Generation gap : Mummy the militant

Writer and feminist Yvonne Roberts, 48, would probably throw herself under a horse for her beliefs. But would her 12-year-old daughter Zoe Pilger join her?
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Zoe

`She moans about the number of women on TV, but it's the big things that matter to me'

Instead of looking at how much we've progressed, my mum looks at what's wrong all the time. When something on TV is good, or there's equal amounts (of things), she doesn't mention it at all ... I think she just wants to look for something to fight about. She goes really over the top sometimes - say, if we're watching TV and there's a panel and it's four men and two women, she'll be groaning, and I just think it's not much to make a fuss about. I think the big things matter more than the little things - women in Parliament, equal pay ....

This afternoon we saw this man and he had a personalised number plate on his car and my mum goes, "He probably paid a packet to get that done." We didn't know if it was a man or woman, but she instantly assumed it was a man.

There are loads of women who get a piece in the newspapers every week. She gets pieces in, it's quite equal, she's not turned away because she's a woman, and loads of people who work on newspapers and magazines are women. She's so manic about everything. She snaps at me, she goes, "It's just because I'm tired. You just wait, when you grow up you'll find out." And she exaggerates. She'll say "I haven't had a minute to myself, I haven't sat down all day", when she's sat down for an hour for dinner.

I think we've progressed a lot, like when I went to primary school we had a lesson about the glass ceiling and I think that's a lot better than, say, in the Second World War. Fifty years ago women weren't allowed to do anything, they just stayed at home and cleaned and looked after the children, but now it's much more different.

I don't want to sit at home in my twenties and have children, it's boring and a waste. I want to go out and have fun. I like children a lot but I'd prefer to wait until I was about 30. Child care is a lot better for women now, but it's still not 50-50, not in our house.

I think it would be quite nice to get married. I like dressing up - in outrageous stuff. I've got a golden ballgown which I bought for a fancy dress party, and a Dalmatian skirt for Christmas Day.

I don't think she should put herself down so much. If I say "That's a nice jacket", she goes, "Oh no." Or I'll say, "That's a nice hairdo" and she'll say "Oh no, I'm getting it cut soon, I hate it."

She says stuff like, "Your generation is very lucky because we had a hard time in the old days." Now, things are so much better you don't need to throw yourself in front of horses (like in the Suffragettes' time). If it got bad again, if it really really mattered, I would do something for women's rights. But I wouldn't throw myself under a horsen

Yvonne

`An awful lot of women are not much better off, except for this feeling they deserve more'

I tell all the time that she's beautiful and I love her and she can do anything she wants to do, whereas my mother was very critical and thought the best thing I could do was to find a man as rapidly as possible and settle down because that was security. I've never been married.

Women are visitors in a man's world, we're still not architects of our own environment. There's a lack of job share and flexible time. and I have a different attitude to work. She is much more relaxed about it. For my generation the only way out, the only way to prove our difference from our mothers, was through work. We needed the money, there was no range of choices.

thinks I'm making a fuss about nothing but I can't see why, with 26 million women in this country, we can't have panels like Question Time where there is more than one woman. This is unbelievable in the 1990s.

I don't think the benchmark is what happens to successful women. What matters is what happens to women at the bottom. We've got "work rich" and "work poor". At the top, high-fliers are working all the hours God sends; at the bottom, women work for peanuts - 75 pence or pounds 1 an hour. They're not only working part-time but also doing all the work in the house. I think it's in everybody's interest to create a society which is of benefit to all of us - it's not just an altruistic thing, it makes for a better society. In my twenties it was a case of "share and share alike". One of the hurdles for 's generation is that they have been encouraged to think "What can I get for myself?" They're Thatcher's Children.

Recently we watched a documentary about unmarried mothers who had to give up their babies for adoption. They were women who are now in their late forties, the same age as me. I found it terribly moving, and I was trying to tell that this was what lack of choice meant.

I'm happy I had children later on. I love them to death, it's nice being at home with them and I don't want to be dancing on tables or anything else. But I say to "Look how much is involved in having a job and a family, and don't try and do it all at once in your twenties, because the `system' doesn't let you."

I'd like her not to be manipulated by a man, to be clear about what is fair and honourable in a relationship - and to have confidence in herself beyond what she looks like. says to me I put myself down a lot about my looks. It's not vanity, it's making the best of a bad job. I think because some women of my generation were raised on criticism rather than praise, when we look in the mirror we don't think "Wow!", we think "Oh my God!"

is much more aware than I was about the whole business of mothering, parenting - that you're not some sort of machine. She's aware that you are a human being with needs and aspirations. I think I thought my mother was just a mother, whereas my generation are trying hard to say that there is more to us than the relationship we have with our children, we're individuals in our own right.

There are such divisions now among women. Some are doing terribly well, they've gained confidence and opportunity through education, but an awful lot are not much better off, except for this feeling within themselves that they deserve more. In a way, the fact that is not bothered about all that is a tribute to feminism, because she has a sense of expectation. That's the best gift that feminism could have given hern

Interviews by Veronica Groocock

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