In response to yesterday’s “All hail the male lesbian” (item 18) by Patrick McCauley. Thank God I’m not stuck in the kitchen at home with the kids. I’d have probably gone completely and utterly potty by now, and thrown one or both of them out of an upstairs window.

Thank God for my feminist forebears who fought the battles that gave women choices. The choice to control my own fertility. The choice of having a fulfilling career, or staying at home with the kids. The choice to be able to leave an abusive relationship, or one that’s just not working.

According to Patrick McCauley, my “real objection” is to the clear connection between the emancipation of women and the falling birth rate. I have absolutely no objection to this connection. I also think it’s clear. I just don’t think it’s lamentable. My real objection is to the claims of men like McCauley. Claims like “feminism has always been the enemy of the family”, that we’ve established a “domestic matriarchy”, that we hate women who stay home with the kids, etc.

Men like McCauley are fighting a straw feminist — feminists don’t all have the same beliefs, any more than all theists believe in the same god. When Patrick McCauley says that feminism has always been the enemy of the family, he’s talking about a very specific type of family.

The “traditional” nuclear family where mum stayed home while dad went out and brought home the bacon — a relatively recent and a decidedly middle-class phenomenon. But fewer and fewer people live in a nuclear family — and the definition of family should, in 2007, be wide enough to include two blokes and a cocker spaniel, or a single parent with children, or an extended family.

McCauley thinks giving women more status has destroyed the family — perhaps if women had lesser status in the “traditional” family, then it wasn’t worth preserving. Of course, some men want to preserve their greater status — that’s not at all surprising. But by declaring feminists “the enemy”, you’re pretty much declaring yourselves to be the Ancien Régime. Your time has passed — get over it.

McCauley claims we feminists have established “a domestic matriarchy”. Trust me, if we had, we wouldn’t still be doing three-quarters of the unpaid domestic work — you blokes would be doing your share. I don’t view bringing up my kids as drudgery either, Patrick, but there’s no arguing with the fact that the domestic work associated with them is.

Explaining things to my children, helping them grow as people — this isn’t drudgery. Doing their washing, cooking for them, ironing school uniforms, cleaning, making sure they brush their teeth, the endless round of domestic work associated with babies and children — it’s nothing but drudgery. Drudgery made bearable by the fact that we love our children, but drudgery nonetheless.

Want to explain to me why on earth an educated woman with choices would want to take on more and more of this drudgery to populate Australia? Because Peter Costello says so? Because we’re “destroying the family” by not having enough children. McCauley claims, “It is not possible to have a full-time career and bring up even one and certainly not two or more healthy children as well”. Unless, of course, you’re a man.

So I repeat my earlier point — you blokes want women to have more kids? Then it’s time to pull your weight domestically.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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