What women don't talk about: The gender divide

‘Yes we all have jobs, but how many of us are still expected to do everything else, and are those jobs well paid?’

Whether it’s a family issue, a health concern or a career crisis, women are experts at brushing off all manner of worries with two little words: ‘I’m fine’.
So NEXT deputy editor Emma Clifton invited a group of women to gather for lunch, laughter and candid chatter on the sort of topics we all think about but often sweep aside.
Over rose and platters at a central Auckland restaurant, NEXT writers Nicky Pellegrino, Kylie Bailey, Deborah Hill Cone and lifestyle coach Sarah Laurie covered everything from social media and parenting pressures, to navigating menopause and negotiating a pay rise.
While the opinions sometimes differed, the consensus was the same: these are issues all modern women face, and usually keep to ourselves – but we shouldn’t be afraid of starting a conversation.
Today, we talk about...the gender divide
Emma: Do you think it’s harder to be a woman in this generation?
Nicky: I think it’s harder because I think feminism has only partly worked. I think it’s stalled slightly. Although, seeing all those women in Washington and having that dialogue happening again, I wonder if it might restart because of that. Maybe the upside of Trump is people will galvanise. I feel as though, yes we all have jobs, but how many of us are still expected to do everything else, and are those jobs well paid? And are we still supposed to be teetering in our high heels?
Deborah: Can I put in a word for men? I think men get a terrible deal actually.
Nicky: (to Deborah) No they don’t!
Deborah: I think they do. I have a son so I’m very aware of what messages he’s getting. As a man, you’re still supposed to be tough, you’re supposed to be really successful, you’re not really allowed to show your feelings at all. I think men have a terribly hard time, and I worry for boys growing up.
Sarah: I once saw a family at the airport saying goodbye; the father hugged his little girls and when the son reached out to get his hug, the dad shook his hand. It broke my heart. He would have only been about six.
Nicky: But to succeed, women have had to become more like men.
Deborah: That’s not good either, I agree with you.
Kylie: It’s true, being a woman in business or to climb that ladder, you very much have to put on a testosterone suit with a pair of heels. And how is that working out for us?
Emma: Are men also discouraged from showing vulnerability?
Nicky: I think nobody’s meant to be vulnerable. I don’t think it’s acceptable for women to be vulnerable either.
Kylie: As a society, we don’t hold that as a value, do we?
Deborah: Our society now values independence. If you go back 4.4 million years, it was the opposite. We needed each other, we needed our family. These days you get approval for being totally independent – it’s like ‘look at you, you’re so independent.’ Our society has changed so much in the past 50 years, we’re not really made for the world we live in now.
Nicky: I think you can find a man who enjoys your independence, but he won’t necessarily be the same man who enjoys your vulnerability! My husband likes that I’m independent and have my own life, but he doesn’t like it when I break, in any way shape or form. He doesn’t deal with it – he needs me to be that person he thinks I am.
Sarah: My husband struggles when I’m not coping. It’s like he just wants to stick his head in the sand and then peep out and say ‘are you okay now?’ One of the things women are supposedly good at, whether this is a good thing or not, is that we endure. Men are physically strong, women have endurance. We just never stop, it’s always go go go.
Words: Emma Clifton
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