I am a feminist. There. That dirty word that conjures up a rather unattractive image of a man-hating overweight woman, wearing no bra with possible lesbian tendencies.
I am a feminist because I believe that women should have the same opportunities as men. I believe that our genders should not set us apart in the workplace, in the home, in education or in culture. I believe that as women we have the right to equality with men.
Not such a dirty word, feminism.
French feminist and thinker Simone De Beauvoir wrote "One is not born but rather becomes a woman."
I believe this is true. I believe we are socialised to be this notion of "woman."
What is a Woman?
I sometimes think on this. What makes us different? Sure there is that little issue of the XY chromosome, our biology is different to the male. And what? So we have the children, does that make us different?
I would say...no.
Let's face it, I have been gender-bending for years. I was the head of my own household as a lone parent, I paid the bills, wore the trousers, did the DIY jobs. I worked all the hours, did all the training, drove an expensive car and at the same time bought pretty handbags, lovely jewellery, cared for my daughter and I also wore a bra. I wasn't defined by my gender as a woman, in fact I barely even noticed that I was one. I don't think I had the time.
When I first got married, I definitely "become a woman." I notice that it was my job to keep the house in order. Or rather, not my job (you get paid to do a job)... my responsibility to maintain the house. I sort-of liked it. I was this 50s housewife pottering about ironing clothes and cleaning floors. It was great, no one else in the house had to lift a finger.
I was working full time and we had one child. Things got weird and I eventually cracked up like any 50s housewife would if you told her that she also had to have a full time job as well as shift shoes from the middle of the living room floor, THE SAME SHOES, every night.
Add to that doing a degree and well, there was a beautiful explosion in my tiny brain one evening. The workload was "redistributed" shall we say.
And so as time went on, true to my gender, it was me who carried two more children, whom I adore. I love them all, just to be clear. Housework is (mostly) shared in our relationship with me picking up the majority on my days at home, as is practical.
Now the tables are again turning as I once again feel that I am not defined by my gender.
My job is quite demanding. It is a good job. I don't just get pin money, I earn a decent living. I'm a post-grad student too, 90% of my peers and 100% of my tutors are male. I hope to make a difference to this at some point in this field.
(Aesthetically, I wear a bra when I feel like wearing one. Who said my breasts have to point to the sky, or indeed, be squished together in some sort of weird contorted bunch...surely that's not natural, however "attractive"?)
I try to teach my children that gender does not matter. Again and again they seem to think that certain jobs are "man's jobs" or "women's jobs" and I have to correct them.
In a world where mothers are raising their boys to "not hit girls" I say "don't hit anyone" - because boys are not stronger than girls, girls can be just as fierce. I don't teach my girls to be weak before they have even had a chance to prove their strength.
My girls are not told that they run "like girls" nor are they told to "man up" or "grow a pair." We do not imply to them that because they are girls that they are automatically "the fair sex" - they are not weak, they are not meek or mild.
I encourage my girls to push their limits, to literally bend these gender social "norms" until they break because that's the only way for real change. It starts from birth and when we're teaching our boys that girls are weak and telling our girls that boys are strong... where do you go from there? Before we know it our girls will "become women" and that is fine if it is what they want, but I'd rather give them the option.
Balls to gender.