Oil of delay

September 30, 2015 § 6 Comments

I’m a low-maintenance kind of girl. I’m not big on brand names or bling, I wash my face with soap and water, and I’ve never had a manicure. And when I need moisturiser, I generally find something middle-of-the-price range on the supermarket shelves and use that.

But this weekend, for some reason I picked up a bottle of that beauty stalwart, Olay beauty fluid, formerly known as Oil of Olay. At home I unscrewed the lid and smoothed the pale pink fluid over my cheeks and at once I smelt my mother and my grandmother, and I smiled. I remembered that they were both strong, capable women of grit, and yet both had the softest cheeks when you snuggled in for a hug.

My grandmother remains one of my personal heroines. She was tiny, and feisty, and she took a fairly difficult life in her stride and handled it with grace and style. My mother, I think, was a feminist (possibly not officially so) as evidenced in the way she raised us. Two girls and a boy and she treated us all the same – my sister and I helped my dad as much with woodwork and fixing cars as much as my brother was required to help with dishes and housework, as a tiny illustration. (It is a little known fact that I have good practical experience of throwing concrete slabs.)

Today marks 30 years since she died, but I remember clearly that my mom only had one real expectation from us – that we did our best. That applied to school work, extra-murals, or hanging out the washing. You were required to do your best. The effort, the work ethic, was the thing, not the outcome. And I certainly never felt that any of my future options were limited because I was a girl. Whatever I wanted to do, she supported, as long as I put my back into it and did things properly.

But since I opened that bottle of Olay, I’ve been thinking about the kind of woman I am; about what my mother and grandmother would think of my choices. I think they’d probably understand, and even if they disagreed, they’d love me anyway. But I think they’d be quite disappointed with the way the world has turned out for women. Because for all the advances in gender equity – the laws, the opportunities, the lip service – things are still not as they should be. I have two daughters of my own now, so these things trouble me.

For example:

  1. It is still safer for a boy or man to walk alone on the streets than it is for a girl or woman to do so. It doesn’t matter if she’s taller, or stronger, or a better fighter than her male counterpart – she’s still perceived to be more of a target.
  2. There’s still a pay gap between men and women in many companies – same job, same qualifications, same experience, but women will earn a lesser salary.
  3. If women choose not to have children, they are criticised for their choice.
  4. If women choose to have children and continue working outside of the home, they are criticised for their choice.
  5. If women choose to have children and work part-time or work from home, or be a stay-at-home mom (I despise the term, but have no better one) they are criticised for their choice.
  6. Women are still asked (by the media, all the time) how they manage to balance their work and home life – men are not asked this.
  7. Women are punished for having a womb. Someone has to bear the children, people: it’s simple biology. Yet women of child-bearing age are often passed up for positions because they ‘might fall pregnant’. I know of women who’ve been retrenched while on maternity leave. I’ve even heard people say it’s a waste for women to qualify as doctors, for example, because they will stop practising as soon as they have children, and all the money spent educating them will be wasted.
  8. Women are made to feel guilty for leaving work early to attend to a child’s school function, while men who do the same thing are applauded for being ‘hands-on’ fathers.
  9. When women look after their children on the weekends they are parenting. When men look after their children on the weekends, they are babysitting.
  10. Men are applauded for ‘helping with the children’. Because it’s women’s work, right?

(And apologies to my gay friends. I am aware that these distinctions are largely heterosexual in nature.)

Do I need to go on? There are so many examples of gender disparity it exhausts me sometimes. And I know there are couples where these roles are not the norm. I know the ‘not all men’ and brigade will be up in arms, but I think they are a small minority. I think we still have a long way to go.

And many of these issues are hard enough for women who have had opportunities like a good education. Imagine how much harder it is for those who haven’t.

So I look at my strong, intelligent, capable, daughters, and I think about the women in my family who have inspired me, and I realise that I’m probably raising women that the world isn’t ready for. These young women – despite all the strides feminists have made – are still going to have to fight to be recognised as equal human beings in what is still very much a man’s world. And that makes me sad.

We have to do better.


§ 6 Responses to Oil of delay

  • charliesbird says:

    Yes, being an independent woman of independent means, even in this day and age, is hard. No doubt it is somewhat easier than our Oil of Olay wearing mothers had it, but it is still flipping tough out there.

    I work as one of the only full time female surgeons in my little town, and every day is a fight and a struggle (after 10 years, it is getting a teensy bit easier, I will concede). If I loose my temper because of incompetence around me, I am reported to the management team. If my male colleagues do the same, there is no censure, no rebuke, just an understanding that he works hard, so should not be frustrated with petty issues, and in fact that is just his personality anyway. It drives me crazy.

    (I also drive myself crazy because I cry when I am angry, and that makes people think I am weak)

    Liked by 1 person

  • charliesbird says:

    Your mom raised a pretty awesome Mandypants, so Mrs Pants, thank you for this beautiful daughter of yours, who has prompted me to remember to thank my own mom for raising me like she did.


  • “Women are punished for having a womb”. YES! On one hand, you’re criticised if you admit to not wanting children, but then you’re looked down upon in the workplace when you DO have children. I had a horrible experience when I returned to work after maternity leave – suddenly, my colleagues were questioning my ability to get my job done (and I hate to say it, but my female colleagues were particularly difficult during the first few months after maternity leave). Thank you for writing this piece and making me feel less alone!

    Liked by 1 person

  • I have to believe change is slow and we have come far. That said, only if we raise strong women will we continue to create change. I worry about the demeaning nature of this generation’s music towards women. What happened to the love songs?


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