Too right, Harriet

// 21 May 2008

harriet harmanGovernment should not be in the business of promoting marriage, or particular types of family, Harriet Harman has very sensibly said in a report by the think-tank Civitas.

Of course, the right wing press are busy spinning this as a shocking story of politicians without ‘morals’, but, well, they would. Perhaps they’re feeling a bit… defensive?

Actually, though, Harman’s views were in an interesting-sounding report, which comes to some different conclusions. Very interesting stuff:

Both the Conservatives and Labour assume that those people not living in married two-parent families are simply choosing not to. The Conservative Party therefore believes that the two-parent family needs promoting by financial incentives to marry, while Labour, has adopted a ‘neutral’ position in which family structure doesn’t matter. Both parties are out of touch with reality.

Civitas also did a survey of 20-35-year-olds, which found that lots of people are still quite keen on getting married, but, unsurprisingly, only 2% want to for tax reasons.

Anastasia de Waal argues that while Labour thinks it is being liberal, its position on the family is actually highly conservative.

Its policy is currently determined not by its own priorities, but by Conservative policy and past notions of the repressive ‘traditional’ family. Labour therefore considers family structure to be solely Conservative moralising territory and marriage irrelevant to 21st century policymaking.

There is currently a very narrow-conservative-conceptualisation by Labour as to what is meant by attaching importance to family structure and the two-parent family. Structure ought to refer as much to the parenting model as to the relationship between parents.

This is an interesting point of view. However, I generally agree with Harman – I don’t think that government should be in the business of interferring in relationships. De Waal argues – quite rightly – that government should be dealing with structural poverty and inequality, because one of the consequences of this inequality is it prevents people from making the relationship choices they want to. I have to say that, to me, dealing with structural inequality is an aim in and of itself – one which you’d assume Labour is already basically signed up to.

The actual policy recommendations in this report, I can get behind, however. For example:

The current emphasis on women in every area of policy affecting the family should be reformed in favour of equal responsibility. Family policy must include men, starting from childcare to the position that even if the relationship between adults ends, the responsibilities towards children don’t.

However, as pointed out yesterday, I do think it’s actually crucial to frame policy on the basis of parenting not gendered terms of ‘mothering’ and ‘fathering’. So, yes, equal responsibility when fathers are in the picture is crucial – but it is very important not to marginalise families which don’t include them, whether out of choice or necessity – a point which (from the press release, anyway), I don’t think the Civitas report really does justice to. Indeed, it is a bit dismissive of Labour’s position on not wanting to be judgemental of single-parent families.

Photo by Andrew K Brown, shared under a Creative Commons license

Comments From You

Cara // Posted 21 May 2008 at 12:15 pm

I too absolutely agree with Harriet Harman, and Jess.

It is not about gender…come on, we do not live in the 50s any more. Did the tedious suburban dream of mum, dad, 2.4 kids and dog ever work for anyone? Nope. It has never been the reality of life for most people, and frankly makes most of those that do unhappy – Desperate Housewives style. And this “need for a father” crap is linked to traditional notions of gender roles.

Male role models? *Bitter laugh* is that the people that teach boys not to cry, that masculinity is being “tough” and never showing emotion? I think we would all be better off without that kind of role model, thanks.

Of course, ideally 2 parents are better than one…but then we don’t live in an ideal world. Single parents can do a great job. It doesn’t matter who the parents are, but that they care, and have the ability to parent.

And don’t get me started on being single….it’s as if you don’t exist. If I hear politicians go on about “hard-working families” one more time…grrrr. The quote about not being single by choice struck me as odd, since it is assumed that a single young woman must simply not have met “Mr Right” (ugh) yet – couldn’t possibly be that I may be quite happy being single, at least for now? Nope, we are all desperate Bridget Jones stereotypes.

*Phew* That’s better.

Feminist Avatar // Posted 21 May 2008 at 3:07 pm

“I have to say that, to me, dealing with structural inequality is an aim in and of itself – one which you’d assume Labour is already basically signed up to.”

I am not sure this is an assumption we can make anymore, given some of the policies coming from Labour recently.

For example,

happy alone // Posted 21 May 2008 at 3:20 pm

it also really grates on me when people demand an explanation as to why I’m single. The fact I’m happy this way doesn’t seem to fit well with people. No one actually belives me when I say I don’t want to get married or have kids, the only response I ever get to that statement is “oh yeah, I used to say that, now look at me, married with two kids*insert self rightoues chuckle*” Harriet is right, not only is it non of government buiseness, it’s no one elses buiseness either! grr.

magistra // Posted 22 May 2008 at 2:48 pm

Male role models? *Bitter laugh* is that the people that teach boys not to cry, that masculinity is being “tough” and never showing emotion? I think we would all be better off without that kind of role model, thanks.

You can’t just not have role models for boys, or all they will get is stereotypes from the media. You need positive role models for boys in the sense of men behaving in non-sexist ways, not conforming to gender stereotypes etc. If you don’t provide such models, how do you expect boys to learn different ways of behaving? I don’t think role models have to be parents, and a child should have a lot of different role models, but they should have them.

Gregory // Posted 4 May 2009 at 3:22 am

It’s over, for that sneak infiltration thing. I refer to the views that Tim Loughton expressed in the Independent, he was also interviewed by Civitas

Harriet wanted legal incest, no age of consent, and whatever else her pedophile colleagues requested.

She is as difficult as Paglia, Harriet with an art gallery, might be ignorable, but, her political career has to end at the next election

I am astounded she has the nerve to talk in transgressive terms at this stage in her career, which will never involve being in a photo with SoS Hilary Clinton.

That means, she can never be Prime Minister, or at a podium with a US President, so what’s the point?

You can’t do what Harriet did, and be viewed as ‘normal’ by either of the major parties in the USA. Harriet Harman, is on the way out, her career, has peaked.

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