I was sitting on the train today and scoped out the poster above my head for a leading political rag. The cartoon depicted a husband reading a business paper and the wife in the doorway heaving in a load of shopping. My blood boiled, I grabbed a pen and in full view of the packed carriage scrawled “for the everyday male chauvinist” under the title. A second later I wished I had written “The 1950’s called; they want their sexist sterotypes back” but I didn’t have any Tippex on me.
It has been a while since I have taken any direct action in the name of gender equality. The last time was at the Salvation Army Headquarters in New Zealand when I took down the framed photo of William Booth above the plaque “Founder of the Salvation Army” and replaced it with Catherine and William- for she is the oft overlooked brains behind the outfit. That was really quite tame and courteous and about 6 years ago.
But since becoming a mother I have seen the world with fresh eyes, and Ramona is growing up in place with more limitations and adverse expectations due to gender then I was, that is for sure.
It’s in the quite superficial things – when I was a kid, everyone wore brown and orange, nowadays you have to work really hard to find colours other than pink and blue and shapes other than butterflies and tractors (and flipping heck, Ramona would look brilliant in a little brown and orange number.) But also in the wider story -when my mother was bringing me up she had a consciousness about gender inequality, it was a fight being fought. Now we say we are “post feminist” and to oppose porn or point out subtle sexist messaging is to be too prim or politically correct. And then there is the not so subtle messaging – one of the UK’s biggest menswear shops, Topman, bringing out some completely misogynous tee shirts– and the chorus of “Why all the fuss? We are post-feminist!” greeting the initial furor (Even the comments on that incredible Guardian piece reveal this – mostly arguing about whether the slogans were funny or not. WHAT THE HELL?)
I don’t know if it was the Topman t-shirts story knocking around my head or the fact that I am reading Female Chauvinist Pigs that moved my anger at that poster into action but I know that I vandalised it for Ramona’s sake. (Ramona made me do it!) I don’t want Ramona to grow up thinking that women shop and men read buisness newspapers; I want Ramona to have a host of female role models in politics or the engineering industry, to be able to walk around without feeling that her body is a commodity, to get paid as much as her male counterparts. It is great that the Topman story went big but there are a million everyday things that don’t even get addressed at all that make all those things much less likely to become a reality in her lifetime.
So this is me now – never without a big black marker pen (and a bottle of Tippex for those moments when the wit arrives too late) to start addressing those little things. Any other mothers out there want to unleash your inner vandal?