Tuesday, December 31, 2019

Good riddance 2019, the year of the woke police

DOUGLAS MURRAY asks if Boris Johnson's resounding triumph proves the tide is finally turning on extreme political correctness

This was the year of ‘woke’. Or at least the year that ‘woke’ made its biggest land grab. For anyone lucky enough not to have encountered the term, woke is essentially political correctness after a course of steroids. Its followers spend their lives punishing any wrong-think committed, which can include thinking something everyone thought until yesterday. And includes saying things that are true.

The main inspirations for the wokerati are anything to do with relations between the sexes, race, LGBT issues, and the last of these (Trans) in particular. In each case a legitimate rights debate is weaponised into a culture war.

This year started in the manner in which it meant to go on. In January, former policeman Harry Miller was contacted by Humberside Police after a member of the public reported him for allegedly ‘transphobic’ comments made on Twitter. His offence? The 53-year-old posted a limerick that questioned whether trans women are biological women. The police recorded it as a ‘hate incident’.

Meanwhile, Gillette, which had previously advertised razors under the slogan ‘The best a man can get’, decided men were the problem. In a fresh advertising campaign the company focused on ‘toxic masculinity’. They depicted men as bullying, boorish sexual abusers in the advert with a voice-over saying: ‘Bullying, the MeToo movement against sexual harassment, toxic masculinity, is this the best a man can get?’

Explaining their decision, the company said the advert was part of their broader initiative to promote ‘positive, attainable, inclusive and healthy versions of what it means to be a man’.

In other words, Gillette’s millions of customers had seemingly let Gillette down so far, and needed to do better.

In February, the world woke to the news that Hollywood actor Jussie Smollett, who is black and gay, had been the subject of a racist and homophobic attack in Chicago. The woke had a perfect new martyr.

Fellow celebrities blamed Donald Trump for the attack which turned out to have involved two men who were known to Smollett and appeared to have been paid by him to fake a ‘hate incident’. The culprits were Nigerian body-builders, making them the least likely white supremacists seen in Chicago or elsewhere.

In March, Cambridge University summarily stripped the Canadian academic and internationally best-selling author Jordan Peterson of a visiting lectureship. The reason given was that, at a post-show meet-and-greet, one of Peterson’s thousands of fans was photographed wearing an ‘Islamophobic’ T-shirt.

Elsewhere, the university fired a young researcher because a mob of student activists claimed the researcher’s work was ‘racist’ (it wasn’t). And one of the universities grandest colleges removed a bell when it was discovered it could once have been rung on a slave plantation. For it is 2019 and even the bells have to be in tune with the times.

Dame Edna Everage may be one of the most famous comic creations of our time, but in April the Melbourne International Comedy Festival announced the ‘Barry Humphries Award’ was being renamed. Dame Edna’s creator had recently described Trans issues as ‘a fashion’ and called Caitlyn (formerly Bruce) Jenner a ‘publicity seeking rat-bag’. So Australia tried to ‘erase’ its most famous comedian.

In May in Britain it was the turn of John Cleese to be a target of the wokerati after comments he made in 2011 resurfaced.

He had remarked in an interview eight years prior that he thought London was ‘no longer an English city’. He tweeted that such a view was now shared by his friends abroad and ‘so there must be some truth in it.’

In a strikingly unfunny intervention, Sadiq Khan got involved. ‘These comments make John Cleese sound like he’s in character as Basil Fawlty,’ the London Mayor said. ‘Londoners know that our diversity is our greatest strength.’

As every school child ought to know, June is compulsory Pride Month. In recent years the day has become a week, a month and perhaps at some point soon could become an all-year-round event. Banks and businesses fall over each other to join in.

Barclays, among other high-street banks, festooned its branches in rainbow flags for the month. While Marks & Spencer tried to go one better by creating an ‘LGBT sandwich’ (lettuce, guacamole, bacon and tomato) that was on sale for the month. Because it is very important to show your woke solidarity by eating a sandwich which, while horrible, at least signals all the correct opinions.

After all, holding the wrong opinions carries a cost.

In the same month, an ASDA worker was fired for sharing a video of Billy Connolly. While Scotland’s funniest comedian is allowed to make a joke about suicide bombers, it appeared that supermarket workers were not.

A primary obsession of woke ideology is ‘unconscious bias’ (we are all racist, sexist and homophobic whether we know it or not). Denying you are is merely more proof that you are. And in July, it was the Royal Family’s turn to tell us all about this bias when the Duchess of Sussex guest-edited Vogue magazine. Indeed, Prince Harry used the platform to talk about ‘unconscious bias’ and announced he and his wife would limit themselves to having only two children because of climate change. Though when it comes to the issue of privilege (another woke obsession), Harry and Meghan remained strangely quiet.

Come August and Goldsmiths University announced that it was banning beef. Because of climate change, none of the university’s cafes would serve it. Meanwhile, in America, there was a flurry of concern when the New York Metropolitan Opera house announced that it was planning a new staging of Porgy And Bess. While previous generations had praised Gershwin’s masterpiece, it was now accused of ‘cultural appropriation’ because Gershwin was writing about black characters while being guilty of being white.

In September, The Guardian newspaper decided to play the ‘privilege’ game in an editorial about David Cameron, whose memoirs had just come out. The former PM may have felt some pain in his life, the paper conceded, but this was only ‘privileged pain’. That is where woke ideology gets you. Weighing up the pros, cons, benefits and privileges of a father losing his severely disabled eldest child at the age of six.

The new term started as it meant to go on. The pop singer Sam Smith, who had previously come out as gay and ‘genderqueer’ announced he was now ‘non-binary’. He insisted that all future references to him should use the pronouns ‘they’ and ‘them’ instead of ‘he’. With an online mob trying to whip everyone into line, the BBC, among others, immediately obeyed. Presumably from now on Smith will be nominated in awards ceremonies for ‘Best Group’.

Naturally the pandering politicians wanted in on this. At the PinkNews Awards in October, the Labour Party’s leader announced himself on stage thus: ‘My name is Jeremy Corbyn, pronouns he/him.’ As though he was likely to say ‘she/her’ or ‘a/dolt’. The gay press oozed sycophantic admiration. Everybody else rolled their eyes in bemusement. But other politicians worried about getting behind the times. That same month the then-Liberal Democrat leader Jo Swinson criticised the six men she claimed were conspiring to carry out Brexit. Summoning up her most derogatory insults, she called them ‘Six white men stuck in the past, conspiring to wreck our future’.

For, in 2019, both ‘men’ and ‘white’ had become acceptable terms of insult. A month later the electorate got a chance to express its opinion about what we used to call a ‘useless woman’.

By November Barack Obama had joined the voices starting to worry about where all this might be leading. ‘I get a sense among certain young people on social media that the way of making change is to be as judgemental as possible about other people,’ he said. He went on to explain why this wasn’t a good way to live. ‘The world is messy.’ The woke brigade were furious and America’s first black President was criticised for being a ‘boomer’ – that is, for getting old.

But interventions like his do achieve something. As did the Conservative win in our General Election earlier this month. It shows there is a backlash and that people are fed up with being ordered what to think.

That feeling is something Prime Minister Boris Johnson well understands. Not least because the would-be censors have come for him so many times, pretending he has said things he has not said and mercilessly misrepresenting things he has said. The fact the country gave him and his party such a resounding mandate on December 12 is some sign the tide might be turning, in this country at least. The Conservative Party has repeatedly suggested that it will take issues of academic freedom and police over-reach seriously.

But if there is a lot of work to do at the level of government, there is even more to do in the wider culture, to push back at these cultural Marxists.

Earlier this month Harry Potter author J. K. Rowling was the target of an international campaign after she defended a woman’s right to say that biological sex exists. And on Christmas Eve, after the new governor of the Bank of England was announced, the BBC ran the headline ‘Why didn’t the Bank of England appoint a woman?’

Madness like this is why, in 2020, alongside comedian Andrew Doyle, I am doing a tour of the UK called Resisting Wokeness. Our aim is to inject a bit of sanity, as well as fun, into an increasingly dark and divisive ideology.

This dementing game has to be undone. Men and women have to be allowed to get along. People of different races should be brought together, not driven apart. And gay people should be seen to be like everyone else, not as some mad, avenging, authoritarian furies.

Through May and June we’ll be in 11 cities up and down the country. Unless we all get cancelled beforehand, I look forward to seeing you there.


An Agenda That Corrupts Our Social Norms

Walter E. Williams

Here are several questions for biologists and medical professionals:

At all levels, governments ignore biology and permit people to make their sex optional on a birth certificate, Social Security card, or driver’s license.

If a person is found to have XY chromosomes (heterogametic sex), does a designation as female on his birth certificate, driver’s license, or Social Security card override the chromosomal evidence?

Similarly, if a person is found to have XX chromosomes (homogametic), does a designation as male on her birth certificate, driver’s license, or Social Security card override the chromosomal evidence?

If you were a medical professional, would you consider it malpractice for an obstetrics/gynecology medical specialist not to order routine Pap smears to screen for cervical cancer for a patient who identifies as a female but has XY chromosomes?

If you were a judge, would you sentence a criminal, who identifies as a female but has XY chromosomes, to a women’s prison? One judge just might do so.

Judge William Pryor of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit focused on a Florida school district ruling that a transgender “boy,” a person with XX chromosomes, could not be barred from the boys’ restroom. Pryor suggested students shouldn’t be separated by gender at all.

Fear may explain why biologists in academia do not speak out to say that one’s sex is not optional. Since the LGBTQ community is a political force on many college campuses, biologists probably fear retaliation from diversity-blinded administrators.

It’s not just academics and judges who now see sex as optional.

Federal, state, and local governments are ignoring biology and permitting people to make their sex optional on a birth certificate, passport, Social Security card, and driver’s license. In New York City, intentional or repeated refusal to use an individual’s preferred name, pronoun, or title is a violation of the city’s human rights law.

If I said that my preferred title was “Your Majesty,” I wonder whether the New York City Commission on Human Rights would prosecute people who repeatedly refused to use my preferred title.

One transgender LGBTQ activist filed a total of 16 complaints against female estheticians with the British Columbia Human Rights Tribunal after they refused to wax his male genitals. He sought financial restitution totaling at least $32,500. One woman was forced to close her shop.

Fortunately, the activist’s case was thrown out by the British Columbia Human Rights Tribunal, and he was instructed to pay $2,000 each to three of the women he attacked. The LGBTQ activist is not giving up. He is now threatening to sue gynecologists who will not accept him as a patient.

In 2012, an evangelical Christian baker in Colorado was threatened with jail time for refusing to bake a custom wedding cake for a same-sex marriage ceremony. When Christian bakery owner Jack Phillips won a landmark U.S. Supreme Court case with a 7-2 decision in June 2018 over his refusal to make a wedding cake for a gay couple based on his religious convictions, he thought his legal battles with the state of Colorado were over.

But now Phillips, owner of Masterpiece Cakeshop in Lakewood, Colorado, faces a new court fight. This fight involves a lawyer who asked him to bake a cake to celebrate the anniversary of her gender transition. There are probably many bakery shops in and around Lakewood, Colorado, that would be happy to bake a cake for homosexuals; they are simply targeting Phillips.

For those in the LGBTQ community, and elsewhere, who support such attacks, we might ask them whether they would seek prosecution of the owner of a Jewish delicatessen who refused to provide catering services for a neo-Nazi affair.

Should a black catering company be forced to cater a Ku Klux Klan affair? Should the NAACP be forced to open its membership to racist skinheads and neo-Nazis? Should the Congressional Black Caucus be forced to open its membership to white members of Congress?

If you’re a liberty-minded American, your answers should be no.


Australia's charming African refugees again

Their way of thanking us for giving them refuge

Beloved grandfather, 50, left brain-dead with just hours to live after being 'stomped on and beaten with baseball bats' by gang of 10-15 youths outside his home after Christmas Day with his family

Brother-in-law said gang of 10-15 'African guys' set upon the family in the street

A 50-year-old grandfather who was allegedly bashed with baseball bats outside his home in a Christmas Day dispute with neighbours will have his life support switched off.

Anthony Clark, 50, was allegedly 'thrown around like a rag doll', stomped on and hit with bats in the street outside his home at Moorolbark in Melbourne's outer eastern suburbs shortly before 11pm.

His wife was also knocked out in their driveway and Mr Clark's stepdaughter Jessikah Clark said he was 'pretty much gone'.

'My daughter's lost her everything now. She just wants her poppy to come home and he's never going to come home,' Ms Clark told Nine News.

'My mum is worried about everyone and is just lying there with him praying. But he's pretty much gone that's it.'

'We have lost the best man in our whole lives,' Ms Clarke told the Herald Sun.

'No-one should have to die on Christmas Day just for looking after his wife and kids.'

The man's family was scheduled to arrive from Ireland and Canada on Sunday after which Mr Clarke's life support will be switched off.

The violence began as the family were saying their farewells on the street and fireworks were let off, causing a dog to bark and the owners to get angry, Jessikah Clark said.

The family said a gang of youths with weapons, including bats and metal bars, were involved in the attack.

Ms Clark also claimed there were about '15 men' that set up on them she and her mother were hit.

'They had bats...they smashed my car and they threw mum around like a rag doll.'

Mr Clark was allegedly confronted by a large group of men during the massive brawl.

His wife and 25-year-old stepdaughter were also allegedly attacked, his brother-in-law Mark told 3AW.

'He's a gentle giant, and he was brutally, and I mean, savagely, attacked,' he said.

'A whole gang of African guys, ranging from teenage to mid-20s, approximately 10-15 of them with cars and baseball bats, attacked him, knocked my sister out.'

Mark said he believed his brother-in-law was trying to shield his baby during the brutal attack.

'They knocked my sister out, and had my niece - from what I understand - by the hair,' he told 3AW.

The man was repeatedly bashed in the head and was taken to hospital in a critical condition and placed in intensive care.

The family said there was no hope of recovery and his life-support will be turned off.

His wife suffered minor injuries and has been by his side at the hospital ever since.

An 18-year-old man was arrested but was later released.


A whole generation of women is being led to believe that parenting and having a career is doable when it patently is not

By Christine Armstrong

My friend had called at 7.40am to say she couldn’t cope. “I got up at 3.30am, my mind was on fire, I couldn’t stop ­worrying, so I got out of bed and cleared my email backlog for the first time in months. Then the kids got up and I chased and shouted to get them ready and now I’m charging into a long day of meetings that run into each other and I feel like I never see my kids and I never get through the work and when I get home tonight my email will be full of more stuff I need to do. I’m at full capacity. Beyond full capacity. I can’t do anything more than I do. And yet people keep telling me I should do yoga. Of course I should bloody do yoga. But when? Oh God, when will this end, what do I do?” She had just dropped her kids at childcare and was walking (“Got to get some steps in”) to the station to get the train to her sales job in town.

If history is told by the winning men, I worry that the story of equality at work is too often being told by the winning women, the ones with the board seats and big pay packets, most notably Sheryl Sandberg, the chief operating officer of Facebook, whose 2013 book advised ambitious women to Lean In. Sometimes they have a nanny or an at-home husband. Either way, they are the exceptions. I remember reading an interview with British ­politician and sporting executive Karren Brady in which she said she split her time between her kids in the country and her job in town, and that it worked really well for her. Which I’m sure it did; it just didn’t much help me — or my friend in sales, who has a full-time ­working husband and is currently confronting the bitter reality that ­modern working life doesn’t combine well at all with having a family.

This mother doesn’t have her sights on a board-level job and is just working to pay the bills. She says her children are “the love and light” of her life and yet sometimes she feels they don’t even respond to her because she’s away from them too much and is ready to cry with tiredness when she finally gets home.

When I was working full-time with two small children, I too tried hard to make it work, but couldn’t. There were some memorable lows. Like a work trip to America when my breast pump broke and, after seeking help from the concierge, I had to take a taxi in the middle of the night to buy a new one, before spending the dawn hours crying and pumping milk down the drain of the hotel shower. Feeling desolate, I started to seek advice. I read a lot and went to talks and events about what women need to do to “get ahead”. High-profile female business leaders spoke at many of these. They inspired. But very often I found that the advice boiled down to “you have to work really hard, get great childcare and be super-well-organised”. This all made sense, but didn’t seem to help.

‘It’s a story being told by the winning women, the ones with the board seats and big pay packets’

Some of these superwomen talked about ­“flexibility”. It took me a while to realise that what they often meant was the flexibility to leave at the end of their contracted hours to pick up, feed and bathe their kids before working online again later to catch up. One ­mum-of-three, describing this in practical terms, told me: “I start eating my dinner and catching up on work at 10pm, just as everyone else is going to bed. It’s completely normal for me to finish at 1am or later.” The underlying message seemed to be that modern jobs are fine — as long as you’re willing to work all the waking and non-waking hours of the day.

Which means that it mostly doesn’t work well. Not only does it not work, it’s getting worse. Twenty years ago, the average working day was about seven hours and many mothers didn’t have a job outside the home. In the years since, the working day has grown by an average of about two hours and a million more mums have jobs. This is partly because house prices have soared in that time. Most households now need to have two parents out of the house working for long periods of the day. But, in that time, the needs of our ­children and the structure of childcare and the school day haven’t changed at all — as every parent of a school-age child discovers when there are weeks of the summer holidays still left to go, their own leave is used up, their finances are spent and the kids are going bananas with the need for involvement and undivided attention.

We’ve all got so used to accepting that it has to be this way that we keep at it. But my mum and my mother-in-law seemed so perplexed by my experience that I started to ask their friends and women of previous generations about their ­experiences, so I could shed some light on how we got here, trying to be superhuman and feeling like we’re failing ourselves and our kids.

I found that women in their 50s and 60s are often highly conscious of how working life has changed for the worse. There was a time, they explain, when you left work — probably frantic — at about 5pm and went home to your kids. But then came the laptops, mobiles and BlackBerrys that mean you still leave work frantic at about the same time, but then are expected to answer a call later or edit a document. Now, even when we are home, we aren’t really able to be present with our children and partners. Now, all over the country, we have parents wrestling their kids away from TVs and iPads to get them into bed without for one second letting go of their own mobile phones as they continue to field messages from work or dial into a conference call hoping no one can hear the kids splashing in the bath.

I realised we needed better answers to these questions one night when I met a friend in a pub. Between us, we had four children under three and two full-time jobs and, as the wine flowed, we let rip about how hopeless we were. Our lives were shit. She was leaving work by the fire escape in the desperate hope of seeing her kids awake once a day without annoying her colleagues. I was crying before work because I didn’t want to go in. We felt remote from our kids and our partners. We both wondered how we’d screwed up so badly and become such disasters. But then we began to question whether the world of work was set up for both parents to be in it full-time. Maybe there was a different story to tell where, however hard you work, there are very tough choices along the way and just being well organised doesn’t fix it.

Hungry for better advice, I set out to find it myself. I began to interview women, and some men, who were managing to combine work and family life to see what they had found out. We had great conversations. As the interviews went on, though, I was increasingly niggled by gaps in the stories I was telling. I would, for example, interview a wonderful, witty, smart woman and she would tell me about her family’s life. She would describe some manageable challenges and how she was tackling them. But then there were the things they told me but begged me not to write up, like the woman who’d put on a vast amount of weight after giving birth and suffered terrible depression but didn’t want her colleagues to know. Other times, I was asked to tone down a light joke about their partner not doing their fair share of the household jobs, or an admission that sometimes they ended up screaming blue murder at their kids, or maybe to take out one too many references to needing a few glasses (or bottles) of wine to get through the week.

I would still finish the interviews thinking we had got somewhere. But then a week, a month, six months later, I might run into some of these women and something more complex might emerge. Perhaps she was no longer with “the rock” partner who made it all work. Or her boss was a bully. Or her daughter was anorexic. Or her son was struggling at school. Maybe she’d been signed off work with stress or depression. Or she expressed regret at not being around enough during her children’s early years. Others said they didn’t have time for many friends.

A psychologist explained to me that the couples who have spent years being in control of their decisions — living in a nice place, choosing everything they do — can find the shift to parenting especially hard. A nanny told me the mums she worries most about are those desperate to keep up appearances. It matters to them that they drive a decent car and that the house looks neat. But they are, she says, often also the parents who come through the door glued to their phones and wave hello before hiding somewhere to work more.

The airbrushing hit me hardest when I was asked to interview a senior woman onstage at a corporate event so she could inspire her colleagues with her progression. I called her in advance and we had a brilliant chat about some difficult “time vampire” bosses she’d had when her children were young and how she had to change jobs to escape them. We talked about the battle to find the right nanny in the early years — and the total crisis when the nanny left. We talked about the pressure her job put on her relationship. So far, so familiar. But on stage, fearful of being judged by the audience for being a bad or lazy mum or too negative, she said none of this. She sat up straight, smiled and told me a completely different story. All her bosses had been on side. She’d never had a nanny, let alone one upon whom she wholly depended to keep the household working. Her husband was her biggest supporter. I left the stage furious with myself for not cutting through it.

‘Many women think that if they can’t make it work, then they’re not trying hard enough. Or they are not good enough’

I started to wonder why this clean-up routine was happening. She, like many others, didn’t want to conceal these things one-to-one; she wanted the catharsis of talking about it. But in public she feared everyone would judge her harshly if she was honest. As my articles about work/life were published, I could see the judgment pouring in and realised her instincts were right. In response to one piece I wrote about a high-powered woman with four children who said that the nanny cooked the family dinner, someone commented: “She might be powerful, but she is no mother.” Ouch.

The limits on these public conversations create a big problem. Because if the only people heard talking about what it takes for women to rise to the top at work are extremely senior, and they feel constrained from telling the truth about the hard bits, then we end up with an airbrushed public story that suggests you simply have to put in the effort. A whole generation is being led to believe that all this is doable when it patently is not. The really negative effect of these big little lies is that so many other women conclude that if they can’t make it work, then they’re not trying hard enough. Or they are not good enough.

I realised that to tell the full story of working parents I would have to talk to people without identifying them so they didn’t have to hide the truth. So there was a chance we could share stories — of the winners, losers and everyone muddling through in between — and, through that, get some proper answers that might help the rest of us. Take a woman I interviewed. We’ll call her Jane because she lives in fear of you or anyone else finding out who she is. She has three children and works in marketing. She is someone who, by her own admission, built her career over the 15 years before kids by being “always on”. She would have appeared to be successful in an interview in which she was named, even if she admitted some challenges. But there is no way she would have told the real story.

The truth is that after her kids arrived, she just ploughed on as she had before, typing busily with a tiny baby on her lap. Her boss, she admitted, was a “bitch with no personal life” who bombarded her with messages 24/7, even on holiday. Every day, she churned with restless anxiety and was racked with guilt that she dedicated only a quarter of her waking hours to her kids and husband and her own needs, the rest of it being gobbled up by work. She wouldn’t have revealed that she self-medicated with three glasses of wine a night. Or that she and her husband rarely connected aside from worrying about paying for the house and kids. Or that she was hopelessly unfit. She definitely wouldn’t have revealed that one of her children was so badly bullied at school that she stopped turning up or that, even though she was the mother, Jane didn’t know there was a problem until the school called her in for a crisis meeting.

Jane’s working practices — which are seen as pretty normal in her business — eventually drove her to anxiety attacks and stress leave. On the advice of her doctor, she used an Out of Office email message for the first time in her life and spent weeks watching TV and reading to recover. Gradually she started to get help and connect with other women in similar situations. Initially shy of sharing her experiences, she was amazed to find so many others who related to what had ­happened to her. Now things are different. Jane would have liked to change roles, but felt under pressure to keep her salary, so instead she changed teams and works from home some of the time.

She is now very engaged with her kids’ lives. She has taken up triathlons to get fit and protect herself from the constant invasion of work. She’s happier, though still working on building a better connection with her husband, and admits that she slips back into her old ways and has to reset. She says she’s mostly fine because she has stopped conforming to what her working world expects of people. But she also says she won’t get promoted now, because she isn’t 100 per cent responsive as she puts her family before work some of the time.

She is far from alone. Another mother I spoke to, a PA to a CEO, had downshifted to working three days a week after having kids, but was still drawn back into being online the rest of the time. The stress of trying to serve her boss led her to shout at her kids and lose control because she was distracted even when she wasn’t officially at work. This culminated in a trip to the park with her sons where one ran off and hid in a tree and one insisted on doing a poo in the bushes. She chased them home raging and, mortified by her own behaviour, locked herself in the bathroom crying before realising changes had to be made.

Or take the various parents who tell me that they have taken their kids to childcare or school knowing full well that they are ill. One child had a broken finger, another mother knew her son had chickenpox. But because their workplaces were so rigid, they would take the kids to school, depending on the staff to call them at work later to insist they collect them. Despite the possible distress to the children, the ­contagion, the wrath of the childcare centre or school and the double journey, this is still often seen as preferable to not turning up for work at all “because the kids are ill” — which in far too many workplaces is seen as a lame excuse that diminishes the person who uttered it.

There are so many other stories. The mum who threw up before her daughter’s birthday party because she works full-time and doesn’t know the other parents, who make her really nervous. The mum who works in a demanding job while her partner is mostly at home, but finds he doesn’t clean up or cook dinner or ­manage the homework, so when she gets home she often ends up crying at the burden of ­getting it all done and the injustice of being responsible for everything.

Then there’s the mum who leaves work totally exhausted on a Friday night, and on the way home sees all the other mums in a wine bar ­having fun and has the sickening realisation that she has no friends. Or the woman in finance whose husband hands her their baby as she ­staggers through the door at the end of the day, not appreciating her commute, her stressful job or the fact that she brings in the money. Or the woman who doesn’t want to work because she longs to be a “proper mum”, but can’t afford it and cries every day as she leaves her kids. Or the mum whose friends are based around work, and who spent her maternity leave pushing the pram around in the hope of just seeing people because she was so lonely; she went back to work so soon, she later regretted not spending more time bonding with her baby.

Then there’s the young mum raging at the logistical difficulty of getting her kid to and from school and working an eight-hour day, who asks me to whom she should complain to get this sorted, her rage triggered by the realisation that everyone with kids who works has to find a ­solution for this. And the mum of a boy with ­special needs, pushed out of her old job, who asks: “What kind of a job will let me take him to all the appointments he needs during the week?” And the mum who pulled a wriggling live nit out of her hair during a client presentation and squashed it before continuing.

These accounts are not unusual. Yet the true nitty-gritty horror of making it work rarely features in debates about the pay gap, the number of women who leave work after having kids and the lack of women at board and CEO level. We never get to hear the stories that make people feel less alone and realise that the failure isn’t their own. It also means we don’t share solutions that might actually help. Whether that is about being more conscious about the hours we work, changing our relationship with work, turning off our phones, taking control of our finances or rebalancing roles with our partner. If anything is to shift, we have to start telling the truth.


Time issues have an impact on both parents, but there is a big difference. Critically, men largely escape the judgment mums seem to face. Which is not to suggest that many men feel any different in terms of wanting to spend more time at home. Many would like to work more sensible hours and resent feeling diminished if they say so in their professional environment. They feel under pressure to “provide”: some relish this and some resent it. Some feel their partners have more choices because it’s more socially acceptable for them to ask for part-time or flexible work or to change careers. Others feel trapped by responsibility for the family income. The point is, men don’t feel like winners in this either; they are just a bit more likely to escape the stressful judgments women face.

Research by cognitive scientist Dr Barbara W. Sarnecka and her colleagues at the University of California, reported in The New York Times, found that subjects in a study were much less judgmental of fathers who left their children briefly (say, in a car) while they did a task: “A father who is distracted by his interests and obligations in the adult world is being, well, a father; a mother who does the same is failing her children”. Expectations of fathers remain far lower than those of mothers. Partly because of that lack of judgment they also express less guilt.

It may also be partly down to how the different genders tend to behave at work. Dr Bill Mitchell, a London psychologist who has treated workplace stress disorder for three decades, says: “I tend to avoid gender generalisations, but, increasingly, my clinical work makes the difference between the sexes more obvious. Women are hard-wired to belong, to take responsibility for others, and men are more able to be self-protective.” Which means, he says, that when an unexpected family problem arises, men are more inclined to dodge it.

Whatever the differences between genders, the consequences for our children remain the same. We don’t have enough time for them. Why does this matter and what do we do? It matters because we have a lot of working parents who are struggling and feeling like failures and not enjoying their kids. We see the rise in children’s mental health issues, and more than one psychologist has told me that they really worry about the kids of professional parents who are always distracted.

To address that, we need to be more honest so we can take more control of our own working experiences. We need to be able to talk more about what does work and how to make it work within our own families. For some, the price of “always on” will be worth it, because they are driven and ambitious and have the systems in place to make it work. For others, stepping back a bit at key points will make all the difference to them and their families.



Political correctness is most pervasive in universities and colleges but I rarely report the  incidents concerned here as I have a separate blog for educational matters.

American "liberals" often deny being Leftists and say that they are very different from the Communist rulers of  other countries.  The only real difference, however, is how much power they have.  In America, their power is limited by democracy.  To see what they WOULD be like with more power, look at where they ARE already  very powerful: in America's educational system -- particularly in the universities and colleges.  They show there the same respect for free-speech and political diversity that Stalin did:  None.  So look to the colleges to see  what the whole country would be like if "liberals" had their way.  It would be a dictatorship.

For more postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, GREENIE WATCH,   EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS and  DISSECTING LEFTISM.   My Home Pages are here or   here or   here.  Email me (John Ray) here.  Email me (John Ray) here.


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