Thanks for the Reminder: Women, Families and Work

Hi everyone. So I am up early this morning catching up on some work emails (because who doesn’t voluntarily start work at 6.45am?), and I saw this article in my inbox: “‘Remember to have babies’ says ‘City Superwoman'”.  And then all I wanted to do was jot down my thoughts on this.

 

First up, the headline does a great job of making a judgement: the quotation marks around ‘City Superwoman’, sets her up to be discredited, like they don’t even believe she’s a City Superwoman. Even using that term following that particular quote is immediately condescending, and sets to divide her from the reader. Who is this City Superwoman who deigns to advise us Normal Non-Superwomen?

 

It’s clear that British Investment Banker Nicola Horlick feels a little under fire for managing to balance a high-powered job and six children. She’s keen to point out that having job and money doesn’t equal happiness, which I think is fair, and that everyone should make their own choices.

 

But here’s the thing about this whole article, rather than what Horlick specifically says. I don’t think many young women need to remember to get married and have babies. I think it’s something that they are reminded of every single day: through advertising, through their own natural inclination to want children, and through articles with headlines such as this. Thanks everyone – we have received your message loud and clear! You can consider us women informed.

biological clock

Out of the women I know personally, many want to have children, and some want to get married. However, there are a few other things to consider:

  1. Marriage isn’t something the woman does by herself: there’s usually another person involved, and tradition unnecessarily dictates that this other person is actually the one responsible for asking The Marriage Question. So the choice is made together by two people.
  2. Many women work hard to get ahead in their careers, to pay their rent, to buy the outfits for work (because God forbid they wear the same thing two days in a row), and to save for a house deposit. Sometimes it’s a choice to wait until you are more financially secure before you make a lifelong commitment to a child.
  3. This whole idea that it’s a choice is kind of insulting to those who haven’t met the person they want to marry or have babies with, or who can’t have children at all. They would make those choices if they could, but the universe has other ideas for them. Way to make a girl feel insignificant; that their merit or contribution as an individual isn’t worthwhile.
  4. Women who return to work post-child often struggle to balance their responsibilities. This is mostly anecdotal, but I know women who aren’t able to work flexibly, who returned to work and found their whole role had changed in their absence, or who find themselves at a disadvantage because they can’t put in after-hours efforts they once did. Again – way to make a woman feel valued.
sister

Don’t lose sight of what you can do – yes, even without a man and children!

It must be said that Horlick does point out that she knows she can afford good childcare, and that people need to be open minded as to the choices of others. She’s also speaking from the horrific position of a mother who lost her child, which would colour how she views her work vs her family.

 

To a certain extent, everyone out there – women and men – have a choice to:

  • get married and have babies
  • get married, have babies and pursue a career
  • have babies and a career
  • have babies
  • stay single
  • be with someone, married or not
  • have children, married or not
  • pursue a career, whether married, in a couple, single or a parent

And there are many more combinations I’m sure. Go nuts, make your own combo.

 

Unsurprisingly, there are no articles advising men to get married and have babies: when you reverse it, you realise how sexist it actually is. In the reverse, it reads like something from the Fifties: find yourself a wife and start a family! 

 womans-work

 

I’m sure there are men out there who wish they hadn’t focussed on their careers at the expense of having a family, but maybe there were no helpful articles to remind them, so they forgot.

 

Women don’t need another ‘reminder’ that we may have some challenging and different choices to make in our lives. We are already getting feedback on how to lower our voices in the boardroom so as to appear more executive, and that our heels should be high but not too high. Those who want children are already aware of this fact about themselves.

 

What we really need is the ability to make these choices as easily as possible. With support and infrastructure to help us out. These days the cost of childcare is a serious prohibiting factor, as are inflexible working conditions, and these make the choices much harder.

 

I much prefer the message from Sheryl Sandberg, which is that we should focus on our careers and not the day that we might have children, because we could miss out on professional opportunities which would put us in a stronger position if we ever do have children.

 

Peace out,

 

Ellie B

 

PS – this was written in a rush before my official work hours started. I’m sure I’ll read it in about 8 hours time and cringe at the raw emotion, the bad arguments and the spelling mistakes. Thanks for your patience :)

What it feels like for a girl

Ok. I think we know each other well enough by now for me to let you in on a little something about myself: I consider myself a feminist.

 

I feel exposed writing that – like I’ve just told you I eat cats. And that, ladies and gentlemen, that discomfort right there is why I wanted to write this post. It’s not a super-heavy post (I hope – I’m only three lines in at the moment), but I have been thinking about a few things recently and want to articulate them. I hope you’ll read on.

 

So my personal foray into feminism started when I was 14 and we all had to do speeches at school. I spoke passionately about something I vaguely called ‘The Inequality of Women’, and railed against the inflated male ego, proven by the amount of airtime Sanjay had in Eastenders because he got stage fright in the bedroom. I tackled the deep stuff, I tell you.

 

Then when I was 17, Madonna released her single What It Feels Like for a Girl with the lyrics ‘Strong inside but you don’t know it/Good little girls they never show it’, and I listened to it on repeat for about 6 months. And then, when I was 19 and at university, I read ‘The Whole Woman’ by Germain Greer, joined the ‘We Heart Germaine’ club, and decided that I would never be scared of walking anywhere in the dark because, why should I be?

 

So, between analysing Eastenders, listening to Madonna, reading mainstream feminism (recently supplemented by Caitlin Moran), and actually being a woman, I feel I’m qualified to address this issue. Specifically, where social media comes into it.

 

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton checks her PDA upon her departure in a military C-17 plane from Malta bound for Tripoli,  Libya

 

For a while, it felt like this issue had died a death a little bit. It wasn’t (isn’t?) cool to call yourself a feminist, and any feminist notions were wrapped up in the much less confronting ‘girl power’. But thanks to social media, a more three dimensional wave is developing.

 

The best and worst thing about social media it highlights how women still face challenges and even abuse every day by virtue of their gender. I follow @EverydaySexism on Twitter, and there’s some horrible stories out there of the sexism women face regularly. But I won’t un-follow because I want to show that people are listening, and I do believe in the principle  (I’m sure they’re thrilled to know that Ellie B in Durham is listening).

 

Sheryl Sandberg also used social media to spread her #BanBossy campaign, after the success of her book Lean In (which I think everyone should read. So many times I was reading and thought ‘OMG she’s right! Why do I do that?!!’). #BanBossy encourages women to own being confident, assertive and, when necessary, in control rather than being wary of it. And thanks to social media, both sides of the debate raged and raged. But you know what? Suddenly everyone knew that there was support for women to have a louder voice.

 

650queen

 

 

The beauty of social media is that it’s big enough to include all elements of the discussion. Whatever you feel/believe in, whether your feminism is Lipstick, Bra Burning, or I-do-care-but-I’ve-not-experienced-sexism-personally, there’s something for you. @EverydaySexism and the post-Elliot Rodger campaign #YesAllWomen highlight the ways women are treated appallingly. To be honest, I don’t un-follow @EverydaySexism but I sometimes skim past it because it’s so uncomfortable to read. But that’s their point: they’re not constructive or comforting, they’re confronting and defiant. They expose the problem and we should all consider the solution (so maybe I shouldn’t skim past it).

 

#BanBossy encourages a solution, which is not to be scared anymore. I’m sure the point was not to actually ban the term ‘bossy’, it was to make people stop and think when they find themselves thinking ‘damn she’s such a bossy…’. And to make women feel more comfortable taking a stronger position than they might have done previously. As Victoria Coren wrote, ‘the ten-year-old me knows exactly what it means’.

 

And what about beloved Facebook, my favourite of all social media? This week I saw two advertisements which made me want to punch the air and shout ‘Who runs the world? Girls!’. I have a Beyonce lyric for most situations in life. Anyway, the ads: here is one, and here is the other. These ads crystallise everything that the other social media campaigns are doing: they are confronting, celebratory, challenging and constructive all at once. And thanks to the power of the Facebook ‘share’, they’re out there and the discussion continues.

 

They ultimately made me want to write this post, which in itself is another example of social media feminism – and how a running blog has been hijacked yet again at the whim of it’s author 😉

 

14 years after Madonna released her song, and 44 years after Germaine Greer wrote The Female Eunuch, it’s sad that we still face similar challenges. But social media gives us a shared voice, and a way to make our thoughts and feelings known. Hopefully the messages will will seep into our seams, so in another 44 years we’ll look back with the same bemused horror that we have when we see how women are treated on Mad Men. And by then we won’t need hashtags or Twitter because we’ll all be able to communicate with our minds and using our hover boards to get to work.

 

Next post is a running one! Or at least a sporty one 😉 And because I love Texts from Hillary:

 

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton checks her PDA upon her departure in a military C-17 plane from Malta bound for Tripoli,  Libya

 

Ellie B