The theme for this International Women’s Day is ‘Choose To Challenge.’
My passion for football and boxing means that I’ve always challenged stereotypes, norms, and society’s definition of femininity just by doing the things I love. Of course I didn’t realise this as a kid, I was just enjoying sport with my mates! But I quickly became aware that people’s attitudes, the infrastructure within sport, and even laws and policies were largely stacked against me ever reaching my potential – I was often made to feel that I didn’t belong in sport at all. It took me a long time to believe that I did, and even longer to decide to try and do something more about it.
Public speaking is one of the ways that I try to spread the message about gender equality, and I’m often asked during Q+A by both men and women about how best to challenge inequality. Honestly, I’m not sure there is a ‘best’ way. But I’d say the following in terms of considerations:
1, You don’t have to challenge everything all the time People tell me they are angry with themselves if they’ve come across sexism or other types of inequality and they haven’t challenged it. Well that’s okay, it can be exhausting fighting for equality all the time, so self care is important. And, there are other factors involved, comments or actions can come from a family member, friend, or colleague and if your challenge could affect the relationship or have other ramifications, then there is a lot to consider in a split second! If you feel able to challenge inequality regardless of the circumstances then fine, but not everyone will and that’s fine too. Don’t berate yourself, remember our environment has a big impact on us and we can only do our best within it.
2, Arm yourself with a ‘toolkit’ of knowledge Facts, examples, and snippets of history – these tools can really help in cases where prejudiced views come from misinformation or a narrow perspective, if we can offer facts & real life examples it can lead to a better understanding, so know your stuff. However, speaking up or even shouting isn’t always enough, law and policy must sometimes come first in order for social and cultural change to follow. Years ago, children didn’t have car seats and we could smoke on airplanes and in classrooms! Despite scientists telling us the dangers, it still took law and policy to drive changes that we now view as social and cultural norms. For example, we could do all the talking & appealing we wanted, but the progress we’ve made in women’s football in this country would not have been possible had the ban not been lifted in 1971. Lived experience, stories, and speaking from the heart all matter, but law & policy matters, too.
3, Consider your motive Whether it’s on social media or in person, before deciding to challenge something, take a moment to think what it is you hope to achieve from it – and be honest! You may want to share a differing view to give another side to it, or you may want to influence a brand or organisation to consider their message if you feel it isn’t inclusive. Or, you may know full well that your response won’t change a thing, and will only invite more trolling, but decide to do it anyway because the comment has pissed you off! That’s fine too, so long as you’re okay with the outcome!
4, Know your why Challenging inequality of any kind is tough, it can be personal, hurtful, exhausting and with no definite end in sight! There are many ways to go about it, but whichever way you choose, knowing the reasons why you are doing it will really help your resolve and resilience even in the most testing times. If you are truly passionate and believe deeply in your cause, that commitment will be enough to help you keep climbing the mountain…even the steepest bits!
Whatever you Choose To Challenge, females across all areas of intersectionality, and male allies together, just do your best, know that you are not alone, and never underestimate the power of the ‘little wins’ as well as the big ones, they all make a huge difference, so keep going.
‘Well behaved women rarely make history….so go be disruptive!’