Melbourne, September 11: John Howard addressing National Press Club in Canberra was more than mundane politics.

Australia’s second-longest-serving prime minister at his appearance to celebrate his forthcoming ABC documentary on Robert Menzies, was thrown a question of ‘under-representation of women in the Liberal parliamentary ranks’ – a long held belief of feminists and left-wingers.

John Howard said that he did not believe in quotas and that a mainstream debate about gender balance in politics would have to recognise that capacity of women to pursue careers in Parliament could be restricted by their family responsibilities.

“I don’t believe in quotas, as you know, and you can talk about targets and aspirations and goals and I would like to see a natural process whereby there are more women…

“I’m not sure that you will ever have a 50/50 thing because it’s a fact of society that the caring role, whatever people may say about it and whatever the causes are… 

“It is a fact of society that women play a significantly greater part of fulfilling the caring role in our communities, which inevitably places some limits on their capacity,” he said.

That set off a flurry of commentators questioning John Howard for his so-called ‘outdated’ stance, complete with statistics of the Liberal party falling behind Labor on the number of women in its ranks.

Labor boasts of two female MPs for every one female in Coalition.

Talent of the petite gender is NOT being subjugated by the domineering gender

Unfortunately, many would not like to acknowledge that this is not a question of female talent being any less than male talent; or that talent of the petite gender is being subjugated by the domineering gender – as the Libertarian tanks like to argue for.

Quotas are for victims and unless these educated and high-achieving women folk; the likes of those who aim for the Parliament; still want to cry victimhood – parliamentary feminism has definitely witnessed a paradigm shift.

These women have the same dignity, equal pay and equal social rights as their counterparts in politics.

They are certainly not the marginalised kinds who need quotas to compete!

High achieving women who enter the business of politics are highly independent, educated and free from the need to balance herself on the radical feminist call – to dispose of her natural and biological love of motherhood and housework.

Combining work and family life comes easily to these qualified, adept social-bask-ers and multi-taskers; who have a satisfactory professional life and equally share housework with their modern male partners.

Calling Radical Feminists – let the woman make the call!

It is radical feminism at its best when questions of 50/50 gender split in politics are raised.

The call for a natural process of competition by John Howard was dismissed unfairly because ‘Australian women still carry greater responsibility for the care of children’.

But should feminism be ever about women or for that matter, men, shirking their homely responsibilities?

Politics or not – achieving a perfect balance of working and home, for a woman is largely dependent on her own equally qualifying biological and professional needs and in many cases, her partner’s income.

Feminism or society should neither question nor suggest how best a woman should perceive herself. Leave HER alone and let her make that call!

Why should radical feminism be able to steer the decision of a family-unit, in any way?

As with our Financial Services Minister Kelly O’Dwyer, who chose to work in Canberra, as her husband juggles between career and baby at home – it was entirely a family unit’s decision for factors they knew best.

Bill Shorten once said that, “men in Australia rely on the women in Australia to do the childcare and to organise childcare.”

I will take it further “so does women, who work, depend on their men to take care of baby and do the laundry”.

The invisible better halves are not women alone – albeit a majority, but modern men equally shoulder home responsibilities.

Many women prefer domestic pursuits: Study

If women remain vastly under-represented in the professional sphere, it may simply be that women prefer domestic pursuits and like their men to work outside.

Feminists campaign for 50/50 balance not knowing a large percentage of the petite gender are actually happy with their stay-at-home circumstance.

In a book Inequalities in Unpaid Work: A Cross-National Comparison of 2015, authors Janeen Baxter from the University of Queensland and Tsui-o Tai from National Taipei University, raised the issue of working women’s psychological distress and higher levels of work-family conflict.

Women biologically wired to care, experience additional home-profession conflict rather than men who attend to house chores mechanically, without the need for perfection.

In fact, the Baxter and Tai report said that a high proportion of women and men regard their “disproportionate burden of housework” as “fair” and seem happy enough with their respective caring and working roles – an unequal feminist scenario?

“Rather than assuming that all women want an equal – 50/50 share of tasks, other relationship outcomes may also be valued,” the authors said, drawing attention to many women who choose not to work but care for their home.

The Baxter and Tai report say that large number of women value outcomes like a happy home, better relations with the kids and a sense of enjoyment and reward from taking care of the family, even if that means heavier proportion of the housework.

And then there is also the biological reality: that woman has the dignity to bring new beings into the world and simultaneously satisfy her inner desire of maternity. It is no wonder that even high-achieving women, then choose to engage themselves in being providers rather than achievers.

To make this look demeaning only serves for women to belittle their own decision of being the provider or the achiever or both!

John Howard gave a strong response: woman play a significantly greater part of the caring role in our communities. It should nudge the radical feminist stance and perceive the caring role as a dignified privilege – not demeaning.

An equal upbringing in our modern society does provide an equal nourishment and platform to the woman; and if she chooses to keep home – let her.

Feminism should not be about breaking down wholesome family units who can decide for themselves.

Nidhi Mehta

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