Sexism in the Suburbs

The reality of a feminism fail.

So I’ve been keeping a secret for a long time....many years back I entered the world of the Stepford Wives. You know the robot wives created to perpetuate mans superiority. It’s the best kept secret .....Sexism in the Suburbs. So let me tell you about my experience as an alternative thinking, highly educated, experienced career woman, entering the dark veiled world of the Stepford Wives in the Melbourne suburbs.

They say write what you know. In the past for me that’s been easy.... literally tens of thousands of words would flow from my finger tips. As an education professional, business trainer and University business school department manager writing traversed the realms of strategic planning for the School on discipline fields to focus, industry consultation, client proposals, staff grants for research and development, capital grants for state of the art education facilities, technology, mobile teaching tools even extensive consultation and papers on the needs of industry and staff in the new RMIT Business building and papers to industry training boards on observations of emerging trends in industry education needs, tender after tender after tender. Writing for me is the ultimate communication tool. Writing is my happy place.

So when I left the University to focus on my son, finding a new passion to write about manifested in my online magazine. It was a way to write what I knew in the area of healthy lifestyle, home, fashion, organic living and business. I was able to draw together a team of mind blowing contributors on health, business, natural and organic lifestyle, cosmetics and products, decorating, fashion styling, health and fitness. However when it came to me writing about my personal experience unfortunately the subject matter was less than inspiring. What I knew now was a shocking rude awakening of the veil behind supposed suburban bliss.

The best analogy I could use to explain it was entering a scene from The Stepford Wives. A far cry from the environment I was used to. Coming from a career in a University I was comfortable in a leadership role, with many male and female staff of varying ages. I worked in elaborate board rooms and chambers, in client meetings, with corporate managers looking to myself and my staff capabilities to solve problems with training and development, solutions for issues on efficiency, motivation, leadership and team harmony, performance management and systems. I worked with advising industry boards and the University heads on industry needs in training, where funding and qualification design needed to focus and how to improve staff capabilities in industry delivery and quality.

Now I sat on living room floors with a gaggle of mums talking nappies, cracked nipples and what their husbands do for a living and the endless discussions on home renovations. My relationship status was complicated at best. I wasn’t married, had previously earned considerably more than my son’s father and my relationship was breaking down fast. These were not my people.....I was in a completely foreign land.

The void between the respectful treatment I was accustomed to became increasingly apparent as I spent more time with the mummy groups. Social events were always like attending a grade 4 school dance, the girls on one side the boys on the other. Even in my past relationship, social life and career I’d never been exposed to such obvious separation of the sexes. In fact this antiquated division of the sexes was outright illegal in the environs I was used to. I would try in vain to participate in conversations with the dads, after all some were in realestate (I’d managed the realestate programs at RMIT, I’d worked with consumer affairs and the REIV on the design and improvement of qualifications) surely that afforded me some level of intellectual contribution to the conversations. But no, my interjections were met with stoney silence from the men and blood curdling daggers from the insecure wives who clearly thought I was flirting with their increasingly balding husbands.

So I’d try the financial dudes, hey they’re a bit less socially aggressive surely they’d be more tolerable of a female. Finance was one of my ‘things’ after all. I’d overseen the corporate delivery of the Diploma in Finance for years, I’d run the commercial accreditation programs in financial compliance for banks and insurance companies and consulted with the Securities and Derivatives Industry Association on the changes needed in the compliance training in the finance sector. I’d won and delivered the grant to redesign the financial compliance training, hell I even consulted with the Finance sectors training board on the soft skills accounting and financial experts needed added to the qualifications to make them more personable (as we know finance and accounting attracts a certain personality type) and this revelation was not lost of the Industry heads who tackled it with humour and rigour. So yes I thought I’d surely be accepted into the financial dudes fold as ‘one of them’ but alas the same reception, cold stares and the odd sneak peek at my boobs.... so much for them.

I worked my way through the various business field dad dudes (and the odd mum) trying to find some common ground and some decent conversation...hey I had a pretty broad base of business consulting experience to draw from, surely I’d strike gold eventually. I was met with boys club barriers in both my social circle and in my marketing and promoting my business consulting services (to predominately male owned small and micro businesses) it was like nothing I’d ever experienced in the corporate and University environment. These men simply would not take a woman consultant on, preferring to take advice from one of ’the boys’. My background in overseeing, designing and managing corporate industry education and consultation in a University Business School in IT, Finance, Business Management, Marketing and Administration, Real Estate, Retail, Hospitality afforded me zero respect in the burbs due to my sex, boobs, appearance and social status.

My aspirations of continuing my focus on small business training in staff performance management, leadership, staff motivation, business planning hit a wall primarily due to complete and utter sexual discrimination. Whilst I’ve enjoyed creating great professional relationships through consultation with various businesses since having my son, it is a fact that if I were male my acceptance into suburban small and home based business coaching would have been smoother.

I understand why many women providing entrepreneur support focus on mumpreneurs. The fact is few male small and micro business operators in the Burbs will take you seriously if you have boobs. Ironically I’d completed 2 years of government funded research into why small trade businesses fail, I’d overseen a team in the designed and developed streamlining nationally accredited solutions in training to meet their specific small business training needs. However without singling out any particular industry I’d found the trades industries as sexist as any, despite my expertise and any credibility would require me to take a Yentl style approach, going under cover as a man, being a female business consultant simply wasn’t going to work.

What I’ve learnt is that the void between the equality, status and respect of women achieved through Universities and in corporate Australia has not translated into suburbia. Sure women work, childcare affords them that ‘luxury’, however the status of women is far from equal. There is still a distinct inferiority vibe towards women and a predominant arm candy attitude in the domestic suburban realm. My experience is that men in business simply will not take advice from a woman, or at least a woman they know. Objectification, sexualisation and minimising of women in the Burbs is rife.

Having ‘a job’ is not feminism, having 100% equal respect for your intellectual and creative contribution to society is equality. Support and comradery amongst women in education and a University environment is at least 50 years more advanced than in the suburbs. Even in corporate environments where there is still work to be done to achieve equality, I witnessed and was afforded respect that I’ve never once experience in the suburbs.

Suspicion, jealously, competitiveness, materialistic obsession, discrimination from both male and females seems to be the driving force of mum life, rather than career and life goal support, encouragement, and comradery. I have a new respect and appreciation for the women mentors, bosses, staff, colleagues and clients I have worked with in the past. Bullying amongst women was the exception not the rule, however in the burbs the exact opposite is the status quo. Bullying, exclusion, judgement exists on a level I had not seen since high school. Small minded, uninspired women looking for an outlet for their own unfulfilled aspirations to target.

So this is why I have not written what I’ve known for some time. Sadly what I know now is Australia has a very long way to go in the area of equality for women in the Burbs. No doubt I’ll have some more of this Stepford Wife mentality headed my way after some read this...

You can keep your Sexism in the Suburbs...No wonder I liked Sex and the City so much.....rather ominous.