This matters to me personally. I was raised by a conservative, religious father and a loving, submissive and leftist mum; and was educated (2-17 years old) at only-girls Catholic schools in Spain. My childhood and adolescence were filled with a cognitive dissonance: women are submissive, virginal (resulting in nuns, or a wives and mothers) whilst educated, intelligent and capable (effort, study, discipline).
Although I was already challenging it at home, it wasn’t until university that the external pressure was over (end of school and divorced parents) but not the internal fight. It took years of reading books that I realised the damage that traditional gender stereotypes bring across society.
I have been discussing about gender equality, LGB, religion and politics at home, with friends and at work. I listen, ask for more information, look for alternatives, deep dive. I read and observe: fiction and non-fiction, movies and documentaries to understand the world that surrounds me. I am constantly amazed at how both our brains and our societies work: such imperfect systems capable of such good things.
And all of a sudden, in the name of inclusivity, I am now presented with three options: (1) I can be a ciswoman and perform a submissive, virginal, traditional role (in a very liberal set, where hard porn and sex work are free choices; and make up and high heels actually empower me); (2) I can change the way I dress and hair style and become non-binary (because I am financially independent, care about my career and I am assertive at work); or (3) I can have cosmetic surgery and become a different person altogether. My response is: I won’t do any of that.
I easily recognise any movement that prevents open discussion, denies material reality / science, or forces me to become something I don’t believe in: I have been there and don’t want it back, thank you very much.
In the big scheme of things, I have done very little to raise my voice. I am very vocal with my family, friends and with (a carefully chosen group of) colleagues though. I attend seminars, training and discussions around feminism, social welfare, humanism and similar. I used to take part in Diversity & Inclusion groups at work focused on gender and LGBT. Sometimes I attend political demonstrations but I am not affiliated to any party.
When I joined Twitter about a year ago, my head exploded. I used to be a follower rather than joining in the conversation; read the news (cry a bit), follow a few feminists (feel empowered) and comedians (have a laugh), and watch videos of puppies (aren’t they beautiful?). Then, I kept following a few more women, raised questions, praised interesting articles… and became angrier and angrier (I prefer respectful, no-violent anger than despair).
I (softly) raised a few questions with colleagues, was a bit annoyed at a biological man receiving a Female in Business award; tried to understand the British culture and trans activism (so closely linked to Western individualism and post-modernism); and kept repeating the same mantra: “we should all be free to express ourselves in whatever way we want; and I should treat people the way they want to be treated, not the way I want to be treated.”
When I started listening to the Labour candidates denying sex or giving preferential treatment to males, I was annoyed. But when I attended the solidarity rally for Women’s Place UK and LGB Alliance, I became astonished. I had been in a bubble so I decided to respond to the Scottish Government consultation on their gender recognition bill, and have become a bit more vocal on Twitter (which is not made for my long diatribes).
I am aware of the noise, the ignorance, the science-deniers, the misogynists; but also the kind, hopeful people who just want a better world for everyone.
I haven’t been openly critical about trans issues at work so the colleagues I have been able to talk to, agree with me (they have been even more critical than me who used to embrace inclusion without realising there are actual sex-deniers in this debate). But I know a little about low-key misogyny.
Four years into my previous company, I got the sponsorship of the female Director of the department to design, create and launch a training module for female middle-managers with high potential. Soon after it was launched, she left the company and was replaced by a male Director. On his first day, my (male) line manager and I sat at his office to meet each other, and I explained my part in the programme.
I am very expressive when I talk about something I love: my face turns red, I move my hands a lot… He wasn’t happy. He looked right at me and queried whether I would become “rebellious”. I swore internally whilst nervously laughing a little, looked at my manager and asked if I had ever been problematic to which he replied “no” (big smile too, uneasy and surprised in equal measure). I went home, swore in Spanish (best language for swearing, when you roll those “j” and “r”), spoke to my father (we disagree on plenty of things but he knows how to deal with difficult male senior managers in the workplace because he used to be one of them) and went back to work.
I spoke to my line manager who encouraged me to show my skills and good performance, but had to act as intermediary (aka human shield) in a couple of more occasions. I knew this Director would not help me in my career. Several female colleagues were equally mistrustful but couldn’t do much due to his seniority, so a few months later a (female) Senior Manager took me under her wing and helped me find a brilliant job opportunity in another team. I was very happy to move on.
There Is Always Hope, thereisalwaysh