A blog post about New Zealand’s Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern, has been doing the rounds on social media, and at a glance it’s great.
“She’s 37. She’s the youngest female head of government in the world. She’s also the first western woman to give birth while in power.”
But then with just one line it loses the point it’s trying to make.
The blog refers to a photo on the post and introduces Ardern’s partner:
“This is her and her partner, no, he’s NOT her husband (gasp!), walking to the press conference.”
So far so good, but then this:
“He’s TV fishing show Host Clarke Gayford, and HE will be staying at home with baby Neve when his lady goes back to running the country in six weeks.”
Wait. What? HIS LADY?
And with those two words the power of this post completely loses its mark for me.
“His lady” somehow implies an essence of gentility, someone who needs protection. Exactly the opposite of what the post was saying.
But as a woman I find we do this all the time. And I’m certainly not immune.
Recently we were on holiday in Broome, Western Australia, known for its long pearling history. We decided to go on a tour to a pearl farm to find out more. Before we’d left home I’d mentioned to Michael, my husband, that I’d like to have a look and maybe buy a pearl necklace. So when we found one we both really liked we bought it.
A couple of days later on another trip we got talking to some other tourists who were also keen on doing a pearl farm trip.
The bus driver (a woman) chipped in: “… and then you can buy your wife a beautiful pearl!”
Immediately one of the husbands turned to me and asked (kind of sarcastically): “… and did your husband buy you a pearl?”
Without a second thought I quickly answered: “He did, actually.”
Within seconds Michael turned to me and said: “But I didn’t, we bought it together.”
Immediately I realised I’d made myself sound inferior, unable to do something for myself. I was instantly “his lady”.
Of course I should have said: “Actually, no mate, I bought myself one!”
But then I’d have looked rude, arrogant and not at all ladylike!
The Ardern blog ends: “And because Women. We really do know how to lead, and to do it well.”
We do. And we also know how to undermine ourselves and we do it far too often.