Beware buzzwords bearing resilient, strong women



These days we are supposed to be agile, resilient, respectful, innovative, flexible, and if you are female, add a strong woman to the mix. I’ve heard the buzzword strong woman in recent years more often than I’ve had hairstyles and I’m still none the wiser. Of course, it’s never said, but implied that if you’re not resilient, strong and agile then somehow it’s your fault and you are a loser.

Of course, marketeers are very happy to have new buzzwords to play around with. The need for resilience can launch a thousand products. Anything really from deodorant to kale and linen to lipstick. Who doesn’t want resilient lipstick? It’s the lipstick of choice for strong women. Governments also love it. More mayhem, chaos, inconvenience plus a longer commute will just be absorbed by the population’s increased resilience. Hooray, win win. Governments can get away with cutting services, grinding down public transport, eroding parks and community facilities because the citizens are more resilient, agile and innovative. Never mind the extra 45 minutes standing up on the bus because the trains are out for ten months. Resilience people! Strong Women!

I wonder whether these words have crept into the zeitgeist because it’s the only way to get through the day let alone the year. Bombarded as we are with so much bad news, roadworks, austerity cuts during 27 years of economic growth that we are permanently just one stop away from a meltdown on a delayed train after a too-long day. Of course, these characteristics are useful personal qualities to have, but part of me thinks they sure as hell benefit the government as well. I wonder if public transport was upgraded, working hours reduced, community services restored and green spaces increased, if we would have a need for resilience and agility and empowerment. Something for a strong woman to ponder.


Drought relief smells like spin to me

checked shirt

Last week I saw a Woolworths employee dressed in a checked shirt and a fake Akubra hat dolling out olives, dips, cheese and biscuits to customers in return for a donation. All proceeds were going to the farmers as part of the drought effort. As I looked around, I saw many Woollies staff on checkouts decked out in the same new uniform.

This looks like a giant PR exercise to me. If Woollies were truly interested in helping our farmers they have had decades to work out how to pay them a fair price for their produce. Many studies show the Australian public is generally happy to pay a little more for items if it means keeping farming in Australia viable. It just looks shabby for the supermarkets to wait until the worst drought in living memory to look like they care. Dressing up casual staff in farmers shirts and Akubras to work on the check-out smells like spin to me. Where were those shirts made? China? How about supporting Australian manufacturing, Woolworths? In addition, why do you have to dress up urban staff in country and western garb to make a point? Getting customers to make a donation and getting the praise after decades of screwing the farmers feels cheap.

I do know that Woollies and Coles are making donations from their own profits. I know that Woollies have pledged the profits from a day’s fresh food. I know that Coles have said that they will match customers donations dollar for dollar. These are admirable things. My real beef is the need to turn the plight of the farmers into lavish PR spin (especially given the supermarkets have played their own part in this). Also almost no- one looks good in a checked shirt.

I’d love to see a nuanced rational approach to the drought. It’s entirely possible that climate change will make near permanent drought the new normal (until there’s a massive flood and a new PR campaign kicks in). Maybe there needs to be a national approach to keeping farmers on the land. Maybe I don’t have the answers. But I know for sure that sticking a disgruntled staff member in a checked shirt and knock-off Akubra isn’t the answer.