My history of feminism

Dare I open this debate again? Many previous blogs on the princessing of our daughters – and my responses (afraid to speak my mind if I’m honest, because the consensus seemed to be against me, and I was feeling on shakey ground as you’ll see below) – have left me feeling like I got up in the middle of my lunch and never got a chance to go back and finish it. So here I am, taking a big bite. Like many things these days, it was my daughter’s natural assumption that women should rule the world that made me strong again.

I regard myself as a feminist, and here’s why. I believe in my potential – not just as a woman, but as a person. I believe in my daughters’ potential, and will make it my life’s mission to ensure they know that they have every opportunity open to them to suceed in life. Suceed in career, in love, in knowledge and most of all, in happiness. But I’ve been rather confused of late, unsure what legacy as a stay at home mum I’m leaving my daughters, and by the (seemingly minority) opinions I have that there’s nothing wrong with girls being princesses. Did this mean I was no longer a feminist?

I started out believing the tired old crap I learned by rote…. “all men are bastards.” I actually used that phrase in my youth…. yet my brother is one of the best men I know. I didn’t think for myself, just took on board the beliefs (wrong as it turns out) of others. But at uni, I fell apon a course that changed (literally and literaryily) my life. Through Women Writers and the words of Virginia Woolf, Mayo Angelou, Alice Walker, Toni Morrison, Margaret Atwood and others, I began to empower myself and open up my mind to the realisation that feminism has nothing to do with men, and everything to do with women – strong, brave, kind, loving, generous, creative women. I built my life on their teachings, and they journeyed with me on many roads. I travelled the world, I broadened my knowledge, I made friends, I worked hard and strove harder. I did my best and did well. I had a wonderful career and I found love. The perfect feminist life: all the brilliance with none of the bluster; all the vigour with none of the violence; all the adventure with none of the aggression; all of the loving and none of the hating.

And then my world turned upside down. I became a mother. I fulfilled the role my body, my biological engineering, my nature and my nurture was destined for. It was less a case of earth mother and more a case of coming down to earth with a bang when I gave up that career to stay at home with my girls. I loved my job but I loved being wth them more. It was that simple. I have no regrets whatsoever about giving up my (paid) job but I often worry and wonder about how I look to my girls -the personification of all I had fought against. They see daddy go to work while mummy washes the dishes. But then I realise that actually it was my most feminist of all my actions – making the choice that best suited my lifestyle. And the one thing Virginia Woolf wrote about in her essay A Room of One’s Own, and others that blazed (braless or not) the way for women, was not actually that we just have to reach to pinnacle of the career ladder, but that we have options and choices available to us to follow the best path to reach our own potential and development. For me, that was the choice to take time out from my career to focus on bringing up my girls while they are very young.

Into this came the blogging debate. “Prissy” was used regularly to describe (you could almost see the lips curling in scathing disgust) the awfulness of daughters loving pink. ‘Pink is the problem’ was the message. But I kept asking myself why? I kept asking why ‘tomboy’ (a kowtow to the ‘men are better’ attitude that supressed women for so so long) was a better message? If a girl likes pink, let her wear pink. Surely that is what Virginia and others fought for – our right to be who we want to be? Our right to be feminine and still achieve all we want?

Daisy is a pink girl through and through. At one point she would only wipe her bum with pink toilet paper. Poppy however is red. And occassionally orange. I love both of their individuality (sure many other girls are into pink, but because it’s Daisy’s own choice, her own nature that views the world through rose tinted glasses despite the fact I had never dressed her in pink previosuly, that makes it her individuality). She also likes digging up worms. Wearing pink doesn’t make her a prissy princess, any more than liking worms makes her a ‘tomboy’. It makes her her. She might like watching Snow White, but she’s smart enough to know when things don’t seem right to her. I was singing The Sun Has Got His Hat on last summer, and she turned to me, and said “No mummy I think the sun has got HER hat on.” Quite right, I thought. We went out to build a snowman yesterday and she said, “Actually mummy, why don’t we build a snowgirl.” Quite right, I thought.

So now that I feel ok that despite my dishwashing she will naturally grow up in an environment where it won’t even occur to her that she can’t achieve anything, and already questions the masculinity of phrases (like Snowman), and that the women around her – me, her godmothers, my friends , her family – are all vibrant, smart women, I’m brave enough to enter the blogging debate again, and this time, defend my pink position.

I believe those who diss girls for being ‘girlie’ are doing them – and all women – a great diservice. They should be allowed to be exactly the girl they want to be. A good parent will teach their daughter to be happy and confident with who they are, and smart enough to always strive for their potential, whatever colour they wear – that is what feminism is. Are Disney’s princess stories bad for them? I don’t think so. Yes, the stories are old fashioned – and isn’t that a good talking point? But they are also all, without exception, about good beating evil, about kindness and generosity over nastiness and selfishness, about overcoming challenges to follow your dream. Isn’t that what feminism is teaching us?

We were watching Sleeping Beauty the other day, and I could see Daisy was a bit agitated. “Why does she keep sleeping through everything?” Quite right, I thought. So I’m a stay-at-home mum, with a pink princess for a daughter. Am I a feminist? Damn right I am. Because I made choices that made my life amazing, and I will let my daughters do the same. My girls won’t be sleeping through the action, but they may be wearing pink.

What do you think? If you disagree, let’s talk. I’m ready this time.…. And for those of you who haven’t already, please go and join Judith’s Room – Virginia’s legacy of wonderful women who have made choices to make their lives extraordinary.

Postscript- 3 days later – Just asked the girls what they want to be when they grow up. Daisy said “builder” and Poppy said “a man.” You gotta laugh!

About Grin & Tonic by Alana Kirk

Bouncing into middle age armed with courage, ambition and a pair of tweezers (chin hairs for anyone over the age of 45 reading this) I am a writer with a mission: to redefine this midway point in my life when the last thing I want to do is hang up my high heels and become invisible. This is the end of the beginning, not the beginning of the end. A single mum to 3 fabulous girls, an author, and a fundraising consultant, both ends of my candle are on fire. As I enter this new stage of my life, I want to explore what it means for 'mid-aged' women today, who were promised they could have it all, ended up doing it all, and just do not identify with the traditional image of middle age.
This entry was posted in feminism, pink, princesses, Virginia Woolf. Bookmark the permalink.

9 Responses to My history of feminism

  1. Diney says:

    Interesting read, and I've been thinking about it today, especially since reading an article in the Sunday Times review entitled 'pretty baby' by Natasha Walter, taken from her book which sounds very interesting. She sees a highly sexualised new generation of girls who believe their bodies set them free….. its taken from her book 'living Dolls..the return of sexism' and seems to hit the nail on the head.Too big a topic for now, and too much awaits my attention(!!!still a woman's lot, eh?!) but I will return to it if poss. Sorry to leave like an unfinished meal again!! 🙂

    I did make a mention of feminism over on my new post.


  2. Excellent post Alana – really thought-provoking. As a mum to two boys I suppose this isn't as prevalent for me. I battle with my abilities to do pretend pirate voices and have light-saber battles in the kitchen and build garages for cars! I've tagged you over at mine.


  3. Great post! I never really liked the expression 'Tomboy' – why would anyone want to be called by a name that includes the opposite sex. Drag queens apart.
    I feel very strongly about being a feminist, too. And I made the choice to stay at home, too. There is so much more to say about this topic, but I guess this time I have to leave the table without finishing my meal…


  4. Mummy mania says:

    thanks everyone – i know,it's a huge topic – and not one which is exactly black and white. Now, off to haev my sandwich 😉


  5. I very much like this post. I very much consider myself a feminist, I work hard, and don't even think about being a woman in the workplace. Conversely, I'm never happier than when I'm with my son & my partner, and feel incredibly secure with them. Does it make me less of a feminist? No, it means that I'm lucky enough to be able to make choices about what I want.

    Hope to see you over at Judith's Room!


  6. cath c says:

    i'm right there with you in making the choices that are right for me in my times, and once again i find myself in the mothering time when i thought i was heading back into the career time.

    but just so you know, i've always been one to struggle against others feminizing me more because i am petite, making me girlier than i am, but in doing so, i definitely over compensated toweard the masculinized feminism of my young adulthood. i have spent a lifetime hating pink.

    i remember one night being in a woman's spiritual circle i was part of for about ten years at that point, and we were each to bring a flower that was the first that appealed to our feminine divinty. i found myself surprisingly drawn toward a big frilly pink peony to bring. i love the lushness, the velvety ultrafeminine aspects of the flower and was stimied when all i could find was a baby pink one. i really love the white and the fuscia ones. so there i was with a flower to represent the very soul of me, and realized i needed to reclaim the really female aspects of myself, the soft, the delicate, the very heart of all aspects of female i'd spent my life fighting against, surrounding myself with males from brothers to friends to lovers and spouses.

    so now i have a daughter. after two sons. i dress her in a mix of things, staying away from pink except the gifts people have given. i don't accessorize her much, but she loves a red polka dot ribbon around her waist, to wear her grandmother's necklaces (i don't wear them much myself) and to play with the rarely worn earrings shining on my ears. she knows how to turn on the cute in a girlie way, and oh boy does everyone tell her how beautiful she is.

    i hope i praise her enough in the smarts dept to counter it, but i'll tell you, what is so wrong with a sweet and delicate little girl – who can btw, hold her own very well with her very big brothers.


  7. Da says:

    Women drivers – women writers! There are two 'c's in 'succeed' Some good your education did!


  8. Caz says:

    Hi, just been back and read this wonderful post. I lift my pink girly plastic princess cup to you (we have so many of them). I have three girls and I love what you wrote. It has made me think (which is what good writing should do) and I really think it's more important that we allow them to grow into women who know how to make choices – even if they are wearing pink while they do it! Thank you for such a good read!


  9. I just found your blog and LOVE it! Especially this post. I have a princess girl myself. She is totally “girly” love her baby dolls, etc. My son was never like this – he is all boy (well except when playing dress up- Hahaha!) I find myself just paying attention to who THEY ARE, not who I think they should be. The more I do that, the more they are just doing what they love and enjoy. This seems to make them happy, so I am going with it! 🙂


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