I write this in response to Kirstie Allsopp’s latest interview (Kirstie Allsopp: ‘I don’t want the next generation of women to suffer the same heartache’, The Daily Telegraph, June 1, 2014: http://bit.ly/1h3K9MA), where she states that us girls really ought to think about skipping university, in favour of our mothers helping us to get ourselves onto the property ladder and finding ourselves a “nice boyfriend” so that we can get ourselves a baby by the age of 27.
In the same article, she identifies as a feminist and counter argues that women can go back to university later in life when their children are grown up and then get themselves a career.
Now I’m not about to be drawn into the old “my feminism is better than your feminism” argument because, quite frankly, that’s precisely why feminism is fragmented, but there appears to be a number of contradictions present.
First, the old biology argument for women having babies when their fertility is at its peak is, at best, haggard – if that were the whole truth, we would still be getting married off to an appropriate suitor at the age of 15.
There is also a level of emotional maturity essential to raising a child regardless of whether or not you intend/ed to go to university.
And I hate to point out the blatantly obvious – but not every woman wants babies, not every woman can have them, and not every 18-year-old has only three ambitions in life – babies, a house and a boyfriend (not necessarily in that order).
Second, can Ms Allsopp really “advise” a whole generation of girls to skip higher education purely on the basis that they may have an opportunity to “come back to it” later – what are the actual chances of that happening?
Lest we should forget, not all of us are from a moneyed background, or have partners/husbands who will readily support “return to work” in such a specific (and time-intensive way).
And let’s not even begin to illuminate the challenges of finding a graduate post with no recent work experience to speak of – have you seen the employment rates for recent graduates?
I suppose the only counter argument to a 40-something year old woman counteracting the ageism and experience gap, is that at least she is less likely to encounter the “maternity leave” trap since she’s already fulfilled her biological destiny, by all accounts.
And never mind the fact that a university education is designed to challenge and change the way you think about the world – I do wonder if it might be helpful to have had that experience before you raise your children, not afterwards?
You know – enable you to help shape their thinking in their formative years, and not once they are all grown up?
And finally, let’s place this in the context of the horrific kidnapping of the girls in Nigeria, and Boko Haram’s fundamental objection to the education of women – are we seriously attempting to advocate that biology should dictate a woman’s choice and opportunity to gain an education in the same way Boko Haram argues that religion should?
No, I didn’t think we could be either.
Sonia Hendy-Isaac is senior lecturer, curriculum design for employer engagement, at Birmingham City University. As well as teaching and researching, she is a published poet with a keen interest in contemporary poetry, revisionary fiction, feminism and gender studies, post-colonial theory, linguistics and the construction of meaning, and creativity and culture. This blog first appeared at http://blogs.bcu.ac.uk/views/