Why do successful women have to be ugly?

They don’t! They’re not! I’m being facetious!

But, if you are successful, intelligent, level headed, down-to-earth, athletic, musical, whatever, and “genetically blessed,” then be prepared to be hit by the ‘tall poppy sword.’

I’m sure this is nothing new, but on recently reading an article in a Sunday magazine, I was dismayed by the level of criticism five-time world surfing champ, Stephanie Gilmore received for her recent Roxy campaign. The criticism was all taken in her usual stoic manner, “when girls embrace their femininity and sexuality, it’s not taking away from their power and athleticism at all; they’re combining the two sides, and that’s a powerful combination for a girl to have.” But why do women feel the need to attack this talented, successful woman who has accomplished so much for Australia and the world of surfing.

It’s feminism gone mad! Who cares if she models, acts, and bears…well let’s be honest, not much, in a clip to a) acknowledge her recent signing with Roxy and b) promote Roxy Pro contest in Biarritz, France. What she has done, and is doing, is inspiring girls to get on the board – or be active, follow their dreams– and is attracting attention to women in sports. For every girl that loves to sunbake on the beach, I’m sure there’s an equal amount who hides a secret desire to be a surfing legend.

Equally, and disgracefully, Ellyse Perry, Australian soccer and cricket representative, economics student, face of Jockey, Fox Sports commentator, the only Australian to make this year’s SportsPro World’s Top 50 Marketable Athlete, all at the tender age of 22 has not only faced an up uphill battle getting recognition and sponsorship despite here many sporting skills, she has also experienced sexism at its worst. Most recently a barrage of abuse on ‘Cricket memes’ which overshadow the significant success she has achieved. And the worst thing about this? Women have allowed this type of treatment by the media and the public to happen…wait, hear me out…

Women are fascinating complex creatures who nurture, support and encourage while still being more than capable of being independent, industrious and insightful. And yet we can often be all too quick to criticise our own and ‘bring them down a peg.’

“how do I teach, encourage and inspire girls to chase their dreams, be happy, live for the moment…if we, as adult women, are still poking pins into our Barbies?”

This year’s theme for International Women’s Day (8 March) is “Inspiring Change”…how about “Stopping Success Shaming” or “Empowering Choices” because it’s not until we accept, support, rally, treat each other justly, that we can expect others to do the same?

Let’s take ourselves seriously, but not so life becomes one big feminist-on-feminist fist fight.

We all rallied, rightly so, and walked the streets in the wake of the Jill Meagher tragedy but when do we rally to celebrate achievement?

I echo the comments made (by a male) on a recent article in relation to Ellyse Perry:

“…female athletes will have the same or better pay and conditions when the crowds turn up to watch them (women’s tennis anyone?) How about rather than whining about it, actually turning up to watch it? We all know women (and especially young women) are an incredibly important consumer group that companies spend millions of dollars trying to entice to buy their products. If they turned up in their droves to watch women’s sport, the sponsorship and wages would soon follow. Important question for the author – when was the last time you paid to watch a women’s sporting match? If you’re not part of the solution…”We will only see change when women collectively stand up and support one another.

Perhaps the realisation we need will come from how we teach young women about happiness. I recently re-posted an article titled, 8 messages to teach young women about happiness. Two quotes stand out for me and ring in my ears constantly:

“If you could give some advice to young women and girls about how to build happiness, what would you say?”

“Pay attention to what is driving your belief system, and know that the young women and girls in your life are paying attention to how you manage these beliefs.”

I have young females that work for me, with me and above me, I have young female cousins, I have a younger sister, and one day I hope to be the aunty for a bevy of nieces, so how do I teach, encourage and inspire them to chase their dreams, be happy, live for the moment, achieve all they want without fear of scorn from the one group that they should look to, to seek support, guidance, comfort and love, if we, as adult women, are still poking pins into our Barbies?