Grrr, Radio 4!

This morning there was a short piece on BBC Radio 4 about female engineers. The woman being interviewed said how it was a great shame that there were not more women engineers in our country and how they were actively working to bring more women into the industry. The presenter concluded by urging all female listeners to consider a career in engineering. Well I have considered it, and here follows my reasons for not pursuing a new career.

I am a big believer that if you set your mind to something, with enough hard work you could achieve it. Certain social groups will have to work harder than others because of prejudice and inequality (anyone who isn’t a white, middle class, able-bodied male). But I went to a modern girl’s grammar school where we were taught to break the glass ceiling, don’t be the same as men – be better, and all that feminist malarkey. So my views that follow are by no means coming from the position of an oppressed, uneducated or indoctrinated woman.

Since my teen years, there has only been one career I have wanted: to be a wife, a mother, a homemaker. C.S. Lewis supposedly described ‘the homemaker’ as the ultimate career. And I do believe to make a home is a very noble task. A place to grow and thrive, somewhere safe from which to explore the world. A place to learn what love is, what it means to care for someone, to sacrifice for them. Somewhere to be valued and respected. Somewhere where there is joy and laughter, where sorrows are shared and loneliness is eased.

5113200859_377d4ec976_o (1).jpgMy (engineer) husband and I are a team. He works hard to provide our house – he pays the bills, provides food to sustain us and financial security so we don’t have to worry about tomorrow. I work hard to make that house a home – I try to make it a welcoming, relaxing place to be, somewhere where there is nutritious and delicious food(!), a haven where he can relax and feel safe and loved after being away from it all day.

Soon my job description is going to expand! I will have two little ones to care for who need stimulation, education, love and reassurance. My job will involve providing them with opportunities to learn and grow, caring for them physically, emotionally and spiritually, teaching them what love is through daily sacrificing of my own wants and needs for theirs. My job isn’t simply childcare, it’s child-training! Preparing them for school, for independence, for responsibility, for adult life, for marriage, for parenthood, for life!

As I write this, the photos we have of our two little ones are playing on a slideshow on the second computer screen. As I think ahead to this new stage of our lives, this new role in my busy and rewarding career, my heart swells in my chest with anticipation, with love and with frustration at BBC Radio 4. I do not feel I should pursue a career in engineering, just because I am a woman. If there are less female engineers than male in our country, is that a disaster? Could it be that those women just chose other careers? Telling me I have to consider a job in engineering simply because I am a woman, is as bad as telling me I should stay home with my children all day because I am a woman.

With full awareness of my options in the world, I am choosing to be a wife, mother and homemaker because that is what I want. If other women choose to be engineers – great! But let it be because they want to engineer, and not because society says they should in order to appear more equal. I do not feel any less than my husband because he engineers and I homemake. I couldn’t do what I do without him doing what he does. Likewise, he couldn’t do what he does without me doing what I do! That’s what makes us equal. The freedom to choose your own path rather than being pushed down the one that best suits others. That’s what makes us equal.

In my third year of university I took a module in Feminism. I used to come home irate  after each lecture and every time I vented my feelings towards my husband, he would respond with a smile, “grrr, feminism!” Well that’s how I feel today. Thank you very much for the right to vote, but please stop telling what to do in order to feel fulfilled and free.

Image: pbkwee
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2 thoughts on “Grrr, Radio 4!

  1. Lucy says:

    Feminism is about equality of opportunity for everyone, so I always find it hard to understand why anyone isn’t a feminist (why wouldn’t you want everyone to have equal opportunities?). Yes, the concept has been exploited and mis-used by many (e.g. Germaine Greer, Caitlin Moran), like most words and concepts to be honest! And yes, historically, it is women (as well as ethnic minorities, disabled, non-homosexual) whose opportunities have been structurally restricted, and therefore historically the focus has been on expanding opportunities for women. It’s precisely because of feminist movements that woman (you and me included) can choose to stay at home as primary caregiver and homemaker and/or chose to pursue careers in historically male-dominated fields (it’s more about the equality of opportunity than the choice though). Feminism is about creating those opportunities for everyone (not just women). There are still structural restrictions in society and in the workplace that limit these opportunities (and that’s why feminism is needed) – so for example, take the fact that for any parent to go outside the home to work they need some form of childcare (whether undertaken by the other parent or a paid-carer). As a woman, when I asked to go part-time for childcare reasons, I was told “no problem” (I chose not to do so), but when my husband asked to go part-time he was told “why doesn’t your wife go part-time? Surely you earn more than her” – this is a totally unacceptable response that reveals inequality of opportunity, and my feminist beliefs made me want to raise a complaint about this (husband refused). In the end, my husband had to switch jobs in order to go part-time. The point I am trying to make is that there are structural and cultural constraints preventing equal opportunities for all, and this is what feminism seeks to address. The fact that you want to stay at home doesn’t mean that these constraints don’t exist. And the fact that you have the opportunity to chose to be a homemaker (and chose not to pursue a career in engineering, rather than having that choice removed from you because you don’t have a penis) is a reason to celebrate feminism. So, you listed to radio 4’s suggestion that you consider engineering – because of the historic feminist movement, you as a women, now have the opportunities available to consider it as an option (e.g. you completed schooling and were offered maths/physics), and you decide “no” – that’s brilliant, I think all feminists would be celebrating that this was an option you have been able to consider and decide on (doesn’t matter what the decision is, it’s all about the opportunity).

    Hope that makes sense. Reading suggestion – “We Should All Be Feminists” by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie – short read based on her TED talk.

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    • Rain or Shine Blogger says:

      Thanks for your comment. I like your point that it is because of feminism that I have the opportunity to choose to be a homemaker. Please don’t think I am utterly anti-feminist. While I would never describe myself as a feminist because I think the movement has started to lose sight of what it began as, I definitely have feminist tendencies! Inequality in society because of gender, class, race are things that really make me mad! I became disillusioned with feminism after attending a term of lectures from a die hard feminist. It feels as though Feminism (Capital F) has become about glorifying Woman above Man. As a Christian I believe that men and women were created with equal and immense value to God. I believe that we are different by nature, and that these differences are a good thing to be celebrated because they mean we need each other. I do not think women need to become the same as men in order to be worth the same. Nor do I think we need to devalue men, in order to be worth more than them. And this is where I consistently clashed with the Feminists.
      The original principles of feminist thought – that women should not be oppressed because of their gender – I think is at the core of the Christian message, and so something that I cherish. Jesus was radical in his time because he valued women in a society that gave them zero worth.
      My issue with the Radio 4 programme was firstly that it is a problem there are not more women in engineering. I attended an engineering lecture at university with my then fiance, it was really boring. The hall was almost full of men, but what if that is because, like me, most other women chose more interesting topics of study?! Why can’t it be that women had the opportunity to decide, and most decided not to pursue engineering? The assumption seems to be that given the same opportunity, men and women would choose the same thing, and as women haven’t made the same choices as men, they must somehow be being oppressed.
      My second issue was the irony of being told by a man that in order to be free from patriarchal oppression I must do x…
      I am sorry for my rant as that’s not what my blog is for, although I do love a good debate 🙂

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