We have to face up to the realities of being female

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LESLEY KEATING: A white-knuckle pursuit ending with a lesson in trust

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This month gold medallist Jessica Ennis expressed a hope that her Olympic success would motivate others. Nonetheless the debate around feminine aspiration is as thorny as ever.

MP Louise Mensch had it all – wealth, charisma and intellect. But even she couldn’t reconcile her position with family life.

Meanwhile, a lobby group against the pigeonholing of girls’ toys, ‘Pink Stinks’, has won a victory at Harrods. The store has followed Hamley’s lead (where ‘boy’ and ‘girl’ signposts were removed) and organised toys by theme instead of gender.

I look at my toddler and wonder what path she will follow. When presented with any choice, be it ham or cheese, Octonauts or Zingzillas, her answer is ‘pink one!’

I don’t believe she is Katie Price in training, more a canny little tot who has sussed out how to conform. And if she comes home one day and reveals she is a manicurist, well we’ll work through it.

In the ‘ism’ popularity parade, feminism seems to rank somewhere between fascism and botulism, mostly because we think it represents women pretending to be men.

Feminism for me means promoting women’s prospects of fulfilment. It doesn’t matter whether that involves running MI5 or dressing like Barbie.

The biggest ceiling on feminine fulfilment in 2012 is our continued unwillingness to face, and shrewdly plan around, the realities of being female.

Life as a woman is different to life as a man. A hetero woman’s choice of partner is still influenced by looks and age, regardless of her wit and dynamism, so, unlike men, we need to ‘buy’ when we have a market advantage. If we want children, this is a physically debilitating and time-consuming process.

The success of icons like Ennis isn’t about talent and luck alone, it is about long-term commitment.

So women need a career that doesn’t fight other life goals and a partner who will keep them keeping on. These truisms may sound like dangerous self-censorship to some.

But the fall-out of idealism, to the exclusion of realism, is bitterness.