Is there such a thing? Or is that a contradiction?
International Women’s Day.
Plastered everywhere I see, ‘The Future is Female’.
Meanwhile, I’m over here; a collective sister empowering other women in small business. Raising my own kind of hell. Fighting for my rights as a working mumma or should I be saying equal parent and a place in the workforce that doesn’t cause anymore harm to my children’s or my own well-being … I’m very consciously nourishing three sons.
And they sure are little feminists, my three little gentlemen. In a world of consumer-based, gender stereotypes, I’ve challenged every notion from action figures (for God sake, let’s just call them dolls), to empowering him, ‘It’s okay if he wants to wear a damn tutu and carry around a Tinkerbell doll. His favourite colour was pink until the day he started childcare. Yup, it was bullied out of him. Yes- even at the mere old age of two! However, I have ensured they are always respectful to girls and that they have the attitude that girls can do anything too. I embrace my boys’ tears. I never tell them to stop crying and I encourage them to share emotion and emphasise the emotions of others, we actively practice gratitude. Our six year old is most certainly an empath.
It’s clear my morals stem from a world of feminism. It’s true those young gentlemen are overwhelmingly fed and nourished with my own beliefs. It’s human nature. It’s my natural mumma instinct. Was I born a feminist? Hell no. I’ve been surrounded by boys my entire life and always told I’m not quite good enough because I am a girl. But was it to hurt me? Or denounce me because I was female? No and yes. I know right- how contradictive. It was the culture of the time I was raised in. The generation of being consumed by consumerism, simply to sell more gender-stereotype based products. Believing everything you read and see, to some degree. This little girl fighting to be something whilst mocked endlessly spent her teens in the 90’s an avid angry Grunger with a side of hip hop and dance. You can’t be both? Well I was.
I was told by society what was female and what was male. We all were. There’s obvious physical differences. But what really makes us different?
Honestly, in this day and age, why do we still have a boy toy sections and a girls toy section? Why are we still marketing everything based on gender? And don’t get me started on beauty products. Why is hair gel in the men’s section and not in the hair section? I’ve been using the same hair gel for over a decade, then bam it just disappeared from the shelves. To my unknowing it had been moved from the hair section to the men’s toiletries section. Do women not use hair gel? Are men limited to gel and wax? Is hairspray frowned upon? Which brings me to the decade mid nighties to mid naughties of the metrosexual. The man who was proclaimed as no longer being a man and being a bit feminine. The man who groomed himself and shopped for styled clothes and man bags. Whilst at the peak of the metrosexual notion, I always assumed it was a title given by boisterous boys to denote men who were ‘full of themselves’. Or prehaps it was a notion created by consumerism. Now, another decade on, I see the positive impacts the metrosexual notion had. We are heading in the right direction but where just not quite there.
Gender roles in our house are generally equal. I say that because I took all the parental leave with our children: We both work, we both cook, we both clean, we share the parenting responsibility. Our nearly two year old son often plays out the role putting on his makeup and comes out and says, ‘Look- pretty.’ I think to myself, ‘You can be anything darling… anything you want.’ He loves vacuuming but also likes playing with hammers and rocks. Our six year old is fascinated by the rough and tumble boy always drawn to a side of males not seen in our house. But when no boys are around, he’s happy to play dress ups with girls and watch Tinkerbell.
What if women’s rights and equality stemmed from a notion of equal parenting? Gasp. Our cultural conditioning is that us women have been oppressed and that men are the oppressors (stay with me a moment and let me unpack). Is it true? Yes it is, it’s still a very much male dominated workplace within the power roles.
But wait, whilst we are drawing nearer to the foundations of supporting women with paid parental leave schemes, we still haven’t covered the grounds on missing superannuation. Females are still dominantly seen as the leading primary care giver of children. That hasn’t changed. Yes there’s more men then ever staying at home but they are a vast minority.
Let’s talk my favourite quote that I’ve been throwing my weight around with shares on social media since my part time return from parental leave; I wish I knew who to credit,
“We expect Women to work like (they) don’t have children, and raise children like they don’t work”.
How many women can relate to this?
How many women stay at home or work part time to raise their children? How many women feel rearing the children is their responsibility?
Why are there so many men in the power house jobs? Is it because there’s no interruptions to their work life?
Why do men ACTUALLY get paid more? Is it because they don’t have a break in work life? It is illegal in this country to pay one gender more than the other for the same role? So is it a banding and experience-based issue? Or an industry/profession entrenchment issue? Are women just attracted to lower paying careers because there is less impact on their home life? And why aren’t these important industries paid higher? Health Care and Education- don’t get me started! The absolute foundations of our society.
How many of those, that have won the right to paid parental leave schemes, actually favour women or encourage them to be stay at home mums? How many men have an employer paid parental leave scheme that encourages them to take on the role of primary caregiver at some point?!
What if there was such thing as a co-parenting parental leave scheme.
I’m half expecting to be gut punched by my own sex for suggesting it. And before you ask: yes I breast feed our children, yes I realise men don’t have breasts. And yes I also support the notion that women need down time to recover from a pregnancy.
What if equal parental leave schemes had men the Fathers of our children spend time at home co-raising our broods. Who would fill those CEO positions whilst Men were co-parenting. See where I’m headed? And what if that was the roots of the divide.
Stay with me. I’m not completely mad. It’s a concept that has toyed with me since my husband’s custody battle a decade ago. Why aren’t fathers automatically handed half custody rights? Why aren’t a child’s living costs shared 50/50 it would save the world so much heartbreak and grace. We’ve all heard the notion dead-beat dad. But what if we didn’t let them get away with it? What if men were expected to play a 50% parenting role in their children. Would everything change? Would we see the changes we’ve been fighting so hard for?
Would the respect not rewrite itself? I know I refer endlessly to Scandinavian nations models on health care and education. They also lead the world on parental leave schemes. The Swedish models offers sixteen months leave at 80% of wages and it forces both parents to share the leave.
If my husband had a paid parental leave arrangement, we would have gone halves. We toyed around with the concept of me taking the first 6 months and him taking the next 6. In the end it came down to us being more financially secure, with myself taking the leave. My workplace had a paid scheme, his did not. Don’t get me wrong, I cherished every moment I had with our boys. Don’t children need both parents equally?
Then there’s the struggles of returning to work after a period of extended parental leave. My personal experience was completely unsupported, I had ultimately lost my place and identity, my absence had created a, ‘Who is she?’ mentality. And if I’m completely honest, my years of expertise forgotten, erased and dismissed the oversight echoed into a court of being micro managed. There had been a turnover of management who were anxious to set their own stamp on things. They watched every move with an attitude of, ‘Your doing it wrong’. So what, I was doing it wrong for fifteen years and nobody thought to stop and tell me? It seemed to work. Was it actually wrong or discrimination?
Yes, you do have a right to return to your role, and that I did. But it was the title of the role I returned to not the role I had previously played. I had been silenced whether deliberate or unintentional, it occurred. It wasn’t a great experience for my mental health. I spent half a year trying to work out if it was me, them or the system?
The other side of it is, for every newborn dad, excited to spend the precious early moments with his new addition, there will be others, ready to say, ‘Why would you bloody want to go and do that?’ We need to work this out. It makes me feel sick to the core that my gentlemen only hear men labelled as horrible things. If your told something often enough your sure to eventually believe it. It’s not a world I want to live in. Our six year old is already questioning, but why?
It’s just too complicated to explain coherently to a nearly six year old.
Because it’s true; not ALL men use dominance over women, not ALL men abuse women and NOT all men are insensitive and hide emotions: Yes 69 murdered women is 69 too many. Yes #metoo has an important place in our modern society and the stories of injustice are all very valid. Violence against women needs to stop. That’s a given.
Are we fighting on deaf ears? Because the majority of men can’t relate?
I stand a proud woman. But I believe the change we demand needs to be lived throughout the world; a world that includes both women and men.
Are we beginning to contradict ourselves?
I toast the strong girls and women that share their voice, start conversations, no matter how daunting and the brave who accept that on this journey difference in opinion is okay. Let’s raise strong kind and empathic humans. Where genders respect each other. #balanceforbetter
And as the sunsets on another’s International Women’s Day, I leave you my influential women’s list;
Stevie Nicks, Audrey Hepburn, Camilla Franks, Patti Smith, Michelle Pfeiffer, PJ Harvey, Deborah Harry, Tyra Banks, Coco Chanel, Missy Elliot, Edie Sedgwick, Asher Keddie, Donita Sparks, Adalita Srsen, Sarah Humphries, Kat Bjelland, Kate Moss, Naomi Campbell, Kim Gordon, Frida Khalo, Julia Gillard, Erin Wasson, Kathleen Hanna, Roisin Murphy, Tori Amos, Sandra Denton, Cheryl James.
It’s cool to be kind. Pura Vida – Simple Life.
Tink wears: The iconic ‘sisterhood collective, empowered women make waves’ tee, by – Poppy Biarritz • Sunglasses by – Witchery • ‘Make love not war’ sweater, by – Poppy Biarritz • ‘Lover should have come over’ leather cap, by – Ivy Wilde • Vintage belt, by – Ivy Wilde
Iggy wears: ‘PURA Vida’ tee, by – Suede Daze • ‘Honolulu’ shorts, by – Mrs Millah • Amber necklace, by – Amber Secrets • ‘Dune dweller’ in aquamarine boardshorts, by – Chasing Rivers • ‘Chandler’ bunny, by – Jelly Cat
Dante wears: ‘Cool to be Kind’ ribbed tee, by – Nu Natives • ‘Finny’ ribbed cotton shorts, by Nu Natives • ‘Dune dweller’ in aquamarine boardshorts, by – Chasing Rivers