"I'm a feminist because..."

Last Friday, Invercargill’s Deputy Mayor Becs Amundsen and I were walking to the Kiln to pick up some platters for that evening’s event, a book launch for local poet Cilla McQueen. Interested in her KIND Woman concept, and always on the hunt for cool ideas that the IPAG team can get amongst, we began discussing how we could collaborate on an exhibition for Suffrage 125.

In this five minute period, the concept for “I’m a feminist because…” was born, and five days later it was a reality. At its core, this exhibition is a discussion about equality and also a place where men and women can write, alongside the words of others, why they are a feminist. As I write this, there are only about twenty reasons on the board, but the power and strength behind them literally stops you in your tracks.

Since the inception of this idea, this very question has been running over in my head and I have realized that although I have always been a proponent of equality, I didn’t truly align myself as a feminist until after I had had my daughter.

For me, the question of returning to work after six months of maternity leave had always been a given. I love my job, I enjoy the mental stimulation and I studied for years to be qualified. My career has always been important to me, and whilst I knew becoming a mother would change my priorities and make me look at the world differently, I knew in my heart that it wouldn’t change these things that are fundamental to my being. I also had an extremely supportive employer who did all they could to make this transition easy. They valued my skills and knew that if I was supported and happy, they would get the best of me in return.

That being said, I was shocked by the resistance to this idea that came, both from people who knew me, and from total strangers. From many, I experienced pity, as if I was being forced back to work rather than willingly returning. I also to this day vividly remember a visitor to the gallery, in the first few weeks, telling me my child was too young to not have her mother around and that I had returned to work too early.  Although now I would have a different response to these reactions, I struggled a lot with guilt in those early months.

I’m not going to say that returning to work was easy, as leaving your child, a literal piece of you, is hard. However, my partner and I are equal parents who both work, and make decisions for our child together. Yet, I’m fairly certain no one said the same things to him.

So for me, I am a feminist because I believe in the right to equality and also in the right to choose. Whether you want to have ten children or none, be in paid employment or be a stay at home mum, we live in a world where women can do what is right for THEIR families and THEIR lives and have the best of the many worlds that they can pick for themselves. I just hope that when my daughter grows up she is able to do so with less judgement than what women today currently face.

So those are my reasons, but we would love to hear yours. Please pop into 5 Don Street before the 29th September and leave your mark on our “I'm a feminist because…” wall.  

Our voices are stronger when we speak together.

Sarah Brown