When I was younger, much younger (in my childhood), much as I loved the idea of equality for women, my idea of what that might be was flawed. I still thought it meant being able to behave like a boy and have the freedom and opportunities that the boys had. In my very young days I also thought that, at some point, I would get a turn at being a boy too, as that seemed only fair!
That said, as I got older I still misunderstood at times the idea of feminism; I thought it meant I couldn’t do anything that girls liked doing, that I had to embrace boy type things. I began to feel disdainful of girls and their toys – and this was pre the awful pink revolution when Lego was just Lego and not fraught with sexual politics! At that time I wasn’t much bothered about cooking, sewing, knitting and homemaking in the way that I am now but I did, and still do, love frocks and soft, silky fabrics, and I’ve never really liked trousers. I felt a little guilty about this as if I was being too frivolous and betraying ‘the cause’.
When I was 18 that began to change; I had an interview at Sheffield University, in the days when British universities routinely interviewed students before offering them a place. I wanted to study English Literature and I was taking three A levels in English, Sociology and Home Economics. I met with some grandee from the English faculty and spent a pleasant half hour telling him why I thought Thomas Hardy was a woman hater and tedious to read ( I later learned he was one of the foremost experts on said Mr Hardy…) when he said:
“One of your A levels isn’t academic; the University won’t accept it so you won’t be able to meet our criteria.”
Now, if truth be told, I didn’t really have my heart set on going to Sheffield so I wasn’t especially concerned what he thought of me so I replied:
” So you’re penalising girls then as I don’t know of any boys who take Home Economics at A level.” (Remember this was pre any equalities legislation and 1974).
He replied that he wasn’t penalising girls at all but it wasn’t a very testing subject and didn’t tell him anything about my ability.
I asked him what he knew about the topic and how it was taught. He knew nothing at all. So I told him about Home Economics A level and just how flippin’ testing it was and how it was the hardest subject I was taking and how they should absolutely accept it as an academic subject as, along with the 6 hour practical exam (think Great British Bake Off but not being allowed to talk or have a cup of tea), I also had to take three written papers involving science and economics! (Pause for breath-phew!)
A few days later I got a letter offering me a place at much lower grades than they usually demanded, i.e they wanted me to come, and a separate note saying that they had reviewed their position on Home Economics and were now accepting it…
It made me wonder in 1974 and I still ask myself the same question today. Why are things that girls and women like often held to be lesser in status and importance than things men like?
Thinking of expanding your training business? I can help you. To find out more, click here.
Posted on November 28th, 2012 by Jane