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March 16, 2017

No girls past this point

Being female in the only state that's never had a woman Premier.

  • Words: Farrin Foster

Recently, I was invited to the launch of something. I can’t remember what it was – there are a lot of launches, which is great because I really like canapés and wine.

I walked into the room at the Adelaide Oval (the canapés are very good there) where the event was being held, and cast about for a conversation to join. As I was doing so, a man came over and asked me to take his coat.

Farrin Foster is CityMag’s editor (seriously. Josh is not the editor – it’s Farrin)

I was not wearing a white shirt and black pants, in the style of the event staff. I was not holding a clipboard, like several of the staff near me. I was just standing around being young (ish? Is 30 young? I don’t know) and female, which surely means the only reason I have to be at an event for (cringe) “VIPs” is serving people .

Sure – you might think, “it could have happened to a guy”, but our mate Joshua Fanning walked in mere minutes after me (wearing, coincidentally, a white shirt and dark pants). Although he was also being audaciously young and was also just sort of standing around in much the same fashion as me, Josh confirms that no-one assumed he was staff at the event, and that – in fact – no-one had ever made an assumption like that about him.

He is very tall though. And very not female, so I can see how he’s worked hard to avoid this kind of confusion.

The incident wasn’t a huge injustice, it didn’t strike at the core of my being or shred my confidence. Mostly, it made me laugh. The poor guy who tried to give me his coat was terribly embarrassed, and I felt bad for him. I also felt bad about the way I glared at him  – but my Mum is a teacher, and I can’t help that I learnt to glare from a woman who could quiet a room full of eight year olds without even saying anything.

Yeah, it was funny. But it was also boring.

I’m so bored of this stuff, because it happens all the time. For those who’d rather not believe me – here’s some quick fire examples of the all-the-time stuff. It’s in bullet point form because I’m bored of reciting this stuff, and you don’t need to get bored reading it.

  • Despite the fact that I have always been CityMag’s editor (yes, the whole time, for four years. Forever!), old mates Johnny von Einem and Joshua Fanning who I work with are often contacted via email or in person under the assumption that they are the editor. Conversely, no-one has ever accused my other wonderful (female) colleagues Lauren Bezzina or Sharmonie Cockayne of being CityMag’s editor.
  • Sometimes, when I interview people, I will ask a question and they will address their reply to the male photographer who is with me. This really makes my day.
  •  Sometimes, when I interview people, they’ll make a comment about what I’m wearing. Nobody ever makes a comment about what Johnny is wearing when he interviews people (although he is impeccably dressed, so maybe that’s why).
  • Often, I get emails addressed to Mr Foster. Sure, Farrin is a pretty weird and confusing name, but you just know these people haven’t even considered that I could be a lady.
  • People I meet in a professional capacity hit on me. All the time. Sometimes I don’t go to events because I know certain so-called “colleagues” will probably be there and it will be bone-crushingly awkward trying to avoid them, and that they’ll probably get angry with me for trying to avoid them even though the way they talk to me makes me really uncomfortable.
  • Joshua Fanning gets called an entrepreneur. I don’t think anyone has ever called me that, even though we started CityMag together. As I mentioned before, he is much taller than me though, and maybe that’s an unspoken criteria for being entrepreneurial that I didn’t know about?

That’s a sample – it’s probably enough for now. Haters going to hate no matter what I say, so I know I’m pretty much yelling into a void by trying to offer proof.

I don’t think that I’m special – I think this is some pretty normal stuff (as is all the more icky stuff – the getting groped in broad daylight, getting called a slut for brushing off an advance (that’s some quality logic), getting chased by a group of guys in a car while riding my bike, etc, etc, etc).

But, it poses a unique problem in Adelaide. Adelaide is small. It is nepotistic. It is intensely, grossly parochial. Achieving something substantial in Adelaide is 97 per cent about who you know, and three per cent about what you know.

And, unfortunately for me – people don’t know me as the editor of CityMag. They don’t know me as an entrepreneur. They don’t know me as someone with ideas about the future of our city.

They know me as Joshua Fanning’s ex-girlfriend, or Mark Dean’s current girlfriend. They know me as the girl with the sausage dog. And, if they don’t know me at all, they assume I might be able to help them stow their coat.

I don’t want a tiny violin played for me (although miniature things do make me unreasonably happy). And I don’t particularly aspire to running the state or other positions of power, so languishing in relative obscurity is not a huge personal problem.

But, other women do aspire to positions of power and in Adelaide it’s very, very hard to see how they might find room to fulfil those goals because our vision of the future is crowded in with the men we went to school with, or the ones we went to university with, or that nice bloke we met down at The Adelaide Club, or that guy in the meeting who made some good points in his big booming voice.

The Adelaide boys’ club is not a thing of the past. That’s probably why we’re the only state that has never had a female Premier.

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