|OMFG can you believe he said |
that! Well, no, he didn't.
Ivana Bacik on Morning Ireland cried foul as it was not in the interests of the country to push women back out of the workforce. Orla O'Connor from the National Women's Council said Varadkar's comments were anti-women, and anti-children. Twitter, erm, melted. It's entirely nonsense.
In the first instance, this is a case of personal insolvency. This process is only going to be engaged in by those either reckless enough or unfortunate enough to have completely obliterated their financial circumstances. In order to extricate themselves from that appalling position, the women - or men - who have made these poor decisions are being offered a route out so that they can re-start their lives. Their insolvency limits their choices, and limits their freedom. It is short to medium term, it is painful, and it is necessary.
Personal insolvency is not, ultimately, about macroeconomic policy; rather, it is about microeconomic necessity. It's also about range - if the difference between childcare costs and income is minimal, then perhaps it makes sense to retain the arrangements. If there is a big disparity, then it's a clearer argument. If the work is unskilled and/or non-permanent - and therefore not in the 'career' category, then there is little risk of sacrificing career prospects. It is also necessary to separate economic choices from lifestyle choices - a sensible economic choice will be seen as such by any rational arbiter. If it makes sense to persist in a job while paying childcare that is more expensive, so be it. But some women operate in such circumstances as a lifestyle choice. It is here that the problems begin.
There is an un-stated and difficult narrative underneath all of this. In the drive for equality, women's groups are attempting to assert an equivalence that is disproportionate. In essence, they want the right to abdicate responsibility for childcare in the same way as men have that option. I don't disagree that as a construct, the objective is at least academically legitimate. But as a social good, one wonders whether this is where society wants to go. The neo-feminist lobby argues that motherhood should be detached from the woman at birth, once the umbilical cord is cut, and that immediately thereafter there should be a choice for the mother that is equivalent to that of the father, to detach themselves from the obligations of parenthood in favour of a career or some other personal objective. Each woman makes their own determination whether they want to retain the obligation.
This violent neo-feminism sees motherhood (and even femininity) as a weakness, where weak women define themselves in terms of their children, and not in some genuine self-abstraction of what a woman - what a human being - can possibly become. It rends further the fabric of conventional social construct, of the nuclear family, of biological and socially constructed identity. What it also does is relegate the role of the man, the father, to that of incidental, an irrelevance. It does not afford him any role at all in the structure. The imperative is to free the woman from the obligations of motherhood in order that she may realise her full potential.
The logic of that position, however, is that the man should have parity of claim in parenting, because we're all equal after the birth, right? The woman is a woman in her own right, and not defined by her children. Just like the man is a man in his own right. If that was the objective, then it should be clear in our courts and in our laws that in the event of separation, the man has an equal claim to the children. This is never the case, and should that imbalance be righted, women's groups would be at the head of the queue to argue for the 'special position of the mother'.
While the equality argument may be intellectually compelling, the reality is viscerally repugnant. The attachment of the mother to the child is different - physically, emotionally, psychologically. Attempting to construct a society where we actively destroy that relationship in favour of some abstract parenting role (or outsourcing the parenting role to the infrastructure of state, or the market) is - in my view - not the right thing to do.