It is hard to be shocked by misleading media reports about women. After all, it’s commonplace to see the mainstream media gleefully twisting the results of a piece of gender research and claiming we now have conclusive end-of-debate evidence to support traditional ideas about gender. (It’s clearly a pretty determined effort when it even gets framed as if that’s the case when the results seem to contradict such ideas. And what about when website polls with half the results hidden from public view and research studies using very small samples even seem to warrant big definitive-sounding headlines?)

All this makes it no surprise to find some choice juicy quotes from a report from Catherine Hakim spreading through the media and over the internet during the past week (with over 400 sources having posted about the matter in the last 24 hours).

Possibly the most bilious article comes from Cristina Odone at the Daily Telegraph blog. This highlights what we already knew about many women “choosing lower-rung jobs in order to have more time to bring up children and care for elderly parents”, seemingly without any regard to the social expectations that continue to constrain people’s choices (including men’s).

This state of affairs is not exactly news to feminists and, in any case, Hakim’s research was already out there before she published the report in question. Despite this, Odone crows that women “prioritising family above career” and “husbands above autonomy” must come as a horrible shock “to the ‘feminists’ who preached that only a fat salary can fulfill you and only a big title can make you happy”.

This particular sweeping statement completely fails to consider feminists who challenge traditional gender roles and take a dim view of the 9 to 5 work ethic that dominates so many of our lives (not to mention the fact that there are men out there challenging it, along with women). As Katha Pollitt says:

Feminism is about changing the ground rules, not just entering the game. Feminists, in fact, are the ones who first put forward the idea of balance between work and family–for both sexes–of a more humane and flexible and less hierarchical workplace, of childcare as a task for both parents and for society as a whole.

Certainly, I imagine I’m not the only feminist who would dispute Odone’s gross misrepresentation of the movement. I guess it’s just more convenient for her to characterise us as a bunch of chiding squares with no sense of identity outside the conventional workplace.

On a positive note, more critical write-ups worth checking out would be Kate Smurthwaite’s response to questions from The Fresh Outlook about Hakim and Echidne of the Snakes’ analysis of the popular focus on Hakim’s claim that women are still “marrying up”:

Two particularly interesting things Echidne exposes are:

1) The BBC and thisismoney articles (amongst others) state that more women are marrying for money than in the 1940s, according to a new study. However, after reading Hakim’s report and finding the connected quotes in the articles, Echidne found these particular pieces of information were linked to a book Hakim published in 2000 and a Polish paper from 2007.

2) Thisismoney mentions that the percentage of women deciding to ‘marry up’ had climbed to 38% by the 1990s so, as Echidne says,

“Let’s assume that this quote is all true, for the time being. Let’s then compare it to that headline: “Women want rich husbands, not careers.” Notice anything odd? Thirty-eight percent is not all women, not even the majority of women, but both thisismoneyco.uk and the BBC have happily skipped to much more extreme interpretations, such as this one:

Women still want to ‘marry up’ and naturally choose husbands who earn more than themselves, a report suggests.

[and]

The idea of most women wanting to be financially independent is a myth, according to Catherine Hakim of the London School of Economics.

Never mind all that though because thisismoney has seen fit to write about the issue again today!

As one of Echidne’s commenters says, this stuff is not just filler. It’s propaganda.

Photo by H is for Home, shared under a Creative Commons Licence.

Comments From You

Jennifer Drew // Posted 10 January 2011 at 11:34 pm

Of course Hakim’s pseudo report is propaganda which is why the malestream media is going overboard in reporting this pseudo nonsense.

Malestream newspapers long, long ceased reporting objective real news and instead have for many, many years become a tool of our male supremacist system. If women aren’t being misrepresented as self-seeking viragos daily within malestream news then these tools of male supremacy haven’t done their job.

Don’t forget malestream media in all its forms continues to be owned and operated by men despite claims ‘but we have female editors.’ Because these female editors do not have the power to decide which juicy item of women-hating will and will not be published – the men who own these newspapers decide. Rupert Murdoch is one such male.

Fact is feminists want to eliminate male supremacy not make women fit into a male-centric view of ‘work’ which conveniently values men’s work far more than women’s work. But then women have never worked have they? Which is why so many women still want to marry those powerful rich men in order that they can be taken care of by the male breadwinner!

Still feminists must be doing something right because malestream media is getting its male knickers in a twist again and frightening itself by the thought of innumerable women finally overthrowing male domination. What a terrible thought!

Claire Miller // Posted 11 January 2011 at 11:05 am

Definitely propaganda.

The view the stories have decided to go with is that all women really want to do is stay home and look after kids while their husband is the breadwinner and it doesn’t really matter if the statistics (from the You Gov poll for the Sunday Times) support it or not (they really don’t – hypothetical situations, too open to individual interpretation as to what the question means, and an unrepresentative survey)

One interesting thing (and evidence of both a newspaper having an agenda and just completely useless journalism) is the actual results of the You Gov poll which yesterday’s articles are based off also asked men for their views – which are not massively dissimilar to women – 49% of men would prefer to be with someone who earns more than them and 40% would like to stay home with their young children if finances allowed.

It kind of suggests the feminists who challenge traditional gender roles might be on to something – the earning more or less results are too vague to really draw many conclusions on (do people want to be taken care of or do would they just like someone with similar or better earning power to share the burden of the (currently increasing) family budget with, they don’t say) but it seems like, if they had the option, lots of parents of both genders would like to take some time out with their children.

I haven’t tracked down the data Hakim uses yet but I really doubt it’s much better.

Feminist Avatar // Posted 11 January 2011 at 12:45 pm

If you read Hakim’s report that is linked to above, she does provide some data- although not on some of the most controversial issues such as ‘marrying up’. And, what is interesting is that she is using the same data as ‘the feminists’ (I love that feminist researchers are clubbed together as if we don’t have considerable debate on these issues ourselves!!), but she is putting a different spin on it. So, she thinks that despite agreeing there still is a paygap, 16% isn’t a big deal, so legislation has been successful. Or, that women are ‘choosing’ part-time work to aid with their childcare -and legislation should aim for equality of opportunity, and not equality of outcome (does anybody hear Teresa May here?), so this isn’t a problem. It’s a conservative spin on the figures, rather than bad data per se.

I would be very interested in seeing the marrying up and down data though, because I think that smells fishy. Given that the British population is pretty endogamous (marrying in their own social class), how is she making this assessment? Is it on wages differentials- do wages equal class?- almost no social scientist would be happy with that. Is it education- because are men with degrees really marrying women without degrees in large numbers (doubt it), and if so, who are all the women with degrees marrying (now that women get degrees in similar numbers)?

Hannah // Posted 11 January 2011 at 9:49 pm

I wish Hakim would go away – she’s been the ringleader of all the most ludicrous ‘proofs’ of the validity of traditional gender roles that the media has been having a feeding frenzy over. I don’t expect she’s ready to disappear just yet though, in fact, I get the feeling she’s just building up to something that will really annoy us (you know, people who don’t hate women and who like science) like a big fat handbook of anti-feminism. If she hasn’t already got started on one, surely someone will have snapped her up. After all, this book would include proofs of ideologies that confirm female inferiority from a woman AND an academic! Who could possibly accuse her of bias?

What I always find amusing about her work is that she claims to be above it. If women marry up and prefer to be in the home, why isn’t she doing it? In her case, the world and not just her (according to her theory) would have much to gain from her retreat into domesticity.

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