Today is International Women’s Day, celebrating women and promoting equality. As inspiring as the day is, I find it frustrating that the day needs to exist at all. It is born from, and sustained by, inequality of the sexes. My hope is that it won’t be as relevant by the time my daughter is an adult, but I fear that won’t be the case.
When I first considered publishing horror fiction, I contemplated writing under my initials instead of my full given name. A.J. Maher looks far more like a horror writer name. Then I thought harder about it. Some readers won’t consider reading books with gritty topics if they’re obviously written by women. That’s their choice, but if I hid my gender behind initials, I would would be helping support their idea that horror isn’t a woman’s genre, that there’s something wrong with women writing it. Perhaps I’ll lose some sales because of it, but every time a woman refuses to bend under sexism is a step forward. If, on the other hand, a female writer uses her initials purely because she likes the way it sounds, she has my support.
I saw a man on Twitter today arguing against the idea that women shouldn’t have to choose between a career and a family. He had no idea. Now, I fully support women taking time off work to raise their children. I’m doing that myself. The real issue is how women are treated when they are ready to return to the workplace. That’s where it can truly be a choice between career or family. I’ve seen a man take a year of sabbatical leave, and return to his old position with no issues. I’ve seen a woman take the same length of maternity leave, only to find out the person who had been filling in for her would be retaining the position. The mother was then faced with working in a job she wasn’t fully trained for, in a facility that was a much farther commute away, for longer hours, or, resign. She resigned. The job she had put so much effort into had been stripped away from her with no consultation. The man on Twitter clearly had no experience with this sort of situation, but even worse was his refusal to listen to someone that did.
Today is a day to recognise true inequality and do what we can to confront it. Bring attention to the issues that matter to you. Tell your stories. Don’t conform to gender stereotypes if that isn’t the person you are. If a man (or woman) is being sexist, tell them and explain why. Perhaps you won’t have any impact, but it will be worth it if you do. Be brave, be strong, and make choices based on WHO you are. And fight for women to have the same opportunities, choices and salaries as their male counterparts.