International Women’s Day 2021
This is the first blog released on my very own Instagram account - much excitement!
It’s hard to believe this little venture started nearly 2 years ago...time certainly does fly when you’re having fun. Or trying to start a business. Let’s say that’s the same thing :-)
Today is International Women’s Day, which is something very close to my heart. Brace yourself - I’m going to say this out loud and proud:
I am a Feminist.
Yes. That F word.
Yikes! That word has become such a loaded weapon, used as a missile and to justify quite a lot. So let me declare what I identify with being a Feminist: to seek equality among genders, for the betterment of all so that no person has to feel inferior or denied of an opportunity based on whatever body and mind they happen to be born into.
I was born a heterosexual female, so that team was predetermined for me before I entered this earth. My life’s experiences have been as such and I have grown up identifying with this mainstream camp. It’s been a fairly easy life all in, and I’m very happy with my lot. So this is not a moan or an agenda to get back at Men.
Rather, I seek to address gender inequality in The Establishment.
Image from The Establishment and How They Get Away With It by Owen Jones
While I have enjoyed many privileges and travelled far, I have found that the playing field is not even and continues to be male-dominated in a lot of areas. Not only in the big hitters of company executives and political and community leaders, but in the smaller, subtle, everyday framework of life.
I have worked as a professional in a high-powered firm, and I have been a Stay-At-Home-Mum volunteering in community groups (did anyone mention sandwiches? Put me down for a loaf of chicken salad). And of late, I am an entrepreneur setting up a social enterprise to celebrate creativity as a way to bring people together & create positive mental wellbeing, to empower artists and to use our profits to empower women.
---> and there it is. The Feminist bent to the agenda.
I’ve heard a fair bit of talk about encouraging females to start their own business, but talking the talk and walking the walk are two very different things.
I would love to see more discussion and awareness of what a working mother is. For me, I have had to learn how to manage a household of children while embarking on an unknown and unchartered path, which has been a huge personal challenge to me. I have had to learn to work in the unknown, committing to opportunities when unsure of how they will marry with managing kids and household. I’ve had to face the promise of a pay check at some point in the future when the venture becomes profitable, with huge leaps of faith that the venture will be capable of repaying its loans as they become due. This is all anathema to my organised nature where I like to anticipate and quantify each day and each commitment.
Now I’m going to have to delve into generalising here, so I apologise in advance for any offence I cause to the exceptions here - and I salute you for not falling into a stereotype. But in general, men tend to be able to focus more on work and filter out any noise at the edges. They also tend to be macro-managers, and so they don’t overthink the delegation of child-minding. This all makes for a dedicated worker focused for the large part of the day on their job.
Like many females, I have never been able to filter out my kids’ voices, and although I have comprehensively researched their child-care, my mind still snaps to what they might be doing or experiencing at various points of the day. I took on the management of the kids and their activities during the day, and so my life is ruled by the clock and the multiple alarms set on my phone. This all means that my work continually runs to my mother duties, and so it is a familiar feeling not to get anywhere near as much work done as I would have liked. That’s my choice and I blame no one else for it. I could of course make different arrangements, but I know that would make me unhappy in my work-life balance, so I muddle along as best I can in this sphere. And thank god for yoga, knitting and the odd glass of vino to help mop up the puddle of brain melted in my head most days.
Without exhausting you with facts and figures - there’s plenty of it if you wish to look - this tends to be a typical division in working parents. The mother will typically take on more of the running of the family - children or older relatives - and the running of the household. Men tend to operate more on a Need To Be Asked basis.
And we haven't even started on the career hit that is maternity leave...we'll leave that for another day.
If the roles in your house are different, then this will still speak to you. Just substitute roles as necessary.
I am not favouring myself as a female when I look for equality. Nor do I seek to disadvantage any male in my quest. Equality is just that - the fair division of labour and opportunity.
So my mission to empower females with the profits from my venture is not a bid to pitch females above males. It’s a bid to help females gain an even footing, be it training, support, creative therapy, socialising - whatever it takes to help females in their daily struggles between life and work.
I’ve been accused of being sexist by having this female empowerment mission. Many males have balked when hearing this, literally wincing and sighing, and I’ve found that very interesting in itself. It seems many men are weary of this Feminist cause, viewing it as a mark against them - making it a disadvantage to be a male in the workforce, being denied extra privileges that women get in the name of Equality.
My aim is not to favour women over men - that is an unworkable solution as it would in time lead to an overthrowing of women in favour of men and the reverse again in an endless cycle of gender dominance & realignment - as the saying goes, it’d be peeing repeatedly in the wind. It’s also very ideologically unsound as I abhor inherent unfairness, I rail against systematic injustice and I love to fight for the underdog. It’s why I wanted to become a solicitor - to fight for those that feel unable to fight for themselves, and to stand up to Goliaths for the Davids and Davinas. (Yes, I did love Julia Roberts in the Pelican Brief, even if the book was written by a man ;-) ) I have confessed to my wrongs - even when it’s done me no favours - as I cannot sleep with a guilty conscience. So doing the right thing and always treating others as I would like them to treat me have been guiding principles throughout my life.
To have lived through and become aware of systemic favouring of males over females has been hard to abide, and each time I have thought long on how that could be corrected. I’ve read many an article and book about this - and I wish this had been prescribed reading in school so that I, and others, were aware of this from a much younger age so that we could all work to address it and eliminate it.
I can’t pretend to understand what it is like as a male, as this is not what I have lived through. I am hugely empathetic and curious to know about what this has been like, as I believe it will be much better to work with an informed understanding of it, which I continue to try to develop. For the record, I like men very much - I have a husband and a son, a brother, a father and a number of male friends. I enjoy the company of males as much as females (you can leave the smart jokes at the door thank you very much).
But why does wanting to improve the lot of women equate to wanting to stamp down on men? It’s not the aim of the game. The aim is grow awareness, and then to use that awareness to think about the framework and whether there is anything we each can do about it.
It starts with empathy and respect. Learning about other’s perspectives and experiences. Talking about it. Discussing whether there is a better way.
I was stopped in my tracks last year by a post from @thefeministshopdotcom who made me realise that I didn’t know who led the companies my last three purchases were from - and it turned out that between the three large public entities, only 1 had a female executive. That fairly shocked me. Working with local artists in Mid Ulster is definitely one of the best things about my venture as I get to know the makers and be in the company of free-thinkers and adventurers by nature. Yet I neglected to roll this fully into my daily activities and did not have an awareness of who was behind the supermarkets and online giants that I bought from. The female behind @thefeministshopdotcom, Virginia, is fierce and strong and I am grateful to have her voice in my world, keeping the discussion alive and growing my awareness - it's never a bad thing to have another mirror held up.
So let’s open the discussion. Let’s become more aware of roles, and what we do to perpetrate or correct them. Let’s learn about who is behind businesses, shops, groups. Let’s give our support to those that live Equality, and let’s encourage those that do not to move towards Equality.
Everyone has a mother, a sister, a female cousin, an aunt, a female friend, a female colleague. Try as you might, it’s hard to get away from half the population :-) So why not advocate for them? If you have a daughter, then I believe it is an obligation for you to advocate for her, so that her journey through life will not be the same experience of a skewed playing field.
This year’s International Women’s Day has the theme of Choose to Challenge - to call out injustices and inequalities. I will happily choose to continue my challenge on this, and I challenge you, dear reader, to do the same. Together we can do our bit every day to even the playing field for all of us, and for our children and the next generation. High five to that.
#choosetochallenge #iwd2021 #internationalwomensday