An Open letter on gender...on behalf of granddaughters

Thursday 19 April 2012

Believe me – I had no intention of writing about the M Word today - the idea landed into my thoughts as though it were a box of goodies falling off the back of a truck. Clunk!

Two men…one yesterday and another just a couple of weeks back…lost their jobs because they opened their mouths wider and faster than their brains could operate. 

There is no evidence to suggest whether they lost their jobs because of the nature of their remarks or because those remarks were publicly aired. The cynic in me suspects the latter.

Racism was the reason given for the first dismissal: misogyny for the second.
Abhorrent things…both of them!

Personally I am sorry for people who lose a valuable job over a mistake.  But if there has to be a sacrificial lamb (or two) to get essential Human Rights messages across – then so be it!

I am equally appalled and fierce about both of these issues, but as luck would have it…it is Thursday, the day after my baby-sitting two adorable little girls and I am therefore emotionally drawn to the subject of gender. I have lived long enough and experienced enough to know that equality of the sexes is not alive and well in our midst. The old Boys’ Club ethos pervades no matter the environment. And women - even those most brilliant - do it tougher than men financially, physically, mentally and socially and rarely achieve the status of equality.

Hence this open letter to the man who lost his job yesterday.

I am writing it on behalf of my tiny granddaughters who cannot yet speak for themselves.

 Dear Mr Max

Yesterday you lost your job.

My granddaughters and I were concerned to hear about that - even though the reasons for your dismissal confused them a little.

You see Max, they’re only 18 months and 3 years old with their whole lives ahead of them.

Their eyes asked me to explain…so I did the best I could and thought it would be good for you to have it explained too.

At the moment all they really understand is that they are loved and protected, comforted and fed.

They do not as yet realize that as they go through life, some people will regard them as second-class citizens because they are female!

And because of the nature of your letter confirming this fact (sent by email to Dr Carole Ford - a highly educated and respected Queensland feminist) their parents and I will see to it, from this moment on, that they are equipped sufficiently to deal with it.

Let’s look at your letter so I can quote you accurately, Max.  How about we take the 3rd paragraph as a sample?

Question: Why don’t you have a go? Answer: Like most women, you probably don’t possess the necessary drive, determination and decisiveness that men innately possess. It’s not a personal criticism; it’s a fact of biology. Where, for example, are the great female explorers, mountaineers, warriors, inventors, chefs? Blokes dominate most areas of human endeavour because Nature equipped them with something called testosterone. That was part of Nature’s grand design to enable men to be stronger, more fearless and more determined than their sisters.  Sorry Carole, fact not fiction.

First of all, you ask a question that could be considered rhetorical, except you seem desperate to answer it yourself. Is this to air your superior knowledge?

If so, in the first part of the airing you make a rather silly gross generalization about ‘most women’ that could not possibly be substantiated by any reliable statistics.

How are we doing Max? My little granddaughters are starting to giggle.

Secondly, you assure Dr Ford that this is not ‘a personal criticism’ but a ‘fact of biology.’

Now at this point, Max I asked the 3 year old to get down a medical encyclopedia.  It seemed to me there might just be confusion in your mind over the difference between biological causation and learnt aspects of personality such as temperament and character. I mean…if it’s a ‘male thing’ to have ‘drive, determination and decisiveness’…why don’t ALL men manifest those qualities and NO women show any signs of them?


But we shouldn’t let YOUR confusion get in the way of your  ‘fact not fiction’ claims, should we!

The 3 year old had great fun finding dozens of examples for you of prominent female explorers, mountaineers, warriors, inventors and chefs, whilst the 18 month old looked at their pictures with a faraway look in her eyes. Would she, I wondered like to follow in the footsteps of the likes of Marie Curie, Samina Baig, Kylie Kwong or the remarkable Aung San Suu Kyi  for instance?

I’ve no wish to go further with your farcical letter or my explanations to these wonderful young granddaughters of mine, Max. They’ve both fallen asleep…bored to sobs with the puerility of your arguments. And no doubt, your vision of the woman’s place being firmly in the labour-ward or the kitchen would no doubt terrify them, given the mother they have and the train set they got for Christmas.

Instead I shall make sure every moment I share with them will be joyful; they shall be stimulated, inspired, supported and feel the compassion as they pursue their interests, search for role models, develop their strengths and overcome challenges.

We shall anticipate – no, by our attitude, command respect from males and return it in kind.

We shall be strong and feminine.

And we shall stride out into the world in confidence, armed sufficiently with the weapons of integrity, civility and intelligence to demonstrate and celebrate our gender.

We wish you no ill will, Max and hope that you use your new-found recreational time wisely in thinking through these things.

May your pomposity vanish and your humility rise.

Nancy, Olivia and Hannah



  1. "Like most women, you probably don’t possess the necessary drive, determination and decisiveness that men innately possess."

    Bizarre. I'm afraid this man is no sacrificial lamb, Nancy. He is still in the Nineteenth Century and the world would be better if he remained there than in his former job and current time.

  2. Yes...I was probably being a bit kind to him Denis, the ignorance is deeply ingrained. I would love to think that he was a one-off misogynist but it will take time and effort to turn things around completely. I DO see encouraging signs though with so many young men today.