... I knew there must have been a good reason. With all of the fiasco surrounding tuition fees, I had forgotten entirely why I had bothered to vote for the hapless twit, other than the fact that it was tactically worth it. (Or not - my wee country town in the deepest depths of Dorset is hideously Conservative, if you can believe it.) But amidst all the blunders and promises broken, I see a liberally charged golden orange glow on the horizon. And it comes in the shape of maternity leave.
At long bloody last, the government are making headway with the whole "equality" thing. Just as Labour were on their way out, they came up with the brilliant scheme of reshuffling the maternity/paternity inequalities: it was like the pangs of excitement of looking forward to the free toy in the box of cereal, only to find your brother had snuck to the kitchen at 7am and snatched it while you were in contented slumber. Or something equally frustrating. But now, apologetic face a thing of the past, Nick Clegg reveals his plans to revamp this oh-so-close notion, starting as early as April. These plans will see women receiving one year of maternity leave but if after six months they wish to return to work, their partner can take over for the remaining time. What a brilliant idea, why has no-one thought of this before? Oh wait... Sorry Gordo.
It's about time, really. Now that there are statistically more women going to university than men, the notion that women must ultimately part ways with their professional lives for a good few years without the hint of choice is, as Clegg says, an "Edwardian" idea. And the women who didn't go to university, who spent all those years making ground with their skills, their careers - all is not necessarily lost. And the women who suffer from Post-Natal Depression, there is light at the end of the tunnel. And the men who yearn to watch their baby's first steps, there is hope. And the men who are simply better carers than their other halves, a moral victory at last. By social constructs set in place which see maternity leave at a year and paternity leave at a measly two weeks, we have been forcing our women to stay at home and forcing our men to stay in the workplace. That's fantastic for those that want that. My mother stayed at home and my father continued to build and plumb and that worked out just fine for us. But in the 21st century where female prospects are continually on the rise, parters must be given more than one viable option. This isn't just about biology any more. This is social change, sexual politics, gender-role evolution. And ultimately, the unrelenting hunt for equality. When the government implement rules, regulations, laws and acts to ensure that there will be no discrimination based on gender in all realms of life,be it the workplace, marriage, politics or sex, it seems preposterous that this hasn't been tackled before. This is fundamental sexual stereotyping, literally at the root of life itself.
I am very excited. I am looking at a potential, hypothetical and of course entirely fantasy future, where I come home from work (I'd had a terribly busy day curing AIDS/ writing a hard-hitting article/ filming a documentary/ presenting Blue Peter) to find my hubbie (Aaron Johnson circa Kick Ass) bouncing our baby boy, Jacob, on his knee while our little girl, Iris, toddles about in a This is What a Feminist Looks Like onesie. I'm practically counting down the days.