Bloke of Leisure and Gentlemen who Lunch

Published on 12 October 2011 in , ,

This morning Radio 4’s Today programme used it’s 8:10am slot to cover that the story that there are 1 million women who are currently out of work, and having difficulty finding a new job.

The problems of finding work will be a tale that’s familiar with many people, including myself, however at the minute the government budget cuts in the public sector means that current job losses are disproportionately hitting women rather than men, leading to the two commenters on the programme using the term “womencession” (we were in “mancession” a few years ago when job cuts were disproportionately hitting male dominated areas like banking and manufacturing.)

It was an interesting piece but I couldn’t help but be hit by the subtle but regular comments from the guest panel about how women should be able to work “if they choose to.”

The woman on the panel (whose name I’m afraid I have forgotten) even went on to mention the oft reported comment that many women would actually prefer not to work, but simply can’t afford to.

You’ve probably heard such stories. Papers like the Mail seem to delight on reporting them on the front page, wording them in such a way to suggest that women are unhappy with their lot and would like nothing more than to instantly get back to the kitchen where they belong.

Such newspapers stories annoy me beyond belief. Not because of the results, but because no one ever asks the other, hidden question. Instead there’s an assumption made in such articles, and indeed almost there in the Today programme. It’s a very big assumption, and it’s one no one seems to challenge, or even think much about.

It’s that all men want to work.

In fact, it’s bigger than that. It’s that all men would like to do nothing more than go to work in order to keep their little lady in the life to which she’s accustomed. That he desires nothing more than to spend all his days earning money to buy his children their toys. That he’d rather spend time in the office than anything else.

Well I can tell you something. As a man I would love the opportunity to be a Bloke of Leisure, perhaps spending my life as a Gentleman Who Lunches, if we could afford it. It would be lovely beyond belief for Catherine to keep me in the life to which I’m accustomed. I’d happily potter doing all the various projects that I want to do whilst she goes to work. Walking, writing, blogging, messing around on the computer, maybe a little voluntary work. Even spend lots of time with the children (if/when some appear.)

Of course, I’m the principle breadwinner so I can’t. I need to go to work and provide. Men are always the principle breadwinners whilst their ladies have token jobs; spending money so they can buy all those clothes and handbags and things.

Except of course, in our household Catherine’s been earning more than me for years. Whilst it’s true that on average women earn less than men, out of the (heterosexual) couples I know that are of my age, roughly half of them are in relationships where the woman earns more than the man. Sometimes substantially so. I’m in a generation where women are expecting they’ll be able to have a career and do well in it. And are.

Society is changing. The norms and conventions are shifting. Why should women be the only ones “allowed” not to want to work? Why shouldn’t a man be able to want to do all these things too?

We’re making great strides towards gender equality in many areas, but sometimes it’s the little things that show us just how far we’ve still got to go.