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'How do I tell my daughters they'll never have the same opportunities as their brother?'

But can we?

By LIZ LOPA

There are many things I can’t be. Many things I can’t do. And many things I will never see.

But none of this is because I am a woman.

I will never be a brain surgeon. My brain is not equipped.

I will never climb Mt Everest. My body is not appropriately designed (and my spirit not willing)

And I will never see all the countries of the world. My bank account and time are not on my side.

But none of this is because I am a woman.

You see, all my life I have firmly believed that I can do anything I want to do, be anything I want to be and while a lack of talent or ability might hold me back, I would never be held back because I have a vagina (yep, I used the word).

But this week I am starting to believe that being a woman is a disadvantage.

I have always been scornful of women who behave as if being a woman is a disability to be overcome. Things like affirmative action have never sat comfortably with me as I have always believed that women can succeed on the basis of being smart and capable and getting positions on the basis of being a woman only gives men more opportunity to dismiss you.

I have always viewed being a woman as a strength. I have felt powerful. I mean look at us – we produce the next generation, we play the main role in moulding them (usually), we work, we have the innate ability to form unbelievable friendships and create deep and lasting connections, we are smart, savvy and formidable.

Liz and her bubba.

We are women – hear us roar!

But this week that collective roar may as well be a whimper as this country showed how appallingly we can treat women. And in particular our female Prime Minister.

I celebrated when we got our first female PM. I remember on the day strapping my baby daughter into the Baby Bjourn and going to stand at the gates of government house to wave to her. I was filled with pride as I again donned the baby and handed out how to votes for my local member at the election. When my second baby daughter arrived last year, I told her how lucky she was to be born in Australia in 2012 with so many women in leadership positions.

Now I am glad my daughters and my son are not old enough to understand what is going on.

This week there has been a public, nationwide debate about the PM’s body including crude references to her vagina (sorry, did it again), her breasts and legs. She has been repeatedly asked by a radio announcer whether he partner is gay – despite them living in a loving, committed relationship and she has been criticized for starting a gender war over her comments about men in power and the need for women’s voices in government. To add to that two high profile rape and murder cases have been in court – two woman who were walking alone and were brutally raped and murdered by men, one of whom was a known sexual predator and out on parole. Oh – and just for good measure the Army has been handing around explicit and sexist images of women – but no surprise there!

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The truth of the matter – and it has hit me like a mack truck this week – is that while I have never thought being a woman has held me back and in its purest form, it is illegal for it to do so – many women will never do what they want to do nor achieve what they want to achieve and it is all because they are a woman.

I thought that this would be a step forward for women.

Now I am just going to put my head down on my computer keyboard and cry.

For while I believed electing a female Prime Minister would be a step forward for women, all it is has done is show us up for what we really are – a nation dominated by sexist, misogynistic men. You may argue the fact that a woman made it to PM shows this not to be the case, but it is not the getting there that counts it is the way we have treated her since she has been there. I do not think prime minister’s should be immune from criticism – but it is the personal attacks and the tone of the criticism that has appalled me. I mean there has never been a comment in the mainstream media about the size of Tony Abbott’s penis in his Speedos – and nor should there be – but it would just never happen. Nor would he ever be asked if his wife was a lesbian.

No – this week my unshakeable belief that having a vagina doesn’t hold you back has been shaken. I can’t bring myself to tell my daughters the truth of the matter. I mean how do you tell those little girls that the fact they will never have the same opportunities as their brother? How can I look them in the eye and tell them they might never be what they want to be because they are a woman?

The fact is, I won’t.

I will bring them up to believe in themselves and their gender in the hope that they and their fellow women and men will change the culture of this country. And for when that inevitable blow comes, I hope they have a will of iron and a strength like no other. For while they might make it to Prime Minister the evidence is that people will treat them like shit when they get there – all because they are a woman.

Liz Lopa is a stay at home mum to three kids 4 and under, who was once told she could never have children! Currently on maternity leave, Liz used to work as a political staffer to ACT Labor. Born and raised in Canberra – with dalliances in Tamworth and Sydney –  Liz now finds time to write between nappies, wet beds, preschool runs and swimming lessons. Peace is rocking the baby to sleep in the rocking chair!

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