Opinion: How women can break through the 'grass' ceiling
It struck me last week that women farmers see themselves differently when they farm with men, compared to those who farm on their own, whether because they are single, widowed, separated, etc.
When a couple is involved, the tasks are obviously shared. As men tend to be physically stronger, it makes sense that he would strip the silage while she feeds the calves.
Women who farm alone do it all. You could say that this is because they have no other choice. But it is also because they are able.
I'm not suggesting that men disempower women but there is a lot going on here.
One is tradition. Possibly because farming is essentially a primeval activity, male farmers may feel they have to be the provider. So, rightly or not, some women, perhaps subconsciously, feel their man's need for validation is greater than theirs; and when they say "I only …" it is to avoid diminishing him.
This is not to ignore that some farm women are subjugated. But many are quite capable of managing situations to their advantage.
When a travelling salesman would ask my widowed mother if he could speak to the boss, she would say "I'm the boss" if she wanted to talk to him or "he's gone out" if she didn't.
The above realisation dawned as I listened to some of the women attending last week's meeting of SEWFI (South East Women in Farming Ireland).