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lip lit: sydney writers’ festival—‘why women should rule the world’

(Credit: Penguin Australia)

(Credit: Penguin Australia)

This is a review of a session held at the 2016 Sydney Writers’ Festival. 

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It’s not often that you’re able to sit in a room filled with proudly self-proclaimed feminists, listening to a panel of admirable and notable female authors, thinkers and activists describe exactly why you should have the right to rule the world. This week, I was given the privilege to do exactly that. As part of the Sydney Writer’s Festival, Gloria Steinem, Ira Trivedi and Laura Tingle had the audience hanging off their every word in their panel discussion, hosted by George Megalogenis: Why Women Should Rule the World.

The panel opened with a simple yet commanding quote from Warren Buffet: ‘The key to the future is equality for women in the workplace.’ From there, the three speakers went on to discuss issues ranging from the role of women in both public and private spheres, the meaning of social power, and India’s sexual revolution. The stage was set for an engrossing foray into feminist discourse across continents.

A topic that was particularly prevalent throughout the panel was the use of semantics when discussing the role of women, both in the domestic and professionals arenas. Tingle pointed out, to the adulation of the audience, that much of women’s struggle lies in how we perceive ourselves, and therefore how we sculpt our sons’ perception of their own identities. Steinem added that men, for the most part, are raised by women, and therefore the idea of femininity can be indirectly related to childhood, and a sense of emasculation. She brought home the point that men react so childishly toward the prospect of female leaders, or women in power, as it harks back to the rebellious teenage years of their youth, when they defied their mothers’ orders.

This conversation segued into an analysis of the current most prominent political example of female power: the American presidential race. Steinem, unsurprisingly, took a few minutes to discuss the importance of Hillary Clinton’s candidacy. It became clear throughout the discussion that the need for women in power—be it a female-identifying CEO or Commander in Chief—has reached its peak, given the mounting animosity towards women who dare defy their places in the kitchen. At this point, Trivedi pointed out an interesting phenomenon currently occurring in India. There has been a rise in the number of females in power, with more women politicians in high-ranking positions than ever before, she said. However, she countered the popular idea that ‘women can have it all’, pointing out that not a single one of these high-ranking women have children or families.

Following this, the three women dissected the situation to discover exactly why this is. The conclusion reached was that in order to occupy, and successfully maintain, positions of power, women must ‘de-sex’ themselves, and give up their rights of fertility and ownership of the powers their bodies possess. Only this way could they become ‘one of the boys’ and participate in the games that men play—finances, politics and business.

The discussion came to a close on a sobering note. Trivedi pointed out that in today’s media, women are being told to ‘fix themselves’ before they attempt to fix the society in which they live. To this end, in India, more Fair and Lovely (skin-lightening) cream is sold than cans of Coca Cola. When this is the case, we as women need to turn away from the mirrors and our own insecurities (that are being marketed to us alongside a serving of SkinnyMe detox anti-bloating tea), and turn to amend the patriarchal society that men have fashioned for us. Just a few of the reasons that women really should rule the world.

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