Women need “cheerleader” husbands
The chief executive of the Girls Day School Trust in the UK (GDST), Helen Fraser, caused a stir last week when she suggested that girls need to be educated to choose supportive husbands.
Not only should they pick men who do the household chores and cook the dinner, they should also be the “cheerleader” champion of the girls’ careers.
Making the comments at the Trust’s annual conference, she told delegates that educators should be preparing girls to achieve a balance in their personal and professional lives so that they could “have it all” – career, marriage and motherhood.
Girls should, Fraser said, be taught “to find partners who will make space for their own career in a relationship”, and be just as ambitious about their relationships as they are in, say, “aspiring to go to the best universities.”
There have been mixed reactions to Fraser’s speech.
Journalist Jan Moir in the Daily Mail was scathing, stating that: “Husband catching and lessons in love are usually the mainstay of Swiss finishing schools, along with the correct way to glaze an éclair and get out of an E-type without flashing your gym knickers.”
Hannah Betts in the Telegraph commented that encouraging young girls to embrace marriage and children in an age when fewer people are getting married and almost half end in divorce, was a rather antiquated path for women to pursue.
She asked: “it is Fraser’s notion of a cheerleader that gives the game away. Are modern women so fragile that they require someone to spur them on from the sidelines?”
She did, however, acknowledge that Fraser’s views represented a step forward since her school days, when the advice she received was to put community and service above boasting about her intellectual capacity.
Surely Betts, Moir and even Fraser are missing the point entirely. The fact that men “having it all” – career, marriage, fatherhood – is never raised or contested demonstrates that it is not just girls who need educating. Boys also need to play their part.
Marrying or choosing a supportive partner – male of female – is not just a career choice but a choice that reflects self-worth and mutual respect of each others’ needs and ambitions.