Fay Weldon’s new novel, the absurdist satire Death of a She Devil, is certain to be a bestseller. It returns to the theme that was the background to her masterpiece, The Life and Loves of a She Devil – gender politics, or the war between the sexes.
It is the subject of the moment. Television is full of it. Line of Duty is supposed to be about police corruption, but in the latest series a battle over sex discrimination takes centre stage. Broadchurch has addressed the topic of rape, with Olivia Colman’s character delivering a stern monologue around the dinner table on the principle of consent. American television gives us Big Little Lies, about a group of unhinged yummy mummies in Monterey.
The most sensational strand of the debate is to do with sex changes. But more relevant to most people’s lives is the discussion about how our children are going to navigate their way through life, parcelling out the roles, marriage, work, children. Will there be a space for love and romance?
Fay Weldon, clever and fearless, told the Guardian: “Feminism was a successful revolution, but after a revolution you lose a generation. We’re having an upheaval, with women going out to work and children going to nurseries. Mothers try to be friends not parents, but children need boundaries, so it’s a kind of freefall. Child rearing has changed and it is producing another kind of person.”
Lynn Barber in the Sunday Times (on being a “bad granny”) also went against the grain of received opinion: “When I hear women in their thirties or, worse, forties talking about whether they are ‘ready’ to have babies, I want to shout, for God’s sake, no one is ever ready, just get on with it… I believe that women’s ability to have children, and to know for sure that they are ours, for life, is such an incomparable advantage that it makes up for any amount of supposed glass ceilings.”
You might not hear a Woman’s Hour presenter saying that, but in daily life many people would agree. We chew over these topics in the office where I work. I am the only man on a desk with (at most) three women. Between us we have five daughters aged from six to grown-up. One friend has a daughter, a university student, who was heard to exclaim recently: “Is Andrew a Catholic?” (meaning me) in a shocked tone.
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