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What women need….

By Mishka Góra - posted Wednesday, 19 February 2014

I briefly noticed a #whatwomenneed campaign on St Valentine's Day. While it seemed to be a worthy project which I am not intending to criticise, it did elicit a number of jocular reactions from me. To be honest, my first 'answer' to this 'question' was "a kick up the arse". Because St Valentine's Day shouldn't be about women (even if you do buy into the whole romantic notion).

What happened to equality?

Why aren't we also talking about what men need for St Valentine's Day? Why are we saying that women need support when they first need to take some responsibility? Why are we talking about women needing more options when they have the most options they've ever had in the history of the world? And why is everything framed in terms of women? Yes, men need to take responsibility for fatherhood but they need to do this because it's the right thing to do, not because it meets the needs of women. Men need to be involved in their children's lives whether women need or want it or not.


And so it occurred to me that if women want to be treated as equals and with respect, perhaps they should abandon using euphemisms to compensate for their inadequacies. I keep coming across advertisements, memes, and other feminist propaganda telling me that women aren't bossy and that it's a derogatory term used to put down women and describe their "leadership skills". This may be true on occasion, but more often I have seen women passing off their bossiness – a negative trait – as "leadership", and this doesn't help women; it just makes us sound like whiny little brats who want 'recognition' for skills we don't have.

I recall one day many years ago when my leadership skills were recognised – by a man of all people! – and I was made acting bosun (on a tall ship) for the day. Another young woman came up to me and said she didn't know why I'd been given the job as she thought she'd be just as good a bosun. She said: "I can give orders. I know how to boss people around." And she did. Sixteen-year-old girls often are very bossy and she was no exception. But this girl, through no particular fault of her own, was exhibiting the very bossiness and immaturity that would prevent her from doing the job of bosun 'like a boss'.

Soldiers seem to be especially adept at picking up on the difference between acting 'like a boss' and being 'bossy'. An officer who waltzes in and expects 'respect' because he is an officer and knows how to give orders will not command much respect from his subordinates. One who shows genuine leadership, on the other hand, will inspire obedience and experience far less grumbling in the ranks. Why women seem to think we are entitled to be spared such justified grumbling comes down to feminism.

Women may be just as capable of being good leaders as men, but we won't be if we cling to arrogant feminist notions that we are innately superior to men. Motherhood certainly equips mothers with unique skills, but women need to recognise that the authority of a parent over a child is very different to that of a supervisor over her employees. If you treat your workers like children, don't expect maturity, initiative, and independence. I was trained as a project manager. IBM very kindly flew in instructors – some of them women – from George Washington University in the United States so that we could have the same training as our US counterparts. There were more men than women on these courses but this had nothing to do with discrimination. The unfortunate fact (for the social engineers) was that even though IBM did everything humanly possible to advance women in the workplace there simply weren't as many women suited to the job. I would add that the less successful project managers had poor leadership skills (despite us all being sent on a course called 'leadership skills') and that they were mostly women. Why? There were a variety of reasons, but there was one single common denominator: micro-management. I see it everywhere I go. Women tend to micro-manage more than men, and when someone keeps needlessly telling you what to do (when you're a highly-educated mature professional on a six-figure salary) that comes across as being bossy. And it is bossy. It's hard to respect someone who interferes with you doing your own job (for which you are qualified and she is not), who doesn't trust you enough to leave you alone to do your work for a few hours or days, and who wants you to waste your time ticking off her boxes so that she can feel like she's doing something. If us women want to be treated as equals, we need to learn to do our jobs better instead of demanding that poor management be praised as a 'different style' of leadership.

This isn't to say women don't possess unique abilities. We are not identical to men and shouldn't want to be. I don't know many men who've sat on a desk wearing a short skirt and knee-high lace-up boots and cajoled a programmer into working back late to fix a problem. And I don't know any men who can breastfeed a baby in a sling while cooking dinner and supervising the homework of several other children. There are, likewise, many brilliant women leaders and entrepreneurs. But they didn't get where they are by being bossy and calling it leadership… and they they didn't get there by telling themselves they were entitled to a job because they were women. They got there the same way most men did: through hard work, learning from mistakes, and sheer persistence.

So, the question at the end of all this is: do we want equality or do we want revenge? If women think they're superior to men (and I certainly don't which is why I've switched to the third person), then they're no better than the misogynists who denied women the vote. But we need to maintain a sense of humour. We should be able to make jokes about the differences between the sexes. The only problem is that at the moment it seems that a joke about men being hopeless at something is quite all right, whereas a joke about women being hopeless at anything is interpreted as belittling or denigrating. Perhaps this is an essential difference between the sexes, but if women are so thin-skinned that we can't handle the thought of men being better than us at something it does call into question whether we really are equipped to do the same jobs as men. All the men I know have no qualms about recognising that women are better than men at certain things, such as remaining calm and patient with multiple toddlers. Why can't women recognise that men are better at some things too, such as construction and fire-fighting?


For those of you who are still reading, here is a challenge. Watch these excellent short films at My Beautiful Woman. (Start with #3 if you're short on time.) Imagine how these women would have acted differently if they were western feminist women. Imagine their Facebook and gofundme campaigns, the endless affirmation of their 'choices' and 'sacrifices', and how each would have had their 'feelings' and 'emotions' dissected in public view and their lives made into 'success stories'. And ask yourselves what makes these women truly beautiful.

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This article was first published on Eyes of the Mind.

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About the Author

Mishka Gora is a Tasmanian writer specialising in war, conscience, international justice, and the former Yugoslavia. She is author of Fragments of War, an autobiographical novel about the 1990s conflict in Croatia and Bosnia-Hercegovina.

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