I was momentarily speechless. (Anyone who knows me will know how rare that is.) “Do you mean I’m a grumpy old woman?”
“Yes” replied my mother. “You’ve just started a bit early. Well, you do have a lot of opinions and so does Germaine Greer.”
Well, doesn’t that take all? I thought that my mother would have noted that Germaine and I both have unmanageable and curly hair (hair with character, I prefer to call it), we both wave our hands about, neither of us sounds sufficiently Ocker, and my little feminist heart has belonged to Germaine for decades.
I am not kidding about the decades part. Back in the 70s there was a fad for sewing amusing coloured patches onto one’s jeans or jacket. The first one I remember was when I was about seven or eight years old and sure enough, I had chosen a feminist symbol. I loved that patch. It moved from one pair of jeans to the next as I grew up but when I was about eleven, my tastes changed and I wanted to be a bit more girly (while retaining the right to climb trees and be a tomboy if I felt like it). I believed honestly that girls were every bit as good as boys and in fact, I was a darn sight better than all of them in the classroom. I believed I could take on any career I wanted to and I would perform as well, if not better, than men in the same job.
I celebrate my mother today, Marie Kerr. OK, I’m still a bit bemused about the Germaine Greer comparison although my hair is becoming more and more like Germaine’s as the years pass. Marie is the one who showed me how women could run businesses, work in broadcasting, become a Fellow of the Australian Institute of Company Directors, be a CEO, be vitally interested in their families, love and encourage their kids, manage finances, plan for the future, be organised and have fun. She never told me I couldn’t do a particular job and sometimes even today she has a higher opinion of my abilities than I do. Her belief is not centred on the gender agenda but rather a belief in ability regardless of gender.
As I bring up my daughter, I hope I will be able to show a similar belief in her. Granted, quite a few friends think it’s amusing that I, quiet follower of second wave feminists, have produced a daughter with an almost unhealthy obsession with pink dresses, sparkles, fairies and princesses. I don’t mind really. I think that Princess Pink is a secret pirate and you should see her wield a sabre. The world is in safe hands, Mum.
Rachel Kerr (tilleycat2000 at yahoo.com) is a singing teacher, program manager at a university, and mother of Princess Pink. She is an alumnus of the Australian National University and the University of Canberra. She enjoys writing, performing, and attending the theatre.