Oliver James: Jobs for the girls

On the face of it, feminism has meant that women have never had it so good. Girls achieve more than boys at school, women are rapidly crashing through glass ceilings in many industries, etcetera, etcetera.

The only trouble is that a 25-year-old woman today is between three and 10 times more likely to be depressed than one in 1950. All over the developed world, women are twice as likely to be depressed as men. Just between 1987 and 1999, it went from 18 per cent to 33 per cent of all 15-year-old girls, with no rise among the boys.

What went wrong was that American capitalism hijacked feminism and converted it into a method for making profits rather than for liberating women to think and act for themselves.

The grim reality is that three-quarters of working women's jobs are low income, low skill and low status. In two-thirds of cases, they work part-time (86 per cent of working men do so full time).

Although no one ever says so out loud, the awful truth is that women working helped destroy the unions, adding a huge, part-time and relatively compliant source of labour to a world of increasingly gender-neutral jobs (call centres, retail). Since labour scarcity was their strongest bargaining tool, unions never had a chance.

But, above all, the reality of women's work does not match up to the billing in the magazines they read in their early twenties (any more than the sex matched up to the preposterous stuff they read in their teen mags). Even those who do Have It All suffer.

Bright, attractive, public school and Oxbridge graduettes take ostensibly glamorous and well-paid jobs in the media or the city. But the reality of the slog to the top of Canary Wharf, Fleet Street or Television Central is of savage office politics and working ludicrous hours to enrich other people.

The sense that such women have of life being a grotesque swiz is, if anything, even keener than that felt by their less privileged sisters. Conned into working their arses off at school, they find themselves on a treadmill in their twenties.

When Bridget Jones finally gets off it in her thirties to make babies, perhaps settling for a man who is not quite the Sex and the City ticket, her day is taken up with the squealing of infants and the shovelling of emotional shit in one of the most despised of roles. She looks in the mirror and, to a horrifying extent, sees her mother - yes, that woman who so encouraged her to study and work in order to take advantage of the new opportunities denied to previous generations.

It's not hard to see how women who've been through all this might be just a tad pissed off and, in a society where you are encouraged to blame incompatibility if a relationship is 'not working', they are booting their men out in the usually mistaken hope of finding someone better. The perversion of feminism's goals into grossly inflated consumerist and career dreams has contributed to the divorce statistics considerably.

· Next week: sex, women and divorce.

Thanks to guardian.co.uk who have provided this article. View the original here.


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