Saturday, October 8, 2011

Sometimes it's hard to be a woman.

When did women's rights start taking the right to choose away from a woman?

If we talk about the abortion debate, the end result should be that women have the right to choose, not that it be mandatory.

If we talk about gay marriage, the end result should be that same sex couples have the right to choose whether to get married, not that it be mandatory.

If we talk about any social reform, the result is that there are options, choices, for those affected. Never that it be the ONLY option or choice available. As far as I can tell, that's the reason we are having these debates, because there are so few choices available. It's to broaden the choices, to extend the options.

I am a woman.

As a women, I am proud of those who came before me and fought tooth and nail for my right to have choices. I have the choice to be a parent, the choice to marry, the choice to study, the choice to have a career, the choice to do or be anything I am capable of. Sounds good doesn't it?

Here's the problem.

I often feel that women are taking choice away from other women.

If I choose to be a stay at home mum, cook nice meals and iron clothes for my husband, while home-schooling my children, am I less of a woman? Am I giving those women who fought for my rights less than I should?

If I choose to have a baby but not breastfeed, return to work within 3 months, while my partner stays at home with the baby, am I being a terrible example of womanhood? Am I denying my 'mothering instincts' by shackling my poor partner to the house?

If I choose to stay single, never marry and follow my career all the way to the top, am I selfish? Have my choices made me too 'masculine' and 'hard'? Am I denying my softer side and making choices I will be sure to regret later in life?

A man would have far less scrutiny placed on their life, their decisions and their chosen path. It's not even other men who make the negative statements about women. It's other women!

When did our choices reduce our worth? When did we stop being able to make our own choices and start relying on other women to tell us what we should be doing? Why are we being forced to deny our instincts and use only our heads when making decisions?

There are benefits to being a woman that men will never have. Our bodies have cycles. This means many things; for example if we choose to we can produce a baby, but the most important thing is that the nature of our cycle means we are more in tune with our physicality. There is strength in that knowledge which men cannot replicate.

We are more intuitive. It's a fact. Our 'gut feeling' rarely leads us astray and should enable us to make more informed choices in our journey through life.

We are generally more empathetic. A huge advantage in any area directly related to humanity.

Those are the most obvious differences between men and women. Men are not without their own strengths, it's why a world with equal contribution from the sexes would be so ideal. We bring different skills to the table.

Oh dear, I mentioned a table. No, it's not in my kitchen and I am not tied by the apron strings to it.

The concern I have is that there is a feeling I have (yes, it's my intuition at work) that women, particularly those from the feminist movement, would like those differences to be eliminated. For some it appears that equality means conformity. When did that happen?

When did my right to choose to be referred to as one of the 'ladies' become something to be sneered at. Apparently it's origins are steeped in negative connotations as it was originally a reference to the 'Lady of the house'. So? I AM the lady of the house. My husband is the man of the house and my children are the children of the house. That doesn't mean I spend every waking minute beside the kitchen sink or up to my armpits in bread making ingredients. Any more than it means my husband does.

I also like to be called MRS DALL'OSTO. Not Ms. I dislike the sound that word makes and it's wishy washy feel. But that's just me. That's MY choice. Why take it away from me?

I have to choose Ms because it makes me equal to the man. Seriously? How? By labelling me with a title I do not like, somehow that's empowering? Telling me that my choice makes me a bad parent to my daughters because I am somehow elevating the standing of the 'man of the house'? How is teaching my daughters that this incredible movement that began before them, before me, gave them the right to choose how they would like to be titled dis-empowering them in any way?

I do not like to be called chick, babe, hun or slut. Obviously the last example is a pretty extreme one and I don't think I've ever heard it in reference to myself. Still, none of those make me feel good about myself, so I let people know. You know what? They stop using them. It's how it should be. You simply tell others what you would, or wouldn't like to be called and that's as simple as it needs to be.

It seems to me that women have unrealistic expectations of how this all should work?

If you are a woman, please take note of the following.

If you see a woman with 4 kids trailing her in the supermarket, wearing clothes from 5 seasons ago and trying to choose between wholemeal flour and white flour, do not judge her. She has a hard enough job, trying to balance her time between her children so that none feel left out, struggling to keep a tidy home, balance the budget, worrying about the future of the children she is raising and all the while she feels insignificant and sometimes worthless.

If you see a women in a work uniform, dropping her young baby off at day care, do not judge her. Think instead of the difficulties inherent in her life. The fact that she has chosen to work at home, still cooking and cleaning (because equality still has a way to go in the household), then working at her job (which she is probably undervalued in), all the while having to cope with the usual issues that raising a child inherently has.

If you see a woman in a business suit, walking along the city street, talking on her phone, oblivious to the fact that she just rudely bumped into you, do not judge her. She may well be late for her 4th meeting of the day, feels like she is always one step away from losing her job and the career she has fought for and every day wondering if she is a valued as the men she works beside.

Truthfully, if each of these women made their choices happily, they should feel strong and powerful. Each example is one of a person integral to our society. A worthy individual and a role model to all young women and girls.

We women need to stop pitying, denigrating and looking down on other women. We need to continue to fight for the right we should all have to choose our own pathways through life. We need to ensure that women are protected by other women in those choices and that they understand how much worth they truly have.

These women, all women, deserve better.

1 comment:

  1. Touche! Great little commentary.

    Leigh, I am a staunch feminist. The lens through which I view the world says that feminism is about the experiences of women. ALL women: no matter what choices they make, what they look like or how much they love their men (I sure love mine).

    At an academic level, part of the definition of poverty includes the inability to make choices. Therefore, I am not an impoverished feminist but rather an extremely wealthy one. I am proud to hang out with my wealthy sisters who also wear clothes from 10 seasons ago....or from this season, wear bras (or not), call their husbands (or partners: female or male), "darling" and allow other women to be who they want to be.

    There are different waves of feminism and different causes that each wave fought for. At the end of the wave though - we all end washed up on the beach. My preference and practice is to laugh and run back for more fun....but I fully support the sisters who go and sit in the shade: with the kids, with the food, and even with the blokes. I cannot function without choice and difference and I am SOOOOOOOO glad that I am surrounded by it.

    Keep up your good work Mrs D'O. You rock.