In this month’s talking points blog, I take a look the first woman to win the Melbourne Cup, Suffragettes and being a superbitch. Or a control freak. Or should that be both...?
That’s just what Michelle Payne, the first woman to win the Melbourne Cup (‘the horse race that stops a nation’) told critics who ever doubted a woman’s ability to win a horse race.
On a 100-1 outsider, Michelle praised her trainers and co-owners who fought through the ‘chauvinistic sport’ and believed in her. On dismounting her horse she said that before this victory so many people had wanted to replace her with a male jockey.
This was a defining moment for sport – not just for Australia (a country that in 2012 had given its ‘Sportswoman of the year’ award to a horse) but also globally. And those watching closely couldn’t help but notice that she swept to victory wearing silks in the suffragette colours.
Suffragettes… & the facts
As someone who studied history, I like to think that I know a little bit about the past, but I must admit I was somewhat shocked by some of the statistics at the end of the film Suffragette, written by Abi Morgan and starring Meryl Streep and Carey Mulligan.
Switzerland only granted women the right to vote in 1971. Who knew?
Suffragette also happens to be the first movie ever to be allowed to film inside the House of Commons. And as purple, white and green were the colours of the Suffragette movement, the production designer decided a bruised colour palette was the film’s theme, as many of the women it depicted were also bruised.
And while yes we certainly have come a long way, the fight is far from over. Recently, Suffragette’s director Sarah Gavron revealed that finding funding for the film had been a challenge and that it was difficult to find actors to fill the male roles. ‘We had trouble persuading men to be in it. Agents were calling us saying the male parts just aren’t big enough.’
Superbitches & control freaks
I was having dinner with a few female friends the other week and we got talking about how we all handle feedback at work – critical or otherwise. One of my good friends, a successful marketing manager at a leading brand, revealed that because she was confident, sure of her opinions and the business strategy she wanted to pursue, she could come across as a little too ambitious and that was a negative thing (apparently).
She joked that these traits meant she could be perceived as something of a ‘superbitch’, rather than someone who has all of the hallmarks of a good business leader.
And as to control freaks… all of us agreed that at some point in our lives, be it personally or professionally, we had been labeled a control freak. It was usually when we were completely focused on a particular project and determined it would be great success, be it an event, party or piece of work.
Now imagine such critical labels being applied to a confident, ambitious and goal-orientated man….’unlikely’, I hear you say?
Constructive feedback is to be welcomed, and we all benefit from understanding how our behavior and way of working comes across to others – but everyone, whether in business or in life in general, needs to be aware of stereotypical labels and how easily they can be applied, both to and by each of us.