International Women’s Day: A column about Karen Pritchard
As you may or may not have realised by now, I love feminism. I can bang on about feminist issues and women’s issues and patriarchy for hours and hours, until I’ve noticed that no one is listening and that I’m just in a room by myself shouting about the Mail Online.
Feminism teaches me to be content and confident and okay with myself. There is so much in the world telling you that you’re inherently wrong (see the Mail Online), it’s proper nice to have something that convinces you that you’re genuinely doing fine. Feminism is pretty much the entire reasoning behind why I fuk tha h8rs every day.
Well, that’s not quite true.
Because what I really want to talk about, what really laid the ground for all this self-respect and refusal to be ashamed, is my Mum, Karen.
Karen grew up in Harlow, Essex in the 60s and 70s. Unlike me, she didn’t have the privilege of University, and the internet, and a truckload of media just a click away, to empower her and introduce feminism in any relatable way.
The more I think about it, the more I realise that all the lessons feminism has taught me over the last five years are things my Mum’s been trying to teach me since I could walk. At age 11 when I was convinced by girls in my PE class that the invisible smattering of blonde down on my legs was disgusting and needed to be scraped off with a razor asap, it was Karen who desperately tried to convince me that my body hair was nobody else’s business.
During the literally hundreds of times that I’ve been inconsolable about my body size, Karen never once suggested I just lose a little weight to feel better, always insisting that every body is different and perfect. She’s never given a single shit about speaking openly about everything, from menstruating to mental health. She has taught me and my sister that, if nothing else, we should never be apologetic or ashamed of who we are, even if that meant demonstrating that fact by relentlessly embarrassing us in shopping centres for our entire childhoods. That woman has performed some sort of awkward dance in the aisles of every M&S in East Anglia.
Yes, feminism has put names to all the things I’ve been feeling my whole life, and let me know that it’s not just about me. And maybe the way my mum brought us up was just good parenting. But to fight against everything society is insisting upon, and raise two daughters who refuse to be undermined by bullshit gender expectations, takes more than being a “good mother”.
Karen occasionally tells my sister and me that she doesn’t want us to grow up to be like her. I think she means in a job she doesn’t like too much, having lived in Harlow her whole life. But I just don’t agree with her. If I could end up being half as open-minded, loving, assertive and shameless as Karen, to somehow instil someone with as much confidence and aspiration as she’s given me and my sister, I’d be fucking amazing. And I can think of nothing in this world I want to be more than a woman like Karen.