In a brown study

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Scarf – Flowers in the Rain
Necklace – made by friend
T-shirt – BHS
Dress – Per Una
Tights – M&S
Shoes – Jones Bootmaker

This week sees the last in the Feminist Fashion Bloggers’ series of posts celebrating Women’s History Month; this week’s topic is feminist ideas that changed the way we thought about things or the way we behave. It’s so hard to pick one thing when I honestly can’t think of a single area of my life which hasn’t been influenced by feminism!

Of course, that might not have been the case if my mother hadn’t been a feminist first. It’s entirely down to her that I have been a feminist for as long as I can remember, and given that it’s Mother’s Day in the UK this coming Sunday it seems quite appropriate to write about her.

Mum and me

My mother wasn’t a career woman. She married my father when she was eighteen, and has been married to him ever since. She left her job in publishing when I was born because she didn’t want to miss out on seeing me grow up and for the first eleven or twelve years of my life she was a stay-at-home mother (although she did other things I didn’t really know about at the time, such as being the secretary of the local CND branch for a while and a magistrate). After my youngest brother started school she went to university as a mature student and ended up getting a First in English and History of Art, followed by an MA and then a PhD – pretty impressive when she still had teenage and pre-teen children at home making the thoughtless demands of children everywhere.

She’s been an enthusiastic reader for as long as I can remember (the amount she reads puts me to shame, I have to say); she certainly had copies of The Female Eunuch and The Second Sex which I can remember dipping into from quite an early age. She never for a moment encouraged me to think that there were things I couldn’t or shouldn’t do because I was a girl, or that there was any difference at all between me and my brothers in terms of ability and aptitude. She doesn’t wear makeup, and that taught me that not wearing makeup was OK when all the magazines said it wasn’t; I can remember having long conversations about body image and societal pressure when I was teased at school for having hairy legs. She encouraged me to read and learn and question; she bought me the books that were banned by my school and took the time to read them herself and talk to me about them. And even though my father worked long hours and my mother was at home for several years, she never once gave me the impression that marriage was anything but a relationship of equals. Once she started studying we all had to pick up a share of the housework and cooking; she never bought into the pernicious myth of the ‘Superwoman’ that was such a feature of the 1980s.

So this post is for my mother, who gave me the best start in life I could possibly have asked for. Thanks, Mum!

11 responses to “In a brown study

  1. That’s a lovely picture of both of you – and your mother sounds fantastic.

    • Thanks – I don’t think it’s the most flattering picture of either of us but I still really like it. And she is fantastic – I know from talking to friends who were less fortunate in their mothers that I am very lucky to have mine.

  2. What a great post and a fabulous picture of both of you.

  3. This was very inspiring to read. Kudos to your mother – with the social pressure that existed on women even of her generation (I think) to be either submissive stay-at-homes, or nagging ball-and-chains, or tough career women (but nothing in-between?), it must have taken great confidence and wisdom to stay at home but still create an open-minded space with feminist/egalitarian values and to maintain a relationship of equals with her partner.

  4. Your mother sounds like an amazing woman! I love that she bought you banned books and made you chip in with chores and work. That picture of the two of you is just fantastic!

    • The one time I was popular at school was when I was the person who owned a copy of Judy Blume’s Forever ;-)

      But yes, my mum is fantastic. I’m very lucky.

  5. Oh she sounds, and looks, amazing. Did she go on to work or do further study after the Phd? (I can’t imagine trying to do a Phd and bring up children.)

    • She went back to working in publishing – she worked on the Macmillan Dictionary of Art and then for an academic/journal publisher, and she does freelance editing now.

  6. Very heartwarming post. You mother has accomplished so much. What a great influence! This is a fitting tribute for Mother’s Day. And so cool that she gave you banned books!

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