Tuesday, February 21, 2006

It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife

No sooner have I written a dirge about parenting and women than this appears and makes my blood boil. It's unsubtly advancing an agenda and I'm not convinced by it. It's unquantifiable - all 'more and more twentysomething women' and 'increasing numbers of women' (each with a interview sample of one).

I accept that there are women who genuinely "earn money to have a good time, but... [are not] really interested in the career ladder" and who gain fulfilment through childcare. But what annoys me is when it's assumed to be all women (the new role model for aspirational women) and only women. When did you last see an article where a male account manager for a leading brand consultancy waxed lyrical about how he "found the whole corporate thing boring and scary" and "always knew I wanted children and I didn’t want to work when I had them, although whether or not I’d have the financial means to choose was another question."?

In ye olde days when women were assumed to be mere animals and prone to fits of the vapours then being a kept woman was entirely [socially] justifiable. But women have proved they can compete on par with men and thus relationships are a partnership between adults. Which is why I find some bint dribbling on about how she:

married Fergus, a banker, with a salary large enough for both to live on. Just before the wedding Helena resigned from her job and when she got back from honeymoon did a course in jewellery-making

Annoys me so much. Just think about poor Fergus for a minute. He married a go-getting account manager. The minute he agreed to marry her, she promptly decided to leech off him financially, slob about making jewellery and rave to the Telegraph about how shoving chicken puree into the mouth of her drooling brat gave her a major buzz. If I were him, I'd think she wasn't pulling her weight and she married me for my bank balance.

She stirs her tea. ‘On the other hand, I really don’t want to come across as some lucky, rich mother. I feel so guilty when I compare myself to other women who’ve had no choice but to go back to work.’

Don't worry, missie, because when you find Fergus has run off with someone from work (whose conversation extends beyond ironing) or just treats you like the dependent child you are then the laugh is going to be with your (still working) friends.

Just a few years ago women like Blackstock would have been figures not of envy, but of scorn.


All too many young women have seen the present – and not liked what they’ve seen. They have sat at their desks, and been repelled by the sight of frazzled thirtysomething colleagues arriving flecked with baby sick, doing their supermarket shop on the internet in their lunch hour and feeling guilty at having left their feverridden children in the hands of a costly au pair.

Grrrrrrrr... Aggghhhh... Yes, but do you hear about male captain's of industry stressing about the sacrifice they're making not being able to collect a few bottles of pureed avocado or stay with their sick offspring? No? It's always women. Perhaps this is because these women don't 'have it all' at all.

And many young women find themselves irked by the idea that the suffragettes fought for women’s rights only to find that these have amounted to little more than the right to spend long hours commuting and barking orders to a childminder down a mobile.

No. The Suffragettes fought for votes for women. Sensible childcare arrangements treating men and women as partnerships of equal adults hasn't really happened yet. This doesn't mean that intelligent women should all return to baking cakes. Having intelligent people in your country doing intelligent people's jobs is good for the economy. Having them dusting and feeding ducks is not - you can give someone less skilled that job.

The consensus was that going to Cambridge was as good as it got,’ says Kadir. ‘The idea of becoming someone like Cherie Blair, juggling a career and family, was too much. Most seemed to think they’d have a tight period of work and creativity for five to ten years before giving it all up for good.’

What a great use of an Oxbridge education! What a brilliant application of government money!

She’d realised too late that... you had to devote as much time to finding a husband as to a career.

Yet men don't seem to have similar problems finding a wife. Odd that... It gets worse:

‘They were only 18 or 19,’ says Kadir, ‘but they were all petrified that they were going to end up highly educated but without a boyfriend.’

Do you see men doing that? Fretting that their education is going to make them unappealing to women. Implicit suggestion - men don't like educated, intelligent or spirited women. Which is balls. Even when women were confined to the domestic sphere, women like Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire had a monopoly over male attention. Only dumb guys are intimidated by spirited women... but I suppose if you want a sucker you can live off [leaves it hanging]

From that time on, Jennifer (who insisted her name be changed in case it put off potential suitors) has vetted new boyfriends ferociously. ‘There was one I really liked but he was a musician, a bit of a drifter, with no way of getting a mortgage, so I dumped him. Now I’m seeing a guy who’s 32, and a lawyer. I think he’s getting ready to settle down.’ She smiles.
‘In fact, I’m hoping for an engagement ring soon.’ Marriage is also, of course, a possible route to a gilded cage. Even Jennifer recognises this.

So guys - when you get a high powered job and meet the girl of your dreams... if she suddenly starts expressing an interest in pottery-making, design and baking little dinky buns then you know she's with you because she wants you to support her and her macrame habit. Run! Run for the hills!

Yet once life as a housewife has been embraced, it can be hard to shake it off – or to want to shake it off.

That's because it makes you unemployable because you've had a work gap. So all you have to look forward to is becoming just like Doreen Davis. Revolutionary? Reactionary more like.


  • At 3:57 pm , Anonymous Anonymous said...

    This is the trouble with the Telegraph - jolly good news coverage coupled with comment and features that make you want to spit tacks. I remember once hearing a comedian suggest that it should be printed in a special 'left-wing edition' without all this crap in it so you could read it with your blood pressure at a reasonable level - and carry it home from the newsagents without having to wrap it up in a copy of The Guardian through sheer embarrassment. Mind you, now that's got smaller...

    The piece you're quoting has so little to do with the real world that it's fantasy. Escapism for people who want and need to believe the world is still a certain way no matter how much the evidence of their eyes tells them otherwise. It is Prozac for people who can't cope with modern life and the equivalent of a Mills and Boon novel for unpleasant right-wing mysoginists and silly women who should know better.

    That's what I think, anyway.

    (posted by Botheration)

  • At 10:38 pm , Blogger Chris Palmer said...

    "has so little to do with the real world that it's fantasy." - Botheration

    This sentence can also be used to describe most Guardian opinions, comments and features.

  • At 6:56 am , Blogger Femme de Resistance said...

    I agree. The Times (despite the Murdoch association) and The Independent are faint improvements...

    Although most broadsheets assume that the reader is a billionaire from somewhere in London see:
    The fashion pages
    The housing pages
    The bizarre discussions about weird health remedies, weekend breaks that wouldn't be out of place in an episode of Louis Theroux and fad diets
    Restaurant reviews for overpriced joints that sell inedible sounding food...

    All delivered with tongue firmly out-of-cheek. As you say, it's selling a fantasy to the readers rather than telling them anything directly applicable to their own lives.

  • At 3:45 pm , Blogger LibertyCat said...

    Which is unsurprising, because rich Londoners are the readers that are attractive to advertisers. So papers have to look like they are read by rich Londoners.

  • At 12:40 am , Anonymous Anonymous said...

    what's funny is that you're all upset about a quote that was meant to parody a ridiculous society.

  • At 4:36 am , Anonymous JLin said...

    wow lady u do know that the quote is from pride and prejudice right? way to freak out......


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