I didn’t realise I was a feminist until I unexpectedly became a single mum at the age of 27: I’d given up my career to be at home with my children, and all of a sudden my independence and freedom had suddenly disappeared, too. Being a mum was everything I’d ever wanted to be but I wasn’t ready to have the fact I’d given birth make me feel like a second class citizen - suddenly less important than the men in my life, assumed to be devoid of ambition and drive.
Returning to work at that time wasn’t just necessary for me to support my family, but for my identity as a feminist woman, so I was surprised to find the same issues plagued me in the workplace, too. Working in Sales and Marketing - a space dominated by men, particularly in the upper echelons - was a shock. Despite being a Team Leader (and later, a Director) myself, I was expected to make tea, take minutes and smile when (male) clients and bosses were offensively misogynistic in my presence.
Dating as a single mother wasn’t much easier. There was an overall feeling that the men I met up with were doing me a ‘favour’, they were somehow ‘saving’ me from a falsely assumed life of drudgery, financial struggle and spinsterhood.
I came to realised that I was so tired all the time because I was fighting the patriarchy on so many fronts. I had to work harder than the men in the office to prove my worth, I had to work harder at home because it was assumed I’d take on the bulk of the child-rearing and domestic tasks. I had to constantly be on my guard against men who felt it appropriate to approach me on trains to open inappropriate sexual conversations, or walk too close behind me on the street before telling me they couldn’t get enough of my perfume (both these situations have happened in the last 12 months. I have hundreds more).
Now, as a mother, blogger, business coach, educator and journalist I hope I can do what is possible to make life for women in the next generation a bit more bearable. And wearing that mission on a tshirt or drinking from a statement-based coffee cup might seem a small gesture, but it’s one more step ahead in the fight against the patriarchy.