Having it All.

When discussing the Kirstie Allsopp controversy with my mother, she took the opportunity to remind me that “you can have it all, just not at the same time.” This kind of follows on from what Kirstie herself was saying; we can have a career as a young professional, but that should take a back seat by the time we settle down to become a walking nappie-changer. 

In my eyes, the whole idea of feminism is about choice, and I think that’s what she was really trying to say; it wasn’t some backwards comment about motherhood or an attack on female education. Women fought to have the right for political choice, choice over what to do with their bodies, their time, their money. We have come such a long way – the classic cliché – and we should continue to discuss the different choices that are available for women so that we don’t teach our daughters that there is a certain type of lifestyle path – school, uni, work, babies, empty nest syndrome – that is the only option. It seems to have worked for my mother, who won’t be crying on the phone to me about her empty nest for a couple of years as long as my brother remains at home, but the whole idea that we have to choose between personal development and looking after children really doesn’t make me very enthused to grow up. Why is 27 the perfect age to have babies? I’m sure there are thousands of responsible, capable and parentally minded woman at that age…I’m just not in a hurry to become one. 

Also, to be honest, starting work at this age really doesn’t speak to me. For one, if it were that easy to find a job as school leaver then girls like me would probably be getting into the world of work without having to fork out thousands for a degree in what many would call a ‘pointless’ subject, just to try and broaden our horizons. Has anyone looked at the employment stats lately? Yes, unemployment is falling, but young people are still not being given the opportunities they desire to flourish in the workplace. I like the idea of finding a job at this age – 18 – but does anyone really want to hire me when my only skill set is making tea, sweeping the floor of a tiny baber shop and learning quotes for my A levels? To quote another out-there feminist, the candid Lily Allen, it really is hard out here (bitch or otherwise). 

So Having it All, “just not at the same time”, seems to be the only real choice for me here. In my case, this will mean going to university and hopefully discovering what it is I want to do with my life, before I take chosen career by the horns. Babies and husband I would hope for, but I would like to think that I can do more than be the woman in the background of every photo. As long as there is choice to be a professional, and to raise a family either as a part of that professional life or apart from it, I don’t really see what else I can ask for. So thank you, Kirstie, for inspiring this discussion of feminine choice. 

 

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Why We All Need More Austen.

So for a history project, I was given a slightly daunting task; find anything of interest that happened between 1840 and 1890, then  display that information however you like. Now as you can tell from this title, I have somewhat strayed from the whole history aspect of the task (sorry, Mr Stacey – but I honestly do listen in class – you can ask me anything you like about Robert Peel). However, I feel like this is okay, as it is through the work Jane Austen that many of us have had access to the days of the mid-1800s. That makes this a history blog… kind of. In a way. Okay not really.

I chose to write about Austen because I don’t feel like her work is studied and appreciated enough by young people. When Jane Austen died in 1845, we lost an inspirational, forward thinking and extremely talented writer, not to mention a feminist icon. She was able to use her work to outline the social constraints on middle class women during the 1800s through her comedic and romantic narratives. Opening “Pride and Prejudice” with the famous line “It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of good fortune, must be in want of a wife.” shows just how trapped women of that class were; they had to be defined by the men who were willing to marry them. Yet it is the way in which the characters are brought to life through their everyday issues that make her work so enjoyable and relatable. We feel their pain as they are ignored by perfect men and have to friend-zone some serious weirdos. We laugh as the sisters make fun of each other, and everyone roots for Elizabeth, the underdog, as she has to go all “Mean Girls” on Catherine Bingley (who, in my opinion, Regina George is definitely based on). Overall, the writing of Austen can be enjoyed by everyone, as she does address the very common issues we still all battle with; desperately trying to look attractive on what is a terribly low budget, attempting to get along with the sisters we know we love very very deep down, and overall just trying to get what we want in life without coming across as a massive cow (the problem which “Emma” has to deal with, circa 1815).

Therefore, I think we all need a bit more Austen in our lives to remind us that times really haven’t changed as much as we think. Yes, we can now skype, blog, and “troll” has somehow become a verb, but the day to day problems we face have not changed dramatically just because our lives are now ruled by a rather posh robot called Siri. It’s nice to get into a good book, travel back in time (tenuous history reference – that ones for you, Sir) and remember that we are not alone in our struggles. It doesn’t hurt that the characters always have a happy ending, too; if everything can work out for Elinor Dashwood after her hundreds of awful setbacks, there is hope for all of us.

(So my history project is me showing the links between the middle class back then and our lives today… lets go with that. Yes.)