Women! Have you noticed the crisis of masculinity that’s been going on since, ooh, the beginning of time? All around us, men are drinking, fighting, raping and murdering. Over 80 per cent of violent crime is committed by men, rising to a staggering 99 per cent for sexual assaults.
Whatever can we do to stop it? Thankfully, Iain Duncan Smith just has the answer. In a speech given at a fringe event at the Conservative party conference, IDS proposes that all the single ladies offer themselves up as wives.
That’s right, girls. It’s incumbent on each and every one of us to find ourselves some unstable, aggressive, violent, porn-addicted soul and pledge to spend the rest of our lives with them. It’s the only way to stop them hurting others (or at the very least, to keep the hurt behind closed doors).
It may seem extreme, but as IDS points out, not being married means adult males are “released to do all the things they wouldn’t normally do […]so levels of addiction, levels of high criminal activity, issues around dysfunctional behaviour, multiple parenting – all those things are as a result of the un-anchoring of the young man to a responsibility that keeps them stable and eventually makes them more happy”.
It’s a tragedy, really. If only each of these grown men could find himself some calm, dependable angel of the home-cum-mother substitute, he wouldn’t have to behave like an inconsiderate, mindless thug. At least not towards people who matter. As for wives, well, is a crime really a crime when the victim is one’s spouse? Isn’t acting as a buffer zone – although ideally not as target practice – what she’s there for?
I realise I may not be selling this proposal all that well, at least not if women are the ones who need to buy into it. We already know that marriage benefits men’s health but not women’s, and that women are more likely than men to initiate divorce. You’d think there’d have to be some significant incentives before women are required to don a meringue for the greater social good.
Alas, IDS does not seem to have thought of these. As someone who has done extremely well out of marriage himself, fixing himself up with the daughter of a Baron, he appears to believe that the only reason a young woman might not wish to tie the knot is because her male counterparts are finding an “alternative on the internet”.
“That’s why,” claims the feminist Iain, “There is such collapse of self-worth among young girls. They see themselves as objects because they are taught from the beginning that is the only way to get a man.” Of course, they’re wrong. There’s no need at all to be a sex object for multiple men when you can be a punchbag-cum-cleaner-cum-mother figure for just the one.
As ever with any proposal designed to please readers of the Daily Mail, there is some miniscule grain of truth to lend it an air of credibility. In a society where the work done by women is undervalued and often unpaid, financial dependency on men can often seem like the only option. “Family breakdown”, by which IDS means women raising children alone, is only a disaster if it leads to poverty and social stigma.
But as long as it does lead to poverty and social stigma – something that the architects of Universal Credit and the rape clause are working to ensure – women are put under pressure to form relationships which may not be to their benefit, but which may benefit their male counterparts.
I may of course be over-interpreting things. Perhaps the actual solution is yet to be unveiled. Rather than force women into marriage via indirect economic pressures, IDS may be planning on introducing his own version of Gilead, in which women on low incomes are forced to become Econowives – Wife, Martha and Handmaid rolled into one – in order to save their menfolk.
It isn’t yet clear whether striped dresses will be obligatory, come the Tory handmaid revolution. But maybe we should start stocking up, just in case. Still, there’s always one small sliver of comfort. Boris Johnson and Jacob Rees-Mogg are already taken.