HR Advisors Conference Blog

Further thoughts from the conference or about the challenges of being in an HR Advisory role.

Batman, the UN & busy fingers

Lots of people had told me to watch the Emma Watson UN speech – so I finally went and watched it. On the same day an article about a Batman t-shirt showed up in my Facebook feed, so I read it. Strangely I found these two things were oddly linked.

Emma Watson spoke about a new UN initiative called HeforShe. This is not about feminism being a female issue, but actually about both men and women working together for equity. Men are being affected by the changing gender balance in our workplaces too so it’s about working together. HeforShe.

The Batman t-shirt was found at Walmart and said ‘In training to be Batman’s wife’ in pink writing. The article was about the protests from parents this had caused. It also said other t-shirt options at a Canadian store were ‘I only date superheroes’ or for the boys ‘Future Man of Steel”. The article talked about how wrong this was. Both DC and Marvel Comics had come under fire and responded that it was not good. They have a lot of female super heroes and so are reviewing who they let use their brands.

Then I read the comments

What was interesting was the comments people made at the bottom of the article. The majority of people were saying things like ‘This is just a t-shirt, if you don’t like it, don’t buy it’. There was also a bit of feminist slagging going on and general comments that this type of issue wasn’t an issue. It was just a t-shirt.

Now it is just a t-shirt

And in some way I agreed. But then I realised why it annoyed me. I realised that the only choices for the ‘girl’ t-shirts were showing that girls could only date or be superheroes wives. There was no ‘In training to be Wonder Woman’s husband’ or ‘I only date super women’. There was also no ‘Future Super Woman’. So it wasn’t just like it was a t-shirt amongst others, it was the ONLY t-shirt. And that means there is no equality of choice.

But if you don’t like, don’t buy it or don’t shop there

This was the second comment lots of people made and again at first I agreed. But then with my HR experience I realised that this argument has one fatal flaw. It’s like if you went to work for a company and there was a manager who had ‘busy fingers’ and touched people inappropriately (and yes, I have worked with him).

You could resign and go and work somewhere else, or try and transfer out of that team.

But the manager will continue with his busy fingers!!

If no-one raises that there is any issue with his behavior, he’ll keep doing it until one day the company gets sued – not to mention the many women who were uncomfortable and offended by the behavior. If no-one raises an issue with the t-shirt, then we’ll continue to have inequality for women and t-shirts that only show women can date or marry superheroes, but not be one. It is these small things like a t-shirt that make a difference.

When you’re an HR Advisor you often see or hear about things happening in the company that aren’t right. It’s not enough to hope that they will go away, or remove the person from that situation – we have to be the ones that raise the issue so that it can actually be fixed for once and for all.

So do think about if there are any ‘busy fingers’ or unequal practices happening that you need to raise, and go and raise them!

To watch Emma Watson’s speech: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p-iFl4qhBsE

To read the Batman t-shirt article: http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation-now/2014/10/03/sexist-superhero-shirts/16638283/

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This entry was posted on October 12, 2014 by in HR leadership and tagged , , .
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