Finding my Voice – For my Daughter

I have honestly always felt like a boy mama, right from day one. I have never longed for a daughter and much to many people’s surprise baby number 4 was not ‘one last try for a girl’. But having a daughter has changed me; she has made me look at society differently and the ways in which girl’s roles are positioned within it. Having a daughter has made me stop and look at myself, my behaviours and the roles I fulfil. It’s left me questioning many of my behaviours and if I’m honest feeling a little lost in myself. What kind of example am I setting to her? What kind of female role model am I to her? What I do know is that I want my daughter to grow up as a strong woman. Who is able to pursue activities in life which make her happy; that enrich her and fulfil her. I do not want her to feel that she has to conform to any pre-conceived ideas about what a woman should do, how they should behave or what they should look like.

I watched a story on the news today in relation to the up and coming Oscars, which was discussing gender inequality in films. There is a test, called the bechdel test which was designed to test the presence of active female roles within films. In order for a film to pass the test there are three criteria it must fulfil; firstly there must be two female characters in the film, secondly they must talk to each other and thirdly the subject must be something other than a man. My initial through was how basic and almost trivial that criteria seemed and yet the report went on to say that half of the winners for best picture in the history of the Oscars have not passed the bechdel test. I was genuinely shocked. Films that I myself have loved watching and regard as great films, like ‘Gladiator’ and ‘Slumdog Millionaire’. How is this possible? That we are watching films that are so heavily male dominated that two female characters do not even have dialogue with one another. Or if they do it is only concerned with a man!! I haven’t been able to get this out my head all day, I’ve been left me thinking about the way women are treated within our society. The roles they are given and the ways in which the media portray those roles.

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We have seen a lot of movement in the film industry over the last few months, high profile women using their voices to speak out at the way women are treated. The #metoo and #timesup campaigns have been spread across the media and I really do believe a change is on the horizon. So what does that mean for ordinary women like me and our daughters? The reality is we still live in a patriarchal society and gender inequality is spread across it. It’s present in our schools, in our places of work and in the media our children are so heavily exposed to. Change won’t happen just because we want it to. We have to be the change. I do not want my daughter to grow up and be paid less than her brothers simply because of her gender. Where do we start? We start by empowering ourselves and each other. We start by believing that we are strong women, that we have a voice and a right to be heard. We stop cutting other women down and build them up instead.

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The words being written right here on this blog only exist because a group of women who I’m lucky enough to call friends believed in me. They encouraged me to believe in myself and empowered me to share what I had to say. Because this female voice, this voice of a mum of four, a wife, a daughter, a sister is worthy of being heard. I want to be part of the change. I want to stand up and stand united with other women. It’s time we were not simply part of the chorus, a pretty background to the male centred plot. It’s time women and what we have to say took over the story line because it’s just as worthy of the central plot as a man’s; in the movies and in real life.

For my Piper x

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Side by Side We Stand.

Exactly one year ago, on International Women’s Day I published my first ever blog (I have linked this in the comments below if you wish to have a read). In it I discussed the concept of blogging and how it can inspire us as women but also place expectations upon us. As this was my first ever blog my perspective on blogging was situated firmly as an outsider. So after a year what have I learned? Well firstly I have to be honest I haven’t been blogging for a year, I have dipped in and out of it and only in the last few months have I actually dedicated myself to blogging regularly. Part of my blogging journey has understandably involved social media; Facebook is where I share parts of my life online with I’ll refer to them as my ‘real-life friends’ and I have found using Instagram has connected me with new ‘virtual-realm friends’. I have been able to connect with other female bloggers, most of whom are mothers; some new to blogging like me and others more established well-known bloggers. When I read my first blog post back what strikes me now is that I don’t once mention the women behind the blogs; the real women behind the words or the Instagram pictures. It didn’t once occur to me that I would have a true connection with these women, who I would share experiences with. Women who I would empathise with, gain support from, while being encouraged and inspired by.

Yet that is precisely what has happened; I have started to build up relationships through social media with other women. I recently contacted a number of established bloggers to ask them to contribute to a blog post I wished to write (watch this space it’s coming!!). Now when I sent out the email I honestly had no idea if I would get any responses. Because when you think about it these women don’t know me, they are insanely busy running successful blogs, working, oh and that little chestnut motherhood!! But I did!! I got a lot of responses, these amazing women took the time not only to email me back with the information I had asked for but also to offer me support and encouragement as a new blogger. And that was it right there, the part of blogging that I hadn’t thought about, the part of blogging which hadn’t once occurred to me when I first started and wrote my first blog post. Other female bloggers supporting and encouraging me!!

This isn’t really about blogging; this is about women, blogs and social media are simply the platform that connects these women together. Women being inspired and motivated by one-another, learning from one-another and most importantly supporting one-another. We live in a patriarchal society, there’s no denying it, a significant pay gap between men and women still exists (according to the government stats it currently stands at 18% https://www.gov.uk/government/news/uk-gender-pay-gap). You are still more likely to see a man in the most senior positions within businesses and our political environment is still a male dominated arena. The only way this is going to change is if we as women support one another and celebrate the success of strong women around us. So often it can seem like society pits women against one another, forcing us to compete. But the truth is there isn’t a limited amount of space for women to be successful in. One woman achieving something that you want to achieve shouldn’t be viewed as her taking your spot, she isn’t, she’s pushing open that narrow gap for women which exists and making it wider.

An Instagram post I saw shared recently said “Real Queens fix each other’s Crowns” (@thefmlystore) How bloody awesome is that? And so true!! Let’s support one-another ladies. Be inspired, be supported and show each other the love. Whether it’s in a workplace or at the school gates that successful, badass women you’re in awe of, she’s your ally not your competition. Side by side, together we can elevate one another and make sure those crowns stay straight and sparkling.

Happy International Women’s Day you amazing woman.

Charlie