Wednesday, 23 October 2013

Are women the biggest barriers to the feminist cause?

I bet this little minx is great at picking out curtains
We women tend to judge ourselves and each other more harshly than any men do, I think.

Sneering judgements about the way we dress (or don’t) are much more likely to come from female mouths than male ones. 

Take the picture of this lady, right, which fetched up on the internet. So she's pretty, nicely-dressed, has really good hair and can cook. I'm still looking for something to criticise in her. Maybe she's stupid, or really bad at relationships or something.

We expect ourselves and each other to excel at work, be adept at household management and buying and wearing clothes. We're supposed to be able to walk in high heels, be good at interior design, and understand the off-side rule (I've failed at all three of these).

A man who can’t cook is simply that, whereas a woman who can’t cook is an oddity, and someone who really needs to learn.

Amazing women

The world is full of amazing women doing amazing things, proving they’re as good as men.

High-achieving women who are also mothers can be the most praised and the most criticised, in a way that high-flying fathers are not. We wonder how female cabinet ministers with small children will balance the demands of their public role with childrearing. It doesn't occur to us to ask the same questions of their male counterparts. 

And, in my opinion, it's more likely to be women asking these questions than men.

But why are we so hard on ourselves and our sisters? I think there’s something in the idea that we think men are fundamentally a bit stupid, so we don’t expect as much from them – whereas we expect more from women. We expect the world from ourselves and each other. 

Motherhood

I’m not a parent quite yet, but I always worried that if I decided to have children the experience would turn me into a different person – one that I didn’t and don’t want to be.

I suppose the thing with having children is that it does kind of ‘chain’ you to traditionally feminine activities – feeding, nurturing, caring. As well as all the other stuff we can already do, we have to learn to be really good at all this if we are not to judge ourselves as failures at the tricky business of being women. 

I’m sure motherhood it will change me in lots of ways. But I don’t think it will stop me being who I am. I hope not – I signed up to have a child, not a personality transplant. The chances of me turning into some kind of earth-mother figure in the next few months are, I hope, slim to non-existent.

Doubtless, this will be me in a few
months (except for the blond hair).

Juggling work and parenting

There is so much potential for women to judge themselves and each other when it comes to deciding whether to go back to work, how many hours to do and what childcare to provide for their offspring.

I know people who went back to work full time within a few weeks of having a child, and I know people who didn’t go back to work at all after having a child.

There are loads of reasons why women make these choices – for money, because they’ve always wanted to, the particular needs of their child, the availability of childcare, and what their employer will or won’t let them do.

I’m trying to remain open minded about what I will so, but other women keep asking me – citing their own choices. Hopefully whatever they did was the best thing to do – for them. Equally, I hope that whatever I choose to do will be what’s best for me and my child. But what’s best for them won’t necessarily be what’s best for us.

Giving ourselves and each other a break

I think one of the reasons we're so critical of other women is self-doubt. We secretly believe our dress sense, intellect, career progression, fashion senses and domestic skills aren't as good as they should be. Singling out other women who are worse-dressed or more domestically impaired than we are, makes us feel better about ourselves.

But really, it would be nicer if we could be happy about what we are good at. We don't all have to be master bakers - there are far too many of them in the world, trying to fatten us up so they will look better in comparison. 

We should be able to enjoy the fact that we have so many opportunities that the women before us didn't have. We can be mothers, and have fun and have good jobs, if we want. But we don't have to do all those things, or be the best at everything.

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