Friday, 25 September 2009

Suri Cruise

What a kerfuffle

The reason these photos were taken may not be cool but, man, that skirt is gorgeous.

I don't agree with young children wearing high heels, they need to learn to walk in proper shoes that support their feet. I can't escape noticing, however, that Katie isn't wearing heels. Which suggests to me that Suri might just really like dressing up. What mother would put her child in a pair of heels when she herself isn't even wearing them? One who is encouraging their child to have creativity and choice in her clothes.

What parent HASN'T had a kid that wants to walk around in mommy's/daddy's shoes? It was only a few weeks ago I watched my friend's little boy trot around the Wacky Warehouse in his mama's totally awesome stiletto boots!

Or I could just be being idealistic and Suri has already been brainwashed into received ideas about femininity. Whatever.

Thursday, 24 September 2009

The Pill

Sometimes, something comes up that makes you eternally thankful for the NHS and free contraception: click to read

Yet, I know personally that I hadn't even considered that you might have to pay for the pill when I first started taking it. I cringe at the thought of how much money I would have spent by now if I'd lived in the US as a teenager.

And we don't even have to pay for condoms, if we don't want to.

Thank the deities for the NHS.

Thursday, 17 September 2009

Prejudice, idiots and retribution

I'm thinking about getting a tattoo. Across my forehead.

I am utterly and unreservedly pissed off with the attitudes of people in positions of power when they meet me. I say positions of power, rather than professionals, because this isn't just an issue I have with traditionally 'powerful' people. I even experienced it last week from a library assistant.

What am I talking about? Judgemental attitudes.

I'm wondering what I should put on my tattoo, something simple like "I've got a degree, actually," might cover most of it.

I feel so disgusted when people think they can talk to others with such condescension, based on prejudices about the way someone is dressed, the colour of their hair, or their age. I don't know which of these aspects I get judged on most often, whether it is a combination of all of them or something more, but it damn well pisses me off!

Two recent events have triggered this:

The first was when I discovered NP had an eye infection and I rushed her to an emergency appointment at the surgery. She'd already had two such infections in previous months and I wanted to catch it early this time. We took Spongebob with us, a little toy that she finds very comforting and sleeps with every night, but doesn't tend to use as a comfort item all the time. It also gets washed regularly.

I was seen by an older female doctor who proceeded to speak to me in a tone that rendered me speechless:

Her: "Well, it doesn't help using Spongebob to wipe her eye with then rubbing it all over the other eye"

Me: "hahaha [nervous laughter] yeah I know"

Her: "No, I'm serious because....blah blah put it in the microwave blah blah [ basically continuing in the vein of 'you're a stupid girl]' "

Firstly, I've just acknowledge what you said, you really don't need to qualify that for me.

Secondly, I know how infections work. I was even commended by the last lovely doctor I saw for not letting it spread to the other eye after weeks of trying to treat it at home. The other eye wasn't even showing signs of gunk this time.

Thirdly, that tone of voice is one I wouldn't use with anyone who was asking me a perfectly reasonable question, even if I thought they needed a little education. It was reminiscent of the teacher at primary school telling off the serial misbehave-er! Yes, my kid was getting a recurring infection, but it's not like I can prevent her getting a cold and rubbing her snot in her eye!

The whole situation got me so flustered that I couldn't even string sentences together, I was so angry, but instead of delivering a well structured smack down about prejudice, I ended up silently fuming whilst babbling about biological washing powder!

The other incident involved the utter stereotype of a grumpy library assistant. I don't say this lightly - I have years of experience of working in libraries and happen to know that lots of library staff are fun-loving, fantastic people. It boiled down to the fact that I was listed as 'staff' on the library system, when I no longer worked for the authority. This individual reeked of condescension throughout our whole exchange, for no reason other than the fact my status hadn't been changed on the computer. I tried to make light of it:

Her: "Do you still work there?"

Me: "No, not for a while, haha"

Her: "Well you shouldn't really be staff then should you?" (note the same 'stupid girl' tone?)

Me: "Ahh, isn't there some kind of solidarity with ex-staff?" (Joking, smiling, being friendly)

Her: "No"

Utterly miserable cow, no doubt, but why?

Why did this jobsworth assistant feel the need to be so bleeding miserable with someone who's attitude was nothing but friendly? Perhaps it's also useful to bear in mind that I'd already had this conversation 1 year earlier with a (supervisory) member of staff at a local branch library; a lady with whom I'd had a lovely chat about the changes since I'd worked there. She also (obviously) hadn't changed my status at that time.

Maybe I'm paranoid, maybe I'm overly sensitive, maybe maybe maybe.

But maybe I'm getting judged for being a young, blonde, lazily dressed parent. I may just try one day getting an appointment with the same doctor, dressed in a suit with a power hair-do and make up. Because I'm perfectly capable of doing that. I'm perfectly qualified to hold a job that would require that. But why should I conform to society's class standards and gender restrictions?

I was a mum worried about her daughter, I wasn't going to dress up to go to the sodding doctors in an emergency, and I shouldn't be judged for that. My little girl wanted some comfort and I let her take her toy, I shouldn't be judged for that. Perhaps I should stop being friendly and approachable, because it stops people from forming respectful opinions?

It's hard to broach this issue when you're dealing with a power difference, obviously, but at least with the library situation I've got the means and inclination to do something about it. I sent a very derisive email to the library and received the following (abridged) reply today:

I am very sorry that you had such poor service on Saturday. It was obviously far below our standards and I apologise for it and I will do what I can to improve the situation.

In our regular customer surveys we generally get a very high rating for customer satisfaction so things were certainly not good that day.

[...]

In the situation this would have left the least experienced staff on the desk. Your comments do highlight the need to give casual staff training in customer care. This is a difficult matter to resolve but we will have to give it some thought. You mention a particular person was “snotty and offensive.” From the timetables I can discover who this was and I will act on this. In this person’s case the problem was not simply lack of experience and knowledge.

Blatantly this person is a problem! I now feel a great degree of satisfaction for calling out her prejudices, and I feel lucky to be able to do this; others might be unable or unaware that they can complain about that sort of treatment. I think privilege definitely can be used for good, as well as evil.

But anyway, at least there was some satisfactory resolution to one incident, but it doesn't remove the gnawing inclination that I get judged for how I look. Which is unfair, to anyone.

Thursday, 13 August 2009

Do feminists recognise a subversive discourse?

Sometimes I worry about feminist righteousness. Upon reading this blog post I felt I needed to reply, but seeing as someone else already covered some of what I was going to say, I thought I'd just have a little rant over here.

After reading reviews on Amazon and doing about 5 minutes of research, this is what I found:

The Surrogates is a sci-fi graphic novel. The premise of the story is that people have become so concerned with their own safety and inner-world that they stay at home all day, linked to a mechanical surrogate who goes out into the world to do their jobs, errands, whatever. It transpires that prejudice is ingrained, no matter if the race/gender of an individual is no longer a certainty.

And so, what do we know about sci-fi and fantasy? It is a medium used to hold a mirror up to society and show it what is wrong, sick or dangerous about the values it extols.

It appears to me that rather than demonstrating that an all-white and (western-type) beauty would create a perfect society, it actually shows that human beings are inherently prejudiced and the choice that people make to have the 'perfect white' surrogate is a symptom of this.

I would like to recognise the possibility that the poster is actually part of a larger subversive discourse, showing that the current images valued by society are not the way forward, and something needs to be done. The fact that the story is set 5 decades in the future, and nothing about beauty standards has changed, is (to me) a chilling message that more needs to be done about the situation today!

Obviously, there is more to the film than I have written here. My quick analysis could be completely wrong, and let's not forget that the story has been adapted for mainstream cinema, and a mainstream audience might miss such a message completely. However, I am frustrated at feminist writers immediately taking offence over an advertisement, without thinking about the further implications, or even doing a little deeper research into the story.

I look forward to the film (not in the least because Bruce Willis is playing the gritty cop!) and I'm currently trying to find the graphic novel at a cheap price, to check whether I feel the same after reading it.

Sunday, 14 June 2009

Updates

Just to let everyone know that two new posts have been added, backdated to March, and that there is one more left to come in the DbD series (Delayed by Dissertation).

Direct Links:
Baby Love
Dog Fouling


Thursday, 23 April 2009

income tax

I've been reading student forums about the 50% income tax.
It's comments like this that rile me:

"Firstly how is it fair if someone who works hard to such an extent that they can provide a better quality of life for themselves and their family, has to shoulder the burden?"

How is it you define a better quality of life?

I feel a bit ill when I think what 'quality of life' might mean to this person.

To me a 'good quality of life' would be having a happy family with food on the table, heating in the house, the ability to save a bit and enough left over for treating yourself to a DVD or pizza every now and then.

But then I'm a stingy cow and wouldn't know what to do with a £150,000 income anyway.

Quality of life.

What does it mean to people?

Hm.

Friday, 17 April 2009

Question...

There's a certain online forum [link redacted] that seems to be a place for women who pretend they're not yummy mummy's (but really are) to bitch about other yummy mummy's. It actually makes me feel a bit ill to read the way they snipe at other women.

In this forum women were bitching about stuff that I *loved* to do as a kid, that my daughter also seems to like doing. There's some kind of misunderstanding going on where they seem to think that all parents who encourage their kids to do certain activities are being pushy, rather than the (more accurate, in my case) fact that you're giving them the experience to find out what they like doing.

I don't get it, do they just not connect with their kids? I loved doing stuff with my parents. The only thing that I remember being particularly bored by as a kid is documentaries. But I quite enjoy them now. Funny eh?

Sunday, 5 April 2009

hiatus

Hi all,

just posting a note to let you know I have a few things half written but I'm taking a break until May to focus on my dissertation. When my half written work is posted it will most likely be back-dated to the original starting date.

Thanks for your interest so far, I hope you'll stay with me!

See you in a month.

Liz

Wednesday, 25 March 2009

Baby love

A little extract from the times website that has made me furious...

'That is one side of the story: the disruption and chaos. The other, often equally unexpected development is the degree to which you adore your baby. For many women, the love they feel for their child far and away surpasses anything they have ever experienced before. At first you don’t really notice it – sure, this small pink bundle is adorable and absorbing, but you are still getting used to each other. And then somewhere around week three, quite possibly when you are dozing off at 4am, with this little milky person asleep by your side and the soothing sounds of the BBC World Service drifting from the radio, it suddenly hits you, with the force of an oncoming train: you love this thing more than life itself.

This love is a new kind of love. It is, in the true sense of the word, unconditional. The media, society, other mothers with something to prove, like to hymn this great novel love as a tremendous nirvana, the deepest truth of the female heart. But paradoxically, it can be extremely frightening, not just for the mother, whose happiness now depends on this highly unstable bundle of new human flesh and blood, whose very sanity can feel as if it hinges on one tiny human continuing to breathe, but also for her partner. Adjusting from being the centre of a person’s universe to being a distant satellite is never easy, especially if the ego involved is male.'

I have put in bold the part that has given me an angry cold feeling in my chest and stomach.

It is something that is not addressed very often and is difficult for many women to talk about, due to the social expectations expressed so perfectly in articles such as the one quoted above.

Sure, it seems as though the article is balanced, the 'great love' opposed to the 'great fear'. But what about those women who, upon leaving the surreal dream-drama of hospital, find that they DON'T have these feelings? The feelings that every magazine, film, relative and condescending well-wisher has told them they are going to have?

What about those women who feel numb or even resentful towards their tiny baby? Who find themselves in a cycle of hate and guilt because they have not been told that they might feel like this, and that it is perfectly natural?

I'm not talking about the 'baby blues', something that is defined to women as 'feeling a bit low and tearful' after the birth, due to changing hormones. Hell, I'm not even talking about Post-Natal Depression, something that is rightfully getting the publicity it requires. I'm talking about women who do not feel the instant indescribable joy of loving their baby.

It's an issue that is addressed in relation to men, usually described as having difficulty 'bonding'. It's almost expected that men will have 'problems', after all, they haven't carried the child, they haven't had the physical trial of giving birth or the huge relief of it all being over. However, it's equally expected of women that they will be instantly in love with the spasming little being that has just emerged from them. (Perhaps you find my terminology a little unsettling? Read it again, it's little more than an actual description of a newborn, we're just so inclined towards a romantic picture of birth that we balk at blank descriptions).

I maintain that this is a damaging part of 'mummy culture'. Never mind the war over breast versus bottle or 'stay-at-home' versus 'working mother', this ingrained notion that women adore their babies is one of the most emotionally damaging issues for a new mother who doesn't fit the social expectation. Imagine being told by a stream of visitors how much you love your child, and being asked 'isn't it amazing?' when you have no idea what they're talking about, but you continue to smile and agree, because otherwise you would be weird.

It is important that new mothers understand this can happen, and that they are not alone. But I think most new mums can testify that it is one of the busiest, but also loneliest times of their lives. I truely feel that the media ought to play a part in reminding women that the stereotypes aren't the 'be all and end all'. The few outlets a lot of mothers have in those first weeks are magazines and television. If this myth of maternal love were questioned more regularly in these forums then those lonely women might feel reassured. Well meaning relatives and visitors can be excused, as they often only have their own experiences to draw upon, but the media should be obliged to represent a balanced and well researched message.

Yes, I suppose I am an incurable idealist, expecting media sources to provide anything other than thinly veiled opinions, but when they are often the only place where alternative interpretations can be found then they are an important resource that should act responsibly towards their consumers. If the message were out there more often and obvious then perhaps even the doting families would be sensitive to alternative experiences of new motherhood.

Monday, 2 March 2009

oh go on then...

I'll make a mention of Gail Trimble. But only a short one, mind.

Firstly I'd like to point out that I haven't watched the show, I am working from short clips I've seen and comments from other people. With this in mind, I shall begin:

However much it might pain the feminists, I have a feeling that the antagonism towards this smart lady might not be so COMPLETELY about her being female.

Is it, perhaps, more about her accent and demeanour? A lot of the mean things people have said are, yes, geared towards her appearance. I don't agree with this and I see how it relates to valuing women only for their looks. I also know that it is the kind of throwaway comment many (men) make when criticising a multitude of things, along the vein of '...and she's a munter too'

Regardless of what she looks like,

**please note here that I am not expressing an opinion on her looks and do not intend to make comment on it, too many other people have done so already**

her accent is *rather* plummy. She is smart and she has the diction to prove it. It riles people. It could well be a class/regional thing.

Hey, I even has a source right here to cite: Swann, J. (2002) Yes, but is it gender?
(I'm not being totally geeky, honest, it's on my dissertation plan sitting next to me)

People get so worked up about issues when there is a hint about sexism that they ignore the other possibilities. I concede that there is probably a hint of gender involved, especially in the comments on her appearance, but we mustn't neglect the class aspect. Look at the examples pulled on the f word website. Many pertain to her 'smug'-ness, her 'know-it-all'-ness, if that's not judging her by her accent then I quit linguistics!

Getting personal for a moment, (yes, how un-academic) if I had watched it, I feel that I would have disliked 'smugness' from either a male or female team captain. It is not that I have been conditioned to think that women should be modest and men be bold, I have decided from my experience that I dislike smugness on anyone. You could probably say that I have been conditioned to dislike a particular style of accent, having grown up in the phonologically-rich Midlands in probably a low-middle income household. But you could hardly call me anti-woman...thus if I were to find fault with her, I would be offended to be told it was because she was a smart woman!

Anyway, that's all I really have to say on the issue. I'm quite sad that they got disqualified, they should have been allowed to play with the team they started the competition with, regardless of the fact a member might have finished his course in the middle of the series.

Apologies for the rambling nature, just a collection of thoughts here really, goodnight.

Friday, 27 February 2009

Apologies...

...for the lack of bloggage lately. Unfortunately my dissertation is taking up most of my waking thoughts (if not so much of my time).

I thought perhaps it might be nice to describe what it is I'm working on; also, it'll hopefully serve as a reminder that I ought to be actually writing it, instead of providing you fine people with lots of useful procrastination fodder.

Anyway, my main areas of interest in linguistics revolve around gender and the representation of ideology in texts (would you ever have guessed?). In my dissertation proposal I've managed to combine these interests with another passion of mine - children's books. In particular I'm looking at the work of Garth Nix, who writes rather fantastic fantasy fiction.

Linguistic studies of gender in children's fiction are few and far between, therefore I'm being a bit of a dunce, taking on more than I ought to for a dissertation project, but hey-ho, that's the kinda person I tend to be.

Feminist analyses of children's texts, however, are much more common; these tend to focus on counting the balance of male-female characters, or searching for appropriate strong role models for young women. These role models may be represented by women acting in traditionally 'male' ways, or by women who achieve success by acting in feminine ways. This kind of analysis seems a little shallow to me - it simply serves to reproduce the idea of difference between men and women, without looking at the inherent problems of this dichotomy.

My interest is not just in the examples of women doing 'male jobs,' but more in the different ways women can be represented, ways that do not align themselves to a general 'masculine' or 'feminine' role, but allow individuals to become empowered regardless of their gender.

Fantasy is a brilliant medium for writers, allowing them to transcend the norms of modern societies, and create characters and situations outside the usual experiences of readers. This disassociation with reality allows, for example, the exploration of societies where there is no gender differentiation. (And I don't mean in the crap superficial way of 'ooh look, a non-gendered pronoun,' no, I mean in the actual attitudes of the characters, and situations they participate in).

I believe that Nix has produced a series of books that celebrate girls and women, without undermining this by making it about a difference between girls and boys. In the books, girls are undoubtedly empowered, but both male and female characters have their own power and their own weaknesses, giving a very equal view of the sexes. I believe this is an important aim for (3rd wave) feminism and that Nix achieves it in the context of these novels.

However, even in such 'equal' societies, it is possible to find traces of traditional gendered Discourses (in the Foucauldian sense of the word). My ultimate aim is to decide whether these traditional Discourses undermine the empowerment, for example, does a Discourse of Compulsory Heterosexuality reduce the women from strong characters to dominated ones? And if the Discourse is there, does it really matter in the grand scheme of things? Surely a love story in such an equal context can only demonstrate that relationships are about equality, not a demonstration of dominance?

Whether I will achieve this final aim is debatable, if I manage to simply demonstrate the feminist credentials of Nix then I will be satisfied, after all, there isn't a lot of scope in 11,000 words once you've written your intro/conclusion/outlined the method etc. I do hope that in the future I might be able to explore these issues further, but for the next 8 weeks I'll probably have to contain myself ;-)

Saturday, 14 February 2009

Alpha mummy?

Who writes this crap?

Is this what being middle class is? Drinking yourself silly before (and after!) the kids are in bed and fantasising over men other than your husband?

More than 1/2 of that list involves lusting after other men, dreaming about dating again or other such day-dreams of infidelity. Really, are these women actually enjoying their 'Alpha Mummy' lives? It doesn't sound like it.

This list actively constructs the stereotype of vapid, ungrateful, selfish bitches. it's not even funny. It goes to show that it's not just misogyny that is a problem for feminism, but also women's own attitudes to themselves!

I thought Alpha Mummy's were the highly driven career women we hear so much about. Not drunken, jealous, lazy cows who can't appreciate the man they decided to have children with. I realise the list is supposed to be a revelation that Alpha Mummys' try, but actually fail to be perfect. I realise that for the middle class snob, who would enjoy this drivel, there could be some kind of amused recognition in reading the piece. But not me.

I actually appreciate my partner, he is wonderful. I actually enjoy being semi-intellectual, I like being able to discuss things other than shopping and celebrities. And, along a different line, I don't think it's clever or funny to brand yourself as a bad parent.

Alongside my ranting about how I don't agree with the ideas in the article, I think there's also a perfectly valid point to be made about women who DO recognise themselves in the list. The presupposition is that if you do these things, then you ARE a bad mother/wife. Brilliant, way to go, just go and knock every other women who reads it and thinks that they *must* be bad if they don't constantly live up to the stereotype. Once again I'll bring it back to the ideology: stating that a person who fulfills this description is a bad mother is a subtle reinforcement of an ideology of perfection.

It's hard enough with the media representations of 'perfect' celebrity mums (Angelina?), but at least with celebrities, they *are* of a completely different world to the rest of us. When a supposedly 'real woman' blog reinforces that you are failing as a parent if you
let your kids watch a bit to much TV, (and who decides how much is too much anyway?) then, although you may be laughing on the outside, your idea of the perfect mother has just been reconstructed. It's only a small step from here to considering that aspects of your life could be counted as 'failings'.

Articles like this might seem harmless, but combined with other media and peer pressures, it amounts to social conditioning. If you're reading this and mocking me for going over the top, it just goes to show how implicit this ideology of perfect mothering is. The 'joke' of the article is based on the fact that the 'super mum' idea does exist, but real people find it unobtainable. But is it really amusing that these people now class themselves as bad parents because of this? Ha ha, we're all laughing because 'oh, we must be such bad parents because we do this!' The ideology takes away the idea that different parents deal with parenting in different ways. This article serves to represent parenting as black and white: the right way, or the wrong way.

I'm not going to say that I must be a bad parent because I don't agree with this. No, I know I am a good parent because I have a happy child. The kind of opinion presented in the Alpha Mummy article takes away this option and, in my opinion, is damaging to women's views of their own styles and abilities.

Friday, 13 February 2009

Salma Hayek

Is a lovely inspiration.
I don't usually get into the celebrity humanitarian thing, but what this lady did in Sierra Leone really touched me. If you watch through the video, past the injections and the poor newborn baby, you see Salma breastfeeding someone elses sick child.
How many women would feel comfortable doing that?
Beautiful.

Thursday, 12 February 2009

Bill O'Reilly...

Wow...Browsing American feminist forums really opens your eyes to the world...
Bill O'Reilly
Mr O'Reilly is, just, wow. I can't imagine anyone on UK TV being allowed to act in such a way. Ouch. It actually hurts to watch him.
It makes me wonder, is the UK more open to women's rights, more anti-racist, or is it that the UK television media is more tightly restrained?
I know that these kinds of opinions are much more common in certain newspapers, but I feel truly lucky that the television channels in the UK are so much more tightly regulated, even if it can be argued as a constraint on free speech. Who wants to hear that kind of diatribe?

Monday, 9 February 2009

Pink

I quite like pink, actually.
I have found myself cooing over particular patterned laptops. But surely, if they're going to make laptops pink, they ought to be *good* and not just pretty?
I don't see much wrong with the principle of making a pink laptop, however, if they're marketing them at women, and not taking into account the many different occupations of women, then I have a problem. Producing a laptop with a lovely pink cover and a very limited capacity doesn't say much for how the company views women, does it?

Tuesday, 3 February 2009

Seems I'm not the only one...

And following from my previous rant, imagine how I felt to find this in the news yesterday.
I suppose in some ways it covers my undercurrent feelings about the whole issue of bringing up children.

I believe that all children deserve to have the love and commitment that only family can provide and that children can really achieve their full potential in that kind of environment. This is not to say that I disparage working mothers, my own mother worked full time as I was growing up, (and still does!) yet I have a close relationship with her and relate to my parents much better than many of my friends and acquaintances. However, when I was a child, neither of my grandmothers worked, and thus I always had family around to look after me. The same goes for my partner, though the child of a single working mother, he was cared for by his grandmother. But now, our parents are in their late 40s/early 50s and still working. They'll probably be working until retirement, they don't have any other option. So what can our generation do, if they have to work, but put the children in childcare?

Nevertheless, it feels terrible to me that some children are being brought up full time in nurseries, where the ratio for child to carer ranges from 3:1 for children under 2, to 8:1 for children 3 to 8. Even with all the facilities and activities they will have available, what sort of loving, nurturing environment can the children be experiencing? What terrible habits will they be learning behind the busy carer's back?! (I really don't know!)

However even with my dislike of childcare and desire to keep my daughter at home, I don't accept the stance on 'working mothers' suggested by this report, take a couple of quotes for example:

'It also suggests that having many more working mothers has contributed to the damage done to children.

"Most women now work and their new economic independence contributes to levels of family break-up which are higher in the UK than in any other Western European country."'

Firstly, what is this damage? The article directly quotes:

"Children with separate, single or step parents are 50% more likely to fail at school, have low esteem, be unpopular with other children and have behavioural difficulties, anxiety or depression,"

OK, so the original report states that broken families cause the 'damage' and that the working mother 'contributes' to the break-ups. The BBC has decided to restate this as as assumption that it is working mothers that cause damage to children, not broken families.

There is no mention of men bringing up children, it completely side steps this issue in favour of a sly attack on career women, a strategy which manages to subtly reinforce the theme in society that it is wrong for men to stay at home and wrong for women to work. Way to go with progress.

And how about this quote for some lovely 'old fashioned values:'

"Most women now work and their new economic independence contributes to levels of family break-up"

So, how exactly does female economic independence contribute to family break-ups? What is the correlation here? What about cheating partners? What about irreconcilable differences? What about 'we just don't love one another any more'? Is it the case that in the past women were trapped in the family situation because of having no money of their own? IS THIS MORE DESIRABLE?!?!

I am completely in agreement that parents should take more personal responsibility for raising children, and also agree with some of the measures suggested: free parenting classes available around the time of birth, free psychological and family support if relationships struggle and rules making it easier for parents to stay at home to rear their children. However, what I can't stand is the pervasive sexism inherent in the argument, the ideology is so entrenched that you can't even see it if you're not looking for it.


Thursday, 29 January 2009

Changing my attitudes...

Having never been particularly affected by either feminism or sexism, I have tootled along for most of my existence completely oblivious to the two concepts. However, as I think about it more and more (and study it intensely for university), I'm finding myself drawn to feminism. However, I do have concerns about some feminist issues, particularly the gender gap in pay.

Women still don't earn as much as men, particularly if they bring up children. But is this 'bringing up children' qualification an important point? As a mother myself I feel quite strongly about being there for my daughter as she grows up, particularly while she is below school age. I don't want another person bringing up my daughter, I want to have a direct and fulfilling influence upon her in her formative years, which takes me out of the job market for at least 3 years, preferably 4. However, as a university student, I have outlaid a huge amount of (borrowed) money to get myself an in-depth education in linguistics. I have nearly finished my degree and my daughter is now 18 months old. Unfortunately, staying out of employment keeps my debt growing to the kind of level where I can't even conceive the amount of money I owe.

But this is the literal price I am paying for wanting the best of both worlds. I am not the kind of woman who is driven by career aspirations, I am much more a mother than a worker. However, I will not deny that I am also driven by intellectual achievement. Thus I am going to want to work, in some capacity, at some point. If we hadn't had our daughter we would be 3 years better off financially. So do we deserve to earn as much as if we hadn't had a baby? I doubt many people would be convinced by an argument for this stance, after all, it was our decision to have a child. Knowing full well our values and opinions on raising children, it should have been a sacrifice we had factored into the decision.

However, it shouldn't be the case that women are disadvantaged because of having children, if they feel they have to go back to work asap to keep their job, or if they have to give up breastfeeding because they have to work in order to feed the family. My situation is lucky, I haven't got a job to lose. But never mind the mothers, what about those children losing out on a family environment because parents (and grandparents!) have to work?

Is this women's lib? Going back to work, leaving your child in an extortionate nursery? Is the world forcing women to lose perspective on their priorities? Of course, for many women their career is an important part of their life, but if they decide to have children, surely there should be a shift in focus? Perhaps a loss in earnings is a suitable price to pay for the knowledge that you have provided a strong parental influence in their early years. Notwithstanding, men are equally as capable as women at bringing up their children, and I applaud men who chose to do this, but with young babies, breastfeeding is also a factor that should be considered.

Now, it's perfectly acceptable for people to jump up and shout me down with arguments like 'but I can't afford to stay at home and bring up my child.' I know I've been extremely lucky to have a partner who can support us all. But, consider this: we live within our means. We choose not to have another child because we could not afford to provide for another and we choose not to spend lots of money on ourselves.

So, with all this in mind, I still feel drawn to feminism, but with a traditional slant. I want to stay at home and look after my daughter, but I also want to have the chance to earn an equivalent wage to my partner. However, I don't believe I should automatically expect to earn as much as him over my whole working life. He is already working and is obviously going to have earned more money than me. It is my choice to stay at home and I will bear the costs. The only issue I have is having access to an equivalent basic pension, for which there is already a system in place. Obviously, all situations are different and this is a very personal perspective on a personal situation. I acknowledge I'm speaking from a highly privileged position and welcome alternative views on the issue.