Sunday, May 08, 2005

Virginia's Mum's weren't the earth mother type

I am childless and I am angry. Angry that I was so foolish to take the word of my feminist mothers as gospel. Angry that I was daft enough to believe female fulfilment came with a leather briefcase.

- Virginia Haussegger July 2002, now with book.

Virginia Haussegger was angry. And she is trying to identify the source. But is she barking up a tree of battered orange ruffy I wonder?

What is it that is really making Virginia unhappy? She has a career, she has clothes, she has her lattes (or her short black expresso's - really I can't pretend to know how Virginia drinks her coffee or if she even drinks it at all but I can bet "your bottom dollar", as my grandmother might've said, that whatever she's drinking is not instant nescafe or packaged in cheap no-fills tea-bags). What else does she have? She has her shoes, and her apartment (probably) and her bank account - she has money ! But is money making her happy? Has money bought her a family?

Perhaps it is not her mothers feminism that has made Virginia unhappy, perhaps it is that little green-backed monster lurking in the leather briefcase.

When I look at our mothers, I see a generation of woman who worked goddamned hard. They broke their backs for us, and spent copious amounts of time (and the little money that they had) on other people, on, horrors dread, "community projects". Oh yes, we laughed at our mothers as we grew up didn't we - watching them do all that stuff for other people. Poor silly mum we thought, all that time she spends on education and health "in the community" when she could be investing in the sharemarket. Yes, that's what we thought. And we packed our briefcases and slipped on our square toed heels and squeezed into our slimline pinstripe skirts and tottered off to play business-lady.

And what did we learn, 30 years on?

Ah sigh, perhaps we should have listened to our mothers. We learnt that money is not the sole source of happiness and that power-dressing is not likely to come back when we could be wearing one of those flattering floral reproductions by Collette Dinnigan.

Poor us. But we were not the only ones duped by what we thought to be our independence. For there were our brothers. Our brothers who thought this whole career girl thing might be a bit of a cinch. Oh glory days ! The girl buys the bloke drinks ! And goes halves in the dinner bill ! Not only that - Wohoo - she wants to work after we shack up ! Cruisey dudes, now we only have to work half as hard and hey, this pushing little sisters pram in the supermarket ain't so bad ! Wo ! the chicks dig it when I flex my arms reaching for baby formula on the top shelf !

Oh yes, our poor brothers were duped too.

For all the time that we were dressing up for Wall Street and they were practicing their sensitive new age pickup lines, the real Scrooge Mc'zillions were rasping hoarsely and rubbing their hands together in glee. Oh a great thing the glass ceiling is they chortled - just wait till she starts bumping her head against that ! And they cackled and waited for the sexual revolutionaries to start sleeping their way to the top. Well, not quite the top.

And what's worse, we sealed our own fates. Oh yes we did. Those of us who strutted our way toward the elevator doors, pushing our peers aside like skittles and betraying our own sex to collude with the powers that be (for collude some have).

All the while our "freemarket" chortling as cash registers rang out across the land where once wedding bells might have peeled. "Dual income families !" "Single working women with expendable income !" "Dual income couples - no dependents !". The freemarket almost squawked as it packaged it's barely concealed delight in ever diversifying consumer items for us to buy, with our expendable incomes.

And before we knew it, it was too expensive to have kids as well. Oh no ! The Manolo Blahniks ! We lamented. We cannot do without watching those on Jessica Parker ! (For by this time our 100% pure virgin cold pressed olive oil and organic tomatoes and cured prosciutto were already in excess of our shoe budget and having dashed our heads against the glass ceiling all day we settled for vermouth and gin and Sicilian olives in front of the flat screen telly, rather then ankle bitters).

Our mothers didn't tell us to ignore motherhood - our economy did.

Virginia, award winning journalist - toss aside those tailored shirts for a moment, chuck on an old T and go teach a journalism workshop with some disaffected teenagers. Go on, your employer will love you for it. Soul journalism is your answer Virginia, our egalitarian feminist mothers had it right.

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