CATHY KELLY

Sunday Independent (Ireland) - Life - - GIRL POWER -

Au­thor Feminism means know­ing that women hold up one half of the sky, as the beautiful Asian proverb goes, and we must be treated as well as the peo­ple who hold up the other half. The bat­tle for feminism is not over and will never be, when women all round the world live in regimes where they have no power, suf­fer things like fe­male gen­i­tal mu­ti­la­tion and are vul­ner­a­ble to all sorts of abuse and health is­sues be­cause of their gen­der. In our First World, we see women not earn­ing as much as men, and we see young women be­ing con­tin­u­ally sex­u­alised at an in­creas­ingly young age. That bat­tle needs to be fought too, and fiercely.

I’ve been a fem­i­nist since I was very young — I some­how al­ways had the mind­set (and through the ac­ci­dent of birth, the op­por­tu­nity — to­tally dif­fer­ent story if I’d been born in, say, Swazi­land, which has a high do­mes­tic abuse rate) to prove that I could per­form as well as any boy in school.

As an ex­am­ple of this, I went to a con­vent, and, even though I am far more right-brained than left-brained, when my all-girl con­vent school brought in physics, guess who signed up? This sounds like noth­ing now, but in the early 1980s, it meant some­thing. So many girl-only schools didn’t even have higher-level maths or sci­ence sub­jects. Now these STEM [sci­ence, tech­nol­ogy, engi­neer­ing, and math­e­mat­ics] cour­ses are avail­able for all, but not then.

Feminism also means tak­ing care of other women; men­tor­ing, which I be­lieve in pas­sion­ately. Women do them­selves no favours if they stand on the heads of other women to at­tain great­ness, or bitch about other women’s clothes, bod­ies or choices. We should be a sis­ter­hood — an old word, but it means some­thing.

I have no reser­va­tions about iden­ti­fy­ing as a fem­i­nist. I dye my hair blonde (I mean, we are talk­ing bleach fac­tory here), I wear make-up, and de­spite the usual jeans-and-Con­verse out­fit, I can pull out the stops, clothes-wise. Fem­i­nist does not mean lack­ing in fem­i­nin­ity or sex­u­al­ity. It means em­brac­ing the di­vin­ity in fem­i­nin­ity, help­ing the world be a bet­ter place for other women, not judg­ing other women, and, hon­estly, it has noth­ing to do with burn­ing your bra or hat­ing men. I love men, ad­mire them, am mar­ried to one and have two glo­ri­ous twin sons. The kind­ness and friend­ship of men is im­por­tant to me and my life. I just don’t think any man should con­trol how I dress or what I say. If the work­place caught up to the world of moth­er­hood via child­care and flex­itime, and if there weren’t those pock­ets of sex­ist male cul­ture in of­fices, then we wouldn’t need quo­tas.

Like in pol­i­tics — why would an in­tel­li­gent woman want to do a job where she can never see her kids be­cause the sys­tem is pred­i­cated to­wards male politi­cians? Moth­er­hood is a glo­ri­ous thing and if you are lucky enough to ex­pe­ri­ence it, then you should not need to apol­o­gise for it to your boss — I do think things are chang­ing, but still some bosses think that once a woman has a child, she is no longer a ‘player’. That has to change. There cer­tainly need to be quo­tas on all of the vast num­ber of boards in this coun­try.

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