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Women Standing Strong

New Head Prefect Jemima’s call for female strength, pride, grace, and kindness

I used to have hair a lot longer than this and my 60-year-old male neighbour would often comment over the fence. “You’ve grown out your hair, it looks lovely, don’t you ever cut it”. A few months later, I did - I chopped it all off. And the next time I saw him, he was terribly upset. “Oh my, you’ve cut your hair! That’s a shame, why did you do that?” I am ashamed to admit, that in that moment I felt guilty, I felt bad … and I said sorry.

But no one should apologise to their neighbour for cutting their hair.

Sometimes we get pushed into uncomfortable situations, but we don’t have to bend to the will of others.

It is a universal experience, but a phenomenon that disproportionately affects women. We often profusely and unnecessarily apologise and feel as though we can’t say ‘no’. This is not because we are weak, but because of an archaic pressure to be polite and nice. Like when my mum cried out in labour and was told to “shush and calm down’”.

I had naively assumed that pressures like this were confined to the past, but unfortunately, there will always be people and systems that want to reduce you, mute you, mould you, disempower you.

The word ‘sorry’ is powerful. If we don’t use it genuinely when needed, we risk being defined by ruthlessness and ego. However, we should not apologise when it is unwarranted. Grace Tame certainly didn’t during her infamous interaction with Scott Morison, and in not doing so, sent a powerful message.

While it is so important to be gracious, it is OK to be upset - to want to change things, to feel passion and anger, to ask for better when treated unjustly. You don’t have to sit down and smile. You don’t have to apologise for existing, for exercising your autonomy.

Nashara, Kalara, Sophie, and I hope to foster a leadership and a culture where you can be honest in what you believe in and confident in voicing it.

As someone who has in the past been utterly terrified of standing up for myself, I am learning to be comfortable with sometimes being an uncomfortable presence.

Stand strong, be proud, gracious, and kind. I am so excited for the year ahead and we will work hard behind the scenes to make a genuine impact.

JCarmody

Jemima Carmody
Head Prefect 2022/2023