Monday, 7 May 2012

I am not a feminist, but I don’t judge you if you are.

 Another gathering around my table and the talk turns to where we go from here. ‘We’ are just a loose group of friends who over the years have gone through births, marriages and deaths together. We have shared the most warming and the most heartbreaking moments of our lives.  We are separated by background, education, political views, wealth and status. Some of us have husbands, ex-husbands, new partners. We don’t all have children. Those of us who do may or may not have careers. Some of us have combined working with motherhood. Some of us choose to pursue goals that have lead to obvious success and decided not to have children.  For others it just hasn’t happened. What unites us is gender. This is my sisterhood. I love being a woman and am proud of whom I am. We ponder on how we are negotiating the relationships with the men in our lives. And of course the fact that under my roof new and old have been co-existing.  

I have recently made new female friends via the New Man.  I am prone to making statements that cause a smattering of controversy. I like to stir the conversation up a little .However I was rather surprised at the shock I caused when announcing that ‘I am not a Feminist’ and find it difficult to see where Feminism fits in to the lives of young women today. I no longer believe that the term feminist is helpful. I am lucky that I have never felt being female has stopped me doing anything I have wanted to do. I am equal in all ways to any man. But I am also very different and am happy to be so. I believe that the values of kindness, creativity, nurturing and generally making the lives of those around me more pleasant, are perfectly acceptable goals. I don’t want to be chairman or drive a Porsche. I want to live in a society that allows us all to be the best version of ourselves, a true democracy with human rights for all.

I don’t want the fact that in order to prove myself equal under the terms of modern capitalism I have to work long hours, not spend time with my children and all so I can buy more stuff. Equality for me is about an egalitarian society where my rights are as respected as everyone else’s.

My Daughters see boys using one ‘F’ word in order to get another ‘F’ without any sense of attachment. If you are a feminist you will therefore pay for your own dinner, instigate sex and take responsibility for contraception. And heaven help you if you expect a phone call or text the next day. Or an acknowledgment next time you bump in to them in at the sexual health clinic.

My friends discuss this whole issue of payment and reward as a few of us have just re-entered the dating game after a long absence. T is with an older man who loves to take care of everything and her appreciation of this clearly makes him feel very good about himself. P hates any man paying for her as she doesn’t like the sense of obligation this instils in her. N goes for younger men who are not as successful as she is, likes to treat them to restaurants they could only read about and expects exceptional attention in the bedroom by way of thanks.

New Man and I discuss my old fashioned liking that he picks up the bill when we are out. It is not something he is used to. Former girlfriends kept their equality badges next to their credit cards. However did they bring him tea in bed (surely the best way ever to start the day feeling loved?) or bake semolina cake with homemade syrup or drive across London to be with him at 6 am on a Sunday morning?

My Ex was often confused by my desire to be a full time mummy when he thought he was marrying a driven career woman. I can see how he felt mislead, he presumed I would carry on with high earnings and a power profile after the girls were born when all I wanted was reading Lucy and Tom books and messy play.

It seems that what so often happens is that feminism becomes a debate on lifestyle choice. And I would like to be able to discuss it in a more global manner, but I don’t really have the intellectual capacity. My new girlfriends probably do, I am totally in awe of their cleverness and, because I want them to like me, I may well change my position.       

So I am not a feminist, but I don’t judge you if you are one. Actually I don’t feel the need to judge anyone. Let us all be individuals and enjoy the diversity. Ill bring the seedcake.      

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