Why I was brought up to believe that men and women are not equal; women are far superior!
My husband has a saying that he often light-heartedly uses;
‘If the wife’s happy, then so am I”
Although my husband may appear slightly flippant when he says this, it is something that he genuinely believes and to be honest, I think he’s right. I’m not some egocentric narcissist. But as a mother, and wife with my own career; most of the household organisation falls to me to delegate accordingly. I do not do most of the housework; I share it equally with my husband. I always consult and take advice from him. But, it is me who makes the major decisions in the family. I have learnt this from my own upbringing, which evidently was heavily influenced by my parents’ upbringing.
Whenever I see women discussing feminism and how they believe they are treated inferior to men, I find it hard to empathise, based upon my experience. I haven’t often had to deal with overt sexism. This does not mean that it doesn’t exist. Evidently it does. But I was given the tools in my upbringing to be strong and to believe that there was nothing I could not do if I put my mind to it. Similarly, I do not want to belittle women who have been victims of misogyny. My Mother made me realise that it existed, but she also made me see that it was not something that every single man would do.
The early part of the twentieth century is often seen as a period of conformity when men and women adhered to strict gender roles. This was not the case in my family. My dad came from a long line of women who were always in charge and used to, as he described, ‘rule the roost’. My Dad’s Mum was idolised by her husband and he was largely unnoticed as a grandparent, until she died prematurely from lung cancer. My Grandad would have done anything for her and although he survived her by eight years, he always appeared slightly lost, as though he was still waiting to be told what to do. Similarly. her mother had been a matriarch and had thrown her husband out of the house several times for his alleged bad behaviour.
There is this view that women were little more than slaves until they were emancipated in the 1970s. There are many legal examples of this such as the fact that women and their money became the property of their husbands when they married. But in most working-class homes, women were revered and looked up to.
As I grew up in the seventies, my Mother was the head of the household. Admittedly, the moral climate of the sixties had forced her to marry my father when she became pregnant in 1966. She had also had to give up her career of being a librarian, as she was worried about the ‘shame’ of being forced to marry. This seems ridiculous to us now, but in those days, it was a startling truth of how women were treated.
Yet my mother was very much the head of the household and my father bowed down to her as the major decision maker. My father was quite different to most men in the seventies, as he took responsibility for some of the household chores. He wouldn’t have dared try cooking as that was very much the realm of my mother and it added to her superiority. She fed us and therefore she was to be held in high esteem. My Mother believed in feminism and brought me up, not by preaching feminism, but in her actions. It was highly unusual, but when I was eleven, I was sent to an all-girls, independent, fee-paying, academic school, whereas my brother attended a former grammar school that had become a comprehensive. My parents chose this as it was the best choice for me. It was undoubtedly the best decision they ever made.
My time at Nottingham High School for Girls was incredibly happy. I was given no-end of opportunities to explore different academic subjects. Admittedly, we still had to study needlework and cookery, but this was done to prepare us for developing our own independence. We were never treated as anything other than equal to boys. I remember when I first had a tutorial at University. The girls who had been to co-educational schools let the boys speak, whereas I was used to putting my own views forward. It was based upon my own experience of an all-girls’ independent school, that I have chosen this for my daughter. Whereas my son has been educated in a co-educational environment. I felt empowered by my education and I wanted the same for my daughter.
My sex education from my mother was enlightening for its time. I experienced many, sometimes overly-frank, conversations and these enabled me to understand that it was right for women to enjoy sex and not just put up with what a man wants. I knew everything about the female orgasm, long before I experienced it! I did feel she went slightly too far when she made me read The Female Eunuch at thirteen by Germaine Greer and I still haven’t fully recovered from some of its explicit descriptions and militant views.
One thing my mother never did though, was to make me hate men. She believed that just because you are a feminist, does not equate with being anti-men and not being feminine. She taught me to have friends from both sexes and she also believed in making the best of yourself and looking glamorous, not for the approval of men, but for your own self-confidence.
My Dad is now in his seventies and he light-heartedly ‘complains’ that women have ruled his life since he was born. First there was his Mum, then his wife and me, his daughter, and now his grand-daughter. Yet I know my Dad would not have it any other way and as a result, my Dad has always been highly respectful of women. He has to take fifty per cent of the credit of bringing me up.
I am sure that many people will disagree with me and might argue that we still have a long way to go before men and women are equal. However, there is an excellent quote that I shall finish with from the Nobel Prize winning novelist, William Golding,
“I think women are foolish to pretend they are equal to men.” he declared, ” They are far superior and always have been.”
Long may it continue!