Growing up I was not really aware of feminism. It wasn’t a topic of discussion in my house. In my early university days, I came across it a little but it wasn’t until I became a mother that I began reading more in earnest.
Gloria Steinem’s documentary on SBS called ‘Women‘ is fantastic and I’ve really enjoyed reading Selma James and bell hooks lately, with Sara Ahmed a newer discovery.
The problem is, most women of my generation were taught that feminism was about burning bras and having hairy armpits (nothing wrong with that). We were taught that we had equality and we just had to act like men in order to succeed. We were told we could have everything, and we just had to be confident.
But now, in my late 30s, it’s pretty clear you can’t have it all, not at the same time. Sheryl Sandberg says to lean in, there is a bit of a resurgence in the housewife, homemaker movement, and women are obsessed with labelling food in their pantries and ‘tidying up’. But it distracts from the key issues. The patriarchal system is still alive and well, the rise of nationalist, white and populist governments, far-right white supremacy and the gender pay gap, are all issues that are present today. The latest Australian budget essentially ignores women and a twitter hashtag #crediblewomen was trending for a few days. The hashtag arose from the PM’s office who were quoted as saying ‘no credible women have complained about the budget’.
And in less industrialised nations, as highlighted in Gloria’s documentary, things are far more dire. We can’t give up, and we have to speak up for those who voice isn’t loud enough. We can’t speak for others, but we can speak to the issue, and to raise the stakes enough to allow for marginalised voices to be elevated.
I’m a feminist, and proud to be one.
This week I am turning 37 and I was reflecting on what I’ve learned thus far in life and what that would mean to a 17 year old me. In our world heavily influenced by busy lives, media portrayls of perfection and the ‘good life’, I wondered, what would I do differently if I could go back.
I would stop criticising my body and all of my perceived imperfections. I would recognise that I was perfect the way I was (still am!) and my body is more than something to look at.
I would not let anyone stop me from exploring my dreams. I wouldn’t feel swayed to follow a particular path, I would choose my own experiences, make my own decisions.
I would be much more careful about relationships.
I would explore more of the world, have more adventures and be more in nature. After having kids, this becomes more difficult, not impossible, but certainly there is a regret for the things I could have done when it was easier.
I would take better care of my body with how I move and what I eat. I would pay more attention to the niggles, and do ALL of the exercises my physio gave me.
Becoming intentional is about learning from the past and making better, informed and deliberate decisions today, tomorrow and in the future.
Growing up, the black sheep of the family was always considered a rebel and not a favourable person to be within an extended family.
Looking back on people I’ve known to be the rebel, I feel a respect for their confidence in eschewing social norms, the things that are expected of them.
Perhaps being a rebel is a way to feel more connected to our inner selves. Maybe the act of rebellion gives us a sense of power. Particularly for women who despite decades of feminism still do more housework, are expected to take pay cuts and career back steps to manage family life and work, to have perfect bodies and skin and do everything else in the exhaustive list.
I want to be the rebel. I will live how I see fit. I don’t mind being a black sheep!