Thursday, 8 March 2012

Girls and Women Change our World: You don't exactly look like a feminist...

Happy International Women's Day everyone!

Series introduction

Some of you may be suprised to have found such unapologetically feminist posts on a 'Mummy blog'. To recap some things about me:

I am very happily married, and enjoy every moment of being a mother. I spend my days surrounded by nappies, toys and laundry with a baby strapped to my front and often latched onto my breast. I took my husband's name when we got married, and I call myself 'Mrs husband's surname', not 'Ms'. I asked for a demotion at work so that I could spend more time at home with my family, and have gone 'backwards' in my career over the last two years. I chose to have less responsibility at work now than when I was a graduate. I think that it's very important that mother and baby are close to each other around the clock, especially in the newborn months. I have smooth legs and get blond foils in my straightened hair (when I have enough time to pull out the straightener during nap time so that a chubby baby doesn't chew on the cord.) I love high heels and pretty dresses. My baby daughter has pink sheets, pink curtains and wears dresses. I iron my husband's shirts. For crying out loud, I even blog about housework and meal planning. I don't exactly sound like a bra burning feminist, do I?

Well, as a breastfeeding mother, I need a good bra, so the bra burning option is out.

Seriously though, every single thing that I have listed above has been a choice for me. I chose to get married. I chose to take my husband's surname. We chose to have children. I chose to take a demotion at work and go part time, so that I had more time with my family. I chose to still work a little bit, as I still wanted to contribute my professional skills and my tax dollars. I even choose to blog about my pathetic attempts at housekeeping. All of these choices are exactly that - choices, not expectations or things that I have been forced to do which I don't want to.

There are many things which I do not choose and which I will speak out about. I have fought, and will continue to fight, for my rights to not be sexually discriminated against in public and in the workplace.  I hate when I am referred to as "Mrs Husband's first name and surname". I know that it is the 'correct' etiquette for formal invitations, but I find it offensive as I feel I am entitled to my own name. (I realise that this may seem like a contradiction, but please be assured that I am happy with this decision, even if it may appear inconsistent to some.) I hate being referred to a 'the ball and chain' (my husband doesn't do this, but some other people do.) My husband and I discuss things and reach agreements, he does not give me orders and I do not obey, like a child or an animal. I hate being referred to as a 'girl' in a professional setting. There are some women who would be happy to choose some of these things, and there are other women who would not choose what I have chosen for myself.

If a woman feels that she's not 'allowed' to get married, or to stay home with her children, or to wear dresses because she thinks that that would be against being a feminist, then that is not the point of feminism. Women's rights is about women having choices. If a woman chooses to be a stay at home mum who bakes for her children and folds her husband's socks, and she is happy doing that, then good on her. Other women should be able to choose what they want. Heck, if someone else chooses to 'love, honour and obey' both in their wedding vows and in the day to day life of their marriage, then that's great, as long as it is their choice and it works for them.

Women should be able to choose the life that they want for themselves - whatever that life happens to look like. At its core, being a feminist is not about your name, your clothes, your marital status or your career. It is about the fundamental value and worth of women, how they are viewed by society and how they view themselves, not about if you shave your armpits or not.

Part 3: What about the men?
Part 5: Women's roles in economic contributions (tomorrow)

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