Next Thursday I am inviting you to a virtual Coffee Morning in honour of International Women’s Day on March 8th. I will be sharing some of the quotes of women and men that I admire; who have made a difference to our world in terms of empowerment or inspiration. I would love you to join me with your own favourite quote and also your views on the subject of gender equality.
I am sharing my thoughts today on two separate gender issues, the first being the #MeToo campaign which has been stripping the entertainment industry of its glitter recently… You may not agree with all my observations but that is part of the dialogue needed to create change.
The second is the bravery and commitment to change shown by women in Saudi Arabia to obtain the right to something most of us take for granted.
This year the theme of International Women’s Day is #PressforProgress – motivating and uniting colleagues and whole communities to think, act and be gender inclusive.
International Women’s Day is observed all around the world in many cultures. Its aim is to celebrate the achievements of women in every society and also to highlight areas where greater equality for women is required.
This has never been more evident than in the recent #MeToo campaign against sexual exploitation in the entertainment industry.
I do have strong views on this, and I absolutely condemn the actions of those in power within the industry, who wield their position to intimidate, blackmail and exploit young women and also young men. This condemnation is not just for studio executives, directors, producers or even established stars. It definitely applies to the ‘enablers’ who act essentially as pimps within the industry. How many of the less respectable talent agencies have sent young starlets to dinner with studio bosses, with instructions to wear something slinky, to be heavily made up, to suck up if they want to get that role? How many of their more cynical peers have advised that they need to be prepared to do whatever it takes to make it?
I also feel that some of the issues within the entertainment industry are rooted in much earlier brushes with fame and glitter. I appreciate the majority of mothers are responsible about their daughters exposure to fantasy. However, there are others who feel that parading their five year old daughter in sexy costumes and makeup in beauty pageants, teaching them to act provocatively in front of the judges, is the way to educate a girl on how to present herself for approval and to succeed in life.
There are fundamental flaws in the entertainment industry that have been inherent since the days of Shakespeare, when young men were the focus of the casting couch long before women were allowed to act. If you read the autobiographies of the older stars of stage and screen, there is nothing new in history. Certainly in the last 100 years in the mecca of the film world, Hollywood, there has been a litany of cover ups, scandal, sexual harassment and denial. It would seem with the latest revelations, that very little has changed for certain people in power across the industry. Thankfully the spotlight has resulted in some of the mighty falling from grace. The repercussions are likely to be going on for quite some considerable time.
It is largely down to the power of the worldwide web that has given those who are victims, the platform to expose the long held secrets about the corruption that still infuses the ladder of success today.
It is not just the behaviour of certain stars, agents, producers and directors. It also includes the scriptwriters of the films and television dramas themselves. In recent years the demand, allegedly made by the public, is for graphic sex scenes, full frontal nudity and violence.
Actors are asked to perform simulated sexual acts on each other that are designed to spice up the story and in some cases shock. Why? Are people so devoid of imagination that they need everything in graphic detail instead of being led into the act of lovemaking and being left to our own devices? Much of the sex shown in film and on television is also depicted as an act without commitment, affection and often without any form of communication between the two parties. Is this anyway to depict the necessary love and other vital skills needed to form permanent relationships and become responsible parents?
Is this showing respect for the women or men for that matter, who are again being exploited by an industry driven by money to create the next blockbuster? Even those films that have been critically acclaimed and nominated for Oscars this year are not exempt from using random sexual acts instead of clever writing to convey emotions. There are things that I don’t need to see, including bodily functions that should be private.
I am not a prude, but if we really want to safeguard women and men equally, we the public have to stop and think about what the movie and television industry is producing, supposedly at our request. If a young actress or actor is forced into performing what is essentially pornography for our pleasure, then we need to start voicing our opinions more vocally.
Am I shouting into the tsunami of public opinion… probably, as one voice rarely creates change, but millions of voices do. If we really want to create gender equality within the entertainment industry and any other workplace environment we need to speak louder and in unison.
Many millions of women worldwide are fantastic mothers who instill in their children all the right attitudes to life, work and family. They are desperate to protect them from outside influences such as those imposed by a minority of powerful men and women across certain industries.
We need to help them in that mission by being vocal on their behalf. It seems like a tall order, especially if you criticise something that is so publicly applauded such as the entertainment industry.
It does seem like an impossible task, but the second gender issue that I wanted to share today, proves that just being a woman in a more enlightened society can make a difference without us even raising our voices.
Driving for most of us is a rite of passage and opens up the world for exploration as well as enabling us to do mundane chores like food shopping.
With the world-wide web, we as individual women, supported by many men, do make a difference simply by going about our daily lives. For example in Saudi Arabia late last year a law was passed to allow women to drive cars for the first time in their history. Something we take for granted and a right that is demonstrated in every television programme, film or news broadcast around the world. Even to those in countries where certain elements of society are denied that freedom.
Here is an extract from the campaign that shows how Saudi women defied the law and risked public whipping to achieve what millions of us around the world consider to be a normal rite of passage… to drive a car.
Up until September 2017, Saudi Arabia was unique in being the only country in the world where women were forbidden to drive motor vehicles. The women to drive movement (Arabic: قيادة المرأة في السعودية qiyāda al-imarʾa fī as-Suʿūdiyya) is a campaign by Saudi women, who have more rights denied to them by the regime than men, for the right to drive motor vehicles on public roads. Dozens of women drove in Riyadh in 1990 and were arrested and had their passports confiscated. In 2007, Wajeha al-Huwaider and other women petitioned King Abdullah for women’s right to drive, and a film of al-Huwaider driving on International Women’s Day 2008 attracted international media attention.
In 2011, the Arab Spring motivated some women, including al-Huwaider and Manal al-Sharif, to organise a more intensive driving campaign, and about seventy cases of women driving were documented from 17 June to late June. In late September, Shaima Jastania was sentenced to ten lashes for driving in Jeddah, although the sentence was later overturned.
Two years later, another campaign to defy the ban targeted 26 October 2013 as the date for women to start driving. Three days before, in a “rare and explicit restating of the ban”, an Interior Ministry spokesman warned that “women in Saudi are banned from driving and laws will be applied against violators and those who demonstrate support.” Interior Ministry employees warned leaders of the campaign individually not to drive on 26 October, and in the Saudi capital police road blocks were set up to check for women drivers. On 26 September 2017, King Salman issued an order to allow women to drive in Saudi Arabia, with new guidelines to be created and implemented by the following June.
Read the rest of the article here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Women_to_drive_movement
As you can see, our passive acceptance of this everyday activity across the world, inspired Saudi women to demand that they too should be treated equally. We really cannot comprehend the bravery that took as they risked imprisonment and public lashings to achieve their aims.
Attempting to organise change at a distance is not easy to do. Many women still live in an environment where they are bound by strict rules of conduct and limited rights and unlikely to have access to computers for online contact.There are organisations that work on their behalf in their countries and externally, and it is important to keep up to date with their efforts and support when we can.
But there are other opportunities to mentor, guide and support women within our own communities and that for me is an important aspect of International Women’s Day.
How can we support #PressforProgress in our own communities, on and offline.
- We as adults are the caretakers of this world for the generations to come. As you look at the world today, is it really one that you want your children and grandchildren to inherit? Be a pioneer in your small part of the world and it will encourage others to do the same.
- Don’t take our own ‘rights’ for granted, appreciating that the reason we can receive an education, vote, go out to work, head up international companies, lead countries, go into space, walk down the street with our bare face and head held high, open a bank account in our own name, make decisions for our own bodies and drive a car, is because women raised their voices and many times put their lives at risk.
- Be inclusive of those you meet on and offline. Include a translate button on your blog Appearance, widget, google translate You never know… one of your inspirational posts could make a difference to someone without your freedoms.
- Ensure that children remain a child as long as possible and are exposed to role models within family, inside and outside of school and in books. That they are encouraged to learn about other cultures and appreciate their own privileged position and possibilities in the future.
- Encourage boys and girls to participate in household chores such as cooking and cleaning and becoming self-sufficient. Life skills should not be driven by gender. Don’t let them see you treat them differently in relation to behaviour whilst still promoting all the good attributes of both. Men and women are different in certain respects and that is not a wrong, it is nature.
- Teach boys and girls respect for each other and their abilities and to be supportive during both successes and challenges. Encourage offline interaction and activities that encourage mutual respect and understanding.
- Be open to learning more about others in the world and their customs related to gender equality. Be supportive as they take steps towards reform. Remember that it is only 100 years ago that we women in the UK were given the vote and other rights that we take for granted today. Change takes time.
- If you don’t like something then say something. People may not always agree with you but if it is about injustice, inequality, abuse of any kind then you are not likely to be alone in your views.
- If you are in a position of authority in a business or institution then ensure that you treat both men and women equally. Mentor younger members that you are responsible for and encourage them to understand that good management is not gender specific.
- Even making a difference to one person will have a ripple effect on their future and those around them. Setting an example for good is a very powerful and worthwhile goal to aim for.
Here is the link for this year’s events around the world: https://www.internationalwomensday.com/
I hope you will join me next Thursday March 8th for a coffee, some cake and some notable quotes from women (and some men) who have succeeded in their respective fields and inspire others to do the same based on equality. Thank you Sally