Feminism? Forget it, sisters (UK)

June 28, 2011

The long night of modern feminism might be about to end. A glimmer of light is flickering in the encircling gloom. 

A study published this week by Dr Catherine Hakim of the London School of Economics has found that men do slightly more work than the women they live with when employment and domestic work are measured together.

This is the first time I can remember in 40 years that an authoritative study on a key issue of so-called gender politics has come out with a self-evident truth that runs directly contrary to orthodox feminist ideology. The fact that it has been written and published by a woman makes it even more delightful.

Ever since the late Sixties, it has been an incontestable article of faith in the feminist creed that men are lazy, slobbish, barbaric, barely civilisable and incapable of switching on the vacuum cleaner without breaking it – and eternal shame on Alistair Campbell and his partner Fiona Miller for boasting about the fact that he lives up to that mould-encrusted cliché.

It has been an essential tenet in the feminist catechism – endlessly repeated on Woman’s Hour and in the Guardian – that men exploit and oppress women at home and in their domestic arrangements in the same way that men put women down at work and in the wider society.

Like every other tenet of modern feminism, this potty notion was always balderdash (or more frankly another word beginning with “b” – why be polite about so pernicious and poisonous a creed?). Not only did it run contrary to the evidence that British men work longer hours, for less pay, for more of their lives than any of their western European counterparts – and then spend their weekend mowing grass, cleaning cars and fixing shelves. It was, also, obvious that, as life changed so fundamentally for women in education, employment and sexual life, men changed, too.

That much was transparently clear even 40 years ago when I was at university. Not one of the young men I knew expected or even yearned to marry a woman who would be a domestic serf. Every one of them – me included – wanted a more equal partnership than our parents’ marriages and looked forward to being more actively engaged in their children’s upbringing – just as they looked forward to hearing the happy chink of coins when their partner’s monthly pay-cheque landed in the joint account.

Many of those men had lived alone, learnt to cook and run a home before they lived with women; and some of them – me included – have looked after children alone after marriages failed. More than 300,000 men in this country are the sole parents of children, fully responsible for every element of their domestic lives. Are they to be told – as Fay Weldon declared with majestic stupidity last year – that they are congenitally incapable of picking up a sock?

All my adult life, I wanted to create a family life of equal partnership with a woman and, after many failures, finally achieved it in my 50s, with the mother of our two little daughters, now seven and four.

In our home, I do most of the food shopping, more of the cleaning and some of the cooking. My wife sees to the laundry and is responsible for about 65 per cent of the childcare while I have been responsible for paying about 95 per cent of the bills. When she works, I do everything in the home and everything for the children. When I work, it’s the other way round. We share the gardening – incompetently.

Our is not an unusual arrangement. Only a body of people blinded by ideology – as feminists have been – could fail to see that millions of men and women in this country are harmoniously working out their own domestic arrangements, and that men have been active, enthusiastic partners in these changes.

What next? Might a respectable study soon reveal that, contrary to what we are always told, one in four men does not batter the woman he lives with? Or that not all men are rapists? Might the entire edifice of lies that comprises modern feminism now be about to tumble?

Hasten the day.

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