How stupid to claim you're too clever for motherhood
21:46 GMT, 24 April 2012
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Happy: Lucy Worsley says she is content to be 'the poster girl for opting out of reproduction'
All well and good, you might think. Women who decide not to have children are often made to feel somehow lacking, so three cheers to Lucy for standing up for them.
Until, that is, you read what she said next: ‘I have been educated out of the natural reproductive function. I get to spend my time doing things I enjoy.’
No doubt this was intended as a rather flip, humorous comment. It’s backfired for two reasons.
First, it’s astonishingly patronising. Does Dr Worsley really believe that because she has a history degree from Oxford, she’s somehow too intelligent for the act of child-rearing Or is she merely saying that those of us whose brains (or upbringing) did not propel us to the dreaming spires should accept motherhood as the summit of our intellectual ambition
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Second, for someone who calls herself a feminist historian, she appears to be hopelessly confused about what equality really means. Because while it’s difficult to be a working woman as well as a wife and mother, at least being the first of these no longer precludes also being the other two.
Indeed, anyone who assumes that women with an Oxford degree have allowed themselves to be ‘educated out of the natural reproductive function’ is entering very dangerous – and regressive – territory indeed. What next A sort of sliding scale for women to keep handy during their childbearing years No degree at all Excellent! Have as many children as you like. A degree from Manchester or Bristol Fine – have two! A first from Oxford Sorry, but it would be a waste of your brain to reproduce.
In reality, of course, there are many women just as well educated as Lucy Worsley who’ve managed to have both children and a fulfilling career. Her fellow historian and Oxford graduate Amanda Foreman has five offspring, Shadow Home Secretary Yvette Cooper has three and BBC Economics Editor Stephanie Flanders two.
There are countless more who’ve made sacrifices big and small for the sake of their families, including turning down promotions, changing careers and giving up work altogether.
What I find particularly distasteful is Dr Worsley’s tone, which implies she’s too superior for the messy business of raising children. Your ability to be a mother has nothing to do with your educational attainment and everything to do with the universal qualities of selflessness, generosity, compassion and patience.
Lucy Worsley’s ambition is to make history as popular as The X Factor, and I’m all for it. But before she goes any further, can I suggest that she looks at the history of her own sex Not so long ago, the choice was quite simple: you could be a nun, a bluestocking or a mother. You could also be burned at the stake.
So give us more history, by all means, Dr Worsley. But please make it clear that women are lucky enough today to live in more enlightened times — and whether we have children or not has nothing to do with how clever we may (or may not) think we are.
Croydon's gift to gastronomy
Lifting the lid: TV cook Rachel Khoo has revealed why the French still have a low obesity rate
Rachel Khoo (right), the art student from Croydon who went to Paris as an au pair and is now a hugely popular cook both in France and Britain (her programme The Little Paris Kitchen is one of the current highlights on BBC2), has revealed the reason why the French still have a low obesity rate.
It’s precisely because they love their food so much, she says, that they treat it with the respect it deserves. They make proper time for meals and rarely eat in between. ‘There are even adverts on television that tell you to avoid snacks,’ says Khoo.
Meanwhile, the book French Children Don’t Throw Food has become a British bestseller, thanks to its advice on getting children to eat sensibly.
Despite Jamie Oliver’s valiant efforts we still have serious issues with food. It’s time we staged a French revolution.
I much enjoyed Mary Beard’s spirited riposte to the television critic AA Gill, who’d claimed she is too ugly for television. What’s sad is that he’s not alone in his prejudice. The BBC, I fear, allows Mary the odd series only because she’s a Classics professor whose unkempt appearance fits the clichd mould of Great British Eccentric. Others in this category include Lucinda Lambton and Clarissa Dickson Wright. So enjoy Mary Beard while you can, because I don’t imagine for a moment that her triumph means we’ll be seeing more fiftysomething women on screen.
For 234 you can buy the SteamRail, a new device that claims to do away with the need for ironing by pumping hanging garments with steam.
My own ironing strategy is cheaper and simpler: buy non-iron shirts (M&S do very good ones) and make it a policy never to press bedding, jeans or children’s clothes (except school uniforms). Fold everything else very flat and pop it neatly into the ironing basket with the instruction that anyone who wants an item ironed needs to do it themselves.
You will find that, miraculously, they decide none of it needs ironing at all…
Total eclipse of the hair
Cher’s enormous Afro wig dominated all the photographs of her and her transgender son Chaz – who was born female and named Chastity – when he collected two awards at a gay and lesbian community ceremony in Los Angeles.
Surely it wouldn’t have killed her, just for once, to have looked smart and unassuming in order to let him enjoy his brief moment of glory
Apart from Raquel Welch, who upstaged her son Damon’s bride by turning up to the wedding in a black dress cut so low all eyes were on her cleavage, it’s hard to think of a more selfish way to steal the limelight.
Who's the star of this show Cher, 65, presented her son Chaz Bono with two gongs at the GLAAD (Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation) Media Awards in Los Angeles
The footage of 81-year-old Alzheimer’s sufferer Maria Worroll being slapped and beaten in her care home, shown on Panorama and described in heart-wrenching detail by her daughter in Monday’s Mail, was obtained after Jane Worroll bought a high-resolution spy camera that looked like a digital alarm clock and left it by her mother’s bed.
It cost her 20 on eBay, but there are other cameras you can buy concealed in anything from smoke alarms to air fresheners. If everyone with an elderly relative in a care home or in hospital bought one, we might finally bring to an end this country’s shocking treatment of our old.
Blaming parents for porn is so cynical
According to Google executive Naomi Gummer, it’s up to parents to protect their children from online porn – the effect of which has, in any case, been exaggerated, she says.
She claims that only 14 per cent of children have seen sexual images online, and just 4 per cent have been upset by them.
This is naive rubbish, as anyone with children will know. As Ms Gummer, who’s 28, is childless, it’s unlikely she’s seen children stumble across images of women in stilettos crushing baby animals – yes, some men really do find that sexually arousing, apparently.
She probably won’t have been asked, as a friend of mine recently was by her nine-year-old son, what ‘those boys’ were doing to each other in a video clip he’d stumbled across online. Her son, you see, had typed in ‘boys action’ in the hope of finding action movies suitable for his age.
It’s not just children who shouldn’t be seeing this revolting material; none of us should ever have to see it.
Removing access to such content so that it can be seen only by ‘opting in’ and proving you’re over 18 would not be an attack on civil liberties, but the mark of a civilised society.
And I’m sick of those, from silly Naomi Gummer to cynical politicians to greedy internet providers, who persist in allowing it into our homes.
Feminist writer Germaine Greer has confessed to a crush on Vladimir Putin
Just two weeks after Germaine Greer revealed that she has a crush on Vladimir Putin – she likes his ‘mean, pale eyes . . . he is terrifying, and terrifying is kind of sexy’ – his wife has disappeared from public view and is thought to have gone into a nunnery.
However, as Lyudmila once revealed that her husband’s two golden rules for marriage are ‘A woman must do everything at home’ and ‘Never praise a woman or you will spoil her’, I think it’s more likely that she is simply leaving the way clear for Germaine in a long-overdue act of revenge.
Today programme presenter Justin Webb says that in this modern world of mobile phones and email, we have an ‘irrational’ love of the postal service and associate it too closely with a fondly remembered past.
I couldn’t disagree more. Texts and emails are fast and incredibly convenient. They’re wonderful for passing on essential information. But a handwritten letter or card says: ‘I have taken the time to buy this, and then to sit down and write it myself, because I really care.’ Efficiency’s great. But kindness is better.