And yes, I am a Stay At Home Mother.
It’s a common opinion that it’s not possible to be both, and it’s a common opinion that gets right on my tits. So here.
The Cambridge Online Dictionary defines feminism thus: the belief that women should be allowed the same rights, power, and opportunities as men and be treated in the same way, or the set of activities intended to achieve this state.
Listen. I believe. I really do. I believe that women should be afforded the same rights and opportunities as men. I believe that for centuries women have been oppressed and that we still are. I believe that girls are told all sorts of things about who they are and who they should be and what they should do with their lives. I believe that boys are too. But boys are encouraged to be powerful where women are taught they ought to be soft.
All-female short lists? I support them. Extended paternity leave? Absolutely. Facebook being blowtorched for harbouring woman-hating violent content within its pages? Well done Laura Bates.
And yet it seems the moment I gave up my job to look after my small children, these beliefs became invalid. I am not, apparently, actively contributing to the cause and therefore I am part of the problem.
I don’t pretend I’m not a product of my education or one of my generation. I was discouraged from science and encouraged in the arts. When I was 10 I began surreptitiously reading my sister’s Mizz and was only recently able to kick the glossy self-loathing dispenser that is the women’s mag. I am, frankly, too lazy to be ambitious. And when you’re 18 and you’ve just started college and think you know everything and can do anything it never really strikes you that you might have to struggle a bit to get what you want. That you’ll have to compete with other women, and that men have had a better pep-talk than you. I’m not playing my violin, by the way, I’m just saying I’m not under the illusion that my choices have always been my own, separate from my gender.
So here I am, an arts graduate, my little job in education and administration now finished or maybe on hold, financially dependent on my husband while I care for our young children. I am your classic feminist nightmare.
So, People Who Like To Categorise Other People Into Neat Little Compartments, what ought I do to regain my feminist credentials? Get a job? Pay someone else to look after my children? Who decided that looking after small children was a low-status job anyway? What makes people who don’t do it think it requires a low level of education?
I actually think that I am the best person to be teaching my kids while they’re small. I am passing on my values and teaching them about their own value without having to be too didactic about it. I can stop and talk: about their choices as soon as they make them, about how to assert themselves; about their right to do so. I am trying to teach them to use their elbows to achieve rights, and power, and opportunities.
It’s almost impossible to talk about your own choices without it sounding like a criticism of other people’s, especially when it comes to parenting. This isn’t. And yes, if I were a man I might not have made the choice to stay at home with the children. Or I might. But now I have made that choice, I’m not about to apologise for it or start putting Trulove’s slippers by the fire and touching up my make-up before he gets in from work because I’m not allowed to be a feminist any more anyway. I don’t earn money, but I’m not a slave (though somebody might want to mention that to Ziggler). Does earning money buy people the right to a voice? I don’t want to live in a society that says so.
Am I setting my girls a bad example? I can’t think so. I would rather view it as building them some really good foundations. I made a choice. They can make choices and those can be different from mine. They are safe to express themselves and safe to disagree with me. I hope I’m preparing them for future influences – influences that are a great deal wider than this house, and the three of us in it, looking at a Disney picture book and wondering aloud together what the hell those Princesses actually do all fricking day.