Letter: Shaping a woman's life

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Sir: Yvette Cooper is right ("Sex war turns into a battle of the mums", 30 March) to "urge a truce between women over home and work" and to point out that increasingly we do both things - work-at-home and job- work, some of us simultaneously, some consecutively.

What needs continuous emphasising is what a convenient, woman-shaped, working life looks like. It goes: education, full-time job, children, part-time job, full-time job, retirement. Part of the problem today comes from the idea that "work about the house" and "work with one's own children" isn't actually "work" and so, because it is not recorded or marketed, it doesn't get into the statistics. Which is absurd and messes up all our thinking about "economic activity" and "productivity", and about employment in general.

I wrote a so-called Open Forum pamphlet for the SDP about 10 years ago, called Men and Women: Equal but not Interchangeable, which the feminists in the party hated because it wasn't at the time proper to suggest the sexes might not be interchangeable. Now that it is even being suggested that men and women may be two species in a permanent symbiotic relationship, perhaps it is all right to talk about sex differences, and the "woman- shaped working life" can safely be advocated? Whatever sex or species they are, men might in fact like it too.

Certainly, if we started thinking sensibly about "work", and abandoned statisticians' Procrustean definitions, we might all be better off.

Mrs Elizabeth Young

London W2

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