Belfast Telegraph

The best gift for all women would be to scrap Mother's Day

By Jane Graham

Feminism starts early these days. With my daughter, there were signs at the age of three. She rose up, puffed out her chest and informed me haughtily that the floppy chew-eared blue dog she'd carried with her since she was a baby was not, as I kept assuming, a he, but a she. In fact, every one of her soft toy coterie was female and she would thank me to respect that.

I found her insistence amusing and bemusing - where had this come from? (Though I did briefly wonder why it had never occurred to me that any of the animals who lived on her bed might be female.)

It was also occasionally annoying, as every time I nearly did my ankle tripping over teddy Weirdy Beardy and shouted, "What is he doing on the bloomin' stairs?", she would prissily reply, "Weirdy Beardy is a girl". Even beard fluff wasn't enough to persuade her that one ted in 10 might be male.

This is a good time to be a young feminist. The global sprawl is becoming a powerful umbrella movement, increasingly confident and convinced of its own raison d'etre. You can tell there's something in the air by the panicky nastiness of the misogynist backlash it has triggered. (Followers of historical struggles for equality in Northern Ireland might recognise this strain.)

Those "Calm Down and Stab Her" T-shirts, the ITV "rape comedy" show Dapper Laughs (eventually axed), the gruesome trolls who death-threat high-profile women on Twitter; these are the dying cries of a cornered knuckle-headed minority of dunces.

Meanwhile, HeForShe, the movement of men supporting women, grows apace. The days when revered intellectual men argued that "women have an insatiable desire to please" and helpfully advised men to "over-praise" one if he wanted to sleep with her - as novelist Stendhal wrote in 1804 - are coming to an end. (Today's Stendhal might think it, but he wouldn't tweet it.)

It's in this generally heartening atmosphere that International Women's Day flourishes year after year. The global celebration of womanhood which serves as a focussed demand for worldwide "equality and emancipation" is no longer treated, even by our right-wing newspapers, as a militant quirk of flag-waving feminist guerillas.

It is a respected, impactful, widely acknowledged event, even a national holiday in numerous countries including China, Cuba, Nepal, Russia, and Zambia.

There were more than 50 events in Northern Ireland last Sunday, including a rousing city-centre march. Women of all ages and agendas came together and thrilled to the sound of their own voices.

Exactly a week later - this coming Sunday - is Mother's Day. Or, as one teenager I was eavesdropping on put it, "the day you take your wee mum for a scone".

Hmmm. Just seven days after heralding the achievements of clever, capable, brave woman on Women's Day the Guardian was suggesting bread-making courses, framed dry orchids, and block-printing sets (a new hobby!) as perfect gifts for mums. The language on women's pages transformed from a revolutionary zeal to a gooey mush.

Unlike International Women, mothers, it appears, like nothing more than flowers, chocolate and cards with baby mice snuggling up to a mummy mice alongside a rhyme that ends "as much as you".

My daughter, looking over the Moonpig website asked me, when you become a mum, do people expect you to stop being political?

I won't transform into a sweet scone-devouring housewife on Sunday. Motherhood is not a retirement home for ex-feminists, it is not a neutered state of fatigued gratitude. It requires courage, fire, intelligence and skill.

It's time to get rid of Mother's Day and its queasy paraphernalia. Maybe then our daughters will stop asking what difference there is between an International Woman and a mum. Note: both enjoy breakfast in bed.

Praise be to those who tackle bigotry

How often I've sat in churches and listened passively to quaint old nonsense paraded as an eternal truth.

I've observed endless outdated declarations about relationships, society and sex (covert, never overt) being met with a kind of benign deafness, often by the dutiful offspring of regulars.

So I say hallelujah to the principled flock members who walked out of a Donegal church in protest against the priest's criticism of footballer Eamon McGee, due to his support for gay marriage.

To paraphrase the old adage, all it takes for bigotry to triumph is for good men to do nothing. These people did something, and God bless them for it.

It's magic kids are a little bit naughty

I laughed when I heard Emma Watson say this week her mum was "thrilled" when she got her first detention, as she was worried her high-achieving daughter was going to be too strait-laced.

I've had exactly those thoughts about my children. It's a huge relief if your kids are surviving without pain of embarrassment, loneliness, or crushing failure at school, but the currently popular emphasis on civic values and how the frogmarched automatons - sorry, schoolchildren - should act and think in unison convinces me a little rebellion is a sign of backbone, intelligence and independent thought.

If even Hermione steps out of line, I reckon it should be a curriculum requirement.

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