Girls, can you feel it?
I’ve been following lots of stories in the papers recently on equality (hey, don’t snort, this is important!!) and with Suffragette being released today I thought I’d bung down what I’m thinking.
The first thing to say is, it’s scary being young these days, isn’t it? All those crazy pressures and fears – cyber-bullying; internet porn; that bonkers vogue for teenage girls to be totally hair free (for the record: I OBJECT); the debt; the suffocating anxiety, the goddam nudity everywhere…
Most of us recognise that as kids we had such an easier, freer time of things. I thought I was a boy until I was 8. I didn’t wear a skirt until I was 11. I was shocked at 12 when my tennis coach told me I’d slimmed down – I’d honestly never even considered how I looked to other (though clearly I was a heffer!). Through our early teens, my brother and I went to the village tennis club at 9am in summer, played with our mates all day, and came home at 8pm, when it was getting dark. No mobiles. No contact with parents. No iphone to catch you out when you got up to mischief behind the trees (go on admit it!).
But this is not a rant about how crap life is for kids. No, no, noppety no! There are massive challenges, but I’m actually feeling quite buoyed at the mo because, definitely from the female perspective, things are looking up.
Though the old-hat ‘please-please-please-look-at-my-breasts’ mentality of Madonna, Miley Cyrus and Rhianna mentality remains strong (and very worrying if your 8 year old is watching the vids and gyrating like a hooker), increasingly we also have the likes of Paloma Faith, Adele, Lorde, Ella Henderson, Florence, Agnes Obel etc showing how success can be yours whilst actually wearing clothes.
The film industry is a massive area of inequality for women, but rather than moaning about the gap in pay, Hollywood actress Jennifer Lawrence recently blamed herself for accepting it. She should have fought harder, she admitted in an open letter to The New York Times, she was too polite and grateful for what she was offered. Now she regrets it, and she’s telling the world she regrets it. You can bet your bottom million dollars that it won’t happen again. Isn’t that brilliant?
More? Well, last week, a stonkingly gorgeous top Australian model Charli Howard wrote an angry open letter to her agents to ‘f*** off’ for insisting she drop further weight. She has flatly refused. “Models do say that model agencies tell them to lose weight, and I think they have finally got to the stage where they have had enough,’ said Caryn Franklin, the fashion commentator and former co-editor of i-D.
And of course, Suffragette (below) is released today and surely it’s no mistake that it’s coming out right now? I’m going to make sure I take my 13 year old son, because he has no idea how superlucky he is to have been born with the male tackle or what issues still affect his mother and younger sister.
I know that for every model who shouts about weight there are thousands more still starving themselves to get into designer samples, and that it’s much harder to fight for equal pay in the real world when you need the job and your boss is a bit scary. But it’s a start isn’t it.
Now that I work pretty much full-time, I spend a lot of time wondering what kind of role model I offer to my kids and how I help or hinder the equality issue. Though I’m there for drop offs and pick ups and fish finger burning, I’m often working late (and early – 6am, seriously), am frazzled, sometimes grumpy and always stretched for time. I’m habitually late for school, forget parent’s evenings (I know, very bad form) and frequently send my kids in wearing school uniform on mufti days. Maybe well-organised stay-at-home mums worry that they’re not sending out the right signals for working. We all find the suitable stick to whip ourselves with, don’t we?
Ultimately, whatever your home and work situation, I think love is all you need either way to equip your kids for this brave new world. I am trying hard to give my daughter self-confidence, self-respect, a ballsy go-get-it attitude and an acceptance of difference – particularly her own. But I’m also very aware of the message I’m giving my sons. My 13 year old already knows to respect intelligence; scoffs at daft beauty ads on the telly; understands that if he doesn’t treat his future girlfriends with respect I’ll take a sledgehammer to his Lego collection (yep, he’s still playing it).
We all need to get on the equality pony – teach our girls to ‘woman up’ (my favourite phrase at home for my daughter) and make sure our boys to understand why equal pay, normal body shapes and sexual respect are important. If our kids really believe in equality, there’ll no need to throw ourselves under the horses – we’ll all be riding straight into the winner’s enclosure.
PS Holy shit, I think I’ve just written something semi-serious. Smelling salts, quick. *THUD*