My life has taken twists and turns I never expected. Many a thing has happened that I didn’t plan or ever expect to happen. One of those things is becoming a staunch feminist.
I’m not sure I ever identified as a feminist before I had my daughters or really understood the importance of the movement. Prior to having the girls, I thought that feminism had done its job – the glass ceiling had been shattered and I was living the dream.
However, having lived my life in the nexus of “trying to mother like I don’t work and trying to work like I don’t have kids” (as Annabel Crabbe put it in her excellent book, The Wife Drought) for the last three and half years, I am well versed in the gender bias that still plagues society, as well as the discrimination that goes with being a part-time worker, a working mother, a pregnant woman, a woman who might have more children, a woman who outsources, etc.
All of these experiences have come together and my feminist staunch has strengthened during this time but it has also changed.
Presently, I find myself confused when I read articles that focus on the following issues:
- Women who are homemakers / SAHM don’t feel valued by society.
- Working mothers contribute more to society.
- Working mothers aren’t investing in their kids enough – they are selfish for pursuing careers.
- Women who don’t have kids will “never understand”.
- And then there’s this wave of literature on how women “should” act, e.g. real feminists don’t say sorry.
Now depending on which camp you sit in, like most things, there is research out there that will support your choices. For example if you’re a SAHM your kid is less likely to join ISIS, if you work your kid is less likely to join ISIS, if you don’t have kids you’re more likely to be blown up by ISIS because you can go on more fabulous holidays to exotic destinations. I made all of that up obviously but I’m sure you understand the “research noise” I’m talking about.
I’d like to put it out there that rather than analyse and compare how we all do things differently, and weigh up who is more valuable, it’s time to respect and support each other’s choice. Many generations of women before us have fought hard fights to give us the choices we have before us.
In no way am I saying the fight is over ladies – because it isn’t. There are many leagues to travel. However if we are going to make feminism work into the future we need to start respecting each other’s choices and valuing our own. Being a woman shouldn’t be a competitive sport but it seems as though there swathes of people out there determined to make it one.
I think my feminist mantra is much gentler these days – do what you want, do what suits you and do what you need to do to get things done. No matter the choices you are making, you are valuable, you have purpose and you are contributing.
Imagine if we took the angst out of womanhood in this regard? Imagine if we could openly celebrate our choices and not feel like we were rubbing our respective successes in each other’s face. If we could say we were having a hard time and not coping too well without prefacing it with “I love my kids but…” or “I know in the scheme of things it’s no biggie but I’m finding this thing really hard…” If we could just be our authentic selves and live our choices without worrying about what others think. Imagine that!