The seesaw

The seesaw

When the little boy’s feet hit the ground, the little girl soars. When the little girl’s feet hit the ground, the little boy soars.

It’s a hot summer’s day, and the park buzzes with excitable children. These two, however, have much better things do than run around in a frenzy, pretending to be superheroes. They’re on the seesaw, talking business.

“We’re actually going to be superheroes’, she says. “A dream team.” 
“If we stick together”, he says.
“We fly”.

Down he goes. And up she flies.
Down she goes. And up he flies.


When the twins become a little less little, they lounge on the seesaw, cool as cucumbers.

“How did you do in the maths test?” he asks.
“Pretty good”, she says. “Nearly full marks”. 
The sadness in his eyes shows that he’s lying.

A crowd of rucksacks and spotty faces emerge from the trees. They are known as the army of adolescent boys – only spotted in dark spaces, and smelt before seen.

“Hey loser”, an acne boy says.  The brother looks up. 
“Ha ha, he knows he’s a loser”.

A rucksack grabs the brother by the hood, lifts him off the seesaw and throws him onto the tarmac. He quivers, biting his lip, unable to stop the sadness in his eyes from spilling out.

“He’s crying!” 
His sister says. “Leave him alone!”
“Getting your sister to stick up for you, loser? Pretty lame”.


When the twins hit puberty, it tears them apart. They no longer look the same, they no longer act the same and they no longer want to be the same.

The teenage girl walks past the playpark and watches her brother merging in with the rucksacks and spotty faces, terrorising a little boy on the seesaw that he used to be.


When the man moves to the Big City, the woman resents him. She sits on one end of the seesaw and calls a friend. “It’s just not fair. We applied for the same job, and he didn’t even bother researching the company. It’s more of a ‘masculine environment’, they told me. I ‘couldn’t handle it’. Well you know what? I’ll show them”.

She looks up at the empty end of the seesaw, jutting out into the sky. 

He’s flying high, she thought. Why aren’t I? 

When the man returns to the playpark, he doesn’t want to dirty his expensive suit by sitting on the seesaw. Like the grown-ups they’re attempting to be, they head to a bench nearby. The sister narrowly avoids sitting in bird poo, but the brother isn’t quite so self aware.

“I won’t do it. I’d lose my job”, he says. 
“So? Why do you want to work somewhere that doesn’t give a crap about diversity? That actively discriminates against people?”
She asks. 
“That’s not true”. 
“Everyone’s been talking about it. We just need the proof. Let me speak to some of your colleagues, do a few interviews. Please? This would be really good, not only for my career, but for humanity. We can’t let these people win”.
“You’re really boring when you’re like this, you know? I’ve worked hard to get where I am”. 
“I’ve worked hard, too”. 
“Well, maybe you should work harder”.

I do, she thinks.  The man with bird poo on his expensive rear-end walks away, somehow still the winner.


When their world falls apart, the man returns to the seesaw. He cries.

The sister follows him, and they embrace. They cry together.

“Why did she have to get ill?” he asks. `
“I don’t know”, she replies. 

“Why her? Why not Dad? Or me? Or anyone else?”
“I guess illness doesn’t choose. It takes who it takes. But we’re both here now, and that’s what counts”.

The brother wipes his eyes.  

“I haven’t cried since school”, he says. 
“I know”,
she replies. 
“It feels good”.

“Why do you think I do it so often?”
“I’ll speak to my colleagues. I’m sure some of them would be interested in speaking to you. Especially the women.”
“What, all five of them?”

They laugh. 
Gently, he raises his body and lets her onto the other side of the seesaw. She soars. She presses her weight to the ground. He soars.

The seesaw creaks.

“It’s old, like us”. 

The seesaw eventually comes to equal balance. They look at each other, properly, for the first time in a long time. They smile.

When they stick together, they fly. 

“The story of women’s struggle for equality belongs to no single feminist nor to any one organisation but to the collective efforts of all who care about human rights.”
— Gloria Steinem

Gloria Steinem, world renowned feminist, journalist and activist. International Women’s Day is on the 8 March this year. Its campaign theme, #BalanceforBetter calls for a gender-balanced world, with emphasis on the government, workplace, wealth distribution and media and sports coverage. International Women’s Day is a global day, and everyone can play a part. You can find more information about the campaign

Photography by Heidi Walley

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