Autor: Rod Liddle Fuente: The Spectator

What is it that afflicts women at the moment? They seem gripped by a terrible lassitude, a paralysis, as though of hemlock, etc., etc. One by one, bourgeois women are turning to their husbands or lovers, and later to their bosses, and sighing a little and saying, "Do you know, I think I've had enough of this being at work thing. I'd like to cut down. Go part-time. Or maybe stop altogether."

And the husbands, lovers, bosses sort of suck their teeth and say, a little ruefully, "Um, me too, now you come to mention it." And then they accede, usually. And the women disappear, maybe to the gym or the wine bar or the shops, their brains having lapsed into happy desuetude.

Check around your office for a few minutes (if you're deluded enough still to be working in one). How many women there have gone part-time, recently? How many women have given up work altogether? How many women went part-time because they were having a baby but now, four years later, just look -- they're still part-time? What's happening to them? Where's that vaulting ambition to break through the infamous and repellent glass ceiling? Where's the bloody work ethic? And how should the men respond?

According to a survey by the Equal Opportunities Commission, only 57% of British women work full-time. Fewer than half of married women work, whereas 94% of married men in the UK work full-time. What's more, don't think it's just the kiddies who are to blame: Only 58% of married women with no children bother to work. Despite four decades of what we might call "progressive" legislation designed to enforce equality within the workplace, the number of babes plying some sort of trade isn't rising very much.

Luckily, I've done my own case studies. I draw from a sample of three middle-class women, aged between 34 and 41, and whom I shall refer to as Women A, B and C (as they might do in the The New England Journal of Medicine), so as to disguise the fact that they are personal friends. Two of them -- of whom one earned much more than her husband -- have already given up work. The other one has gone part-time and is finding even that a bit bloody much, frankly. And from exhaustive interviews I have identified the following reasons why women at a certain stage of life, once the kiddies have started going to school and when the working world is open before them, suddenly give up the ghost.

- Nanny-envy: a massive factor for all three women. The financial iniquities of the child-care system and the high cost of nannies are an exacerbating rather than a definitive factor here. It's a decidedly more personal thing; indeed, nanny-envy can sometimes teeter over into nanny-spite -- especially, it would seem, if the nanny is very young and attractive. Why is this bitch looking after my children? And, worse, why do the children ask, a little wistfully, where she is on the weekend? They can't possibly like her, can they? Do they like her more than me? Do they love her? And then there's the nanny lifestyle. Woman C remembers coming home from a typically enervating day at work on a gloriously hot evening and saying to the nanny, "Hi, how's your day been?" And rather gallingly, the nanny replied, "Oh, fine. I've just sat by the pool and watched the children all day." Within the month, Woman C had given up work and the nanny was jobless. And, indeed, pool-less. Serves the bitch right, no?

- Mommy-guilt: allied to the above is the dark foreboding that they are doing the wrong thing by being away from the kids all day. Some would describe this foreboding as a deeply internalized norm, but the women in my little study insist that it is an ineluctable biological thing. Woman A remembers how, when she was a child, she envied the children who had moms at home, rather than moms at work. "And there's a special bond, isn't there, between mother and child?" said Woman A. No, there bloody well isn't. Not if we believe what we've been told by 40 years of feminist argument. And, frankly, I do. So, grab your briefcase and clear off to work. And take the garbage out, will you, while you're at it.

- Yummy Mummy Syndrome: this is an absolutely ghastly phrase and certainly not of my creating. It has been coined to describe affluent stay-at-home mothers who actually don't stay at home but spend all day at the gym or the salon, being honed and rubbed and pampered by dubious Mediterranean-looking men called Paolo. As a result, they have looks to die for, apparently. They are fit, in both the traditional and degraded sense of the word. And the women who work, and consequently look haggard and drawn and embittered, hate them for it. And wish to be them, also.

- Taedium Vitae: because work, when it comes down to it, isn't that great, is it? Woman B pronounced it "tiring," work. Really? Well, blow me down. And of course the women in my little sample group have passed the age where work is a new and vibrant thing full of endless opportunity and has become, instead, a means to an end. And for the three of them, the end -- i.e., money -- is not a burning necessity. Not if daddy goes to work every bloody hour that God sends. Don't forget that Woman B earns nearly twice as much as her husband. But the pragmatic rules do not seem to apply. Why is this?

The conclusion we might draw from all of this is that a) there are indeed cultural pressures that contribute to keeping women in the home; and b) there are in some cases economic pressures also; but c) a lot of women don't work because they don't like working -- for many of the reasons why men don't like working, if we're honest. It's a drudge. It never stops. It is replete with stressful vicissitudes or endless mundanities. And the old arguments that men used to marshal to keep women locked to the kitchen sink (and which, I dare say, a few mutton-headed oafs continue to mouth even now) are increasingly being marshalled by the women to enable them to stay at home.

More research needs to be done, of course. I have dealt only with middle-class women and therefore work needs to be done among the proletariat. I don't know many working-class women; they don't seem to like me. They think I'm effete, for some reason.
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