Letter: Work or family

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The Independent Online
Sir: Your leading article (1 June) says "there is a big difference between the sexes in how they balance the demands of work and family life; on the whole, women do and men don't".

That is the opposite of what the survey you report suggests. You state that women suffer most over the loss of personal life through work. The difference between men and women on this point, however is very small - 61 per cent of women and 55 per cent of men reported this in the survey. The parallel report by Opportunity 2000 found no differences between young men and women on this point.

You welcome the idea that the terms of the work/life debate are moving beyond the gender war, that it is in the interests of both sexes that the culture of work should change. But you remain stuck in the language of the gender war. You have consistently argued that women need to be permitted more choices. Meanwhile, you tell men that their "attitudes" need to change. You still present one sex as victim, the other as offender.

Society imposes stereotypical roles on both men and women. Any person stepping out of role, women into work, or men into childcare, faces sexism. As a part-time carer of my child, I can recount numerous little exclusions (such as the weekly "mums and toddlers" group that I attend). Men and women, particularly the young, are demanding an end to the boundaries that limit them. Women are demanding more participation in work, and men more participation in family life, particularly young men.

For us, the gender war is ancient history. Young men and women want all that life can give them. Public policy must enable greater flexibility in both directions. This is about equal opportunities for both men and women in both work and childcare.

DUNCAN FISHER

Crickhowell, Powys

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