AS I SEE IT
With International Women’s Day coming up on Tuesday, March 8 it seems a good time to ask what do women want?
Generally we — that is men and women — want the same things. It might be more appropriate to ask what women don’t want. They don’t want the things that are unfair or that put them in danger.
It’s not fair for instance that women – and men too — should have to pay the equivalent of a hefty mortgage repayment each month for childcare. We are in the Top 10 of Europe’s richest countries where two thirds of married women work. And yet there are no tax credits for working parents, no Government subsidies for childcare as there are in other countries. If parents can find care that is, what with high insurance costs and low wages are pushing creches and minders out of business.
Unless grandparents are willing to step into the breach (and a fifth of over 70s spend over 40 hours a week looking after the little darlings) parents are likely to be snookered with typical costs of around €900 a month for an infant and €800 for after-school care. That’s €1,700 a month, a big factor together with high rents that push home ownership out of reach.
Women don’t want to suffer the epidemic gender- based violence either within their homes by partners or by attackers outside. These will be among the issues raised at a rally organised on Saturday outside the Dail at noon by the National Women’s Council with the theme ‘No Woman Left Behind’.
Research shows that around 15% of women and 6% of men in Ireland have experienced severe domestic violence from a partner and that most women who were intentionally killed in Ireland were killed by a current or former intimate partner.
The rate of abuse rose sharply during the pandemic, highlighting the inadequacy of refuges for victims where nine out of 26 counties have no refuge.
Personally, I am not sure that refuges are always the answer, rather than have the abused partner and children flee maybe there should be sin bins for the perpetrators with obligatory counselling. That and classes in school which promote respect between the sexes.
The way that women shoulder the burden of caring can be unfair too. Studies show that women still shoulder as much as 80% of work within the home, dubbed the final frontier of feminism.
Perhaps that one needs teasing out a bit: do women collude a bit here, taking on things they have learned from mothers?
Is there a frontier of masculism too when it comes to looking after cars and DIY? Maybe the situation will be resolved with helpful domestic robots but who is going to fix them when they go wrong? Pay in caring work – childcare and elder care – is female dominated with low pay. It needs to be valued more.
Looking back 52 years to the six demands set out in ‘Chains Or Change’ by fledgling women’s lib. that time seems like the Dark Ages. Their aims were equal rights in law, equal pay and the removal of the marriage bar, justice for widows, single mothers and deserted wives, equal education, contraceptive rights and one family, one house.
That was then and, with the glaring exception of the last demand — given the current housing crisis — much has been achieved. But much still needs to be done. Would this happen more quickly if we had more women in the Dail and in Government? Probably. Just 36 out of 160 TDs are women are there are four only in Cabinet.
Women don’t want to be the same as men, they want things to be fair. After all, we are the Fair Sex.