Pregnancy and Career: Good Luck With That
Feminism is a funny word. There’s a cultural aversion towards using it that intrigues me. Some feminists don’t want to be associated with it. Serena Williams, a stalwart on the tennis course and living personification of female empowerment and steely ambition, says she’s not one. There’s something really fucked up about that. She is one, yet she won’t admit to being one. Ah, what’s that about?
What have we done to the word and, more importantly, the cause of feminism?
I don’t see feminism in action in my daily working life. I see women working long hours in demanding positions, often working twice as hard as men to prove their value. I see them return home to a second job in the evening, which is often times as demanding, if not more so, than their day jobs. These are ‘career women’ and the praise they get for living their lives the way they do is, I feel, a bit sinister. Is it right to praise exhaustion, burnout and self sacrifice? Is that not a bit, well, Catholic?
I am a mother and a career woman, in that order. It would be nice to not have to feel like I’m doing a half arsed job at both, but with the ridiculous demands of today’s standards, which call for nothing less than simultaneous excellence in career and motherhood, I’m feeling a little hard done by. I’m beginning to wonder – who set these standards, and why?
But hang on a minute. I’ve caught myself ranting and ranting is precisely why people don’t want to be associated with the term feminism. Feminism is definitely associated with irrational, red-faced, fist-pumping lesbians. I would agree that we need to depart from this image before Kim Kardashian’s topless selfies become the new standard in feminism. Then we’re in trouble.
Feminism is not about women having more rights then men. It’s sometimes about men having the same rights as women, such as the right to share parental leave. Feminism is about equality. It means things like when a woman leaves her job to have her baby she can expect to return to the position she left. Unfortunately, like many labour laws, this one can be and is exploited.
In my working life I have seen women return to work only to find that they have been edged out of their position by their replacement. This at a time when a new mother has to deal with the emotional turmoil of disconnecting from the daily life of her child. At a time when she is most vulnerable, her livelihood is under attack. I have seen women gang up on women, competing for position, and exploiting pregnancy as an opportunity to gain one up on one’s opponent. This is sick. This is wrong. And it has nothing to do with men. Madeleine Albright one said “There is a special place reserved in hell for women who don’t help other women.” I agree with her.
For some women today, particularly in Western cultures, the new feminism is about protecting women from women. How tragic.
I think women can and will unite to refashion feminism because, if we don’t, we run the risk of breeding an anti-feminist culture, and that cannot happen. We need to make women who demand equality fashionable again. We need to praise intelligence and conviction in women just as much as we praise beauty. We need to show our young girls that there’s more to life than taking the perfect selfie.
Otherwise, Donald Trump, that short-fingered vulgarian, will become the next authority on the subject.
Let’s not let that happen.
What word would you use instead of feminism? Is there really a better one? I reckon we need to take the anger out of the ideology and replace it with an intelligent, lighthearted movement that simply but courageously stands for equality. We shouldn’t worry about not seeming ‘feminist’ or the opposite, looking ‘too feminist.’
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