping the topless glamour model photos to portray a picture of sexuality and seduction. I remember thinking for a split second how unusual it was that I could not hear more vulgar, derogatory comments being made about the images – I suppose that if your job was to airbrush and edit a woman’s naked body every day, all day, the novelty wears off in time.

Needless to say, my judgement had been made too soon. Sure enough, a voice hollered: ‘Her tits are bigger than melons’ and ‘Who hired her? Her face looks like a horse. Can we edit out her face?’ My fears had been confirmed.

‘Whose that?’ questioned one of the reporters, turning to me. ‘Just the work experience girl,’ replied my mentor, ‘She’s from Essex you know.’ Why my birthplace was of such amusement continued to baffle me. ‘Wheyyyyy an Essex girl!’ was the unsurprising response as he persisted: ‘Well, I hope you enjoy your time. When you decide it’s time to get a boob job then don’t forget to contact us… just joking love! Got to have some work banter to pass the time in the office!’

BANTER. A JOKE. Of course it was. I should learn to get a sense of humour right? It’s only harmless! That’s when I went to the loo and cried.

It was then and there that it dawned on me. Until that point I had been a naïve sixteen year old believing that sexism was a thing of the past. I now had experienced first-hand that the media is dictated for and consumed by men. We breed a culture that thrives on propelling the view that women are commodities for male entertainment. It was no wonder that The Sun was one of the most widely read newspapers in the country – it was certainly not relying on its grammar or news coverage, but its vulgar headlines and naked women. Why is an image equivalent to those found in ‘lad mags’ available at child’s-eye level? An image that feeds our young boys that this is women’s purpose: to be a man’s play-thing and object. An image that feeds our young girls false ideologies that sex sells and is a wise move if one wants to be successful in a culture of patriarchal hierarchy. As I contemplated these harsh truths, I wanted to shout at my colleagues that these pornographic, derogatory images are not harmless, nor are they just ‘banter’. I wanted to answer back to the room of misogynistic men that I did have a sense of humour, but there is quite frankly nothing hilarious about the exploitation of my gender. These images compound on real women’s wellbeing, safety, behaviour and education. I wanted to question why these ideologies were still prevalent in the 21st Century. I wanted to say all of this, but felt powerless to do so at the age I was.

I finished my work experience in silence and walked out the door vowing never to return. Five years on, nothing has changed: The Sun continues to be produced with the Page 3 image. This is the first time I have spoken about my experience, in hope that someone will listen. If a naked woman’s body can be used as such a vital component to media consumption, it is about time that a woman’s voice should become the vital component to stamp out media sexism. That’s why I am shouting back and supporting the @NoMorePage3 campaign. Its #TimeForChange don’t you think?

 

To read PBG’s statement of support for the No More Page 3 campaign, click here.

To sign the No More Page 3 petition, click here.

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