I always wanted to be a man.
As a girl I saw that men have more power, more money and more fun.
I saw women who were vulnerable, powerless, handicapped by hormones, periods, the menopause, endless housework, and most of all, fertility.
And I didn't change my mind when I grew up. As a young woman, I tried to be a man. I worked with them, ran with them, drank with them, drove fast cars, jumped out of aeroplanes, worked long hours. And it was (mostly) fun, and I was well paid.
Then I got married and had children. And everything changed. I did discover the one advantage of being a woman: the miraculous ability to create and nurture life. And I found out that this is a mixed blessing in so many ways. Feminism and the womens' rights movements have a achieved a huge amount. Today a woman can do almost anything she wants, so long as she doesn't have children, or other caring duties. Even though everyone expects to get good quality care when they need it.
It is still through our fertility that society exerts power and control over women. Even before birth, the pro choice people will blame you for having an abortion. Right wingers will shame you for having a child if you not married. Once your baby is born, your overwhelming urge to nurture and protect your child also becomes your weakness. It enables men to control you, employers to sideline you, society to ignore you and the education, health and social welfare systems to beat you down with paperwork, expectations, bureaucracy. You become a second class citizen in the eyes of the world, even though you are doing the most important job of all: rearing the next generation. Yet children are not valued, and nor is the job of looking after them. Homemaking has very little status and is not much fun, for most of us. Many mums put all their energy into their children, but get the blame if they they don't grow up perfect.
Why should women be expected to give up everything for their children? Is it good for women? Is it good for their children? There are lots of pictures floating around Facebook about Mothers and the sacrifices that they should make for their children. But I think that 'liking' these pictures means that society will just expect more sacrifices from mothers. And where are the equivalent pictures for fathers? I know that many of today's fathers are very involved in the lives of their children. And that is something to celebrate, but it is not expected, it is not assumed.
Don't get me wrong: I love my children more than life itself. I just don't love the way that society views me now that I am a mother. And until that changes, International Women's Day is pretty meaningless.
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