opinion

'In one night, I learned the biggest tell tale sign that a man is not a feminist.'

I don’t live in a very corporate world, in fact I live mostly in a coffee shop and my bed (#freelancerlyfe), but I like to think I’m across what is happening in the real working world.

I talk to lots of people, I’m across social media and my husband comes home from Corporate Land every evening and little bits of his day rub off on me. The thing is sometimes he asks me to step into this corporate world with him into an environment that is so very different to my everyday life I’m not quite sure I belong.

The thought of entering this world can be a little daunting, it’s easy to feel anonymous when you join a group of people who all who know each other and where your identity almost doesn’t exist.

But I was convinced that most people, even in my husband’s world, understood that we no longer live in the 1950s and that feminism had made its mark and brought, at least the idea of equality, to the man on the street.

Listen: Tracey Spicer, on why the sexist 1950s corporate culture is still embedded in Australian media today. Post continues after audio. 

I was sure that in most good company my input would be valued as highly my husband’s.

That is until recently, when we went to a swanky dinner event full of people from his world of work. It was a charity fundraiser so, to some extent, you could forgive us being involved in this ostentatious show of eating a meal.

We were making a donation to charity – at least that’s what I told myself when I got a spray tan and put on high heels to go for dinner on a Sunday evening when I would far rather have been at home scrambling an egg in my pyjamas.

The dinner was attended by around 200 people which necessitated sitting at really long tables; the kind of arrangement that makes an introvert like me want to inhale happy gas just to pretend I am somewhere else. I knew three people at the table including my husband.

And it got worse.

Because it was impossible to talk to everyone at the table (I thought this was a good thing), the person hosting this bunch of strangers suggested that at set points during the evening the men stand and move two seats to the left.

Image: Lionsgate.

Basically he was turning the table into what seemed like a game of speed dating.

I was a bit anxious about starting up conversations with strangers but I’m 49 years old and a competent and knowledgeable woman, current affairs are my thing and I actually like listening to people and hearing about their lives – I could do this talking thing.

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I won’t bore you with details of every conversation I endured but let me assure you; there was more listening than talking involved.

I had the opportunity to meet five successful and wealthy men I had never met before, I know they are wealthy and successful because they all managed to weave this into conversation. I know what they do for a living, and the work they have done that may sound the most impressive to a woman they are forced next to at a speed meeting charity dinner.

Not one person I spoke to asked me what I did for a living. Not one. The most polite ones asked if I had children – clearly having a uterus means I am capable of bearing a child, not doing much more. The people who knew my husband asked questions about his work.

I know it’s a very small sample size of people but it really struck me that maybe I didn’t understand men who work in male dominated corporate environments at all.

The fact that I was a woman was the only thing they learned about me, and that I was married to someone at their table.

When I eventually gave up all illusion of manners and walked away from the man telling me about his financial advisor I went to sit with my husband on the other side of the table. He introduced me to the woman next to him and filled me in with details about the recruitment business she had just started.

I would never be so naïve as to end a column with #notallmen but I cannot tell you how relieved I was that there was at least one man at the table who actually spoke to the woman seated next to him like he would have spoken to anyone else. And the best part was that I got to home with him that night.

It sits heavy with me that in 2017 there are women sitting around the table who are still invisible but for their capacity to bear children and to marry men who work.

I look at stories about Harvey Weinstein and harassment in the work place in a very different light since that night. Sadly it’s with even more terror.

Listen to Mia Freedman's full interview with Tracey Spicer, about her mission to infiltrate the The Boys Club, below. Post continues after audio. 


But we’ve come a long way. I wasn’t quiet about my feelings on the night. When asked about my children I told people that not only did I have a child but I had work and a life outside of my husband and son.

And when I got home to my son I debriefed with him and told him how terrible it felt to be treated as if I was less because I didn’t have a penis.

His outrage and surprise offers me hope – the next generation is going to be different.

I don’t think we have to be different as women, I don’t think it’s our responsibility to school men and to wake them up to the idea of equality – but I do think its incumbent on us not just to raise strong girls, but to raise strong boys, boys who listen, respect and learn from all the people around them.

I hope that whatever world my son lives in, it’s one where equality is taken for granted.

Lana Hirschowitz is kind of a worrier who is trying very hard to transform into a kindness warrior. It remains a work in progress. In between worrying (and reminding people to be kind) she espouses her opinion on most things on Facebook here.

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