29 April, 2008

Environmentalism and Women

The Times reported yesterday that the number of women using re-usable nappies instead of disposables has gone up from 2% to over 10% in the last few years.

Councils now only collect rubbish once a fortnight and will prosecute you if you overfill your bin on the grounds that you should have recycled more of your waste.

Sales of organic food, food not treated with, inter alia, preservatives (so it goes off more quickly) have soared over the last decade. Indeed, the new trend, for those who think organic is not hardcore enough, is to grow your own food. St Jamie d'Oliver teaches the humble masses that even in a flat a 'few herbs can be grown on a windowsill' (thus assuming access to a south facing windowsill)

Ignoring, for the moment, how 'green' all the above behaviour actually is (nappies = landfill v washing energy, for example), what is noticeable about the whole business is two things.

Firstly, most of the trends above (nappies, recycling, organic food) start with the yummy mummies before moving into the rest of society.

Secondly, once they are imposed on society (by law or by peer pressure), the burden overwhelmingly falls on women.

In most families, both parents work. In many, both work full time. Even in families where women work full time, women do the vast majority of the household chores. When these chores involve putting a ready meal in the oven before dumping the waste in the bin and changing the baby's nappy whilst it cooks (new one on, old one wrapped and thrown away) then it already takes up valuable spare time, but at least there is some level of convenience. When the evening meal is prepared from scratch, the various parts of it are sorted into separate bins, the baby's nappies from the two days scraped, left in detergent, washed and then hung on the line to dry, the three different bins in the kitchen taken outside one by one... the evening gets much longer.

The causes of the problem are multiple: people not genuinely considering whether its worth doing what they are doing (organic food), the law forcing extra chores (recycling) and perhaps the most dominant cause - the pressure on women from other women to have a perfect home. Women judge other women when their home doesn't look like Bree Van De Kamp's home from Desperate Housewives. When Emily goes to school with carrot sticks, home made hummus and organic pitta breads where Antonia is sent in with a marmite sandwich, strawberry yogart (Tesco own brand) and a (non-organic, non-British) apple, Emily's mother judges Antonia's mother. Antonia's mother is made to feel like she has failed as a parent and is a bad mother who neglects her child. As a consequence, she starts sending Antonia in with the organic, homemade lunch box. Then Antonia's mother, and Emily's mother, can both judge James's mother....

Once again, women are their own worst enemy and their weapon this time is pseudo-environmentalism.

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