In a concerned voice, she said, "Oh, you're from Australia? Tell me, how's the situation there now?"
Puzzled at what the hell she was referring to, I asked, "Er... what situation, exactly?"
"Well - and this is going back about thirty years - but I had a client who was from Australia. She told me she was never going back; that women were treated like second-class citizens and all the men there slam doors in women's faces and just treat them awfully."
In her voice, I could hear a smug that doesn't happen here in America, and I kind of wanted to punch her. I hated the idea that she was basing her view of Australia on what one individual told her, three decades ago. I have no doubt her client had experienced sexist treatment and that her feelings were completely valid... but thirty years ago, those experiences were hardly limited to Australia. Last time I checked, women in the US - and many other developed nations - were subjected to inequality in various forms back then. They still are, and we have a long way to go before the status quo is truly equal.
Having said that, I've been grateful for the opportunities I've had. I attended an all-girl public school, where we were told from the beginning that girls and women can achieve whatever we want, so long as we study and work hard. I gained access to university. I never had any problems finding employment, and worked in fields where pay was equal and - down the track - supportive of me when I needed time off when the Faery was sick. Furthermore, I know plenty of women who were able to have more than a mere three months of maternity leave, without fear of losing their job (as opposed to a number of mothers I've met here).
I could be blowing hot air completely out of my arse here, and I'll admit there's a lot that I still don't know of the official policies - both in Australia and the US - but personally speaking, I can't say I've ever felt victimised because of my gender (although I want to emphasise that I understand it does happen, and I don't want to downplay the negative experiences of other women).
So that's what I essentially told the woman in the waiting room. Along with the fact the thirty years ago, I was just a young kid and unaware of that kind of treatment, and had certainly not witnessed such behaviour firsthand.
If I'd seen her today, I'd have shown her a fantastic video of Julia Gillard (the Australian Prime Minister, for the non-Australian readers) opening a verbal can of good old fashioned whop-arse on the Opposition leader, Tony Abbott, in parliament this week. Based on past interviews and policy endorsements, he is known for his conservative, religious views and general misogyny ("abortion is the easy way out").
It was the most brilliant piece of footage to wake up to today. Whether a person agrees with her politics or not, there's no denying that what she said, needed to be said. I am excited at the thought of my daughters growing up, seeing women in power who will not accept sexist shit.
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