1 EAGLETON NOTES: Strong Females

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Saturday, 16 March 2019

Strong Females

A few days ago I read a post on Rachel's blog entitled Today's Philosophy Class.  When I read it it made be think of the way I was brought up and the role feminism played or didn't play in my life.

I should explain that I and my brother were brought up in a family of very strong females. My mother and my maternal grandmother both played a significant role in our upbringing. My paternal grandparents were dead long before I was born but the females in my father's family were also very strong: my father had been brought up by one sister and another lived in Scotland and owned an inn. She had a head for business and turned the stables into a hall used for community get togethers and weddings etc. 

My brother and I were brought up to understand that women and men had different roles in that men could not have children but that the opportunities that men and women should have in life should be equal. Seeing the examples of the women so close to me as a child I just always assumed that to be the norm.

My first experience of a working environment was a hospital where men were usually doctors but all the 'bosses' in my world were female from Sisters to The Matron. After a spell as a trainee accountant in an all-male environment I made my career in local government starting in the Town Clerk's Department (the legal and administrative department) of Liverpool Corporation. It was certainly true that historically females had been shorthand typists and clerks but by the time I arrived there were women making their way up the administrative and legal ladders as well. There were many women professionals in other departments too and a female chief officer (so far as I can recall she was the only one out of 26!). In the professions, even then, women and men were paid the same rate for the same job in local government and all salaries were transparent and public.  

Liverpool also had a reputation for strong female politicians with people like Bessie Braddock (and some might argue that one Bessie Braddock was more formidable that the other 139 councillors and aldermen put together).

Of course by then I was well aware that females had an uphill struggle in a predominantly male world of government and business but my attitudes had already been established.

My brother's two daughters (I only had sons) are also clever, strong and successful women and it makes me wonder how much they owe to genetics and how much they owe to the attitudes with which they were surrounded as youngsters. 

32 comments:

  1. A nice take on the subject I. Have already discussed

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    1. Yes, John. I popped over and shall go back and comment properly.

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  2. My late brother and I were raised by two strong women....our mother and our Nana...our mother's mother. They had lots of hurdles to conquer...some they did and some they were unable to leap...but they always seemed to find a way around. They tried to keep their moments of despair from us kids as much as they possibly could. Sometimes they succeeded; other times, not. Such is life.

    I get a little weary of all the flag-waving that goes on about feminism...much of it is is repetitive and unnecessary. I'm probably not explaining, with clarity, my feelings...but I think you probably get an idea of what I'm trying to say, without my having to write a book on it! :)

    For one, I have never been a fan of Germaine Greer!

    Strong women...and strong men...and I'm not talking about muscle power...are equally admirable human beings in my opinion...in my book. :)

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    1. Lee, I've read stories of your youth and understand what you are saying. I certainly agree with your last sentence.

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  3. It's good to hear of smart, strong women in your family long before feminism had much impact.

    I grew up in a golden age for girls but my mum is pretty much anti-feminist and I didn't have other role models. It's taken me to middle age but I'm starting to wonder how life would have been different if I had understood more.

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    1. I'm not sure, Kylie, that I knew anyone who was anti feminist although there were plenty who I assume were ambivalent.

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  4. You deal with a great topic today. I had the opposite influence that you had. However in teaching I worked mostly with women and learned respect and appreciation of women's accomplishments. we still have a long way to go in some respects.

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    1. Red, I agree with you that there are some areas, equal pay for example, where there is still work to be done.

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  5. My early life was definitely ruled by women. My mother (obviously), nanny, early preschool educators, pre-Prep school, Prep school, and even slightly into my upper school (but far less so). All of them were friendly, reasonably authorative, and intelligent. What effect it had on my later life I have no idea, but my own daughter has echoed their characters.

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    1. I suppose, Cro, it depends on what sort of role models they were to you. They were all people in roles of authority though so presumably had a reasonably significant effect.

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  6. I have always been ruled by women. On the occasions when I've rebelled I've been revolting very surreptitiously.
    Be interesting to see if you get comments from the other twenty or fifty genders.

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    1. Adrian, I suspect you are only ruled by anyone to the degree that you want to be!

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  7. I sometimes wonder if I would have turned out differently had I been influenced by strong women in my early years. As it happens, I don't think I turned out too badly, considering.

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    1. Jules, to be content in ones own skin is a great achievement (in my opinion).

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  8. The man-woman thing never featured much in my life as I grew up never questionong that all humans are equal (while at the same time of course being aware of the physical differences that are there, whether we like it or not). My parents shared work around the house (and still do), both also had jobs. I have had both male and female bosses and never felt different towards any of them because of their gender. What really irks me is the salary gap in most companies here in Germany. With all our supposedly modern regulations, this country is still near or at the top,of the list of EU member states with pay gaps.

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    1. Meike, as always you bring a logical and reasoned approach to the subject. I am really surprised that there is such a pay gap in Germany. I had just assumed that Germany would be leading this aspect of equality from the front.

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  9. Lots of food for thought here... I certainly wish that the attitude you and your brother take were the norm! :) However, like Meike reports from Germany, I think we still have considerable salary gaps in Sweden too (in spite of theoretical equality). In my childhood in the 1950s it was still the norm for the mother to be a housewife. There were no nursery schools to provide an alternative. It began to change in the 1960s I think, but the same year I that stared school (1962), my brother was born, and our mum remained a housewife - and she never went back to working outside the home again. Whereas my aunt only took short maternity leaves after the births of my cousins. (Her oldest is the same age as my brother.) They had a daytime childminder/au-pair (young girls) to look after the children in their own home when they were little. (Nowadays, day nurseries are the norm here + rather generous rules about maternity/paternity leave.) I guess my parents shared responsibilities in their way; but not in the same sense that we speak of equality today. Actually I think my own generation grew up a bit confused - with a lot of society and gender norms changing fast around us.

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    1. Monica, I'm rather older than you so it'll not be too much of a surprise to hear that my mother left her job in the War Office to have me and didn't go back to work until we were older. Otherwise what you describe is pretty much what family life was like for CJ and I. You are absolutely right about society and gender norms changing. Even the use of words has changed dramatically. When we were enjoying ourselves we were gay but if you try to explain that to a youngster now they are perplexed.

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  10. I worked alongside women throughout my teaching career. We were just people. Sometimes I find the idea of gender delineation unhelpful. Some women teachers were excellent colleagues. Others were poor. But it was just the same with male colleagues. I hate broad claims like "Women are good at multi-tasking" or "Men are loud mouths who want to dominate meetings" - that kind of generalisation is a type of sexism in my judgement.

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    1. YP, I heartily agree that generalisations like that are exceptionally unhelpful in trying to educate people to be more understanding and tolerant.

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  11. I admire people raised by strong roll models, men and women. The roll models I had, by far provided examples on what not to be like as an adult. I looked towards others, friends with strong families.

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    1. That's sad to hear Maywyn. I do hope that the others provided you with some benefits.

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  12. Well thank you for that last sentence GB. Ian and I have discussed this kind of subject a lot recently - the people, the big things and all the little things along the way that made us think and act the way we do now. We're still coming up with a plan for how we can best help our daughters to discover the joys of making their own path in life regardless of whatever box others might expect them to fit into. I'm sure it will be a topic we will come back to over and over in the coming years.

    As for our family I have to say that I regard both of your parents as strong examples to look up to and aspire to be like them more than I could ever have imagined at the time of their passing.

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    1. Helen, it's interesting to hear your ideas for planning for how you can help your daughters choose their own path. I don't think CJ's and my Mum and Dad even thought about that but they certainly gave us our freedom. We knew that and we also knew that the freedom as youngsters was unspokenly conditional upon us never turning our liberty into licence. I look back more that ever now and am thankful for the parents we had.

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  13. I think there have always been very strong women, and strong men. The pity is that sometimes the women have forced themselves into subservient roles because they think they should. Sometimes being meek and humble is harder than throwing ones weight around, I suppose Wasted potential is never a good thing so I'm glad that you had these wonderful examples of strong women in your own life.

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    1. Jenny, I'm sure you're right about there always being strong people. I know women who are very proud of being homemakers and regard that as being just as important as their husband/partner's role of earning money for the family. I think they can be very strong as well. I also know partnerships where both partners play both roles. I think that we live in potentially exciting times in that respect. Of course there is a long way to go in providing equality of opportunity for women and eliminating wasted potential but the changes in my lifetime have still been enormous.

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  14. Sounds like you had a good positive upbringing really, I also had some strong role models, my grandmother virtually raised 9 children herself and her mother and grandmother were both suffragettes.

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    1. Amy, you are, indeed, fortunate in having strong role models. Perhaps if more people had had that then changing attitudes would have been faster.

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  15. Thanks for the peek into your upbringing and career. I must say that the best managers I ever worked for were female.

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    1. Bob, I can't claim that, although looking back the female managers I did encounter were certainly amongst the very best.

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  16. This is a huge topic, and has so many tentacles. Most of my adult jobs have been unionized, so the salary is quoted in a book and is the same for anyone holding the same position. Being a movie nut, I know that the film industry has been very guilty of paying women less for their roles than they paid men. In my personal experience, I have never knowingly been paid less than a male counterpart doing the same job.

    That being said, I deplore the other-other side of feminism, which is the curious *demand* by people that women should be hired or promoted or heaped with awards because they are women. That seems to me to be the other side of the exact same coin that makes discrimination wrong. Isn't hiring someone *because* they are a woman discrimination as well?

    Most of my examples of this come from the movie industry, but when people get up on stage at the Academy Awards and say "Finally, a female film director has been nominated..." it grates on my nerves. If we are going to be color blind and gender blind and just base things on the quality of the work.... then what difference does it make what sex a film director is?" If there is a male film director whose work outshines the others, is he to be left on the shelf so that a woman gets the nod? I say that's wrong.

    I'm all for women being given the same opportunities as men, the same pay for the same job, and the same freedom to choose their life path.... but I am heartily against reverse discrimination. You can't "pay back" history by tipping the scales unfairly in the other direction now.

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    1. Mrs S, there isn't a single word you have written there with which I disagree.

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