Harriet Walker: Have the courage to go Dutch

Notebook

Share
Related Topics

Eat like a French woman, goes the saying, and you'll never get fat. Work like a Dutch woman, is my advice, and you'll never become depressed, overworked, desk-bound or eaten up with acrid ambition.

Fewer than 10 per cent of women work full-time in the Netherlands, hardly any have impressive titles or the sort of ritzy corner office that comes with them, and the gender pay gap remains enormous. Twenty-five per cent of Dutch women don't even make enough money to be considered financially independent.

They should be outraged by this, surely? They should be marching around burning their clogs and pelting politicians with tulips. Not necessarily – they're actually entirely comfortable with this state of affairs. And all of us whinging workplace harridans would do well to take a leaf out of their book. If we had the time.

It isn't regressive to point out that as women have neared a sort of equality, their happiness levels have dropped. Because it wasn't that men had to back-pedal to a level that everyone could be comfortable at (and nor should they have had to), it was our job to strain towards the heights at which the fellas had already brokered their own deals. This is no bad thing: a lot of women like having that corner office and the title of Lady High Executioner. I'm mentally planning the seat arrangement, room fragrance and scatter cushions for my own office as I write this column.

But the liberty to drop out of work, to stay at a certain level if that pleases us, to prioritise doing other, womanly stuff (and I'm not talking about spending ages in the bathroom, for instance) without people (and other women in particular) thinking we're wimps or throwbacks eludes us still. Think of the disappointment and scorn that Harriet Harman faced when she announced she was not running for the Labour leadership – as the chief female voice of the party, not to mention a voice that so often makes brilliant but unfashionable feminist stands for women and women's rights, it was unfathomable to some that she wouldn't want to make this final push for ultimate domination.

But that trait in women is not as dominant as it is in men. To deal briefly in sweeping generalisations, most women prefer a work-life balance to making sure they're indisputably the Top Dog. That's what Dutch women say, and that's why they enjoy their part-time culture. It's a far healthier state for a society to be in when its female members are strong enough to do as little as they like, rather than as much as they can physically manage before burning out or missing the opportunity to have children.

When I was younger, I used to rue the day the suffragettes marched out for the vote – if it wasn't for them, I reasoned, I wouldn't have to do sport at school, I wouldn't have to go and get a job, I wouldn't have to do anything at all. Then I grew up. While I'm certainly not suggesting that most Dutch women are sitting around embroidering cushions or eating tiny cucumber sandwiches, their Edwardian state of reliance on husbands or fathers for financial security leaves me a little anxious. But that's their choice.

What we're forgetting here, of course, is that the 10 per cent of Dutch women who work full-time are probably 90 per cent more efficient than the men doing the same, so it all balances out anyway.







Culture for idiots

This new, rap-lite Yeo Valley advert has had a profound impact on me. It ignites the sort of impotent rage normally reserved for George Osborne and clothes from Next. I simply can't bear what it stands for: namely, that yoghurt is fun (it isn't), and that being any of the following is cool: posh, corporate and culturally empty (they aren't).

Novelty songs are despicable at the best of times, but at least they claim to poke fun at the establishment, by revealing some cutesy social quirk or keeping Simon Cowell's monolithic drones off the Christmas number one spot. The Yeo Valley rap has no such redeeming feature: it's essentially a corporate ruse designed to engender common mirth among idiots, which in turn is designed to engender a spike in yoghurt sales.

And we're supposed to love it because it speaks for Britain – playing off the smug hilarity that results from West Country accents rapping about something as mundane as a bio-culture. Oh please. Actually, it's all too clear why it provokes in me the same fury as Osborne and Next do: they're also shamelessly transparent constructs purporting to be universal and beneficial but in fact relying on our innate stupidity in order to wrangle cash from us.

You see? I'm practically fermenting.



The painful truth about female orgasms



After somehow persuading some women to masturbate while wired up to brain monitoring equipment (there's a line you don't often hear at a cocktail party), Barry Komisaruf of Rutgers University has found that pain regions of the brain are highly active at the point when women reach orgasm.

Does this make us masochists? He also found the zones that deal with memory and reward are engaged during the grand finale. It's a bit like training a dog: a treat when you do well and a chop on the muzzle when you don't. But combined! We've always known the process can be a pain in the neck for all involved, and here's the proof. Thanks Freud.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Austen Lloyd: Commercial Property Lawyer - Cheshire

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: CHESHIRE MARKET TOWN - An exciting and rare o...

Austen Lloyd: Residential Property Solicitor - Hampshire

Excellent Salary : Austen Lloyd: NORTH HAMPSHIRE - SENIOR POSITION - An exciti...

Recruitment Genius: Gas Installation Engineer

£29000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Gas Installation Engineer is required ...

Recruitment Genius: Domestic Gas Technical Surveyor

£28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Domestic Gas Technical Surveyor is req...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Michael Brown was shot and killed by police in August  

Ferguson: The sad truth is that Michael Brown was killed because he was a black man

Bonnie Greer
A protestor poses for a  

Ferguson verdict: This isn't a 'tragedy'. This is part of a long-running genocide of black men in America

Otamere Guobadia
Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Drifting and forgotten - turning lives around for ex-soldiers

Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Turning lives around for ex-soldiers

Our partner charities help veterans on the brink – and get them back on their feet
Putin’s far-right ambition: Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU

Putin’s far-right ambition

Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU
Tove Jansson's Moominland: What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?

Escape to Moominland

What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?
Nightclubbing with Richard Young: The story behind his latest book of celebrity photographs

24-Hour party person

Photographer Richard Young has been snapping celebrities at play for 40 years. As his latest book is released, he reveals that it wasn’t all fun and games
Michelle Obama's school dinners: America’s children have a message for the First Lady

A taste for rebellion

US children have started an online protest against Michelle Obama’s drive for healthy school meals by posting photos of their lunches
Colouring books for adults: How the French are going crazy for Crayolas

Colouring books for adults

How the French are going crazy for Crayolas
Jack Thorne's play 'Hope': What would you do as a local politician faced with an impossible choice of cuts?

What would you do as a local politician faced with an impossible choice of cuts?

Playwright Jack Thorne's latest work 'Hope' poses the question to audiences
Ed Harcourt on Romeo Beckham and life as a court composer at Burberry

Call me Ed Mozart

Paloma Faith, Lana del Ray... Romeo Beckham. Ed Harcourt has proved that he can write for them all. But it took a personal crisis to turn him from indie star to writer-for-hire
10 best stocking fillers for foodies

Festive treats: 10 best stocking fillers for foodies

From boozy milk to wasabi, give the food-lover in your life some extra-special, unusual treats to wake up to on Christmas morning
Phil Hughes head injury: He had one weakness – it has come back to haunt him

Phil Hughes had one weakness – it has come back to haunt him

Prolific opener had world at his feet until Harmison and Flintoff bounced him
'I have an age of attraction that starts as low as four': How do you deal with a paedophile who has never committed a crime?

'I am a paedophile'

Is our approach to sex offenders helping to create more victims?
How bad do you have to be to lose a Home Office contract?

How bad do you have to be to lose a Home Office contract?

Serco given Yarl’s Wood immigration contract despite ‘vast failings’
Green Party on the march in Bristol: From a lost deposit to victory

From a lost deposit to victory

Green Party on the march in Bristol
Putting the grot right into Santa's grotto

Winter blunderlands

Putting the grot into grotto
'It just came to us, why not do it naked?' London's first nude free runner captured in breathtaking images across capital

'It just came to us, why not do it naked?'

London's first nude free runner captured in breathtaking images across capital