A couple of things happened today that gave me cause to think, and coincidentally are linked together.
The first was a discussion on the radio about the age of adulthood. Apparently it is now 24. Scientists from the Royal Children’s Hospital in Melbourne claimed that as more of us are staying in education, marrying and becoming parents at a later age. That policies that support youth should be extended beyond teenage years. You can read more on the study here.
The second thing, that seemed unrelated at the time, was reading this post by the amazing Jess Helicopter and an ensuing conversation on twitter about feminism.
You are probably wondering have I been drinking? On the face of it these two things aren’t related at all. Just stick with me for a minute and my train of thought will become apparent.
Lets start with the age of adulthood.
Purely from a personal perspective I have to agree with the study. Yes I may have moved out of home just before my 18th birthday. I was still in education for another year though. Still not married at 42 and became a stepfather at 31. This was the age I’d say I became an adult. When I had other people to consider who depended on me. Before this time I was still irresponsible. I’d stop in the pub for a quick pint on the way home and fall through the door at silly o’clock with a takeaway in hand. If there was a new Xbox game being released, I’d make the decision to either not pay a bill or live on supermarket own brand cheap and cheerful food for a few days.
Now that I have kids the bills are paid first, food is bought and then if there’s money left over I might splurge on a treat for myself. All signs of being a mature adult. Go me!
How does this link into feminism? I hear you cry!
Easy. Until the same point in my life I became an adult I hadn’t really paid much attention to the struggles women go through to be treated as equals to men. If you’d said the word feminism to me I’d have pictured bra burning, man hating, shaven headed women. (Very stereotypical I know) Waving their banners and placards at protests and rallies. There are a few of reasons for this.
- My only real interaction with feminists was as a nine-year old boy going to work with my Mother. I was sick and couldn’t attend school. She was a substitute teacher at the time, having just returned to work after a career break when my Sister and I had gone to live with them. The school she was working at was on Greenham Common airbase. Where the Americans were keeping their Nuclear Warheads. Outside the base was a camp of women protesting at the nukes being there. I won’t lie they scared the life out of me!
- My mother and Father were equals. Both worked in the same job. Teachers. Both took equal responsibility in the child raising stakes. School runs, after school clubs, before school swimming practice etc. There were some stereotypical roles, Dad never cooked. (thank god!) Mum was the nurse when we were sick. Dad took the cars to be serviced.
- My aunts both had successful careers. One in the oil industry in the Gulf of Mexico and the other had worked her way up from a switch board operator to management in AT&T one of the largest communications companies in the USA. Whilst being a single parent to my cousin.
So in my world women were equal and so far as I knew were treated equally. Even when I started work in call centers I was oblivious to women being treated differently. In my experience there were just as many managers and team leaders that were female as there were men. I’d see reports on the news about the gender pay gap, inequality cases brought to tribunals and other reports about injustices women suffered. I’m ashamed to say that it was a bit like the plight of an endangered species. It wasnt nice to hear but it didn’t affect me.
That all changed the day my daughter was born.
It was then I really started to notice the differences between how boys and girls are perceived and treated in society. Gender stereotyping and the discrimination women suffer, purely because of their sex. I can’t help but feel I’m not alone in this regard. Many other men are probably in the same position as I was. Not being fully aware of the issues until we become father’s to daughters.
It’s that age-old adage. Out of sight out of mind. As we don’t see the issues we don’t think about them. Our school systems aren’t perfect I know, but there is certainly more that could be done to educate the next generation. A quick lesson on the suffragette movement and women getting the vote is not enough any more.
More pressure should be put on companies to do away with gender stereotypes. I’m not talking about the use of Mother in Mothercare! Girls clothing is still predominantly pink and fluffy. Full of kittens and unicorns. Boys are superheroes and future leaders.
Its time we all became feminists. We owe it to our sons so that they don’t have to wait till they are adults to realise for themselves.