Tag Archives: sexism

When a feminist becomes a parent

It’s been six months since our son was born. I carried him and birthed him, but my husband and our midwife literally brought him into this world. Yes, I became a Mom, but most importantly we became parents. And wow, has it been a sobering experience in how far women – and men – still have to go.

Firstly, the irony of women saying you can’t have a child and be a feminist has got to be the most anti-feminist bullshit I’ve heard in a while. By taking this stance you’re automatically assuming that it’s the woman’s role to be primary parent, which is the opposite of what being a feminist is about.

My husband and I “co-parent”. The fact that this term even has to exist is ridiculous, but the whole world is still geared towards “Mom” as numero uno.

Many people I encounter, even the enlightened ones, automatically assume I’m the primary caregiver and that because I’m now “a Mom” I’m completely different, i.e. either less or more of a person. My standard response? I had a baby, not a lobotomy. David (Dad and co-parent) doesn’t have to deal with this crap because he is usually regarded as “just the Dad”.

Oh yes, if you want to encounter the most subliminal and insidious sexism in both directions, have a baby. Most of this is 100% well-intentioned and simply people trying to be encouraging and kind. From comments like “Poor Mom, up all night” or “You must be exhausted, I hope Dad helps out” or “Being a Mom is the hardest job ever”, to articles entitled “Mom, you are good enough” or “Why it’s okay to be a Mom and miss your old life.” See? Well-intentioned.

But here’s the problem: I see and hear all of this every day and my instinctive reaction is, “But David is going through all of this too. David was up all night. David also misses our old freedoms. David needs a break. David worries about being a good parent.” And, silently, “David is actually more of a natural with our son than I am.”*

I’m aware that not all men are as involved in raising their children. It’s assumed this is because they grew up in the patriarchal style of child-rearing being “women’s work”, but there are a myriad of reasons for some Dads not being as hands-on as some Moms.

A lot of Dads feel like they don’t know what to do with a baby. Some Dads lack confidence in their own ability to nurture and care for a child (another charming legacy of toxic masculinity). Some mothers tend to embrace their role so strongly that the Dad worries about interfering. But men are more than capable of raising their own children if they’re given a chance. I see this more and more, especially with those Dads under 35, as society slowly starts to acknowledge the role of fathers.

Which brings me back to the uncomfortable reality: Men who do co-parent are not given their due, while women who co-parent are given more support and more criticism than the Dad.

The world is set up to encourage this uneven parenting balance and the perpetuation of women as primary caregivers. Men do not get paternity leave and are not included in discussions and support groups around routine parenting. It’s ridiculous to hone in on the empowerment of working Moms without addressing the issue of working Dads.

As feminists, we cannot expect the world to change by focussing only on our half of the equation when it comes to raising future generations, because ultimately it is equal parenting that will lead to a more equal society.


*I adore you David.

Hot women have it easier

Like it or not, beautiful women find it easier to succeed in business. Okay, attractive women and men find it easier to succeed. But looks have a far greater impact on a woman’s career.

Think about it. How many fat, ugly male CEOs are there? And how many fat, ugly female CEOs are there? Just compare poor old Whitey Basson (CEO, Shoprite) to the gorgeous Renee Silverstone (CEO, The Jupiter Drawing Room).

Righteous feminists will argue that looks have nothing to do with professional ability. They’re absolutely right of course, but they’re missing the point — looks empower a woman to use her professional ability. It’s a man’s world and that’s not going to change by showing how principled you are.

I’m not saying that stupid attractive women are more likely to be promoted. I’m saying that attractive intelligent women are more likely to be promoted.

It’s Darwinian and base, but people — men and women — take a well-groomed and shiny-haired woman more seriously than the one who wears T-shirts and shuns make-up. The latter may succeed via her intellect and skills, but she’s unlikely to be appointed CEO.

I have a friend who works for a prestigious private bank. The running joke is that they only hire former models with BCom degrees.

She freely admits that looking good has been helpful. Because while the men she works with are distracted by her long limbs and glossy mane, she’s making the company a lot of money and getting noticed by senior management.

I also know a skilled account manager who’s naturally a brunette, but says staying blonde makes it easier to deal with clients. Apparently they pay more attention to what she’s saying, which gets the job done faster.

That’s not using your looks — that’s using your brain.

Of course, it can cut both ways. I once had two female creative directors who were insecure about their fading looks and advancing age. They didn’t hire a promising young copywriter because they thought she was “too attractive”. The copywriter went on to be hired by another (mainly male) agency and do fantastic work.

Then there’s the problem of women who only get by on their looks. Without any real qualification except “people skills” and the ability to read a business management book, they usually end up doing well in PR or marketing (no wonder there’s a dearth of creativity in both fields).

That aside, there’s nothing wrong with a woman using her attractiveness, and her mind, to get ahead. Talent alone can take you very far, but if you really want to reach the top you’ll need a good hairdresser too.

*Amanda works in a sexist, shallow industry filled with pseudo-intellectuals and wannabe artists. She wears heels and a handkerchief when presenting to clients. That way they’re less likely to play with their BlackBerries.

(This originally appeared on Mail & Guardian’s www.thoughtleader.co.za)