Monday, 24 January 2011

a bigot writes

MAYBE it wasn't the ideal day, in retrospect, for a male MP to come out all guns blazing against feminists. Maybe the declaration that sex discrimination is dead could have waited until we'd all finished reading about the two football commentators caught making sexist remarks about a female linesman. But anyway. Deep breath. If you strip away the offensive and the just plain confused bits of what the Conservative MP Dominic Raab said in his article for politicshome, there is something here that needed saying.
Not the bit about how the pay gap is now the result of choice (how much of a free choice is it to leave a job where your boss makes your life impossible?), or the bit about how twentysomething women earn more than men: it's not so surprising, what with their better GCSEs and Alevels and degree results, and anyway when they hit their thirties (and have children) doubtless the pay gap will be back with a vengeance. Not the bit about how pesky career women are to blame for stalling social mobility: if, when university education expanded beyond the preserve of middle class boys, those who got in were middle class girls not working class boys then that is surely a class rather than gender issue.
And certainly not the bit about how 'feminists are now amongst the most obnoxious bigots' - well, no doubt some feminists are bigoted, just as some sports commentators and, from memory, some Conservative MPs are. But why tar all with the same brush?
But Raab is right to argue that more flexible parental leave, which fathers as well as mothers could take, could help families share the domestic stuff out more equally. He's right that some public debate about men, from suggestions that masculinity 'caused' the banking crisis to men being judged by the size of their paypacket, is crude and simplistic and confusing to young men bombarded by mixed messages about what they're for in a rapidly changing world. Many of the mothers of boys I know feel a sort of nagging anxiety for their futures that I don't think I would feel for a girl.
And while unlike Raab I don't think overt discrimination is dead, I think he is absolutely right that many couples now want to forge a common project out of sorting out how to work and still have time for each other and their children, rather than regarding work and home as 'his' and 'hers' terrain. He's also absolutely right that politicians should be helping them do it.
It's just a pity he wrapped up his call to halt the sex wars in language that automatically puts female hackles up. It's hard to have a truce when you can still hear gunfire.

1 comment:

  1. Just because men are feeling that women are doing too well doesn't mean that there aren't still pockets of discrimination

    I accept that both sides need to be treated equally but just because some women are doing better than men doesn't mean that its time to stop worrying about discrimination