Women’s rights mean the right to choose
I don’t think Germaine Greer would like my friends.
The woman who personifies the feminist movement of the 70s and makes every wife willing to iron her husband’s shirts feel like a feminist-traitor would certainly frown on my little circle of Mummy-friends.
Especially on International Women’s Day.
After decades of Germaine Greer-like women fighting for our rights to equal pay, equal opportunity, and our right to be a mother and still have a career, I wonder whether my generation of women are letting true-feminists down.
We’re like the Paris Hiltons of the women’s movement.
Growing up with every opportunity at our fingertips, things like glass ceilings and forced retirement once you get married seem as antiquated as a phone without a camera and an internet connection.
We really have no idea how hard it used to be.
We’ve seen our older sisters struggle with fertility issues and lament wasting their baby-making years building their careers, and we’re breeding like rabbits!
Even worse, now we’re not so sure this whole ‘work-life’ balance thing is all it’s made out to be. Balancing a high-powered career with two kids under three? No thanks.
Working twelve hours a day and letting someone else read your children bedtime stories? Not us.
We’re the generation of women who’ve heard both sides of the feminist argument – and we don’t want either of them!
Of course we don’t want to be stuck at home with no personal outlets or chance to pursue the careers we’ve worked so hard to create.
But we certainly do not want to be the ones who only see their kids for twenty minutes a day. Yes, how surprising – we want it all!
Does that mean we’re undoing all our feminist mother’s and grandmother’s hard work? I don’t think so.
Maybe I didn’t pay attention at the right moment in my Women’s Studies course, but I always got the impression that feminism was about the right to equality. Not the compulsion to take it at every single turn.
Just because a woman does not have to stay at home to raise her children anymore, does that mean she shouldn’t?
Is it a crime against feminism for a university-trained, highly successful woman to walk away from her demanding career for five years to stay home with her babies? Not if it’s her choice.
Women’s rights should be about the right to choose – and not be judged by that choice.
And in that sense, I’m not sure the sisterhood has come that far. I still see us judging each other.
I still see my girlfriends who’ve given up work feel they need to explain their decision, like they’ve abandoned their womenfolk.
And I still see my girlfriends who’ve chosen to go back to work full-time consumed with guilt when explaining their decision.
Surely until we stop judging each other’s choices, we haven’t come that far from our grandmother’s fights for our rights.
We need each other girls – we’ve still got a lot of work to do.
Paid maternity leave and part-time work agreements are certainly improvements, but there’s still the assumption that we women will be the ones doing the staying-at-home.
Surely our focus should be on getting our partner’s workplaces to acknowledge that men can sacrifice their careers for a year or two to stay home with the babies too?
This is the place we should be focusing our attention, so each and every one of us has what I hope our feminist grandmother’s hoped for – real choice.
Choice to stay home if we want, or work if we want. Choice to say to our husband’s – “it’s my turn now”.
Choice to follow your passion in life and have your partner’s, your best friend’s and your boss’s support.
In a way, we’ve lost a bit of our grandmother’s passion to fight.
A bit like Paris Hilton, we’re so used to having it so good, we’re blind to what we should really be doing with our power.
It’s time for us to get the fight back – but not with each other. It’s time to get real choice in whether we stay-at-home or work, by making it possible for Daddies to have the choice too.
That’s the next frontier for us Gen Xers. I think even Germaine Greer would be proud of that.
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