Marriage, the future and feminism

Last week, I heard the news that a friend of mine had got engaged to her boyfriend. For the sake of this blog, let’s call her Tara. I can’t quite recall how long she and her boyfriend have been together, but the news reminded me of a conversation I had some months ago with her and two of other friends.

It was coming up to exam time so the four of us were discussing our hopes and plans for the future. This is when Tara said that her dream in life was to get married, have children and be a housewife. On hearing this one of my other friends, Yasmin, launched into a rant about why on Earth would she choose not to make use of her intelligence and skills (Tara is currently studying at university), and resign herself to a boring life well confined under the glass ceiling. “HAVEN’T YOU HEARD OF FEMINISM???!!??” she cried, exasperated.

It was then that my third friend in this small circle of conversation, Daisy, interjected, and she said one of the wisest things I’ve ever heard her say – and she is extremely prone to saying wise things. “But,” she said, “isn’t that the whole point of feminism? Tara has the choice to be a housewife if she wants to, whereas before she would have been forced into it, whether that’s the life she wanted or not.”

This is something I completely agree with – women’s rights and role in society with regard to marriage and children has certainly changed dramatically for the better. I discovered in a lesson the other day that the women’s version of the verb ‘to marry’ in the millennia old Russian language, выйти замуж, literally means ‘to go out behind the husband’. The men’s version on the other hand, жениться, means ‘to wife’. For me this makes the progress of women’s rights in the last 50 years even more fantastic , as it really shows the massive leaps and bounds which have been achieved.

However I still feel there’s more to do. As I anxiously await replies from universities after sending off my UCAS application, I’ve been thinking about the future and I realise that women still have to make many decisions within their working lives which men simply don’t have to make. Consider the fact that many women have to plan their marriages and when they have children in coordination with the progress of their career, as employers are still less likely to employ newly married women or recent first time mothers, due to the risk of them taking maternity leave in the near future. It’s also still the unshakable social norm that when a baby is born to parents who both work, it’s the mother who will stop work or go part time to take care of it; there’s never any conversation about this. This fact is what can stop young women from using their skills and talents properly, from having an unblinkered view of the opportunities that lie ahead of them. Some young women feel as though they need to choose between having a family and having an important, high profile job, such as one in diplomacy or politics.

This massive life choice that many women feel they have to make shouldn’t exist, and we need to be encouraged by the massive progress we’ve made so that we can press forward and eradicate this aspect of gender equality.

Some deep thoughts…

A week ago I travelled from Essex to old London town for a performance of a play called ‘Chimerica’ along with some classmates. The play has received rave reviews in the press, and it totally lived up to the hype – for a play which dealt with so many heavy issues including economics, culture and the Tiananmen Square massacre of 1989, the dialogue was quick and snappy, and the innovative set design, comprised of a rotating cube which had the backdrop of the scene, or a reporter’s photo marked with an editor’s red pen, projected onto it, created an engaging, cinematic feel. There were at least three points where I cried, the last of which being the huge, moving twist at the end, which was just… GAH. I was sad for at least a day afterwards.

The play itself didn’t have too much to do with issues of feminism or any of the issues immediately associated with this blog or the Pretty/Ugly project, but it certainly dealt with issues to do with the media, which got me thinking. This was the kind of play which people who say drama, theatre, or art aren’t important should see – because pieces such as this develop your world view and make you think about where you stand on some of the most important issues of our time. I left the theatre thinking about the role that photographs and images play in the media – in the case of ‘Tank Man’, as was examined in the play, perhaps such striking images lead us away from the real point of what happened; when people think of Tiananmen Square they think of Tank Man, yet not of the unknown number of students who were massacred that same day, and whose remembrance is still banned in China. As someone passionate about human rights it was gratifying to see my friends becoming more aware about issues such as repression and censorship which still plague the world.

I also got thinking about the role of art as well. Having seen another absolutely Godawful play last night, it’s really been enforced how important the role of art is to educate, enlighten and enrich.

Hello internet!

Well this is exciting!

Hello reader! My name’s Elizabeth, I’m 17 and I currently live in Essex – although I like to think I don’t quite conform to the TOWIE image of Essex girls which unfortunately seems to be quite a commonplace stereotype!

This is the first of what I hope will be a long succession of guest blogs on the Pretty Ugly site – this is sort of my second involvement in the Pretty Ugly project, as one fine day, many moons ago in October 2012, my friends and I were dawdling around in Brick Lane when we were approached by Louise, who asked us if we wanted to get involved in her project. Having not heard about the ‘Pretty/Ugly’ video trend before, I was horrified, especially given the age of some of the girls who had made these videos, but not entirely surprised that something like this would emerge from the internet, having paid witness to much internet drama over Facebook, Ask.fm and other similar social networks. We were all filmed discussing our opinions on social media, body image among young girls and in particular the video trend, and also completed sheets reading ‘I AM…’ at the top, adding a positive trait about ourselves which wasn’t to do with body image – my sheet which proclaims ‘I AM… a rock ‘n’ roll nerd!’ (complete with appallingly drawn drum kit) is still stuck proudly on my bedroom wall back at home!

To tell you a little bit about myself, as you may have identified from the end of the last paragraph I am a ridiculously huge music fan, and I spend a sizeable amount of my money on CDs at HMV – yes, I’m old school, I still buy CDs… and listen to them on my CD player… from 2002… which only has one fully functioning speaker and a dodgy volume control system… ahem. Some of the bands who I have spent hours of my life obsessing over include the Stone Roses, Radiohead, Muse, Green Day, Arctic Monkeys (whose new album I can’t stop listening to right now) and probably a few more who I’ve forgotten. I’m a keen musical performer too and am working towards my Grade 8 clarinet – although, aware that this isn’t the coolest instrument out there (:-P), I play a little bit of guitar and am eager to buy myself a bass! I’m in my last year of school and I’m hoping to go to university next September to study German and Russian. I’m also a complete nerd for drama and theatre, so if I’m not pining after Berlin or Moscow, I’m probably working out when the next time will be that I can make the journey to London to see another play! Another important thing about me is that I am proud to call myself a feminist – so expect that to be a common topic in my posts to this blog! At school I lead the Amnesty International youth group, so I’m a firm believer in equal rights for all people around the world and always hungry for some sort of issue to debate!

So yes, from now on I shall be battling my occasional tendency to procrastinate and occasionally stressful Sixth Form studies to try and blog around once a week! I hope you’ll join me for what promises to be an… interesting journey through the blogosphere. 😉

‘Til the next time!

Elizabeth