2 September 2021
After our 2021 She Leads Conference, we asked a select group of women the question of how attending the event has enriched their lives. Over the next few weeks, we will be sharing their answers and insights with you. Here is what Ebony Brown had to say.
How has the conference enriched my life?
It has given me an optimistic outlook on women and society in the future.
Growing up, I was always quite opinionated, loud and I often strayed from the norm. I always had my set values and was not afraid to yell my opinion on what I thought were injustices in the school environment, but it wasn’t until I was 14 that I became familiar with the word feminist.
My year 9 English teacher (a feminist queen) taught us the Shakespearean play Taming of the Shrew. I learnt the notions around gender stereotypes and what it means to deviate from these accepted standards: and how the consequences of doing this meant being ostracised from society. We talked about issues regarding equality in the modern world, how the patriarchy enforces toxic rules and procedures on both men and women and, again, how speaking out about these inequalities will put you in a position to be labelled a feminazi or man-hater. My teacher proceeded to show us Emma Watson’s speech at the UN for her HeforShe campaign and I was mesmerised. Ever since that day, I have blatantly and unapologetically labelled myself as a feminist.
Of course, my small, all-white town was not ready for this. I was labelled as a man-hater, and girls were so focused on feeling a sense of validation from sexist, misogynistic boys that they too avoided contact with me. It never made me feel alone; however, it was disappointing to see so many girls waste time upholding these outdated and harmful gender roles. It wasn’t until I moved to Canberra for university when I realised that so many people shared the same thoughts as me! Everyone was a feminist! Even boys!
When this opportunity to apply for a She Leads Conference scholarship presented itself to me I could not refuse. And let me tell you, it was absolutely brilliant. I was welcomed with warmth and acceptance. I was happily overwhelmed by the amount of people that were there, each and every one of them eager to learn, to support and to revolutionise their own lives and their workplace.
The stories that were told were shocking yet unsurprising. It was certainly a reality check when Mehreen Faruqui spoke about her experiences as Muslim woman in parliament, and this ultimately ignited an even stronger desire in me to advocate for change. It taught me that our institutions often reflected society’s values, so it is our responsibility to challenge society’s values to ensure women, non-binary people, LGBTQIA+ people and people of colour are treated with the same respect that has been given to men since the beginning of time.
Karen Middleton‘s panel discussion with women who work in male-dominated industries also highlighted again, distressing yet unsurprising patterns throughout the workplace, but their resilience and courage to keep doing what they love is inspiring. The seminar on ‘Navigating difficult conversations’ was extremely empowering, as not only is this conversation necessary, it also establishes our right to be in positions of power, and our right to be conducting these conversations in the workforce, and that no one can undermine us.
Every speaker spoke with passion and told their story—stories that have been withheld for too long—and every one of the speakers embraced their differences and taught us, the listeners, to embrace ours too. I knew that I was a part of something bigger.
So how has this conference enriched my life? I now know for sure that good things are coming.
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