Fighting The True Obstacles and Barriers: 5 steps to start changing the world

In my last podcast, I focussed on finding the true reasons behind discrimination. If we blame ourselves, we will never find the motivation to fight systemic prejudice.

“Getting a boardroom role is so difficult because I’m female.”

No!

“Getting a boardroom role is so difficult because of patriarchal misogyny.”

We can fight gender-based bigotry, but we cannot fight the fact that I’m female. Unless we acknowledge that the true reason for this prejudice is sexism, we cannot overcome discrimination. Sexuality, gender, religion, and skin colour are never to blame for victimisation. Societal and cultural biases are always at fault.

It’s not simple to figure out the true reasons for discrimination, so I want to share five steps to find them.

Step One – Depersonalise the situation

Let’s begin by thinking about the problem at large, rather than about me specifically. In the past when I was mistreated by men in the workplace, my reaction was that I must have done something to ‘deserve’ it. I would personalise what had happened and believe that I wasn’t good enough. It was my problem, not the man’s or society at large’s.

When I think about those issues now, however, I see them differently. I’ve learned more about widespread misogyny, and I realise that what happened to me was a societal issue.

I had a male manager who reacted angrily every time I did anything to try and better our working systems. At the time, I somehow forgot the fact that my previous female boss had welcomed this. I also failed to realise how differently he treated my male colleagues. I simply blamed myself – and, ultimately, left the job.

If I’d thought more about this, I’d have realised that this guy was one who didn’t have the same level of respect for women as for men. He was sexist, and maybe he didn’t even realise that.

Seeing his behaviour for what it was would have made me significantly less impotent. I could have joined movements to end sexism in the workplace, instead of feeling so saddened that I quit the job.

Look at what you are the victim of in the ‘big picture’: what would you say if this was happening to lots of people like you? That is the real obstacle you’re facing.

Step Two – Define the Obstacle

You’ve worked out what the obstacle really is, and now it’s time to delve deeper by asking an important question.

How does this discrimination show up in real life for me and others?

By making a list, you’ll find that this prejudice is not related specifically to an action you’ve taken. It will show up throughout your life – for me, misogyny is also found in the difficulty I have to get served at a bar. As women, in certain situations, we are either not noticed at all, or noticed in a dismissive and negative way.

The obstacles you will find show up systemically throughout society. They’re often cultural, and deeply engrained into society’s so-called ‘norms.’

Step Three – Why Me?

How often do you see some injustice and leave it to others in society to fight? I’m guilty of that, and it’s why I want us to ask whether we are the right people to fight whatever discrimination we face.

Years of discrimination can rest heavily on us, and make us feel unable to change society. If the discrimination is directed at us, we are part of the solution, but if we do nothing, we become part of the problem.

In some areas, we may be part of the problem. For example, as a white woman, I have a lot of responsibility for the prejudiced treatment of Black people. I’m not racist, but that does not mean to say that I am not part of the problem. I am part of the problem by being part of a society that is ingrained with systemic racism and white supremacy.

Where we are part of the ‘problem,’ we have the opportunity to dismantle biased systems from the inside out. That can be as powerful as fighting from the outside.

Step Four – Decide What to Do

This is a research step – if, like me, you don’t know much about workplace sexism, learn about it. You will learn that you are not alone, whatever you’re facing.

It’s also important to find out who else is fighting to end the same thing. The louder the clamour, the more likely it is to be listened to. This may mean that you decide to join a movement, instead of being a lone voice. Many organisations have helplines that will assist with your specific case of discrimination.

Step Five – Take Action

It’s all very well for me to sit here and acknowledge that I can now see the systemic issue that permeates society. That is not enough. I have to start taking action.

The action you take does not have to be perfect. This is not about putting on the biggest and best movement in the history of the world. It’s about doing the best that you can at that moment in time.

Action should also be documented and shared with others. One of the greatest ways to bring about change is by educating those closest to you. I know, for example, my parents are learning about anti-racism because I share with them what I’m finding out.

If we don’t take action, we are part of the problem. It’s time to step up.

I hope this helps you find the root cause of discrimination you face in your life: remember that you are not alone.

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