Tag Archives: feminism

Does Kirstie Allsopp want to send women back to the dark ages?

kirstieI was so disappointed when I stumbled across this article by The Telegraph in which Kirstie Allsopp, of Location Location Location, had been interviewed on the topic of fertility and female careers. Allsopp is one of those women I always had time for because she seemed to have great values and a good head on her shoulders, but I can’t help but feel really let down and quite angry at her comments in the article.

The woman who fronts Location, Location, Location with Phil Spencer said that if she had a daughter, her advice would be: “Darling, do you know what? Don’t go to university. Start work straight after school, stay at home, save up your deposit – I’ll help you, let’s get you into a flat. And then we can find you a nice boyfriend and you can have a baby by the time you’re 27.”

Wow. For someone who considers herself a “passionate feminist”, she seems awfully concerned with our basic biological drives and reasons for existence. What about our rights as women and about all the hard work campaigners have put in over the years to fight on behalf of women for fairer treatment both in the workplace and surrounding the having of children and retuning to work? Fair enough, it isn’t a perfect system and there are a lot of faults and there is a hell of a lot more work to be done to ensure women are being given equal pay and opportunities. But at the same time, a lot of people have worked very hard to enable our society to have the choice – the choice of education and a career, the choice to create a life for ourselves before creating a new life that dominates our own existence. Does Kirstie realise that by pushing these ideas on a hypothetical daughter could leave her without the opportunity to make this choice for herself? I am truly grateful to have had this choice, because I have always wanted an education, to learn and to study in order to benefit my career. I want a job I can love and be passionate about and I deserve that, as does everyone, regardless of their gender.

Steven DepoloWe deserve the right to choose when we want to have children, fair enough our biological clock is ticking and physically we may find ourselves unable to have children if we wait, but does that mean we should turn our own lives upside down and rush into the huge responsibility of raising a family before we are ready? One look at Jeremy Kyle will show you several reasons why rushing into having children and families before we are mature enough to deal with the relationships and the outcomes is a dangerous thing for society. Look at how the children suffer when they parents are more obsessed with sleeping around, drinking and screaming at them than raising them. Then look at how this affects the next generation when they repeat the same model of behaviour. Before you know it, we have a society of layabouts with an attitude that everything should be handed to them and they shouldn’t have to work because they are raising a family. They rely on the state and we end up in huge debt. Sound familiar? (Yes, yes, I know not all young parents are like this, but one walk around my home town will show you a lot who are.)

“Women are being let down by the system. We should speak honestly and frankly about fertility and the fact it falls off a cliff when you’re 35. We should talk openly about university and whether going when you’re young, when we live so much longer, is really the way forward.

At the moment, women have 15 years to go to university, get their career on track, try and buy a home, and have a baby. That is a hell of a lot to ask someone. As a passionate feminist, I feel we have not been honest enough with women about this issue.”

Fair enough, she raises a valid point when she talks about our biology and the fact that there is limited time for women to be able to have a baby, and as I have discussed before it can be life changing and devastating for couples to realise they are out of time. But does that mean we should be rushing and neglecting ourselves in order to raise a family we are not ready for, with a partner who might not be suitable, in order to continue the human race? It just seems sad to me. I’m sure if I came to a point in my life where I had met the man of my dreams and wanted a family but was nearing 40 and suddenly found I could not have a baby of my own – I have no doubt that would be devastating. But, there are a huge range of options available, whether IVF, surrogacy or even adoption and I think, or I hope, that would pacify me and would be enough. But I certainly don’t believe for one second that ditching university and my career in order to have a baby at 18 would have been a useful solution. I would have resented the baby for holding me back and I would not have been happy.Gabi MenasheI’ll be honest, my maternal instincts are not that strong. I have no deep-seated desire for children at this moment in my life. I can appreciate cute babies and love to hold and play with them, but I also love giving them back to their parents. I’m not in any way ready for children at 24 and I’m not afraid to say it. I actually had a dream the other night that I found out I was pregnant right before going travelling and I was so upset, it ruined my life. I see life as something that should revolve around you and you alone at a young age – call me selfish if you want. I feel quite strongly that your teens and twenties are about learning about yourself, who you are, and developing that by experiencing as much as possible, learning as much as possible and growing as a person so that in turn you can help your children do the same. This is done by working hard, playing hard and achieving things to be proud of while asserting your own independence. I feel Kirstie’s comments hark back to an age where women had to rely on their partners for financial and emotional support when raising babies, now I know lots of women who manage all by themselves.

These days your career is something you need to work on from as young as possible. As my boyfriend is finding out now, messing up your exams when you are younger can leave you in a job you hate, education is great key that is handed to us on a plate when we are young but some choose not to take advantage of it. By passing these exams young and by putting the time into placements, work experience and a degree, you can really help yourself in the long-run (I’m not saying this is the only option, just using myself as an example). Those who go back to studying and working later on often find it much harder because you don’t learn as easily as you get older and after a long time away from study and work it can be a real shock to the system. So if we women are to forget everything we learnt at school by going off and having babies and raising them for the next twenty years before heading back to work – who is going to employ us? With no experience and no education – who is going to employ us over those with qualifications, experience and a great CV?tipstimes.com/pregnancy

“I don’t want the next generation of women to go through the heartache that my generation has. At the moment we are changing the natural order of things, with grandparents being much older and everyone squeezed in the middle. Don’t think ‘my youth should be longer’. Don’t go to university because it’s an ‘experience’. No, it’s where you’re supposed to learn something! Do it when you’re 50!”

I had hoped by the end of the article, might have a change of heart, but sadly it was not the case. Perhaps she is from a generation of women who put their careers first with many sacrificing families along the line. But I know so many strong, incredible women, my mum included, who had a great youth, trained and studied, had fun, fell in love later on and met a great man, who took time out to have children and went back to work as a nurse, but has now become a lecturer in healthcare. Say that’s not a success story, I dare you. For every case of heartache and sadness over not being able to have children, there are countless couples who have their own children, find another way and adopt or just live with it and still have a fantastic life. I refuse to go back to a time when having babies was the sole purpose of a woman’s body. I am here to learn, to experience and to live my own life before I create another.

I’m not saying that Kirstie’s ideas wouldn’t work for some people, but for many it would be holding them back and could create a country full of unhappy families and unfulfilled dreams which I think is far more dangerous than a couple of families who sadly cannot have children. Watch the discussion continue on BBC’s Newsnight.

How do you feel about Kirstie’s comments? Would you like to change your life around and focus first on family and then your career?

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Facing up to ‘The Sexy Lie’ we women are living every day

For those of you who haven’t yet heard about The Sexy Lie, and who haven’t seen this TEDxYouth San Diego talk on the topic of sexual objectification given by Caroline Heldman, the chair of the Politics department at Occidental College, I wanted to share this with you. All of you, male or female, but particularly the women, really ought to listen to this because it really changes the way you look at the world around you, and yourself, leaving you both empowered and depressed about the world at the same time.

Watch the video before reading on

I’m sure you’re thinking ‘Wow’, much like I was when I first watched the video. It really makes you face up to all those elements of the world we live, all those things like the Nuts magazine covers and the dolls houses right up to those blokes that leer at you on a night out and the way you make a point of dressing up. All those tiny things that seem insignificant because they have become part of our everyday lives and we have become so desensitised to the extreme sexuality we are faced with each day.

As a friend of mine said, it’s like being raised in a red room, pulled out of that red room, and asked to describe the colour red.

This is something I had not really thought of previously in these terms, of course I am aware of how extreme and sometimes shocking advertising can be to really jump out at us, but until I heard this speech, I don’t think I had really thought about the reason for this – that we have become immune to high sexualised images. The speaker gives a great example of this in the advert for pre-owned cars with the text ““You know you’re not her first, but do you really care?” The gasp from the audience said it all, I too was shocked to hear this lewd and disgusting way of advertising something so completely unrelated. And the fact that the number of adverts we are exposed to each day has increased so much is actually quite scary when you think of it in terms of the children who are equally exposed to such images. In such a hyper-sexualised society is it any wonder that children are growing up so fast and that complaints websites are needing to be set up?

Why are we experiencing this now? It can really be boiled down to technology. New technology has increased the sheer number of images that you are exposed to everyday. In the 70’s, we saw about 500 ads a day. Now, we see about 5,000 ads a day.

5474582092_700bffc739_oCaroline’s questions for defining sexual objectification are great and wheedling out those that might sometimes get away with it, such as the commodity or canvas ideas. But it is her explanation of the sex object vs sex subject that really interested me. I had never thought of the power struggle under those terms – I had always believed that the relationship between men and women is a power struggle but I liked to think that women often held the power by being desirable. But after listening to this talk I am left conflicted. I still think that choosing to be sexually objectified does give you a certain power – look at Kim Kardashian, she chose that lifestyle and has made it work for her and look at her success (whether we all want that kind of success is a different matter). However, Caroline is right that if you are sexually objectified by another, you lose your power because you are there to be acted upon by those who deemed you a sex object in the first place.

Even if you become the perfect object, the perfect sex object, you are perfectly subordinate because that position will always be acted on; so there’s not power in being a sex object when you think about it logically. Beyond that, this idea that sex sells, I like to challenge that directly because the fact is if sex sold, most women are heterosexual and we are sexual beings, so why wouldn’t we see half naked men everywhere in advertising.

I would like to propose that something else is being sold here. To men, they’re being sold this idea constantly that they are sexual subjects. They are in the driver’s seat. It makes them feel powerful to see images of objectified women everywhere.

As Caroline goes on to say, it is power that is being sold, and mainly to men. How sad that we live in a society where we have to constantly make men feel better about themselves by making ourselves into sex objects that have been airbrushed beyond recognition and, as she goes on to say, how sad that we are raising the next generations to do the same.

We raise our little boys to view their bodies as tools to master their environments. We raise our little girls to view their bodies as projects to constantly be improved. What if women started to view their bodies as tools to master their environment as tools to get you from one place to the next as these amazing vehicles for moving through the world in a new way?

6326161953_8b85f2d351_oShe finishes with a plea for the audience to imagine the following, and it’s astonishing to think how simple this world she imagines should be, but in reality how absurd it sounds. I’m glad to say I’m not the sort of girl who takes hours over hair and make-up, but I still cannot imagine a world where I didn’t feel like I needed to or wanted to to feel completely comfortable. How sad is that? As one of the more confident girls I know, I should be happy to walk around make-up free and I should not feel like the way I look will have an influence on the men around me. I like to think that I wear make-up because I like to and I dress up for nights out because I genuinely enjoy getting dolled up – and I think because I have had a boyfriend for so long this is less for the men around me than others – but is it just the result of a lifetime of conditioning from women’s magazines telling me I must be wearing an outfit that shows off my figure or lipstick that makes guys want to kiss me?

Lastly, I’ll leave you with this idea of imagining a different world. I’d like you to imagine a world where girls and women don’t spend an hour every morning putting on their make-up and doing their hair.

I’d like you to imagine a world where women are valued for what they say and what they do rather than the way they look.

I would like you to imagine a world where instead of spending time on dress and appearance, we actually directed our energies to dealing with serious problems like human trafficking, sexualized violence, homophobia, poverty, hunger.

I have to add that while I do feel that I am valued for what I say and my input at work, I genuinely think that my looks played a part in the reason I was hired by the initially male-heavy staff. I have no huge problem with this because I have more than proved my worth in the job and have used this to my advantage in this situation, but what if appearance was the reason someone didn’t get the job in favour of someone who was better looking but less talented? This is when sexual objectification becomes a problem, especially if it leads to inappropriate comments or behaviour. Caroline is right, there are far more important issues out there that warrant our attention than having the latest shoes or achieving that perfect liquid eye-liner technique. As she lists above, these are just some of the important issues that we should be tackling.

You might want to check out this article about how being a woman restricts your freedom across the globe.

I’d love to know your thoughts on the talk by Caroline and on my opinions on the subject – share them in a comment below!