Talking to little girls – Rebecca

Welcome to our very first Two-Post Tuesday!  Due to the incredible amount of guest posts we’ve been receiving, we’ve decided to bring you two posts every Tuesday.  And in true AOW style we’re keeping the subjects diverse; this morning it was Clare on the parallels between wedding planning and pregnancy and this afternoon, something polar opposite but equally as thought-provoking.

We are delighted to bring you an exclusive from Rebecca Norris.  We’ve given Rebecca a platform for her to have her say before, but this piece here is something very different.  This raises some deeply uncomfortable questions about the role of women in the workplace, our expectations, and the thoughtless gender stereotypes we pass on to children, without thinking that this could shape their values for years to come.  

I call myself a feminist, but I know I’m guilty of this.  It has to stop.  Now.  

I give you Rebecca:      

Today, I was at work, temping shall we say and I met a member of the permanent staff. We started talking about how I had found the day, polite small talk, and I pushed myself forward for further work, offering my CV. The permanent member of staff, one of the business owners, enquired about my life outside work…Did I have children? Did I want to work full time? This is standard opening dialogue in my line of work and I was happy to divulge that I planned on working maybe three and a half days a week, although of course I didn’t share my reasons, part-time blogger isn’t every ones idea of ‘normal’!

However, the permanent member of staff was delighted to hear it and it lead to me explaining my husband was reducing his hours too when she enquired about his work. Quality of life, yadda yadda yadda.
Then the permanent member of staff said, ‘Well, if you have a husband in a well paid job, why not work less?’
The permanent member of staff was a woman. Barely five years older than me.

I’m not sure that I consider myself a feminist, it conjures up too many visions of bra burning and man-hating for my personal sensibilities to take, but I found myself really shocked. Here was a professional woman, who worked hard to get to the top of her game, and when faced with someone who had done the same, could blithely sweep away any chance of being a role model away with one thoughtless comment. I’m certainly not one to say how anyone chooses to spend their time en route to career success, or once they feel they have achieved that, particularly when I’m in the midst of reducing my own working hours in the search for quality of life, that thing we all crave. I think it was the tone, the implication, that if I could sit on my behind and be a kept woman, I would rather, and the way it erased my professional identity and value. The fact that this ever so small slight came from a woman. Aren’t we supposed to be cheering each other on?
Perhaps I wouldn’t normally have been so sensitive to it, but role models, women and the media is always something I am alert to and my ears were perhaps a little more pricked up after reading this post on A Cup of Jo, on Talking to little Girls… In a society full of little girls with crop tops and heels before they get out of primary school, I often think it’s no wonder they start to value themselves on how they look alone. The article is about how to talk to little girls without commenting on their appearance and I was pretty horrified that I too am naturally drawn to initiating conversation with flattery (‘Don’t you look pretty today?!’… ‘Look at your cute shoes!’) unknowingly reinforcing what the rest of the world teaches them. Instead, ask them to tell you about their favourite book, where they’re going today. I’m certainly going to be trying it out when interacting with little ones at work.

Of course, there’s a flip side to all this… if you’re lucky enough to be able to spend less time working in pursuit of other pleasures, then if that makes you happy, more power to you! If other things come along in your life, like children or changing circumstances to make your career take a backseat for a period, or even the rest of your life, so be it. If little girls want to be pretty and wear fluffy pink pom tutu’s every day of the week they certainly should. Even writing this I wonder, am I turning into a grumpy activist who needs to be told feminism, however modern the take, is over-rated?
But I want to be a multifaceted woman and I want to be surrounded by woman who appreciate, acknowledge and encourage every one of those facets. I want to raise little girls who know how to value themselves beyond looks and even professional status, but as human beings. I want to grow old knowing I am lucky to have achieved a great age unlike so many others, that every wrinkle marking my face tells a story. To hold consequent disregard for my maturing appearance because I’m so busy with my life I barely notice it. And to be my kind of feminist. The kind who loves being a woman, being around woman, learning from and being supported by them.
I guess I’m wondering what is your experience of women in the workplace being less than supportive one way or another? Will you be road testing this small but significant effort at activism next time you make conversation with a little girl?
What does feminism mean to you?
Yours Truly,
Amazeballs cartoon by Postmodernism Ruined Me
Categories: Politics and Feminism, Your Favourite Posts
44 interesting thoughts on this


  1. Posted October 4, 2011 at 1:05 pm | Permalink

    Can't wait to hear the responses to this, feminism is such a misinterpreted word.

    Here here to loving 'being a woman, being around woman, learning from and being supported by them.


  2. Jeanie
    Posted October 4, 2011 at 1:10 pm | Permalink

    Hi Rebecca,what a fab post on a topic that I have been mulling over with my 15 year old neice for weeks now.
    After reading this post on hellogiggles (do you guys follow hellogiggles? it's amazing) she has been asking questions constantly trying to decide if she is a feminist or not. She won't take my 'you don't have to be an anything – you can just be you' answer so I will def be directing her here after school :) she can read about someone else who agrees with HER kind of feminism.

  3. Fee
    Posted October 4, 2011 at 1:13 pm | Permalink

    I am going to comment on this immediately, as Rebecca – I completely agree.

    After decades of fighting for 'a woman's right to choose' in more ways than one, there is still so much judging going on – and from other women no less.

    I was raised to believe that I could be anything I wanted to be – doctor, writer, stay at home mum, astronaut – and I agree that we should celebrate each others choices, not comment on them with derision.

    I have friends who choose to stay at home, friends who would love to stay at home but can't afford to and friends who would love to work but the cost of childcare renders it impossible.

    But whichever path they've chosen, they have in the majority been subjected to judgement from their colleagues and even other friends in one way or another which seems so unfair.

    And I will be road testing the small child theory on my 4 year old niece – she is by far the most adventurous child I know, male or female, and I have a sneaking suspicion she is going to be the next Bear Grylls!

  4. Posted October 4, 2011 at 1:27 pm | Permalink

    Rebecca, thank you so much for writing this piece for us-it's already got a fab discussion going-just what we like here at AOW!

    I work in a VERY female environment (7 out of 400 delegates at my last conference were men…!) and what strikes me time and time again, is that no matter what decisions the women around me make regarding career progression, childcare, what have for lunch…there is always someone there ready and willing to criticise those choices. It's almost always another woman and that SUCKS.

    Kirsty hit the nail on the head when she posted about her incredible best friend,
    We should be celebrating each others successes, not conspiring to judge and over-analyse.

    Here's to being women who celebrate other women, whatever their choices.


  5. L
    Posted October 4, 2011 at 1:31 pm | Permalink

    I blogged about this recently too as I never thought of myself as a feminist until I read How to be a woman. I'm lucky enough to say that I've never knowingly been treated differently in work/education because I'm a girl. But that's not to say it won't happen, and I'm prepared to stick up for my rights when it does **dons Union Jack dress and sings Wannabe** ;)

  6. E
    Posted October 4, 2011 at 1:32 pm | Permalink

    Really interesting, thought-provoking post, Rebecca. I also read that post on A Cup of Jo and it really made me think about how I interact with the little girls that I know, and made me feel a little ashamed.

    It makes me cross that feminism has such a bad name – because it's not about man-hating and bra-burning, it's about respect, being respected, being treated fairly and not in a different way because you're a woman, and so so much more. I think Caitlin Moran's book has come at a great time, and will hopefully make a lot more women realise that they are feminists, and that feminism isn't a bad thing.

    Lately, I've been feeling a little bit restricted by my gender – partly because I'm in the process of looking for a new job (thus commenting under a slightly more anonymous name than usual!), and partly because I'm very broody, and feeling increasingly ready to have children. I feel like I have to make a choice: stay in a job I'm not happy in, but which would give me fabulous maternity benefits, and then think about leaving after I've finished maternity leave – but then finding a job, especially a part time job (if I wanted such a thing) could be quite hard; find (and get) a new job, hope the maternity benefits will be okay, have a baby after a year, return (hopefully) to the job; or just try and stop thinking about babies and focus on finding a new job. If I was a man, I wouldn't have to think like this. And I can't help but think – what would a new employer think if six months in I announced I was pregnant? Sure, they're not allowed to discriminate but…

    Sorry, going off on a bit of a rant here. It's difficult. We are very lucky in this country, and most of us have parents who told us that we could do and achieve anything we wanted. And that's hugely empowering. But sometimes I feel like I want to do so much, and that trying to make it all work – all those disparate parts – for me, and for my husband and I, is really really hard work.

  7. Sarah
    Posted October 4, 2011 at 1:33 pm | Permalink

    Gah! I know I'm guilty of this don't you look pretty business. It's more because I don't really know how to talk to small children and complimenting clothes is usally how I roll with new adult females!
    However, I totally agree with Rebecca.
    In the run up to the wedding I spent a lot more time preening and grooming and exercising and beautifying than usual. Controversial, but it made me realise where the 'bimbo' thing came from. I spent so much time running, steaming, moisterising and such like I realised to look 'perfect' your hobby has to become looking good. No time for reading, watching films, learning something. There is too much emphasis placed on looking good for women. Much as I love a facial and the latest advances in eyelash technology, we have to leave some time to other pursuits!

  8. Mazz
    Posted October 4, 2011 at 1:36 pm | Permalink

    Well said yet again Rebecca!

    I was debating my career decisions with my Husband's Grandmother last night (I opted out of becoming a Barrister and chose a career as a Costs Lawyer instead) her response was something along the lines of 'well, it's probably for the best that you didn't spend all that time and money on becoming a Barrister; it would be wasted once the Children come along…' I bit my lip and nodded along politely but was thrown by how flippant she could be about a career I thought very carefully about (whilst being somewhat dissmissive about the job I do now). By contrast, my own Grandmother (some 20 years younger) is still working as a Managing Director and is a force to be reckoned with in the work place… unfortunately she made sacrifices when it cam to raising her Children and has faced obstruction from other working women in the past. What a shame that Woman can't support each other in whatever path they choose without passing judgement…

    A very interesting post indeed!


  9. Posted October 4, 2011 at 1:36 pm | Permalink

    Ooh, interesting. I'm sure I won't be the last person to ask whether you've read How to be a Woman, by Caitlin Moran? She, unsurprisingly, is a feminist ("a STRIDENT feminist", no less), and is interesting and hilarious in equal measures on this subject.

    She comments on a poll that indicated a large percentage of women wouldn't describe themselves as feminists, asking, "Why not? What do you think feminism IS?". I think (hope) we have moved on from the perception of feminists as angry, hessian-wearing, man-hating lesbians. That Hello Giggles post (great link btw!) summed it up for me – it's ok to be a feminist and still be feminine. It's not about being superior to men – it's about being *equal*, in our choices, our work, and the way we live our lives.

    As Moran puts it, with head-smacking simplicity, we're all just The Guys, and sexism (in our relatively equal society, at least – oppression of and violence towards women elsewhere is a different kettle of fish and plainly abhorrent) can basically be summed up as just a specific category of plain old rudeness. It's basic bad manners. Even though your colleague was a woman, she was being sexist and she was being rude in making assumptions about you, your husband, and your life choices. In fact, sometimes I think women can be the worst. Let's give each other a little break, shall we?

    *physically restrains self from shouting 'what about the sisterhood!' and shaking fist*

    Great post, Rebecca, and thanks AOW. For those who missed it, I'd recommend having a poke around the AOW archives for the In Her Own Words series from International Women's Day, there were a lot of posts there that really resonated on this topic.

    (Goodness, I seem to be in a bit of a ranty mood today. And I've not even had any wine. Sorry about that.)

  10. Posted October 4, 2011 at 1:39 pm | Permalink

    I completely agree, it should be seen as a powerful thing that you can make the CHOICE to work 3.5 days a week. I currently work 4 days and have done even when semi-supporting hubby through his 2nd degree. I am lucky that I was always encouraged by my parents to work hard at school to give me the option to choose whatever job I might want to do in the future and I have ended up with a well paid, flexible career where I'm technically self employed although work within a team.

    I do however plan to have 'my turn' when we decide to start a family and will hopefully have the choice to take off as much time as I feel I need to (all being financially well) when the scary and exciting baby time comes. I'm hoping I will want to go back to work, but am also glad that I will hopefully have the option to not work and just enjoy being a 'housewife and mother' if that's what I end up enjoying more.

    I think the point of 'Feminism' is all about choice – if we want to choose to stay at home or work part time to pursue other things then we should be able to without being judged. Isn't that what all the bra burning was about – liberation, being free to vote and choose things for ourselves? If we can't choose NOT to work then surely we're not liberated?

  11. Posted October 4, 2011 at 1:41 pm | Permalink

    Well Kirsty got there first, but I second the sentiment. You need to read 'How to be a Woman'. Go and order it on Amazon now. Or email me and I will lend you my copy when i'm done with it.

    I am currently structuring my day around how I can read it for the maximum possible time – which included, this morning, trying to eat eggs on toast with a fork in one hand and a book in the other. I am now seriously considering only eating soup and cereal (other 'spoon foods' are available) until I've finished it. Also read Female Chauvinist Pigs by Ariel Levy – it's not as harsh as that title suggests and a very important book.

    Your post raised some very important issues – real food for thought. Thank you.

  12. Posted October 4, 2011 at 1:44 pm | Permalink

    Will be back later with my thoughts on it all (which concur with all of yours so far), but I just had to say that having met you Kirsty, I now read all of your comments in your beautiful accent, and it just makes them sound even better. Especially your rants.

    Oh and the posts that Kirsty is talking about can all be found here

    - she's right – if you enjoyed this post, you'll find some really fascinating posts there.

  13. Posted October 4, 2011 at 2:13 pm | Permalink

    I definitely comment on the appearance of the girls in my classes, but I comment on the boys too. It's an easy way to break the ice if you don't know much about a person. If I launched into "what's your favourite book?" my group would think I was nuts. But I agree with what you're saying in principle – if this is what any gender hears, day in, day out, they're going to start placing too much importance on appearance. Boys worry about what they're wearing too, even at 6 and 7. They worry about being overweight, or unattractive. I know we're talking about girls here, but I see it almost equally in that age group.

    I think there's a danger of confusing "role model" with "breadwinner". You can be a great role model without working full time, or earning pots of money. If you have good values, you're looking after those in your care than that's what counts, regardless of your gender or how many hours you work a week. I know we're supposed to go into the workplace and Do and set an example to young women, which I completely agree with, but by pushing this to the forefront there is a risk of discrediting equally valid work that may not be quite as richly rewarded in money and status.

    It's easy to forget we are lucky enough to live in culture that (largely) allows options for the majority. We should take time to appreciate what we do have, even as we work for improvement.


  14. Posted October 4, 2011 at 2:18 pm | Permalink

    Clare, you mean like this: "a STRRRRRRIDENT feeeminist"?

    (People who don't know me will have no idea what accent that is meant to be, will they? No, ladies, I'm not French. Or Welsh.)

  15. Posted October 4, 2011 at 2:38 pm | Permalink

    Kirsty-I'm hearing the words in your voice and I'm seeing Maggie Smith. It's an epic image.

  16. Rebecca Norris
    Posted October 4, 2011 at 2:40 pm | Permalink

    Hello Ladies!!

    How's things? Hope you're all having a great Tuesday – it's lovely to find mysef back here :)

    Clearly, I need to get me a copy of Caitlin Morans book, – it hadn't escaped my radar but I also haven't picked it up. High time.

    Penny – when I used the term 'role model' I meant setting a positive example. I completely agree that being a great mum and nuturing relationships is a positive example to set our (future) daughters but am I wrong for not wanting them to aspire to that alone? For them to have a wider breath of experinces in the world and interests to develop themsleves as individuals, not just roles that define them as a 'something' to someone else. Many of us here are lucky enough to be wives, girlfiends or mothers but what if they (god-forbid) don't get married or have children? What are they then?

    Like Sarah, I use the 'cute shoes' chat with little ones because I am inexperienced in dealing with children and perhaps once I have my own I wont be in that position, but you know what, I don't talk to little boys about what they're wearing!

    Again @Sarah – you're exatly right – people who look great 24/7 generally have made it a hobby and I think that's a real shame. Whe you stare at yourself in the mirror that much, self obcession and in turn self-derision is just a split end away. ;) I wish we all worked on everything else as hard!


  17. Posted October 4, 2011 at 2:49 pm | Permalink

    wow, this is so fascinating! i'm amazed that she said that to you. work can be stimulating and empowering, and it's not always (or even often) 100% about the money. thank you so much for this great article, and for continuing the conversation xoxo

  18. Rebecca Norris
    Posted October 4, 2011 at 2:52 pm | Permalink

    Sorry Penny, I think I got sidetracked on my high horse there!

    Please don't for a minute think that I meant highly paid work is the only valid form. I value my work because it allows me to make a difference in some small ways not because it pays me well – in terms of the hours spent the pay isn't great and it's only in the last couple of months I have been able to go part time. I'm a strong believer in money not buying happiness.

    In my eyes a positive role model inspires women (of all ages for that matter, not just little girls) to fulfil their potential, and that also involves leading a fulfilled life. To me, a lot of self respect and valuing yourself comes from having a fulfilling work life – regardless of the job or pay.


  19. Rebecca Norris
    Posted October 4, 2011 at 2:54 pm | Permalink

    Wow! Hi Joanna :) (Star struck!)

    Glad you liked it and thank you for the thought provoking inspiration!


  20. Posted October 4, 2011 at 2:56 pm | Permalink

    I was once advised, by a family friend, that a women has two options open to her: working hard and making a success of her chosen career, or marrying a rich man to support her. I was rather dumbstuck – my reply was on the lines of, but, but, but, men are so unreliable, don't you think?

    I do have a very good friend, who has been saying for years, that she hates having to go out to work, and just wants to be a kept women and play with her children and horses all day. The comment made by other member of staff, sounds just like something my friend would say.

    Women do need to support each other better.

    Rebecca, I love your style of writing and the link is very thought provoking. Thank you.

  21. Posted October 4, 2011 at 3:22 pm | Permalink

    Rebecca – no problem, I completely agree. I think the problem is unpicking feminist ideas from a tangle of societal norms that aren't necessarily designed to keep women down, but aren't terribly helpful either.

    Being a role model is, exactly as you say, all about being fulfilled. But I wonder if anybody really knows what that is until they find it.

    We are an aspirational society. We continually confuse happiness with a series of Life Boxes to tick (beauty, wealth, marriage, family). The problem is – even though we know we don't necessarily NEED these things – we still want them. And we're frequently pitted against other people to get them. Women are the worst for comparing themselves to others (I'd love to know why this is, something to do with being naturally more empathetic perhaps?) and so the jealousy and judgement comes as a result.

    I don't know what the answer is, perhaps a shift in values across society. It's great that women can have so much more these days, but now there's almost a pressure to HAVE to have it all, or you risk losing some great invisible race.


  22. Posted October 4, 2011 at 3:33 pm | Permalink

    Thanks very much for posting this Rebecca. I'm finding this discussion really fascinating.

    I second/ thirs/ fourth the Caitlin Moran love. She writes about feminism, body hair, sex, pregnancy and even weddings in such a funny and engaging way. I started marking my favourite pages but gave up because the book turned into a sea of lime post its!

    Women's choices are subject to level of scrutiny (from both men and women) that men's simply aren't. My friend works while her partner stays at home and looks after their child. I've heard people ask if she feels the baby will be affected psychologically or even how can she trust her husband to look after their child by himself! If the situation was reversed I doubt she get the same questions.

    This article on why Iceland is the best place to live if you're a women is fascinating
    I can't help but think just like the pill in the 60's gave rise to greater political and social freedom for women, that only by making practical changes (sorting out our prohibitively expensive childcare system etc) that we will begin to see real change

  23. Posted October 4, 2011 at 3:41 pm | Permalink

    I second (or third, or fourth) all the comments suggesting you should read How To Be A Woman. Actually, everyone should read it, men and women, for the volumes of complete and utter sense it contains, and for the interpretation of feminism as not pro-women or anti-men but just pro-EVERYONE, as equals. Although I would recommend NOT reading it on the tube, as I did, because I laughed out loud numerous times.

    Great post though, you're right, it's so easy to stereotype people. And the idea that women want to be looked after and supported is still very prevalent. For example, I've been told not to wear my engagement ring to PhD interviews so they don't get the impression I'm going to quit and 'settle down'. Because of course getting married means I have no desire to get my PhD. I was so outraged I couldn't breathe for about 3 minutes.

    Feminism isn't overrated, it's essential. The problem feminism has is a perception issue, that it's all bra-burning, man-hating misandric lesbians. Well, I am a feminist, but I don't hate men, actually I think they're fab, I just want the right to be anything I want to be, regardless of my womb.

    K x

  24. Holly
    Posted October 4, 2011 at 4:07 pm | Permalink

    Ah I love this blog. It's my new A Los Angeles Love.

    Feminism, hmmm. I've never actually considered myself one. But maybe that's because I've never felt any gender inequality in my life. Considering the bigger picture, I like the pro-everyone ideal. I'm all for equality for sure, however having never experienced inequality – apart from normal biological processes seriouslyevolutionwhycan'tyoukeepupwithmodernlife?!?! – I think my underlying feminist has yet to surface.

    Interestingly, I like to think I possess some male traits. But that's only because society has previously defined them as male traits. Really they are just characteristics that have been assigned a gender bias because of their higher frequency in one gender population. So maybe it's statistical…..

  25. Rebecca Norris
    Posted October 4, 2011 at 4:11 pm | Permalink

    Just hopped over to Amazon…

    Interested in your thoughts ladies on the reviews for 'How to be a Woman'

    PS For those who want to find me elsewhere I'm on Twitter @RebeccaRMW :)


  26. Posted October 4, 2011 at 4:23 pm | Permalink

    I think Florence defined it best at the start and that's why I'm a feminist and can't imagine why any woman wouldn't be.

    I also work in a female dominated industry and have been lucky to always work in offices with supportive colleagues and not had to put up with negative commentary on my choices. But I've been to plenty of meetings where I'm referred to as a girl (ie "the girls can look into that" when the girls in question were 3 women aged 30, 37 and 50ish!)

    I loved the Caitlin Moran book, its a personal take on modern life as a woman and so not the perfect 21st century feminist tract but there's so much in it that you can relate to and it makes you think and laugh yourself sick which has got to be a good thing?

  27. Posted October 4, 2011 at 5:49 pm | Permalink

    Oh there is so much I want to say!

    Ever since I got engaged, I have realised that I am a feminist.

    I knew this really, but up at until this point I have been able to laugh of gender inequality directed at me because I felt strong enough to do so and frankly, some of it was laughable (When I was 18 I worked at an RAF camp setting up conferences, one day I had to sort out the video conference and a 60 year old RAF officer said 'But, but, but you are a GIRL and a young one at that' I smiled and said 'Yes I am, Shall I carry on?')

    But I have always championed choices and was a womens officer at uni, so I dont know how it escaped my attention that I was already a feminist 'baby I was born this way' (sorry, obligatory gaga)

    Anyway, getting engaged and the subsequent questions and expectations have thrown me…
    The name change game, the expectation that I am in charge of ALL wedding planning whilst my (always opinionated other half) all of a sudden has to pretend he doesnt care? The comments of 'you'll be next' when faced with babies and people making them babies. The way my boss has started to treat me differently because I am getting married (which must mean babies are on the way…argh fucking babies, fuck off! I am not a walking womb!) But even if I did get married and have children straight away? WHAT OF IT? WHAT IS YOUR POINT EXACTLY? AM I NO LONGER A HUMAN BEING BECAUSE I MADE ANOTHER ONE? I am sorry but I think giving birth deserve an appalause, not scorn!!

    Because I will be a wife does all my previous ambition, or hey just my 'zest' no longer count?
    I am no longer Abi Lady HarHar, lover of singstar, wine, dirty dancing and bad language?!?

    Do I suddenly have to become the domesticated one, despite living with a man for 8 years who is quite capable of cooking tea, doing dishes and is generally about as capable as me around the house? (*i.e not that capable, but we muddle through but theres more to life than cleaning)

    What I am trying to say (and not very succinctly) is that some events in your life force you to examine your fundamental beliefs, and for me the idea of becoming a wife, has made me a feminist*.

    Because I am not going to be a typical wife, but then, neither is anybody else.

    (*but you know, one that likes to look pretty sometimes, but sometimes is very glad that winter is on its way so the leg hair can grow)

  28. Posted October 4, 2011 at 5:49 pm | Permalink

    Oh that was mammoth! Sorry!

    Oh and definately read Caitlin Moran…made me laugh out loud!


  29. Posted October 4, 2011 at 5:54 pm | Permalink

    I'm sure a lot of you who read AOW might also read A Practical Wedding (and if you don't, I'd recommend it, because it's the only other wedding blog I know that is even vaguely like it, i.e. normal). They run a book club where we all read a book then meet up in person to talk about it in different cities all over the world, then the discussion continues on the blog. This month's book, surprise surprise, is How To Be A Woman. Even if you can't make it along to a meet-up (although if there's one in your area I'd recommend it – it's not often you get to meet so many awesome like-minded ladies in one go) I would urge you to follow the discussion on the blog – there's bound to be some interesting thoughts. Or just to see what the Americans make of the word muff.

  30. Posted October 4, 2011 at 5:58 pm | Permalink

    And, the award for best comment of the day goes to Abi Lady HarHar:

    "argh fucking babies, fuck off! I am not a walking womb!"

    Hear hear.

  31. Rebecca Norris
    Posted October 4, 2011 at 7:17 pm | Permalink

    Excellent usage of the F word Lady HarHar!


  32. Abi Lady HarHar
    Posted October 4, 2011 at 7:39 pm | Permalink

    And yet I probably shouldn't be allowed to talk to little girls… They might learn all sorts of words they shouldn't ;)

  33. Carolanne
    Posted October 4, 2011 at 7:43 pm | Permalink

    I haven't read all the other comments as I'm squinting at a blackberry screen, yet here are my thoughts: I work within a world based purely on physical appearance and the enhancing thereof. I am surely, a belch in the face of traditional feminism yet I justify my 'art' as a joy in colours, textures and each face being a new canvas, confidence building, ego boosting frivolity. I also have a little girl who is nearly 4. I tell her she can do anything, that she's SO clever and that I'm proud of her. I reassure her that she ruddy well can play with toy cars and play football and why ever not? She already has this belief; that she's not allowed certain things because they are for boys. Where does that come from?? Also, however, I tell her all the time that she most definately IS the most beautiful girl in the world. Because I want her to grow up wholeheartedly believing that and want it to be a constant sponge cake layer under the wobbly custard/cream trifle layers that pile upon you as a woman. Whatever your choices, someone has to imprint on you the confidence to make them. Looking pretty is just the start!

  34. Posted October 4, 2011 at 7:55 pm | Permalink

    Hmm…have been a pondering this one since lunchtime. I think, like a lot of women, I feel torn.

    On the one hand how very dare people assume your husband is the higher earner (did she forget she was talking to a GP, Rebecca?! HELLO!) on the other hand, there is a pay gap, men do earn more. Not in all relationships of course, not in all jobs, but it is out there, as a fact.

    But I don't think this woman was making some deep or thoughtful comment on the state of pay inequality. It was presumptuous and, as Caitlin Moran would say, rude.

    However, I can't help thinking that being offended by that woman, we are offended by those women who are in that way of life and are in a relationship where the man earns more, where they don't have to work full time (or at all). Either by choice or circumstance. And that makes me sad, you know, for the sisterhood.

    I love it when people challenge gender stereotypes in children but ultimately that child may grow up into a stereotype – a pink loving, wedding dreaming, shoe adoring lady who pampers and preens. They can still be a feminist *gasp*.

    So I do wonder whether we can try too hard and deny the reality that a wise, sassy, feminist could also care about shoes or make up as much as she cares about education, books or witty conversation.

    It also works the other way around. When I was small I was playing dress up (I was being Florence Nightingale I think – oh so highbrow even as an infant) I was asked by an adult if I wanted to be a nurse when I grew up. I was about 5. I am reliably informed I pulled a face and said 'Errm NO, I want to be a DOC-TOR' like they were a moron. I knew from a young age anything was possible.

    And now, as a grown up lady (!) would I give up my professional career to do something with a lesser social status? You bet I would if it meant I was happier, healthier and able to contribute more in other ways.

    I am just so grateful to have had the choice, when some women don't have the chance. So yes, I agree, there really is a lot more to be done. Brilliant topic AOW, thanks Rebecca for sharing xxx

  35. Anonymous
    Posted October 4, 2011 at 10:13 pm | Permalink

    Very interesting – I over-heard a similar conversation recently, only it was between two male friends who are both married to women who earn more than they do, they were discussing the fact that one of them only works part time to look afer their 3 year old as the woman cannot afford to reduce her hours as she is the main breadwinner, the other guy joked that that will suit him fine when he has children, and he made a comment about being a kept man by his rich wife.

    The interesting thing here is that neither of them will analyse this conversation, they accept that perhaps some of it was in jest (perhaps masking insecurity over perceived de-masculinity) or perhaps just honest.

    What I mean is conversations like this shouldn't boil down to masculine/feminine ideology but rather we should feel empowered enough to say and feel what we want, and if that is that it would be nice to work less but not have financial worries due to a partner earning more then we should say it and not feel we will be analysed for it.

    I personally love my work as a teacher but cannot wait to be a mother and work part-time… that is something I feel relieved to have and feel that is true feminism… having the choice to be what I want, but also say what I want to other females without judgement, there are many ways to show solidarity to our fellow women.

    Rebecca, I followed you from RMW and love your writing!

    Clarissa x

  36. Posted October 4, 2011 at 10:28 pm | Permalink

    A refreshing read Rebecca and a thoughtful question posed.

    I admit, I have always body swerved the feminist issue up to now – I've been a little confused as to what a feminist actually is, but the more I ponder this question, the more I realise that I am a Feminist, and that I'm actually very proud to be one. Hooray for Sisterhood ;)

    My experience of women in the workplace is a varied one: I worked at a University in a School of Health – now traditionally it is women who rise to the top in those types of careers (nurses, social workers etc) and indeed the leaders of the school were mostly women, as was the Dean. My experience of working with said women varies from feeling supported to feeling completely unsupported and being a mother, ie, occasionally requiring a little flexibility. Once I became a Mother, I chose to work 4 days a week, but on the same hours {I had to really at the time, for financial reasons}. I was more than capable of doing this and did so for 4 years. It was hard at time, but it worked. I recall a conversation I had with a Female Manager at another University who was mentoring me through some study. We had a chat about my personal circumstances and I told her about my working arrangement of compressed hours over 4 days a week. She looked at me in horror "I would never approve such a thing – most female employees who become mothers move to part time and I encourage that as things are never the same when they return, and I don't believe you could be effective on your job working such long compressed hours". Hmm. Such a disappointing attitude. Turns out, she wasn't a Mother. And she probably wasn't very much of a feminist either.

    I'm self employed now so don't have to worry about such matters, but my experience made me think deep about the messages I give out to other women as a working mother. I have a deep rooted respect for all working mothers. It's naffing hard work at times.

    I have been the 'Breadwinner' for years now, I went back to work when my youngest was 5 months old – my Hubby spent a lot of time at home at this time to care for our child. We have two young little girls of 5 (nearly 6) and 1 year old. It is very, very important to us that I raise them to have a balanced view on the world, to appreciate all that is beautiful, not just pink (having said that, my eldest does love pink and she's a kid, you know, I'm not going to try to put her off). What I am finding more and more tricky is negotiating my way around the minefield of tacky plastic fake shite that kids become exposed too once they hit the age of 5 or 6. My child adores watching Barbie films. Have you ever seen one? Jesus wept they make me want to laugh and weep in equal measure. I'd take it all with a pinch of salt, BUT, my child has wanted to start wearing her hair like Barbie. How long before she wants to start sporting a teeny tiny waist like Barbie and have perfect tits like Barbie and wear fashion like Barbie. I can only do my best Feminist bit and try to surround my Daughters daily with real life positive influences, then hopefully, she'll grow up with the wits about her to know that Barbie isn't really the best role model in the world to have. Thankfully, I'm married to a wonder-man who has a sound, positive influence on my girls too. I really hope my kids grown up valuing men and women equally in every aspect of life.

    I am probably digressing a bit, sorry, it's been a long day and I'm just coming out of a debilitating migraine and ready to talk my head off after a day trying to sleep it off.

    Just to say, thanks for raising food for thought on this fab little blog. And Kirsty, thank you for giving me the kick up the butt to start reading again. I have next to no time for such luxuries these days and terribly miss my books. I haven't read Caitlin Moran's book, but have just ordered on Amazon :) {note to self: must make my wedding blog a little bit more 'normal' :) }.


  37. Posted October 5, 2011 at 9:14 am | Permalink

    Annabel – your blog is FABULOUS! :)

    I think one of the key issues highlighted is often women put pressure on other women and we continually compare ourselves to others. I try to think 'what do I want' not what SHOULD I want… If I have children then I am sure I would like to reduce hours BUT if it is financially more viable for my partner to do so, then so be it… Its all about choices AND respecting other peoples choices.

    But ultimately I feel very lucky to live in a country where I do have those choices.

  38. Posted October 5, 2011 at 12:40 pm | Permalink

    A topic that's incredibly close to my heart because being a software developer it's one that is brought up time and time again.

    2 weeks into my degree my tutor was explaining that I would need to select my employers carefully to ensure I was able to go part time once I had children – until this conversation the thought that I was any different to any of the boys on my course (apart from having greater odds at pulling on a night out…). I swiftly informed him that, for all either of us knew I could marry the local bin man and trust me when I say it would not be me that went part time to look after the kids.

    As it happens I'm not marrying the local bin man, I'm marrying (10 weeks on Saturday to be exact!) my soulmate who just so happens to be a software developer too and yes, I probably will go part time when we have kids but it's nothing to do with salary it's because that's what I want to do. It's what I've always wanted to do because it's something my own mum wasn't able to do and I missed her LOADS when I was growing up under the watchful eye of my friends mum's between the hours of 9-5.

    I wanted to keep this comment short but apparently I like to talk – who knew?!

    I'll end by saying thanks – thanks to all you wonderful, strong, independent and honest women and thanks to the AOW team for this awesome community you have built up!


  39. Anonymous
    Posted October 5, 2011 at 6:12 pm | Permalink

    I would, and always have, class myself as a feminist, but I HAVE recently walked away from my career to concentrate on starting a family, planning a wedding and finding out (finally) what it is I actually enjoy doing as a career.

    My husband-to-be is supporting me, and whilst I feel very conflicted about this, I don't regret the decision – he enjoys his job, whilst mine was driving me to the point of a breakdown (12 hour days, being screamed at by evil clients….) but I am aware the chance for him to take his foot off the gas and work a bit less hard is shrinking by the day. My excuse is, at least he likes what he does, but what if he gets ill through over work or stress?

    At the moment I am doing voluntary work and loving it, and hope one day it might open doors towards paid work I might enjoy more than my old job…but one thing is for sure, I never did like defining myself by what I did to earn money, and I am very glad not to be in that boat any more!

  40. Posted October 6, 2011 at 1:05 pm | Permalink

    Anonymous. I walked away from a very stressful 12 hour a day job. I was not sleeping at night, and getting increasingly unhappy. I decided to go freelance, which is more difficult than I ever imagined, especially when I'm useless at being disciplined. I have a regular client, which keeps me busy for about two days a week, and then one off jobs. It has been far from easy, but I'm getting there.

    I think you've made a brave decision, and hope you work out what you want as a career.

    I often think about how wonderful it would be to be a full time mother, and help my husband with his business, but alas this is not an option, at the moment. xxxx

  41. Elle
    Posted October 6, 2011 at 2:01 pm | Permalink


    I haven't read through all the posts as yet, but felt I must comment on this!

    Feminism does have such a bad name – a lot of women my age (27), who I have known all their lives don't want to be seen as "feminists" (shudder, they do!) and have said "I'm not a feminist, I want to dance around my kitchen in my rollers."

    What feminism boils down to is a belief that women deserve equal rights, and the right to choose their own paths. It is an idealistic view, I know – but what woman could say that they don't agree with this?

    We should be able to be content with pursuing a balanced quality of life, by working less hours so that our free time with our significant others is quality time – not chore time! What an amazing way to live, if we have that choice. But we should also be able to be CEO of the biggest companies, being paid the same salary as a man would. We should be able to dance around in our rollers, marry a footballer and get addicted to fake tan, become a footballer ourselves, be a stay at home mum, never wear make up and not shave your legs, etc – without judgement from others, especially our sisters!!

    We feel too much guilt all the time that we can't be "everything all the time" – I think anyway.

    Conversely – I believe in equal rights for all. Men's choices and rights can be just as restricted as ours.

    Great post Rebecca – is great to hear from you :)

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Hello! We're Clare, Aisling and Anna and welcome to a corner of the world where smart, flawed, real women talk about the bigger picture; about their experiences, stories and opinions on all aspects of being a woman today, from marriage to feminism to pretty, too.

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