What's more, in her recent paper "Feminist Myths and Magic Medicine", Hakim claims that the last Labour government's work policies were in fact counterproductive for gender equality. Encouraging part-time work may have increased the number of women employed, but ultimately, it only depresses women's long-term earning potential, as women take up lower-skilled, lower-paid positions, which outlaws them from the many professions in which long and dedicated hours are a prerequisite for success, and for which high salaries are the reward. At the same time, the burden on men to bread-win is only compounded.
So if helping women to a work-life balance is currently still pricing them out of the competitive jobs market, how can we stop it from being a lacklustre compromise, the fatalistic result of choosing to have children? Nick Clegg's recent proposal for increased paternity leave, a potential solution, was about as popular as the offer of a flaccid pig's bladder. Which tells you a lot about how poorly part-time work is regarded by both men and business, and how resistant to change so many apparently accommodating fellows are when presented with hitherto "ladies only" options. The papers were awash with pointed examples of men who had jacked it all in to bring up baby, but the reality is that there is no househusband revolution on its way soon. Gender stereotypes aside, in the current economic climate, no one can afford it. Or at least, that's the get-out-of-playpen card for countless reluctant fathers.
But economics need not hamper equality: there is a cheap and cheerful (depending on which side of the Hoover you're standing on) alternative. If so many women work part-time in order to balance home and work life, why not just increase male participation in domestic duties? So simple, so often said, yet still not taken up. According to the National Office for Statistics 2005 Time Use survey, women spend an average of 20 minutes longer than men on both paid and domestic work per day, regardless of their occupation and the number of hours worked. While it seems sensible for anyone who works part-time to do more at home, professional full-timers suffer from a "hyper-homemaker" guilt, which finds them taking on the bulk of domestic duties, lest their male partners are "emasculated" by their success. Surely this cannot be some kind of biological compulsion at work; nature's way of keeping us in our place, lest women stretch their feeble, feminine, mental muscles and get so distracted evaluating the flaws in Aristotle's theory of justice, they forget to put the washing on. What intelligent working woman genuinely believes that saying no to late-night ironing equals child abuse, or spouse neglect? Whatever happened to simply — and very reasonably — asking a male partner to give a helping hand? Is it that more men than we thought are essentially lazy, chauvinistic anti-dishwashers? Or have so many women been brainwashed by the legacy of that boy-girl miscommunicative bible, "Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus", that they've forgotten that sentient, grown men can be asked to do things sometimes, and that, sometimes, men even do what they are asked. Besides, if reasonable communication does fail, even a total Neanderthal cannot fail to recognise the power of the cooking/cleaning/canoodling strike.
So while domestic burden may be at the root of the gender pay gap in Britain, it's really a luxury to be able to wrangle over household chores. Which makes it worth considering for whom International Women's Day is vitally important. All those females who will be subjected to culturally sanctioned rape within marriage today, to infibulation, to violent abuse. All those who will be deprived of education, healthcare, basic pay, or who will be simply treated as second best because of misfortune of birth. We, in the lucky West, owe it to them to refuse to be victims of feminism, or a latent sexism that is long overdue a push out of the double bed. A little duster redistribution is the least we can do.
- ONLINE ONLY: Academic Boycotts Teach Us Nothing
- ONLINE ONLY: Send in the Clowns
- ONLINE ONLY: Thatcher, Reagan and the Dictators
- The Resolute Courage of Margaret Thatcher
- America's New Isolationists Are Endangering the West
- An Alternative To Our Reckless Energy Gamble
- The Family is the Key to the Future of Faith
- Persecuted Muslims Who Love Life in England
- They Were the Future of the Tory Party, Once
- The Parable of the Stupid Samaritan
- Pope Frank: In the Footsteps of St Francis
- The Middle Kingdom's Problem with Religion
- We Abandon Christians in the East At Our Peril
- Feminism Or Islamism: Which Side Are You On?
- At Last: Gove Goes For the Culture of Excuses
- Is There a Way Out of the Tories' Modernising Mess?
- Online Only: The Kenyatta Dilemma
- Cameron is the Euro's Best Hope for Survival
- Census That Revealed a Troubling Future
- The Servant of the servants of God Departs in Peace