Dear Sons, Fathers, Husbands – and daughters too
I am very pleased that my daughters take the lives they have for granted. So they should. Women should expect nothing other than the same opportunity to do anything and everything that men do and the fact that both my daughters take this for granted as their right, is itself a sign that the feminist movement of the 70’s and 80’s had some positive impact on the future for women. Women in the 70’s fought for equal pay and sexual freedom, for access to the pill and the right to be working mothers. It was a fight that was needed.
s my parents informed me that I better come down to earth and find something satisfactory to do as my education was to cease at Form 6 – (now year 12) – because they said, it was a waste of money sending a girl to University because- again – I would just have babies.
I did what I was told and applied to the Commonwealth Bank for a cadetship. My parents were thrilled; it was more than they had hoped for me.
In those days a job in a bank meant a job for life if you were a man – or until you had your first baby if you were a woman. A bank job had prospects and security. I had to sit an exam and I passed and was called in for an interview. In the course of the interview the grey suited bank guy told me I had ranked second out of the state. The boy who came third was in the next booth being interviewed at the same time. The grey suit guy proudly told me I could start next week.
How much will my starting wage be? I asked.
$60 per week he said
How much will the boy next door get paid? I asked
$90 per week, he said.
So I did better than him but I’m going to be paid less? I said.
Well – you will go and have babies. We’ll only get a few years out of you. We get him for life, said grey suit man.
I walked out and tried applying to be a graphic designer/signwriter – but was turned down because I would have to climb up a ladder and everyone would be able to see up my skirt. I thought jeans would solve that problem but my prospective employer didn’t “trust girls who wear pants.”
Well my parents and the commonwealth bank were right. I did go and have babies. But did that mean I should get paid less for the work I did in the meantime – of course not, did it mean I shouldn’t get a tertiary education – of course not. So I paid my own way through uni.
Unfortunately I chose to do an art course which was less practical than doing a course in donut making and all I was qualified for at the end was waiting tables or cleaning. But I did learn how to empty a bong, how to make rabbit skin glue and how to stretch canvasses, I developed an obsessive crush on another art student who looked like Bryan Ferry and my art lecturer Gareth Sansom and I had deep and meaningful conversations about the cold war and went on even more meaningful marches against the bomb.
Not one to give up on uni I did a theology course next, thinking I would become a minister but instead I became an atheist but in theology classes I learnt how to question and think and had deep discussions with other students over vegetarian pizza about the future of the world ahead of us and how we could turn the status quo upside down and assist the poor and marginalised.
It was hard, still in the 70’s, for some girls like me to get to uni, to get a decent job, to get ahead. And even though I chose courses that stretched my mind and not my wallet it was more than worthwhile and I didn’t take it for granted.
But daughters I hope you do take going to uni for granted. I hope you choof off to uni thinking nothing of it. And if you don’t go to uni I hope you always assume you will have a career of your choice.
But whether or not you got to uni is insignificance when compared to the problems women face in the rest of the world.
In Saudi Arabia they are discussing whether or not women can be trusted to drive a car. Women are not allowed to travel nor apply for work or education without the permission of a male guardian. A woman activist has been arrested for driving.
Does this not sound similarly like slavery?
Ahh but its cultural or religious people say.
Well slavery of African Americans was once considered a religious right too. Masters used holy verses to justify the keeping of slaves. Verses like these:
Ephesians 6:5: Slaves, obey your earthly masters with respect and fear, and with sincerity of heart, just as you would obey Christ.
1 Peter 2:18: Slaves, submit yourselves to your masters with all respect, not only to those who are good and considerate, but also to those who are harsh.
But any writing that supports the oppression of any other person is not holy and it is not sacred!!!!!!
And I would hope no one, not even right wing Christians would support slavery. So why do we turn a blind eye to the slavery of women? In the 80’s the world held sanctions against apartheid South Africa. Yet never does anyone suggest sanctions against nations that abuse their women.
Why is this?
I think it is in part because the rights of women enter every home in the world. So every man, every Son needs to make a stand starting with his very own home.
I have a wonderful men in my life. I have a husband who wakes me each morning of our married life with a hot pot of tea as a symbol of his love.
Even if we’ve had a fight.
If I wake up before he’s had a chance to make my tea he says,
‘Would you like hot tea or hot sex this morning?’
Then he sighs and says
‘I’ll go put the kettle on and comes back with my steaming tea in its English china pot with the bone china tea cup sitting beside it.’
I have four amazing sons.
Each of these men is kind, compassionate and teaches me about tolerance which I’m not always good with.
And then there is Mrs Banks who in Mary Poppins sang: (I might have paraphrased here)
Singularly men are brilliant, kind and hot.
But collectively, when you look at men as a collective across the globe, there are serious issues.
Women are still excluded from decision making at best and oppressed in ways that should have the world in outrage at worst. Sometimes I think women have achieved very little and when I read about Saudi Arabia I feel women have achieved nothing and I worry for my daughters that they live in a world that preaches racial equality but forgets gender equality and I worry for my sons who need fair equal relationships with women for their own well being.
It is not the job of women alone to achieve equality. Women need equality because men as a collective refuse to share it.
I beg all sons and daughters: There needs to be a New feminist movement, a movement that is not overshadowed by personalities and fights for sexual freedom but a movement that fights for the basic essentials of women’s rights across the globe to not be slaves and it needs to be a movement with voices from both the sons and daughters of the world for all the sons and daughters of the world!
But I don’t know where we start.