Is feminism a myth?

It was reported in the Sunday Times this week that Dr Catherine Hakim, senior research fellow in sociology at the London School of Economics published a new paper a couple of weeks ago called “Feminist Myths and Magic Medicine.”  In it she argues that “most of the theories and ideas built up around gender equality in the last few decades are wrong” and that most women still want to “marry up”  – to marry men who are richer and cleverer than they are thereby “continuing to use marriage as an alternative or supplement to their employment careers.”   Government policy to promote equality is “magic medicine” and doesn’t work.   Women already have equal opportunities so the sex war is over and a 10% pay gap (it’s actually 15.5%) not that bad.   If women take lower level, lower paid jobs they do so out of choice.

The most shocking piece of evidence in the Sunday Times coverage was the fact that YouGov  had done a survey for the Sunday Times of 922 women the week before.  When asked “if you had young children and were in a financial position to choose, would you rather stay at home to bring up the children or go out to work?” 69% of these women said they’d rather stay at home.  I’ve never been asked to take part in one of these surveys.   I am probably at work when the surveyors are out on the street with their clip boards.  But if I were asked, my answers would probably be discounted anyway.  I’d need to ask way too many questions to clarify the question being put to me before being able to commit to a Yes or No answer.   “What do you mean financial position to choose?  Are we talking house with pool/two cars/fancy holidays/eating out twice a week sort of financial choice?  Or just about manage to pay the mortgage and the bills and eat on one salary sort of choice?  How young are these young children?  Does going out to work involve going to an office or cleaning an office?  And can my husband stay at home too or does he have to go out to work?  The devil’s in the detail isn’t it?

Anyway 69% of women faced with an incomplete factual scenario still answered they’d like to stay at home.    Don’t knows were 8%.  Only 23% of the women asked said they’d go out to work.     What I’d like to know is what 922 men given the same question would answer.  Because I know a healthy proportion of men who, if in the financial position to choose, would also like to stay at home and bring up the children.   And what if the question was “You have won the lottery, big stylee.  Would you go back to work?” what percentage of women and men would answer yes to that?   Work is rewarding and  interesting but it’s…well, pretty hard work a lot of the time.    These women saying they’d like to stay at home if they had the financial position to choose aren’t saying they are work shy wusses who want to marry up and thus proving Ms Hakim’s paper.   They’re just day dreaming about being in that financial position.

Ms Hakim, in my professional judgement, is talking pants.  Some 45,000 women are currently fighting equal pay act claims.  Just 12.5% of  UK board positions are held by women.  We are under represented in government and in industry.  We most definitely do need equality legislation and if we didn’t have it all the hard work of the past forty years will start to slide back.  I also believe, very strongly, that men need equality legislation too and a change in attitude  so that those who want to share the childcare and have a better work life balance (and there’s lots of them) don’t get perceived as needing to grow a pair.    Equality legislation means that equality is at least an achievable goal.  It also helps, over a long time, to change attitudes, a bit like the way the smoking ban has made smoking inside seem weird.   Doesn’t seem as if there’s much we can do about Ms Hakim’s attitudes, sadly.

2 Responses to “Is feminism a myth?”

  1. angela el Says:

    Catherine Hakim, grew up in the Middle East and came to Britain for boarding school ,thinks Scandinavian-style family policies may not be such a good idea, Says it all really As tanya Old says ” Hakim doesn’t notice the contradictions because she is off on another rant about how men are happier in management than women. It’s all about “work orientations” and “career choices” don’t ya know? Again, she confuses choice with cultural coercion.

  2. Bob Says:

    Most women cannot fight biology. Therefore, they will seek a man of greater income potential.

    Even though feminism has economically empowered women, they still want a 1950’s role at home. That must be nice. If only men had that option as well. Considering that we don’t, and feminism is about having equal options, I’d say it’s time to put your money where your mouth is, and start giving men the choice.

    Of course women won’t, because that would mean taking-on all the hardships that men are forced to deal with on a daily basis.

    By the way; equal experience and work hours doesn’t always warrant equal pay. If a woman has the same education and works the same hours as a man, but doesn’t produce equal results, why should she be paid as much? Nothing in labor statistics shows whether or not these women are producing equal results.

    I wonder how many of those 45,000 women fighting equal pay act claims are married to men who earn more money? I would bet my life that it is al least 40,000. You married up. Cut your losses. You still have cash flow thanks to your wallet with a wedding band.

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