Equality is impossible so suck it up

glass ceiling

A big thrust of my goals with Harley has been to raise her in a fairly gender neutral way. I want her to know that girls and women can do anything, be anything. If she wants to be a doctor, an astronaut, or president, she can do exactly that. And I totally stand by that goal. I also wanted to raise her to not feel imposed upon by society’s gender norms, but I realize that’s not really up to me.

I believe in fighting against inequality in all its manifestations. It’s only by fighting the gender wage gap, the pink tax, awful rape culture and systemic gender stereotypes that we can change the world. But even as we fight, we have to be realistic about what is expected of women and girls, and how we have to play the game to be successful.

Pretoria-Girls-High-School-StudentsI’ve been thinking about this a lot lately. Cassey struck a serious nerve for me with her recent post, Quiet casual violence of everyday actions. In it, she looked at the recent issues at Pretoria Girls High, and how it’s a sign of how even our modern, integrated and multicultural society is still so ingrained with white beauty norms. But she took it beyond that, looking at the politics of decency and how it is yet another way to police women’s bodies. We change the way we look, talk, think.

This casual, quiet violence turns our bodies into battle grounds. We are told over and over that we will never be good enough. And it is not something just told to those of us of colour, it is told to every, single woman.

And then I look at this post, all about perceptions of women with and without makeup. As expected, a woman wearing makeup is seen as more competent and influential, but also more authentic? How does that work?

But then look at what I do. I’m funky and alternative and do my own thing. But when I’m going to a meeting or an event, I always put on jewelry and makeup. It’s about looking professional, credible, and “well put together”. It’s about showing that I put the effort into myself as proof that I can put the effort into my work. It’s unfair and men don’t have to do it and it costs money, but it’s the reality of the situation. In the same way that the reality is that when I’m out somewhere it’s expected that it’s good manners for a man to hold the door open for me, or offer to help me to my car if I’m carrying loads. I don’t have to say yes, but it’s expected that there would be an offer.

When planning for Harley’s arrival, I kept telling people not to buy anything pink, and I still feel that way. I don’t want to push gender norms on her as a baby, or a little girl, or a grown woman. She could grow up to be a pink-loving princess, or a goth princess, and either is fine with me. She can wear whatever she wants, do whatever makes her happy. And I hope that she breaks barriers and finds her own unique way of expressing herself. But if she decides to become a doctor, or an astronaut, or president, she will also have to learn to play the game, to make sure she is competent and has great hair and nails. To make sure that she studies hard, and is charming and affable. It’s not fair, and it needs to change, but it’s also how it is and sometimes we have to learn to accept the inequalities and just play the game to our advantage to get ahead.


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  • konfab

    I love the way telling someone that you don’t like their clothes is now “violence”

    Having a disagreement about someone is not violence. This is Orwellian NewSpeak.


    • Zoe Hawkins

      Disagreeing isn’t inherently violent. Forcing your will upon someone else? That can be a form of violence.

      • konfab

        You want to equate a school’s hair policy with this:
        “Behaviour involving physical force intended to hurt, damage, or kill someone or something:”

        According to the definition the article you quoted used, if you prevented Harley from going to a dance dressed as a Nazi, you would be committing an act of violence.

        Can you explain how that makes sense?

        • Zoe Hawkins

          a school hair policy is fine if it’s standard for all. the actual school policy was that hair had to be kept neat, which meant that girls of all races simply had to tie their hair back, etc. however, certain teachers than told black students that if they didn’t chemically relax their hair, they wouldn’t be allowed to write exam. that is damaging, both physically and psychologically, and the girls were right to stand up for themselves.

          not sure where you got that second part from…

          • konfab

            You didn’t answer the question.

            Is a hair policy an act of violence?

            It would be violence if the teachers held the pupils down and cut their hair. However telling them that they cannot write the exam, no matter how nasty, simply isn’t an act of violence.

            I used the second part to demonstrate how a reasonable action (preventing a child from doing something stupid), falls under the definition of violence that the article you quoted used.

          • Zoe Hawkins

            Honestly not sure if you’re trolling at this point…

            This article is all about how male-dominated society imposes gender norms on women, punishing them if they dare to raise their voices against inequality. How they are put down with quiet violence, with questioning their authenticity. I write about Harley will probably have to play the game simply because society is stacked against her.

            so your comment is to impose your male-dominated societal norm and question how I can voice an opinion different from yours and equate it to letting my kid dress as a nazi.

            must be trolling.

          • konfab

            My point is about using the word: “violence” to describe something that has absolutely nothing with the definition of the word.

            How is that trolling?

          • Zoe Hawkins

            Def: “The intentional use of physical force or power,
            threatened or actual, against oneself, another
            person, or against a group or community, that
            either results in or has a high likelihood of
            resulting in injury, death, psychological harm,
            maldevelopment or deprivation.”

          • konfab

            injury, death, psychological harm,maldevelopment or deprivation.

            Do you think that telling someone that their hair is not part of the school policy will result in psychological harm?

          • Jonelle

            I’m guessing you’ve not heard of Apartheid. Surely that’s the ONLY way you could make that comment?

          • konfab

            What does apartheid have to do with the incorrect use of the word : violence.

            And to your other comment, yes you do get emotional trauma. Like from an abusive relationship.

            Do you want to suggest that these girls need decades of trauma counselling to get over the fact that they had a nasty teacher?

          • Jonelle

            Righto… your response tells me that this discussion is basically with someone who has no understanding of context!

          • konfab

            And your response is to simply call me ignorant instead of answering my questions.

            That is always a sure fire way of ending reasonable discussion.

          • Jonelle

            because to be honest, your reactions above tell me that you’re not open to “discussing” but rather insisting that you know better about what is and isn’t a violation against women’s bodies!

          • konfab

            That is not what I have been talking about.

            I have been talking about how using the word “violence” to describe someone telling someone else what to wear is ridiculously incorrect.

            Women are not the pearl clutching crybabies that you seem want them to be.

            Do you need psychological counselling to deal with someone(such as myself) who has a different opinion to you? Probably not, you would just shrug it off as another seemingly nasty person on the internet and move on with your life. It is a similar situation with these girls.

            They have to deal with a teacher who had a different opinion to them. You cannot compare that to a person getting beaten or someone in an emotionally abusive relationship, as it would cheapen the experiences of people who actually had to endure violence.

          • Jonelle

            The teacher (a person in a position of power) used a racist measure of what is appropriate for ones hair (a similar test -the pencil test – was used during Apartheid). The situations are VERY similar. A person who is in control, has demanded that these girls CHEMICALLY STRAIGHTEN their hair in order for them to be able to write their exams. So based on their historical position (one of inferiority based on race) this experience is “too close to home” and the occurrences of the past. You may not agree with this definition of violence but that doesn’t mean it isn’t a perfectly acceptable response for someone who has been treated in this way. You can not take away their feelings just because you don’t agree or understand their reasoning. Does this make sense to you?

          • konfab

            No it doesn’t.

            I cannot find a definition of violence that would describe the following statement: “being told that your hair is stupid”

            There is some irony to what you have posted. You say that the hair policy are akin to the pencil test (a way of determining race), which is interesting to me given how there are now further race specific policies now being put into place.
            So instead of having everyone play with the same rules. It is now everyone has to play by the rules, except for black people.
            But that is a different issue altogether.

          • Zoe Hawkins

            If you really think the issue was that girls were being told their hair was stupid, then I can only assume that you are being willfully ignorant about the matter.

          • konfab

            That was the issue and for the most part it is valid.

            The problem I have is with the commentry on it calling the policy an act of violence.

            How is that ignorant?

          • Jonelle

            Wow, I’ve really wasted so much of my day on this. You are clearly just here for the drama and have no interest in learning anything from this discussion. Zoe called troll ages ago and I should have just taken her word on it.

          • Jonelle

            and as you say, I’d just move on but I’m not emotionally scarred based on my history of being “abused on the internet” … so it’s hardly the same thing.

          • Jonelle

            Perhaps if you consider that violence can be emotional and not just physical then that changes things. Perhaps never having been emotionally abused, you think violence is about the physical act of beating someone. Perhaps if you change your understanding of violence, you will see the injustice of being forced to change your looks physically by using chemicals that burn in order to write an exam! The very idea of forcing someone to change themselves physically before they are suitable for education given freely to anyone with the right texture hair is an act of violence!

  • Love your post lady <3

    • Zoe Hawkins


  • Great post!

    • Zoe Hawkins

      thanks! 🙂