By Lucy Chapman
I love my vulva. I even like to say ‘vulva’. But my vulva doesn’t like me.
It is because of my vulva that I bore children. Wonderful, full-of-joy children. It is because of my vulva that after doing so I dropped down from being a full time secondary teacher to working three days a week.
We had a choice, it could have been my husband who stayed at home two days; I earned more than he did at the time, so it would have made sense financially, but it was my breasts which fed the babies, so it was me who went part time.
Being part time, there aren’t many positions of responsibility in a school; if you’re a Head of Department, your staff could need guidance and you’d be at Baby Song Time or as a Head of Year a child protection issue could arise when you’re at soft play / ball pool hell. It just couldn’t work.
So, as I stagnated in the workplace, I watched with pride as my husband (who worked at the same school as me) progress, get opportunities and promotions that were just not available to me. His pay was now already more than mine, simply as a result of me going part time and still the gulf was getting bigger.
As a direct result of this common phenomenon, my husband is swiftly paying off his student debt whilst I chip away £14 one month £21 the next. His pension contributions are also substantially higher than mine are now.
So, does any of this matter if we plan to grow old together and pool our income forever?
Well yes actually, it does.
What if I was to become a single mum (imagine he had an affair or I discover he’s gambled away our life savings)?
Firstly, I would probably have to move my boys out of their school to get a more affordable home, I’d also become reliant on benefits and as a result I’d probably be labelled a ‘scrounger’ and television programmes would be made about my ‘sort’ of person.
I’d be villainised and people would wonder why I didn’t think about this before having children. I’d still be part time, so we’d struggle a little.
I’d still have a tonne of student debt left to pay and in my old age I’d be trying to manage on my meagre pension, whilst my now ex-husband joins the fancy golf club and books a cruise on his.
Women currently make up two-thirds of Britain’s poorest pensioners and changes being made to pensions (both public and state) will disproportionately affect women further still.
It’s 2017 and in response to me querying why I’d not be getting my expected pay increase when returning from maternity leave, my boss, I kid you not, replied “it’s not as if you’re getting a pay cut”.
It’s 2017 and if my husband was beating me I’d honestly have to decide if I could financially afford to separate.
It’s 2017 and there are hundreds of thousands of mothers working part time and passing up on opportunities whilst fathers continue to breeze their way up the management ladder with the people they work with not knowing nor caring that they have children at all; it’s just not an issue. Nor should it be.
Girls have been doing better than boys in school for years yet we still have more men in management and leadership positions and there are much more male higher earners.
Only a mere 7 bosses of the 100, FTSE 100 companies are women.
Women have been hit far more drastically than men by welfare cuts due to harsh austerity measures, a whopping 74% of welfare cuts are coming out of the pockets of women.
Women’s refuges are closing up and down the country despite 2 women being killed every week at the hands of a partner or ex-partner.
Women are considerably more likely than men to be in part time work and part time workers earn less per hour on average than their full-time peers.
65% of public sector workers are women so have been disproportionately affected by public sector pay freezes and job cuts.
I sound bitter.
I sound jealous.
I sound dried up; it’s not sexy to be overtly feminist, but is it that unladylike to want to be self-sufficient (even if from within a marriage)?
Am I that much of a bore to want a fair shot?
Is it so very unappealing to ask not to live completely dependent on another person?
It’s 2017 and my wonderful, sensual, sexy vulva has betrayed me.