During yesterday’s evening commute, a question arose in my mind. Usually I just sit there playing Candy Crush (or worse, watch over other people’s shoulders whilst they play Candy Crush like some kind of weird Candy Crush obsessed stalker), but yesterday was different. Yesterday, I was feeling philosophical. And it was because of this philospohical-ness, coupled with the fact that for once I wasn’t sitting there with my eyes glued mindlessly to a screen, that I began to realise something. Glancing around the busy carriage at all the worn-out, bored-looking people wearing business suits and permanent frowns, it suddenly dawned on me that a good 98% of the commuters I was sharing my oxygen supply (and legroom) with, were men. ‘Where are all the women?’ I thought.
Flicking through a day old copy of Stylist magazine, I came across an article which addressed a similar problem. When broaching the subject of child bearing, women are often asked about their preference in regard to the child’s sex.
‘Is it a boy or a girl?’ friends, relatives and colleagues excitedly inquire. ‘What are you hoping for? Are you going wait and leave it as a surprise?!’
The article argued that now, in 2013, women are not only being asked to decide whether they would prefer a boy or girl, but to choose between a baby and a career. As someone who has always taken it for granted that should I choose to do so, I would one day be able to have both, I found this idea not only limiting, but horribly outdated. Having studied my fair share of feminism modules at university, I like to think that I’m pretty clued up when it comes to the subject of gender equality. I’m fully aware that up until the commencement of WW2, the very idea of a woman having any kind of job outside the confines of the home was pretty much unheard of, and I also know that it wasn’t until the 1980’s that the idea of the ‘career woman’ really began to emerge; and even then, it was very much at the expense of any sort of family life. In The Second Sex, Simone de Beauvoir argues that the woman who chooses to have a career is regarded by society as selfish, cold and not a million miles away from the fairytale stereotype of the wicked stepmother. By choosing to pursue an occupation of any kind, Beauvour claims that woman is seen by the rest of the world as thinking, acting and ultimately living only for herself, an attitude that cannot help but leave a sour taste in the mouth of many, when exhibited by a member of the ‘fairer sex.’
That being said, a long time has passed since Beauvoir penned her infamous treatise on womanhood, and even longer since Virginia Woolf was kicked out of the library at Oxford, simply for belonging to the same ‘ill-fated’ sex. Today, we are told that as women in 2013 we have more rights, more opportunities and a greater level of influence than ever before, and yet in many aspects of modern life, the words of Beauvior, Woolf and many others like them still ring true. Unlike so many women before me, I’m lucky enough to be sitting on the train on the way back from my first proper post-university job, with an undergraduate degree under my belt, and I still can’t help but feel that things haven’t really moved on all that much: the working woman is still very much a minority.