Working mum of three

Figuring it out as we go along. Blogging is cheaper than therapy.

@EverydayFeminism

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I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about feminism recently. It’s been a crap week for womenkind:

There’s been a rape conviction in Ohio that reminds us that victim blaming is still rife and that there are still plenty of rape apologists out there. Esquire magazine says women used in its features are ‘ornamental’. And my (male) friend had enough stats to make this infographic on violence against women for international women’s day.

In the communal changing rooms of the swimming pool, my dad and i overheard this conversation between Uni students:
Bloke: so did you have sex with John on Saturday?
Woman 1: No! I was shattered, I told him ‘no way’ and went straight to sleep
Bloke: but how annoyed would you be if he did anyway?
Woman 1: oh yeah, I’d be pretty annoyed. I’d probably punch him
Woman 2: but that would be rape, right? You’d probably have to call the police

‘Pretty annoyed’?! ‘Probably’?! Yikes. But the fact the he would ask the question in the first place? Frightening.

With two young boys, this is something I worry about a lot. How do you teach respect for women? I’ve lost count of how many people have said we’re lucky to have boys because they are ‘less complicated’. But that just can’t be right. Prevailing culture is so hard on the younger generation, both genders. Worrying about your daughter getting raped is just as frightening as worrying about your son being a rapist. No matter how strong the messages of responsibility, respect, human decency are at home, culture says that treating women as sex objects is acceptable (don’t believe me? Follow @everydaysexism for a week. It’s a brilliant and addictive insight into the sexism women are subjected to all the time).

And this is just a few examples from an average week. This crap is everywhere. It’s reminded me of a time at Uni when I started getting weird calls, a bit of breathing, then eventually some talking. It turned out to be the British Gas door to door sales man who had made a note of my details when I signed our student house up for a discount. He’d given my number to his friends who sent me messages like: I saw you today, I really liked what you were wearing. I had to call British Gas repeatedly to get them to acknowledge the issue. In the end he was suspended for 5 days. But he still had my number and knew where I lived.

With these thoughts playing heavy on my mind, it struck me that I also have a lot of healthy positive examples.

I love it when the men in my life not only point out sexism, but tackle it: My dad posted the picture above on Facebook (via V-Day). Rich has been calling out guys at work for referring to ‘the missus’, his pet hate is blokes who say ‘my wife’ even when everyone knows her name. Rich doesn’t believe me that he is a rare breed of man who gets why feminism is still an important issue. After hearing @everydaysexism founder Laura Bates on radio 4 taking on Mike Buchanan leader of a new political party: Justice for Men and Boys (and the women who love them), Rich said: we should text the presenter to say that men like Mike Buchanan make bringing up our feminist boys even more important.

And I’m surrounded by strong female role models. Brilliant, talented, thoughtful, articulate women, being successful against the odds.

It’s particularly poignant because my boss is leaving this week. My smart, considerate, lovely friend. We’ve fought world wars together (and by that I mean the UN), we’ve stood sobbing on street corners, and we’ve laughed through it all. She’ll go on to further her career and blaze a trail for the rest of us, leaving her mark in her confident, unassuming, grounded way. Giving others a hand as she makes her way up the career ladder. I’ve learned so much from working with her.

There are more like her out there, loads of them are friends and colleagues who recognise the value in supporting others. That is what feminism is for me this week: women helping women. Do we need a twitter feed called @EverydayFeminism or @EverydaySisterhood so we can share positive stories where women are supported, encouraged and celebrated? Ok, so there may not be so many examples but we need some positive channels for women’s issues.

So good luck to my boss who is moving on. Thanks to my friend who shouted down my phone at the British Gas man. And cheers to helping each other out as we climb.

NB: @evrydayfeminism does exist but doesn’t serve the purpose I’m thinking of. I’d love to hear if there is already a twitter feed on positive action for women.

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World book week

It’s world book week. Literary appreciation month. Reading rocks day. Something like that. Whatever it is, it requires a costume.

Superhero day was challenging enough, we ended up with a ripped tshirt over a green top for Incredible Hulk. But getting the kids to choose a character from a book was slightly worrying from a literary perspective. ‘Dora?’ ‘Diego?’ ‘The Octonauts?!’ – to be fair, we do have story books of those characters, but still.

So despite saying good morning to the Dylan Thomas statue every time we pass, regardless of the literary links in their names, and in spite of our overflowing kids bookcases, I have to coax a response as if they were teenagers already.

Browsing through the strewn book collection, the Snail and the Whale gave me a flash of inspiration: an old blue bag and some packing paper from the garage. It wouldn’t be that hard. 3 evenings later and we are nearly there.

So imagine my horror on checking the school website only to discover that costume day was Monday. Not only a wasted creative effort, but the thought of my 4yo being sent to school without a costume. That poor neglected, unloved child. I bet his mother chose her career over her kids. Tut tut.

Luckily, the boys’ nursery did costumes today, so at least we got some use out of them.

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