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Opinion: How the Grace Tame non-smile ‘incident’ made me think of my view of gender bias

Natasha ColliverGeraldton Guardian
Prime Minister Scott Morrison and 2021 Australian of the Year Grace Tame at The Lodge in Canberra.
Camera IconPrime Minister Scott Morrison and 2021 Australian of the Year Grace Tame at The Lodge in Canberra. Credit: Mick Tsikas/AAPIMAGE

Grace Tame didn’t smile at the Prime Minister and this caused national outrage.

How this one omission of a social norm polarised the nation really made me rethink how I viewed gender bias.

Sure, as a woman in a leadership position, and for that case, just a woman, I have experienced gender bias, both conscious and unconscious.

It manifests in many ways — the struggle to be heard, to be taken seriously, and to feel as valued as my male counterparts.

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But the Grace Tame “incident of national significance” made me think that how we as women are conditioned by social norms and how this has set women up to fail.

Perfectly articulated by SMH columnist Kerry Sackville’s article ‘At 50, I finally figured out what Grace Tame knows in her 20s,’ (SMH, January 28, 2022), Sackville said the following:

“As a young woman I was socialised to be nice to men, regardless of how they treated me. Keep smiling. Be polite. Don’t make a scene. Be mindful of their ego! If a man is rude, you swallow it down. If a man is weird or creepy, you keep your distance. If a man is abusive, you scrutinise your own behaviour before you blame him for his.”

This is so bloody true! As women we are generationally conditioned to be the peacemaker at all costs. And the cost is almost always ours. It transcends into our professional life, and I have thought about the many lost opportunities because I have been socialised to be nice to men, because I have worried more about how I make them feel, than the issue at hand.

Indeed, as I write this, I am thinking about the 101 ways I want to apologise for what I have just written to the many wonderfully supportive men in my life. But this time, and maybe from now on, I am not going to.

Happy International Women’s Day!

Natasha Colliver is a City of Greater Geraldton councillor

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