Friday, 5 October 2007

One for the Ladies

by Bertrand Boer-Waugh

There has been interesting confirmation of what all right-thinking people have suspected for a long time: that progress for women has cost them much of their happiness. This is a grievous point for me—Mrs Boer-Waugh labels me ‘the most committed feminist’ in her ken because I feel so strongly about women's rights.

Technically, she is wrong. I am not specifically a feminist. I am against discrimination of all varieties because, intellectually speaking, I find it to be utter wank. There is no place for it in the society that our generation aspires to. Practically, however, she is very right—I do think that more needs to be done in advancing women's rights.

This happiness research indicates a fair amount of it. Women have got the choice to be career-focused or family-focused or both. But women who are also committed mothers usually have a lot more responsibility in order to fulfil both of these roles. This is a great loss because we miss out on a lot in our society by not giving this flexibility. I don't just mean to women, either. It should be open to either parent.

On top of that, women are still judged on looks and sexuality first to a much greater degree than men. It may be the choice of the individual women who work in the sex or glamour industries, or who exploit their sexuality to gain advantage in everyday situations, but it is not the fault of women overall—who still suffer from it.

One frequently misunderstood angle to this is that equality of rights and choices does not mean being exactly the same. Women and men are different, and should not feel the need to behave the same just to be given the same rights. Those differences should be celebrated without succumbing to prejudice or discrimination.


Charles Pooter said...

There are many complexities to the sexual equality debate, but one point I'll make: I increasingly believe that the enthusiasm of state capitalism to go along with elements of the feminist agenda should always have been viewed with suspicion.

It is no accident that to support a lifetyle comparable to that of our parents is now almost impossibe for a family with only one wage earner working 8.5 hours a day, five days a week.

Bertrand Boer-Waugh said...

Indeed - I plan to blot these pages with an open letter to Gordon Brown on the subject shortly.

There is a very interesting article in Harvard Business Review this month - it considers the 'glass ceiling' and finds that in fact it is the sum of discrimination and disadvantage at each level, rather than a single ceiling, that causes the paucity of women in top positions. It sees in that a number of low-level insults and assumptions that divert female talent. Worth a read.