On being a woman

I am nowhere near finished my latest read, Wilkie Collins’ No Name, of which I am having the enormous pleasure of reading alongside the lovely Darlene, and so I can offer no book review as such today. Time to read seems to be a rarity these days; I seem to be out most evenings doing various things, and if I am at home, by the time I get in, make dinner, do the washing up, put on a load of washing, faff around doing boring responsible adult things like paying bills or going to Tesco, it’s time to go to bed. Now the nights are drawing in the days just seem so much shorter and I can’t seem to fit in all the things I mean to do with my days. Hence why it is taking me so long to read books.

However, I do read on the train to and from work, and one of my favourite new additions to my commute is Stylist magazine, which is distributed free in London midweek and is a very good quality read aimed at the intelligent, professional woman with a bit of disposable income. The clothes pages advertise lovely clothes that are a bit beyond my means but other than that I find it very relevant and thought provoking. Tonight in particular my attention was arrested by a very interesting article on women’s attitudes towards careers and home. I’m going to go out on a limb tonight and use this article as a prompt to attempt to discuss my attitude towards feminism and how I feel about being a woman today. It might be a bit controversial; it might be a bit simplistic; it might annoy some of you; it might even anger some of you. I will warn you; I am no feminist. I am actually rather pro men; all they get is abuse these days and I think they are wonderful and should be celebrated more. Hopefully we can get quite a good discussion going. What I fear is that I will get no response at all and become a blogging pariah! So if you do have an opinion on this topic, do chime in. I’d love to hear what other women, and men, think of this modern issue of gender identity. 
 
So, according to this aformentioned article, apparently 19% of all women; not specifically mothers, but women in general, would rather not work at all, and only 12% of mothers would willingly work full time. According to a report entitled What Women Want by sociologist Cristina Odone, many modern women would happily opt out of careers altogether. They have been told that self realisation, fulfilment and success can only be achieved through work, and have succumbed to the guilt inducing belief that wanting anything else is a betrayal of the struggle for equality that their mothers, grandmothers and greatgrandmothers had to suffer through.

The article also discussed the ‘Domestic Goddess’ ideal and the fantasy version of the 1950s housewife made so popular by the likes of Cath Kidston. Many young women long for lives where they can potter about at home, making cakes and sewing quilts and generally creating a warm, beautiful and harmonious environment in which to live. Cath Kidston has made a fortune out of this, and sewing, knitting and baking classes are growing rapidly in popularity, especially amongst young women in their twenties. Are woman today regressing to a time before feminism, when success was about how many children you had and how good your canapes were? And if they are, where did this ideal of the wonderful life of the perfect fifties housewife come from? Has no one read the harrowing stories of thwarted dreams, crushing boredom and depression inducing frustration in Betty Friedan’s The Feminine Mystique, I wonder? They were trapped in their houses, because they had no opportunity to get outside of them. In a time when most women were married straight out of school, education was minimal and jobs were limited to a very narrow amount of professions. They had no choice but to be wives and mothers. Our idyll of the fifties housewife appears to forget this fact; we are embracing a fantasy that never was, and at the same time, in all of our selfish ‘I want it all’ angst, forgetting just how lucky we are.

I am no feminist and neither am I a career woman; I am not ashamed to admit that I look forward to a day when I can be at home, bringing up my children and making my house pretty and having the time to bake cakes and do crafty things and plant flowers and so on. However, I also am fully aware that I will probably find this unbearably dull at times, and no matter how pretty my bedspreads are, or how springy my sponge cakes, I will still desire achievements of my own. I will still want to read, and to write, and to study, and to create. And this is the joy of womanhood today; we have the choice to do this. I can spend my twenties working, enjoying the challenges, opportunities, variety and personal growth that come with making my way up the career ladder and learning my craft in an environment that is dynamic and interesting and gives me a sense of achievement at the end of the day. When my time comes to be a mother, I can then choose to leave this life behind, stay at home, nest, indulge my feminine desire to make a beautiful home and create a nurturing and warm environment for my children and husband. And then, when that time is over, I can go back to work again, if I so desire, or I could go back into study, and so on and so forth. The world is my oyster. What a victory my predecessors have won for us! We, as women (albeit middle class ones), actually have more choice than men; consider the reaction a man would receive if he decided to chuck in his job, don a pinny and start making cushions from scratch. It’s not really a socially acceptable option for a man. Their role is still very much that of provider; alpha male, working hard for the wife and kids at home. Life is no different for them now than it was for Lester in the wonderful The Home Maker; he had to pretend to be disabled to make his choice of being a house husband acceptable. You don’t find many articles detailing how men are struggling to ‘have it all’; they accepted a long time ago that they can’t, and they just get on with it. However, I can’t open a magazine or paper nowadays without reading one moan after another by women complaining that juggling life is so hard and they never get enough me time and they want to stay at home with their children but they also want to have a career and so on. What they seem to forget is that they have the luxury of choice to be all of these women in the first place. In fighting for equality and freedom, perhaps we’ve given ourselves too many choices; are our opportunities now so many and varied that we are doomed to never be content with what we have, always striving for more, and destroying ourselves in the process?

I believe in the feminism with a small ‘f’ that Persephone promotes. The feminism that says I can get a degree, have a job, then chuck it in to look after my children and not feel an ounce of guilt about it. The feminism that says looking after children can be mind numbingly dull, and that it’s perfectly within the bounds of normality to find it so. The feminism that says I can come home after a demanding day at the office and enjoy making a quilt or baking a cake. The feminism that says I am a woman of many facets, and I won’t be bullied into fitting an ideal. The feminism that says I have the right to do what I want with my life, regardless of what others may expect of me. This choice, this freedom to be the woman I want to be, no matter where that takes me, is the freedom I am thankful my predecessors fought for. I am not thankful for the man hating attitude and judgementalness towards women who choose to stay at home that militant feminism seems to have engendered.

I believe, perhaps, controversially, that women are equal to men; equal, but different. We want different things, we have different desires. Perhaps the reason why there aren’t as many female CEOs as there are male is because women just don’t want to spend their entire waking lives welded to a Blackberry. Maybe women are innately more drawn to being at home, to being nurturers, and men to the workplace and to provide. Is it nature or nurture? I just don’t know. All I know is that the only people I have ever truly felt judged and criticised and discriminated against are other women; I think we are our own worst enemies. Being a woman is, for me, not about how I measure up to men, or about how I measure up to other women. It’s about being free to be true to who I am. Whether that means I spend my life in a house, or in a boardroom, it doesn’t matter; what matters is, I have the choice to decide. That’s certainly something many of our favourite Persephone heroines never had.

ps. I am trying out using a slightly larger font – I am aware that the one I usually use is quite small and may be difficult to read. Please do let me know if you prefer it, and if so, I’ll stick to this size in future.

44 comments

  1. Thanks for your post; if possible I'd say I'd agree 1000%.Someday, I hope for the opportunity to do the family, kid, home, cooking, etc. thing, but in the meantime I'm SO glad I can pursue whatever I want. We are fortunate indeed.Thanks for the reminder that I should be grateful for my job, as it is my choice.

  2. I do consider myself a feminist, but not in the sense that I think every woman *must* have a career or that being a stay at home mother is somehow wrong or less valuable than a professional life. I'm a feminist because, as you say so well, women should have a *choice*. Because just as there are some women, like you, who look forward to baking and crafting and so on, there are other women (myself included) who would be miserable (and hopelessly inept) at that sort of life. (But neither do I want to be tied to a Blackberry living the CEO life–shudder.)Frankly, I'm hesitant to say women are innately drawn to one kind of life or another. There are always going to be exceptions. What, to me, is important is that every woman be allowed to define herself and not have society tell her what she's supposed to want.Thanks for the interesting post!

  3. Rachel, first of all, I love the bigger font. And second of all, my sentiments exactly. I'm not a feminist either and love being a woman in the old-fashioned way. I like men to open doors for me, etc.I also am thankful that every woman today has the right to do as we please, whether it's to be a homemaker or a careerwoman, and all other things in between. What I also do not like is the man-hating attitude.I've lived the corporate life for several years after graduation, and realized I didn't like it. I'm now a stay-at-home mother and loving it so much that I never plan on going back to work outside of the home ever again. I don't feel even a tiny hint of competition or envy towards peers who've gone up the corporate ladder or who appear to have so many accomplishments. I love the quiet life and this is where I thrive.

  4. Rachel, once again, what an interesting post.I'm not a feminist though I believe every woman (and man)should have all the opportunitites to do whatever they want in life…whether that's work or be a full-time parent. In a previous life I was a magazine editor/writer. I've been a full-time mom now for almost four years. I love it…love the baking, the crafting, etc.. I don't want to miss a single moment. Of course, there were many times when I wished to be back at work or wished I could do something fulfilling for myself. I toyed with different ideas, but I didn't want to give up my mommy job. Since I discovered book blogging, though it's been only a few months, something in me is satisfied. I think it was Thomas at My Porch who said book blogging has improved his quality of life and I definitely agree.

  5. I do consider myself a feminist, but agree with you wholeheartedly. I am not a career woman by any means, and since I have no children yet (aside from the furry kind—a dog and cat) I do feel judged, mostly by other women, it's true. It's been quite tough since relocating back to the US as there has been nothing in the way of jobs in my field. My field being libraries or writing or something generally bookish in nature. I've never wanted something conventional that makes money. I am not a money maker. Because I am currently at liberty, I do feel pressure to do something—anything, go back to school or get some sort of job to justify myself. If I had children, I would feel no guilt staying at home to raise them and in fact that is just what I would do. In the meantime, I have been enjoying my time as a lady of leisure. Getting lots of time to make a home inviting (something at which I excel), try out new recipes and perfect old favorites, finish a quilt I've been working on for years and start another one (inspired by yours), really sit down and work at my poetry, and read read read all I want. Quite a good life I'd say!

  6. How interesting and what interesting replies. I really struggle with this – I would like nothing more than to spend more of my time at home running our household and being in effect a housewife and doing the things that I never have time to do properly or have to squeeze in around work. But at the same time I know that I need to create some role for myself outside of the home – my Mum was very lost when I grew up and she lost the identity of 10 years of being at home looking after a child. She is much happier now that she is in fulltime employment. And then there is the issue which I face now, which is that I have to be earning money because my partner is out of work. He finds it difficult to be dependent on me because of his preconcieved ideals about the roles of women and men.

  7. Like I said on Michelle’s blog I think this idea that women are their own worst enemies is very much experience based (something you believe and I don’t believe because of the different women and men we’ve encountered in our lives) not something that can be applied generally across our gender.I totally get what you’re saying about women having all this choice. I think it’s a very lucky, specific group of women who can have it all (I’m one of them being white, middle class and western) and that all women are still not receiving equal rights, which is why I think many feminists continue to focus their energy on gaining equal rights for women rather than joining the fight for men’s rights. There’s still so many of our own gender we need to help that men do get rather left to their own devices and really I think we need to ask why men are not all banding together to access the kind of rights they want (fathers for justice exists, but what other solidarity groups are there?). The answer is maybe that cultural pressure from other men force men who would like to stay how, or have access to longer paternity leave, to keep their views quiet, but considering the cultural oppression that women had to fight against to change systems I’ve got to say I think if men want society to change then they have to change it. I’m totally willing to be an ally to this cause, as I’m sure many women are, but I don’t think we can drive the fight for them, just as men can be allies to the feminist cause but will never be the main driving force.Another point I’d like to make is on the survey you quote. Lots of men would probably like to stay at home and not work in an ideal world where they didn’t have to support themselves or their family, but the survey I’m guessing doesn’t ask men about this, so you get a one sided result that suggest that women don’t want to work, while men it is assumed do. Also many women, heck many people, would like to give up work because they work unfulfilling, under paid jobs and a creative, crafty, homely lifestyle sounds more appealing than having to go into the office every day. I’m guessing women with fulfilling careers answer differently than women who work general office jobs. I’m always talking about how if I won the lottery I wouldn’t work again (office job) but my female friends who are doctors etc find that their jobs are part of their life purpose, as well as a way to make money. When working mothers say they’d like to give up work if they could afford to I think that’s partly got to be blamed on the inflexible nature of work place culture. If you work in a job where you can work from home and come in a few hours a week, or one that offers on site crèche facilities, or a job that lets you work part time for the first few years of your child’s life you can combat any boredom you might find (as you yourself mentioned you might find constant home life dull) in home making. If work places were better at adapting to a woman’s way of life, instead of enforcing constant traditional male standards (the idea that you have no outside commitments and so can dedicate your whole day to your job) mothers might be more inclined to work at least part of the time (although again I think women with fulfilling careers, rather than women working any old job to bring in money would be the ones happier to return to work).

  8. more sorry I do go on…While I think every woman should get to make their own decision about whether she stays home or works by saying that one day they want to give up work don’t women assume that their partner (if you choose to have one) will continue to work and support them. In that assumption don’t they inherently enforce the gender roles that you say many men are being forced into? Wouldn’t it be more equal if (in a example nuclear family situation) both partners worked, but they each worked part time jobs? Finally I just want to talk about society’s idea that the feminist movement has not evolved. Present feminists are now largely represented by third wave feminists who advocate predominately for women’s right to choose. Of course the workplace is still full of second wave feminists who fought dirty and worked hard to bring us all to this place where we could all choose, those women are in say their forties and fifties. If they’ve worked hard and feminism has achieved things they’ll be in top management positions, so of course their version of feminism will still dominate the corporate environment and y’know their ideas don’t necessarily fit with younger generations ideas because they were created by different times, times when men were really, really prejudiced against women who tried to assert themselves in the workplace. There’s going to be a certain amount of man hating that remains (unless you expect feminist women to be better at forgiving than the average human being) and it does get passed on to some younger feminists, as lots of horrible views get passed on to some of the younger generation. But it’s important for women to recognise that feminism has reached this third wave, that the views of the past are not still the views of the majority of feminists and that the right to choose to stay at home is not incompatible with the feminist movement anymore.

  9. Fantastic post! It has been really interesting to read all the comments too!I was going to mention exactly the point that Jodie made – I think a lot of men would like to stay at home given the choice too!I am a stay at home mum – free from formal work and able to bake as many cakes as I like, but there is a big downside to this lifestyle. I got bored very quickly – I set up my own business (selling books) and started my blog as I needed something to keep my mind active. I'm lucky that I don't need the money, but it didn't matter how many coffee mornings I went to I needed a project for myself.It is so hard to balance my needs with that of my two children, but I think I'm almost there now. I think a lot of women struggle with the reality of being a housewife. It is looked down on by many people today and many find that they aren't suited to it at all. I wish that more women (and men!) had the freedom to choose to do what they wanted.

  10. What a thought provoking post. This is something I've been thinking a lot about lately. I feel that I am a feminist because I believe that women should have a choice to be who they want to be without being dictated to and judged by society. In order to have that choice, having financial freedom is also very important. But like you, I do not agree with militant feminists and I like having men around. I want to be equal to a man and have the same choices, but I don't want to be a man. And if I want to paint my nails, go shopping and have a facial, I don't see why I have to feel guilty about it. And having seen my sister and friends raise a family, I don't see staying at home as being the easy option either. It's hard work. And I agree with Jodie above that the feminists' fight is still ongoing but has evolved.

  11. As the mother of a twenty year-old young lady in University, I've made a point of discussing the options available to her down the road. First and foremost, to live HER life, whatever that may entail. Not life according to the ideals or pressures of anyone else or society. Should she meet a lovely man (she does like boys) along the way and would like to settle down and have a family, her education will have given her the ability to converse in an intelligent manner and the courage to debate issues confidently. Should she decide to live by her career, eschewing marriage and children, fine. There'll be no pressure from us about providing grandchildren. If she decides on career AND family, I hope she has staff!There's a lot of biology involved here and educated women must be so torn each and every day. Striking the perfect balance somehow, will hopefully bring a feeling of fulfillment and happiness at the end of the day.An excellent post, Rachel! As you can see by the long responses, this topic would make for a terrific group talk.

  12. I wonder why you stressed (twice) that you are no feminist when, in my eyes, you are; as Jodie has pointed out, third-wave feminism is about choice and choice is what you have advocated in this post. I am not ashamed to admit that I am a feminist because I do not associate it with the stereotypical, bra-less, underarm haired, men-hating women who have contributed to giving feminism a bad name. I am pro-choice in all areas and I believe in equality.Staying at home has its burdens and drawbacks. Being unemployed since moving to London and having my boyfriend support me is not a pleasant situation; at times it is nice to feel taken care of but it is pressure on the relationship, stressful for him and guilt-ridden for me. I also don't like being bored or penniless. If I had my choice, I would have a happy, successful career and regain the financial equality in our relationship; I also want the ability to be able to enjoy our lives together again and spend money when we can. I think it is important for all women to feel happy, successful and secure whether they are at home or working.

  13. Michelle – Thank you! And thank you for coming by and commenting. I am exactly the same – marriage, motherhood and a home of my own are in the distant future so I am very glad that I have the choice to pursue a fulfilling career and get an education in the meantime. And hey, if the marriage, motherhood, etc thing never works out for me, then at least I still have the freedom to find fulfilment in my life in many other ways.Teresa – Thank you for coming by and for commenting! I suppose whether you consider yourself a feminist or not depends on how you define the word 'feminism'. When I think of feminism I think of man hating militants and I very much don't want to be aligned with that way of thinking. I believe in standing up for women's right to have choices, and so if you define feminism in that way, then I suppose I am a feminist! I agree with you 100% – women – and men – should all have the freedom to define themselves as they choose without feeling the pressure to bow down to societal expectations.Claire – Glad the font is better for you! I share your thoughts exactly, and I too like the quiet life. I have ambitions and dreams, but they don't involve being a hot shot executive! I secretly can't wait to get out of having to go to work every day…I like my job well enough, and it's actually quite a skilled profession, but it's not fulfilling enough to make me want to stay doing it after I have kids.Mrs B – Thank you. I'm glad book blogging has given you a much needed sense of fulfilment. I think everyone, man or woman, needs to feel that they are achieving something with their lives, but that doesn't always need to be a career. Heather – Your life sounds lovely! I think it's awful how we feel pressured to do things a certain way by other people – I don't think there will ever be equality for either sex until we are all genuinely free to make the decisions that work for us as individuals without feeling judged or maligned by other people because of it. I really hope you find a fulfilling job soon.Verity – I think there is a lot of guilt in all of our lives about how we should and shouldn't be doing things, and that's not a gender issue but more a human one. I think men in particular feel very pressured to provide and feel emasculated when they're taken out of that role. The trouble is, we have so much choice these days that we never feel what we're doing is 'enough'. I know that I will probably feel I want to do something alongside having children when that time of my life comes because I will be so used to working and feeling valued as me rather than just as a child's mother that I will miss that identity and sense of achievement that acknowledgement from the adult world of work brings.

  14. Jodie – Thank you for taking the time to comment so thoroughly. I found your thoughts really interesting and thought provoking. I think you're right in a lot of ways, and I agree with you – I didn't really have a chance to go into the nitty gritty of my opinions in a short blog post. I can't speak for women of other classes or nationalities so I do come from very much a white, educated middle class point of view. I know how difficult life is for many women in other parts of the world and I do think it is still very much a fight to get them the rights they need to be able to live lives that offer them the choices we take for granted. I also think men should band together to afford themselves more flexible working arrangements, and break down the stigma that men who choose not to work in the traditional way are victims of. I wish it was possible for men and women to share the roles of provider and home maker, but I'm not convinced that's going to be made possible until enough men voice the need to do that. When I say women are their own worst enemies I mean the culture of celebrity and nit picking that is seen all over magazines and in popular culture. Women judge each other by appearance and life choice far too much and I think that can make women feel incredibly pressured to live up to a standard of perfection that isn't ever really achievable.Jackie – Thank you! I agree, I think a lot of men would want to spend more time at home with their families too! I'm so glad you have managed to find a happy medium and can enjoy doing things for you as much as you can enjoy being with your boys. Sakura – Thank you. I agree with you. Being able to have choices is so important, but then having those choices also very much depends on financial freedom. I know I'd have many more choices if I had more money. And I don't want to be a man either! All I want is the right to live my life the way I choose, and I want all men, and all women, to be able to do that without judgement by anyone else.Darlene – Thank you! Your daughter is so lucky to have such a wise and generous mother as you. I think your wishes for her are beautiful. What a wonderfully expressed comment!Claire – Thank you for such interesting comments! As I said to Teresa the reason I don't identify myself as a feminist is because I don't like the common meaning behind the term. I'd far rather say I am pro woman, or pro choice for all. As you say, equality for all is just as important as equality for women. I 100% agree – feeling happy, successful and secure is so important and no matter what you're doing, if you don't feel that way then you need to make changes that are right for you instead of feeling pressured to do what you feel your community or your society tells you to do. I hope that you find a job soon and can break free from the guilt and boredom cycle. I think everyone needs to feel valued and like they are contributing to society in some way, and what that contribution is, is going to be different for everyone.

  15. Yes, I like the larger font. Do that many women have the choice whether to work or not; I'm not sure? In my 30s when I chose to be a stay at home mum I used to feel inferior to other career minded women especially if asked what 'I did' and I would notice people's faces glaze over when I replied that I was a housewife and mother. Now in my fifties I am pleased that I made that choice and I would say that in my circle of women friends/acquaintances that most do choose to stay at home rather than work. How lucky we are to have that choice! My husband works extremely hard but I could never earn what he does (from being out of the job market for so long). I love my life and am NEVER EVER bored!

  16. What an EXCELLENT post, Rachel!Yes, I like the big font. It's great.Are you part of the Women Unbound challenge? (www.womenunbound.wordpress.com) I can't remember now if you are, but this post would really fit so well under it and I think you'd enjoy reading and discussing feminist issues with others.I have always thought that it would be so hard to be a working mother. My mom was always home for us when we were growing up, and I appreciate that so much. I'm not sure if that's really as feasible for people now, in terms of money. But I hope, if I have kids, that I can do that. If not, I hope I find a career that fulfills me.

  17. OhSoVintage – Thank you for commenting! It's really interesting to hear from so many people with different life experiences. I know a lot of women of my generation always speak of women who stay at home with derision and I don't understand why that is. As you say though, many women who want to stay at home don't have the choice, mainly for financial reasons, and I think that's really sad. My sister is one of them; she has two sons, one 6 months and one just 3, and it's so hard for her to leave them to go to work but without her working they wouldn't be able to pay the mortgage. So while we have a lot of theoretical choices, practically, I think a lot of us end up doing stuff we don't want to because of finances.Aarti – Thank you so much! I am planning on joining the challenge, yes…I need to pick my books and then I will be posting! It sounds fascinating and I have a lot of books I've been meaning to read for ages that would fit nicely into the challenge criteria.Yes as I said above to OhSoVintage finances prevent a lot of women from staying at home and I think that's really sad. My mum was at home with us for a long time before going back to work and I really appreciated that too; she did go back to work when I was at secondary school but she was there for those important early years and I know she doesn't regret it one bit. I hope I have that choice too, though, in an ideal world, I'd love for my future husband and I to be able to share working and caring for the children, as I didn't see my dad much when I was growing up because he was working so hard to keep us. I don't think the entire onus should be on the man to provide; it's important men are involved in the upbringing of their children too.

  18. Rachel, You're absolutely right that it's all in how you define the term feminist. I used to be scared of the term, but I decided to start using the term for myself last year, partly because of this post: http://feministbookworm.wordpress.com/2008/12/19/feminist/For me, feminism is about equal rights, not about seeing woman as superior to men. And with domestic violence, unequal pay, sex crimes, etc., still being huge problems, I think it's important for women to band together and speak up for our rights.Very good conversation!

  19. I agree with you entirely. I have been battling with these issues in my head for a while – as I get older and start to think about having children my priorities are slowly shifting. Like you, I am enjoying the freedom of working and making my own decisions but at the back of my mind is a niggle about how I will be able to afford to give up work when I have a baby – which is what I would like to do. I am not, alas, married to a banker. My partner is a hard worker but he is not in a position to be able to support me entirely. We have discussed the option of both of us going part-time which, I think would be a happy compromise and that way we are being more equal as he is keen to have as much of a role as I do in the upbringing of our children. As you say, we have choices. One thing that I will always be immensely grateful for is the fact that I was given the opportunity to have the best education possible. My granny had no choice but to leave school at 14 – with no qualifications. My mother was given two options on leaving her school – be a cook or a teacher – she chose the latter and turned teaching into a very successful career for herself and one in which she could take time out to look after me and my sister when we were little.

  20. And there is more..I do call myself a feminist – I am absolutely NOT a man-hater, I own 2 Cath Kidston aprons to wear whilst I cook supper for my man every night which i love doing (I make sure he does the washing up!) but I am outraged at the fact that the UK has the lowest conviction rate for rape in Europe, I am outraged that some women get paid less than their male counterparts and I am outraged that it was LEGAL for a husband to rape his wife until 1991 and I don't like the assumption made by SOME men that if I am out in a short skirt then that means I am 'up for it' and that gives them the right to yell out of their van window at me. Equality has come a long way but we still have a little bit further to go – and that is true for men's rights as well. Paternity leave needs to be more comprehensive for one thing. It needs to be acceptable for a man to say he is going part time to his colleagues without rib-jabbing and jokes about pinnies. This article is really interesting http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/2009/oct/21/men-work-paternity-leaveI am really lucky in that both my mother and father have made sure that my sister and I have had every opportunity made available to us and it has never mattered if we want to be big shot high flyers or big shot ace mothers – or both. Anything goes, and I think that is what we have to thank our feminist predecessors for – without those hairy, bra burning man-haters of the 70s in the UK fighting for equal rights – would we now be coming out the other side in the 21st century with a new wave of feminism – as Jodie says, the third wave? the 80s saw women trying to be more like men with the 'power suit' and Thatcher but now we have this new feminism which embraces choice, equality AND feminine virtues. As a 21st century feminist i can put on my pinny, cook my boy a meal, write my blog, potter about with sewing and baking AND have an education and great career. Unlike my granny, I have always had choices and more than that – I have the luxurious choice to try it all and see what fits, for me as an individual, which makes me so lucky.You mention that maybe we have too many choices – I can see this is perhaps true in some respects. But those women who moan in the paper about juggling work and life obviously haven't got the balance – they are greedy. I believe we have the choice to try it all but not necessarily HAVE it all. Compromises must be made – if you are at work 5 days a week and have a small child at home, then someone else is inevitably going to be raising your child – nannies do a good job but i don't think it is the same. On the flip side, if we make the decision to give up work then we are going to have to give up certain material aspirations (unless married to a banker) as we can't expect to have the huge pay packet and a part-time/no job. Tricky. So, like you, I have decided to spend my 20s trying my best at a kick arse career after which, hopefully and fingers crossed, i might be able to scale back and wear my Cath Kidston apron more often! I have choices, for which I am eternally grateful.

  21. Fascinating post Rachel… though being a bloke I don't know if have anything can add to it all, which is possibly a very male response hahahaha.

  22. Teresa – Thank you for linking to such an interesting post. I agree 100% with that and so I am now going to stop being scared of the word feminist. I think because I studied scary man hating second wave feminism at university the word feminism has become synonymous with that for me, and I was afraid to be associated with that brand of feminism, which, personally, I think has dragged women back rather than pushed them forward. Maybe us modern feminists need to give the word feminism a makeover to reflect its current application in our lives?Naomi – Marvellous, and lengthy! post and thank you for your insightful comments. I agree with you 100% and I especially love your points about compromise – some women want to have everything and then complain when they can't – that's not about equality, it's about being realistic and about accepting that life isn't a fantasy and you don't get to bake like Nigella Lawson, have a house like Cath Kidston's, have perfect rosy cheeked children who you do crafts and baking with every afternoon and have an amazing fulfilling job and a bank account that affords a wonderful lifestyle all at the same time. You have to prioritise and adapt accordingly. I want a fulfulling job and cute children and time to bake and look after them and an amazing house but I also want to have bigger boobs and smaller feet and amazing hair…you don't get to have it all. Perfection doesn't exist. Deal with it, and make the best of what you have. I'd love to dump some of these Moaning Minnies in a sub saharan African country for a week and see how their perspective is changed after seeing how women there cope with the most incredible hardships! Simon – Thanks! No, no, no – don't think you have nothing to add! I'd love to hear a male perspective and see how you feel about work/life balance and societal expectations – once you have kids, do you want to work part time? Would you feel judged by your friends/colleagues if you did? Are you scared by women who call themselves feminists?! Tell us all!

  23. Really interesting post that I hope to get the time to comment on more fully. I really need to get the internet at home!

  24. I find that my feelings about feminism have changed over the years, I started from a point very like yours and have moved to a more hardline stance as I've got older and my experiance has been less posative. When I was a student in Scotland in the 90's there was a zero tolerance campaign with posters everywhere with some fairly stark statistics about sexual and domestic abuse. At the time I thought they were extreme but have since come to have a better understanding of how casually some men are inclined to impose their will on women and how devestating it can be. By my mid twenties I didn't know a single woman who hadn't suffered some sort of sexual assault (happily that's no longer the case)but that casual attitude towards women and our bodies makes me so angry that I think there's still a place for the hairy angry feminist to point out that some things still need fixing.

  25. I've come here via Desperate Reader's blog, and have been interested in the discussion, particularly the idea that the stereotype of the hairy bra-less manhating feminist has put people off naming themselves as feminists. I'm not sure these women (if they ever existed in large numbers) "contributed to giving feminism a bad name" as somebody said upthread. Personally I think the media has foregrounded this stereotype as an attempt to challenge feminism and diminish its power. If women who confound that stereotype can own the term feminist, then that can only give feminism more strength.If anyone is interested in publically affirming his/her feminism, I recommend the Fawcett Society t-shirt, modelled here by the lovely Bill Bailey:http://www.fawcettsociety.org.uk/

  26. I think you're so right about men-as-househusbands still having huge stigma attached to it. Women are so much further ahead than men in terms of having the choice between working in employment or working in the home. A really interesting post, Rachel.

  27. And yes, why is this fact about male CEOs always cited… who'd WANT to be a CEO? I know I'd absolutely hate it!

  28. Oh dear, me again, I wasn't going to get on my hobby horse until I saw that Lisa had mentioned paternity leave… this is one of the things that gets me cross. Someone (innocently enough) wrote higher up in the comments that women are sometimes forced to work to male standards i.e. no commitments outside work. I really hate that this is seen as a male standard – that fatherhood is seen as less valid than motherhood, both in the eyes of society and the law. England has one of the worst paternity leave entitlements in the West, which is awful. I don't expect feminists to fight for this cause (though hopefully they would support it, just as I consider myself to be a little-f-feminist) but I wish some men would! Maybe if I have children I'll be in a better position to fight for it…

  29. I am a Feminist who is pro-men; that is, I do not hate men. Both positions are not mutually exclusive. There are those who treat it as such which is such a great pity. How can I hate men when I am raising my son to be a good one? I am a Feminist who believes that if a woman chooses to stay at home, she should be able to do so without being looked down upon. However, being able to stay at home is not a reality for many women; it's not a matter of choice – they have to work. This is a quote I currently have on my blog: "Radical feminism is working for the eradication of domination and elitism in all human relationships." Women who support other women are feminists. Men who support women are feminists.

  30. Hello Rachel.I need not touch the part about women for I'm still a student (as in a Junior), I don't have kids and I don't have a home to run.What I'm interested about is the part about men. My Dad has never complained on his job as a banker or as a supervisor on a gasoline station, both jobs which deals with papers, lots of them.But right now, he has stopped working and in his place, my Mom has provided the income of the family. In this case, we are going to touch the topic about men's pride.I believe that men, though they'd want a break from work, would still want to work (unless age-inappropriate to work) since it would be quite shameful (not that I find it shameful, but men find it shameful), as men are the working people in society, that your wife is feeding you when you should be feeding her. Plus, they find it shameful too that they are the ones cleaning or taking care of the children when it's their wife who should be on their place.Nevertheless, this goes for certain men on certain situations. Hope I haven't offended any one. xx

  31. Desperate Reader – Thank you so much for your thoughts. I think I have been very lucky in that I have never been in a position where I have felt taken advantage of or abused because of my gender. I've never had any doors closed to me because I am a woman, largely because I've always pursued traditionally feminine pursuits, I suppose. Perhaps I have been too cosetted. I do agree that it's important to stand up for women's rights everywhere, though, and I do acknolwedge and very much care about the abuse done to woman in different countries.Catalpa – Thank you so much for reading and for commenting. I think you have a fair point and there has definitely been a concerted effort of late to dismiss feminism and brand women who stand up for themselves as man haters etc. However I do think there was certainly a time when man hating feminism was prevalent in the public sphere – people like Germaine Greer, etc, as those were the feminists shouting the loudest. I think if the notion of feminism as women standing up for themselves and for other women, and also for men, is a good and positive thing, rather than something to be derided and ridiculed, then you are right, it needs to be embraced and spoken of with pride rather than something that is never mentioned or brushed over as a term that is outdated or unnecessary. Love the t shirt!Simon – Thank you for your comments! It's so wonderful to hear a man's point of view on the topic. Somehow I can't imagine you as CEO, no! I too think it's disgusting that somehow men are expected to naturally not want a role in their children's lives, and are pushed out by the lack of options they have to work flexibly. I sincerely hope this changes, and soon, as I certainly want my children to grow up with more than weekend dad.Stephanie – Thank you so much for reading and for commenting. It's lovely to see a new face! Your points are excellent and I agree with them all. Especially that being a feminism and liking men are not mutually exclusive.Lex – Thank you for coming by and thank you for taking time to comment, I appreciate it! I think your issue about male pride is a very pertinent one, but at the same time, do men only feel that way because they have been made to feel that way? Perhaps if it became more acceptable for men to have the same home/career options as men, they would feel more liberated and comfortable making those choices? Shame and fear of what others will think can motivate so many of our decisions, and I think there is a male culture of mocking men who don't want to conform to the macho man stereotype.

  32. Saying you want all the choices but you're not a feminist is like saying you don't want slavery but you're not one of those strident polarizing smelly long-haired hippie civil rights workers. The history is what the history is. Women worked their whole lives, and were harassed, and went to jail, and lost everything they had, so we could enjoy what careers we want, vote, own property, have our own bank accounts, get out of bad marriages, prosecute for rape, and so forth. I feel that the least I can do is call myself a feminist! Even today, I don't make a dollar for the same dollar a man gets at my job. If I want that dollar, I'm a feminist. Even if I like that man. :)Love the discussion, the blog, and the font!

  33. Hi Jenny, thanks for your comments! Excellent points! As I have said a few times in my replies to people's comments, telling me that I can't say all the things I've said and not be a feminist, I think I have shied away from using the term feminist as my personal experience of the word, and what I take it to mean, isn't how I would describe my own views. However, this discussion has made me think about what feminism means to women, and if we are to 'rebrand' the word feminism as a positive thing rather than the stereotype which I have certainly considered it as encompassing, we do need more women of my persuasion to be comfortable declaring themselves as feminist, and defining the word feminism in their own terms. I will cover this more in my next post!

  34. I am absolutely a feminist, and like you, I believe that part of being a feminist is knowing you have the power to choose the life you really want to lead. And I appreciate you saying honestly that you don't consider yourself a career woman. I always thought of myself as one, but I definitely have moments where I'm drawn to the other options! And it's great to know they're available to me.I'm actually surprised that more people don't admit to the fact that 99 percent of the time, work just plain sucks (even when you have a cool job!). It's interesting that we often think we have to define ourselves with a prestigious or "important" career.

  35. Rachel, I doubt that you've been to cosseted, I'm glad your experiences have been posative and very much hope they stay that way. It may well be a sign of progress and that the 10 years or so that seperate us have produced a generation of men and women with greater respect for each other. I also like your font. (desperate reader)

  36. Writerspet – Hello! Thank you for reading and for commenting. I love your points about work – why do we lie to ourselves that careers are so fulfilling when in the majority of cases, they are just a means to pay the rent. Glamourising the world of work and making it our identity is one of the reasons why work/life balance is so out of kilter, in my opinion.Hayley – Thank you very much. Maybe times have changed; I hope they have. I like to think that in some respects, the world is moving forward.

  37. Hello. I wanted to make a very late contribution if I may. Several times you and others have mentioned how unfortunate it is that men are not able to give up careers and stay at home. This is more than a little confusing since for most of recent history, women or especially feminists have described the stay at home experience as almost a tragedy for women, or at best boring and unfulfilling. And also it is frequently remarked about how dangerous it is to be in such a position of financial dependency. That being the case why would we expect to take up something that women have said is a quite miserable experience? You yourself said, "Women of my generation always speak of women who stay at home with derision" If the stay at home experience for women is such that other women are deriding it, why would you expect men to want such an experience? In this regard I was struck by several comments from women, such as: "…having my boyfriend support me is not a pleasant situation…it is pressure on the relationship, stressful for him and guilt ridden for me. I also don't like being bored or penniless"Another: "My mum was very lost when I grew up and she lost the identity of 10 years of being at home looking after a child. She is much happier now that she is in full time employment"And: "…many times when I wished to be at work or wished I could do something fulfilling for myself." Could you explain why you expect men to want to do something that so many women describe negatively? You say that it is "male pride" that is stopping men from staying at home. Then what is it that stops women from staying home? Female pride? Surely men have to earn a living and support themselves just like women do. I don't understand how you can condemn men for not staying at home, while women since Betty Friedan and up to your own and other women's posts here, have been describing staying at home as something that is very undesirable.

  38. Licarim, thank you for commenting.I see your point – but I think you may have slightly misunderstood. Women who 'stay at home' are often looked down upon by other women because the first and second waves of feminism said that women should get careers and earn their own money, and women who didn't were passive and dependant. There is a sense that women who have chosen to step aside from a career and bring up children have let the side down. I don't think staying at home is a bad thing and I never said it was – I would like to stay at home when I have small children, but it would never be a longterm option for me as I would like to build a career too.I never condemned men for not staying at home – I said I think it's a shame that it's not acceptable for men to stay at home too, as I personally believe it should be more socially acceptable for men to take a career break to stay at home and be actively involved in the lives of their children when they are small.I'm not talking about men and women living the life of riley at home, expecting their partners to support them – I'm talking about the ability to take time out of work to look after children, which should be more equalised and be more of a socially acceptable option for men to take the lead on if they so desire. I think, conversely to what you're saying, a lot of women really appreciate the opportunities they are given to stay at home with their children – maternity leave is so much longer than paternity leave and all but excludes men from being able to take part in the day to day lives of their babies, which I think is wrong.

  39. “…being able to stay at home is not a reality for many women: it’s not a matter of choice-they have to work”

    So women “have to work” but men only work because of “male pride” and the “macho man stereotype.”?

    This is very unfair. Why is it men are mocked for wanting to work and have a career, while women are praised for being independent? Have you heard women say they want to have careers and be independent? Yes. Have you ever thought to condemn them for their “female pride” or criticize them for living up to the “feminist woman stereotype”? Have you ever criticized a woman for refusing to give up her career? Would you tell her she is only working because of “female pride.”? Would you criticize her for conforming to the “feminist stereotype”?

    Men have to earn a living just like women do. Men don’t want to be dependent on their wives anymore than women want to be dependent on their husbands. Men get fulfillment from careers just like women do. Why is it when a man wants to have a career he’s condemned for his “pride” and being “macho”?

    I have a feeling we are going to continue to disagree. But anyway since you mentioned Betty Friedan, the author of the Feminine Mystique, I wonder if you are familiar with her subsequent book “The Second Stage”? It’s interesting in that it addresses her concern that the feminist movement had created a new “feminist mystique” to replace the feminine mystique, and in so doing had belittled the importance of marriage and family.

    Thank you. I enjoy your blog greatly.

  40. Licarim – thank you for responding to my points and I’m so glad that you like my blog.

    However, I think you are still misunderstanding what I’m trying to say.

    I don’t think men ARE mocked for wanting a career – I have never said that, and I don’t think that’s true at all. I don’t think men are criticised for having ‘male pride’ or being ‘macho’ for enjoying their work – I don’t really understand where you’ve got that from. It’s the social norm for men to have careers. It’s the social norm for women to have a career and then take time out to rear children – women who are ‘career women’ are, in some circles, considered less feminine than women who choose to stay at home. Men who might want to stay at home with their children can’t because there is no legal framework set up for them to do so and also because of societal pressure – it’s not the ‘norm’ for men to do that, and men would face ridicule far more than women would.

    The point I was making is that many women want to stay at home but can’t because they have to work to pay the bills – and it’s the same with men. I don’t think that all men want to go to work every day just as much as I don’t think all women do. We all have to do what we have to do to pay the bills, however. I think the stereotype of man as high powered breadwinner and woman as childrearing housewife is outdated and could do with some shaking up.

    My whole argument throughout has been that I think that jobs should provide equally flexible terms for men AND women to be able to take career breaks and to look after their children. I don’t think anyone is ‘macho’ or full of ‘female pride’ for wanting to pursue a career and I am a bit confused as to why you think that I do! Careers are great and provide a vital sense of purpose for many, but so does bringing up children, and both options should be equally available for both sexes.

  41. Hello again Rachel. Thank you so very much for indulging me. May we go one last very brief round? Lol.

    In your reply at 21:38, beginning at the 7th line from the bottom you wrote, “I think your issue about MALE PRIDE is a very pertinent one”

    Your last line in the same reply is “…conform to the MACHO MAN STEREOTYPE”

    Both these phrases were used in re men wanting to work rather than stay at home. Hence my question to you was why are men who want to work, to have a career, characterized negatively? Then I asked if you also thought that women who want to have a career rather than stay at home, should also be negatively characterized as suffering from FEMALE PRIDE or FEMINIST WOMAN STEREOTYPE? I’m sure you would say there should be no such, and that women who prefer career to staying home should not be condemned. I simply assert that men should be treated similarly and not be told they’re suffering from “male pride” simply for preferring a career.

    What would be your response to the following two scenerios:

    1. A man who says, “I will never stop working and be a househusband. I will never be dependent on a woman.”

    2. A woman who says, “I will never stop working and be a housewife. I will never be dependent on a man.”

    Would you treat both the same, or would you say the man is suffering from male pride and macho stereotypes, while the woman is being strong and independent?

    Okay, Rach, enough of this. The next time you hear from me it will be about books. Thank you again for your patience and grace.

  42. Licarim, it’s no problem!

    Here’s the entire quote to which you’re referring

    Shame and fear of what others will think can motivate so many of our decisions, and I think there is a male culture of mocking men who don’t want to conform to the macho man stereotype.

    I think there is a MALE culture of mocking men who don’t want to conform to the macho man stereotype – ie. men who DO want to stay at home. Not men who want a career. My whole point is that men often feel they have to have a career because it is not as socially acceptable for them to choose to stay at home with their children. I don’t think negatively of men or think them proud for wanting to work – my point is that I think it’s a shame men don’t have as much choice in the matter as women because it’s so socially unacceptable and also because there are few legal frameworks in place for them to have the flexibility women do.

    The sentences you quote – both of these people would get the same reaction from me – good for you, if that’s what you want. I don’t think it’s a pride issue at all – I think you have misunderstood my original references to male pride.

    Thank you for your comments, it’s been fun to debate!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s