19 May, 2009

The Motherhood Penalty

As any seasoned Mail-Watcher will doubtless be aware, being a mother and having a career are completely incompatible (unless, of course, you are a Terrible Person and don't care about your children, who will run amok while you selfishly indulge yourself by going to work and earning money. They will, of course, go on to have nine children by the time they're thirteen, forcing Broken Britain to hurtle towards hell in a handcart - (c) Richard Littlejohn - but that's a different article altogether)

So what of those women who do opt to work? It's no secret that there is still a pretty sizeable pay gap separating men and women in big business - the metaphorical 'glass ceiling'. Given that society is supposed to have moved on since the glorious 1950's, the days of Tupperware parties and depressed housewives on Valium, you'd think that this would be widely considered a Bad Thing.

Not so, squawks Penny Vincenzi, who covers all her bases in her opening paragraph by setting a scene filled with highly successful women who manage to juggle business and family (all of Vincenzi's successful woman friends are married, of course) But, herein lies the twist - they were successful BEFORE pesky equality legislation PC-ified our over-feminised society. Quoth Vincenzi:

Smiling sweetly at me over her glass of wine, she then added: 'All the whingeing that went on from women because they said they were being discriminated against, I just didn't get it. The truth was simply that they weren't good enough.'

Now, if you'll excuse my French, this is patently bollocks, and it's convenient for Vincenzi to paint her little social group as a microcosm of working women from 1970 onwards. HER friends were already successful, and that means that ALL women can be successful if only they'd really put their backs into it. Never mind that years of evidence can show that women have consistently been overlooked in the workplace - all the evidence Vincenzi needs is sat around a table quaffing wine. It's a woman's fault if she takes time off to give birth and finds herself replaced when she gets back. It's a woman's fault if she is sexually harrassed - she shouldn't have worn a miniskirt (god forbid we should have the freedom to choose what we wear, and if a miniskirt is acceptable within a company's dress code, then why on earth should a woman be penalised for wearing one?)

Then she lets loose with this gem:

very few women are actually comfortable working 12-hour days while their children are very small. Most of us go for a softer option - but that's not because we face male oppression, it's because we want to be home for bathtime.

Mhm. This is where Vincenzi stumbles over the straggly tail of her own logic. She hasn't asked the key question - where are the men in this scenario? Why aren't the men bathing the kids? Why aren't the men taking time off work to look after the babies they had a 50% stake in creating? Why are women singly shouldering the burden of childcare, and, more to the point, why are we being blamed for doing so when we are doing it out of sheer necessity?

This article is essentially a poorly veiled variation of the Fail's standard 'working women vs mothers', in which women are once again levelled the ultimatum: be childless and miserable, fly high in the boardroom (but ultimately remain unfulfilled) or be a good little woman, stay at home and don't strain your feeble woman's mind about matters that don't concern your gender.

And on that note, back to work, where I can work at being as good at my job as I can be (but still, not quite as good as a man)

1 comment:

  1. The pay gap is ridiculous. An amazing ad campaign against it was run here recently, featuring women advertising a "man kit" that was a removable moustache so they could "play with the boys", ending with "stop. why is this necessary. equal pay now." It was amazingly done and really quite funny.

    Where ARE the men in this situation? My dad is a fireman, and when I was young, he would be off four days out of eight, and those four days, we'd be with him. He'd get to play mummy for four whole days - bathtime AND bedtime stories. Basically, my dad did as much mum stuff as my mum did (although my dad can't cook at all. Sorry dad). In a marriage or de facto situation, apparently men can't bathe or feed the children with any competency - although, admittedly, most working mums DO want to be home for bathtime, because they love their kids and want time with them, not because of a lack of husband with mum skills.


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