PROUD TO BE A FEMINIST // international day of the girl child

Proud to be a Feminist Women in Science book cover

Today is International Day of the Girl Child, 24-hours designated by the United Nations to highlight the challenges girls continue to face around the world, and promote fairness and empowerment.

Which makes me both proud and sad at the same time; proud that an international effort is being made to address these issues, but also sad that the discrimination exists at all.

As a mum of two young girls, continuing the fight for equality is not a choice for me, it’s a necessity.

It shocks me when I hear people say that we already have equality in developed countries because it’s simply not true. Sure, we’ve come a long way since I was a young teenager; when grown men thought nothing of slowing their cars as I walked home from school, idling alongside as I quickened my pace and making lewd remarks about the length of my skirt.

I saw it when OH and I went for our first mortgage when the advisor spent the entire time speaking straight to him even though, at the time, we were applying based almost entirely on my income.

I see it today when the quotes arrive for our upcoming building work addressed solely to my partner, even though the planning permission is in BOTH of our names (those quotes don’t even get a look-in, FYI).

When I hear of the continuing pay gap between men and women carrying out the same job. When I read about the tiny percentage of women occupying top positions in every sector. Yes, I understand that when we choose (or are forced) to pause our careers to raise families this is partly to blame for the disparity, but – even taking this into account – the numbers just don’t add up.

It makes me crazy to see the television advert where Dad sorts out the vital life insurance to protect his family, while Mum potters about in the background, smiling benignly and folding washing. These might seem like small things, but it’s this everyday sexism that reinforces the stereotypes: men do the important jobs, while the women do the mindless chores.

And our kids are seeing, and soaking, this stuff up. 

Before you complain there’s nothing wrong with doing the laundry – in fact, I actually do all the washing in our home – but if you’re only ever presented with that one perspective, THAT’S where the pigeonholing takes seed. Why not show the woman sorting the insurance while the man folds the washing? It’s not the action I disagree with, it’s the same old tired stereotypes being trotted out.

On the flip side, I was wanted to cheer when I saw the new Screwfix advert included a female plumber – I want my girls to grow up seeing female role models in every single aspect of life, so when they decide their own career paths they’re making choices based on their own passions and talents, not according to subliminal social conditioning (and if you think that’s being dramatic – ask your children what they think are ‘girl’ jobs and which are ‘boy’ jobs, and see what their answers are… ).

The other day I was watching Made in Chelsea. ‘Ugh,’ one of the (super-rich, therefore insulated from the realities of the regular world) female characters remarked, ‘I hate feminists.’

What?!

So she wants women to be treated as inferior to men? She wants us to earn less than men, for doing exactly the same type and level of work (if we’re even ‘allowed’ to work at all)? She wants us to have decisions made on our behalf, for our husbands to take control of all our money, assets and property upon marriage? To be treated sexually objectified, and to have little control over our own bodies and reproductive organs?

Because these are all things that the feminist movement has fought hard against (and in some cases is still fighting against).

You can wear makeup and be a feminist. You can be a stay-at-home mum and be a feminist. You can choose to do ALL the housework in your own home and be a feminist. Hell, you can even be a man and be a feminist. Because feminism doesn’t mean shaving your head and burning your bra (although you’re welcome to if you want to), it means having the choice to live your life exactly the way you want to, not the way someone else says you have to.

It means women having the same opportunities that are available to men and receiving the same level of payment, recognition and respect. It means being viewed as the capable, intelligent, equal human beings that we are.

There’s not a ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach to feminism – there are times when common sense is required.

If there’s a heavy lifting job required at home, I pass it over to OH. Not because it’s a ‘man’s job’ but because I have a shoulder that likes to dislocate, and he’s stronger than me. That’s not sexism, that’s just a fact. But every single piece of flatpack furniture we’ve ever owned – and there were A LOT in the early Ikea days – has been assembled by me (OH freely admits he doesn’t have the patience).

I think it’s lovely when men hold doors open for me. That’s not sexism, that’s good manners. Plus, I’m equally quick to hold open doors for them if I get there first.

OH fixes the washing machine, because he knows how to do it and I don’t. I do the laundry because OH works long hours and it would never get done otherwise. These aren’t gender-roles, these are simply ‘people’ roles that currently make the most sense for our household – if it was me working long hours in an office it would be OH in the laundry room.

I’m proud to be raising feminist daughters. I want them to know that – if they work hard enough – they can achieve whatever goals they set themselves, whether that be raising a family, or becoming an astrophysicist, or anything in between.

Wouldn’t it be amazing if, one day, we didn’t need an International Day of the Girl Child at all?

• inspire your own daughters, granddaughters, nieces and friends with a copy of the brilliant book Women in Science – 50 Pioneers who Changed the World – a beautifully illustrated book celebrating 50 trailblazing women from the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

79 Comments

  1. I think my favourite role model is actually my daughter. She may only be 7 but she seems to have it so sorted already.
    She’s traditionally ‘pretty’ with long, blonde ringlets and bright blue eyes and yes, she looks absolutely gorgeous when dressed up in sparkly dresses which she loves doing – but she’s also perfectly at home in her dinosaur t-shirts that she chose herself from the ‘boys’ section because ‘it’s silly, why shouldn’t girls be able to wear these?’, she chose her PE shoes from another ‘boys’ section because they were red, white and black and matched her PE kit and she didn’t want the pink ones. She asks why I occasionally wear make-up because she thinks I am beautiful just the way I am and she is absolutely set on being a Palaeontologist when she grows up. She’s perfectly happy being her and totally uninterested with being pigeonholed because of her gender. I am so proud of her.

    • I’m officially in awe of your daughter – what a brilliant outlook on life she has! I hope she keeps that attitude forever and ever and EVER! x

  2. I agree competely with this and hope the gender/pay gap is sorted soon. I cannot believe it has gone on this long.

    • It’s completely unacceptable in this day and age, isn’t it? Thanks so much for your comment.

  3. I’m a nurse so I would have to say one of biggest role models is Florence Nightingale!

  4. Growing up my favourite role model was my mum. Watching her look after her family as a single parent and managing to work to provide a good life for us. Was it as privileged a life as other people I know? No! But that doesn’t matter, I grew up to be a well rounded female with two degrees and currently doing a PhD. I work and blog to encourage younger females to realise they can do anything and hoping to open their eyes that science isn’t a man’s domain. One day I hope to be a role model to other females.

    • Wow, two degrees AND a PhD?! You’re living proof that you can achieve anything you put your mind to: you say one day you hope to be a role model – I reckon you already are! x

  5. I would say my daughter she is simply amazing for everything she does foe everyone

  6. That is a difficult question to answer, as I believe that may have changed over time, decades, experience/s, etc. Yet ideally it would be nice to have had one main good, solid, stable, female role model to grow up with :- To shape, mould, keep me secure and safe etc.

    Oprah Winfrey is someone whom I came to see as a good female role model :- Given that she openly spoke about her past i.e. poverty, abuse. She has moved on from those times, has given some opportunities through Employment, Education ( has a school which I believe she funds and supports). Though meanwhile unfortunately she seems to spend much on what to some are unnecessary or trivial i.e. Eyelash tinting, etc. As media I believe has stated she pays a lot to attend a particular therapist which incurs travel costs etc.

    I admired Fern Britton. Wise, Educated Woman supported by her parents and background in entering her chosen career. Only to unfortunately make what I see as a poor choice of lying about reason for her weight loss ( she did an advert, and made money whilst advertising for a product which can be advised as assisting in weight loss attempts). She had had a gastric band. I would have admired and respected her honesty, if she had shared the information in regards to gastric band. If she chose to keep info private, I would have respected her choice. But to lie, and to make money through misleading the Public was an injustice to Public . We need Respect also, and value Integrity. I wish Fern well in her future career, and hope she can be true to herself, her conscience and to the Public.

    Women still have a difficult time in attaining security, sense of self worth, etc. Maybe a female Prime Minister, female First Minister, etc will help Government, Public, Society work towards :- Women having a Quality of Life throughout their Lifespan. A Sense of Community, Wellbeing, etc. As women, Men, children, etc could work towards living within society as contributing members who care, share with each other. End Exploitation, etc:- i.e. Zero Hours contracts, etc.

  7. In reply to Sarah Loftus :- Well Done! To your Daughter. Hopefully she will maintain her philosophy of “accepting herself for who she is” throughout her lifespan. Lovely that you admire her for her love of life, etc.

  8. Princess Kate!

  9. Michelle Muir - October 13, 2017 reply

    It has to be my mum

  10. I would say Angelina Jolie is my favorite female role model, looking after all those children as a single parent, an actor and UNHCR – Special Envoy

  11. My favourite female role model has to be my mum!

  12. Katie Kingsbury - October 13, 2017 reply

    Margaret Atwood – just amazing.

  13. I know it is a bit fof a cliche to say but my Mum is my role model, she raised 4 children which all had problems nearly on her own as my Dad worked away all week. She had 2 jobs so that she could help provide for the family when my Dad died 28 years ago especially as my brother was only 5 at the time. She is now suffering from a mountain of health problems but is still the most loving and kind woman I know especially as she is helping my Step-Dad through all of his medical problems as well. She is definitely a strong woman who I would love to be like.

  14. I love this post! I just bought my 5 year old a copy of Fantastically Great Women Who Changed The World! I don’t feel I’m a great role model but I want her to know she can be whoever she wants to be.

    • I disagree – I think encouraging your daughter to be whomever she wants to be, automatically makes you a FANTASTIC role model! x

  15. laura stewart - October 13, 2017 reply

    holly willoughby love her style x

  16. Annabel Greaves - October 13, 2017 reply

    I love the Duchess of Cornwall – she is a great family role model

  17. Wendy Stanger - October 13, 2017 reply

    Got to be my Nan who brought my mum up on her own at a time when it wasn’t the done thing

  18. My daughter is only 6 months old but the journey she has gone through already has been remarkable. I hope that I can raise her to the best of my ability so she can achieve anything she wants in life.

  19. Maggie Norvell - October 13, 2017 reply

    Emmeline Pankhurst – thanks for giving women the vote !

  20. fiona waterworth - October 13, 2017 reply

    it has to be my sadly departed mother in law, who brought up my husband as a single parent in an era when it was not acceptable, she worked as well yet the family wanted for nothing, I hope I can raise my family the same way as she raised hers

  21. Has to be Marie Curie the physicist for her pioneering research on radioactivity.

  22. This book looks great! My older children are my biggest role models – they are non judgemental and completely gender balanced in every way possible. Kaz x

  23. Karen hutchinson - October 13, 2017 reply

    Mary berry – national treasure

  24. Mums are just great role models. They are our superwoman.

  25. My neighbour who is 96 and was a nurse in World War II is such a wonderful role model as she still goes out with friends, drives although only locally, joins clubs. She is very sprightly,likes to know what’s going on and is very stubborn which i think keeps her going on.

  26. Ada Lovelace – women were in computer science from the very first.

  27. Laura Pritchard - October 14, 2017 reply

    My late gran – she kept an illegitimate daughter when she got pregnant in her teens, and then traded on the black market in the war, and was generally feisty, assertive & a “difficult woman” – something I’ve been called myself by men.

  28. Hmmm, this is difficult, No one famous really, but I think angels walk among us (that sounds mad). I have come across some really lovely ladies in my lifetime, that have left some lasting impressions, and have deeply effected the way I live my life, without going into my private history….these have been my heros x

  29. My favourite female role model is Oprah Winfrey, I love everything she stands for and has fought for.

  30. has to be my mum

  31. Justine Hughes - October 15, 2017 reply

    Angelina Jolie for her humanitarian work and also the way she spoke about her mastectomy and oophorectomy to try and raise awareness and help other women.

  32. Celia Hammond is mine. She forfeited her successful career and all that goes with it and dedicated her life to cat welfare.

  33. Hannah Wallington - October 15, 2017 reply

    This is tough, I don’t think I have one.

  34. I don’t have a favourite female role model. I’m discovering more and more amazing women as I help my girls study at school. This weekend we discovered and learnt about Jane Goodall, Last week it was Rosalind Franklin and next week we’re going to look at Nancy Wake

  35. MARGARET Gallagher - October 16, 2017 reply

    Difficult to answer

    Florence nightingale
    Or Queen Victoria -changed my perspective after watching the tv series

  36. Oooh so many, yet so many of them not learnt about at school. Probably for me it would be Emmeline Pankhurst and the other Suffragettes.

  37. Karen Richards - October 16, 2017 reply

    My favourite female role model is Katie Piper who survived a vicious acid attack and came out of it one strong woman and so down to earth and a nice person.

  38. lorraine kirk - October 16, 2017 reply

    Rosa Parks because she was so brave and stood up (or rather didn’t) to inequality and injustice.

  39. My favourite female role model was my grandmother. She’s no longer alive but she inspired me to follow my dreams in a way that she often wasn’t able to due to the era that she grew up in.

  40. Victoria Marden - October 16, 2017 reply

    Wonderful post, I hope my daughter does exactly what she wants to do and has no worries. My favourite role model was my mum, she was so strong and accomplished so many things.

  41. Sadiyya Maryam - October 17, 2017 reply

    This looks like such an amazing book with such positive and significant females. My role model is both my mum and my 6 year old daughter they both have such a strong sense of self and respect for all. My mum works tirelessly for those less fortunate and my daughter has the same values and selflessness too.

  42. My Mum! Everyday as I battle with my three little ones, I wonder how she did it with us! My daughter would love this book as she has a bit of a thing about Marie Curie at the moment!!

  43. Serena Williams – she’s strong and she represents diversity, strength and an unwillingness to accept any kind of discrimination. Love her.

  44. Caroline Kelly - October 17, 2017 reply

    Maya Angelou

  45. Geoffroy Thomas - October 18, 2017 reply

    Margaret Thatcher

  46. Rachael Sexey - October 18, 2017 reply

    My daughter she has a lot of health problems but still wakes up with a smile and works so so hard

  47. My favourite female role model would be my mum 🙂

  48. My mother is my favourite female role model and I hope to be my daughters.

  49. My mother is my role model.

  50. ive never really had one 🙁

  51. has to be my aunt

  52. a bit controversial but have huge admiration for Margaret Thatcher, not so many of her policies , but she was strong tenacious .

  53. My mother.

  54. kate adie!

  55. It has to be Maggie Thatcher. She came from a working class family (her dad was a Greengrocer), worked hard and got to a top university on her own merits and then fought her way to the top of the political tree in the UK, becoming the first female Prime Minister in the UK’s history. She was not born with privilege, nor money, nor influence and yet through hard work she made it to the top. That is why for me, growing up, she was a role model (irrespective of what I thought of her politics).

  56. Cristín Williams - October 19, 2017 reply

    My paternal grandmother, she was such a strong lady who raised 11 children and was a great role model to us all

  57. My old neighbour (now sadly passed away). She worked at Bletchley Park during the war – translating intercepted messages – and in her 80s was still busy teaching languages to others, using the internet and generally being awesome. She was such an inspiration to me to never stop learning and I hope I can be as active and vital in my old age!

  58. J K Rowling – she kept on going, even when it seemed hopeless and look at her now

  59. My mum and my grandmother

  60. Stewart Biddle - October 19, 2017 reply

    My mother is my role model

  61. Ann Skamarauskas - October 20, 2017 reply

    Maria Mitchell, the first woman to be elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences who, at the age of 17, in 1835, started her own school for girls, teaching them science and math

  62. Jacqui rankine - October 20, 2017 reply

    My mother my super hero. She taught be to believe in me and no one else. That’s exactly what I am doing and have taught my girl.

  63. The singer PINK

  64. Matilda from the Roald Dalh book. And my great grandmother. She was something else. A tiny goerdie woman who never lost her accent despite living in Coventry for almost fifty years. Raised my mum from the age of six with my great grandad. Lived alone for a long time on a council estate but was fearless.

  65. Emilia Earhart is my role model <3

  66. My mum is awesome, she moved from Australia to the uk in the 70s only knowing my dad, had a career in nursing, moved to norway with my dad in her 40s knowing no norwegian! She is awesome.

  67. There was a teacher I had at school Mrs skinner. She believed in me when others didn’t and encouraged and inspired me so much I went on to be a teacher too.

  68. Jessica Ennis Hill

  69. Simone Griffin - October 20, 2017 reply

    My mum is my biggest role model x

  70. CAROL PATRICK - October 20, 2017 reply

    Joanna Lumley. She looks ‘absolutely fabulous’ for her age. She’s an intrepid traveller too & I enjoy watching her tv visits to fascinating parts of the world & admire her as she ventures into some of the poorest areas of a country where hygiene standards are lower than ours & yet she doesn’t hesitate to sample local foods/drinks that she’s offered. She is a braver lady than me!

  71. CAROL PATRICK - October 20, 2017 reply

    So sorry my broadband is so slow today, I think this has gone through twice

  72. Emmeline Pankhurst and the all the suffragettes that helped get women the vote.

  73. I did my phd in ecotoxicology so my favourite lady scientist role model was always Rachel Carson.

  74. Patricia Avery - October 20, 2017 reply

    It was my Grandma. Widowed at a young age to bring up a family in the days before benefits. A strong and feisty lady. I am so lucky to have inherited her strength of character which I can also see in my daughter and now in my granddaughter 🙂

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