February 2018 marks 100 years since (some) women gained the right to vote. It’s a day we should all remember the debt of gratitude we owe those strong women who battled for the rights we have today.
I have always been passionate about equal rights for women, but since having a daughter of my own that feeling has intensified.
I want my daughter to live the best life possible. I don’t want her to be bound by constraints. I want her to achieve equal pay and to feel confident and safe working in a male dominated environment (if that is the career she choses). I want her to have the courage to speak up both for herself and for others. I want her to brave and tenacious and bold.
Most importantly I want her to have the confidence to lead the life she choses.
I wrote a post about the importance of positive female influences in films, and it led me to reflect on my own role as a mother.
What is a feminist?
I do not fit the typical feminist mould at all.
I don’t have a career – up until recently I only worked one day a week and so pretty much considered myself a stay at home mum. I have a little part time job which I don’t particularly enjoy but it brings in a bit of extra money.
I married young – at 22 to be exact. I had my first baby at 23. Shouldn’t I have been out forging a career for myself, or travelling the world rather than settling down?
Perhaps, but that was never the life I wanted. My family and friends I’ve had since childhood will attest to the fact I always wanted to be a mum. At primary school when we did the topic about what you want to be when you grow up, I unashamedly stated “a mum”. I never really wanted to be a high flying career woman. I wanted to love and nurture.
I didn’t particularly anticipate getting married as young as I did, but I found the man I wanted to marry whilst I was in my teens and there seemed no point hanging about!
Isn’t being a feminist about breaking away from the traditional conventional life of settling down and having children? And if so, how can I possibly be a good role model to my daughter?
The freedom to choose
In our rush to strip away the gender stereotypes of women being barefoot and pregnant in the kitchen, I worry we have started to view women who choose to stay at home with their children as somehow inferior to those who have a successful career.
Why can’t we celebrate both?
Surely the whole idea of feminism is the freedom for a woman to live the life SHE chooses, not society. We shouldn’t have to be ashamed for our choices, whatever they may be.
Being a mum was my calling. I wanted to love and be loved, and to nurture and protect. I wanted comfort and security and a house full of warmth and laughter. Despite the challenges of having three young children, I feel fulfilled. I don’t regret my decisions. I take great pride in the teaching and nurturing of my children.
However, this was MY choice. Other women may be appalled at the idea! They may want to travel, or have a successful career or do both of these things AND be a mum at the same time. Which is great! To me that it what is important here. The freedom to choose the life YOU want to lead.
I won’t be put in a box
It’s almost as if society is trying to pigeon hole us, or put us into nice little boxes. Career women, feminists, stay at home mums…which box do you fit into?
I remember being as young as 13 and reading a magazine with “which character are you” style quizzes. In my youth my books were filled with strong female characters. I remembered reading Little Women and being so sure I was a Jo. She was smart, she was a writer, she was strong and bold.
As I got older I realised deep down I was more like Meg than I cared to admit.
“…in my heart I knew I should be satisfied, if I had a little home, and John, and some dear children like these.”
It begs the question….why can’t I be both? Why do I need to be pigeon holed? Can I not be a strong woman with a brain, and be happy to stay at home with my children?
Can’t I be Jo and Meg? Can’t I be Charlotte and Miranda?
Being A Role Model
I do have moments of self doubt – will my daughter be disappointed in me when she’s older? Will she wish she had a mum with a bit more ambition? But then I think as long as we as parents continue nurturing that belief that women can be whoever they want to be, she’ll be just fine.
And surely that’s what it all comes down to – sisterhood. Supporting each other’s decisions. We need to stop competing or comparing ourselves with other women. Society needs to stop pitching us against each other.
When I see the Women’s Marches that took place recently, of women banding together to support each other’s rights, it’s clear to see we’re heading in the right direction. I hope the Pankhursts would have been proud.