This article was published in todays Independent.
If I never hear the word “suffragette” again, it’ll be too soon. Last weeks media fest was tiresome. Fortunately, this week it’s business as usual with women fading into their rightful place. The background.
A couple of years ago I cringed as I watched my toddler grab a toy from a similar aged girl in playgroup. Supernanny would advocate that I intercept my son, “encourage” him to return said toy and teach him the virtues of sharing. I wrestled with this one and on balance I decided that, whilst sharing is a valuable life skill, it’s gender specific.
After all, when that girl (with princess emblazoned across her chest) grows up, there won’t be a knight in shining armour to fight her battles for her. If my son snatches a coveted promotion from under her nose while she’s on maternity leave, she’ll have to find the time and energy to snatch it back, all by herself. If she persists she’ll be labelled a trouble maker and will face a tribunal, whereupon an all male panel will preside as judge and jury. Because there’s no class action in the UK, she’ll have to re-mortgage her house to pay for the court case (assuming she can get a lawyer to represent her), the strain of which will have caused her marriage to collapse, resulting in a nervous breakdown and the baby being taken into care.
A responsible parent would teach their daughters not to resist the inevitable. Why not give them less pocket money than their sons? I realize now that, if you’re a parent, equal pay only matters if you have a daughter. As things stand, the odds are stacked in favour of my son. He only needs to achieve average grades to get paid up to double that of a more qualified female graduate. If he marries one and has children it will be her (she’ll be less paid) who stops working. Fulfilling society’s expectation of him as breadwinner, he’ll be free to network, work long hours and get noticed (she’ll be working ‘round the clock for no pay and no-one will notice). His route to world domination need not be derailed by fatherhood.
So why should I take on someone else’s battle? What with sourcing Mini Boden outfits and block booking Monkey Music, it’s all I can do to lift a glass of Chardonnay before unwinding in front of Loose Women. With few exceptions, women who make it to the top are unlikely to have done so by challenging the status quo. Parliament, business and the media, is awash with women willing to demonstrate their masculine credentials. Rebecca Brooke didn’t get where she is today (unemployed and in the dock) by tackling sexism (see p.3) in the Sun. Until there are sufficient numbers of women in top jobs to make a difference, my boy’s future is safe.
The vacuum created by the absence of a feminist movement in the last 4 decades has enabled the proliferation of the sexualisation of girls. Everywhere we look there are images of women with splayed legs and surgically enhanced boobs. A cursory glance at M&S share price is enough to warrant a full page spread of a woman in her knickers.
Its little wonder 60% of teenage girls aspire to be “glamour” models, like Jordan. The woman who thinks Silicone Valley is the place to go for breast implants. Soft porn models are ubiquitous. Women who dare to make a bid for power, using their minds instead of their bodies, such as Mary Beard, however, are either invisible or pilloried by the press. Another victory for the boys.
Despite the fact that it is men’s reckless incompetence at the highest level that has brought the global economy to its knees, still we don’t question their merit. In 2008, a male journalist made a compelling case as to why men were to blame for the recession. No-one has heard from him since. Rumour has it he’s in witness protection and writes verses for Hallmark.
The bottom line is, when my son takes his rightful place (s) at the top table (s) of power, be it as media mogul, corporate giant or political behemoth, even if he did fail (through no fault of his own, obviously), his contract will contain so many get out of jail cards he’ll be laughing all the way to the bank, where he’ll take out enough money to buy a peerage and live happily ever after on the Costa del Tax Haven.
As long as our daughters aspire to be princesses rather than politicians, and the closest thing we have to feminist literature is Heat Magazine, men will continue to ride roughshod over women. If I had a daughter I’d be throwing myself in front of the Queen’s Corgis, but I don’t, so I’m off to the hairdressers instead.