In the Telegraph today, Bryony Gordon has managed to simultaneously portray feminism as a man-hating, uncompromising ideological stance, and to suggest some rather dull self-evident truths are the answer to all relationship issues. Ms Gordon is ostensibly supporting Kirstie Allsopp’s statement that women should put their men first. In the Daily Mail, Ms Allsopp is quoted as saying “if you do what your partner prefers, he is happy and the children have a great time too”.
I don’t know what Ms Allsopp really means by this, as newspapers have a habit of taking quotes out of context and people have a tendency to hear what they want to hear. Certainly the Daily Mail article suggests a little further down that that “doing what your partner prefers” refers to choosing weekend activities, rather than life-changing decisions such getting a mortgage or emigrating.
Both articles hold up a strawman concept of feminism. Feminists, they say, are not nice to men. In fact, it’s right there in the fifth paragraph of the Telegraph article! Ms Gordon enlightens us that “It’s OK to be nice to men. It’s fine to put a wash on for them, iron their shirts, or sew up a pair of split trousers. It’s OK to cook for them, and occasionally shop for them. You don’t have to feel like a terrible failure if you clean up after them.”
Of course it’s fine to be nice to other people. Of course it’s fine to do things for your partner. And no, Ms Gordon, this isn’t about “using your feminine wiles to get the best out of a relationship”. This is about two people living together. If one person isn’t pulling their weight, then you might have a relationship problem, but that problem doesn’t need to be gendered. Domestic equality isn’t about dividing the household responsibilities exactly down the middle, but about reaching a place of understanding. It’s about compromise – you choose the Saturday treats and I’ll choose our holiday, or you do the washing-up and I’ll do the ironing.
Being in a relationship with another person means that you always consider their needs – although occassionally you decide to put your own needs first. Really, this isn’t about being a wife or a girlfriend, but about being a partner. This isn’t about feminism, and Ms Gordon should know it. Stop burning strawmen.