Yes, I’m that kind of woman

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My jaw dropped to the floor. I was explaining to the scouts leader that my son couldn’t make to the excursion because I was travelling for work and she hit me with “it’s ok, you are one of those women.” I couldn’t find words to express my surprise but it didn’t matter anyway because whatever I say in these situations I never win. It’s frustrating that mothers are constantly judged for their choices, even by other women. If I’m around career focused women I’m just a part-timer. In stay-at-home mum circles, I’m a type A. It feels like women must be penalised for their freedom to choose.

I often think of my mum and the options she had when she got married and had children. Not many. But thanks to the pioneering women that fought and continue to fight for gender equality we can now celebrate that many of us have choices. We are free to commit to marriage or singlehood, pursue a career, get a degree – with or without children. Our focus, however, shouldn’t be on the choices women make but on enabling all women to be in a position to choose. Once we reach a critical mass of females empowered by choice, we as a society will be less critical of the paths that each of us choose.

So yes Mrs scouts leader, I’m one of those women lucky enough to have been able to decide. A woman with a couple of degrees and two decades of work experience. A woman who believes that females are as capable as males in the workforce and outside and that curbing their enthusiasm to pursue a successful career is a disfavour to the sisterhood.

But I’m also one of those women that are big fans of childhood. A grown up that loves children’s birthday parties. A mum that loves to hate the homework dramas, the school run in the morning, the sibling quibbling, the lego pieces scattered everywhere, the healthy lunch boxes that return home untouched.

I’m one of those women that want both worlds but that derailed her career to focus on the family – for childhood is too short. A woman who believes that there is no right or wrong choice, that we each have our individual motivations and belief systems and should be encouraged to make decisions based on what meets our needs more closely.

Ultimately, I’m a woman who thinks that educated women and men should extend their attention to the women that have little or no choices. As a society we should put our energy on creating the conditions to allow every women to be able to choose. Choice should not be restricted to educated white females that are lucky enough to find supportive employers and partners.

Next time you meet someone that chose a path different to yours try not to judge. Instead, celebrate that given the opportunity, women can be any kind of woman they want to be.

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300 Words on Privilege

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Privilege: I’ve never had as much toys, books and gadgets as my kids have.

I struggle. I work hard. But I feel immensely privileged. I had the chance to choose whether to leave Brazil, my home country, and restart my life in a developed nation. There are close to 60 million people around the world that had to flee their homes due to war or persecution – they have nowhere to go, they have no choice. I was in a position to choose because I was born in a middle class family that knew the value of a good education. I had access to good schools and university and was able to qualify for a place in the skilled migration program. Of course I had to work hard to get there but my chances of having that opportunity would have been slim had I not had the privilege of my upbringing.

Until a few years ago I didn’t see most of my privileges as such – we don’t go through life looking for signs that we have more advantages than others, sometimes we even turn a blind eye. It can be very confronting to realise and acknowledge that many of our achievements in life are not attributed to us solely on merit. It can also be overwhelming because we are limited in what we can do as individuals to give others the rights they equally deserve. We can’t transfer or share a privilege with another person. As an individual I can’t give refugees the right to come and go, or an able body to a person with a physical disability, or shield social groups from prejudice.

It can be uncomfortable to become aware of our privileges and the inequalities that they create but it can also make us compassionate with ourselves we are all denied some privileges too and more empathetical towards other people’s suffering and misfortunes. Awareness can also help us stand up for equality and support policies that give everyone access to the resources they need and deserve.