Jam and Heels

Feminism: Feminism is a collection of movements and ideologies aimed at defining, establishing, and defending equal political, economic, and social rights for women. This includes seeking to establish equal opportunities for women in education and employment. A feminist advocates or supports the rights and equality of women.

Right, I can’t help myself…I’m going to have to write this post about feminism and Blogfest yesterday. But I am not going to write about how outraged I was at the panel, because, well (shock horror) I wasn’t; and I’m not going to convey my belief in why I’m proud to be a mummy and a blogger because, well that’s obvious isn’t it? And I’m not going to write about what feminism means to me because quite frankly (shoot me if you like) at 36 I’ve not entirely worked that out yet. But what I do want to write about is the shocking impact that a few misunderstood and very poorly worded opinions had on the entire room, and on why people were so livid and tweeting, blogging, shouting about what happened. (Clever old Mumsnet eh?)

For those of you who don’t know what on earth I’m talking about, yesterday I was at a blogging conference; a blogging conference run by Mumsnet, who are not unknown for debate and controversy. (and penis beakers) The very title of the session ‘Can you be a mummy blogger and a feminist?’ was designed to provoke, and, rather dangerously, made several hundred women p***ed off before the session had even begun. Now, I don’t know what you’re like when you’re angry, but when I’m p***ed off I can be a bit irrational, misinterpret things, take them very personally and often not hear them how they were intended to be heard, just ask my husband! My judgement can undoubtedly be clouded when I’m angry and I often decided that I’m not going to like what I’m about to hear. And yes…here is where I have to mention jam and heels…the question was asked as to whether a feminist can make jam…and was answered with (what I took to be) a very tongue in cheek ‘no!’ I thought they were being sarcastic at this point and taking the mickey out of themselves, and yes I agree, it was a bit silly that this was even mentioned, like I said…designed to provoke, buts it’s brave to think that a group of feminists on stage aren’t going to challenge their stereotypes. However, the audience, already seething and ready for a heated debate, took this ‘joke’ VERY literally…and tensions rose once more, before it was deemed that feminists could also not wear high heels. Um, am I missing the point here, but can’t feminists/bloggers/women do whatever the hell they like! Now, I don’t wear heels because I broke my ankle in them at a wedding dancing with a nine year old boy, true story, but if I want to wear them…I bloody well will!

We all have baggage, we all feel guilty and have our own personal battles, and everyone has achievements they are fiercely proud of. What we all need to remember is that alongside these things we all have experiences that have shaped our opinions and beliefs…and unless we know another person 100% or walk in their shoes we will never fully understand the events and reasons behind these opinions. Everyone is entitled to their opinion, even if it’s different to yours and instead of condemning and verbally attacking someone whose opinion differs from our own, maybe we should listen and try and understand what brought them there, who knows we might just learn something.

Yes we need to be careful about how we voice these opinions, and I agree that yesterday some were very poorly worded and could and did easily offend. I speak in reference to the reference that ‘women without degrees cannot be good mums.’ Yet this technically isn’t what was said, it was the panellist’s own opinion about herself and her own parenting. She said that she thought that about herself and not all mums, yet frayed tempers and personal situations made this another verbal battle. Do we know why she has his opinion of herself and why her inner voice was telling her that she’d have failed as a mother if she didn’t return and complete her degree? Was it drummed into her by the media, by her mother, her child’s father? Dig a little deeper and maybe we’d find a mum not unlike ourselves who struggles with the guilt of working, not working and a whole host of other things. But yesterday no-one wanted to dig and no-one wanted to see…they were too consumed by perceived rage that she was somehow attacking them. Personal issues were brought to the forefront of everyone’s conscious and fuelled the debate. Private and personal battles were rearing their heads and argued ferociously in public.

As mums we’ve all felt shit about ourselves or our choices, I know I have; from media reports, medical research, and through the many perceived rights and wrongs of parenting. Instead of battling against one another because of all of those things we should be supporting each other, learning from each other, supporting each other, listening to each other, empathising
with each other. Standing together as equals…isn’t that feminism personified?!

There is always a reason for people’s opinions and why they fight passionately for what they believe in. We do not know their history or what they have been through to get to where they are. But there’s always a reason and maybe we need to look behind poorly chosen words and be more understanding and supportive.

Being a mum makes me happy, being a blogger makes me happy, but watching and listening to mummies and bloggers disagree so fervently without the knowledge and understanding behind the words makes me sad. Yes some phrases were poorly worded, yes some things could have been taken personally, but it didn’t need to descend into such mayhem. It was not a healthy debate. It was uncomfortable and raw. But then again…isn’t attack the best for of defence?!

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13 thoughts on “Jam and Heels

  1. Fab post, nice to hear a different perspective on the whole thing.

    I won’t pretend to understand feminism, it scares me to be honest, but surely in the in the quest for equality for all women, we should be allowed our own opinion, whether that is one that supports the feminists or not.

    We don’t need to like it, agree or even understand it, but we should respect their right to have it and express it.

    It does seem as though Mumsnet knew exactly what they were doing, and we all fell for it

  2. Holy hell! Sounds like it was a bit of a crazy situation! I’m a feminist but I don’t fall into the stereotype of it. Some things I agree with and some things I don’t. However I hate when I am intentionally provoked and it seems like there was a bit of that yesterday which is a shame:(

  3. A brilliant response.

    I must admit to getting angry at Sarah’s words at first. As I said to you, it seemed that mics kept dipping but then I have awful hearing so sitting up in the gallery, at the back, probably wasn’t my wisest idea of the day. Whilst I was mulling it over later, once I was home, I came to similar conclusions as you and have remained with those views today.

    I think what Sarah actually said and how it was interpreted are wholly different.

    On the whole I felt a little let down by the discussion if I am honest.

  4. I think the most disappointing thing was the assumption that all “mummy blogs” present an image of perfection. Mine certainly doesn’t! Most of the blogs I read are more like “well, this day wasn’t great but then we had ice-cream and everything seemed OK again”. They’re pretty real, not idealized…!

  5. Yup – that was pretty much my take on it too. The potentially interesting discussions that this topic could have raised included:

    Why there are ‘mummy blogs’ that do present a sanitised pastel filter on parenthood?
    Why being a feminist may not mean that all your acts are feminist ones – should they be?
    Why biological determinism was used to block off discussion?

    Anyway – thanks again.

  6. Well said. The topic itself could have led us all somewhere interesting but the debate was so poorly handled that it just didn’t have the chance. As always, lots of talking and not enough listening.

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