Inspired by What is a True Feminist by Sam Sorbo – http://truefeminist.com/
Written by Jacqui-D 05 August 2012
Please read the Sam Sorbo article first, link at the top of the page, thanks.
As a child I remember girls had to be pretty and seen but not heard. I was forced to wear pretty dresses and hats (particularly at Easter) when all I wanted was jeans and t-shirts. It did not help that the two villages we lived in, as a family, were predominantly male orientated, including the children, so most of my friends were boys.
To be seen and not heard was extremely frustrating for me as I had an opinion about everything, I still do. There was no encouragement when it came to intelligence, of any sort. It was my duty to learn how to cook, sew, knit, clean, keep house and family and learn music, play piano to be exact. The playing of the piano I did not mind, in fact I enjoyed it, and the cooking was okay, but the rest I found was not to my liking at all, I preferred climbing trees and riding bicycles. I felt as though I was meant for something else.
It was during my second to last year in primary school (primary 6); I would have just turned 10 years of age, that I had the opportunity to fight with teachers to do something other than knitting. I fought for the chance to try woodwork, it was not anything major but it was a change. By the end of the classes I had modelled a couple of things out of blocks of wood including a car, which I was very proud of. At this point in my life I had also started to learn violin and was singing, music was something I could do which was not primarily male or female orientated and something that I really enjoyed. I also took part in my first school play as Smee, Captain Hook’s little fat pirate companion in Peter Pan (this was amusing as I was still the smallest person in school and had not a pick on me), I got to sword fight and wear trousers, score for me. This was lots of fun but also required some hard work, something I have never had a problem with. For younger readers please bear in mind this was in 1972 when there were still very clearly defined lines about what women/ladies/girls should and should not be doing, not to mention a strict Roman Catholic school.
I had always been a great reader, one of the things I was encouraged to do, by the age of eight I had read books such as A Tale of Two Cities, Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights, note the type of book I was encouraged to read, Charles Dickens and the Bronte sisters mostly. So by the time I got to primary seven aged 11 it was no great surprise that my spelling was somewhat ahead of the rest of the class (winning class spelling competitions with words like antidisestablishmentarianism) and my maths/arithmetic was not too shabby either. Again, I took part in the school show, this time it was a concert and I did a little song and dance routine, it was supposed to be with a friend but she developed stage fright, so I was on my own.
When I reached my first year at high school, aged 12, I was a lot quieter than before. A lot had been happening at home since my mother died (aged 10) and I had a lot of the more out going fight knocked out of me, literally. I might have been a lot quieter and subdued but there was still fire there. I always seemed to be the smallest at school and invariably the occasional bully would try what they did best. In primary they were a lot easier to deal with as the primary school serviced only a couple of surrounding villages and my reputation got around, I really dislike bullies. In high school however the school was much bigger and it was impossible to know everyone, so there were a few times where I had to deal with bullies, one good thing I was taught, never ever back down from a bully, they might beat the crap out of you once but they lose all credibility and rarely have another physical go at you, and the tom-boy thing came in handy too.
In high school I continued with my violin lessons until about half way through my first year some young yobs beat the teacher up and he never came back. So now there was no more piano and no more violin, still I got music lessons once a week as part of the curriculum, that was something. I was never a great sports person, having been diagnosed with arthritis at an early age, always found sports painful, I liked gymnastics as I was very flexible and enjoyed the various bits and pieces we got to do in those classes, also enjoyed basketball to a certain extent, I was always left at the basket, I might have been small and much slower than the rest but I was very good at scoring points.
It was in my first year of high school that I discovered science, boy was that ever confusing. Up until that point I had attended a Roman Catholic primary school and had been taught that we came from Adam and Eve, no science taught at all. Imagine my confusion when science was telling me about evolution. This explained a lot, once I got used to the idea, for various reasons I will not go in to in this paper. It was also at this point that I discovered that I had an aptitude for English and French I also discovered what support and encouragement felt like as I had excellent teachers in both subjects. Unfortunately, this was not to continue and by my third and fourth years at high school I had mediocre teachers with little interest and my interest dwindled as well.
By the time I had completed my second year at high school I had been in two foster homes, by third year I was in a children’s home, not from anything I had done I might add. Things were not going well. I had become extremely quiet, except when I felt strongly about something, I would still not be bullied into doing anything I did not want to. I had lost interest in school and most other things although I spent a lot of time reading and found a new outlet in TV and film. With the exception of my first year in high school, taking part in the end of year concert and singing along to songs on the radio, I had also given up on the musical/theatrical side of things until my fourth year; I was about 16 by this point. I decided to take part in the schools adaptation of West Side Story, the music was brilliant, I so enjoyed this, I took part in the play the following year also, this was my last year at school, not through choice.
At seventeen I left school with a minimum of qualifications, Mathematics, Arithmetic, English and Biology. What to do now? I had to find a job and somewhere to live. At this point I should also mention that children who had spent time in the care system are constantly told that the majority end up in trouble with the law, single parents, alcoholics, drug addicts, you get the picture. I’ve never been one to conform to what is expected of me. By the time I had left school I had applied to various hospitals for training as a nurse, I think having watched my mother die had something to do with this choice. I had also applied for a job in a village near Edinburgh as a nanny. It was interviews galore time. I had an interview for the nanny position and got the job and of course it meant I had somewhere to stay, I also had various interviews for nursing training. I lasted 3 weeks as a nanny; I discovered very early that I cannot abide spoiled children or their parents. Parents, you do not do your children or yourselves any favours by spoiling them. By this point I had been accepted to three nursing training hospitals one of which was Yorkhill children’s hospital in Glasgow, I had had enough of children by this point so I had to choose between Stobhill and Vale of Leven, I chose Stobhill, the nursing home was in the grounds and I had a room there. Great, training, a job, and somewhere to live all within 6 weeks of leaving school, and all done by myself, my self- esteem rose slightly.
You might be thinking at this point that I am going way off the subject, what has any of this got to do with the article Sam Sorbo has written, please bear with me, all will become clear.
I completed my nursing training and worked in Stobhill for a couple of years in the oncology unit, I did enjoy it at the time, however I became ill and had to stop work for a couple of years. When I was well enough to go back to work I did so as an agency nurse, going to whichever hospital/department was short staffed, it was at this point I realised this was not what I wanted to do. I went to college and took a course in secretarial and accounts, got bored and moved on to a distance learning course in computer programming again I got bored, although I was doing well in both courses they just did not do anything to peak my interest. I moved on to an Open University course in earth sciences, this was more interesting but still not interesting enough for me to continue. I then did a course in secretarial and business administration. Meantime over the years I had been working at various different jobs, searching for something to do that was not only interesting but something that I enjoyed.
During this time of unrest and illness I had joined an amateur dramatic group known as EROS (East Renfrewshire Operatic Society) and performed in a number of shows over a five or six year period, this was what helped to settle me down a bit. I had moved from job to job and from home to home always restless and always searching. As a young, quiet and very small female I found that male bosses had a tendency to try to bully me in to doing extra hours etc. They soon found out that I might be quiet, on the whole, and I might be small, but I am far from stupid, nor am I a door mat.
My personal relationships seem to have gone the same way, unfortunately. My first adult relationship was with a hospital porter, we got engaged, that was the thing to do, big mistake from that moment on, especially when I became ill, I became an ornament. As I was not working I had no money coming in, could not go out to visit, I could not even go to the shop. I could not do housework, not that that was my favourite past time, as everything I did was wrong. It got to the point where he was out a lot; I was at home alone a lot, bored. Things came to a head when in the heat of the moment he knocked me over and left me breathless, he panicked more than I did. A few days later I packed a suitcase and left with no money and no where to live leaving all my other possessions behind. I moved in with my youngest sister for a few months then found a job with a room. Unfortunately when I left that job for another I also lost the accommodation and became homeless for four months until I got placed in a flat (apartment) which was not exactly in the best area of Glasgow (it’s what they do when you are young, single and homeless). By this point I am in my mid to late twenties. My other relationships have been unsuccessful also, one of which thought it was clever to live with me while giving all his earnings to his mother who had three other working adult children living with her, he would come home put on the computer and play games, oh joy. He was not happy when I decided it was time for him to leave. There have been a couple more like that; I think I must have mug or door-mat tattooed on my forehead.
Things looked up a little in my thirties and by the time I reached forty I decided that it was time I did something with my life, by this point I had been in an administration job for about six years and extremely bored. To relieve the boredom I decided to do a course at Glasgow University evening school. What subjects to choose, this was a problem. Eventually a couple of things influenced my decision, I remembered that I had enjoyed Classical Studies in high school and would have continued with that line of study if it had not only been available in my first year, also I had been watching a programme, Hercules featuring Kevin Sorbo which I was enjoying. First subject chosen, Classical Civilisation, now what to do with this, two subjects were required? After much thought and consideration I decided on Social Anthropology. I did so well in both subjects that I was urged to use this as an access course in to university. I applied and was accepted. Wow, wait a minute, does that mean I am intelligent after-all? In 2002 I started my undergraduate degree and worked two part time jobs. In 2006 at the age of forty-four I graduated with a joint degree in Archaeology and Classics. Unfortunately, in my second year of this degree I was diagnosed with a few medical problems which really caused me a lot of hassle, particularly when it came to concentration. I was advised to give up on studying but I do not give up easily and continued. As a result I could not continue with a post graduate degree and had to take some time out, again taking a couple of years off sick, although I did continue to work part-time, at the time it was called allowed work. In December 2009 at the age of forty seven I graduated with a post graduate degree in Mediterranean Archaeology, that was a lot of hard work and I would not recommend working full time and studying full time to anyone, I was on beta-blockers for six months after that, but achievement.
Since then I have had a full time job working in administration again, not exactly what I had in mind but in this current economic climate where jobs are scarce I am lucky to have a job at all. I do get extremely bored though and I am always looking for new things to learn.
Through all this I have learned that there is nothing wrong with being a tom-boy, there is also nothing wrong with being a woman.
Unlike Sam I have not had the joy or luck of finding the person with whom I would be willing to share my life or give up my career (what there is of it) for. So it has taken me quite a while longer to realise that there is more to equality than being able to do the same things as men. I agree, men are different, they think differently and they do things differently. They are able to do some things better than women, regardless of how much we protest, just as women are better at doing some things than men. We will never be the same, unless there is some extremely freak change in evolution. We should rejoice in that and work together as a team not opposing each other, we might actually move forward a lot quicker.
I still wear jeans and t-shirts a lot, and have the occassional urge to climb a tree, I do not think I will ever totally get rid of the tom-boy thing, it is a part of who I am, but I also, on occasion, like to put on a dress and try to look pretty. I have incorporated into my daily life things like having nails manicured and visiting the hair stylist more often, and I even occasionally pull out all stops and wear make-up. I like when a man opens a door and stands back for me to go through first, I like when a chair is placed for me when sitting down at a table. After all the rebellion as a younger person, I have come to realise what my mother was trying to teach me before she died. The relationship between men and women is about balance. There is much more to being a successful woman than equalling men in all avenues. We do equal men in that we are the balance they require in what they do and think and vice versa. Being a woman is also about doing what you think is right and not being afraid to do what is best for you, whether it conforms to the majority or not.
If you would like more information on the topic of my childhood, what it was like taking care of myself and siblings from the age of ten and dealing with abuse, check back here periodically.