Daily Mail tells us a 20 year old story on Jo Swinson’s equalities report

The Daily Mail alights on a Government Equalities Report commissioned by our Jo Swinson and, of course, hones in on the one paragraph in 12 pages that mentions sex.

But just doing the dishes can really spice up a marriage.

That, at least, is the advice from a report backed by Liberal Democrat equalities minister Jo Swinson. It calls on men to do more to support gender equality campaigns – and isn’t coy when it comes to spelling out the potential perks of hoovering.

It claims that everyone in a family becomes ‘happier and healthier’ if men participate ‘fairly in the home’ by sharing childcare duties or household chores.

It goes on to say: ‘Equity in the home is associated with a range of benefits including improved sexual relationships.

‘Where women report an equitable relationship with their partner they are more likely to be having frequent sex.’

The thing is, the research cited in that report is 20 years old. It is, of course, stating the obvious. Let’s face it, if everyone shares the work, there’s bound to be more time for fun.

If the Daily Mail had devoted even half the space it gives over to stories that can be filed under the heading “Woman Goes Out Wearing Clothes” or to having a go at women for working outside the home, or being stay at home mothers, or being too fat, or being obsessed with diets, or being too needy in relationships, or scaring men by being too independent, to promoting this research, they could have driven a really positive cultural change.

The report itself makes interesting reading and is of course much more complex than the Daily Mail’s headline suggests. It talks about how gender inequality hurts men too and of how we need to hear their experiences. It talks of the need to be careful that we don’t paint all men as abusers as we talk about tackling the unacceptable levels of violence against women in order to engage them as allies in preventing it.

It highlights the economic benefits of gender equality. Closing the gender pay gap increases men’s options as well as women’s and greater diversity makes companies more successful:

While women need work, work also needs women; greater gender diversity in senior management is positively correlated with high performance cultures, and this in turn is linked to improved financial performance in publicly listed companies. By equalising the labour force participation rates of women and men, the UK could further increase per capita growth by 0.5% per year, with potential gains of 10% of GDP by 2030. Increasing diversity in companies’ recruitment campaigns means that the UK can better compete in the war for talent and drive international competitiveness.

The report’s conclusion is a bit woolly and light in terms of exactly how its objective of engaging men in working for gender equality could be achieved.

To engage men in gender equality, it was argued that discourses around gender must be expanded to include men’s own gendered experiences of disadvantage, which currently are not culturally visible. It was noted that sometimes change comes about in “opportunity moments” in men’s lives: this may be experiences of fatherhood, a breakdown in relationship or illness. However, to bring about lasting change, all boys and girls should grow up unlimited by their gender. Positive role models, both male and female, can help to raise aspirations and encourage children and young people to challenge social expectations and feel good about themselves even if they don’t fit traditional idealised types.

Working together for gender equality means respectful listening and constructive dialogue.

It was an important exercise to look at these issues, but it’s important that this doesn’t get left to gather dust on a shelf and practical policy initiatives come out of it. It would also help if we had a media more interested in healing rather than exacerbating divisions. That doesn’t sell newspapers, though, does it?

* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings

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One Comment

  • Eddie Sammon 25th Jan '15 - 7:24am

    It sounds very good. The way I look at it is: “a liberal in work and a liberal at home”. But I fully understand other arrangements, as long as both people are happy.

    I have my doubts whether 50-50 workforce participation rates can be achieved, but 40-60 would be a big improvement on the status quo, especially when it comes to top jobs.

    We also need to sort out the childcare and child benefit issue. Forcing mother’s to go to work and then not making them better off because all the additional money is going on childcare is not fair and it seems to be a big issue.

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