As December nights draw in the leading lady steps into the limelight.
Advent 2016 – Part 2
The Principal Girl.
Whether dressed in rags or regal robes she is expected to show physical feminine charms. There is nothing wrong with looking feminine, after all nobody should have to look masculine or without gender to do a job. However clothes are more often used to judge women’s character than a man’s. It’s not just a question of whether they are smart or a scarecrow. Should a woman be told not to wear a short skirt as it creates a distraction or suggests they shouldn’t be taken seriously even if most wouldn’t claim it justifies an actual attack. Where do the women in your workplace stand on this and consciously or unconsciously, do others (men or women) assign labels to them as a result? Mrs May and the shoes; I don’t need to say more for you to know what I mean. But if I mentioned Mr Cameron’s footwear would you look blank? Our perception of what’s appropriate dress needs to be reviewed from time to time. Can we objectively justify certain requirements? The controversy earlier this year about high heels highlights this.
Similarly wearing clothes for religious reasons sparks enormous debate. Beyond the issues of health and more likely safety, should we object to costumes if they are truly freely chosen? Two points about this struck a chord with me in the recent review on integration by Dame Louise Casey. First she commented that many women, particularly in Muslim communities, may not feel free to choose what to wear. This may be because of the dictates of their male relatives and community. It may also be their own belief that Islam requires them to dress this way; though such beliefs are perhaps derived from those same men’s interpretation of Islam. Provided it’s worn by choice most of us wouldn’t object to a headscarf. Indeed being welcoming, accepting and encouraging is an important part of avoiding segregation. However motivation can still present difficulties, an article on “Why wear a hijab”, produced by the BBC provides food for thought. So how far does such modesty covering go, before it interferes with others rights? Much of what we learn from others is derived from their facial expression and general body language. So for example wearing a niqab or burka which covers the face and body has far more impact. I would feel uncomfortable dealing in person with someone whose face I can’t see, particularly in important situations for example involving a teacher, doctor or lawyer.
The character of the principle girl also gives rise to questions. Rarely showing initiative or resolve she tends to rely on being rescued by the good fairy and the prince. Are we in a post-feminist era, where some assume there is no longer any sex discrimination? A BBC Radio 5 survey found, to my surprise, that most feminists are to be found in the 24-35 year old age group but they still only made up 38%. A Huffington Post article queried what being a feminist means now, nearly a 100 years on from women winning the vote in the UK. To me feminism isn’t synonymous with any brand of party political view or with hating men. It means the right to be judged as an individual without any the question of how many X chromosomes I have being relevant. A similar principle should apply to all differences. It is often hard to truly understand another group’s perspective. Many men, quite understandably feel offended on behalf of their group when “men” are accused of discrimination. They don’t do it so why are women getting at “them”. The same applies to all groups, disabled and able bodied, different religious or non-religious groups, people from varying ethnic backgrounds and so on. In each work place you can’t resolve the world’s problems but you can think about the local effect. Achieving equal rights at work is about valuing all and giving everyone the opportunity to rise not about pushing others down.
So whether our job is cleaning out the cinders or signing a multi-million pound deal we shall go to the ball.
Next time – the Villain and the Dame
Meet those already on stage here……
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