I could have written that Natalie Barr article


So Twitter and Facebook are having a complete meltdown over this article from Sunrise’s Natalie Barr (there you go Daily Telegraph – another few clicks for you).

And you know what? Three or four years ago I could have and would have written the exact same piece.

Like Nat, I can’t think of a single time I’ve ever experienced discrimination because of my gender. Certainly never in the workplace. And for many, many years I found the whole debate boring. Like Nat, I thought women just needed to get on with things.

‘Stop hating on men!’

‘See, this is why I get on better with guys than girls’ I thought.

I’ve since changed my tune.

I now know that just because I’ve never experienced discrimination or felt marginalised, that doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen.

I now know that without the casual sexism so ubiquitous in our society, the more overt types of sexism would struggle to exist.

I now know that when I am being ‘one of the boys’ – laughing at sexist jokes and telling people to get a sense of humour – I’m part of a pretty big problem.

I now know that feminism is nothing to do with hating men and everything to do with wanting equality.

I also know that men are not the enemy but whether we realise it or not, we live in a highly patriarchal society and this needs to change.

I know all of this because people I respect have listened to my thoughts, respected my thoughts … and then presented their alternate views. These people have educated me about feminism, sexism and discrimination.

Nat Barr started a conversation yesterday.

There are a huge amount of people out there who vehemently disagree with her. And they are delivering their disagreement in typical fashion – biting, sarcastic and patronising.

Good for retweets and shares on Facebook? Sure.

Adding anything useful to the conversation?


And are they doing anything to change the thinking of those who DO agree with Nat and are applauding her for writing the piece.

The answer to that is ‘no’ too.

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  1. says

    Absolutely agree with everything you’ve written… this is exactly the reason why I’ve stopped writing opinion pieces myself – I’m too privileged. I can’t see the world through the eyes of people who suffer discrimination or who are marginalised in some way – so I’ve decided just to shut up!

    I also agree about the people who use abuse and ridicule as an “answer” to ignorance – it’s childish and doesn’t accomplish anything.

    As for me? Well, as I wrote on my blog over the weekend, I’ve decided to get off the treadmill of opinion and outrage. It’s such a waste of time. Most opinion blogs either tell us the bleeding obvious, or make up outrage about issues that aren’t really that important.

    Instead, I want to read about people’s lives. How they live and what they do. If I learn something from what I read, all the better… but unless you’re a world-expert on a subject, just keep your opinion to yourself.

    This is, again, why I enjoy reading your blog. You haven’t voiced an opinion based on some “gut feeling” – you’ve shared a story about your life – about the things you know and the things you’ve learnt. It’s authentic and realistic. That’s the kind of blog I want to deliver as well.

    • says

      Tx so much JJ. I know what Nat wrote was infuriating for many women. But taking the sarcy approach to ‘educating’ her and others that think like her … I just don’t think it achieves anything

    • Doug Scown says

      I understand your reactions. Its natural to become uncomfortable with confrontation. We make the mistake of confusing ideas with people.

      Now, female genital mutiliation and the disgusting depiction of women in the bible as mere chattels aside I would urge each commenter to go to the harvard University website for implicit association. You can all take a range of tests to determine your bias. Interestingly most women are biased in favour of men, most fat people are fattist, most blacks pro white, etc, etc. Culture imprints us so even if you believe you haven’t been discriminated against its no wonder. We don’t ‘think’, we respond according to experience and our cultural story is pro men, anti women, anti gay, pro superstition etc etc.

      I’ll restate – these comments are not meant to be personal but none of you appear to have examined what you are saying.


  2. says

    I really try and avoid delving into opinion these days too. I feel similar to JJ in that I’m a privileged middle-class person just adding to noise but I could not let that one go yesterday. There were too many important issues being trivialised and too many bottom feeders feeling empowered. Fortunately I didn’t see much of the snark – I’m sure there was plenty though!

    • says

      I definitely DEFINITELY get why Nat’s article is driving people nuts for sure. I guess I just know that three years ago, people rolling their eyes at me and telling me I was a dick for thinking that way – that didn’t change my thinking. It was people taking a more measured approach to showing me that while I was lucky not to have experienced discrimination, others weren’t as lucky … and I shouldn’t trivialise their experience because it wasn’t mine.

  3. says

    I’ve never experienced gender related issues or personally know of anyone who has, but it is certainly a less relative issue in country areas as opposed to city and corporate. However, just because I haven’t experienced or witnessed it, does not mean it isn’t a real issue for some.
    I am not a feminist nor do I spruik feminist opinion or values as gospel, I do however believe in equality and equal opportunity for all regardless of gender, race, sexual orientation, religion or any other ‘box’ people get ‘put’ into. That is where the conversation should be focused. Not on ‘man bashing’ or gender focus, but on simple equality for all. Probably not all that simple, but perhaps that is part of the problem – we make it more complicated that it really is.

    • says

      I think sometimes we certainly do make things more complicated than they need to be. In the case of gender discrimination however … I think this is one of those situations where it is pretty complicated. Mainly because gender discrimination is so ingrained in our society, most of us don’t even notice it.

      But it’s a fine line between agitating so much about EVERYTHING that people push back … or react by closing their ears … and agitating enough to effect real change.

      • says

        I understand that but I don’t call myself a Feminist or follow the ‘movement’. My husband also agrees in equality as such stated but he doesn’t call himself a Feminist either. I’ve never been one for labels of any type, I believe they only serve to make organizational hierarchies content. Purely my own opinion of course.

  4. Adele says

    Brilliant, Kelly, as ever. I would add that people disagreeing with Nat by misrepresenting her words are doing the most harm. I didn’t appreciate that she seemed to be making her experience the norm but technically she did acknowledge (briefly!) that gender discrimination does exist for many women. Posts like the mamamia (don’t want to pick on them but …) one that specifically say Natalie Barr “says gender discrimination doesn’t exist” are really not helping move the conversation forward.

    • says

      I think the general tone of Nat’s piece was a little off – and I can see why people have reacted the way they have. But reacting back to her in the same fashion – that doesn’t achieve anything. I didn’t mind Katie’s Mamamia piece actually. I thought she did a fairly good job of maintaining an even tone rather than a patronising one!

  5. says

    So well said. I love men and I am raising a little man. However, we are all a product of a patriarchal society and it is ALL of our jobs to stand up and create change – forge a way into the future where subtle sexism and obviously overt sexism cannot thrive.
    Just because women believe this does not make them man haters or ball busters. Just the fact that we say those things proves my point – we’re not there yet.
    I’m not angry at men in particular. I’m not angry. Frustrated at times, sure. But believe it or not, it’s frustration for men because I believe that they are being oppressed too. I look at my toddler son and wish for him that he can grow up to be any kind of good man that he wants to be, without feeling he has to conform to stereotypes about what it is to be a man and how he should treat women (in a way which diminishes their value).
    I feel all of society will benefit if we recognise what needs changing. I feel disappointed in Natalie Barr’s article but I see why she might come from that place as an individual. I choose not to be mad or stoop to a level which is unbecoming, I just see that this is a great opportunity for everyone to become more educated. I see myself as a feminist. NOT a man hater.

    • says

      Yep I think we’re on the same page. I was a bit disappointed in Nat’s article too … but given I was her not that long ago, I understand where she is coming from.

      But we do need to recognise that we live in a highly patriarchal society right now and things do need to be done to change that. Nat’s article is an opportunity for those who know ‘better’ to educate those that ‘don’t’ … but education needs to be done gently, not sarcastically.

  6. says

    This stuff enrages me… there’s a difference between checking your privilege & offering thoughtful opinion. If writers (generally) can’t distinguish between the two, don’t write; but self-censorship ‘because lucky from birth by postcode’? That’s a whole new level of paternalistic twaddle. Surprised by Carli’s comments given I read & loved her response so much I let her know & RT’d it. I snarked at Natalie Barr (bottom feeder that I am) because she threw women under a bus: ‘wow, cut your whinging, girls’! This from a woman who saw her female colleague shafted (& had the column endorsed by that woman’s younger replacement in the ‘next to the middle-aged bald bloke’ spot on the sofa). I don’t argue with Natalie Barr’s happy experience, but the experience of so many women in broadcast roles is the opposite. As for ‘it’s about equality, not gender’… it is about gender. When Kochie & Mark Beretta’s daily fashion choices are tweeted by ‘Sunrise’, I’ll stop snarking. When you google “Natalie Barr” + “Samantha Armytage” and don’t wade through several pages of ‘how Nat helped Sam shed the kilos’ yarns’, I’ll stop caring.
    I didn’t write about Barr yesterday (except on Twitter) because I can’t relate to her experience, nor did I think she provided a cogent argument. Did my tweets change any minds? Actually… maybe they did. I stood up to one of my followers who stopped her snark (believe me, it goes both ways), & wants to engage with me on the issues in a mutually respectful manner. Result for both of us.
    I’m proud to be a feminist, not a ‘so-called feminist’, ‘bottom feeder’ or part of some mean girl clique who loves tearing another woman down. As I said at the top, it boggles my mind that writers believe because they haven’t experienced something means they shouldn’t/don’t/won’t write about it. It’s not my lived experience, but I found Barr’s comments re: people who take breaks or modify their work hours to parent a throwback to an era I can’t begin to contemplate. I don’t want to work in an atmosphere where parents are made to feel less committed, driven or capable because they want to see their kids school play, or special assembly, or their child is ill – or that because I don’t have children, I don’t have a family life.
    The real, sad outcome of Barr’s column is stuff like this: a rag which uses it to further its ‘gender inequality is a myth’ stance: http://washingtonexaminer.com/australian-anchorwoman-stop-blaming-men-for-your-problems/article/2546014
    Yeh, I’m gonna write about that…

    Kimberley Ramplin

    • says

      Hi Kimberley – just want to clarify by bottom feeder, I meant the dubious men (and a handful of women) on Twitter who felt empowered by what Natalie had written. Not the people who were angry with what she had written. I’m certainly happy to take your opinion on board regarding the writing from privilege stance.

    • says

      Hey Kimberley – I’ve been away hence the late reply. Carli has already clarified her comment and I am not sure from your comment here or from your blog post whether you are angry at my thoughts … or just angry at Nat.

      But I guess all I was trying to say with the above is – people need to know why thoughts such as Nat expressed in her piece are damaging and hurtful to the cause of women in general … but we’re not going to educate people who think like Nat by talking down to them and telling them how stupid they are for thinking that way.

  7. says

    I work on IT and it is a male dominated industry. I wouldn’t say that I have been discriminated against for being female but I have definitely received sexist remarks about my appearance that would never be said to a male in my position. I also find it funny when I meet people that i have just had an email relationship with and they find out I am a woman, as I use Sam all the time, people just presume I am a man.

    • says

      Yep – those sexist remarks are the things I used to laugh away as part and parcel of being ‘one of the boys’. I now know that in accepting those sexist remarks, I am perpetuating a larger problem.

      • says

        I’m the same Sam. I worked in tech all my life and introduce myself as Roby (pronounced Robbie). When they finally meet me in person, I get the look “oh, you’re a girl and you’re Asian.” :)

        Always makes me laugh.

  8. says

    I’m not talking about Nat in particular but I become exceedingly annoyed when completely unqualified ‘celebrities’ voice their uneducated point of view in the media and it’s accepted by the general public as wisdom. Who and what qualifies anyone to be a social/political commentator. It’s the abuse of their power of easy access to the public I feel.

    • says

      Yes – this is danger of our love of opinion pieces. Most people don’t read them as opinion, they read them as gospel. Which means the people wielding these opinions need to think more carefully about what they say and how they say it.

  9. says

    A touchy subject YES! Everyone has different experiences and Nat was just sharing hers and good on her for doing so. People need to remember that this is her story and her thoughts and she does not deserve to get bagged out for doing so. Well written and it is always to get the perspective from others all be it nicely. (we hope)

  10. Di says

    Hey Kelly –

    Thought I’d cruise over and check out your site. What a thought provoking article.

    I’m definitely with you on this one. I too, was oblivious to sexism, and the effects of living in a patriarchal society throughout my 20’s but as I got into my 30’s as a professional woman this clicked into focus hard.

    The first time I became cognizant to it was in a recruiting interview where the (male) recruiter and head of the firm started out by sizing me up with (what is an illegal interview question) by Canadian standards:

    “So? Married? Kids?”

    Wait? Would he have asked this of a man? Somehow, I think not.

    How was this relevant to my skills and abilities? It quickly occurred to me that any answer I gave would be damning. Would I be seen as a half-committed housewife zipping out of the office early? Was I on the hunt for an employer with a better maternity benefits plan? Was he looking for a steely hardened career-woman without ties? Should I tell him I’m divorced? A question otherwise benign in the context of an interview suddenly made every answer a minefield.

    I realized that anything I said that fell outside of his own acceptable reality would taint his opinion of me unfairly.

    Scanning his desk my eyes fell upon a picture his wife and three kids. I smiled warmly and responded “I see you do. Shall we have a look at my portfolio, now?”

    Bullet dodged. Somewhat.

    I could sense he wasn’t pleased that I’d deferred the question.

    There are good guys like my partner, who work overtime to make sure the women employed at his company have a safe, and misogny-free professional environment and then there’s the rest of them that give good guys a bad rap.

    But yes, sexism. It’s real. It’s out there. It needs to change.

    • says

      It is very real. And the disheartening thing I find about it is that some of the people closest to me don’t realise they are indulging in sexist behaviour. And I despair a bit because I think that if I can’t educate the intelligent, nice gentlemen in my life about sexism … we’re a bit screwed as a society!

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