Georgina Guedes

How to be a woman

2012-08-09 09:38

Sometimes I think that feminists got it all wrong.

We demanded an equal share in all the traditional responsibilities of being a man, without having a caucus to work out which share of the traditional female responsibilities the men should take over. The upshot? We work bloody hard and we raise the children. We're fucking exhausted!

Don't dictate me

In bitter moments, I sometimes wonder what we were thinking. I imagine a life in which my greatest worry is what colour to paint my nails – when someone else goes out to work every day, manages the finances, pays the bills and puts a hefty monthly sum in my top drawer with which I am expected to beautify myself.

Fortunately, for me, that little flight of fancy holds the seeds of its own destruction. I am not that woman, nor do I want to be. Because the person that I am when I'm having that fantasy knows that if any man were to try to dictate to me what I should wear or what I should do with my hair, the feminist that I keep on a slow boil would erupt like a volcano.

The trick to having an easy time as a feminist, of course, is ensuring that everyone else around you is a feminist as well. And this is where we run into trouble – not everyone is. So we either spend our lives in perpetual conflict with men and other women who want to suppress those of us who don't stick to our knitting, or we pick and choose our friends and partners from those who feel the same way we do.

Team effort

I have the wisdom or good fortune to be married to a feminist (although I'm not sure he would define himself as such). When he asks me what we're having for dinner, he means, “Which of the things that we planned, shopped for and stocked the fridge with will we be making for dinner tonight?”

We both scamper after loose financial ends, working together to make them meet. We both raise our children in a daily patchwork of responsibilities and fetching and carrying – and more importantly joy. (Other than the breastfeeding, of course, because there are physiological differences that can't be denied.)

We're partners in life, and while this means we each have an equal share at the worry, it also means, for me at least, that if my husband were one day to vanish in a puff of smoke, I wouldn't I wouldn't lose my house, I wouldn't wring my hands and wonder what was to become of me – and believe me, this isn't because we have such brilliant life insurance.

Be in charge

I am halfway through Caitlin Moran's brilliant book “How to be a Woman” (from which I stole this column's title), which is a part-memoir, part-rant about being a woman and a feminist. It's a book I would love to have written. As it is, I want to add my own notes to every chapter.

It's reminded me of all the things that I take for granted. The fact that when I've encountered the occasional blatant sexist, I've been able to shrug off his attitude because it hasn't actually affected the way I live my life or pursue my career. If I were to find myself subject to the whims of a person with such an outlook, that volcano would erupt again.

So, on this 9 August, when we remember the South African women who, fifty-six years ago, marched against another sinister form of oppression, I am doing what Caitlin Moran urges every woman who “has a vagina and wants to be in charge of it” to do – stand on a chair and proclaim: “I am a feminist!”

Georgina Guedes is a freelance writer. You can follow @georginaguedes on Twitter.

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