I’m not the most girly of women, whatever that means, but I like the trappings of femininity, in all its stockinged, lipsticked, slightly corseted glory.
Perhaps because of this, feminism, has, for me become something of a dirty word, because it seems to take umbrage at me for being who I am – and that is, I’m afraid, a bit of a girl.
Something of a Luddite, I flap around like a headless chicken when it comes to technology and shun anything that comes with a wire, unless I’ve used it, intuitively since childhood. I baulk at getting a new phone, for a change of operating system brings me out in a cold sweat and when I get angry, scared or frustrated, my stress response, more often than not, is tears.
But while I took five tries to pass my driving test, my lack of interest in cars and bilateral coordination difficulties haven’t stopped me becoming a ballsy driver, even though, through lack of practice/interest, I’d struggle to find my dipstick.
The point is, I can do anything perfectly well if I want to or need to, but a lot of the time, if I can outsource things that just don’t come naturally, I will.
It’s probably not strident, and it’s definitely a bit lazy, but actually, if I’m honest, I prefer it this way – and I am only failing myself when I get stuck on the motorway with a flat tyre and I never bothered to learn how to change it. Or am I? Am I actually doing a disservice to my daughter by failing to take the initiative by getting my hands dirty and showing her that I’m perfectly capable of doing anything – even though it would probably take me a bit longer and I’d rather not ladder my tights in the process? Perhaps.
But isn’t this just how I’ve evolved to be? I’d rather pack the suitcases than heave them into the car. and I’d rather keep the kids calm while my other half changes the flat on the way to the airport. I know I could do it all, but if I can find ways around a bit of grunt work, than that’s surely okay as well? Why should I even feel vaguely guilty about it ?- I doubt my husband ever feels a prick of conscience when I’m sewing up holes in his socks.
I’ve been worse since I got married. Any pretence I had that I was capable of doing the things that I didn’t particularly enjoy - painting walls, constructing flat packed furniture, went out the window as I suddenly had a willing volunteer for anything that required heavy lifting, addition or the use of a spreadsheet. I became – in many respects, willingly institutionalised. My inability with a screwdriver is partly what keeps me married. I’m not even joking.
The point is, that it’s all very well for women to be up in arms about what we’re are allowed to do, but what about what we’re are afraid to do? Or can’t be bothered? Or more probably just have better things to do. The division of labour makes economic sense and we’ve all evolved to fill niches in society, even if modern life likes to take us out of our comfort zones more and more, particularly if you’re something of a technophobe like me.
Sometimes, we have to accept that society is the way it is, not because of barricades put up by the prevailing powers, but because this is the way, we, as a whole make it. The problem with the f word is it blames men and society for a lot of problems that are actually just the way it is. Feminism fails to account for just how much women *can be* complicit in their own situations. And being complicit and then complaining about it is what has given feminism a slightly exasperating name.
In the same way that relationships are two way streets, so, too, are gender politics, and where we set the agenda, in the main, men are happy to accommodate. It doesn’t always have to be a fight, which just leads to armament and defensiveness.In my experience, most men, most of the time are generally just doing the stuff that women, by and large, can’t be bothered to do, and vice versa. We all pick up each other’s slack. We’re kinda designed that way. But that also means we’re designed to be exploitative of one another.
How much we exploit one another can depend on the balance of power. Power becomes a self fulfilling prophesy, and our biology, both men’s and women’s has been complicit in upholding a situation whereby women can end up at a disadvantage, by taking us out of the game for a bit, every so often: what with periods, babies and breastfeeding, and menopause, our biology makes it tougher to keep calm and carry on – however much we may out-tough men when it comes to the common cold. But again, it’s just the way it is. But it’s not easy to make laws that can correct for an evolutionary bias which has enabled men to take the lion’s share of power in the business world.
I know I could smash a glass ceiling or two if I put my mind to it, but actually, when it comes down to it, I’m not sure I’m all that bothered. I’d rather be able to stroll through the park at teatime once a week and pick my kids up from school. And the fact is, plenty of women – and increasing numbers of men feel the same. And that’s okay, but in the working world, it’s not an easy happy medium to strike.
But it’s up to everyone to push back on this, rather than appointing blame and feeling frustrated. So rather than pretend I’m any good at lugging a Christmas tree, or playing chess, I’m going to show my daughter how to be empowered, and still get what you want. Instead of complaining about lower wages, ask for higher ones. If you’re working too hard, cut back, but don’t compromise on pay. Push back rather than accepting what you are given – and then moaning about afterwards. People only have power if we give them it to them. Take it back.
If we all did the same, perhaps then we’d have a chance of altering the status quo so we all feel more empowered, whichever way we want it.