Updated: Mar 16
Hello storytellers! Happy Tuesday.
I hope everyone had a lovely International Women's Day last week... did you see the viral campaign by @PayGapApp retweeting company’s who post about #IWD2022 along with their gender pay gap?? Suffice it to say... the numbers were not good. Companies were "celebrating women" while paying them 10, 20, 30% less than the men in their company.
We need action, not words. I am happy that companies want to celebrate women, but how about just paying us fairly?
As you have probably seen, the theme for IWD this year is break the bias:
Imagine a gender equal world. A world free of bias, stereotypes, and discrimination. A world that is diverse, equitable, and inclusive. A world where difference is valued and celebrated. Together we can forge women's equality. Collectively we can all #BreakTheBias.
Sounds great, right? But how do we go about doing that? How do we break free from biases that are deeply ingrained within our society and our selves?
My answer... let's all watch Killing Eve!
More to come on that...
But let's back up first. How does one break a bias? Unfortunately, you can't just tell people (or yourself) to stop being biased because most of it stems from our deep, well-trained subconscious. No one (except perhaps self-proclaimed bigots) thinks they are biased. Yet, everyone is... which makes this a pretty tricky one to tackle.
To address the invisible, we've got to get to the root cause of the problem, a big one being stereotypes.
This is exactly what Gina Rippon, author of The Gendered Brain, and I discuss in the third episode of the podcast that was released this week.
In our conversation, we talk about how our brains are "the ultimate stereotypers" because - at least historically - they served as a survival mechanism, helping us to quickly categorise and determine, for example, if the person approaching us is "safe", if we should be fearful or trusting of them. Essentially, stereotypes provide shortcuts for the work our brains do.
However, as you can imagine, there is a huge downside to assuming all the people in one group are a certain way. As Gina puts it, "stereotypes are straight jackets for the brain."
From the moment we are born, our brains desperately want to pick up the rules of behaviour from the outside world to ensure that their owners fit in. And in this way, stereotypes can become a kind of self-fulfilling prophecy where instead of being descriptive - women are nurturing - they become proscriptive - women must be nurturing.
I am a woman, therefore, I must be nurturing.
On top of that, when the stereotypes of our group don't align with the stereotypes of a certain profession, it can be detrimental.
For example, leadership.
Stereotypically, leaders are powerful, ambitious, confident and assertive. All qualities that - stereotypically - a woman is not.
A "dominant woman" is almost an oxymoron... does the thought of one make you a bit uncomfortable?
So again, how do we break this bias? How do we shift the stereotypes so no one feels uneasy around a domineering woman or a crying man?
There are many ways to begin this process, but one of the best ways - and in my opinion, the most fun - is exposure to characters and stories that break the mould. Because these biases are so deeply embedded into each and every one of us - yes, you too - we have to introduce our brain to new stories in order to rewire these stereotypes that serve no one.
Thanks to an increase of women - and people from other marginalised groups - in the arts and creative industries, these stories are becoming easier to find. My most recent favourite: Killing Eve...
It's not just a show about one female assassin playing a life-threatening game of cat and mouse with a female investigator (okay already, that show sounds freaking cool), but it’s so much more because the characters - female and male - and their conversations, actions and stories are free from these restrictive stereotypes.
I mean, a female assassin?! Not a sidekick to a male assassin, but a hitwoman in her own right.
As I write this, even spellcheck doesn't like the word "hitwoman", but hitman is just fine:
And it doesn't stop there, these women aren't just assassins and investigators, but have - shock horror! - unapologetic, casual sex. They have submissive husbands and male assistants and continue meaningful work past the age of 40!
The show was created by Phoebe Waller-Bridge - who also created Fleabag, another show breaking the mould. We form stereotypes based on what we absorb from the outside world, so these stories created by people with marginalised perspectives are a way to (slowly) break free from the deep-rooted stereotypes and create new associations that allow women and men be whoever they want to be.
This is why “representation matters” not just in terms of having someone at the table to represent you, but also to have models in which to base a new kind of reality off of.
And if that isn't enough.... all of this is not just incredibly important for challenging our stereotypes and breaking our biases, but for creating much more fascinating and meaningful stories. Isn't the diversity of humanity what makes it so beautiful??
That’s all for today. Thanks for being here and holding space for woman’s story!
PS - what are some other books, tv shows and movies that break the mould?? I need more to add to my list!
Follow along, share the story, or get in touch!