People are binary thinkers. They revel in the use of or.

  • You can be smart or you can be popular.
  • You can be a tall woman or you can be pretty.
  • You can be masculine or you can be a good parent.

It’s ridiculous to consider these things mutually exclusive, although some people do. And if we think about it, we can easily access counterexamples which prove “and” is possible in these instances.

I enjoyed this article by Katy Brand. In it, she addresses sexism and the people who sometimes unwittingly perpetuate it (including a man she once dated). She opens with a vignette about a wedding toast, and closes with a nod to Australia’s Prime Minister Julia Gillard, the main subject of the piece:

Much has been made of Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard’s fantastic response to opposition leader Tony Abbott when he rather ironically accused her of defending sexism in the government. If you haven’t read it, please do.

She brought up good points, but I think she undermined them when she wrote, albeit tongue-in-cheek:

So I say balls to femininity – I want to grow a pair as big as Gillard’s.

I don’t think it helps the cause of feminism (the movement to end sexist oppression) to affix male-centered traits to a woman resisting sexism and misogyny.  In her piece, Brand explains the challenges of femininity,  but it would’ve been more in line with her point to say women can be feminine and {insert amazing things often excluded from the feminine label}.

The PM can have a “magnificent rant” and we can applaud her without noting the “balls” it took to do it.

Prime Minister Julia Gillard speaks her mind with authority!
Prime Minister Julia Gillard speaks her mind with authority!

I’ve seen the rant. (You want to see it, too). It truly is magnificent. And because she’s standing face to face with the very leader she rebukes, while a room full of people look on, one might also call her gutsy or brave.

Because she remains undaunted while Abbot smirks and laughs in response, you might say she was steadfast.

The PM backed up her assertions with direct quotes from Abbot’s record, so her rant was well-reasoned and  clear-minded.

She minced no words. She pulled no punches. She was fierce and direct.

Really she was awesome, and I was inspired that she fought back.

I did not see balls. I did see a feminine woman AND I saw bravery and rationality and a badass speech.

The magic of “and.”

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