Making something that was invisible, visible, is the first step in addressing changes that might need to be made. We know this inside out when it comes to equity, inclusion, justice and rights. Once you have heard or seen something it is hard to un-see and un-hear. The cloak of invisibility falls and what is revealed is there for all to see.
The gender data gap has been pre-occupying me of late in the public domain. Invisible Women a new book by Caroline Criado Perez is essential reading if you want to get schooled in the way gender data gaps are impacting on women, some are lethal. Addressing systemic, consistent and invisible bias is all about fixing the system, not fixing women. This is in the public domain, the structural and functional experience of exclusion. We all know it, we all see it and yet somehow when we don’t fit in we try and fix the person – it has always been at the heart of my social work practice and deeply rooted in my feminist approach to the world. Why do we have to constantly fit in with what is there … what is there isn’t working for everyone? Surely it is reasonable to expect gender equality, if not equity in data?
I was at a company directors course this week increasing my financial literacy. It was very helpful to get the formulas and learn how to apply them to balance sheets and cash flow data. The educator was an expert in his field and my fellow learners all committed and experienced governors in their various boards. I left uneasy though. Every example used referenced a man, every time a woman was mentioned there was a slight taint, a couple of times almost derision (one example was the female partner in a couple wanted to spend her dividend on home and holidays not reinvesting in the business), and a question I raised in private about application of a gender lens in decision-making practices was responded to about gender balance on boards – completely missing the point and thereby showing me the person concerned didn’t understand my question. A woman in the conversation knew exactly what I was talking about – bingo – unconscious bias right there, writ large. I am so curious about how it is second nature for me to apply my gender lens in these situations, but quite often find myself wanting in personal circumstances. It is such an easy default to fall into old patterns and rest in the invisibility. It takes work to keep showing up, to being reasonable when that is not what you want to be; and some days I am just tired of calling out inequity and inequality.
Becoming visible is courageous. To step out of the shadows and into the light and to be able to be seen isn’t for everyone – but what is for everyone, is the right and access to be seen and heard – their truth, their experience, their wisdom. The feminist adage the personal is political comes into its own when visibility arrives.
Showing up day after day is something else.
I am missing phone calls, not returning emails or responding to texts. I am behind in my responsiveness. I am making choices about what I can and can’t contain. I am working on protecting the asset as Greg McKeown talks about in Essentialism . This too is an inside and outside job. I am actually working on protecting my physical assets at the moment, getting my property ready for sale, liberating myself of items and issues that weigh me down, redistributing time, resources and talents to what is important to me right now. This seems totally reasonable to me (although others might find me being unreasonable, having been so used to my reliability).
I have a challenge before me that is like a dog yapping at my feet. I am constantly falling over it and being tripped up. The challenge I have is to untangle myself from the lead of the dog and to decide in doing that whether that will set both me and the dog free? And like the never ending efforts required in feminism to bring visibility it is tiring and even at moments tiresome. You cannot make all things right, not even most things, but there are some things you can make right, and surrender is not something I am willing to do.
The constant see-saw of living with pain in the present and being open to joy in every moment is the way and find ways to squeeze wisdom from the intersection. Being at the intersection of fixing self and system on the see-saw is spark making, trust building and forecasting peace. In the meantime though there are the ups and downs. It is perhaps too why the Serenity Prayer is often only quoted as the first line and reasonable happiness is what is being requested as the means to serenity – not profound unbridled happiness – reasonable happiness. The kind of happiness within reason of the hardships and things you cannot change. I am reasonably happy. Many people talk about being in their happy place and I am discovering happy places can be found in me.
Reasonable happiness sounds very stoic to me … just thinking in the tougher times, I would like a few more sparks and sparky moments and perhaps it is OK to desire an occasional flash of unreasonable happiness in the public and private domains.