Today is March 8th – International Women’s Day. I don’t think of myself as particularly feminist and yet I felt compelled to write something this year. And I don’t think that women’s rights have been at the forefront of my mind in ‘things I want to change in the world’.
I don’t know if it’s my age or the journey I’ve been on with pregnancy and new motherhood or that feminism seems (from where I’m sitting) to be becoming more and more commonly spoken of and with less of a negative spin. It’s probably a combination of all three. Plus I now have a daughter – so I feel concern over the world that I can help create for her.
If I were to pinpoint a time when I began finding more understanding of what it means to be a feminist it would probably be in pregnancy.
But let’s look a little further back than that. When I started my job I was the only female in my office. And coincidentally the eldest. We were a small office and I found that over the first couple of months my preference for organisation and cleanliness saw me doing little things like making sure the tea towels in the kitchen were laundered.
I soon realised my mistake as I started to be seen as the person who would take sole responsibility for such things. I was (affectionately I suppose) referred to as the mother hen. But what does that actually say? I’m pecking everyone into order? I’m mothering everyone. I think the connotation is double sided.
Over time we have more women in our office and over time I’ve learnt to respectfully encourage others to also to help with buying the office groceries (now mostly looked after by one of the guys in our team) – we don’t have anyone who actually looks after all these things so we have to share the load. And these days I think we do it well.
Similarly when I became pregnant I realised I was going to be the first in our Australian team to be pregnant, the first to take maternity leave. The first to deal with all the ‘interesting’ aspects of pregnancy – sitting uncomfortably, nausea, not lifting things, swollen feet/legs, hormones (hormones, and more hormones), fatigue and waddling around as I turned into the size of a house. And that wasn’t even mentioning the need to be absent to get to antenatal appointments and scans galore. Part of me felt like there were going to be no issues as everyone would be very understanding but part of me felt that all of these things wouldn’t work in my favour to be taken seriously as a manager at my level. Or that none of these things would help in understanding that I am equal to my male colleagues. I’m clearly not!
And this wondering was simply that – nothing outwardly said or done – just me attaching a stigma to myself, doubting my position… and all based on what I believed society had taught me to understand about the role of women and women in the workplace.
I continued to do this in the last month, in my return to work from maternity leave. I feel I am fighting really hard to prove I’m as good if not better at my job now. I don’t want there to be room for a doubt that because I have my brain on my daughter – did I sterilise her bottle or remember to pack her sun hat for daycare? I need to work on those slides this weekend so I need to remember to make sure Mr OC isn’t working on Sunday afternoon. I need to cook up some veggies for her dinners for the next few nights when I get home. I have to leave early to pick her up as hubby is held up or sick etc etc…
And I want to prove I don’t have to be in the office five days a week to do an excellent job. Because I’m simply amazing.
Simply exhausted more like.
But I don’t want to slip. I don’t want to leave an inch of room to be referred to in a way where it’s “well that’s ok, we don’t expect you to do that because you’re a mum/ you’re a woman so you are never going to be fully committed to your job in the way a man is”.
Is that right? I don’t know.
Or should I be saying – this is being a woman? I can do it all. And maybe that is why we should be paid more than men. Not less.
What I do know is I’m trying to get to grips with the importance of feminism.
I was shocked and disgusted to hear that daycare workers (a predominantly female industry) were left with no option but to strike on IWD over low pay. These Cert III qualified educators are not paid as much as a Cert III qualified electrician. Why?! Why are we not paying them more?! The job they do is vital. They are being mum, dad, teacher and role model. The are nurturing and teaching our children while we go and do something else. To me they’re invaluable.
And this is another example of how poorly we support the post-natal path. Not only is it commonplace, around the globe, to offer poor paternity leave schemes and payments, making it very hard for parents to NOT return to work (regardless of their own wishes) and yet, we do a crap job of supporting the systems that enable these parents to be able to go back to the workplace – the child carers. It’s ridiculous.
Wasn’t it Joe Hockey who made the outrageous comment that if you want to afford a house in Sydney’s stupid housing market then all you need to do is make sure you get a ‘good job’.
Well, Mr Hockey, I would suggest these early childhood educators have a good job. And yet, they will not be able to afford a house in this market now or anytime in the future if things continue this way. And the same could be said for our nurses (and whole host of other jobs I am sure I’ve missed). All these people who we simply cannot function without as a society are working the longest hours, making the most difference to our future (our children, our health… ) and yet getting paid pittance for it.
Anyway, I’ve gone on for longer than I meant to and my bus is about to arrive in the city… I’m not taking a day off work today as many women will. But for my best girl friends and their daughters, my nieces, my stepdaughter, my daughter and for the future of the human race today and on going I will be bold for change.