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In defence of Kirstie Allsopp

3 June 2014

3:20 PM

3 June 2014

3:20 PM

Kirstie Allsopp was yesterday quoted in the Telegraph saying that women should shun university in favour of buying a flat and having babies. If she had a daughter, she would give her the following advice:

‘Don’t go to university. Start work straight after school, stay at home, save up your deposit – I’ll help you, let’s get you into a flat. And then we can find you a nice boyfriend and you can have a baby by the time you’re 27. 

‘Women are being let down by the system. We should speak honestly and frankly about fertility and the fact it falls off a cliff when you’re 35. We should talk openly about university and whether going when you’re young, when we live so much longer, is really the way forward. At the moment, women have 15 years to go to university, get their career on track, try and buy a home, and have a baby. That is a hell of a lot to ask someone. As a passionate feminist, I feel we have not been honest enough with women about this issue.’

This has provoked intense criticism on Twitter – notably much less than when Arianna Huffington was quoted in the Telegraph last week saying she didn’t believe in marriage, ‘just really good divorces’.

Is Allsopp’s position an affront to feminism? I don’t think it is. Allsopp has brought up the issue of fertility, which – unfortunately – is unavoidable. It is a fixed constant – give or take a few years – in a woman’s life. But university and a career need not be.

I’m 24, and spent three years at university between the ages of 18 and 21. Before that, I was at school. Fertility does begin to drop off around 35, so I’ve got about a decade to get things together. That’s not really that long. Things do feel a little pressurised. I think most of my female friends would agree. But for most of us, we didn’t even think of the other options, we just knew we had to get stuck into our careers, and the kids would come later. At 24, I don’t have a single married friend, let alone one with a child.

But maybe Allsopp is right. Maybe this route isn’t for everyone. The danger is that you feel like you’re ‘letting the side down’ nowadays if you choose children over a career. But that shouldn’t be the case – women should be able to prioritise family life and still call themselves feminists.

Women do need to be given options, because the route my friends and I seem to be going down (university, career, possibly kids) may not suit everyone. It may not even suit some of my friends going down it. We are yet to find out.

But let’s not kick Allsopp just because she dared suggest an alternative. Her proposal is just one, and while the career-driven feminists might be angered by it, it may make sense to some women. Feminism’s founding principles are ones based on equality and dignity, and her suggestion does not break with these. The whole point of the fight is to give women — all women — choice without coercion. Bullying Allsopp for suggesting an alternative does exactly the opposite.

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