When I first started teaching, back in the 1990s, I mainly taught teenagers. It used to grieve me to see so many young women behaving as they and their futures and careers were less important than those of the boyfriends they so desperately wanted. Those experiences coloured my writing, making Sabrina Summers the leader and a character long in development, Autumn Pugh, a potential role model for young adults.
Fast forward almost 30 years, I see another young woman who is highly intelligent, strong, capable and athletic choosing to diminish herself to make her boyfriend feel more important than her. Just as bad, I see him letting her and believing himself to be superior.
Compared to domestic abuse, glass ceilings, sexual abuse, overt sexism in the media and industry and so much more, it may seem like a small thing. In fact, it is fundamental. It is the building blocks of why men and women perceive themselves so differently and why they behave differently to one another.
I’d like to say to this young woman that she is kinder, wiser, harder-working than her boyfriend and that he is lucky, very lucky, to be dating her but I am reasonably certain she will think that it is she who is the lucky one. Yes, there have been great changes in the rights of women and girl in terms of the law, in the opportunities available. Yet, it seems to be, there is still such a huge amount to do in terms of changing our perceptions and self-beliefs. Here’s hoping that International Women’s Day 2018 will be the start of some of those changes.