Wednesday, 19 March 2014

Gender Studies

So, here's the thing that I have been pondering, in terms of equality, are things any better for our daughters than they were for us?

Lilly Allen evidently said recently something on the lines of we don't need feminism any more because we're all equal. Clearly, to start with, this was a very Western view of what's going on in society, things are far from equal in the vast majority of the world. But let's stick to the UK and my own experience. 

When I was at university I was in several 'women's' groups, some aligned to the Left, some just about gender politics. There was a feeling then (in the early Eighties) that equality meant being like a man, there was a rejection of all things that up until then had been regarded as women's work. I remember one woman talking warmly about having inherited a sewing machine from her grandmother only for her to be rounded on by several group members who urged her to smash it up. I was a keen knitter and loved alternative fashion so I kept my mouth shut. Thankfully things have moved on and we have realised that by rejecting these skills we were denigrating our own mothers and grandmothers and falling into the trap of believing that the things that women had traditionally done were of no worth. We thought that to be equal with men we had to embrace the Protestant work ethic, wear suits, be authoritative and heartless - look at how successful Margaret Thatcher was. 

I hope we have reached a period of time where our daughters do have greater choices and greater opportunities. I hope we don't put them under pressure to get married and produce children. That certainly was a constant pressure even for my generation and it's important to resist that voice from the past that whilst praising a woman's career still sadly adds, but she still isn't married, as if this means she is still failing somehow. 

And whilst I am delighted we have all now rediscovered some of the amazing skills that our mothers may have had, sewing, cooking, recycling and being generally creative, I do despair that we still haven't shrugged off our gender stereotypes. I was prompted to write this blog because I bought a little sewing kit for my god daughter for her birthday (I normally buy books but saw this and liked it) but was appalled this morning when I saw it bore a little hint saying 'make this with mum'. So we've still got some way to go, even in the UK, until we reach a point when we either have no such message on things or a message that says 'make with this your parent.'  

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