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Donkin's World: The Progress Of Women

Richard Donkin zestfully joins in a debate on the progress of women.

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In the past few days I have been sticking in my two hape'th during an Economist online debate on the progress of women. http://www.economist.com/debate/days/view/449 Goodness knows why they asked a bloke to defend the motion that "women in the developed world have never had it so good." As I said in the opening exchange, it felt like a bit of a hospital pass. But somebody had to do it.

I'm not a big fan of the debating style that underpins the British system of advocacy in our judicial system and the kind of exchanges we can expect in Parliament. It's so combative, so much about winners and losers that you find yourself developing your debating skills rather than questioning the point at issue.

In this case there was no choice but to fight back. My opponent Terry O'Neill came out snarling from the start, testing the old glass jaw, pummeling away at the body, trying to get me on the ropes. I thought I rope-a-doped her quite nicely in the first round, absorbing a lot of her best punches. The second round did not go so well. http://www.economist.com/debate/days/view/454 She ducked well clear of my Mother Teresa hay maker and punished it with the sarcasm it deserved.

Not until round three did I feel confident enough to strike a few blows for my fellow blokes, scoring a point with the Chippendales and delivering a reasonable riposte to her corner man who weighed in with the housework. http://www.economist.com/debate/days/view/451 The vote gave me a clear win but I couldn't claim to have swayed the voting. That swung marginally away from the first round but I think a lot of the damage done then was self-inflicted by O'Neill's startling aggression.

The thing is - and I'm about as qualified to say this as I was to debate in the beginning (not at all) - I'm not sure I agree with the proposition. Most women I know are working harder than ever and some are pretty disillusion by the career ladder. For sure there is still a lot of stuff stacked against women in the workplace. But there is stuff stacked against men too. Work is not such a pleasant place to be right now. The reason so many people keep at it is that the alternative remains even worse.

I do think that there are some women out there who will not be content until they have emasculated every man on the planet and then they will be able to turn on themselves. I'm not a tree hugger, not much of a new man if truth be told. But I've worked all my life in a job where men and women knock along together and where the real equality is in the strength of the whinging. But, after reading some of the silly comments around this debate, I realise that I'm a mere amateur in that respect. Some people really do want their butter on both sides of the bread.


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