Olga Fitzroy, part of the Pregnant Then Screwed campaign group, explains why dads need to read founder Joeli Brearley as much as mums
I’m a volunteer for the charity Pregnant Then Screwed, set up by the author, Joeli Brearley – so I am slightly biased. I have seen some of the events described in the book unfold first hand, and been part of the team lobbying the government for change, from self-employed rights to childcare bubbles. And as a mother, I have benefitted from some of these changes myself. So if you want an impartial review from a safe distance – this isn’t it.
But as an activist and campaigner, I can probably give some decent arguments why this book is important for dads too. Why, if you’re a believer in equality, and want to support women, that this book is worth your time. Which, if you read the book, you will find dads generally have more of, than mums.
It begins by detailing the author’s own experience of pregnancy discrimination, and the feeling of powerlessness of not being able to fight it, due to a 3 month time-limit to bring a tribunal case and having a high-risk pregnancy where stress could have killed the baby, and insurmountable financial barriers.
There are harrowing real-life examples of how pregnant women and new mothers have been treated by their employers, (vodka shots in the office as pregnancy tests anyone?) and how laws, rules and processes are designed with little regard for families in general, and mothers in particular. If this book doesn’t trigger righteous anger, then I don’t know what will.
Anger on behalf of the women who have been bullied and treated abhorrently, the “lucky” ones paid a few months wages to shut up and go away, gagged with an NDA. Anger on behalf of the dads, many unable to take a single day of paid leave when they start a family, and pushed out of playing an active role in their kids lives, into a 1950’s breadwinner caricature, while the mothers careers are decimated by discrimination, inflexibility and unaffordable childcare.
The book in itself is a very clear example of how one woman’s anger has built something positive and driven tremendous change. And I believe anyone who reads this can also turn their anger into something positive. This doesn’t have to mean starting a charity or marching around London with a plastic axe and fake blood on your head as we did for March of the Mummies. It could be as simple as rearranging your home-life to share the load more equitably, or looking at the recruitment processes at your company. It could be writing to your MP or just listening to your partner when she tells you about how she’s been treated at work.
54,000 women a year lose their jobs due to pregnancy and maternity discrimination. And 77% of all working mums experience discrimination in their workplace. So the chances are, that if you’re a heterosexual dad, your family will have been affected by this, and the practical advice at the end of each chapter could be invaluable. So even if feminist activism isn’t for you – or if you’re just a bit too busy to crack that particular nut right now – having a set of instructions and signposts to organisations that can help, is a pretty solid argument for reading this book.
Finally, all profits go back into the Pregnant Then Screwed charity, so if you want to support the legal helpline, if childcare bubbles have been a godsend in lockdown, or if you want to see campaigns for better paternity leave and maternity leave continue then you can support this and get an entertaining, informative and at times infuriating read in return.