I’m a feminist but….I think feminism could do better at acknowledging the experience and existence of single mothers.

Each week I tune in religiously to the Guilty Feminist podcast where the host, Deborah Frances White, has undoubtedly earned hero status in my eyes. DFW’s intersectional feminism is the pursuit of gender equality that includes those on the margins. Intersectionality demands a ‘no cutting corners’ approach to women’s liberation, no collateral damage excused as we fight the good fight.

Careful attention is given on this world famous podcast to challenge established privileges and throw the gates wide open for all. For example, because of The Guilty Fem I now make a conscious effort to remember that we have celebrated 100 years of some women’s right to vote, some, because the vote for black women came much later. The extra word is simple and yet so important.

A noticeable effort is put in for Guilty Feminist panels to include the voices of queer, disabled and BAME women and non-binary people. This is great. But throughout my year of tuning in weekly and working through the back catalogue, I’d yet to see any evidence of the conscious effort to include the voices and experiences of single mothers. That was until Sharmadean Reid showed up during one episode and declared with authority and poise:

“For me, supporting lone parents is a starting point for equality.”

I literally had to pull the car over and scream with excitement, she went on:

“It’s the foundation that allows other conversations to happen, like increasing the economy and productivity of a nation and improving its Gross Domestic Happiness.

Most of these lone parents are women.

For the women who choose to start a family, they cannot even begin to think about taking incremental steps in their career if they are unable to work because of the domestic and emotional labour they have to endure, unpaid.

Of course, we should be supporting families whatever they look like, but ultimately there is a difference between single (lone) parents and co-parents.”

As I heard Sharmadean Reid speak out I truly wish I could have been there to stand up and applaud. Finally someone was giving an unapologetic plea for the struggle of single parents, whilst also bringing dignity and visibility to us.

Reid’s words were read (try saying that ten times quickly) from her contribution to the book ‘Feminists Don’t Wear Pink, and other lies’ and if her opening statements have wet your appetite, her chapter is really worth getting your hands on, along with any interviews and articles Reid has written, this woman is an unstoppable force.

As DFW explained herself in a recent episode of the Guilty Feminist: living an empowered and successful life is not in itself a feminist act, the feminist act is using that success to empower others and challenge inequality.

What I love about Sharmadean Reid is not that she is an extremely successful and highly productive entrepreneur with an enviable analytical mind to boot (but that’s awesome) what I really love is how Reid has used her success and platform to address and challenge the inequality and obstacles faced by lone parents, such as campaigning for women in business by rewriting the rules on how to run a business based on part time hours. That is what makes her a feminist.

In an interview with Danielle Newnham, Reid was asked what drives her to want to make a positive difference:

“I don’t really know why I care so much, what fuels me. Maybe because I’ve seen first-hand, growing up as the eldest child of four kids to a single parent, how financial oppression works. Money and power, those are the two main ingredients to equality, and change happens incrementally. The suffragettes died for us 100 years ago and the gender pay gap is another 100 years apart. In black America, there are people alive today who have experienced segregation.

The divides are still there so if I don’t do my part (when I have the ability to) well frankly, it’s weird to me.”

It’s weird to me too Sharmadean.

I frequently wonder why single parents are not more often considered an important, marginalised voice to be amplified by intersectional feminism. I’ve dove deep into the internet trying to find where this is being discussed and each time I come back to the surface completely empty handed. Sharmadean’s words read aloud on the Guilty Feminist was the treasure I’ve been searching for. But we need more conversations like this.

We, the single mothers, are the canaries in a coalmine full of mothers, full of women. So this International Women’s Day I implore you all; employers, politicians, friends and neighbours, to consider what it means to be a single mother in 2019. As Reid said herself, this is a starting point for equality.

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