The elevation of Theresa May to Prime Minister of the United Kingdom should make feminists happy. There is a woman in the top job. I notice most of them are not because she is not a lefty. There seems to be a school of thought that all real feminists are left wing. I remember Margaret Thatcher. She certainly didn’t seem much of a feminist. She liked power for herself but I don’t recall her doing much for the advancement of women. I am trying to be hopeful about Theresa May. She has made all the right noises so far but who knows? Politicians always say the right things at the beginning.
Many people tell me that women have achieved equality in the work place. We have equal pay and supposedly equality of opportunity. I am not sure this works for many women in practice though.
I only have my own experience in teaching to go on. It may be the same in other professions. It may be different. I always thought of myself as a feminist even as a young child. I hated the way my mother was deferential to my father and skivvied round after him. I could see inequality with my own eyes. It was true we were treated equally with boys at school. We could take what subjects we liked. I was one of only three girls doing Physics O level as they were then. I could see that I was more intelligent than many of the boys from my test results. I was just as good as them, if not better. It was noticeable that they had an arrogance that the girls did not have.
At university I started to see that things were still sexist. The arts subjects were awash with women and the sciences and engineering had much fewer. In my naivety I had not realised that this was because the scientists would command higher salaries in all likelihood. Nobody had told me about pay differentials in what people earn. I had absolutely no idea about it. Of course there are opportunities in the arts but they are fiercely competitive and often precarious. There are lots of people going after the same thing. Still I was never any good at Maths so I stayed away from those areas. I saw sexism from some of the academic tutors who seemed to have a dismissive attitude towards their female students. It was the first time I had come across this. it began to dawn on me that the world was more sexist than I realised.
I made the stupid decision after university to become a primary teacher mostly because there were so few jobs at the time due to economic implosion post-Thatcher ism. I encountered real sexism in this profession. There were few men but the men that there were were groomed for promotion almost from the get go. I saw some virtually useless male teachers promoted to positions they were not suited to. There seemed to be some kind of unwritten rule that women just wanted a little job. They didn’t want to be head teachers. The men did. Of course some women broke through but they were usually of a type: hard, nasty, sharp elbowed and ruthless. Male leaders would come in all personality types and the more avuncular ones were often the most successful. The weirdest thing was that most women would take part in their own downfall. They would not push themselves forward. If a fresh faced young male graduate joined the staff he would be fawned over and told how wonderful he is at every opportunity. It was sickening. I was told more times than I care to recall that I should just give up and have children, even from one person that I could never be a fulfilled woman until I had done so. I don’t recall seeing my mother being particularly fulfilled. I was once told by my Headteacher I was too nice to be promoted. I did try to emulate the hard bitches but it never worked for me. I just wasn’t really like that I suppose. Myself aside as maybe I was passed over because I wasn’t any good I did see many many capable women in the same position. As a result of all this I don’t believe that women have real equality in the work place. They face more barriers to getting on from both men and women.
As far as men in the work place go there are some real male inadequates in teaching. Seeing a strong woman as an intstant threat they would veer between calling you a misandrist and a lesbian to low level sexual harassment. All of this is unacceptable. I noticed if a woman made a mistake she would be vilified but if a man did excuses would be made for him. Everyone makes mistakes but in this profession only women make them.
So I don’t think women have achieved a real equality at all. There is still a long way to go. These days I seem to have lost my feminist credentials along with my career. I stay at home and write a bit like some Edwardian lady. I am not proud of myself or my total dependence on my spouse. It has to be said in my defence I couldn’t have tried harder to build a successful career for myself. I felt barriers at every turn.
So Edwardian lady hobby writer it is them. You must excuse me. I have some roses to dead head. Good luck Theresa. I wonder how you did it. Let’s hope you don’t turn out to be as nasty as Mrs T.