Now, I’ve never really been much of a good feminist. To be honest, I’ve never really fully understood the term – Don’t shoot me. However, I have always felt like I needed to break down barriers. Perhaps that’s what makes me a good learning disability nurse too. I’ve always felt the need to stand up for what I believe, and I don’t take crap from others. If people annoy me, I won’t let them continue to annoy me, or make me feel crap.
For example, when I was 8, I wanted to play in a football team. The team my Dad supported (Portsmouth if you’re interested). I remember being told I’d never play in the actual team as that was just full of men. I remember then thinking that was unfair. I remember having a driving instructor when I was 18, who kept telling me women couldn’t park (yeah, well see my parallel parking now!). I’ve been heckled in the street by groups of youths, I’ve been overlooked for job opportunities. I’ve been assaulted, insulted, and there have been some pretty low times.
But on both other hand, I’ve done what I wanted to. I played football, I learnt to drive (with another instructor). I got the job I wanted, and I stand up for myself when people shout stuff at me, or try to make me feel small. I am pretty good at this, as I have to in my job. I stand up for people who don’t have a voice, who depend on others. I can talk to a Consultant in a hospital and not feel intimidated. I felt like I was doing my bit for women, overcoming some of the issues I have faced.
Yet even as a very strong, independent and headstrong woman, it was a shock to me how quickly the facade of equality fades as soon as you have a baby. Yes, I know women are the ones to have the babies, but why did I have to spend a week in hospital, alone? Why on Maternity leave, was the pressure to keep my house clean, mine, and the expectation of others? Why did I suddenly feel so vulnerable, scared and worried about my every move?
I never really thought about the word ‘Feminism’ until I had a baby. I never really felt like there was an issue before. Which is stupid, as of course there was. As I have said,I’d experienced it. But in my naïvety I thought I was doing something about it. Having a baby, sort of made me feel I’d gone down to square one again.
So, yesterday, at Blogfest, I knew there was a panel debate about feminism. I wasn’t that interested, to be honest. I didn’t understand why we needed to have a discussion about ‘can mummy bloggers be feminists’. It seemed like a stupid question to ask. Through my experiences of the last year, I knew and felt more there was an issue about women in society. As someone who doesn’t really think about feminism, it would have been more interesting to me, to discuss that as a collective of brilliant writers, how can we support this subject? How can we empower new mothers to not feel so stripped of their being, their soul, their life? As to be honest this where I am at a loss. Instead, we had a panel discussion which literally divided the whole room. Judgements were flying all of the place. People were getting angry, upset and personal experiences were coming to the surface. Was it really a good idea to ask a question such as “can a feminist make jam?” Yes, it was a joke. Hell, I can’t make jam. I don’t even eat it. But it was deliberately inflammatory. The discussion was like a feminism cliché bingo: how many cliches, phrases and slogans could we fit into a 45 minute chat. I ticked off high heels, jam, education, breast feeding/bottle feeding. I think the only thing that wasn’t mentioned was burning your bra. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if someone hadn’t started to, if the session hadn’t come to an uneasy close.
I personally feel Jo Brand summed it up much more succinctly. She was funny yet said what we all thought: it doesn’t matter where you are on the feminist spectrum: we are all working towards the same goal. She motivated me, made me and the whole room feel connected and joined together. There was an audible sigh of relief as she was talking about how bloggers have such an important voice for women. I feel she “got” it. She talked to me, and made me feel much more positive that we can make a change.
Like I say, I am not sure I’m a good feminist, but I guess I am on that spectrum somewhere. I would have liked the opportunity to reflect and explore this. It’s just a shame that what could have been a great discussion was orchestrated apparently to anger and to hit headlines and trending on twitter, rather than as a useful platform for us all to unite and to move forward.