Tuesday, 27 November 2012

Sex and sexism!

At present, every newspaper, current affairs program and talk back radio show seems to be full of sex, sexism or both.

We have had:
  • The appalling stories of child sexual abuse both within the Catholic church and more broadly in the community, which have led to the announcement of a federal government Royal Commission.  While this is not before time, it will be a massive undertaking and will be in the media for a long time to come.  It is be hoped that raising the community's awareness of the issue will ultimately lead to solutions being found that both reduce the incidence and help the victims recover and also punish the perpetrators and those who have covered up their crimes.
  • The apparently sexually motivated murders of 2 young women in a short period of time which have resulted in marches to end the violence against women, and to 'Reclaim the night' so that women can go out at night safely. Along with this, there was the annual celebration (if that is the right word) of White Ribbon Day last week to raise awareness of broader issues of violence against women.
  • The Prime Minister's now famous 'misogyny' speech aimed at the Leader of the Opposition but which has also led to a heightened awareness of sexism and how it affects attitudes to women and their role in society. 
  • In reflecting on young men and 'date rape', sexual assaults and general hooligan behaviour I heard someone suggesting that adolescent males needed to learn about proper behaviour towards young women.  I thought of a story I heard recently when a 4 year old  told his very sensitive 'new age' father that he was boss of his wife, the boy's mother, probably an idea he had picked up from daycare as it was never an idea even considered in the home.  I think the attitude towards women starts in community attitudes that children pick up long before adolescence and despite recent efforts to educate men and the community in general we have a long way to go. It is probably a case of how people treat each other that is the issue, as violence between men is not appropriate either.
  • Yesterday the Minister for Defence and the Chief of the Armed Forces issued a statement apologising for sexual abuse within the armed Forces and promising to redress the issues.
  • This has been followed by the release today of figures showing the lack of women in senior management positions in Australian companies.  Men hold 2148 line management positions in the top 500 ASX companies compared to 141 women, according to Adele Ferguson in this morning's Age.  In discussing this she raises the issue of women leaving the workforce at least temporarily, to have children and calls for governments to consider the impact their decisions have on working women, including the need for a complete overhaul of the childcare system.  While obviously some employers are more family friendly than others, there is a need for more flexible working arrangements for women and for a range of flexible childcare responses. As a nanny agency we can tailor our services to meet the needs of working families, but we often find we need couples to consider staggering their working hours so that their nannies don't have to 12 or more hours.  Nannies are people with their own lives too, and will quickly burn out if expected to work 60 hour weeks!
Yes, sex and sexism has been in the news and it raises hard issues.  It would be easy to throw up our hands and say 'it is all too hard', or 'that the Government must do something' but it also begins with us. 

As parents, nannies, child care workers we need to:
  • encourage mutual respect between children, and model in our dealings with each other and with children, ways of respectfully behaving.   
  • to practise and teach assertiveness and the recognition of our rights and the rights of others.  
  • be aware of the subtle ways that sexism permeates our attitudes and guard against its influence.  In our picture the boy says 'Mum, I'm wearing the blue dress cos I'm a boy'
It is up to us to create the world we want for our children.

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