Sunday, October 15, 2006

Feminism

Claire tagged me last week to think of five things that feminism has done for me. So I'm going to have a go at answering, I'm not sure if some of these are strictly speaking "feminism" though... (oh, and to put it in context, I was born in 1979). Carrie Anne's answers to the same thing are also quite thought-provoking...

1. Financial independence. I can do what I want (within reason!) with whatever I earn, and I can own property in my own name, and retain that right even if I get married - before 1882 (the Married Women's Property Act) this wasn't allowed. Before that I'd have had to pass over control of everything I own on marriage. I would also have been under the guardianship of my father (or, in my case, my brother) until marriage, when that would have passed to my husband, which, would, of course, have had a massive impact on every decision I made.

2. Education. The fact that I would go to university was never questioned. In previous generations it would have been, half of my grandparents left school at 14 and never had the opportunity to stay on longer. At school we had the same opportunities as the boys to study the same subjects (although, amusingly, my school didn't have any woodwork/metal work type facililities, and the boys' school down the road didn't have any cookery facilities, so a certain amount of running up and down the road to use each others had to happen!). There was no expectation of anyone having to study a particular subject because of their sex. And things like sports in PE weren't limited along traditional male/female lines.

Similarly, at university, I took my first degree at a college (Royal Holloway and Bedford New College, part of London University) that was one of the first to admit women. Of the two colleges that now make up Royal Holloway, Bedford College was the first in the country to admit women to higher education in 1849, although women were not allowed to graduate from the university until 1878. By the time I got there in 1998 I could study whatever I wanted (and graduate from it!). Imagine going to university, attending all the lectures, doing the reading, but not being allowed to graduate because you're a woman...

3. Life choices/family responsibility. I think I was lucky to be born when I was, as I shouldn't be criticised, when the time comes, if I choose to stay at home with my children, or if I carry on going to work. Previous generations of women had to give up work on marriage, were expected to stay at home to bring up children and be dependent on their husband. But I have the choice. I could go out to work and leave my husband at home to look after the sprogs, or it could be divided between us, or maybe I'll stay at home. Or maybe we'll both work and find a nursery...
Similarly, the spinster daughter would have been expected to stay at home and care for elderly parents. I have already done that, but it was my choice to be at home and care for my terminally ill father. It's something I'm very glad I was able to do (because I was there too as a carer with Mum, Dad was able to die at home, rather than in a nursing home), but it would have been a difficult decision to make if I'd been living in a different part of the country and employed. As it was I was already temporarily living with my parents and self-employed when my father became ill. Women today do face enormous dilemmas because of the freedom we have...

4. Timing. My generation has the gift of time. If I'd been in a Jane Austen novel I'd have been well "on the shelf" by now, fancy, unmarried at the age of 26! I suppose, related to that, is also having the ability to control when to have children (although, obviously that can't be controlled to the nth degree...). But at least it's up to me and I don't have to grab the nearest man to show an interest, out of desperation (thinking of Mr Collins in Pride & Prejudice *shudder*.)

5. Bigger influences. We had a scary history teacher at school, who used to peer over the top of her glasses at us, and say "Women died to get you the vote, girls, don't throw that away"!! Yes, we all laughed at her, but women now do have the same ability as men to take part in the political process. Since turning 18 I've voted in every local and national election (so the History teacher's saying obviously worked!). It never seems a major thing turning out to vote, one small piece of paper in a ballot box. But imagine not having that power, or living in a country where women don't have a voice like that...

3 comments:

angie cox said...

All excellent points Daisy.

Rain said...

That was really interesting.

knihovnik said...

I don't know... 26!! You youngster ;-) *speaks the wise old sage at 27*