It is often said that women can be the hardest on other women; with a couple of pretty stark exceptions, I have found the opposite to be true. During my time in politics and now in the corporate world I have found the support of other women to be encouraging and supportive. Fortunately, I have also had incredible support from significant men over my career. One of my goals this year was to do more to give back to women in different stages in their careers and I am finding it really fun and rewarding.
I have never fit neatly into a box when it comes to being a feminist and I am quite proud of it. I grew up in a male-dominated household with a father who believed there was one set of rules for boys and another for girls. He was a product of his time and has changed considerably over the years. I call him my resilience builder. I never accepted the different rules and challenged him and authority in my younger years – much to his delight as he did love a good scrap. It prepared me for a career in politics as I learned to debate and argue and persuade, and by the time I got there, there wasn't much that would faze me.
I once gave a speech as the Minister for Women in which I argued that Parliament isn't necessarily sexist. Yes, it is dysfunctional, and in the past (and unfortunately probably still now) there were pockets of sexual harassment and bullying but it doesn't discriminate today based on gender. The hours are really tough on mums trying to raise a family and be an effective MP – but it's also tough on dads. I had plenty of cruel comments about my weight and how I dressed but I could name male MPs who have also been subject to cruel taunts at different times. There may still be a bit of a boys' club, but there are times that I exclusively enjoy the company of women so my girls' club has been quite helpful over the years.
There is still sexist and unacceptable behaviour and we need to call it out. I will be the first one to condemn those that genderise their argument and are belittling and demeaning. As disgusted as I was with THOSE comments by Simon Henry recently about a businesswoman, I was deeply heartened by the wholesale condemnation. It is far from perfect but as I acknowledge those women and men that have stood up for women's rights over the years and passionately and intelligently stood up against patriarchy and discrimination, I hope they would be proud to see the many shades of feminism that exist in the complex world we live in.