Tuesday, 17 June 2014

Why Traditional Feminism is Failing Today's Women.

I've been reading reactions over the past week to Kirstie Allsopp's opinions on women planning careers and families. As is so often the case, much of the negative reaction she received was because people (as they so often do) jumped on the bandwagon without actually reading what she said. (My dad would have called it "picking up fag-ends"!) It is what much (knee-jerk) opinion on Twitter and other social media is based on too and is SO frustrating to someone making a valid point.

So what did Kirstie actually SAY?

Kathryn Grant on "Bumps and Grind" wrote an excellent post on this and I quote:-
"Based on my reading of the article, Kirstie made several important points about lifestyle choices (as well as some very touching comments on how this country deals with death and bereavement). Her point seems to be that, despite all the "choices" women now have, the one thing that cannot be changed is our biological fertility. We have increased life expectancy dramatically, but failed to lengthen the fertility window, so women (and men!) should consider their choices (study, work, house, kids) in a different order. "

"Mother And Daughter" by Ambro via freedigitalphotos.net


As any half-decent Historian or researcher will tell you, you need the Primary Resource - so in Kirstie's words from the Telegraph interview with Bryony Gordon:-

  “Women are being let down by the system. We should speak honestly and frankly about fertility and the fact it falls off a cliff when you’re 35. We should talk openly about university and whether going when you’re young, when we live so much longer, is really the way forward. At the moment, women have 15 years to go to university, get their career on track, try and buy a home and have a baby. That is a hell of a lot to ask someone. As a passionate feminist, I feel we have not been honest enough with women about this issue. [Fertility] is the one thing we can’t change. "

Sounds pretty obvious to me I hear you say.... so what on earth was the fuss all about?!
There was a massive outcry because many felt she was suggesting women should shelve University and Career plans and start families younger, and stop moaning about declining fertility when they've done all they "wanted" to do and were "ready" to start their family.

Which really wasn't what she was suggesting at all. The reason it became "lost in translation" was because of Kirstie's background, and the basic assumptions that everyone still makes about those from different backgrounds to them, even in today's society. Because Kirstie would have been in a solid position financially to start a family before establishing a carer, that apparently completely invalidated her point. Which is a massive oversight and a huge mistake if we are going to really change lives for women and teach them to "think out of the box". 

It's a case of "don't shoot the messenger" - because Kirstie is spot on. It doesn't matter whether you are rich or poor, married or not, titled or "working class", every woman on the planet has a defined period of fertility. Even with the wonders of IVF, we simply cannot postpone our childbearing years indefinitely.

Thus in the "what would she know" kind of response that followed, women failed to grasp the key point here..... that women are under pressure like never before. Sure they have numerous work-saving gadgets and machines in the home, few are spending their adult years in servitude or decades in munitions factories and can control how many children they bear. But all of that is merely precipitating this assumption that with the drudgery and relentless childbearing taken care of - rather than making women's lives easier, women now have time for so much MORE!

I'm all for choice, but who dreamt up the idea that women should be independently financially stable before having a family? Whatever happened to a spouse supporting a family and offering financial support? It's not old fashioned, it's common sense! Women absolutely should have a career AND a family if they so choose - but why both together, or at least why are women made to feel guilty if they don't want both at once? And are we not looking at the fertility issue completely the wrong way around here? Instead of trying to prolong a woman's naturally declining fertility, when genetic defects are also far more likely, should we not be gently suggesting that leaving things so late if you are certain you want a family is perhaps not the best idea?

"Young Woman " by David Castillo Dominici via freedigitalphotos.net



There will *always* be women for whom having a family doesn't come early. They simply don't meet  the right person, are not emotionally ready or are engaged in a key point in education or establishing a career. (Or, like me biology might need a helping hand and after years of trying to conceive you end up resorting to science even when you are not up against the clock.) But what Kirstie is pointing out is that we do sometimes have a CHOICE. Not always - but when we do, we need to acknowledge it and consciously make a choice knowing the possible consequences.

And whilst we are rethinking women's roles why do we think that women have to do everything? Why should they earn enough for the home AND have the family? Do men get to shirk all their responsibilities now in this "New Age"? If you ask me, that's far more unequal then suggesting women focus on their long term choices rather than shelving the baby decision for the late 30s. If you do that, it's a choice (for many, not all) and if you make it, you live with it when reduced fertility knocks at your door.

Women need to reinvent themselves, think out of the box and recognise they don't have to be on a convertor belt. This is the 21st Century and there is no law stating that career has to come chronologically before family, or that an educated woman needs to fulfil both simultaneously to make the grade. Just as we are rethinking much of education and career progression, why not "rethink" the role of young women that bit further? Give real power to women and remove the assumptions society has imposed. Choosing to have a family in your early twenties if you are in a stable long-term relationship should no longer be seen as premature. It isn't removing options, it's rearranging them. 

26 comments:

  1. think there are some really interesting points here. Although I had a job before I had children, I had a long way to go to turn it into a lifelong career and put family first. I love being a Mum and, whilst I wouldn't change it, I do miss working sometimes. I would like to think that when my children are old enough I can go back to studying a carve a new career path for myself. I think it is sad that some women I know who had children have gone straight back to working full time and on with their career - although it's their own choice, I can't help thinking that your children are only small for such a short time you should be able to enjoy that without losing out on the career prospects you would have had if you hadn't had children.

    ReplyDelete
  2. I don;t have a particular opinion about what she said, it does make sense to me and pretty much I did what she suggested. I finished school at 16 (in my country its normal), went to uni for 5 years, finished it by 21, started working and at 26 got married and at 28 pregnant.

    ReplyDelete
  3. I totally agree with you.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Whenever things are taken out of context it gets frustrating, but especially when the message is twisted around too. Kirstie Allsopp is allowed to make her point, and others allowed to agree or disagree, but, as you point out, it's always good to get the facts right. Interesting post, thanks

    ReplyDelete
  5. People will alway jump on the bandwagon without bothering to read the information fully x

    ReplyDelete
  6. I think the elephant in the room here is that for many women, it's not about choosing a career over children. A huge number of women work to survive and to be able to afford the basics to give their child or children a decent life, rather than because they want to 'have it all'.

    ReplyDelete
  7. People always read the media's interpretation of the report and don't go to the original source, which is what they should do to make up their own minds.

    ReplyDelete
  8. I think it's important to go to the original source of a report like this and make your own mind up. I like Kirsty Alsop, but she does come from a privileged background. She has never worried about whether she could afford to work and the cost of childcare or if she should stay at home with her children. She could do what she wanted to some extent. Biology is the only thing that is a leveller between women. However saying all that, she does make a valid point I think.

    ReplyDelete
  9. What a great post. I have a post about feminism in my drafts and I think you may have just pushed me to do so. For me feminism means equality and choice

    ReplyDelete
  10. Personally I think we're all different, and that's the point of why we may all follow different paths. Some of us have a career, some not. It's a choice the majority of the time. I am happy having a job, but would love to have been at home looking after 7yo when she was a baby. Who knows.

    ReplyDelete
  11. I think that we should all make the choice that's right for us. I had my first child at 22, my husband has always worked to support us so I can be a full time mama. I'd never have wanted to put a career over children, or have children later in life.

    ReplyDelete
  12. I completely love Kirsty and was a bit annoyed that people gave her a hard time. I didn't really have an order. I got married at 20 because i wanted to and then a year later had my first child and i am now a stay at home mum. I will pick up my career when they are both teenagers and i have the time as at the moment, my priority is them x

    ReplyDelete
  13. I agree twitter is a bit of a knee jerk reaction please.
    I like Kirstie and the wolves are always out for some people:(

    ReplyDelete
  14. The problem with today is that men no longer can afford to look after the family. The rise in house prices and the cost of living has made sure of that. In the 60's 70's etc men with ordinary jobs like a mechanic would earn enough to pay the mortgage and look after family (two kids anyway lol) but not now. Women want to have a career and be financially secure, it's no fun having kids and being skint or divorcing and being left as as single parent because the man you loved in your early twenties you've grown apart from. It's about money I think. x

    ReplyDelete
  15. Excellent post. There has been such a knee jerk reaction to what she was alleged to have said that few people stopped to consider the merits of what she actually said. Feminism today seems to be all about having it all at once. What about having things in turn? I am happy to be a stay at home mom for as long as my children need me at home. Its not an anti feminsit choice, it's my choice based on the upbringing I want my children to have. There is plenty of time for careers later on, especially since we are now expected to work into our late 60s. Its not about having it all but not necessarily all at once.

    ReplyDelete
  16. Fantastically articulated post Kate, lots of really valid points here. I too have to agree with Louisa above. I just do not believe that it's possible to 'have it all' at the same time. Something always has to give... accepting this before I embarked on motherhood was one of the wisest things I did. Love your dad's quote, very finely put!

    ReplyDelete
  17. This is a fabulous post and yes, it's tough to have it all at once! I had my twin daughters at 26 after realising that I had fertility problems. I had the luxury of knowing this and that enabled me to make an informed choice. Close friends haven't been so lucky after waiting to start a family until much later, only to realise that they couldn't conceive naturally.
    I think Kirstie has come in for an unfair amount of negative press after her comments, but she makes some very valid points.
    #PoCoLo

    ReplyDelete
  18. Fantastic post. I think every woman is different and does what is right for herself and her family at the time. I had a baby at 27, which is quite young for a woman who's been to university, and I firmly believe my career suffered as a result - I hadn't been working long enough when I started a family. But if I'd got my career established, would I have ended up with three kids? I did my best like most women do and I've got a family I'm proud of. What more could I want?

    ReplyDelete
  19. I agree with Kristie's point of view, and you've summed it up so nicely. What's wrong with being honest about our biological limitations? We do this to recognise this while we should be given every opportunity to fulfill our dreams.

    ReplyDelete
  20. This is a great post. Some people might get angry about Kirstie's words, but the fact your fertility decreases after 35 is a fact, and it is definitely something to consider when planning one's 'life'. Mel #PoCoLo

    ReplyDelete
  21. This is a really rally good point. Many reacted to her personally attacking her and didnt see that she is expressing something that makes a lot of sense. Me I would've dont the whole pregnancy thing after uni but theres just really no one to procreate. But still I know her issue and I am glad that she made it. #pocolo

    ReplyDelete
  22. We often jokingly moan about how retirement should happen when you are young and then go to work when you are older as we never seem to have enough time to spend quality time with the kids no matter what we do. So actually suggesting a bit of a re-shuffle of priorities isn't such a bad idea after all. #pocolo xxx

    ReplyDelete
  23. Interesting post, I do feel that if women have children straight away or out in university then they are loosing out on a major part of discovering who they are as this only truly starts to take shape when you're out in the big world on your own, also some people may have children early and then find it too much of a struggle to go back to study. I think definitely there should be a bugger push on educating women in the oit falls of fertility. I had my son at thirty as that is when I decided I wanted to have children by, my sister in law has had her first at 40 and loves everything she has got beforehand and I have friends who have waited and now can't. It's all a gamble really but that is life. x

    ReplyDelete
  24. I feel that society is not ready yet for total equality, in the meantime we will have to juggle our old roles as mothers and our new roles a valuable employees. The critical factor in my opinion is real choice- to choose which way we want to go first and then not to be judged.

    ReplyDelete
  25. I tell what I wouldn't recommend if having a career is important to you, and that is doing what I did, having kids spread out from first at 23 to last at 38 - because I choose to be an at home parent until at least school age there has never been much time to get established as anything else! Not everyone is as daft as me though.... My main concern about kids first, uni later as a plan is that university is so expensive these days, and once a family comes along there is often just not enough cash to allow it - and us Mums are excellent martyrs and are likely to prioritise our children's needs over our own. May well be ok if you are already wealthy or have a partner with a highly paid job, but I couldn't justify it nor afford it in my circumstances.

    ReplyDelete

Many thanks for taking the time to comment, I really value your responses.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...