I’ve been thinking a lot about feminism lately, after getting an email from an old school friend.
As she filled me in on what she’d been doing over the years, I was struck by one sentence in particular – the one where she basically apologised for “throwing the women’s movement back into the dark ages” – all because she chose to be a stay at home mum.
Actually, I thought that was the whole point of the women’s movement – that she shouldn’t have to apologise! Aren’t women supposed to have the freedom to choose: whether that be as a stay at home with our kids, running a business, studying, owning property, travelling the world, running for office, having a career …
When I grew up in the seventies, it seemed most mums stayed at home to raise the kids.
I must confess that when I went on maternity leave to have my first baby 27+ years ago, I didn’t think I’d be returning to the paid workforce any time soon. If ever!
It was what I grew up with. It was also the message I received from my involvement in youth group and church. Motherhood was a woman’s highest calling and all that.
Sidenote 1: You can only imagine how that made single women, or women unable to bear children, feel!
Sidenote 2: Like the rest of the country, I was heartbroken by the tragic death of Kelly Wilkinson, the Gold Coast woman killed by her ex-partner. However at her memorial service, a local dignitary mentioned that Kelly always felt that being a mum to her three kids was the “best job” in the world. Have you ever heard of a man saying that being a dad is the best job in the world? Even if a man loves being a dad, he would never call it a job. It’s a role. And it’s the same with women.
But I digress! So what was wrong with devoting my life to motherhood?!
There were a couple of things which in my naivety, I didn’t realise.
First of all, kids grow up incredibly quickly. Then what?!
Secondly, I had a brain, and I really missed using it. We bought our first computer when I went on maternity leave. It was a 286 with an EGA screen and a dot matrix printer; and it was my lifeline 🙂 . In my spare time I kept up my penpalling hobby, and even started to make money freelance writing for magazines.
I also threw myself into running a magazine (Footprints) as a volunteer. I needed the mental stimulation; I needed the sense of purpose it gave me. But somehow I’d taken on board the message that while it was okay to use my talents, I couldn’t use them to make money (a combination of my upbringing / church background).
Once the kids were both at school I returned to the paid workforce, but only ever in part-time or casual jobs – I wasn’t interested in a career at that time. I might have “only” been a library assistant, or an admin, but I wanted to be the best darn library assistant/ admin that I could be! But that was the extent of my dreams.
It’s only been in the last few years that I’ve dared to want more. Today I have a thriving business and am enjoying finally being able to have a career I love!
Don’t get me wrong, I am incredibly thankful that I was able to be at home for my kids when they were small, but I am relishing having broader horizons these days.
All this to give you some background, to help you understand where I’m coming from when I say: I didn’t really understand the point of the women’s movement – or how it was relevant to me, or to any woman today. Yep. Brainwashed much?!
I gaily skipped through my life thinking it was pretty good to be a woman. We had the vote. We could work, earn money, own property.
It feels like my eyes have only been opened in the last few years to the horrific injustices which women still face every day.
Overseas there are religions and governments which think that women shouldn’t be allowed to drive, or even walk down the street unless they are covered head to toe. They think that educating females is a waste of time, and that female genital mutilisation is okay.
But even in the western world, here in Australia, we still have a long way to go when it comes to feminism. Just take a look at your TV screen. Research shows that men outnumber women considerably no matter the format – news programming, movies, chat shows, soap operas. Where are the strong female characters?
We might have had a female prime minister and a female governor-general, but only a third of Federal Parliamentarians are women. We still have to contend with the gender pay gap, and the glass ceiling.
Back in 2016, I entered the only category of the local business awards that I felt like I had some chance in – the Redland WOMAN in Business. As a finalist, I gave a speech about how I managed work life balance. I had some misgivings at the time – could you imagine a MAN being asked to do that? But kept my thoughts to myself and was beyond excited to actually win an award or something!!!!
However it seems I wasn’t alone in my thoughts about the political correctness of that particular award. The very next year it was re-classified as the Business PERSON. There were no entries and it hasn’t appeared as a category since. (So technically I’m still the reigning Redland Woman in Business LOL!)
I no longer attend any church, for a multitude of reasons which I won’t get into here. But one of them is that I get extremely angry about the way women have been held back, and treated as second class citizens for centuries. Even in the supposedly modern churches, it is rare to see women preach, or as ministers – it’s very much in the minority.
We still have such a long way to go.
Women are equal to men. Different, but of equal value and worth.
End of story.
Our journeys have been very similar Jeanette. I will
Write again someday about my journey of parenting,
Loss and rediscovering my identity outside of “ just being a
Janetti Spaghetti says
It does sound like it Cheryl … there are quite a few of us around! Del is another one. Lovely to have you visit x
It is a huge thing! Over the last few years I have thought a lot about what I’ve lived through and most of it trauma. From how I was raised, how I was treated at jobs and just everyday living; most all before I was 25. Even the treatment I (still) receive from male doctors! It is hard to look back on all those things. Hopefully, my daughters will be treated better. I taught them to not take sh*t from anyone. No matter who they are. Currently, I just turned 59 and have to find a job! So daunting when I have not been in the workforce full time since the early 90’s.
I’m so incredibly proud that here in the US, we finally have a female VP – and a woman of color no less! But we can and will do better still. It’s so disheartening to STILL have to fight this after all these years. But I will continue for our daughters, and their daughters. Thank you for sparking this conversation Janet!
Janetti Spaghetti says
Hi Deanna, I work in SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) which is a predominantly male industry (70%) and I’ve come across some very condescending … ok downright nasty … males, that don’t respect what women can do. All the best with your job hunting … not an easy task. I’m not sure what field you are in but when I wanted to get back into the workforce after a break, I did office temping for a while and that really opened doors.
Janetti Spaghetti says
Yes! Congratulations on your Vice President. Thank you for your kind words, it really helps, I must confess I was quite hesitant about sharing this post.