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Grace Under Fire: Let's talk about the media and manners

Australian of the Year is one of the highest honours given in this country.

Usually, the media highlights include inspiring interviews, photo opps with dignitaries, and the rest of us feeling like ‘wow, I have not done much with my life the past 12 months’.

But mostly, it’s a wonderful time to honour people who have done amazing things in the world.

But yesterday, something different happened.

The media story became the news.

The Australian of the Year title and its worthy recipient (the amazing Dylan Alcott who was honoured for his work as a disability advocate) was overshadowed.

By a woman.

Who received the same title last year.

Who was standing for a photo with the Prime Minister.

She said nothing.

She looked angry.

She shook his hand.

She looked at the camera.

And then left.

Mind blown.

In came the critics.

How dare she not smile? How dare she look icy and make it clear she is less then happy with the PM and his attitude toward women and policy the past 12 months?

I’m not sure why this woman showing up and just acting ‘cold’ has caused such a stir, but let me take a guess.

Because her message was more powerful than any words she could share.

Because if she was to speak about how she really felt, she would have been labelled an ‘angry woman’.

If she stood there smiling, it would have indicated an agreement with his behaviour and attitude.

Her standing there and not ‘playing nice’ as a woman is the most powerful action she could take, given her circumstances.

One journalist quipped ‘she should have stayed home, if she couldn’t be ‘polite’.

If she had stayed home, her message would have stayed home with her.

Like any media story, it’s all about context.

Women have wised up.

They aren’t going to stay home just so the PM can avoid a 3 second photo opp that is a tad uncomfortable for him.

His life and day job goes on.

Unless his wife tells him otherwise, he’ll just keep ‘doing the job’ of running the country unless we tell him there’s a problem.

I’m glad the media covered this story and the question has been asked.

Why did Grace show up when she clearly didn’t want to be there?

Because the message she was communicating was more important than her feelings about the man in position.

I’m a huge fan of kindness. I even wrote a book about it.

But the kindest thing we can do as women is show up with our truth – and sometimes, the best way to do that is without words.

Using the platform we have to change the conversation.

It’s uncomfortable.

For her, it’s life changing.

We get to go on with our lives.

But a woman who speaks out is labelled by the very truth she wants to be set free from.

Just showing up and not ‘pretending for the cameras’ is a bold move.

It’s one that shows women you don’t have to pretend anymore.

You can be standing beside power and still have your own.

You can get your picture taken and not pretend you are OK with what’s happening around you.

You can use the media to share your message too – you don’t have to always play their game.

Thankfully, the media took notice.

Any maybe, just maybe, the PM finally will too.

Disclaimer: this isn’t a political post. It’s a human post. I’m a woman who has been told ‘you are prettier when you smile’ dozens of times over the years. There are many ways to communicate your protest and anger at a situation. I’m choosing to write and support a woman who decided to share her authentic truth, on a national platform - in the best way she knew how. May we all have the boldness to do the same. Rachel Reva is a publicity strategist, writer and founder of 'Life On Her Terms Media' - you can sign up to her mailing list here.

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