By Caroline Holmstrom, Founder, Corporate Sustainability Australia
Seriously. I hadn’t heard this phrase since the 1970s but there it was in 2014, lingering above the dinner table uttered by a middle-aged, middle class woman who runs a small business. I was gobsmacked.
At this point I realised that I was wasting my energy on a conversation that was going nowhere fast. But when I got home I couldn’t shake my disbelief that this phrase still had currency.
What on earth does it even mean?
Well, it could mean that men, those with “a pair”, don’t complain. This is patently not true. Think football games of any persuasion. I have heard the phrases like “not fair” and “umpire doesn’t know what he is doing” time and time again. And then there is the commentary on the roads about other driver’s skills behind the wheel. So that rules out that explanation.
So, is it that if we all had “a pair” that we would have nothing to complain about in terms of equality? Yes, that is right. If we were all men then we would all experience that same conditions of life and therefore women wouldn’t exist and feminism wouldn’t be necessary.
But as a species we need women. The circularity of this one just does my head in.
Or is it that mere biology is at the root of inequality rather than social structure? All this time we have been talking about flexible work arrangements, unconscious bias etc. as though we have the capacity to change the structure and create a world that experiences the full potential of men and women – but we are deluded because equality is actually biologically determined?
Give me a break.
And then there is the word “complain”. The negative judgement associated with those prepared to question the status quo, the troublemakers, those that stir the pot – those who dare to question and challenge and sometimes make others uncomfortable – well, I guess they are my kind of people. And many of them are women with courage – and without “a pair”.
About the Author: Caroline is a respected business leader and sustainability professional. She is currently a director of Corporate Sustainability Austrlia and Co-Chair of Commonwealth Business Women.
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