Monday, 17 January 2011

Oh. *That* argument again.

Two reasons to listen to today's Radio 4 PM programme:
  • You can hear LPMG hero Dave King arguing against recent proposals to pay sperm and egg donors.  Hurray!
  • You can hear supercilious very-much-non-expert Toby Young arguing against Fatherhood Institute Chief Exec Rob Williams, for not giving fathers the chance to have substantial parental leave.  Boo.
Young's argument?  That women are just naturally better at it (palm on forehead), and that the experience of the dozy bloke drowning in nappies and loving care or whatever is detrimental to the mother-father relationship.  Gah!

It would be all too easy to criticize Toby Young for regurgitating clich├ęd, unreconstructed essentialist claims as if they were established fact.  And if it is true (which I imagine it is) that, statistically, men are more likely to express anxieties about their parenting skills, you don't have to be a sociologist of great esteem (like Toby's dad) to wonder whether prevalent gender norms might not play a significant role in ensuring that men are less well initiated for parenting, and more comfortable admitting to their unwillingness and feelings of inadequacy as a parent.  Nor does it take a great cognitive leap to think that all this might actually justify an equal system of parental leave, which would give fathers the opportunity to do their share, which is not even available (never mind attractive or not) to the vast majority of fathers.  And what a cinch it would be to offer the obvious observation that fathers might actually have an obligation to their children to be better at parenting and helping around the house, and that it's about time the rest of us stopped letting them get away with it.

Yup.  It would be all too easy to make these basic points.  So how come no-one at the BBC did?

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