Women Can't Work and Look after Their Kids, Says Fay Weldon. but If They Won't Stay Home, Does This Mean Custody Should Go to the Fathers?

By Riddell, Mary | New Statesman (1996), August 28, 1998 | Go to article overview

Women Can't Work and Look after Their Kids, Says Fay Weldon. but If They Won't Stay Home, Does This Mean Custody Should Go to the Fathers?


Riddell, Mary, New Statesman (1996)


Gloom all round at the impending arrival of two Spice babies. Family advisers fear the Girls' fans (average age, five-and-three-quarters) might be tempted into unmarried motherhood, while their record label - the inaptly named Virgin - is said to be incandescent at this potential blight on the band's workrate and capacity to pull in megabucks.

The Girls, undeterred, announced a kibbutzim set-up, under which business will continue as normal and the babies will be welcomed into the bosom of the matriarchal "Spice Family".

Such an arrangement is unlikely to attract the approval of Fay Weldon, who, like the Spice Girls, has deviated from the set text of girlpower. Pilloried for seeking to downgrade rape, she has further enraged feminists with a speech claiming that women's ascendancy is eroding men's dignity.

Her particular target was those unreasonable feminists - Spice Gifts no doubt included - who attempt to have demanding careers coupled with children. Such a recipe, Weldon argued, is doomed; not because of any malign influence from a male-dominated culture - for the myth of the patriarchy is old hat - but as a result of ergonarchy.

An erg, as any Spice Girl knows, is either the sound emitted by an Argentinian when kicked by David Beckham or a unit of work. Hence ergonarchy entraps, on the treadmill of hard slog, women who have children, turn down promotion, get exhausted and suffer; not because they are female but because they are "human beings with a baby".

Weldon's response is not to blame men, but to enlist them as "resident and supporting fathers". Even this laudable, if unoriginal, solution is not quite as benign as it once seemed. Following two recent legal rulings, the resident and supporting father is to be viewed with some caution.

Indeed, the more resident and the more supporting he is, the greater the potential danger to women. Last month a Florida court gave the unemployed husband of Alice Hector, a lawyer, primary custody of their two children, along with an entitlement to alimony and child support.

In a similar British test case last week, a divorced father of three from Wiltshire was granted the right to bring up his family, on the grounds that he was a "house husband" while his wife had chosen to put her career first. …

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