Channel Seven’s Natalie Barr, 46, a reporter for breakfast show Sunrise, says that gender discrimination doesn’t exist because she’s had a lovely time building her career sexism-free.
In a column for The Daily Telegraph, the reporter opens with a simple missive: “Hey ladies, men aren’t the enemy.” She continues, “Am I the only woman who’s not angry at men? I’m a woman and I have never felt discriminated against.”
What follows is an outline of Barr’s professional career, neatly laid out as evidence that gender discrimination doesn’t exist. She’s followed a pretty standard trajectory for a person in media, starting with internships, taking what work she could get, moving her way up the ranks with dedication and talent, finally scoring a great role. According to Barr, in the 20 years she’s been at Channel Seven, she hasn’t felt “undervalued” or “ripped off”.
“I’m not angry at men. I can’t remember being passed over for a promotion because of a man and I have never felt undervalued because I’m a woman,” she said.
Which is terrific news for Nat Barr.
She’s survived several decades in television; an industry that’s notorious for under-paying and over-exposing its female employees.
But, really, one prominent woman’s career-long streak of good luck does not prove that gender discrimination is over. And it’s dangerous to suggest that it is.
Sure, Barr is entitled to give the men she works with an enthusiastic thumbs-up for treating her nicely for so long (seriously, it’s wonderful that she’s been lucky enough to work with such a supportive, great group of blokes).
But this column isn’t just a personal story, it’s a tidy essay that implies any woman who speaks about gender discrimination is a man-hater. And that’s not fair.
The column seems to confuse the act of speaking up about being treated unfairly on the basis of being a woman with misandry.
As feminists, we have to be so careful with our language and the lines we use to draw our gendered battles. It’s important that it’s clear: men aren’t the enemy. Inequality is the enemy – and we’d much rather have men beside us in the fight.
Barr writes, “I’m starting to wonder if many of us need to find a better drum to beat than the one that blames men for most of our problems… Isn’t it time we took some ownership? If a man got a job ahead of you, was it because he was better? That can’t be impossible… Can it? Should we be brutally honest with ouselves and ask if we need to change the way we approach things?”
And the last line: “I just don’t think “us” against “them” helps anybody in the long run.”
Here, Barr seems to imply that when women call out sexism or discrimination in their workplace, they’re responsible for creating a Men versus Women culture. It vastly misrepresents the fight against discrimination by implying that talking about inequality is the same thing as blaming men, which misses the point of our continuing feminist efforts to address real things like the gender pay gap and underrepresentation of women in key industries.