Last night I was enjoying a cup of tea and episode of Married at First Sight (no shame) when I saw a friend tag me in a post on Facebook.
It was the link to a podcast titled “Celebrating International Women’s Day” and was accompanied by a picture of a white man in a collared shirt, with a stock photo perfect smile.
I chuckled as I read the accompanying caption (“Aaron shares how he is inspired by the women in his life, how they’re shaping and inspiring the world around him, and leadership tips for workplace success” …. “[he] has positioned himself as a visible advocate for gender parity”).
The Betoota Advocate is really outdoing themselves these days I thought to myself.
Upon further inspection this was not in fact a piece of satire, making a joke about how often privileged men are asked for comment on women’s* experiences, but a genuine post by none other than UWA Alumni.
Apparently out of the entire pool of UWA gradates there wasn’t a single woman who could have appeared on the FIRST episode of this podcast about women, so they had to settle for a male senior consultant.
The whole thing was so ridiculous it was almost laughable. How had not a single person who had been involved in this project realised the sexist irony of picking a man to share the experiences of women for International Women’s Day.
I can almost hear someone getting ready to write a comment questioning why no men can ever speak about women’s experiences and #notallmen etc, so I undertook a brief Google search of the man in question to discover any feminist credentials he possessed and found absolutely nothing. No posts or news articles detailing ways he has supported or advocated for women, and nothing on his LinkedIn demonstrating a long-standing commitment to gender equality. So not only did UWA select a man to be the first interviewee for International Women’s Day, but one who appears to have no accolades, experience, or standing to speak on this at all.
Perhaps the most disappointing element of all was that this morning the post was no-where to be found on the UWA Alumni Facebook page. It has been taken down, presumably due to the numerous critical comments by alumni, and without any apology or explanation. Did the UWA Alumni office seriously think everyone who had seen it would forget, or that in the era of screenshots no one would have a copy? If they truly did recognise their mistake why not write a post and own up to it? And moreover, why then keep the interview on your website? I hazard a guess that the decision to take down the post was one more based on the risk of reputational damage than a genuine desire to correct the mistake.
While this one post and interview may seem insignificant to some, it is symptomatic of a broader issue – the silencing of women and devaluation of their stories and experiences.
I set myself a challenge – how many women graduates from UWA could I find online in about 15 minutes? Turns out, it’s more than zero —
- Sue Gordon, WA’s first Aboriginal Magistrate
- Josephine Wilson, 2017 winner of the Miles Franklin Award.
- Tammy Solonec, human rights lawyer, activist and advocate for Indigenous peoples.
- Antoinette Kennedy, first female Judge of the District Court of WA
- Sally Morgan, award-winning artist and author
- Carmen Lawrence, first female Premier of WA.
- Christine Wheeler, first woman appointed QC in WA.
- Pat Dudgeon, psychologist, researcher, and advocate in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander’s mental health and wellbeing.
- Cheryl Praeger, award-winning mathematician.
This list is by no means exhaustive, there are many, many more inspiring and successful women graduates from our university who deserve their chance to have their stories heard. Look them up.
It’s important this International Women’s Day, and every other day of the year, we are all making an effort to seek out the voices of women, particularly those who experience multiple axis of oppression, prioritise them, and actually listen to what they have to say.
I’m looking at you, UWA.
* This article intends for the word ‘woman’ to be taken in its most inclusive form. That is, to include all people who identify women or as female, trans women, genderqueer women, and non-binary people who are significantly female-identified, and any other non cis-male people.
Emma Boogaerdt | @em_boogaerdt