In which I get my feminism on and feel a little bit weary

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Today Elle magazine’s #MoreWomen campaign has been making headlines because of this rather pithy little video demonstrating how few women there are at the top in a range of different fields. It’s a neat visual way of making the points that most of us are already aware of – women are 50% (actually slightly more than 50%) of the UK population but less than 30% of Westminster MPs, only around 23% of major business board members, and are outnumbered my men 4 to 1 in news and current affairs programming.

And that should make me angry, but increasingly it just makes me sad, because I grew up genuinely believing that none of this stuff would be an issue for me. Yes – there was still sexism when I went to school. I remember my primary school reading books being big on sections where Peter helped Daddy do something fun and adventurous while Jane helped Mummy make the tea. I remember the maths teacher who accused me of cheating because a girl couldn’t be that good at maths. But what I also remember was being absolutely certain that all of those attitudes were a hangover of an era that was already gone.

I grew up as part of the first generation whose mothers routinely went out to work, whose grandmothers had been able to vote as soon they were old enough. I was born ten years after abortion was legalised, seven years after the Equal Pay Act was passed, three years after family planning clinics were allowed to prescribe the pill to single women. I grew up being taught to expect that my opportunities would not be defined by my gender. The big battles, it seemed, had been fought and won. I was part of the generation that would reap the benefits.

And we still find ourselves in a position where time and time again women’s representation gets to about a third and then stalls because somehow we’re visible enough by then. We have a cultural landscape where the idea that something might only be of interest to women is used as a belittling notion, whereas ideas that are mainly interesting to men are just ideas. And I simply don’t now how on earth we’re still here. I don’t know how it is that I’ve twice been in job interviews and been asked whether I thought a young woman could be taken seriously in the role. I don’t know how it is that ‘like a girl’ is a derogatory term. I don’t know how it is that I get introduced as a ‘lady author’ (Author. The term is author. Just author. Thank you).

Women went on hunger-strike, tied themselves to railings, burned their bras, so that their daughters and grand-daughters wouldn’t be in this position, and yet we are. And tomorrow I shall get back to being angry, and I shall get back on my special equal rights horse and charge back into the fray, but today I’m tired and feeling a little bit cheated, because I genuinely grew up thinking it wasn’t going to be like this.

(Song by Jules Gibb, sung at VIVA! concert November 2011 by combined cummunity choirs ‘Move On Up’ Pershore and Winchcombe, soloist Bev Harrell, musical director Alice Robin)

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7 thoughts on “In which I get my feminism on and feel a little bit weary

    Polly said:
    October 15, 2015 at 8:22 am

    Well said, Alison.

    Like

    MarinaSofia said:
    October 15, 2015 at 8:34 am

    I wonder if things have got worse or if we’ve simply lost patience with the way things are, if it’s an age-related thing. Because I too as an adolescent believed that none of this would be an issue for me – you have to, otherwise you might just as well give up at the outset – and then, especially once children appeared, I found myself systematically pushed aside, put on the dead-end track, disregarded and patronised. I never expected to revert so badly to gender stereotypes and be judged by my biology rather than my abilities. Have you seen this interesting little article about why women always get asked about work/life balance and men don’t?
    http://www.inc.com/kimberly-weisul/why-male-bigwigs-asked-families.html

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      Alison May responded:
      October 15, 2015 at 9:00 am

      Interesting piece. Thank you for sharing. I definitely get the assumption that I don’t have kids because I’m a ‘career woman’ – I’m not sure my husband gets the same assumptions. I think it’s assumed that a man’s career and home life are just separate and unrelated somehow.

      Liked by 1 person

        MarinaSofia said:
        October 15, 2015 at 11:50 am

        But women always are told or made to feel that they have to ‘make the choice’, that ‘they can’t have it all’, while for men that issue never seems to arise.

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    lmsprott said:
    October 15, 2015 at 8:48 am

    I too thought things would change. My mother was my biggest critic thinking I was neglecting my husband and children because at the age of 40 I went to University. On the other hand my father was very supportive.
    Having a daughter myself I admire her determination to succeed but it is at a price.
    I despair in my experience that other women make the most negative comments and are so unsupportive.
    We must not stop making the world a more equal place for those who fought so hard in the past to make the future a better place for all women.

    Liked by 1 person

    JAstley said:
    October 15, 2015 at 9:02 am

    It’s childcare that’s the big problem in this country. While it’s still assumed that this is a woman’s problem then things will never change. I want to see men taking equal responsibility for household stuff and I want boys to see their fathers being handy with a washing machine etc so that gradually division of household chores stops being an issue. Btw, as far back as 1967 the FPA was able to prescribe the pill to single girls. I was one of them – but it took some persuading!

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      Alison May responded:
      October 15, 2015 at 9:06 am

      That’s interesting. The source I found had it as 1974 – my mistake.

      I agree about childcare, and particularly assumptions about childcare. Men taking equal responsibility for domestics are still met with the attitude that they’re kindly ‘helping out’ the woman, rather than just doing half because they are also functioning adults who live in the house.

      Like

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