Why The Women's March Should Stay About Women And Not Be Focused On Men

24/01/2017 12:58

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Photo credit: www.gettyimages.co.uk

Political intentions of the march aside, the momentous union that took place in major cities signified something even more important. That women everywhere are feeling ominously undermined despite such advances in the workplace, commercially and politically.

As a woman that believes in the power of education for social independence of girls worldwide, I feel that a necessary component of that is female unity. However, I am faced with many examples of the opposite of unification in my daily work with the general public.

As a doctor I have faced many challenges in my own career. I will always value the incredible women and men that have supported me. But I have experienced prejudice and challenges from men and women entirely equally, despite having worked in male dominated surgical specialities.

My intention for my job is not about promoting vanity, insecurity and superficiality but I do accept that it is seen that way. Many people involved in the beauty industry including colleagues, media and consumers feed the negativity that can often be associated with the perceived pursuit of beauty and prey on insecurities for commercial gain.

My primary aim is to help anyone, irrespective of gender, to achieve improved self-esteem and self-confidence. These relationships with ourselves are vulnerable and fragile in a modern society that values popularity and appearance over authenticity and individuality. These cultural values have an insidious impact, start young and are mainly passed from female to female in friendship groups and overt advertising. I also see it passed down in generations where I treat mothers and daughters and even granddaughters that are stricken with self-confidence issues related to their physical appearance.

Sadly, I see young girls who are almost entirely defining themselves by their appearance and this is inextricably linked to their relationships, opportunities and early careers. They believe that by having bigger lips and fuller breasts for instance, it will solve their internal problems because they will look more like their friends.

I observe women in their 20s and 30s unknowingly competing with their girlfriends on a Saturday night after their regular session with their make-up artist and hairdresser. Many of these women are making more effort to go out with friends at a weekend than their mothers or older sisters made on their own wedding day. And for whom? The men? How many times have we heard that men prefer women with less make-up and that old adage that women truly dress not to impress men, but to impact other women?

What about the mothers stood in the playground feeling ostracised and self-conscious by other mothers because they are not glamorous enough for the school run? Then there are the women who feel threatened in the workplace and judge other women more aggressively than they do their male counterparts.

Women in their 50s who start to feel invisible and isolated after the menopause and are afraid to confide in their friends for fear of judgment of struggling with their symptoms - common menopausal symptoms like anxiety and in some cases depression.

I hear stories like these every day I go to work and I may see up to twenty women each day from completely different backgrounds. Some, but few discuss how men undermine or diminish them, be it in a relationship or at work. But that is more apparent. More tangible. It inspires women to unite. It can be objectified and for those living in a developed democracy it can hopefully give us something to fight for - or against. I have experienced minor aspects of this myself and it can be very difficult to fight against.

Whereas the majority of the discouragement and suppression may be due to other females as per the examples above, yet this is somehow more acceptable? It is minimised and excused as pack mentality or group think amongst 'friends' and 'colleagues'.

The fact is both matter. How men treat women and how women treat women. Of course women deserve equal pay, equal rights, the opportunity for education, sexual respect, liberation and a radical overhaul of rape legislation. The march helps shine the spotlight on the desperately needed work to be done to achieve this worldwide. The great women that have worked so tirelessly before us did so not just against men but also to promote female solidarity. Unfortunately many of the current women in the public eye that are hailed to be role models have not always promoted and encouraged these messages.

Women need to want better for themselves in terms of their self-esteem. Yes I am a doctor working in a shallow marketplace and I frequently feel very alone when the focus can seem to be on the superficial. The focus should be to empower ourselves, to work together to support authenticity and celebrating individuality more than fighting others.

As the longest serving First Lady of the United States, Eleanor Roosevelt famously said:

"No one can make you feel inferior without your consent."

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