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Sexism is a red-herring; it’s family that matters

24 January 2011

1:54 PM

24 January 2011

1:54 PM

I’m afraid that women have been faking it, having us men on. You see they understand the
offside rule and always have done. How could they not? It’s so simple that even a brace of abject football pundits know that an actively involved
player is offside when he is closer to the opponent’s goal line than both the ball and the second-to-last defender, but only if he is in his opponent’s half of the pitch. Messrs Keys and Gray may
not be too sharp on interpretation – unlike the ‘young lady’ (£) they berated – but
they’re smoking hot on the theory. So do me a favour love and drop the act. We’ve busted your ditzily saccharine ruse and now you must live Saturday’s trials and tribulations with
me. That’s what’s meant by ‘for better or worse’; and as you’ll discover, it’s always worse.

Sexism is back in the news. The Sky Sports scandal has coincided with the implementation of Harriet Harman’s Equality Act, and savage tongues are talking. Poor old Theresa May lives anything
but a charmed life. Having just been delivered from Ed Balls, she finds Harriet Harman’s innumerable detractors arraigned against her. May is urged to abolish the ‘diversity tests’ that
would cost employers hundreds of million pounds to enact. (The government’s response is masterful in how far it misses the point, ‘The Equality Act 2010 replaces nine major pieces of
legislation, making it simpler and cheaper for people to comply with the law. From 2012 we expect the Act to save the economy as much as £87 million a

Dominic Raab is May’s most visceral critic. In an article for PoliticsHome, he argues
that the Equality Act is the expression of a society that discriminates against men. The article is broad in its condemnation and livid in its tone, but there is tremendous depth to it. Sexism is a
side-issue. What Raab actually identifies is a society that denigrates middle class families. He writes:

‘In other areas, we might be pleasantly surprised. Making maternity leave transferable (without increasing it, to avoid extra burdens on business) would give men greater equality, and
free up women to share their career-family compromises with their other halves – if they choose. The phenomenon of young couples on middle incomes both doing a four day week, to save on
childcare, looks set to rise. It makes economic, as well as egalitarian, sense.

Likewise, family-friendly policies could help exhausted families struggling to strike a sensible work-life balance. Critics mocked the idea of transferable tax allowances for couples as
socially regressive and financially insignificant. Yet, transferable tax allowances for parents with children under five would support women who choose to stay home, when their children are
young, while helping them save for childcare, if and when they choose return to work. A little tax relief would go a long way.

Young British couples are tired of the equality bandwagon, dreamt up in the 1960s, pitting men and women against each other. We need consistent equality for men and women, an end to
‘soft’ feminist bigotry and support for hard-working families trying to juggle competing priorities in their hectic daily lives.

The Equality Act coalesces 40 years of legislation into one document, codifying past mistakes for future use. It aims to destroy barriers by introducing further proscription. This is a
deleterious philosophy to which the coalition has subscribed. Each new directive (like Nick Clegg’s proposed paternity reforms) discourages employers from recruiting; and, for every statistic that
suggests some young women are now paid fractionally more to do the same job as certain young men, the bald fact remains that the overall gender pay gap stands at 22 percent. This is the result of concentrating solely on pushing women into ‘high-flying careers’, for which
only the well educated are qualified – so, it’s no surprise that social mobility has stagnated over the past 30 years.

Equality and opportunity cannot be mandated by law. Aside from the obvious need for education reform, there are reasons to seek a new approach to pay, work and child care that supports the
aspirations and circumstances of both partners, and the needs of employers.

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