THE Surf Coast Shire’s International Women’s Day event last week took an interesting turn early on, as panellists debated the usefulness of the day’s global theme “balance for better”.
Held at the Aireys Inlet Community Centre, the event had a panel featuring feminist and author Clementine Ford, Business in Heels’ Jo Plummer and Vanessa Schernickau from the Great Ocean Road Coast Committee and attracted a sell-out crowd of about 160 people.
Shire mayor Rose Hodge noted the “balance for better” theme – which refers to the efforts to build a gender-balanced world – and first asked her fellow panellists what it meant to them in their professional lives.
“I hate the theme ‘balance for better’. I don’t even know what it means, and I’m not trying to be funny,” Ms Ford replied.
“It honestly to me sounds like something wishy-washy, like a slogan that enters one ear and goes out the other and actually requires no change and no discomfort on the part of the person hearing it.
“It articulates this ongoing problem we have in the battle for gender equality of trying to make it so nice all the time… what are we asking for? ‘Oh, we just want it to be a bit better’.
“I don’t want it to be better; I want it to be equal! I want women to not live in fear of their lives, I want women to be believed when they talk about the violence they experience.”
Ms Schernickau quipped that the “balance for better” theme “probably means Pilates and pelvic floor exercises”, but said workplaces had a responsibility to be safe and welcoming.
“Does your workplace actually represent the community? Does it have gender balance? Is it diverse in other ways as well?”
Ms Plummer said it was important for people in the corporate world “to be able to have these sort of meaningless slogans and to be able to have the conversation and to talk about: well, why?”
“Better for who, better how? What does that mean?”