So today the Evening Standard published an article about a new idea to help women achieve equality. How, you ask? Lessons in ‘How To Choose a Husband’. I know, right. How is this even a thing?
No, we haven’t slipped through a crack in time and space back to the 19th Century. The argument is that women need to choose men who are supportive of their careers in order for women to be successful, otherwise they might hit a ‘nappy wall’ (rather than a glass ceiling) when they have babies and never get their careers back on track. There’s a lot wrong with this argument.
Its places marriage and kids as the end goal us ladyfolks ought to be aiming for, when in reality marriage isn’t for everyone. And that’s okay! Not everyone wants a permanent monogamous relationship, not everyone wants to have babies! By seemingly attempting to combat gender roles, these lessons would in fact just enforce them.
Plus, what about them gays? Bringing me nicely onto point two…
It’s at worst homophobic. At best, heteronormative.
This idea promotes heterosexual relationships as the only option when some girls aren’t going to identify as straight. It has excluded even the option of a non-straight relationship, which is hardly helpful in encouraging acceptance of alternative sexualities.
It places societal problems around childcare and gender discrimination as personal ones. Women aren’t necessarily less successful in their careers because they are the childcarers. They may be less successful because society assumes that they are the childcarers, it assumes that they are less ambitious than men and it assumes that they are less intelligent than men.
Marrying someone supportive won’t make these stereotypes disappear. It won’t suddenly create more affordable childcare or more flexible working hours. It won’t create more flexible policies around maternity/paternity leave. Despite what Conservatives might have you believe, marriage is not the answer to society’s problems.
It comes from a place of total privilege. The idea has come from a Private School Group, who are clearly in no hurry to brush off that stuffy, out of touch, overpaid, elitist reputation they’ve got goin’ on.
Ms Fraser, the spokesperson for the idea, used up only six weeks of her maternity leave before returning to work. Which is great, if you can afford it- as a former managing director of Penguin books, she could.
She advocates capping GCSEs in exchange for life lessons that will teach girls how to juggle mothering, housework and careers- which is probably a bit easier for those who can afford nannies and cleaners.
But most women can’t afford the full-time childcare needed for a newborn baby whilst they go back to fulfilling their careers- even with the help of their husbands.
It’s aimed exclusively at girls, once again putting the onus of achieving equality solely on the shoulders of women.
“Hey, lady, your husbands an unhelpful, unsupportive twat? Well, why you should have picked better, no wonder you failed in your career.”
How about instead of telling the ladyfolk to get a man whom supports her, we tell the menfolk to be supportive!
Where does Ms Fraser suppose all these supportive men are coming from if we’re doing nothing to tackle the attitudes towards women of young boys as well?
We don’t need men to succeed! Plenty of women and mothers manage to have fantastic careers without having a man in their lives! Just ask JK Rowling for fuck’s sake.
I can’t ever imagine men being taught that they need to choose a certain type of wife to succeed in their careers, can you?
ETA: Well, perhaps politicians.
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