Something most discombobulating has occurred. I agree with Jeremy Corbyn. This is how it starts. Fetch my gladiator sandals; my Peacocks maxi-dress; my nose ring and my banner made from roughly assembled discarded Cornflakes packets. Forget the bra – let my knockers roam free.
I find myself in agreement with Corbyn on the sexism of after-work drinking culture. Because the issue of who exactly is at home between 5-8pm on weekdays, wiping bums, helming the sippy cup and finding jimjams is indeed steeped in sexism.
But not merely sexism from men who, generally speaking, find it easier to both stay in the workplace after having kids, as well as find time for a cheeky pint, or a strategic pub catch-up. It is women who feed these fires of sexism too. A good way to assess what many women think of working mums who regularly skip out of kids' teatimes, homework sessions, parents' evenings and bed-time stories in order to network in the boozer might be to put the question to Mumsnet's “Am I Being Unreasonable” message-board. Then sagely close one's laptop and throw it in the sea.
There is a distinct gender split between how we, as a society, view the after-work drinker who outsources his or her night-time duties. Or simply switches his or her phone to flight mode in a wine bar at baby’s bedtime in order to claw back some “Me Time”.
He is “a little bit naughty”. She is “a bit of a car crash”. He is focused on promotion and is generous with this time. She “is very ambitious, at any price”. He “works so hard so his partner can stay home with her baby, in that nice home he bought! Give the guy a rest, he deserves a pint.” She, well, she shouldn’t have had the bloody baby if she doesn’t want to look after it.
I’m sure Jeremy Corbyn, God forbid, would never think like this. But I cannot say that even the saintly holier-than-thou flock who make up his grassroots support are above a bit of male and female chauvinism. Perhaps, when it comes to after-work drinking, we are all just a little bit sexist.
But while I relished the first female CBI chief Carolyn Fairbairn's candidness on boozy midweek black-tie dinners – the Mercedes Benz of after-work jollies – where we go from here is puzzling. Fairbairn identified that these endless lost evenings of wine flight, cummerbunds, ham hock terrine and bragging, had little impact on productivity or profit. “I would rather”, she said, “have an early evening discussion panel, hold a proper debate, and then people can go home by 7.30pm.”
And she makes a good point. However, perhaps Fairbairn’s idea has been politely ignored as it doesn’t sound like skiving off time at all. In fact it sounds like the joyless sort of evening Jeremy Corbyn would love. Sling in a rally involving a fire engine and an open mic, after the panel, before the triumphant march through the streets and that, my friends, is Corbyn heaven.
In the meantime Corbyn is suggesting a ban on sexist after-work drinking. But how on earth do we police that? Ask landlords to cease serving any gang of four or more men with slightly unloosened ties, seeking to fraternise in a manner which upholds the patriarchy? Should all after-work groups, by law, contain at least two women or at least one gender fluid person identifying as female? Should all men simply be instructed by law to go home at 5.30pm and spend time with their children?
Almost everything Corbyn suggests about sexism sounds like The Two Ronnies 1980s feminist skit The Worm That Turned, where Diana Dors regimented a terrifying, albeit sexy, hot pant-clad, coup.
Still I admire Corbyn for trying. And those aren’t words I thought I’d say in 2016.
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