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.
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?