The T Shirt Feminists – but who irons it?


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When I saw the photos of Nick and Ed wearing those T shirts, I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry – is this what feminism has become, public school boys wearing designer T shirts?  But I suppose we are talking about it. I know there has been some negative press about who is making these T shirts, but I think there is the more fundamental issue – who irons them once they’ve been consigned to the laundry?

One of my fears in life is if I’ve done enough to continue the cause of feminism in my own small world – am I doing enough to be a role model to younger women? I was really angry as a student often ranting about inequality and how things needed to change.  I’m less vocal now, more quiet despair at times when I see inequality so deeply ingrained in our society and worse when I see young people falling into the stereotypes.

On the gravestone of Emily Davidson is the statement ‘Deeds not words’.   Deeds not words – what deeds do I, we, everyone who can and should, do every day?  We have the media still defining women by their family status (remember the headline in September when Rona Fairhead was chosen to lead the BBC Trust ‘Mother of 3 poised to lead the BBC’.  Why? Was being a mother of 3 a prerequisite for the job?  And what about the latest Malmaison hoardings depicting sexy women with power tools looking seductive to advertise their renovations?  Well Jeanette Winterson had a thing or two to say about that.

I think we should be discussing these issues with our children, young people and everyone else to keep making the point that these types of media headlines and imagery are working to erode our equality.

So back to ironing – nothing divides like ironing. In domestic life ironing is and continues to be feminised.  I do despair when I see Facebook posts of mums posting ‘funny’ pictures of their teenage sons ironing – oh how strange and funny that is.  It just perpetuates the idea that ironing is really for women (mums especially) rather than a basic life skill that both boys and girls should be doing as a normal part of their lives, without the need for comment.

I hear of young couples moving in together – pre-family, both working and somehow the woman does the ironing (and laundry), why?  I can remember when I first moved in with my husband and we agreed to separate linen baskets and we sorted out our own laundry and ironing – this was quite the discussion point with friends who thought it strange.  Why?  (22 years on we still do this).

So let’s start an ironing revolution – let’s normalise ironing for both sexes so that it becomes as normal as brushing your teeth, after all you wouldn’t brush someone else’s would you?  Teach our children, nieces and nephews to iron as part of life and not to make a song and dance about it.

So what deed can you do today?  If wearing a t shirt helps, so be it – but let the deeds and discussions continue and please everyone, man or woman, iron your own T shirt.

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