The hyena chained to the kitchen sink

Share
Related Topics
SO MUCH for hyenas in petticoats. The truth is that all these years the hyena has been bare- pawed and at the kitchen sink. Angela Neustatter, author of that now- famous treatise on hyenas, a 'celebration of feminism', has just revealed that, despite calling herself a 'feminist mother', she was hopeless at making her sons help her in the kitchen.

''They hardly ever do any washing up,' admitted Ms Neustatter, 'and rather than make a huge fuss, it's easier just to do it myself.'

Great. Thanks a bunch, Ange. You really broke the mould. Apparently young Zek (sic), 18, can cook, if not clear up, and Cato, 14, enjoys making a banana cake from time to time, an ability which will no doubt be of substantial benefit to him in the years to come.

No wonder this week's figures from the Equal Opportunities Commission show that women's earnings are still stuck in the doldrums: at 79 per cent of men's pay, barely improved since those heady days in 1975 when young Zek was conceived along with equal opportunities legislation.

Women's attitudes haven't altered enough. Nor have men's. These two facts are usually related. Let us turn to the case of Cherie Booth. Mrs Tony Blair, as she is sometimes known, came top of her year in her Bar exams. She is an expert on employment and local government law. If she has any spare time to help the Labour Party, you might think she could well have quietly put one or two of her large brain cells on to the subject of new policy in these areas of personal expertise. What she did not need to do was devote five minutes to the subject of clothes.

Why pander to the idea that a leader's spouse must be photogenic? Remember Barbara Bush? Did Denis Thatcher so much as change his buttons? But no: as the Labour Party conference approached, Cherie fell latest victim to that dangerous malady, the Princess of Wales Headless Chicken Syndrome.

For the important task of developing a new look which would stand up to a pistachio backdrop, one of the best legal brains of Britain turned to Carole Caplin, health and style expert, former dancer and 5girlie-mag cover star. From Carole, as a result, come the most prominent two issues, as pictured in yesterday's Sun, for which this Labour Party conference will be remembered.

Conventional pressures were too much for Cherie Booth and Angela Neustatter. They are not alone. Some time ago a high-level job was advertised in Scotland. No women applied. The job was re-advertised with exactly the same specifications, but at a lower salary. This time women wrote in. They had valued themselves at less than what was being offered.

Grown women have got to toughen up and change behaviour, however hard that is. 'Women back off from success,' said Dr Anne Wright, vice-chancellor of the University of Sunderland, discussing the subject of quotas this week. She confessed that even she, who gained first-class marks in every paper she took for her English degree at King's in 1967, had to work throughout her career at keeping her own confidence up. 'Being a woman of my generation, we were not designed for success,' she said.

The redesign has got to be DIY. Until women's attitudes alter, how can men's be expected to change? If Angela Neustatter, metropolitan feminist doyenne, still finds it easier just to do the washing up, what changes can be hoped for in Wigan?

Ah but, you tell me, Angela Neustatter is 50, and things have changed. Girls grow up now with different assumptions. Women's wages may be lagging behind, but equal pay is on its way.

Oh yeah? Two years ago the Engineering Council and others organised a survey in which more than 500 five-year-olds, children of the More Equal Eighties, were questioned about their beliefs. A full 95 per cent of the little boys piped up to say that they thought car repairs should only be done by men. Of the little girls - on whom the responsibility for mould-breaking will rest in the 21st century - 86 per cent said mending clothes was a task that should only be carried out by women.

Teaching is never going to override example. I once sat in on a session on non-sexism in schools for learner teachers at a fashionable teacher training college. The theory being put across in the discussions was fine: it was just that every time the female students started to comment on it, the male students interrupted them.

No one scents this kind of hypocrisy more quickly than a child. No one reacts against preaching more forcibly. Zek and Cato, apparently, have a favourite sport, chanting at Mummy Neustatter: 'Women - ugh] Robocop - mmmm]'

It is about three years since my niece, now 12, informed me with total certainty that boys are cleverer than girls and that women don't become great artists. I must arrange an introduction to young Cato: they would get on really well.

React Now

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

Maths Teacher

£110 - £200 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Secondary Maths Teacher for spe...

Business Analyst - Surrey - Permanent - Up to £50k DOE

£40000 - £50000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

***ASP.NET Developer - Cheshire - £35k - Permanent***

£30000 - £35000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

***Solutions Architect*** - Brighton - £40k - Permanent

£35000 - £40000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Women are working in some of the lowest-paid sectors such as cleaning, catering and caring  

Women's wages have gone backwards. Labour would give women the pay they deserve

Gloria de Piero
 

Taking on Ukip requires a delicate balancing act for both main parties

Andrew Grice
Wilko Johnson, now the bad news: musician splits with manager after police investigate assault claims

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news

Former Dr Feelgood splits with manager after police investigate assault claims
Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands ahead of the US midterm elections

Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands

The Senator for Colorado is for gay rights, for abortion rights – and in the Republicans’ sights as they threaten to take control of the Senate next month
New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

Evidence found of contact between Easter Islanders and South America
Cerys Matthews reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of Dylan Thomas

Cerys Matthews on Dylan Thomas

The singer reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of the famous Welsh poet
DIY is not fun and we've finally realised this as a nation

Homebase closures: 'DIY is not fun'

Homebase has announced the closure of one in four of its stores. Nick Harding, who never did know his awl from his elbow, is glad to see the back of DIY
The Battle of the Five Armies: Air New Zealand releases new Hobbit-inspired in-flight video

Air New Zealand's wizard in-flight video

The airline has released a new Hobbit-inspired clip dubbed "The most epic safety video ever made"
Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month - but can you stomach the sweetness?

Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month

The combination of cinnamon, clove, nutmeg (and no actual pumpkin), now flavours everything from lattes to cream cheese in the US
11 best sonic skincare brushes

11 best sonic skincare brushes

Forget the flannel - take skincare to the next level by using your favourite cleanser with a sonic facial brush
Paul Scholes column: I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Phil Jones and Marcos Rojo

Paul Scholes column

I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Jones and Rojo
Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

While other sports are stalked by corruption, we are an easy target for the critics
Jamie Roberts exclusive interview: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Jamie Roberts: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Wales centre says he’s not coming home but is looking to establish himself at Racing Métro
How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

A crime that reveals London's dark heart

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?