I am thrilled to have the lovely Naomi from Life by Naomi. I have only recently discovered Naomi’s blog but it is fair to say that her blog has a positive impact on my home life. Thanks to her tips I am now running a more organised house! Everything (well nearly everything) now has a place. If you haven’t read Naomi’s blog before then head over and have a read. It is a brilliantly written blog with lots of useful tips and ideas. Over to Naomi.
The Mother Feminist with Naomi
Back in the 90s, there was a TV series called ‘Big Women.’ It was based on a novel by Fay Weldon, and it portrayed a feminist publishing house in the 1970s. In the opening scene, the women were putting up posters which read ‘A woman needs a man like a fish needs a bicycle.’ Even at 16, that wasn’t feminism to me. For me, feminism was the belief that women could be – and should be – equal to men, and feminism was necessary because of the historical and sociological preferential treatment of me.
As a teenager, I considered various jobs. All of them were well-respected professions. None of them were particularly ‘male’ or ‘female.’ I never felt held back by my gender; in fact, I thought that it was probably an asset as girls tend to do better than boys in school exams. Similarly at University, I never felt like I had to prove myself as a woman academically, but my course was predominantly female, so perhaps that was a factor. But academically, I always felt equal. Completing my PGCE was the first time, really, that I had to consider my gender: did I have to work harder at classroom management because I was female? Yes, I did. I didn’t have the physical presence, the louder voice, then natural banter that comes easily to many male teachers. But I did have the organisation, the attention to detail and the determination that I needed. I worked hard at my classroom presence and I worked my way up.
When I had my first baby, I returned to work part-time. My husband and I did discuss taking shared parental leave, or him reducing his hours. Although the financial difference would be minimal at that point, the implications for his future career would be more significant. So I went part time, and massively reduced my chances of promotion. But even so, I don’t think that’s a question of equality. I think that’s a question of logistics, and of which parent wants to stay at home, and of finances. When I look at my school leadership team, it’s balanced in terms of gender. Yes, the headteacher is man, but many headteachers (I’m a secondary teacher) are female. In education, I do not think gender is a barrier to success. I do think having children can be. Of the 5 women on my school leadership team, only 1 has children, and those children are grown up. Of the men, all have children.
So do I like the term ‘feminism’? Honestly? Not really. I prefer ‘equality.’ I understand the need for feminism, and yes, I’d call myself a feminist in that I realise things aren’t equal in so many professions and for so many women. More importantly, I work with teenagers. And in those teenagers, I don’t see the strong, confident young women excelling in the way that I saw in the 1990s. I see girls who are afraid to speak out in class. I see young women who are terrified of others seeing them without make up. I think, in teenage circles, it’s acceptable for boys to grab girls as a way of flirting with them. As their teacher, I see it as my responsibility to challenge these views. Today’s teenagers are tomorrow’s adults, and I don’t want to see equality move further and further away. I don’t want to see teenage boys looking to the US President and thinking that is must be ok to just ‘grab’ girls. I want girls to know that they can have every single opportunity that boys have.
So yes, I do think we need to challenge how women are portrayed in the media. I do think we need to speak up when TV programmes are dominated by male characters, or when female characters are stereotyped. I wish reality TV stars would start taking responsibility for the influence they have, and I wish they’d stop posting selfies in their underwear. I wish we didn’t have to have initiatives like ‘This Girl Can,’ but I do think we need them, and I think they do a valuable job. Our teenage girls have a ‘girls can’t’ attitude in many cases, and we have a responsibility to challenge everywhere they hear that message.
I also think we need to teach our young women about how hard the fight for equality is for women. We need to celebrate those who fought for universal suffrage, and those who are still trying to break through the glass ceiling. We cannot let ‘feminism’ become something that is shameful or embarrassing when in so many ways we are so far from equality, and it feels like we might be moving further away. But I think we need to be honest with our young women. Being a mother may well mean sacrificing your career. Becoming a parent is amazing, but it comes at a cost. Many, many people would say that the cost is worth it, and I would certainly not have it any other way. But the fact remains that women’s careers are negatively affected by having children, without a doubt.
I do think the future’s bright, though. We have a strong, female leader as Prime Minister of Great Britain. We have examples of strong, female leadership all around us. We need to celebrate it and show it off. Let’s be proud of it.
Thank you Naomi. I loved reading this take on feminism. As an ex-teacher I can relate to so much of what Naomi says, especially her observations about the leadership team. I too agree that gender is not a barrier in the teaching profession but having children can be. I have written about this myself and how I decided to leave after having my second child. I agree with Naomi that it is our responsibility to teach young women that they need to fight for equality. Maybe one day we will have a generation of women who felt that being a parent meant that their career wasn’t sacrificed.
Naomi is a mum, wife, teacher, blogger and a Christian. On her blog, Naomi helps people get organised so they can have more time for the things they enjoy.
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WE NEED YOU!
We are the real face of feminism. We are reclaiming it and redefining it. Yes, we might have children but we can still be a feminist. Us mothers want our voices to be heard too. We are part of the feminist movement. We want to be seen and heard! The Mother Feminist series is inviting all of you to share what feminism means to you:
- Do you like the term feminism?
- What does feminism mean to you?
- Do you call yourself a feminist?
- Has your outlook on feminism changed post-children?
I want to hear your opinions, ideals and feminist role-models. If you would like to get involved then please drop me an email at email@example.com