FAILING OUR YOUNG PEOPLE…..

Dinner table discussions are one of the best things about family life.. and like good wine they get better as the kids get older.  I had the rare experience of gathering my three daughters and my husband around a big roast dinner last night in advance of my eldest’s journey back to Perth after a short visit home. 
The last day with her is always awful.  Emotions are raw and all just below the surface.  We  are all walking on eggshells like Basil Fawlty in that famous episode of Fawlty Towers afraid to ‘mention the war’ or in our case ‘the parting’.  We usually make lots of nonsense small talk to avoid opening the floodgates of tears.
But last night was different as the talk turned very quickly to the Marriage Equality referendum.  My emigrant daughter found it hard to believe that there was a concerted campaign for a No vote.  However it was my other two daughters, aged 16 and 14 who were most vocal on the issue.
They had both recently discovered a number of families known to them who are voting no. This stunned them.  
But what upset them most, was that in the majority of cases, the off spring in these families are very angry at their parent’s stance on this issue.  Living, in Dun Laoghaire/Rathdown in supposedly one of the most liberal constituencies in the country, I was also stunned at this revelation.  One of my daughters told us of her friend who is gay and his parents are also voting no. 
Conversation continued as I recounted my rather surreal experience of debating the issue on air on East Coast Radio earlier in the day.  I talked about the misinformation and fear being spread by the No side which is very difficult to counter.  Then my youngest who is 14 exploded. 
“In this referendum we should be allowed to vote.  This is an issue that will affect our lives and the lives of our friends.  It will have no affect whatsoever on these parents who are straight and already married. They also grew up in an era when homosexuality was illegal and under the radar.  It was OK to look down and judge gay people.  And now they might be the ones who may get to decide on this very issue.  It is not fair that we cannot have our say.  That our voices will not be heard.”
And she is right.  Once again we in this bloody country are doing a disservice to our young people.  Not only can they not vote on this issue but we are not even hearing their views.
We finished our meal almost more depressed than if we had visited the issue of saying goodbye to the eldest. 
However on a more positive note, the girls also told us that their school, which is a former convent school with a very Catholic ethos, is festooned with Yes stickers and they are not being removed by the staff.  This cheered me somewhat until I realised that only a small minority of the school population will have a vote!

The clarity with which our teenagers view this referendum, seeing it clearly as an issue of equality and not one of parenting is also making me rethink my stance on the other issue we vote on on May 22nd.  Maybe a young President is what this bloody country needs?

#askhermore

Feminism is a funny old game.  It is a classic case of two steps forward and one backwards.  As women move forward in our quest for full equality there seems to be an equal counterweight which balances this progress by reminding us that we still aren’t really that equal.  Just in case we get ahead of ourselves like.
Nowhere is this more clearly evident than in the media and entertainment.  Take the movies, for example.  While there seems to be a feeling abroad that things are improving for female lead roles, research recently published by the Centre for the Study of Women in Film and Television showed that, in fact less than 12% of the lead protagonists in the top grossing 100 movies in 2014 were women.  Less than 12%.  And women only represented 30% of all speaking characters in these movies.
But along with these dismal statistics are the facts that most of the women in film are younger and usually identified by their social roles rather than their careers.  In other words they are portrayed as far less powerful than their male counterparts. 
At this juncture can I just give TV3 a shout out for their superb new soap drama series ‘Red Rock’ which is liberally sprinkled with strong female characters, who operate in their own right.  It’s very refreshing and they are every bit as compulsive as any of the male leads.    
Anyway, back to Hollywood and the fact that we might think that Disney putting a princess into a blue dress means that things are changing.  The reality is that they are not. 
Of course one of the main ways to reduce a woman’s power is by subtly reminding her that no matter what her accomplishments are, she will still be judged first and foremost on her appearance.  And no where will you find this illustrated more elegantly than on these ‘Red Carpet Shows’ that precede all the big awards ceremonies.  In one fell swoop these shows have managed to reduce some of the most wonderful actresses and female performers in the world to beauty pageant contestants. 
E! Fashion Police (yes, an actual programme which used star the late Joan Rivers) leads the charge in this regard with their vacuous presenters, Ryan Seacrest and Giuliana Rancic who line up female stars to ask “so…. who are you wearing?”  E! has also championed two new technologies to help them in their task of reducing the actresses to clothes horses.  The Glam Cam rotates an image of the actress round and round and up and down so we can judge her from all angles and then we have the mani-cam.  Yes, you guessed it.  A mini red carpet so the actress to walk her fingers towards the camera so we can view her manicure and her jewellery.  
However the good news is that the fight back is on, it seems to be working and it began on the much maligned medium of social media. 
The Representation Project grew from the success of a film by Jennifer Siebel Newsom called ‘Miss Representation’ which examined how women were portrayed in across all media, from film to news and current affairs.  The mission of the project is to highlight and challenge the limiting depictions of women in media. 
In response to the inane questions that female actors are subjected to on the red carpet they began a hashtag called #askhermore.  This allows users of social media, particularly Twitter to urge broadcasters to ‘ask her more’ than just what dress she is wearing.
Now don’t get me wrong, I like a nice frock and wearing too much make up to a ‘posh do’ occasionally.  And yes, I watch these Red Carpet shows and love to see the style.  But I would also love to hear about how the actress felt about the role, or what she was doing next. 
The website Buzzfeed sent a reporter to cover the red carpet at the recent BAFTA’s in London who only spoke to male actors and gave them the ‘who are you wearing treatment’, along with requesting Eddie Redmayne and Michael Keaton to ‘do a twirl’.  You can guess who did and who didn’t.  But it was the look on the mens’ faces as they were faced with such trivial, banal questioning that was the best.
At the Screen Actors Guild Awards in January actors Jennifer Aniston, Reese Witherspoon and Julianne Moore all refused to parade their fingers for the mani cam. 
But to borrow from Mr Dylan, “the times they are a-changing”.  Last night, as I watched the first hour of E!’s Red Carpet Show the change in emphasis was obvious.  Men and women were both asked who they were wearing – but that was it.  They were then asked more.  And for the time I watched anyway there wasn’t a mani-cam or glam cam in sight. 

The fight goes on but at least the battle to #askhermore seems to have been won.  
You might like this story on the Oscars From My Table Archives  

Ni Neart Go Cur Le Cheile

“Be yourself, because if you can get away with it, it is the ultimate feminist act.”
Liz Phair – American Singer/Songwriter
According to the Oxford English Dictionary Feminism is “the advocacy of women’s rights on the ground of the equality of the sexes.”   The two words that jump out of that sentence are rights and equality.  Surely every woman has the right to make her own choices and live her own life as she sees fit.  You see, for me feminism is as much about choice and freedom as it is about equality. 
And that right there is why I often find myself getting very depressed when feminist women (rarely men) get angry when a woman puts forward a vision of fulfilment that doesn’t rate climbing the career ladder her major priority in life. 
Over the last few days we have had another stunning example of how we women seem to find it next to impossible to accommodate views that do not fit neatly with ours.  Kirsty Allsop is the latest feminist to find herself in very hot water with the mainstream feminists who have been ranting and raving about her in our newspapers and on social media.  You see Kirsty has opinions and has never been afraid to express them.  Surely this is what feminists are all about?  Having women’s voices heard?  Not apparently if your opinions run contrary to the mainstream feminist view which seems to be all about achieving in education and career.
Ms Allsopp had the audacity to say in a wide ranging interview with The Telegraph that she thought that “women are being let down by the system. We should speak honestly and frankly about fertility and the fact it falls off a cliff when you’re 35. We should talk openly about university and whether going when you’re young, when we live so much longer, is really the way forward.” 
She went on to say that if she had a daughter (she has two sons) she would advise her to postpone university and to concentrate on having a family while she was young and doing the career and university thing later on.  She further said in an interview with Newsnight that she would have the same conversation with her boys.
Whether she is right or wrong is irrelevant.  The point is that she has every right to express her opinion.  She wasn’t saying that this is what every woman should do but that it is what she would advise her offspring to do.  But the immediate rubbishing of her view along with plenty of derogatory commentary concerning her background (which is reasonably wealthy by all accounts) and her work with interiors, design and crafting surely runs contrary to what feminism should be all about?
For generations women have passed down wisdom and stories along with recipes from mother to daughter; precious nuggets of knowledge borne from experience of our grandmothers.  In our enthusiasm for full equality we have narrowed our vision about what it is to be a woman – what it is to be a feminist.
Some of the greatest feminist women I know are working quietly in the home, caring for children, their aged parents and their household.  They have little if any interest in board rooms or glass ceilings.  Are there views on life less worthy?  Are these women some lesser species of feminist?
We need to be very careful of becoming too macho in our pursuit of full equality and freedom.  Actress Natalie Portman said “I want every version of a woman and a man to be possible. I want women and men to be able to be full-time parents or full-time working people or any combination of the two. I want both to be able to do whatever they want sexually without being called names. I want them to be allowed to be weak and strong and happy and sad – human, basically. The fallacy in Hollywood is that if you’re making a “feminist” story, the woman kicks ass and wins. That’s not feminist, that’s macho. A movie about a weak, vulnerable woman can be feminist if it shows a real person that we can empathize with.”

Before we can change the world we must change ourselves.  As a women’s movement we must recognise that we women are as different as we are the same.  We don’t all necessarily want the same things.  Equality is essentially about choice.  The choice to be yourself.  It is vital that we recognise the right of each woman to make the choices that are right for her. And we need to support each other regardless of how we personally view those choices.
So if Kirsty Allsopp wants to tell her children that they might consider fertility and plan a family early and put off career advancement till later, that is fine.  It is another way of doing things.  No more and no less valid that waiting until you are established in your career for the babies.
But women can we please stop being so critical of other women whose views don’t chime with ours.  We are often our own worst enemies… Ni neart go cur le cheile (no strength without unity)

WOMEN ON AIR… MAKING PROGRESS

I was really pleased to attend the inaugural ‘Women On Air’ conference this week in the magnificent surroundings of Dublin Castle.  Walking across the upper yard of one of Dublin’s most iconic locations on a sunny morning was just stunning.  As I carefully picked my way on the cobblestones I was vaguely aware of the centuries of history that was all around me;  ghosts of the British administration and laterally the whisperings that signified subterfuge and intrigue as Ireland pushed for independence.
There was no subterfuge however at the ‘Women on Air’ event which was officially opened by Minister for Communications Pat Rabbitte, who didn’t annoy me at all with his speech.  He was followed by Margaret E Ward who outlined how ‘Women on Air’ came into being after a ‘debate’ on Twitter.  I was a silent witness to that debate back in 2010 and felt a frisson of excitement when Margaret along with former radio producer Helen McCormack decided to organise a seminar which was aimed at providing tips and support for women who wished to go on air. 
Back in 2010 I was a …. here we go again… housewife (I HATE THAT TERM – but all others are equally grating) buried deep in suburban Cabinteely.  However my children were 23, 11 and 9 and I was itching to get involved back in the world of work and had decided to attempt to pursue my passion of writing and talking!  I had done a few radio interviews before in my previous career as PRO for a national charity and it was a medium I found very comfortable.  I also passionately wanted to hear more women’s voices and more importantly women’s stories on air.
So taking my courage in both hands I sent a very timid tweet to Margaret E Ward asking if it might be possible to attend this planned seminar.  It was. 
The seminar took place on Tuesday 12th of October and was held in the National Library at 6:30pm.  I got there way too early and heading to the coffee shop for a coffee while I waited.  As I sat on my own in the empty cafe the voice in my head grew louder and louder saying “what the hell are you doing?”, “go home, you eejit, why on earth would you consider yourself part of this?”
As I walked towards the lecture theatre, I tried to counter the feeling of seasickness and terror.  There were lots of women milling about and they all seemed to know each other.  The voice in my head was now in a right panic.  “No-one knows you – turn around and leave before you make a show of yourself”.  I tried to keep my face looking calm and confident as I negotiated a place to sit when I suddenly saw one face that was familiar.  I had met writer Eleanor Fitzsimons just a week or so earlier at a book launch and we had chatted.  Thankfully she remembered me and I clung on to her like she was a life-raft in treacherous seas.
Later that evening I met Helen McCormack, who asked me if I would be willing to come into studio on a news review panel on the Tom McGuirk programme, which she produced on 4FM.
So on that night four years ago, I arrived into the city a bag of nerves, wondering what the hell I was doing.  But thanks to the support, encouragement and faith of just three women I went home wondering if it might actually be possible to pursue a new career in the media… or what Fiona Looney (bless her) calls my midlife crisis media career.
Women on Air has come a long way since October 2010 and I guess I have made some progress on the journey too.  Change is definitely in the air.  RTE Radio One seems to be leading the charge at the moment with rising numbers of women presenting programmes during the peak hours of 8am to 8pm. 
TV3 also have managed to attain a relatively good gender balance in their news and current affairs output – most noticeably on Vincent Browne’s programme.  Something I think they don’t get enough credit for.
During the first session of the Conference TV3’s Political Editor, Ursula Halligan, made the point about women on TV being constantly made feel that they have to fit a specific body type… young, pretty and very slim.  An image, she said, that was largely constructed by men but which was bought into by women.  Aine Lawlor referenced the excellent documentary by Kirsty Wark, ‘Blurred Lines’ and the amount of violent sexual threats that can be made against some women in media, something that another panellist, journalist Una Mulally knows all about.
It struck me that both issues have a connection to each other.  Because TV companies seem to be so reluctant to put older women or women who don’t fit the specific ‘TV type’ on air, broadcasters are actually feeding this view that all women must be attractive and specifically sexually attractive regardless of their qualifications or ability.  The most obvious example of this is that of Mary Beard, the respected academic in the UK, who received horrendous online abuse regarding appearance after a series she made, was aired on the BBC.
Perhaps when we have more balance in the physicality of the women we see on our screens – across body types, age etc we will see a decrease in the amount of abuse someone like Mary Beard receives.  It is much easier to bully the minority.
In broader terms we need to ensure as more and more women make it to air that we don’t follow the men and have airwaves that are almost entirely populated by middle class voices. 
Just as the women at that very first ‘Women On Air’ seminar were accepting of the interloper housewife from the suburbs, as more and more of us make it to air we must ensure that we are bringing diversity with us. 

Congratulations to Caroline Erskine – chairperson of Women On Air, Margaret E Ward and Helen McCormack the originators of the movement and all the current committee for a wonderful conference.  Onwards and upwards sisters.

LET’S HEAR IT FOR THE BOSSY GIRLS…

Big, glossy and expensive media campaigns that seem to spring out of nowhere make me slightly defensive and wary.  They make me wonder if they are real or something dreamed up in a plush office somewhere by individuals or a group of individuals who want to up their profile, change the public perception of them or are just publicity hungry for one reason or another.  I am naturally suspicious of campaigns that seem to emanate from the wealthy elite who seem to be happy to give the rest of us the benefit of their gold plated wisdom.
The latest such campaign is the ‘Ban Bossy’ one.  Apparently girls who are natural leaders and organisers are often called bossy… yep, I thought, I’ve been there and done that.  But apparently that is not a good thing.  Girls who are told they’re bossy can feel unlike and unpopular and as a result calling girls bossy can result in them not putting themselves forward to take these leadership roles.
My first reaction was – what a load of old nonsense.  I have been called bossy since I could talk and I have always taken pride in that fact.  I took bossy to be a bit of a back handed compliment.  Have I been wrong all these years?
I am also the mother of three daughters, none of whom are backwards about coming forward in varying degrees.  I have always encouraged them to be the leader not the follower. “If something needs to be organised and no-one else is doing it – well do it yourself” I tell them.  I am sure they are called bossy occasionally but it has never been something that has upset them at all.  And I value the fact that they usually, (not always – I’m not that great a parent) are happy to lead and don’t (generally) follow unquestioningly. (As a mother of teenagers I have fingers and toes crossed at having written than.)
When I was thinking about all this before putting pen to paper, one fact leapt out at me.  Like me, they have all gone to all girl schools.  Is the problem here that it is boys that are uncomfortable with girls being leaders?  Is it the boys who seem to have this power to make bossy a bad word and make the girls feel ‘unlikeable’?  This would chime with my experience.  My bossiness (or assertiveness as I generally call it now that I am grown up) has occasionally caused problems with male bosses!  Oh – and are we going to change the name Boss while we are at it?  Or can men be bosses but girls not be bossy?  Sorry I am totally lost with the logic of that.
I am very unconvinced by this campaign.  I think it risks being misinterpreted by our girls; teaching them not to be bossy but to be leaders.  Instead of trying to ‘Ban Bossy’ why not ‘Own Bossy’?  Be bossy and be proud, because when our ‘bossy’ girls get out into the big world of work will be called all kinds of other not flattering names.  Let me see – ‘over-bearing’, ‘shrill’, ‘bloody feminist’, ‘trouble-maker’ – oh the list is endless.  I’ve been called them all.  I have also been told that I wouldn’t succeed unless I toned myself down.   While I admit that my success is questionable I have no intention of toning down.  Hell no.   
Once again are we accepting men’s view of things?  Who say’s bossy is bad.  Beyonce, one of the campaign’s figureheads, says “I am not bossy, I am the Boss.”  That sounds more like the attitude I want our girls to have.

So I will continue to tell me girls – be bossy and own it.  Bossy means that you are willing to give leadership. Oh and I also tell them that if they are going to live their lives trying to be liked by all and sundry they are on a hiding to nothing.  Be kind, treat people like you would like to be treated… but all groups need a bossy boots.  So grab them boots… wear ‘em, own ‘em.  And feck the begrudgers.

ROARING FOR EQUALITY

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!

Michael Harding wrote one of the most lyrical and beautiful columns I have ever read in the Irish Times last Tuesday.  It was called What I Love Most About Women Is Their Voices.  He began by saying that while his father was in the dining room talking about God, his mother was in the kitchen talking to another woman.  His father called it gossip – “what are you women gossiping about now?”  But Harding says “my father was full of ideas – but mother – full of stories – was always more real.”  He went on to say of women “They share a ‘knowing’ beyond words. …. They know things men don’t know.  They shelter men in the fabric of their knowing and they intuit a deeper universe when a man’s world is falling apart.”
It certainly is time that this world of man’s design fell apart.  It certainly is time for women to demand much more than just equality with men.  It is time for us to demand a new world; a world in which we can participate fully and as equals but a world which acknowledges that we are not men; a world where we can express our womanhood without fear that it will be perceived as weakness.
All women are heroes in my opinion.  We bleed every month which can often make us feel like crap but we carry on with our jobs, paid and unpaid, pretending all is fine as we pop another nurofen and dream of reaching home where we can fling ourselves on the sofa with a hot water bottle and a bar of chocolate.  I know menopausal women who suffer horrendous periods which are challenging in a practical as well as physical way – and they carry on working wearing black a lot and praying a lot that their super plus extra sanitary protection doesn’t let them down.  Would men be so silent if roles were reversed?  Would they hell? 
How many women are afraid to display photos of their kids on their desks in case it gives the game away.  How many women miss their new baby so much when they return to work after maternity leave that it causes physical pain?  How many women wish they could take a couple of years of reduced hour working  in order not to miss their children’s early years?  How many women hate that their children are in crèche from too early in the morning till too late in the evening?  And why do so few women articulate these feelings openly?
I know some men feel all these emotions too.. but today is about women.
How come we live in a modern and relatively wealthy country where we have unsafe maternity services and where we have so little choice in those services?  And how come we are not raising a holy racket about it?
But most of all how come we live in a country where the work of caring is so undervalued.  Our children are our most precious asset – both individually and nationally.  So how is it that the people who care for them are in general working for a minimum wage?   And of course this is equally true for those working in nursing homes – caring for our most vulnerable elderly. 
Care, that most traditional of women’s work, should not be left to either charities or the private sector.  Caring should be heavily subsidised by Government in the same way education is and should be run by professionals on a not for profit basis.
Michael Harding spoke of women’s voices.  And yet the day after his beautiful column appeared in the Irish Times, we heard that 1 in 3 women in the EU have suffered physical or sexual abuse.  The figure is 1 in 4 in Ireland.  That means women in our neighbourhoods, perhaps in our families, in our circle of friends have or perhaps still are, experiencing violence.  And yet they are largely silent.  There still exists a shame and stigma to admitting that our vulnerability, that which is part of being a woman has been cruelly and viciously exploited. 
But before we can change the world we must change ourselves.  As a women’s movement we must recognise that we women are as different as we are the same.  We don’t all necessarily want the same things.  Equality is essentially about choice.  The choice to be yourself.  It is vital that we recognise the right of each woman to make the choices that are right for her. And we need to support each other regardless of how we personally view those choices.  Ni neart go cur le cheile
We are 51% of the population and here we are marking an International Womens Day at an event organised by the National Women’s Council of Ireland.  I hope that some day our  grand daughters and great grand daughters can laugh at the madness of such a concept.
Michael Harding finished by saying that “women have been my compass, my anchor, the ground and the completness of my universe.  As I grow older they are the warp and weft of all my spiritual hope, because it was women’s eyes that saw Christ resurrected and it was women’s voices who sang the song of it – until they were silenced. 

It is time to break our silence.  It is time for us to sing our songs, to tell our stories, to support each other and demand the changes we need to fulfil our destiny to change the world.  Our men need us as women and our grand daughters are depending on us.  

TIME FOR A RED WAVE OF FEMINISM

A few years ago BBC2 screened a documentary series called ‘Tribal Wives’.  In each episode a different British woman went to live for a period of weeks with a so called ‘primitive’ tribe in various parts of the developing world. 
There was one particular episode that stands out in my memory because it dealt with what happened when that week’s British woman got her period.  In the tribe she was living with menstruating women had to go to a special hut on the outskirts of the village.  So off our British woman went, somewhat horrified that she was being ‘put out’ of the village as if unclean.  But she found the experience very soothing.  In the special hut she was minded by other women who braided her hair and she was not expected to do any work.  After a few days she returned to her duties in the village feeling refreshed.
I had forgotten about this until recently when I read a wonderful book by Anita Diamant called The Red Tent.  This book tells the story of Dinah who is the daughter of Jacob, he of the infamous 12 sons, one of whom had a Multicoloured Dreamcoat.  But what I found so engrossing about this book was the actual Red Tent. 
Dinah grew up with many mothers as Jacob had many wives.  As is generally the case when women live together, their menstrual cycles synchronised and so the Red Tent was where the women of the extended family went while they bled.  For three days and nights, they did no work, no cooking but spent what sounded like a reasonably relaxing time chilling out together in their own female tent.
I just love this idea of retreat for a few days once a month.  Imagine if instead of living in a world that has evolved from a patriarchal society we actually had come from a matriarchial system.  How would our world differ?  Well for one I doubt we women would have gotten to the 21st century pretending we don’t actually have periods. 
This pretence is beginning to change.  We now have ads for tampons and towels with their cute little wings on the TV but the ads are largely a bit weird and full of blue liquid.
Last year Bodyform posted a brilliant ad on YouTube addressing a Facebook post by ‘Richard’ who sought to expose the lies contained in the advertising of feminine hygiene products.  In this ad, Caroline Williams, fictional CEO of Bodyform, admits that their ads have lied but makes the point that their focus groups in the ‘80s couldn’t handle the truth of periods with mood swings and cramps etc.  She even makes reference to crimson landslides.
Lately another period ad has been causing a sensation online.  This one features a young girl who is the first in her group to get her period and becomes (for a while) a kind of period superhero distributing tampons all around her.
And that, right there, is the point.  Women are superheroes.  Once a month we manage to carry on for a couple of days through cramps, headaches, mad appetite surges, sore breasts and the need to be reasonably near a loo every couple of hours.  Do we complain?  Not if we know what’s good for us we don’t?  Do we look for some time out?  Oh no, because then we mightn’t be equal to the guys.  So instead we dose up on painkillers and we try not to give the game away by putting a comforting hand on our sore abdomens as we carry on with business as usual.  
It’s the same way we pretend we don’t miss our kids when we are in work.  It’s why we are afraid to be seen crying.  We are hyper aware of doing or saying anything that might make us seem less, well, less macho than the guys.  We deny a lot of what being a woman is about.
It’s time for a new wave of feminism.  It’s time we looked at how our world is organised and made some enlightened changes.  We need better work life balance, better maternity (and paternity) leave, we need to be proud of our emotions and we need better and affordable childcare.  But most of all… we need to shout loud that WE ARE WOMEN AND WE BLEED… and sometimes that feels crap.  Actually perhaps this wave could be called the Red Wave of Feminism.
It’s time that we took a lesson from our ancestors and our sisters in supposedly ‘less developed’ countries.  I am not suggesting a row of red tents on the outskirts of our cities, town and villages… although if they came with a spa attached.. well maybe.  Could you imagine the networking possibilities of powerful women spending some quality time together once a month doing nothing but planning and dreaming and thinking?  It would be better than the golf club has ever been.
 But we need to stop pretending that being a woman is very similar to being a man.  Because it’s not.  And no, I haven’t written this while suffering PMT… I’m menopausal!


International Women’s Day

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!