Today three things happened in my life.
- I stepped on a brown snake. Only the most deadly snake in Australia with enough venom to kill 100 men. It was a pretty terrifying experience and I did exactly what you’re not supposed to do – I screamed and ran as fast as I could up the slope I was on.
- I was told that I couldn’t be a plumber because, and I quote, “In Australia we don’t have lady plumbers”. Apparently it would be acceptable for me, as a woman, to be either a nurse or a teacher, because “[Australia] has lady nurses”. My immediate reaction was shock. Then my rebellious side kicked in and I decided I would be a plumber, I would show this man who didn’t think I could do it because of gender roles. But then some logic occurred and I realised I don’t want my head down a toilet or under a sink every day for the next 40 years. So I returned to my previous dream which is, funnily enough, to become a teacher. I kept these thoughts to myself as one 21 year old girl is not going to change the decades of societal inequality that this man had been exposed to.
However, this is not the point. I haven’t been told that I can’t do something because I am female in a long time. Australian men are well known for being chauvinistic, but most know it is no longer socially acceptable voice these opinions and in the younger generations these attitudes are slowly being changed. But I am now in rural Australia where the metropolitan ways of the cities haven’t quite filtered in as well. Although I am aware of this factor, it does not make these kind of attitudes okay in modern society.
My next query about the man who told me I couldn’t be a plumber because of my gender, is he is the son of a lady farmer. Now how rare those?! Not only is she a lady farmer but she’s one of the strongest and determined women I have ever met, raising 6 boys pretty much on her own and having faced numerous financial and personal difficulties, whilst running a farm and rearing prize winning cattle. Every time she came across a problem she managed to think of a plan to get herself out of trouble. Whether the plan involved diversifying the farm and changing her range of animals or putting herself second to benefit her sons. With a female role model like this I have no idea how the idea of a woman not being able to do a “man’s job” even came into his mind.
My explanation for these attitudes is the company he keeps and the society he grew up in and has continued to live in. The inequality between men and women is particularly stark in rural Australia, I’ve seen it not only here now but also when I lived in Wagga Wagga. There seems to be a certain expectation that a women’s worth is based on her appearance (I was also told today “you’re good looking girl, you wouldn’t have any trouble finding a husband”), how she looks after her husband/boyfriend and her child bearing ability. I stayed in Wagga Wagga longer, and although these attitudes are changing it’s a very slow process and is incredibly frustrating. I’m hoping that due to being so close to Byron Bay, the land of freedom, sexist attitudes will change quicker here. Just because that is the way it is currently doesn’t mean it has to stay this way. I hope for the sake of Australia they can change their attitudes sooner rather than later to keep up with the rest of the developed world, because it is not okay that more than 2 women die every week in relation to domestic violence in Australia.
- I was reminded that life is beautiful. Driving through the suburbs I got distracted by life happening in front of me. A couple laughing at their dogs, two school girls cycling home with their art work in one hand and a handle bar in the other, a man walking with a spring in his step and the ever changing colours of the sky as a sunset demonstrating nature’s own daily light show. I had to stop getting distracted before I had an accident. Watching these moments I was reminded that life is happening right in front of me. There is no next act, and despite the wrongness of certain aspects of society, I better go enjoy it.