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Equality Is Drinking And Dying Like Men By Sarah Vine


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Equality is drinking and dying like men

By Sarah Vine

A few weeks ago, I was asked to curate a small exhibit at London’s Fashion And Textile Museum. Just a little thing about fashion in fiction, and how various writers, from Truman Capote to Jilly Cooper, have influenced and reflected the fashions of their day through their books.

We chose 30 Penguin Classics in all, including some of my all-time favourites by Daphne du Maurier and Roald Dahl.

Re-reading bits here and there, however, the ones that struck me as culturally most significant were Margaret Drabble’s The Millstone and Lynne Reid Banks’s The L-Shaped Room. Two very different writers, both wrestling with the same subject: sexual equality.

Written in the late Fifties and early Sixties, both books explored the unappetising choices faced by young women who dared to challenge the cultural conventions of their day. Rejection, loneliness, poverty, the struggle between intellectual fulfilment and children: all these were hot topics, then as they are now.

Fifty years on, and the passage of time has made the practical path to equality a lot less bumpy; emotionally, however, it’s still a rollercoaster.

In the West at least, women have largely got what we wanted: equality enshrined in law, power and influence where it matters. The question is: has it made us happy?

It’s not a question that feminism often dares to ask itself. In fact, merely typing it might well be construed as an act of betrayal against my own sex.

'Oblivion drinking', self-medicating with alcohol as a way of winding down, is also on the rise among females, as is obesity, depression and lack of sleep (posed by model)

Nevertheless, it’s an important question that needs to be addressed. Because in the same way that things that make you happy aren’t always good for you (cocktails) it follows that things that are good for you don’t always make you happy (cod liver oil).

Could it be that equality, while desirable, has actually done women more harm than good?

Physically, at least, the evidence is troubling. Last week, the Office For National Statistics released new data concerning life expectancy in women.

Historically, we have always lived much longer than men; but over the past 30 years (coinciding with the rise of more women in the workplace), the difference has fallen sharply.

Now, women are expected to outlive men by just a couple of years.

The reason? Women are starting to suffer from the kinds of illnesses traditionally associated with the male of the species: heart disease and high blood pressure. Illnesses that develop as a result of working in high-stress, often largely sedentary, occupations. At the same time, trichologists are reporting an increase in women showing stress-induced hair loss, and experts are warning of an increase in liver disease and diabetes among women. ‘Oblivion drinking’ — self-medicating with alcohol as a way of winding down — is also on the rise among females, as is obesity, depression and lack of sleep.

When you look at it that way, the question of whether equality has made us happy becomes more than just provocative. It’s essential.

How can a cultural change that leads to increased stress, lower life expectancy and a host of unpleasant long-term illnesses be declared a success?

When women began pushing for equality, all they wanted were the same rights as men. They never imagined they would actually start turning into them.

And not just any men, either: hard-living, high-stress men — think Don Draper or Gordon Gekko — the very people they were all trying to get away from in the first place.

From Mad Men to Mad Women, in the space of just a couple of generations.

This is how I feel, at least. I know for a fact that many of my female friends feel the same. Yes, equality for us has meant opportunity and career success, and for that we are grateful. But it has also meant taking on a whole lot of stress and responsibility that our mothers were spared, while at the same time continuing to shoulder traditional roles.

After all, women still do most of the childcare and domestic duties in our society, despite in many cases being the main breadwinners.

So as we stagger along under the twin weights of career and family, we’re not so much having it all as doing it all.

It’s a high price to pay; as to whether it’s worth it, that’s up to my daughter’s generation to find out. I shall be long gone by then.

Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/debate/article-2479243/SARAH-VINE-Equality-drinking-dying-like-men.html#ixzz2jFm6935k

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