“Why is it all about women?” by Juls Benson

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I was proud to be asked to feature as one of the ‘Women of Newport’ in the first exhibition. I remember one guy jokingly asking, “Why is it all about women? When is it our turn?” and I replied, “It has been your turn for centuries. It’s our time now”, which is something I stand by. I class myself as a feminist, but understand that many people, women included, fear the term and the ideology.

A feminist is a person who believes in the political, economic and social equality of the sexes – it’s about equality. We are not claiming to be the same as men, we just want the same opportunities – opportunities in the education system, in the workplace, in the home, in the family, in government, in sport, in our leisure time.

I am fortunate to be in a position where I can live by my own ethos – I have a husband and two sons who, I am happy to say, see no difference between the roles of men and women. I’m proud to see how my youngest son takes an equal role in the childcare and domestic responsibilities in his new family – seeing how young people like he and his partner deal with modern life, work and children gives me hope for the future in terms of gender roles, sexism, and other forms of prejudice.

I come from a working-class Welsh Valleys background and have had to fight to get where I am today. I entered university as a mature student, after the birth of my first son, entered the teaching profession, and brought up my boys as a single working woman until I met my husband. I have a degree, a MA degree, a PGCE, am about to complete my PhD, I run a community interest theatre company, and have achieved my childhood dream of becoming a writer and director. Was any of this harder because I am a woman? I wasn’t aware of any barriers, but I appreciate that I am a very determined, outspoken and bolshy woman, so maybe I just didn’t see the barriers. However, I would say that class is a big obstacle to women wishing to enter the creative industries, as is age. I am now a mature woman, a grandmother (how did that happen?!) and I’m aware that most opportunities are aimed at bright, young things with ambition. But I refuse to let that stop me.

I urge other women to stop being afraid, to chase their dreams, to stop taking crap, to demand respect and equality, especially within their own home and family. Help and support each other, teach our sons to be feminists, guide our husbands and boyfriends. But more than anything, stop being afraid.

 

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