Feminist fury at academic's `betrayal'

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The Independent Online
A female academic has infuriated feminists with her controversial claim that women are still happy for their place to be in the home, surrounded by housework, while their male counterparts pursue high-powered careers.

Dr Catherine Hakim, a senior research fellow at the London School of Economics, claims that only one in three women are totally career-minded, one third do not want to work at all, and the rest try to combine both while believing domestic chores are mainly their responsibility.

In an unprecedented retaliation, a group of 11 eminent academics have signed a statement of protest. Dr Hakim has also been accused of failing to support her theories with research and not taking into account economic influences.

But in an acerbic response to her critics, Dr Hakim accuses them of ignoring differences in attitudes among women, many of whom she says have been let down by feminism. Defending her views in the Journal of Sociology, she claims that feminists have created misleading "myths", with a disproportionate focus on the needs of career women rather than housewives.

In her paper, entitled Five Myths on Women's Employment, Dr Hakim said most women believed in separate roles in marriage, with the man mainly responsible for bread-winning, and the wife tending the home.

She said: "The unpalatable truth is that a substantial proportion of women still accept the sexual division of labour, which sees homemaking as women's principal activity, and income-earning as men's principal activity in life."

Dr Hakim also said that there was no evidence that women with better educations and higher-paid jobs felt differently. She added: "If anything, the opposite is the case, as women can afford to choose between competing lifestyles."

In her own defence in the journal she said that studies across Europe suggested women had been forced into two groups, the career-minded or "grateful slaves". Dr Hakim said: "Some people believe I am being anti- feminist. . . all I am saying is that not every woman feels the same way."

Since she published her pronouncements, Dr Hakim has been accused of betraying the fight for equality for women. Some feminists have refused to talked to her.