By Lorna O’Neill
WHEN I was a little girl, I believed anything could happen – that I could be an astronaut or a ballerina.
Sex didn’t matter to me. I liked Barbie and Meccano. I was never slotted in to a box by my mother or father and I loved to dream big.
It was only when I got to school I realised there were actual, real differences between boys and girls.
Sometimes they would hit us and sometimes we would cry.
But I noticed even as a child that little boys often have a stronger bond than little girls.
And this theme, in my view, continues in to adulthood.
In the playground, in the ’80s, when I was a pig-tailed little girl, I would spot the boys swapping cards they had collected in magazines.
The cards showed pictures of their favourite footballers.
This love for football, sport and other boyish endeavours, continued on through boys’ lives and as I watch now, it is still going strong in to adulthood.
The boys, I mean men, in my office spend inordinate amounts of time chatting about ‘the game.’
They try to outwit each other with how much more knowledge they have of a particular game or if their team performed better on a certain Saturday.
To me, like many women, they are still boys.
But, if there is one interesting thing I have observed, it is that boys – who inevitably turn in to men – use this sport chat to bond.
As girls and women, we spend far too much of our time, wittering on about them.
We cry over them, delight in falling in love and sharing it with our girlfriends and hey, we even laugh about the bad sex.
But at work and often in friendships, could we ever really have each other’s backs as much as the men? I really don’t think so, most of the time.
In my life, my closest friends have been men.
Don’t get me wrong. I had girlfriends. They came and went like boyfriends did over the years.
But those long-standing, feel-like-I-only-saw-you-yesterday friends in my life, have been men.
Women haven’t backed me up as much in my personal or professional life.
In fact women have tried to push me down on both counts.
Don’t get me wrong here either. I have had some very strong female friends. But, I honestly have to say that they have been few and far between.
While I tried to climb the career ladder, I would find my female counterparts snapping at my heels.
It was and is most disheartening as I look across the office floor and spot men.
They are chatting about their team, the game, and as they bond over footie, they help each other up the greasy pole.
Meanwhile women are back biting each other in the profession and often in my personal life.
And when they aren’t talking about me – which I’m quite sure they are at least some of the time – the women in my office are talking about others.
“Did you see what she was wearing?” one said the other day.
“Who does she think she is…she is actually quite dumb.”
Rarely do I hear the ‘Mean Girls’ of the office world bring a man down.
Instead I have heard them discuss matters such as the male boss is actually “quite sexy.”
Now, I know this isn’t the case for all women. I know my office, my previous offices and my life experience so far – cannot be the same as every woman’s.
But…I just got to wondering, as I heard another football conversation, as another man got promoted while the women sniped at me for a small step up far too late in the day – am I alone?
I am a feminist. I believe women should be paid fairly, equally to men, that we should hold half the power in politics and business in society.
I also believe that bringing up kids and housework, should be shared between man and woman.
Apart from our anatomy, there should be no differences made.
However, I can’t help noticing that ‘them’ – the men – and ‘us’- the women, are still not only divided by our sex, but by our very different attitudes to bonding.
I will always let a female friend cry on my shoulder and I will cry on hers. But with a man, I don’t fear he will run off and tell half the neighbourhood.
With a woman, I can’t be so sure.