Its ironic that the icons of women’s liberation are often those who personify the very opposite of what was originally intended, in that they represent chained-to-the-home domesticity: our own mothers. As I wrote on this blog a couple of years ago, if you ask young women in particular who their pin up is, Mum always gets a mention.
Unsurprisingly, really. It is someone who has invested unstintingly on a daily basis, for free, has been loyal, steadfast and used her common sense to get by. Someone she has seen celebrating small achievements while at the same time countering ageism, sexism, and ever other “ism” of today’s world. It’s also a “real” person who she has seen in private scrimping and primping with very little, while publicly “keeping mum” so as to reflect the best she can. This is usually carried out for quite unselfish reasons, to dignify family values and to help her children get ahead in an increasingly competitive world.
The “Who do you admire most?” question usually gets a completely different answer if asked of a man. It probably says more about the difference between the sexes (which I think is vital) than anything else. Probably there for a very good reason.
It seems Hillary Clinton’s fits that pattern too. Just after being nominated the first woman American presidential nominee, she was asked by Gail Collins of The New York: If she could go back in time to tell someone that a woman has been nominated for president, who would it be? Clinton said it would be her mother, Dorothy Howell, who as an unwanted child, had been sent west sent at age 8 with her younger sister, Isabella, to be raised by relatives.
Whether the response was just for political effect or not, (probably been scrutinised so as not to single out any other public figure) it was poignant and won my admiration.