Lawson, Willetts and Equality
Posted by Athene Donald on August 24, 2010
Dearie me, it really is the silly season. Dominic Lawson, in today’s Independent, writes a perfectly sane piece about the fact that if more girls go to university than in the past, then necessarily there are fewer places for boys – of whatever social class – and so can have the effect of reducing social mobility. Bizarrely, though, the piece’s html tag is http://www.independent.co.uk/opinion/commentators/dominic-lawson/dominic-lawson-feminism-is-the-obstacle-to-equality-2060177.html which is enough to get the blood flowing. He doesn’t say that at all, though, and sometimes the tag appears much more reasonably as http://www.independent.co.uk/opinion/commentators/dominic-lawson/dominic-lawson-boys-learn-from-your-sisters-2060177.html , corresponding to the actual headline in the newspaper. I think someone in the Independent must have worked out that actually the piece wasn’t about ‘feminism as the obstacle to equality’ after all and tried to change the tag. Unfortunately the original tag is now being circulated – eg by the UKRC in its daily update – with the headline Dominic Lawson: Feminism is the obstacle to equality .
Lawson does indeed ask equality for whom, citing Willett’s much trumpeted book The Pinch which has a chapter on “Feminism has trumped egalitarianism”. Lawson neatly unpicks Willets’ apparent view that social mobility is equivalent to equality, whereas treating men and women equally would not be (I haven’t yet read the book, I am merely reflecting Lawson’s comments here). But what are the implications for all the girls entering HE if Willetts really does believe this version of equality, rather than being sloppy in his writing?