Friday, May 12, 2006

Confused conservatives

I have mixed feeling's about Tom Utley's editorial in the Daily Telegraph (UK). It is peculiarly sensible in its parts yet overall quite ridiculous. I suspect he just doesn't know what's going on. He starts out with an anecdote regarding his 14 year old son complaining about women's football and opining that they should "be at home cooking lunch". Utley then claims "I don't know where he gets it from, I really don't." and promptly provides the answer:
"He has attended thoroughly PC state schools since he was three, having it drummed into him that any sort of discrimination against other people on grounds of sex, race, religion or sexual orientation is a far more grievous sin than, say, failing to produce his maths homework."
One would think that Utley, despite his three children, knows absolutely nothing about human psychology. If you're told over and over again that one thing is wrong but other things which ought to be equally as important (if not more so) are more or less ignored, then whose credibility is going to suffer in whose mind?

There follows a fair amount of the usual PC waffle about how Utley's not one to believe a woman's place is in the home and they've got rights to careers, etc, etc, yadda, yadda, yadda. But his consciously proffered explanation for his son's irritation is:
"...that every schoolboy in the country has a gene, buried deep in his DNA, which tells him that it is the natural order of things for a mother to take charge of looking after the children, and for a man to play football and bring home the bacon."
This seems to be intended ironically, he's not really serious, except that the next sentence suggests something different:
"When the Government tries to indoctrinate young boys, by telling them that there is absolutely no difference between the functions of fathers and mothers, it is legislating against human nature - a totally futile exercise."
Interesting. Utley's son's sexist sense of humor and apparent refusal to accept PC rubbish is something to wonder about and then Utley's own serious opinion is that men and women are the same, but mothers and fathers are not. There's more blah blah blah then about women being fully entitled to give up salaries, careers, etc to go home and look after the kids, drawn from his own experience of exactly that wherein he was required to carry the financial can while she stayed home and did what he says he didn't want to, namely raising the kids.

Then we get to the point:
"So when John Hutton, the new Work and Pensions Secretary, said on Wednesday that hard-up mothers should go out to work, he was saying something rather cruel. He was telling women to do something that a very great many of them do not want to do, and something that he knows is likely to make their children less happy than they are now. His reason for bossing them about in this way struck me as particularly crass and unpleasant."
Now things get much more complicated. On reading Hutton's comment, I was immediately reminded of Norman Tebbit's "on yer bike" line to an earlier generation of largely male jobless under the Thatcher government. It caused great furor at the time, insensitive as it obviously was. Now Labour takes it for the same, but to the other gender whom so many of their co-conspirators claim are to be treated with absolute equality. Well, Hutton might be "cruel", but at least he's consistent - implicitly recognizing that the choice to be a mother comes with at least some responsibilities - which is unusual for a Labourite. But consistency is not really something we can credit to Utley who seems to think that women should get anything they want and not expect to have to pay for it. Don't believe me? Check this out:

"Mothers of Britain: don't you listen to that horrid Mr Hutton! If you want to stay at home with your children, and if that makes you and them happy, then you mustn't feel any obligation to go out to work."

Financial desperation be damned, if you don't want to work, then don't! But if that's what you're going to do, then you'd better make sure there's someone around to pay for it. Enter Dad, who doesn't get any such choice in Utley's world (after all, he didn't), and is expected to pick up the slack. You know, I bet that Mr. Utley would also argue that the Missus has every right to walk out of the home with the kids (or, more likely, kick him out on his lonesome) if she feels like it. Who then picks up the tab? Well, Dad, of course.

Utley's just another example of the complacent conservative picking and choosing from the politically correct menu as it pleases him to shore up his comfortable point of view. As long as he chooses what fits with his wife's choices, he'll stay that way. But I wonder how that point of view might change if he found himself living in a bedsit, paying for an ex-wife to sit in what used to be his home with the kids he can't see, and up against a system which protects her choices to the hilt and accepts his only insofar as she's inclined to let him.

Me? I'm with Hutton insofar as a mother's financial difficulties are a result of her own choices, but I'm with neither Hutton nor Utley when it comes to the invisibility of the father in the lives of his children.

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