Friday, December 05, 2003


I was taking a nap on a beautiful mountain top when Green Mamba slithered in. Green Mamba is the bane of my life, a pain-in-the-butt sort of snake. He is an atheist and doesn't believe in me. His current campaign is to attack my top half in every possible way (for those still living in ignorance: I'm a half-woman, half-snake, and the woman is the top half). He had a newspaper between his fangs. He wanted me to read an article a British journalist called Rod Liddle had written: "Women Who Won't".

Sigh. So I read it. Quite a funny lad he is, our Rod. According to him bourgeois women in the U.K. are stopping to work in droves. The evidence? Anecdotal. The reason? Largely laziness.

Actually, this is what he said:

I rang the Equal Opportunities Commission and said to them, 'Look, women still aren't going to work full-time. Maybe it isn't discrimination in the workplace, sexist attitudes in the home and an unequal distribution of domestic labour, ignorance of pension rights, childcare problems or a deep-rooted, culturally determined socialisation which makes women stay at home. Maybe it's just that women are inherently bone-idle right down to the tips of their lovely little fingers. Why don't you do a study on that?'

Ouch! Rod also gives some additional reasons for this presumed flight of women from the labor market. These are Nanny Envy, Mummy Guilt and the Yummy Mummy syndrome. Nanny envy has to do with the fear that nannies become the real love objects of the children they care for. Mummy guilt is the-same-old-same-old belief about how everything not right with a child's life is due to the mother's failings. The Yummy Mummy syndrome is news to me, though. Rod tells us that it is the envy working mothers feel about the beautiful bodies of mothers who supposedly stay at home, but who are really out being massaged by Mediterranean-looking men all day long. Evidently none of these syndromes are capable of infecting men.

A lot of envy and guilt here, though. Could it be that Rod himself is a little envious of all these women he imagines as parasites living off their hard-working spouses or partners? Hmmm. Could it be that he is asking himself why he wasn't able to pull it off? Could it be that he is beginning to question his own smartness?

Not to worry, Rod. Staying at home isn't all that you cracked it up to be. For one thing, household chores consist of vastly more stuff than taking out the garbage/rubbish; the only chore you mentioned. Especially when small children are involved. ( I have a personal plea to insert here: If any woman in the U.K. is actually doing Rod's chores for him, could she please stop for six months? Just completely stop? Thank you. Then ask him to rewrite this article.) For another, staying at home with small children can be mind-dumbingly boring for some personalities.

Staying at home also cuts the woman's old-age pension and her future salary expectations, should she return to the labor market. Staying at home makes her vulnerable to the consequences of divorce. For this reason staying at home reduces her chances to have an egalitarian marriage.

So it's ok, Rod. You're probably not missing out on much by continuing to write articles like this one rather than by spending your days being massaged by some handsome, brooding Mediterranean.

What's really interesting about this article is how it shows that certain types of women are always fair game in the media. Replace the term 'women' in the article's main claim by 'blacks', for example, and what would happen to the publication chances of the resulting fable? It's quite ok to attack women in the media, as long as they are educated women, or married to wealthy men or women with careers. (Rod is not a lone warrior in this field; The Atlantic Monthly's Kathleen Flanagan is doing a marvelous job in similar smearing. Though she wants these women to be housewives, whereas Rod wants them out and working. Go figure.) Although every population group probably has about the same share of slackers and lazybones, not every population group gets exposed to similar scrutiny.

Now, if I was as mean-spirited as Rod, I could have written a counterarticle about the reasons men go out to work: they are all criminals to the tips of their lovely fingertips, and going out into the world allows them to satisfy this instinct much more thoroughly than staying at home, where the only opportunities consist of domestic violence and harassment. It could have been very funny, don't you think? But I'm not mean-spirited, whatever Green Mamba might mutter, and sometimes that severely hampers my creativity. Sigh.