Support 100 years of independent journalism.

  1. Politics
1 April 2011

Get back in the kitchen, lady, Wayne needs your job

David Willetts MP blames feminism for male, working-class unemployment.

By Duncan Robinson

April Fool! The universities minister, David Willetts, is such a joker. Do you remember when he said that universities charging £9,000 would be the exception? Ha, ha, ha! Great line! The cabinet’s minister for hilarity is at it again today. Do you know who he blames for working-class men failing to get on in life? Women. Ba-dum tish. Good one, Dave!

Except Willetts is not joking. In a briefing to journalists on the government’s social mobility strategy, the minister argued that feminism is the “single biggest factor” behind the struggles of working-class men. The liberation of women in the 20th century increased competition for jobs and places at universities, as women who would once have stayed at home went into the workplace. Those who were pushed out by these uppity females were working-class men.

Sign up for The New Statesman’s newsletters Tick the boxes of the newsletters you would like to receive. Quick and essential guide to domestic and global politics from the New Statesman's politics team. The best of the New Statesman, delivered to your inbox every weekday morning. The New Statesman’s global affairs newsletter, every Monday and Friday. A handy, three-minute glance at the week ahead in companies, markets, regulation and investment, landing in your inbox every Monday morning. Our weekly culture newsletter – from books and art to pop culture and memes – sent every Friday. A weekly round-up of some of the best articles featured in the most recent issue of the New Statesman, sent each Saturday. A weekly dig into the New Statesman’s archive of over 100 years of stellar and influential journalism, sent each Wednesday. Sign up to receive information regarding NS events, subscription offers & product updates.
I consent to New Statesman Media Group collecting my details provided via this form in accordance with the Privacy Policy

He is half right, I suppose. Britain’s manufacturing sector was, after all, largely destroyed by a woman. Industrial jobs that provided careers for millions of ambitious, working-class men were wiped out under the Thatcher government. If only Maggie had known her place, we wouldn’t be in the current mess, eh, David?

Willetts contends that feminism is to blame for the plight of jobless, working-class men. “Feminism trumped egalitarianism,” complains the Conservative MP.

This is hogwash. Feminism did not trump egalitarianism, feminism is egalitarianism. Thanks to feminism, women now have access to most of the same opportunities as men. Feminism did not come at the price of a more egalitarian society, it helped create one. Thanks to feminism, women now compete with men on an (almost) level playing field.

Yes, women entering the workplace did increase pressure for jobs. But the problem is not women working, the problem is too few jobs. Willetts does not see it that way, however. His implication is clear: Get back in the kitchen, lady, Wayne needs your job.

By blaming feminism, Willetts is tapping in to the increasingly common phenomenon of the unjustifiably aggrieved, white, heterosexual male. Whether it is white, heterosexual, Oxbridge-educated MPs complaining that men get a “raw deal” today, or the absurd “Men’s Rights” movement on the otherwise liberal social news website Reddit, the idea that men are somehow persecuted is gaining traction.

This explains why there are four women and only 19 men in the present cabinet. It also explains why the pay gap between men and women is 10.2 per cent. Or why women have been the main victims of the recession.

Poor men. We have it so tough.