Bringing home the bacon

Shadow education secretary David Willetts is worried. He’s worried about the make-up of people attending university, specifically. Or, to get even more specific, he is worried that too many women are going to university, and there won’t be enough university educated men to go around. Women will be left on the scrapheap; the family* will collapse; disaster will ensue.

*Note: Only David Willetts-approved families are at risk! If your family doesn’t involve one man, one woman, in a married state with kids, with him earning more than her, then you’re not of exactly the… well… type that the Conservative Party wants to protect. Sorry!

We know Willetts, of course, from his classist and sexist proposal for apprenticeships aimed solely at working class men, in order to make them more “marriagable”.

‘For the first time, in a historic experiment in our society, we have more women than men emerging from university. The majority of young people not in education, employment or training are men.

Interesting that for centuries women were almost or totally unable to access this kind of education; that the pendulum in this one narrow area has swung towards some, largely economically and socially privileged, women’s success, and there’s no end of panic about it.

And interesting that the Conservative party’s answer is to bemoan and use scare tactics.

‘Of course the world is changing, and it’s fantastic it is. But the fact is that even if men want to be the breadwinner, they are no longer being given the opportunity of being the breadwinner.

‘They are no longer given the opportunity to bring home the bacon, and the evidence is that that is bad for families.’

The world is changing; that’s fantastic; but society needs to stay in some mythical 1950s land where men “bring home the bacon”?

David, I’m confused – are you saying that men need to be able to earn more than women? That should be part of government policy, should it? What’s this evidence again? Actually, what’s your policy again?!

This at a time when in the real world, women working full time earn on average about 17% less than men – and ethnic minority women earn 20% less. But the priority is for men to be able to be the “breadwinners” if they want? (Again, no mention of what the women in their lives might want!)

The Daily Mail story continues with this little factoid:

Thirty years ago, nine out of ten women were married before they were 30. Now, only two-thirds are wed by that age.

Oh noes! Unmarried women roaming the land? Crisis!

Now there’s this statistic:

Mr Willetts said that middle-class women were the main beneficiaries of the recent expansion in the availability of university places. Some 45 per cent of young women are now going on to higher education.

But at the same time, the proportion of young men going to university has dropped to just 35 per cent. Many others, he said, are unable to find the apprenticeships which would give them a better chance of a stable income in later life.

I fully agree with Mr Willetts’ excellent class analysis – why is it mainly middle class women benefitting? How will working class women and men benefit from easier access to university education through a Willetts education policy again?

David Willetts, incidentally, went to a public boys’ school that currently charges £8,550 a year in school fees, and then to Christ Church, Oxford, we learn from Wikipedia. But middle class boys going to prestigious university? That’s great! More breadwinners to marry those young, educated women – but not too educated – we wouldn’t want them to earn more than their prospective partners from the appropriate class background, would we?

‘Of course the family is an emotional and personal thing, but it is also an economic institution and what we are describing is the collapse of the economic circumstances that hold families together.

‘The man who can’t go out and command a decent wage is not going to be able to hold a family together.’

So the only possible way for a heterosexual relationship to succeed is if the man gets to earn a “decent wage”. Because men are not able to function, if their female partner is the “breadwinner”? Oh fragile male ego.

Labour MP Emily Thornberry said: ‘The Conservatives seem to think there is something worrying in more women going to university.

‘Is David Willetts saying that someone as clever, funny and creative as Bridget Jones should not have gone to university?

‘Perhaps that is why the Conservatives have refused to support Labour’s aim that 50 per cent of young people attend higher education.

Over 50 per cent of young people from every social class aspire to go to higher education. Why do the Conservatives like David Willetts continue to want to deny people that opportunity?

Via Fart Party

Image sourced from MontanaRaven, shared under a Creative Commons license