Something I have noticed more and more recently is the saturation of gender-specific roles and ideals; from Mr M pointing out that most of the cars in the supermarket carpark had men sitting in them (having dropped their wives off to do the shop!) to the current headlines from the TES regarding girls regretting dropping science subjects that were seen as the “boys” option.
Now, I feel inferior to other women on practically a daily basis – ones who are skinnier, prettier, more successful career-wise, those who didn’t fall into the teaching black hole (jk). But I honestly can’t say that I have ever felt that about a man. I have always outshone my male peers academically so I never worried about that – and career wise, whilst perhaps not as aggressive as some men might be, I work hard and get shit done. My degree is in a supposed “male” subject – although I can’t ever say that I considered it that. I studied A level Chemistry, Physics, Biology and Mathematics (plus English Literature when I still thought I might be that way inclined – needless to say – I wasn’t). “Boys” subjects vs. “girls” subjects didn’t even cross my mind. Recently, I have started to wonder why. My parents are not frantic feminists (although I did of course grow up in the Spice-girl-induced Girl Power 90s peak so perhaps I owe them something…). I didn’t do any of it to prove a point. I just chose what I was good at and enjoyed.
This week, bored after a whole 4 hours left to my own devices on Easter break, I decided to take up the old patio and dig out a new one. This again has raised eyebrows here and there. “By yourself?” “What did Mr M say?” Erm… I didn’t ask his permission oddly enough!? Two or three men offered to help me lug bags of cement onto my trolley in Wickes – and although I appreciated their kind, well-intended offers, I wondered if they would have done the same if I was a bloke. (For those wondering, I turned their offer down, and continued stacking the 20kg bags by myself– admittedly to prove a point!).
Sometimes I wonder why I have never felt the need to be more of a stereotypical “girl” in this regard. It is not because I am immune to societal pressure – believe me, I cave very easily at the latest fad diets, beauty tips and Kardashian-sponsored tack. No, I think it is deeper rooted. I come from a family of 4 girls (with a dad who I suspect would have loved to have a son, he just had to make do!) As children, we went fishing, shooting, gardening, helped him fiddle with cars (notably I once pushed him and a car down our road to help him start it, to no avail, and then had to push him all the way back). We just did what we enjoyed with no gender attached to it. My dad is stubborn, opinionated, intelligent and independent. And so, we all are too. My mum, despite a much quieter personality than we have inherited, has always considered men to be fairly useless and so has always been enormously pleased with her “girls”. And let’s face it, as Timothy Leary famously said, “Women who seek to be equal with men lack ambition”.
Image from istock