Thoughts about hr and management in the real world – extra information I couldn't fit in my books!.
Lots of people had told me to watch the Emma Watson UN speech – so I finally went and watched it. On the same day an article about a Batman t-shirt showed up in my Facebook feed, so I read it. Strangely I found these two things were oddly linked.
Emma Watson spoke about a new UN initiative called HeforShe. This is not about feminism being a female issue, but actually about both men and women working together for equity. Men are being affected by the changing gender balance in our workplaces too so it’s about working together. HeforShe.
The Batman t-shirt was found at Walmart and said ‘In training to be Batman’s wife’ in pink writing. The article was about the protests from parents this had caused. It also said other t-shirt options at a Canadian store were ‘I only date superheroes’ or for the boys ‘Future Man of Steel”. The article talked about how wrong this was. Both DC and Marvel Comics had come under fire and responded that it was not good. They have a lot of female super heroes and so are reviewing who they let use their brands.
Then I read the comments
What was interesting was the comments people made at the bottom of the article. The majority of people were saying things like ‘This is just a t-shirt, if you don’t like it, don’t buy it’. There was also a bit of feminist slagging going on and general comments that this type of issue wasn’t an issue. It was just a t-shirt.
Now it is just a t-shirt
And in some way I agreed. But then I realised why it annoyed me. I realised that the only choices for the ‘girl’ t-shirts were showing that girls could only date or be superheroes wives. There was no ‘In training to be Wonder Woman’s husband’ or ‘I only date super women’. There was also no ‘Future Super Woman’. So it wasn’t just like it was a t-shirt amongst others, it was the ONLY t-shirt. And that means there is no equality of choice.
But if you don’t like, don’t buy it or don’t shop there
This was the second comment lots of people made and again at first I agreed. But then with my HR experience I realised that this argument has one fatal flaw. It’s like if you went to work for a company and there was a manager who had ‘busy fingers’ and touched people inappropriately (and yes, I have worked with him).
You could resign and go and work somewhere else, or try and transfer out of that team.
But the manager will continue with his busy fingers!!
If no-one raises that there is any issue with his behavoiur, he’ll keep doing it until one day the company gets sued – not to mention the many women who were uncomfortable and offended by the behaviour. If no-one raises an issue with the t-shirt, then we’ll continue to have inequality for women and t-shirts that only show women can date or marry superheroes, but not be one. It is these small things like a t-shirt that make a difference.
What was very heartening was the #nzlead chat on Thursday night (where HR people from all over the world come together over Twitter and discuss a different topic each week) was about why women weren’t in more senior positions. And even though it was a woman’s issue – half the people participating were men. If we want to create change, we each have to do something about it ourselves. What will you do?
To watch Emma Watson’s speech: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p-iFl4qhBsE
To read the Batman t-shirt article: http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation-now/2014/10/03/sexist-superhero-shirts/16638283/
For more about #nzlead visit www.nzlead.com