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Fay socks it to the feminist sisterhood

PUBLISHED: 09:39 04 September 2009 | UPDATED: 11:52 06 July 2010

THERE'S a long-running stand off in our house. Husband nags me to tidy the study and I say I will if he picks up his dirty washing and puts his coffee mugs in the dishwasher.

THERE'S a long-running stand off in our house. Husband nags me to tidy the study and I say I will if he picks up his dirty washing and puts his coffee mugs in the dishwasher.

The same dispute has rumbled on for almost a decade and will continue to rumble as long as we share the same roof.

Eventually, when my piles of papers get too much, he clears the chaotic desk and I pick up his socks. It's how it works.

In the 16 years we have shared a home, we've evolved our own roles.

I cook because I enjoy cooking. He doesn't because he doesn't.

I do the washing and the ironing because I'm at home more than he is, he's out for more than 12 hours a day and I can't trust him not to ruin the family's clothes. Also, I like being in control of what's clean and what's not.

He loves a spreadsheet and number crunching. I'm a numberphobe and come out in hives at the phrase “financial management”, so I leave the bills to him. Family life runs far more efficiently if I'm rustling up a risotto while he shops round for the best deal on house insurance.

He manages the dull car maintenance while I do the supermarket run. It all works out and we tick along smoothly.

Neither of us complains we're downtrodden, much, and each is the commander of our own domestic sector.

Despite my regular sock collecting, I believe I'm a feminist, holding the values of equality of opportunity and achievement for women dear. But female equality is about more than picking up socks.

Arch feminist and godmother of the sisterhood, Fay Weldon, put the proverbial cat amongst the pigeons by announcing, shock horror, that there is no point in bullying a man to pick up his socks when it's quicker and happier to do it yourself.

What a sell-out, yelled the hard-faced campaigners against “women's work”. How could she say that after the distance women have traveled in their fight? Picking up socks? How could she demean herself?

Because, frankly, making a fuss about a few errant socks in a relationship of equals is outdated and irrelevant.

Sock picking up and domestic drudgery was a historic issue when, back in the day, they were accepted, by men, to be the housewives' lot, chores for women trapped at home to serve their men. If they were allowed to venture out to work, it was only to menial low-paid work.

Today, most women work outside the home. Both partners work, sharing the breadwinning and sharing the chores at home. Time at home is sparse so everyone mucks in, including the children picking up their own socks, to save everything collapsing into chaos.

Roles in our home happen, by chance, to have evolved as traditional ones. The division of labour in my friends' homes is different. Only yesterday my older son came home from a sleepover with a family where the father does all the cooking because the wife hates cooking.

No one bats an eye lid at that today - like no one should bat an eye lid when a woman picks up a man's socks or a man picks up the detritus of an untidy woman's life to make life easier for everyone.

It's progress.

WHY does an eight-year-old need GCSEs?

Every year boys and girls who should be building Lego and playing hide and seek are paraded for sailing through GCSEs, usually in maths and computing.

Why? An eight-year-old dressed up in a shirt and tie speaking like a mini-adult is just unnatural.

They might have got a GCSE but they would have no idea what to do if another child came up and threw a ball to them.

There's only one reason children are hothoused and entered for exams - because their parents push them to bask in the reflected glory of a gifted child.

They love studying, the parents protest. Have they tried anything else?

What use is a child with academic certificates with no social skills or nouse about life in the real world?

Children don't need GCSEs. They need to fit in and have friends and play.

DRIVING back from North Yorkshire the other day, a banner by the side of the A1, caused me to swerve in shock.

“Have you booked for Christmas yet?” it asked.

September and back to school always herald the retail start of the dreaded festive season while we're still wearing sandals. Please no.

One can understand - although not condone - the motives of the new vigilante group “Christmas Commandos” trying to force shops not to sell cards or any other seasonal goods until November 1.

The Government has managed to interfere with every other area of our lives, banning this, rules for that, nagging about the other, so why can't it get on with banning any mention of the “C” word until November?

It does want to win the next election……

SEVENTEEN-year-old Mike Perham sailed solo round the world. Laura Dekker, four years his junior, has been put into care for wanting to do the same.

Her parents believe she is capable. Childcare officials in Holland think she is too young and is effectively keeping her under lock and key.

The world needs extraordinary people. People who push boundaries and achieve amazing feats.

Age is just a number. Some 50-year-olds are incapable of making rational decisions, live in cloud cuckoo land and make a pig's ear of their lives.

Some 13-year-olds have the maturity, judgment and capability of 30-year-olds.

Laura was born at sea and lived on the waves until she was four; it's in her blood. Who are busybody social workers to stop her doing what she does best?

SHOULD dumbed down GCSEs be replaced with the intellectual rigours of the old O level with coursework that can be tweaked, redone and completed by parents replaced by exams again?

Hardly the need for multiple choice. Yes.

THE advertising whiz kid who thought up the creepiest advert of all time must have strange mental wiring.

Every time I hear that little boy begging to go and “do a poo at Paul's house” I get the shudders. Who is this Paul in his Poo Palace?

And why does the boy put a rucksack on his back to go and do it. All very worrying.

WITH the format and line-up of Strictly Come Dancing as tired as Brucie's barnet, the BBC has to do something to pull in the ratings.

Surely they could do better than whip up a nudge, nudge, wink, wink rumour mill about boxer Joe Calzaghe and his partner, the foxy minx, Kristina Rihanoff.

Calzaghe has handily split from his girlfriend as he starts the pasa doble with Rihanoff, who last year had an affair with fellow dancer Vincent Simone, who left his pregnant girlfriend for her.

It'll be a miracle if tongues didn't start wagging.

And how long before these shows become named in divorce courts as the perpetrator of splits?

FIONA Phillips is a feisty, bright, witty and entertaining woman.

As a TV presenter, she communicated with her viewers and empathised with their lives.

A working mother of two small boys, she understood the pressures and, when it got too much for her marriage and home life, she jacked in the job she loved to be a better mother and wife and look for something new.

Something new though hasn't been forthcoming. Instead, the adept interviewer and presenter, has become the face of Olay anti-ageing cream. Hardly the new direction she was planning.

Hardly taxing for a woman of intellect.

Women of a certain age - women like me - watch television and want to see women on TV like us.

Women pushing and over 50 feel invisible enough in their own lives, we don't want to invisible on the screens too.

We're unimpressed with the giggling and inane banter of women presenters chosen merely for their looks. Holly Willoughby and Fearne Cotton, nice enough women I'm sure, but their presenting is babble.

Emma Crosby who, devastatingly attractive, slim and bubbly though she may be to grace the morning screens, hasn't a scrap of Fiona's instinct, curiosity or wit took Fiona's place on the GMTV sofa. But she's young and pretty.

Who is it that wants young and pretty? We are an ageing population and women are revealed time and time again as the driving force in household decision making and spending.

Why do TV bosses ignore what we want and insult us by binning women, with laughter lines and experience, just like us?

WE get the services we deserve.

A paramedic has been derided for refusing to go into an “intimidating” pub to help a mother of three who had suffered a heart attack.

The female paramedic ventured inside only after a guarantee from the manager to look after her safety and once inside said she could not carry out resuscitation alone.

Of course there was an outcry. Paramedics have a job to do and we expect them to do it.

But they should be able to expect to do their job unhindered and free from the threat of attack. But they can't.

Day after day paramedics are attacked and obstructed in the course of their work. Abused, assaulted and put their lives on the line with every call.

I have a friend who is a front-line paramedic. He's lost count of the number of assaults he has endured. It's turned into part of the job - but it shouldn't be. These people are trained to save lives not be street fighters.

And there is no wonder this paramedic refused to carry out CPR solo in a growing culture of personal injury compensation claims.

On paper, this paramedic's actions might look wrong, but in context with the hell they face every day for not a great wage, it is totally understandable and been caused by the people whose lives they're trained to save.

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