international women’s day, revisited

we’re in the wake of international women’s day, and it’s taken me a few days to ponder what i wanted to write about but here we go!

iwd is a day that seeks to promote the movement toward equality amongst sexes. to raise awareness about the issues that may be interfering with the movement toward actual economic/social/political equality. to raise the visibility of those issues and of women in general. i am of the mindset that these issues affect women(/yn) and men(/yn?) and everyone in between, and that both (read: all) sexes get to be part of the conversation. but yes, it was women’s day, and it is because of an existing, pervasive hegemonic imbalance in power that we can all shift our attention toward women’s issues, if only for one day.

in this vein, this year i’ve become more self-evaluating. in other words: in which ways do reinforce my own internalized expectations of “woman”, and are some of these outmoded? do my actions reinforce patriarchy as norm?

i was inspired by social psychologist peter glick’s idea of “benevolent sexism” as presented on cbc’s q during a debate on the subject of chivalry. i try to hold the door open as often as it is held open for me. to not expect that i should enter and exit first, and particularly ahead of any men. i happen to work in an environment where chivalry is considered very civilized and so i am playing this funny game of “no no, you first… oh no, i insist. please. go first……go first…………. go first dammit!” but oh, we have fun.

it is in this mindset that i stumbled upon the episode of  cbc’s metro morning which was presented on international women’s day.

“Matt Galloway spoke about what it means to be an influential woman and a leader, with Bonnie Schmidt, she is the President and Founder of Let’s Talk Science, and with Carol Wilding. She is President and CEO of the Toronto Region Board of Trade.”

it struck me immediately that this episode equated influence and leadership with corporate “success”. the implicit message of this broadcast reinforces that success for woman equated to success in the boardroom.  an environment traditionally dominated by men, the idea that women are now appearing and succeeding in that environment is, for me, actually not very far from tokenism; it doesn’t actually challenge the core of women’s issues, but reinforces the idea that we must compete in this specific area to be considered successful. the nebulous concepts of leadership and success are not exclusively reserved for those who hold leadership positions in a corporate setting. in my assessment, matt galloway’s interview doesn’t actually do anything to forward the conversation about women, but instead makes evident an ideological preference for those women who participate in a very specific economic sector.

(also, matt galloway seemed to be uncharacteristically kind, if not complacent, which raises another red flag. those of you who listen to metro morning consistently will know that galloway can be a challenging interviewer. but i’ll save that thought for a rainy day.)

the discussion was somewhat interesting in and of itself. it focused unilaterally on boardroom dynamics, the classic male-dominated make-up of the higher, and even the rising dominance of women in leadership roles. traditional female and male methods of communication and how they may inhibit or aide in building one’s success. the show ended with tips from the pros: what one thing women should do to find the same success that bonnie shmidt and carol wilding have.

but women, and feminist discourse, has spent the the past decade fighting the fixed images of women that limit our ability to be individuals. and in the end, my major take away was that the very structure of the interview–those who were called on to participate–reinforces another, specific image or womanhood through which we are meant to measure our success. how boring. how limiting.

it’s not all doom and gloom, but only some more food for thought. i’m curious if other people had the same reaction, or have stumbled into similar situations elsewhere?

as for me, i am about to go to the boardroom for a meeting, and be the kind of woman that will make the cbc proud.

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