wasn’t before

I’ve been writing this specific blog in spits and spots for years but I could never quite corral the bits and pieces I’ve written into one stream. The tone had to be quite right for this blog, it seemed. It shouldn’t be ranting, to avoid the hysterical woman feedback. It shouldn’t be unnecessarily aggressive lest I am labelled a ball breaker. And yet as my own opinion, I wonder why I should feel the need to so polish and shape it and almost apologise for the space it takes up by tempering it in such a way, when the point is that I object to such treatment in the world I’m sending it out to. 

Leave it to Arron Sorkin, a man, of all things, via the outstanding Ainsley Hayes in The West Wing, to articulate my own feelings so well. 

‘…A new amendment that we vote on, declaring that I am equal under the law to a man? I am mortified to discover there’s a reason to believe I wasn’t before.’ 

Is there another word for feminism? (Don’t all click away at once now). I see a lot of feminist rhetoric because I am a woman, and the popular press thinks thats that I want to be targeted with ‘you go girl’ clickbait. My fiance sees a lot of female rhetoric because he is a man dating a woman who the popular press targets with ‘you go girl’ clickbait which occasionally has a nugget of interesting and/or wildly spurious content hidden within and therefore it is amusing to share. Certainly, the minimum definition of feminism for me is equal pay, equal rights and equal responsibility for both sexes but ‘modern’ feminism has become so aggressive and divisive. Recently it feels there is a challenge to be pioneeringly objectionable as far as being a woman goes. Some of it is not news to me, some of it challenge for challenge sake. A wolf whistle in the street. Sure, that is objectifying. I don’t dress for the appreciation of strangers but to feel appropriate to the activity, depending, so just leave me alone. Concern about being talked over in a meeting without recourse. Basic rudeness in the first, possible misogyny in the second. The objection to requests to smile, the suspicion behind a compliment, objecting to having a door held for you or a seat given to you. Chivalry isn’t dead yet, no cause for alarm. Women had a right to be angry when we didn’t have a vote, couldn’t hold property, were passed from father to husband as property under the guise of marriage betrayed by doury, and legally legislated into ‘our’ place. One deemed lesser. 

My early education depended on women in my all female primary teachers. My early career choice was dominated by women: Publishing, a majority female industry. My home life was full of women: mum, grannies, great and great great grannies, aunts and cousins. To be fair, I didn’t see them as role models, just the people around me but while I had strong male role models too, being surrounded by these many women with their many abilities meant that I never gave any thought to the fact that I should doubt my own abilities. I never had cause to ponder that someone might hold over negative associations from the fact that I was born female. Perhaps I was naive, something that you don’t remain for long in London, but I wasn’t aware until entrenched quite deeply into the world of work that I was supposed to be concerned about some things as an XX chromosome holder that XY weren’t. One can be too aware. 

I, like Ainsley, have been mortified to discover that there might be some reason to find me wanting personally or professionally, outside of not having the right skill set or knowledge for the job, but simply for being a girl. Serial entrepreneurial parents, both have run their own businesses and made their life fit with having a family. I had – and to an extent still have – no concept of there being fewer opportunities open to me simply because of an accident of genes. 

I have a yes I can/why shouldn’t I attitude simply because I was always encouraged to think that I could and more importantly there was no reason for me to think that I shouldn’t. I was always encouraged to go bigger, strive higher. My sister and I played at Designers as children, a remarkably boring game for both of us at points as one got to be the Designer and hoard the pens and paper to ‘create’, while the other sat outside of the same room ‘covering the phones’. We played Barbies with Ken as a secondary character; the girls ran the roost. It never occurred to us that as grown girls in the world that we might struggle to find the opportunity to be the boss, that someone might assume we were only able enough for the front desk, the bull pen or that our real life Kens might be deemed more appropriate for a task or role because of their gender. There are certain fundamental discriminations which we women need to be challenging, and these are those. 

The UK and Europe are no strangers to female leaders but they are still a minority. Its not remarkable now nor should it be, to have a woman in charge and perhaps there is a version of the near future wherein it seems remarkable that there was ever outrage at a lady in charge. Of course that is not today. Today is instead the day of the 2016 US election, where a tv star so unfit for any sort of office, without a single inoffensive or non divisive opinion in his mind can challenge someone with political nous and experience of diplomacy to an uncomfortably tight race for the US Presidency. Gender shouldn’t come into it. The argument has been made that if you can’t see someone of your gender in a position of power, no matter the type of power, how can you understand that its possible for you to reach those same heights? And while its impressive that social media can so quickly socialise initiatives to empower equality: ThisGirlCan, Moranifesto, No More Page 3, Ellen for GAP; are we in danger of engineering a generational problem where women have been told they can do anything and the boys of now, the men of the future, will need to be elevated in time to regain the same equality? Maybe we’ll just settle a little more equally represented, less us and them. Currently though, men see people of their gender in positions of trust and responsibility everywhere. So it becomes ever more important for there to be strong female role models and for women to be championing one another. We need decency more than feminism for that simple aim to be reached. I, and all women, are more than feminism. I am more than my gender as you are more than yours, irregardless. There is no reason to believe that you weren’t before. 


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