Possibility the key to real social change

2015 Australian of the Year and campaigner against violence, Rosie Batty.
2015 Australian of the Year and campaigner against violence, Rosie Batty.

WHAT more could women possibly want that they don’t have now?

A comment left on a social media post about International Women’s Day and a rally planned in Port Macquarie to bring an end to violence.

A perplexing statement and one made probably without little regard for the great milestones achieved by women who walked in the generations before us to forge a path toward equality not just for women, but all people. They walked forward and faced resistance and we thank them for that. But we still have a long way to go.

The International Women’s Day breakfast hosted on March 8 by the Hastings Business Women’s Network and Leslie Williams MP is appropriately themed unity. For a real and enduring cultural shift to occur, we need to first explore how we react and respond to violence and the harmful social norms that feed into gender inequality and misogyny. And we need to do that together.

This is not just a conversation being had by women, and it’s not just a problem for men to ‘fix’. It is about achieving social equity and wanting a just world where strong and respectful relationships are at its foundation. A world where opportunity is a reality for everyone regardless of gender, race, religion or ability. A community where we no longer use embedded stereotypes to normalise and validate harmful behaviours that perpetuate gender inequality.

Like any serious social issue, it is far easier to emotionally react to sexism than take real action. But in doing so, we stay trapped in a cycle of blame that blinds us to the possibilities before us if we were to be bold enough to take a different approach. A united approach, free of labels, one open to opportunity.

There are many discourses at play in the gender equality discussion and often the broader, and more important, cultural norms implicitly embedded at the foundation of all of these thoughts are rarely explored in our day to day conversations with each other – and they should be. Until they are, we are not accepting it takes all of us to make that change happen.

Mindfulness and awareness about how language can shape the way we think and perceive things, feed harmful thought and negative stereotypes is perhaps the first step. Because it matters.

On International Women’s Day, at least think about the conversations you are having. Or start one. The greatest legacy we can leave the next generation to come is the courage to forge a new path.