Magazine article The Spectator

Out of Step

Magazine article The Spectator

Out of Step

Article excerpt

Looking around the countryside what do I see? Women reading magazines in the middle of the afternoon while their husbands toil at their desks. Germaine Greer has written a whole new book on how Western women are being oppressed by men, but that's not how it looks from here. Being the mother of sons gives me a threedimensional perspective on the sex wars and, as far as I can see, my little darlings were born free, but can expect to spend their adult life in chains.

Each sex carries a burden of expectation. If, as Germaine Greer complains, women do most of the housework and child care, men, in the countryside at least, remain the main breadwinners. And that's not always such a fun role. It's thrilling to be a television producer or a City executive when you are in your twenties, but even the most glamorous jobs can bore you to tears by the time you are 40. There are two reasons my single thirtysomething friends are keen to get married. The first is that they want children. But at least as important is the second: they long for a break from work, or even retirement.

Most women eventually avoid the midlife crises that men fall victim to by achieving both their aims at once - leaving work to have children. Those who married young do things the other way round and take up work after the children have gone to school. However, it has to be said that they are in a minority out here in the sticks. The great thing about moving to the countryside as soon as you've got your husband, as so many city girls do, is that there are no awkward questions to answer such as `what's your job?'. Even if your husband is going bankrupt nobody expects you to have paid employment.

As for the housework. Don't imagine my peers are sweating away with a duster in one hand and a soiled nappy in the other. They are quite likely to have a daily and a nanny to help them with that.

Of course, there are things in our cultural mores that are unfair to women and need changing. …

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