Ever since I did that little job for The Women’s Museum of Ireland I have been thinking about women and education.
In my class in college there are more girls than there are boys. More women than there are men. Yet when I look into my field, actual designers, in actual studios and at actual conferences all I see are men. Last year at Offset there were only two female speakers out of a total of twenty-four. It was embarrassingly disproportionate. Thankfully this year was a little better. There were seven. Is that better? Do I also need to mention that Offset was founded and is run by a team of men? *
Obviously there can’t be equality for equality’s sake. Obviously it’s about talent. It’s about reflecting what’s out there in the field. Yet still, looking around at my class, I am left thinking where will all these women go? I can’t help but wonder if any of us will ever end up on that stage speaking about our successful careers. I hope.
I often feel like a whole mess of contradictions…believing that women should go to college, have jobs, be leaders, breastfeed their babies, stay home with their toddlers, walk their kids to school, be creative and fulfil their own needs and desires and and and… have it all.
I know that this isn’t possible. I know that there is no right way to do this thing called life. There is not one single way to be a good mother or to be a good person.
I have been thinking a lot about the mothers in my life. The women who, along with my flesh and blood mama, have raised me, taught me, hugged me and guided me to where I stand now. Katherine who minded me while my own mother was away studying, taught me that the middle of the apple is the sweetest part and helped me learn to spell the word ‘syrup’. My aunt Nóirín taught me not to worry about jobs because the one I might end up could probably doesn’t even exist yet. Rachel, my godchild, taught me to be a pretend mama long before the thought of being a real one had crossed my mind. Mary and Trisha my mother’s sisters taught me that it’s never too late to go back to school, you’re never too old to learn.
For my final (college) project this year I am photographing as many of these women, these mothers, as I can and compiling them into a zine. I am also asking them to tell me what the most important thing they ever learned was. So far the responses have been fascinating. I am doing this for many reasons, and they keep changing as I research and tell people about it, but mainly I think I am doing it to remind myself that there is not a single path that one has to take and that success has many, many, different definitions.
PS That’s my mother on the right and my aunt Trisha on the left holding my cousin Ailbhe. Monica is holding Cillian and Aoife is the kid in yellow. 80s clothes are hairstyles are the bees knees. Also seriously accidental colour coordination going on.
*Sidenote: I don’t hate men, they are great! I love them! My boyfriend is the coolest! But women are great too. That’s all.