Overworked 'superwoman', Terror: UK goes down South African road and others

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The Independent Online

Overworked 'superwoman' needs to hand her man a mop

Overworked 'superwoman' needs to hand her man a mop

Sir: Although a few years shy of 29, the magic age at which according to your report I will start hankering after changing nappies and scrubbing toilet bowls, I remain somewhat perplexed by the conclusions of the research ("Desperate to be housewives: young women yearn for 1950s role as stay-at-home mums", 10 March). Women, according to the study, have realised that "having it all" is too difficult and they would prefer to retreat instead into a 1950s Stepfordian wonderland.

The issue here seems to be that being a superwoman is too much work, and the women interviewed are right. It is. The idea behind the notion of the "superwoman" - that the little ladies can have a career if they so wish, as long as they can still get a chap's dinner on the table at five sharp - is as misogynistic as the solution the research tacitly promotes.

According to the Fawcett Society, in 70 per cent of relationships where both partners work full time, the woman still does the majority of the housework and as far as I am aware there is no gender-determined predisposition to being an expert at bleaching the sink. So here is a suggestion, sisters. Next time you think that you can no longer handle the pressures of a career and being an unpaid home-help, provide your significant other with a mop and a pack of Huggies, pat him patronisingly on the backside whilst muttering some inanity about the difficulty of "having it all".

If this is done consistently, I am sure that men will find out fast enough that there is a major difference between having it all and being expected to do it all.

Greenford, Middlesex

Terror: UK goes down South African road

Sir: To a South African who has lived in this country for four years, it seems unbelievable that Britain should be contemplating the very measures for which we were so strongly criticised.

Ultimately, detention without trial did not work in South Africa. The hard lesson the South African government had to learn, was that eventually they had to talk with the "terrorists" even when atrocities were still being committed. Many of these "terrorists" turned out to be passionate nationalists, now regarded as heroes of the struggle.

I recently had the opportunity of meeting one of them. He had authorised several attacks on civilian targets. One of them was the attack on St James' Church in Cape Town on a Sunday evening in July 1993. Eleven people were killed, and many more injured. An evil deed, if ever there was one.

The man I met is intelligent and articulate, constructively engaged in the rebuilding of his country. The change in his attitude towards his former enemies was made possible by the hand of forgiveness stretched out to him by the mother of one of his victims. She somehow understood the depth of anger that was consuming this otherwise fine human being.

I can't help comparing the current situation in our global village with that of South Africa two decades ago. Is the wealthy, privileged West trying to put up barricades to protect itself from those who feel marginalised and ignored? Clearly, there are people out there who are very, very angry. Are they simply evil, or are there reasons for their anger? As well as thinking about how to protect ourselves from them, let us also hear them, for their sakes as well as for ours.

Lighthorne, Warwickshire

Sir: Back to the Star Chamber and imprisonment without trial; out with habeas corpus. Catch the judges up in political machinations.

I do not relish the idea of the Home Secretary knocking on my door at two in the morning because of something, I know not not what, some anonymous and unaccountable person says he/she thinks I may have done or said at some time in the past. This only happens, or so we thought, under repressive regimes elsewhere. Deliver us from evil.


Sir: Mr Blair's hubris has reached such a level that one awaits keenly his condemnation of Michael Howard as a "wishy-washy liberal". However while he continues to question who will own responsibility should his Terrorism Bill fall and there be a terrorist attack, it is perhaps worth considering an equally pertinent question.

Should this Bill be passed and fundamental principles of the rule of law wiped away, can we expect the Prime Minister and Home Secretary to resign immediately in the wake of any future terrorist attack or will we be subjected to another restricted-remit inquiry and protestations of having acted in good faith in the light of the security evidence?


Sir: We keep hearing that polls show that the people of this country support the proposed terrorist legislation. Which people, where were these polls conducted - in the heart of BNP country?

I don't know a single intelligent, thinking person who is not utterly dismayed, to the point of despair, at the way this Government is using the politics of fear to force us into a swift slide into totalitarianism. Not one of us believes that the sacrifice of our morality is a price worth paying for a so-called security which can in any case never be guaranteed. Deepcut Barracks, detention centres, the humiliation of prisoners by our forces, the use of information gained under torture - this is the new Britain, and we can only mourn our lost integrity.

Totnes, Devon

Sir: Steve Richards got a couple of basic facts wrong in his column of 10 March.

The Liberal Democrats have been implacable opponents of the anti-terrorism proposals the Government put forward. All the amendments to the Bill by the House of Lords were Liberal Democrat ones, and of course we voted against the Bill in the Commons at both Second Reading and Third Reading, when even so the Government had majorities of 76 and 53.

On the much-quoted backbench Labour amendment lost by 14 votes, Mr Richards seems to have missed the fact that 24 Conservatives did not vote. In the case of the Liberal Democrats, once you offset those who were away on House business with their Labour counterparts, the remainder could not on our own have changed the outcome of the vote even had we all been present.

Perhaps more to the point, that amendment only encapsulated concessions that the Home Secretary had already said he intended to make, and indeed has now made, so its loss has not changed history.

You will see that in both Lords and Commons this week the Lib Dems have again been fighting hard to preserve our democratic freedoms. We haven't missed a trick so far.

Liberal Democrat Chief Whip
House of Commons

Sir: The Government has got itself into a mess over suspected terrorists because it doesn't want to go through the judicial processes we've had in this country for hundreds of years. The IRA has also got itself into a mess because it doesn't want its expelled members to go through the normal judicial processes.

Maybe I've missed a few steps in the Government's logic, but why don't they just ask the IRA to shoot the Belmarsh detainees?

Teddington, Middlesex

Climate catastrophe

Sir: Over the past six months, the media has come to realise, belatedly, that climate change is the catastrophe that the environmental campaigners and climate scientists have been saying for the past decade. However, when it comes to pointing the way forward, there is little on offer other than exhortations that "Bush must...", "Blair must ..." , or in the case of Michael McCarthy (Opinion, 7 March), for a new Manhattan Project.

We have thought about the implications of climate change for many years and we have some of the solutions, however unpalatable they may be for some people.

The first thing to realise is that we all have caused climate change, those in developed countries more than most. It will mean suffering on an unimaginable scale for our children and grandchildren. Our daily journeys to work and holidays on far-flung beaches are linked to this suffering. We are responsible and have a debt to pay to future generations.

Secondly, our economic system, wedded as it is, to growth, globalisation and the assumption that any natural resource is ripe for plunder is the key weapon by which we oppress future generations.

Finally we must realise that neither Blair, nor Bush nor a Manhattan Project is going to ride to the rescue.

It is down to us. We must all become a mass political movement that will counter globalisation, the greed of multi-nationals and the consumerism of ourselves and our neighbours. Our society must become fairer and more frugal for the sake of our children. Many of the solutions are obvious: fuel for planes and ships must be taxed, our homes and vehicles must become vastly more energy efficient and much of our electricity must come from renewable sources, including windmills in some scenic areas.

Speaker for Future Generations,
Green Party, London N16

Was Bush right?

Sir: After almost two years of violence in Iraq the events in the Middle East over the past few weeks seem to have vindicated the Bush/Blair approach. This does not mean that those against the war have been proved wrong.

Opposition had a dual aspect: first that invading Iraq would not be a catalyst for the spread of democracy, and second, even if it did have this effect, the end would not justify the means. Even if the invasion of Iraq can be said to have resulted in a Middle Eastern spring - and this debatable - it cannot justify the damage done in terms of loss of lives, in terms of violence to the international rule of law and, crucially, in terms of harm to relations with the Muslim world. Violence was the wrong way to solve this particular problem.


Low-risk cannabis

Sir: In your story about Amsterdam "coffee shops" falling out of favour (5 March), you quote Professor Hamid Ghodse, President of the International Narcotics Control Board, as stating that Dutch officials acknowledge that "cannabis is not harmless and that coffee shops are not blameless".

Of course: virtually no behaviour of man is without some potential for harm, and there's always someone who can be blamed for all of the ills of mankind! But compared with so many other risky activities - from drinking and smoking to eating too much to parachute-jumping, the danger of cannabis is relatively trivial.

And whatever rationale there may be to blame coffee shops for making cannabis available, it pales into insignificance compared with the richly deserved criticism of a policy of strict "prohibition", which destroys and ends lives far more frequently than the "drug" itself.

Director, Baron Edmond de Rothschild Chemical Dependency Institute, Beth Israel Medical Center, New York

Rich pensioners

Sir: John Bercow makes the same mistake as his leader when he states, "The Conservative pledge to slash council tax for pensioners will be warmly welcomed" (Opinion, 8 March).

He assumes that all pensioners are poor. He should visit us here in Wimbledon. There are a substantial number of Band H council tax mansions occupied by those over 60. Some of these people are on index-linked pensions, and others are still working - I see their chauffeurs collecting them in the mornings. Who is going to pay for the shortfalls in council tax when these people are capped at £500?

The current generation of pensioners is likely to be the wealthiest ever. Many have built up substantial and unrepeatable nest-eggs from property as well as the stock market. They have benefited from lump sums on the demutualisation of building societies and utilities which can never be repeated.

London SW19

Performance targets

Sir: Your correspondent Tom Macfarlane (Letters, 8 March) claims that the NHS is experiencing the Admiral Byng Syndrome. Can we therefore now look forward to the select shooting of some hospital administrators pour encourager les autres.

Fareham, Hampshire

Chivalry on the Tube

Sir: I'm ten years past the age of pregnancy, but I do use a stick. I can assure Stuart Bonar (letter, 10 March) that younger women, as well as men, offer me their seats as soon as I enter a Tube carriage, unless the train is very full and I remain invisible in the crush near the doors. Even then, another person in the crush will point out to me a seat being vacated at the next station, instead of bagging it her/himself.

Harrow, Middlesex

Accuracy bug

Sir: It is admirable that your front page should be dedicated to raising awareness of the global burden of malaria (10 March). However, at the risk of extreme pedantry, the mosquito in the attached photograph does not, in fact, belong to the Anopheles genus and so is not a malarial vector. I suspect that only students of tropical medicine who don't get out much would give it a moment's thought, but there are some of us about.

(on behalf of those studying for the Diploma in Tropical Medicine and Hygiene)
London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine

Decent majority

Sir: I wonder if John Reid has any statistical evidence to prove that, as he says, "the majority of decent people would be appalled at Mr Howard's attempt to use individual cases to attack Labour", or is he just expressing an opinion?