blogging, feminism, friendship, gratitude

A day for women

Here’s to International Women’s Day. A day celebrating all that is means to be female and all that we’ve accomplished towards equality over the centuries. Despite being a day late – hey, I’ve got a baby and no longer work to my own schedule, I wanted to spend a few minutes to celebrate the brave and strong women I know.

The mamas

Here’s to my mum friends. Those who are standing side-by-side with me on this journey of motherhood. Struggling with lack of sleep, babies with colic, the dreaded witching hour, breastfeeding issues but showing their bubba and fellow mamas nothing but love and support.

My hotties

Here’s to my university girls. Hotwells Hotties (named by the area we lived in when we rented in Bristol during our uni days) who’ve stayed in touch for over a decade and still support each other through so much. I love how we talk about everything and anything on our whatsapp group – trying to find our path in the world of work, parenting, holidays, small successes, hilarious antics. Your support and presence makes my days happier and I can’t imagine a world without you.

My Newnham ladies

Here’s to my mum and sister who have known me for all (or much of) my life and who’ve supported me through some of my darkest days. You know that you’ve got good women in your corner when you can face hard truths together and can disagree about much together but still love each other fiercely. As my sister said yesterday – you’re both strong, independent, vulnerable, kind and really funny.

And to my Newnham cousins and aunties in Australia, I also want to honour you today. For the love you have shown me when I’ve visited and for the friendships that I feel are just blossoming now as you reach out to me with such love and support as I take my first steps as a mother.

My female friends all over the world

Here’s to you, all my women friends across the world. From Japan to Austin, Norwich to Norway, Perth to New York, you all teach me much about what it is to be a strong woman in this world. Serving others above self, striving to find your path in this world, going all in for love, pushing forward with amazing careers. You’re all so different and I take so much from each of you and am so thankful that the online world allows me to keep in touch more than ever would have been possible.

To women in the past

Here’s to all those who have battled in the past to allow me to be able to vote and who gave me the freedom to choose who I wanted to marry, to work, to receive an education, to be taken seriously as a human being and to have access to free contraceptives so that I have control over my own body and a choice about when I want to start a family. There was an excellent episode of the guilty feminist to celebrate the centenary of women getting the right to vote in the UK and it showed me the lengths to which you went to bring ease, choice and freedom to my life. Some of you died for me, went through hardships unimaginable and I’m forever grateful to you.

And here’s to you, amazing and talented women who have pushed the boundaries of science, politics or society in the pursuit of excellence. Ada Lovelace, Malala, Amelia Earhart, Michelle Obama, Frida Kahlo, Margaret Hamilton, Serena Williams…the list could go on and on. You’ve paved the way for other women to step forward into brilliance and I want to honour you for that.

To women of the future

Here’s to you, women who will come after me. The small babies and young girls I see in my friendship groups – Anwen, Hilary, Nora, Julia, Martha, Faith, Esmé, Emily, Robin, Sienna, Elise, Evie, Hannah…and all those my mummy brain has forgotten! I hope you are brave and courageous in going after what you want, that you knowingly choose your future – whether it’s to be a badass full-time mum or to follow your passions in the world of work (or a mix of the two). To know you have choices and that you don’t need a man to be complete.

My son

Here’s to you, Jenson. Yes, you’re not a female (although as a baby you are so beautiful and I think you could rock a dress!) but I still want to honour you and what I hope you will grow up to be. A feminist. Someone who believes in equality for all people, regardless of gender. I hope you know that everything is for everyone, that you are free to play with my little pony, polly pocket or to wear wings and a tutu if you like…or stick with Mighty Max and Thomas the Tank Engine. None of these things makes you any less a person. And I hope that you grow up respecting all people, regardless of background, gender or race. I know you have been born into good fortune – being white, male, in a developed country – and I hope that you use these privileges to amplify the voices of those who would otherwise not be heard in society.

I know that in some ways this seems like a big expectation to place on someone so small, but in a way that shows me how far we have to still go in our fight for true equality. And how I hope you are part of that journey, little one.

So yes, I’m a day late to the International Women’s Day party, but I still raise my (non-alcoholic) glass up to you all, my sisters of the world.

blogging, feminism, self-discovery, truth

#Metoo

I am an avid listener of the guilty feminist, a comedy podcast which manages to both make me laugh out loud and consider what it means to be a woman in the 21st century.

The most recent podcast was about Harvey Weinstein and it gave me a lot to think about.

Almost a week after listening to it, I’ve still been thinking about this episode. It’s made me reconsider what I accept as normal behaviour towards women and the conditions I am subject to due to the fact that I am female.

Up until listening to the podcast episode about Weinstein, I had been aware of #metoo – you’d have to be a social media recluse to not see the scores of women admitting that they have been a victim of sexual harassment or assault. But I had felt quite uneasy about it and had turned a blind eye to their accounts of suffering.

I’ve been thinking about why this is and want to share some of these thoughts with you, dear friend:

  • It’s uncomfortable to witness the wide-scale reality that so many of us have been victims of assault or harassment. I’d rather close my eyes to it than face this truth.
  • My taught belief is that women should be compliant and not speak out – women stepping forward to share their stories of suffering is uncomfortable to witness. I know it’s right for them to speak up, but it makes me uneasy nevertheless.
  • There’s something about the testimony of women that I take less seriously than that of men. I don’t like this belief…but I’m noticing it’s there. I’m more likely to believe a man than a woman and so it makes me question the testimony of all these women who have said #metoo. Being aware of this belief has started to make me question how I view the experiences I’ve had of sexual harassment in the past. Experiences I’ve belittled or have passed off as unimportant. The man who exposed himself in front of me when I was a shop assistant. The boyfriend who didn’t listen to me when I said ‘no’. Perhaps I’ve felt uncomfortable with #metoo because it’s made me aware of my own experiences that I’ve hidden away and refused to acknowledge.
  • There’s also something about how I view the gravity of what a sexual harassment charge can do to an individual externally (being fired, having a criminal record) and the gravity of what a sexual harassment victim experiences internally (shock, PTSD, feelings of being to blame, helplessness). I take the external damage as being more serious, which is ironic given my knowledge of what internal trauma can do to an individual. When I suffered from an eating disorder in my 20s, I became so thin that I could have died. I could have died. That’s how serious internal trauma can be. So why do I consider the external impact of a sexual harassment charge as being more important?! I’m left speechless and at a loss as to why this is.

I hope my thoughts are making sense to you, dear friend, and that you don’t judge me for the hidden assumptions and views I’ve shared with you.

The thoughts I’ve shared with you have made me aware that how we view sexual harassment and how women are treated in society is an incredibly complex issue. One that I won’t be able to solve with one blog post. But it feels good – it feels right – to uncover why I think what I think and to start to challenge some of these assumptions that I hold.

However uncomfortable it is to talk about sexual harassment and the power dynamic between men and women, these are the topics that we need to grapple with. These are the subjects that need to be brought to our collective consciousness.

Engaging in the debate and openly listening to the views and experiences of other people is the best way for us to move forward and build a more equal world. A world where no-one is victim of sexual harassment or assault.

cropped-cropped-ctl-logo-01.jpg

blogging, compassion, feminism, self-discovery, self-esteem, self-judgement

I don’t need fixing

I was speaking to my lovely friend Anita a few weeks ago and she mentioned that she had been looking at the beauty products – creams, lotions and products that cover-up – when she had a thought come to her:

“Why I am using these things? I don’t need fixing.”

And as I heard her words, I felt my eyes fill up with tears. I felt a resonance with her desire to accept herself exactly as she was without need to cover up, hide, accept the lies told by a beauty industry that profits on women thinking that we’re not enough as we are.

Anita’s words have been in the forefront to my mind this week because I’ve become aware of the stealthy addition of more and more grey in my hair. In past years, I’d find an odd grey hair, pluck it out and not think any more of it. But now I’m finding myself facing an ever growing number of these hairs and I’m confronted with the signs of growing old.

And it makes me think that something needs fixing.

Because I’m afraid of not being seen anymore, not being desired anymore, not being of interest to anyone anymore.

But what if I shifted my mindset and told myself in the face of these grey hairs that I don’t need fixing? That instead it’s our culture that needs fixing.

That we need to view people not by the colour of their hair or the firmness of their skin but by the strength of their hearts and minds?

So I’m going to resist colouring over my grey for a few weeks to see how that feels and keep on repeating to myself those wise words from my dear friend – I don’t need fixing.

cropped-cropped-ctl-logo-01.jpg

blogging, feminism, self-discovery, truth, Work

The F word

Yes, the F word…it feels a bit dirty to use it, many people don’t like it, I wasn’t too sure if it was for me…but now I’m starting to embrace it.

Feminism

Ever since my friend, Heather, introduced me to the pool, an online platform with interesting, inspiring, original content for women, I’ve started to dip my toe in the world of feminism. And day-by-day, I’m becoming more intrigued with what this means for me and am seeing thing from my life in a new context…

What do I mean by feminism? 

I wasn’t too sure about what feminism was for a long time. I mean, sure, it’s about equality between men and women, but I didn’t really see what was unequal in the world. Women in the west can vote, we can have a mortgage of our own (until fairly recently women wanting a mortgage on their own needed a man – husband, father or brother – to co-sign it), we have access to contraception that allows us to choose when we give birth, laws to protect our rights.

But then I read a really helpful book by Caitlin Moran which opened my eyes to the inequality that still exists. 

Take, for instance, the thoughts you might have if a woman returned to work 2 weeks after giving birth to her child. You might be thinking:

“how could she cope?” “what about breastfeeding?” “it’s not fair on the baby” “why have a child if you don’t want to spend any time with it?”

Now replace the woman in this story with a man. What are your thoughts about him going back to work?

“it’s normal” “someone needs to be earning money” “why would he stay at home?”

There’s no reason why we should view the choice of these two people any differently, especially in the UK where paternity leave allows men as much legal rights as women to take time off work to care for a child.

Regardless of whether you (or I) would want to have the year off to care for a child, there is inequality in how we view men and women.

And there are so many other examples I can think about. Imagine if you went to a woman’s house and it was a hovel…dirty and uncared for, the bed unmade and dirty dishes left around the kitchen. What would you think about her?

Would you have the same level of disgust if it was a man’s home?

What about if a man didn’t remember any birthdays of family and friends…ignoring them, sending cards late and, if confronted, not being that apologetic?

Then think about how you’d view a woman who did the same thing.

You may not have any different reaction…and if this is true, good on you! However, I know I have different expectations of people which is based on their sex…and I don’t want to.

Yes, we may vary physically and our brains have some differences but this shouldn’t determine the different standards we put on people depending on their sex.

I believe we should all have the right to choose what’s best for us, regardless of our gender.

My family of feminists

I’ve never discussed feminism with my family, perhaps I will when they visit me over the Easter weekend, but the more I think back to my childhood, the more I can see examples of both my mum and dad sharing caring responsibilities equally and doing things that play to their strengths, regardless of their gender.

I wrote about my dad combing my hair when I was a child in my recent post about my hair and this is only one of countless examples of the *feminine* tasks he did to care for his children. Cooking us tea, doing housework, caring for my grandad (not his father) in his older years, walking us children to school.

And my mum, she is an example of a strong woman who is not confined to who she *should* be. She preached at church (a role mostly done by men until then), shared the household chores equally with my dad, gave similar household jobs to my brother and I and aspired to be a probation officer – a typically masculine job – when she was younger.

It’s only now that I can appreciate that they modelled a different way of being.

Don’t get me wrong, there were differences of expectations with my brother and I (he was granted more freedom and he still gets away with missing birthdays more than I would!) but I’m still appreciative of the different model they showed me of equality.

What this means for me

I wanted to share this with you – my baby steps of understanding into the world of feminism – to help put some order into what I’m learning about feminism.

I know I’ve navigated this world, especially the professional one, through being girly, friendly, gentle and helpful. Through being indirect with my ideas “…I don’t know about you, but what’s struck me about this is that maybe we should…X, Y, Z…I mean, I’m not sure…what do you think?” and winning people over with my kindness, lightness and smile. I know part of this is my personality, but part of it is also how I’ve managed to not be threatening or disliked for being too forward, too confrontational, too direct, too masculine which I think women get judged for. I want to being a bit more direct at work, to not present in a way that is ‘acceptable’ in this man’s world…

I’ve also caught myself, even on this blog, telling my story through the lens of the men around me. My post about my hair, for example, spoke of my dad combing my hair when I was little, my ex-boyfriend dictating who I could be and my husband accepting me exactly as I am, short hair and all…does this show that I view the world through the eyes of men…or that my life has been dictated and influenced so heavily by men? I’m not sure…but I will continue to keep asking these questions and try to live my life for myself. Not as I think men would like me to be.

I think feminism is a difficult word to embrace. One that gets wrapped up in images of women burning bras, hating men and being generally aggressive.

But for me, feminism is the fight for true equality. For us to be judged by what we do and who we are inside, not by our gender.

It’s about working to have a world where, if I have a baby, and it’s a girl, she has as many opportunities as she would if she was a male, and if it’s a boy, he has the freedom to pursue ‘feminine’ jobs, tasks, hobbies, without any stigma.

And that’s not too much to ask, is it?

cropped-cropped-ctl-logo-01.jpg