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.