Superwoman is gone.
Posted: Wednesday June 14 2017
By: Abbie Coleman
Tell Batman and The Hulk, Iron Man and ol’ Spidey: Superwoman is gone.
By Diane Hall
The death of superwoman….
The working woman, able to dissipate gender equality issues and rise through the ranks in her career at speed; the mother with the cleanest house who attends every sports day, pantomime and parents’ evening, her offspring: over-achievers yet compassionate beings; the ‘never a hair out of place’ gym-bunny fashionista with a brimming social life; the lady who always feels fulfilled and achieves all her ambitions; the one always in the mood when her husband gives her the wink, after she’s cooked that day’s gourmet meal and got the kiddies bathed and to bed.
Superwoman was all this, and more. Which is why she had to die.
I don’t know about you, but I felt exhausted just reading that. As one of this year’s most anticipated films, Suffragette, comes to screens everywhere, we’re reminded of the sacrifices previous generations have made.
I’m sure few of the movement would have bothered if they were able to foresee just how much pressure we put on ourselves with the ‘freedom’ they won. Women have more opportunities than ever before, yet we’re almost as constricted as Pankhurst and her gang in the twenties.
Working mothers made to feel that they’re selfish or uncommitted for putting their kids first in certain situations. Stay-at-home mums facing assumptions that they’re lazy or unfulfilled. And women who choose to focus on their career and who make a conscious decision not to have children lambasted and branded cold, heartless, or just plain weird. Why? Why can’t women excel in a career if they’ve chosen to have children – it’s not a ‘one or the other’ choice, is it? Why is it strange if a woman doesn’t want children? Would we think the same if a man chose not to have a family? And being a stay-at-home mother is just as hard work and fulfilling as any career (you’re essentially just swapping one big boss for a few little ones!). In all seriousness, do you think men have these fears, or make similar assumptions about their male colleagues and friends?
I’m glad that the premise of Superwoman is dead or dying. I’m sure it’s been proved by experts, and especially in homes up and down the land, that it’s not possible to ‘have it all’. If the hobbies, interests or ambitions you aim for don’t give way, you will. Burnout shouldn’t be anyone’s life goal.
I’ve had to learn this lesson myself. When I was younger, I wanted to achieve great things in my life, and although I haven’t hit the heights I planned, the successes I have enjoyed have been no less worthy. I’ve had to work out what my limits are – not measured by Superwoman’s standards, or those of the women around me, but by me – the only person I’m, quite rightly, answerable to.
I know that I don’t have the cleanest house, for example. But I also know for a fact that it’s not the dirtiest either. There are people close to me who I know physically itch if their cushions aren’t plumped or if crumbs are left on the worktop – I’m not knocking them, that’s their business. If they feel more comfortable when their house is tip-top, good on them. Feeling good is the part we should all focus on, not what it takes to get us all there, because it’s different for every woman.
I used to feel that I had to prove myself, both in my career as a publisher and editor, and as a mother. As I’ve got older, it’s become clear: I don’t actually know who I’m proving myself to. So why bother? Most people are too busy with their own lives and problems to judge – and should they find the time to stick their two penn’orth in, their views don’t really matter. Judging others is one of the worst traits, as women – nay, as human beings – that we could choose to display.
So, chase your dreams, because life’s too short not to. Go for that job you think is just out of your reach, relax into motherhood rather than endure it, and live your life however you choose. Give more faith to the universe and all it has in store for you.
The days of aspiring to be Superwoman are gone. Emmeline Pankhurst: your actions were not in vain.