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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Online Advertising Account Executive , St Pauls , London

£26K-30k + Bonus, Private Medical Insurance, Company Pension: Charter Selectio...

Advertising Account Executive - Online, Central London

£25K-28k + Bonus, Private Medical Insurance, Company Pension: Charter Selectio...

Senior Infrastructure Consultant

£50000 - £65000 Per Annum potentially flexible for the right candidate: Clearw...

Public Sector Audit - Bristol

£38000 per annum + Benefits: Pro-Recruitment Group: Do you have experience of ...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

i Editor's Letter: Wages are on the rise (so long as you skew the figures)

Oliver Duff Oliver Duff
 

It’s two decades since ‘education, education, education’, but still Britain’s primary school admissions are a farce

Jane Merrick
Ricky Gervais: 'People are waiting for me to fail. If you think it's awful, then just don't watch it'

Ricky Gervais: 'People are waiting for me to fail'

As the second series of his divisive sitcom 'Derek' hits screens, the comedian tells James Rampton why he'll never bow to the critics who habitually circle his work
Mad Men series 7, TV review: The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge

Mad Men returns for a final fling

The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge
Google finds a lift into space will never get off the ground as there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit

Google finds a lift into space will never get off the ground

Technology giant’s scientists say there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit
Westminster is awash with tales of young men being sexually harassed - but it's far from being just a problem in politics

Is sexual harassment a fact of gay life?

Westminster is awash with tales of young men being sexually harassed - but it's far from being just a problem in politics
Moshi Monster creator Michael Acton Smith: The man behind a British success story

Moshi Monster creator Michael Acton Smith

Acton Smith launched a world of virtual creatures who took the real world by storm
Kim Jong-un's haircut: The Independent heads to Ealing to try out the dictator's do

Our journalist tries out Kim Jong-un's haircut

The North Korean embassy in London complained when M&M Hair Academy used Kim Jong-un's image in the window. Curious, Guy Pewsey heads to the hair salon and surrenders to the clippers
A History of the First World War in 100 moments: A forgotten naval victory in which even Nature played a part

A History of the First World War in 100 moments

A forgotten naval victory in which even Nature played a part
Vespa rides on with launch of Primavera: Iconic Italian scooter still revving up millions of sales

Vespa rides on with launch of the Primavera

The Vespa has been a style icon since the 1950s and the release this month of its latest model confirms it has lost little of its lustre
Record Store Day: Independent music shops can offer a tempting alternative to downloads

Record Store Day celebrates independent music shops

This Saturday sees a host of events around the country to champion the sellers of well-grooved wax
Taunton's policy of putting philosophy at heart of its curriculum is one of secrets of its success

Education: Secret of Taunton's success

Taunton School, in Somerset, is one of the country's leading independent schools, says Richard Garner
10 best smartphones

10 best smartphones

With a number of new smartphones on the market, we round up the best around, including some more established models
Mickey Arthur: Aussie tells ECB to stick with Ashley Giles

Mickey Arthur: Aussie tells ECB to stick with Ashley Giles

The former Australia coach on why England must keep to Plan A, about his shock at their collapse Down Under, why he sent players home from India and the agonies of losing his job
Homelessness: Why is the supported lodgings lifeline under threat?

Why is the supported lodgings lifeline under threat?

Zubairi Sentongo swapped poverty in Uganda for homelessness in Britain. But a YMCA scheme connected him with a couple offering warmth and shelter
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: When the world’s biggest shed took over Regent’s Park

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

When the world’s biggest shed took over Regent’s Park
The pain of IVF

The pain of IVF

As an Italian woman vows to keep the babies from someone else’s eggs, Julian Baggini ponders how the reality of childbirth is often messier than the natural ideal