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David Willetts should know better than to tell the truth to the Guardian

Are women to blame for almost everything, as the Minister of State for Universities and Science, David Willetts, seems to think? I would not lightly discount the possibility; they can, after all, be terribly trying.

9 April 2011

12:00 AM

9 April 2011

12:00 AM

Are women to blame for almost everything, as the Minister of State for Universities and Science, David Willetts, seems to think? I would not lightly discount the possibility; they can, after all, be terribly trying. They are certainly to blame for most of the bad things which have happened in my life, if you discount me as a causal factor (which you do if you are me, if you get my drift). Not only that but there seem to be more of them around at the moment, in bars and restaurants, on our television screens, driving cars all over the place or arguing interminably with cashpoint machines as the queue behind them stretches way down the high street.

Willetts, who is colloquially said to possess two brains, made his observation to the Guardian newspaper, which suggests to me that both of his brains had temporarily left his body, perhaps to attend one of those entertaining Stop The Cuts marches in central London. You can blame women for everything if you do so casually in a bar of the House of Commons and are talking either to yourself, or maybe to an elderly rural Tory backbencher who still calls Zimbabwe Rhodesia and keeps a golliwog in his constituency office. You could probably say the same thing in an interview for the Salisbury Review and get away with it (later claiming to the mainstream press that you were egregiously misquoted). But the Guardian is not the place to open a broad front in the righteous war against women. Nothing good will come of that. And indeed it didn’t.

What Willetts actually said to the Guardian was that ‘feminism’, and the entry of women into the workplace, was the single biggest factor in the present lack of jobs for men of working age. As a consequence, various liberal idiots have called upon him to resign or be sacked, and have done so largely because they are stupid, or did not read Willetts’s careful qualifications of his comments. He said that this was a ‘delicate matter’ because one of course welcomed the entry of greater numbers of women into the jobs market (or words to that effect). What I assume he meant to say was that the enormous rise in the numbers of working women over the period 1970-2010 has made it more difficult for men to get jobs. This, I would have thought, was factually and logically indisputable, but would still annoy the retarded bien-pensant metropolitan left if you were to say it in public. If the number of jobs does not expand at the same rate as the labour force expands with this new influx of women into it, then of course men are going to find it more difficult to find work than before. This does not mean that women should not be allowed into the workforce, or that the legislation enacted to help them do so was wrong. Merely that there are also unintended — if predictable — consequences to reasonable and indeed long overdue legislation. Giving women the right to equal opportunity at work easily trumps (for me, at least) the counter problem that men will have to fight a bit harder to get jobs that were once their exclusive preserve and that more of them as a consequence will be out of work.

Similarly, Willetts also made the perfectly valid point that the growth of well educated double-income households had widened the gap between rich and poor, because (in brief) women who worked tended to marry men who worked, rather than indolent dole-scrounging layabouts (he didn’t call them that, incidentally). This is virtually undeniable, although you might argue that the effect has been mitigated by the fact that the entry of women into the workplace has also had the effect of raising income levels both a) generally and b) among those many families for whom there would be no breadwinner at all if the mum did not work. It is curious that he did not pick this up.

He was wrong, however, to suggest that ‘feminism’ has been the biggest single factor in men being out of work. He would have been on stronger ground if he’d said ‘a very important factor, although not quite as important as the complete and utter destruction of our manufacturing industry by the Conservative government in the 1980s’. It was men, remember, who provided the bulk of our manufacturing workforce, even in the mid-1980s.

But even if he’d said that he would still have been in trouble with the witless legions of the metro left, I would guess. Not so long ago some smirking ginger idiot, a professor of feminist studies or something at a polytechnic, and writing (natch) in the Guardian criticised me for ‘peddling the tiresome right-wing idea’ that feminism had ‘destroyed the family’. I have never said any such thing: it is a very stupid thesis. But it seems to me, again, undeniable that the reform of the divorce laws and the move of women into the workplace have both, in their way, helped to loosen those bonds which in the past tied both men and women to stable nuclear family units. Again, it seems to me that the entirely appropriate and just demands of ‘feminism’ — i.e. that women should enjoy equal opportunities in the workplace and have the right not to be seen as simply child carers — easily outrank the problems which have occurred as a consequence. But you cannot deny that there are some consequences which have not been, on the whole, good for society. Why is this such a difficult thing to comprehend? Why must every piece of progressive legislation be seen by the left to be unequivocally good and its subsidiary ramifications simply not to exist? That’s the mentality of the people who are now calling for Willetts to resign. Fantastically dumb.

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