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!
Well said Barbara.
Unfortunately society is often defined in economic terms and in every ecomomic system of modern history I can think of (Feudalism, Capitalism, Communism, Islamism)a person is valued using financial measures.
Not sure what happens in Matriarchal societies but I suspect they would be different.
I get your point entirely and also agree that women should not be measured by the same statistics but I think in the wider context and probably more so in countries where women are repressed more than they are here, these statistics do count because they measure, in some way, how little women have despite the amount of work they do. In the end it's about valuing what a women has to offer and also offering her the chance to choose to stay at home or to go to work. In many, many countries around the world women don't even get an education so they have no choice.
I think the video with Daniel Craig was done for just the reason you say: to get media attention and to have more people listen to those statistics. It's working too as it's been on every single news station so far. Perhaps it can go in some small way to changing perceptions and understanding of how unequal the world is.
I, like you, worked in high levels of the corporate world and never felt unequal but we were the lucky ones and we had choices. Too many women don't – that's the real problem.
If we could create the world the way we want it and make it easier for women to not have to chose the mostly male corporate world, that would be a fine thing. The video of Daniel Craig goes some way to starting that conversation. Your excellent blog post is a case in point.
I'm also at home after a career that went part-time and then disappeared completely as a result of having kids with special needs…and I'm not that good at being at home, but nor can I manage the long hours culture that would be expected if I went back to work. I believe it is the world of work that needs to change, not us. The whole corporate culture that wants to own you, your time and your allegiance 24/7 does not fit with family life, andwithout families where are heading? Nowhere.
Wonderful, wonderful post. I thought happiness equalled success — in a traditional way. I soon found it didn't (for me, anyway). There are a lot of different roads to fulfillment.
Happy International Women's Day!
Very well put, Barbara. It would be great if we could solve the problem which isn't really one but many problems. I absolutely agree that people who stay at home with their children should be valued. The comment from Looking for Blue Sky is so right. It is the world of work that needs to change.
Yes, I would like it if we could be included in the ones who decide what success, happiness etc…are. That would be swell. And I'd like to see my sisters eased from oppression that is cruel and painful and all humans honoured for doing the connecting things that matter.
I have an award on my site for you – if you haven't got it and would like it you are welcome to it – if you are fatigued with the award thing I certainly understand!
Well said, Barbara.
Women have been trying to emulate a male career stereotype for too long.
I think the only way to have a career and that mental stimulation that goes with it is to find a freelance career that allows you to have a family life and a working without massive stress levels.
Also, there is no question of equality running through a lot of women's heads as they drop kids off at creches in the mornings, they are simply doing it because they have to.
I have noticed a lot of men becoming involved in childcare, the nature of their jobs seems to lead to freelance work easier and I think this is a good sign.
Thanks to each of you who took the time to comment on this particular post. This is an issue close to my heart and the viewpoint I put forward here is one I am still fine tuning. So your thoughts mean a lot to me.
@whyjay99 I must do some research on Matriarchal societies. Thanks
Congrats on your nomination in the Irish Blog Awards as well.
We would have loved to have gone to Belfast for them but we are flying home from Paris that evening at 10pm so although I'm still thinking about it – don't think we'll make it!! I'm kicking myself about it!