As a woman and as a Feminist, I’m not angry at Kirstie Allsopp for her latest comments about motherhood and who should do what, when. She’s always been a bit gobby when it comes to life choices but, being as I’m at the ripe old of 27 which could have been my baby-making year if only I’d forgone that degree nearly 10 years ago, I’ve actually decided she makes a fairly decent point.
Alright, settle down and save the feminist lynch mob until later, if you please.
Where some people saw anti-Feminist, ‘I ain’t no baby-machine’ views, I saw a pretty useful debate on choice. And not just for women.
We live our lives in such a rigid, linear fashion. School, uni, job, house, marriage, baby etc. and if we step out of that societal comfort zone and, God forbid, live in sin or have a baby outside of wedlock, the media is quick to jump on it as proof that our society is crumbling. We’re losing the old ways. This country’s gone to the dogs. Will someone please think of the CHILDREN?! and so on. But what’s wrong with making choices based on who we are as people, what we want out of life and what our circumstances dictate? Men and women deserve the right to be able to pick and choose the life milestones they hit as and when they see fit.
This is why Kirstie might have a point. It might not have been put forward very well, despite the caveat of ‘as a feminist’ (see above), but it’s there.
Confession time: one of the reasons, and there are many, that I haven’t had children yet is because I’ve been working up a career for myself. One that I’m proud of and that gives me the things I want out of life. Sure, it will mean I can provide for any future children that do arrive, but I can’t pretend that’s been my end goal when I’ve studied hard, taken on crappily paid internships and worked at home on nights and weekends. It’s all been for me, as it should be.
Now, other people are different, and that’s okay because hopefully they’ve found a way to make their life work for them. But perhaps there is a cause for us to look at when we do certain things and why. My mum did her first undergraduate degree at the same time as me, but alongside her full-time job and with, I assume, far less drinking. We were all so proud when we graduated in the same year.
My mum had me in her mid to late 20s and my sister followed 18 months later. Is she the perfect example of Kirstie’s new utopia for women? Who knows. All I know is that my mum didn’t go to University to further her career as such, she did it for her and because she had the opportunity.
When we talk about women and men and babies and family and careers etc. we’re still talking in absolutes. For men, a baby might mean the end of bachelorhood and that they now will be expected to have two jobs. For women it’s supposedly time to say ‘adios’ career or be forever scorned by women that did and essentially have your child hate you, or something. We forget that as we live longer so our passions, relationships and jobs will all change and we must be more adaptable than this ‘traditional’ way of living that, less face it, is feeling more constraining every damn day.
There’s a couple of quotes I love in Sylvia Plath’s ‘The Bell Jar’ that sum it all up so perfectly, for me at least.
“I saw my life branching out before me like the green fig tree in the story. From the tip of every branch, like a fat purple fig, a wonderful future beckoned and winked. One fig was a husband and a happy home and children, and another fig was a famous poet and another fig was a brilliant professor, and another fig was Ee Gee, the amazing editor, and another fig was Europe and Africa and South America, and another fig was Constantin and Socrates and Attila and a pack of other lovers with queer names and offbeat professions, and another fig was an Olympic lady crew champion, and beyond and above these figs were many more figs I couldn’t quite make out. I saw myself sitting in the crotch of this fig tree, starving to death, just because I couldn’t make up my mind which of the figs I would choose. I wanted each and every one of them, but choosing one meant losing all the rest, and, as I sat there, unable to decide, the figs began to wrinkle and go black, and, one by one, they plopped to the ground at my feet.”
“If neurotic is wanting two mutually exclusive things at one and the same time, then I’m neurotic as hell. I’ll be flying back and forth between one mutually exclusive thing and another for the rest of my days.”
Nail, consider your head hit. Hard.
We need to accept that as we make certain choices, others become closed off to us. That doesn’t mean we should delay the choice or do something just because everyone else is doing it but it does mean that we have to make one. Sure, having too much choice is frightening and that fear can cripple you from deciding what direction to take your life in. But much, much worse than that is having no choice at all, or doing things out of an enforced sense of duty or religious direction.
Kirstie has simply offered us an alternative way of living. It’s not right, it’s not wrong. It’s just different. And for that she shouldn’t be scorned as a woman who hates women. Even if she does make me gag with her incessantly perky craft programmes.
Angharad is a former radio journalist balancing a career in PR with an insatiable writing habit that spans more topics than she can count on her smaller-than-average hands. She's passionate about the media, women's rights and politics with a love of travel, culture, entertainment and all things lifestyle on the side. Interests include prolific online shopping (bit of a reputation in the office), musicals, dinosaurs (be honest, they're awesome) and tweeting anything and everything from @Welsh_PR