International Women’s Day and I was invited by the National Women’s Council of Ireland to take part in their SOAPBOX event which took place in the middle of O Connell Street – just opposite the GPO. A place famous for oration… some more glorious than others. It’s also around the corner from some of Dublin’s most formidable women – the fruit sellers and traders of Moore Street, whose powers of making themselves heard over the din of the city is legendary. I didn’t sell any bananas but I was honoured to take my few minutes on the soapbox. Here is the text of what I roared!
Today is International Women’s Day. A video featuring James Bond actor Daniel Craig, dressed as a women and voiced by Dame Judi Dench was released by Equals (a partnership of various charities) to highlight the injustice and inequality that still exists for women around the world. The basic thrust of the film, I have no issue with, although I am not convinced that dressing Mr Craig in drag is of any value other than ensuring coverage in the tabloid press.
However there were some statistics that bothered me. According to Judy Dench although we women do two thirds of the work, we only earn ten percent of the wealth. Many of us still are likely to lose our jobs if we become pregnant. We often are barred from work because of the lack of childcare. This makes me want to scream. Not because of the inequality of it, but because these kind of figures, this kind of rhetoric assumes that all women want to be equal to men in a man’s world. A world where one’s worth is measured by how much you earn. A world where your worth is also determined by how high up you are on the corporate ladder. A world where once you give birth you are assumed to want to place your baby in childcare so you can run back into the workforce and continue your climb through the glass ceiling to the boardroom where you hope you will be treated as equal to your male colleagues.
I’ve been around the block a few times. I have had a career. I loved it. I used childcare. I sat at the management table and I am pleased to say I never felt unequal. I think I was probably lucky. But I totally bought into the feminist notion that I was achieving. However I wasn’t happy. I was bloody exhausted.
Circumstances (and not any sudden blinding flash of insight on my part – but then again I was too busy to think much) conspired to my deciding to leave work, just for one year, in order to be at home with my family. My baby daughter had some health issues and my father was dying at the time. To this day I am so grateful to both of them for forcing me to step back and reassess my life.
I have been at home, looking after my family for the last ten years. I write. Sometimes I even get paid for my writing. But coming up to the ripe old age of 50, there is one thing I know for sure – I do not want to be equal in a man’s world. I want the world to allow me be equal for who I am. I dearly wish my feminist sisters would stop trying to compete with men in this very imperfect society we have created. I want women to re-imagine a new way of being equal. It is a man’s world. I want an equal world.
On paper I earn very little. But as Dame Judi says I work just as hard as my hardworking husband. He earns the money. I care and nuture and organise the home and our family. So on paper I am adding to these flawed statistics. But I am not unequal to my husband, unless you are judging earning power as a measure of equality. My equality comes from the fact that my husband and I agree that he earns our money, not his money.
I want to be equal so that when I do meet my career sisters and brothers I don’t feel inadequate about saying that I am a …… and there’s another problem right there. I don’t even have a title that adequately even comes close to describing what I do. I want to be equal in a world where women (or men) who stay at home with children are genuinely valued and respected.
To me it is no wonder there are so few women who are at the top of industry, in politics, etc The fact that we are not there is not altogether men’s fault. We are not there largely, I believe, because we choose not to be. Because our wiring is different. Our values are different. We are not men. But we are afraid to say it. It is so ‘politically incorrect’ to say that I do not want to put my children into childcare so that I can work long hours and sacrifice my core instincts. I am not saying that all women feel like I do, but I would say that I am not alone.
So sisters, fight on if you like. But you are on the road to nowhere because we are not all behind you. Some of us are dreaming a very different dream of equality. But maybe it’s time we took the courage to speak up!