Wednesday, June 25, 2008

The Supermum and Feminism

Many have joined the feminist backlash by saying that the feminists got it wrong when they said we could do everything, and then found out that the myth of the supermum is just that, a myth. Thus, they argue, feminism has failed because we have realised that we can’t have it all- the career, the family, the house, the whole white picket fence.

Well I’m here to say that feminism didn’t ever promise us all that. What feminism says is the women, whilst being different to men, are equal in worth. Our work is equal to a man’s, and we deserve equal pay, equal status and recognition. Women are quite as capable as men of being doctors, pilots, prime ministers, plumbers, lawyers, or any host of previously male-only occupations. We do not deserve to be treated a second-class simply because of our gender.

But here’s the thing- now that we are taking on those roles, we are discovering that men haven’t ‘had it all’ after all. Picture your (stereo)typical man of the fifties. He gets up in the morning and goes to work whilst his wife does all the domestic tasks and childcare. At the end of the day he comes home, puts up his feet and maybe throws a ball to junior for an hour before dinner, maybe some reading, then bed. Looks idyllic, doesn’t it? But look closer- the man has little time for recreation or interaction with his children. Even now, men spend less time with their children than their spouses. Some of this is by choice, or habit, but much of it has to do with the fact that men always knew there were too few hours in the day for them to do everything. That they didn’t ever before have to worry about the household chores or childcare is at least a benefit- they can at least squeeze in solo recreation into their day- reading the paper (pipe and slippers optional). Consciously or not, there wasn’t time to do housework or childcare, even if they had had the motivation (or, lets face it, interest).

Fast forward, and the woman now goes to work all day, as well as trying to fit in housework, childcare and solo recreation. And guess what? She can’t do it. Big surprise. Something’s got to give, and, for most of us, that’s the solo recreation. Or the housework. Or even the childcare (I personally feel awful that I’m often the first person at daycare- at 7am- and the last to leave- at 6pm; when I’m at work I can spend a paltry 2 hours a day with Patrick. And that just feels wrong). But then I think back to my dad. He left for work after dropping us off at school, and we didn’t sometimes see him ‘til 7 at night (normally he was home in time for Dr Who, but never The Goodies). Even if dad had wanted to spend more time with us during the week (and he was/is a pretty great dad) he just didn’t have the hours.

I’m not saying ‘poor men’, by the way. Well, I suppose I am saying that 50’s man missed out on a lot of the good things about being a father. They also missed out on much of the crap, too (swings and roundabouts). Nor am I saying that this was a ‘better’ system. Heavens no! I’m a female doctor, after all, indebted to my brave, feisty older mentors for shouldering the yoke of the forefront of feminism in medicine. I want to raise Patrick an unashamed feminist, too, and I’m angry at my fellow female colleagues who say they’re not feminists, and that feminism is dead.

The fact is, woman or man, there simply is not enough time to do it all. I reckon even with the most committed, liberated man, we still wouldn’t have time enough in our lives to fit everything that we want in. Something’s always going to have to give way. For me, this means I work part time, I rarely have solo recreation time (normally one Wednesday a month), the house is a mess, and sometimes Patrick doesn’t get my undivided attention for as many hours of the day as he wants/should/whatever.

That's just the inflexibility of time, and it's nothing to do with the "feminists getting it wrong". It's like little kids looking at adults and thinking adults have it so good- they get to drive a car and get money. They don't see the downsides- work, mortgages, washing, cleaning, responsibility.

I am a feminist, and I always will be, unless I have some Stepford-Wife reprogramming. I believe we are equally capable as men. I believe we should have the same rights as men. I just get really mad at people who have the nerve to actually blame feminists for not being able to work, raise children and have unlimited leisure time, and say that therefore feminism is 'dead'. That's like blaming the post office that the top you bought on ebay is the wrong size. And what gets me madder still is that those same people are the ones who take their rights to vote, drive a car, open a bank account in their own name, drink at the same hotel as men, access contraception and appropriate health care, wear trousers and get paid equally as well (or badly) as their male counterparts for granted.

Right, I've had my whinge. Thank y'all for listening :)

1 Comments:

Blogger E, M, and the Little Man said...

Yeah, feminism is definitely not dead. The super-mom thing is exhausting. I definitely feel the pressure though.

2/7/08 23:05  

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