John Singleton with Bob Howard, Rip Van Australia (Stanmore: Cassell Australia, 1977), pp. 273-75, under the heading “Women’s Lib”.
The women’s movement, if we may call it that, typifies the nature of much of the political activity going on today. Organisations such as the Women’s Electoral Lobby are reactionary, not radical. W.E.L. is reactionary because it is doing (or attempting to do) exactly the same things as just about every other lobby and pressure group in the country. It is merely lining up at the public trough and asking for its share of the privileges.
And while W.E.L. is in there jostling and elbowing for a position, they are loud in their criticism of government handouts to other groups. As someone once said, “Let he (she) who is without sin …”
In this sense, W.E.L. is simply acting like a gangster complaining to his mates that he didn’t get a fair share of the loot. There is no difference in principle between W.E.L. calling for free contraception and free child minding facilities, and business calling for such things as tariffs, subsidies, and quotas. Or people in the arts calling for grants, schools, and theatres. Or students calling for “living” wages, scholarships or free books.
All are wanting to dip into the public purse to get something for nothing. All they disagree about are the priorities, and they are a matter of opinion or taste, not principle.
The principle is the same for all — that is, a particular special interest group believes that the public at large should be forced to finance its wants, or otherwise comply with its wishes. That’s the numbers game again — pressure group warfare.
An example of twisted thinking by some sections of the women’s movement at the moment is to be found in the demand for a wage to be paid, by society, to those women who work as housewives and mothers. They argue that these women are doing valuable and necessary work, and producing something essential to our society’s future progress (that is children).
Every artist, writer, unemployed person, archaeologist, nuclear physicist, bum and screwball in the country could make the same claim. The fact that a person wants to have, or do something, does not constitute a valid argument for forcing “society” to provide it. Once more, the relative merits of claims is a matter of opinion and taste.
Women who are supported by a man, and who work as housewives and mothers do get paid — indirectly. Because they do their job, they don’t have to hire someone else to do it. They don’t have to pay for babysitters, laundries, cleaners, someone to do the shopping, cooks, maids, gardeners. The problem is that because this distinction is not made, the percentage of the man’s salary that is saved is not credited to the woman for her work.
It could be argued that such a wage is too low. If so, then the woman can always pay others to do the work and go out to work herself for a higher wage. If it is then argued that she shouldn’t have to, because she would rather stay at home, but she should be paid the extra money, then again, the same argument can be used elsewhere. Engineers could demand to be paid as much as doctors, for example. Although most engineers are intellectually capable of doing a medical course, they chose engineering because that’s what they preferred. So, can they, can anyone, say that they should be allowed to remain as engineers (producing a socially desirable and necessary service) and “society” should make up their pay to the doctor’s equivalent?
The fact is that we are all responsible for our own choices and their consequences. This applies equally to engineers, housewives, professional fighters and “deserted” unmarried mothers. That fact that someone wants something does not mean that someone else has to provide it.
Every time a male and female have sex there is the possibility that the female might become pregnant — regardless of whether or not contraceptives are used. Implicit in the decision to have sex is acceptance of this risk and responsibility for the possible consequences. For his part, the male is responsible for his share of all the costs involved. If he refuses to accept this responsibility and skips town, then the woman can no no more demand public assistance than the shareholders of a bankrupt company can. All she can do is ask for help, or, better still, help herself.
But the women’s movements have achieved many good things. They have given many women a better sense of self, and an appreciation of their identity. They have raised many important issues and justly criticised many accepted attitudes. They have highlighted many ways in which women are treated as second class citizens, or as “property”. They have encouraged many women to fight for their own points of view, for what they think and want, for acceptance as independent and autonomous human beings. Women are people, and as such have the same rights as men. But no more and no less.
They should be treated as equal before the law. However, they should not want to turn over the opposite side of the same coin, and demand that now women should be given privileges at the expense of men. That might satisfy a desire for revenge, but it will not solve their problems.
One final point that should be made is to repeat that private individuals do have the right to discriminate (see Discrimination) and can do so in favour of women, or against women. Laws forbidding such discrimination are another result of enthusiastic blindness, for they are both immoral and counter-productive. Men are better suited to some jobs than women (for example, jobs requiring physical strength) and, conceivably, women are better suited to some jobs than men (for example, jobs requiring greater levels of sensitivity and perseverance). And either a man or a woman may be best suited to an intellectual occupation, dependent only on the brains and not upon their sexual organs.
As far as equal pay for equal work is concerned, this would not even be an issue if wages were set on the open market. One thing women have to accept is that they are a higher risk in employment than men because of the possibility of pregnancy. It costs money to train certain employees and some employers may not be prepared to take the risk of training women, or will only do so at a lower price. That is something the market could sort out.
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