Am I A Feminist?

Tomorrow is International Women’s Day and it got me thinking, am I a feminist?

Regular readers of my blog will know I live in a rather unusual house. It’s in the middle of nowhere for starters, with no mains electricity or water. We heat the house with wood mainly, dragged in from the surrounding forest. It’s bloody hard graft, especially in all the winter weather we’ve just had in this part of the UK.

So here’s an example. I’m resting outside the woodshed taking a breather, when a bloke and his dog approach on the footpath.

“What are you doing with that axe?” he asks.

There’s a pause. I look down at the small mountain of chopped wood at my feet, at the large heavily rutted chopping block, at the well stocked woodshed behind me…. I decide not to grace him with an answer, rather offer a quick snort-of-a-smile and carry on with the job in hand.

You get used to it, the kind of casual sexism you face in the countryside. I use a chainsaw a lot, for slicing heavy branches into useable logs ready for chopping. I’ve lost count of the number of times blokes have quipped “Be careful with that, love!” or “What’s a girl like you doing with that?”

I never make an issue over it. Just smile and get on. Does that mean I’m not a feminist because I don’t make a point, or is it enough that I’m tackling a hard manual job in the first place?

I’ve got strong living here. I lift heavy sacks of coal to fill the Aga, push a wheelbarrow laden with muck. I know how to jump start a car or a diesel generator, how to trap and dispatch a wild rabbit and prepare it for the pot. I’m not afraid of the dark. In winter it’s a long walk through the pitch black woods just to reach the car. Do these things make me a feminist? Or just a strong woman? Or simply a country lass?

Living the way we do: growing vegetables, keeping chickens, preparing meals from fresh ingredients means there are a tremendous amount of domestic chores to plough through every day. I spend hours at the kitchen sink, make jams and chutneys from homegrown fruit and veg, cakes with the eggs from the hens and fill the freezer with produce from the garden to help see us through winter. I go ‘out to work’ just one day a week, for the most part my life is that of a typically 1940s housewife. It’s my husband who brings home the bacon, I just cook it.

But that doesn’t mean I can’t be a feminist. Otherwise every stay-at-home mum, every woman struggling to make ends meet in a low paid job would be precluded. Feminism is a way of thinking, a belief, an ideology not a job or a badge you have to wear everyday.

When I look about me it’s the women I admire.The mums grappling with guilt, bring up their kids as best they can without ever feeling like they have done enough.

The career woman working twice as hard as her male counterpart for less pay and going home to do more than her fair share of the housework.

The multi-taskers who spin more plates than they’ve had hot dinners, including making the hot dinners and washing up afterwards.

The sleep starved who face the tasks of everyday after a broken night and understand more than any man seems to that the job of having children never ends, not at 5pm or 9pm or in 20 years time, you will always answer to the call of mum.

The midlifers sandwiched between two generations and caring for them both juggling the demands of children with the needs of elderly parents, who become as needy as children with every passing year.

The menopausal woman struggling with distress and fatigue in silence, losing more blood than a solider on the battle field but expected to put in a hard day at the office because it’s still not okay to speak up when your biological clock is giving you a hard time.

The pack lunch makers, the PE kit packers, the gift buyers who know you can’t just turn up at a kids party empty handed, I salute you. Why the hell can’t men get these things?

Woman are the nurturers, the list-writers, the ones who picks up the old loo roll and replace it with a new one. You make the world go round. You put the colour and the love in the everyday. Am I a feminist? I feel like one writing this.

It’s been so long since I shaved my legs, the hairs are sticking out the bottom on my trousers – but that’s not feminism, it’s just winter.

Enjoy International Women’s Day.

Yours, MumInTheWoods.

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