Not to mention that it’s illegal

In Current Affairs
October 9, 2006

Sometimes, I hear someone say something so stupid that it causes me to stop for a moment, re-evaluate my axiomatic beliefs and try to work out whether the laws of physics can have suddenly altered. I had an experience like this recently when I was ranting – as I frequently do – about the male/female pay gap in this country (as for example). The person nearest to my ranting grasped his wife’s hand and said to me “why does it matter if men and women aren’t paid the same? Once you get married, it all evens out.”

So, because I had to think this through carefully and because it’s always interesting to have to back up beliefs that are so fundamental that you’ve held them forever, here’s why it’s important:

  • we can presumably leave aside basic fairness and thoughts about what might happen if, horrors, not everyone got married and whether it’s OK for single women to be much worse off than single men.
  • on average, in Britain, women earn £23,000 a year and men earn £31,000 a year. In London those figures are £29,000 a year, vs £38,000 a year.
  • that is, in London, essentially the difference between being able to afford to buy a house/flat and not being able to.
  • which means that it’s, for example, the difference between an abused woman knowing that she can take her children and set up a new home for her family and knowing that she’s financially trapped.
  • it is also, in millions of nice middle-class homes across the country the reason that, when perfectly reasonable people sit down to decide “which of us should drop some hours to take care of the children” purely on the sensible basis of finances, it is almost always the women whose hours come down.
  • it’s therefore the reason that men are deprived of the opportunity to make a choice to spend more time with their children, a thing which many men are rightly getting increasingly angry about.
  • and finally, I would submit, that imbalance in child-rearing is at the root of some rather unpleasant consequences in social and psychological terms. If little girls grow up feeling that their daddies are never really there as much as they want them, and little boys grow up seeing that what daddies do is to be distant from the family, is it any wonder that we end up with adult women who are always chasing after the men who don’t really want them, and adult men who feel they need to be constantly on the run from family life?

There’s more than this but, off the top of my head, that’s it for the time being. It’s good to rant.

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