On feminism, 1913 style

On feminism, 1913 style

I was reminded of this (in)famous quote on feminism yesterday, when having lunch with some friends; they are a married couple, with two small children. He works outside the home, she is at home with their boys, aged 5 and 8.

Although I said nothing to prompt or provoke what followed, I can only imagine that, for whatever reason(s), her “at home” status is perhaps preying on her mind, because she commented that: “I suppose, because of your job, you think that I should go back out to work now that the boys are at school”.

Not at all, I replied; my job is about ensuring that women who are already in the workplace, have the opportunities once there which are afforded to their male colleagues, ie to be promoted, to lead, to manage, to work in a flexible way – and that the lack of those opportunities does not then make them wish to leave. There’s nothing about my job in gender diversity which is about forcing women to go to work unless they want to do so, or, economically, have to do so.

But it’s clear that, even in 2009, there’s still confusion over what we mean by “feminism” – so this 1913 quote from Rebecca West does still hold true:

“I myself have never been able to find out what feminism is. I only know that people call me a feminist whenever I express sentiments that differentiate me from a doormat or a prostitute.”

For what it’s worth … feminism to me is about choice, opportunity and flexibility; it’s not about “having it all”, but it is about having the opportunity to choose what form and shape your life will take, be that working inside the home, outside the home, having children, or not – or making any other of the myriad of choices now available to twenty-first century women.


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