Over the last one hundred years women’s roles have changed so much- we can vote, go to university, work, choose to live and love however we want and how many children we wish to bear. It would seem that equality has been reached. (Indeed, my teenage children asked me if we even needed feminism anymore….as they think it is an outmoded requirement from less enlightened generations!)
All of the above is very good and required for developing equality- but there is still work to be done. Yes, we need more women in a range of professions, as decision makers, policy makers, in business and we need the gender pay gap to truly disappear. A shocking throw back that should be firmly left in the age of the dinosaur. However, there is something that we are all missing.
I believe that society and Feminism have forgotten something truly fundamental and until this forgotten element is truly considered and catered for, then society and women will forever be left on the back foot. We do not value “ caring “ in our society. Carers are amongst the lowest paid sector of society- yet they tend respectfully to people who are the most vulnerable, fragile and help their last months and days be a little more dignified and comfortable. Women receive no state help for taking time out to raise their children- unlike some more enlightened European and Scandinavian countries. There is a continued drive from all political parties to encourage the use of child care services- so that women can get back to work. Caring is given no intrinsic value.
I have a funny story that illustrates how “low” and uninteresting caring is considered. I went to a party with some family members who are part of the London artistic and intellectual crowd. Everybody (or almost) there, was noteworthy for some exterior accomplishment or artistic endeavour. A playwright, who lots of people had been preening around, came over to chat to me. His opening line was “ So, what is that you DO?” ( Sub context …..I want to know about your glittering accomplishments, not what kind of person you are….). At that time my boys were quite small, so I truthfully and cheerfully answered “ Well, right now I am really enjoying being a stay at home mum!” His face went from animated expectation to one of bored horror….within three seconds he had made his excuses and darted off to talk to another bright young thing. My family and I giggled about it later, but it is indicative of an unconscious view. Caring is boring and not a thing of value or interest.
Caring, loving, conscious parenting, spending time with older vulnerable people is, I believe, a hallmark of a society that puts people first, that is actually civilised. Caring has traditionally been seen as a female role. It is largely likely to remain so too, as let’s face it, women are the ones who bear children, breast feed them and are therefore are more linked to the early years of childrearing.
In the rush to create a place for women in the workplace we have negated something of tremendous importance and in so doing we erode families, create loneliness in older folks and marginalise professions who deal with caring. Most women tend to work part time when they have children in order to run the home and have some time for their children. There are so many women as a result who work well below their intellectual, creative capacity in order to fulfil their family requirements. There is still not enough dialogue around changing work patterns to suit school and school holiday requirements. Capitalistic society does not want to go there. But, we forget we create society – so why not create one that works for us as human beings, as people who love, live and care? We are not robots who are part of a mechanistic money machine. More needs to be done to help women return to work (part or full time) that allows them to work at their best.
I truly believe that feminine qualities need to be valued more in the west. We are all made up of masculine and feminine qualities- both sexes. Yin ( or the anima) and Yang (animus). Whether we are male or female we all hold different quantities of theses characteristics. For each of us the balance of these is different. We are at our happiest and healthiest when we have these in balance within ourselves. Our society has no balance of these qualities. It is all linear, goal orientated, left brained thinking. It is all external accomplishments, time lined, product orientated. People have forgotten something. Where is the nurturing, the space for giving, sharing, quietitude?
I would like femenism to remember the root of the word that the movement was born from- and celebrate those qualities that are traditionally tied to femininity too. They are needed in our society . These qualities are not just in women but also in men. Lets see these qualities of nurturing, intuition, right brained thinking be given space to grow and be delighted in.
I think we need a new movement that is a new kind of personism- which celebrates the anima, the yin. We would all be more balanced and society would be healthier. Creativity, gentleness and intuition would be valued and caring would no longer be considered a necessary but ignored element but celebrated ,and our young ones and old ones would feel cherished and remembered.