I’ve just come in out of the storm. The Twitterstorm, that is, which has been raging like a fart in a jacuzzi all day long.
In the centre of the storm, Kirstie Allsopp – she of the handicrafts and househunting – who has suggested in an interview with The Telegraph that women ought to put university off a few years, buy a flat and have babies by 27 instead, because biology is not on our side in these matters. Then we can be “free as a bird” to study and build a career in our 40s.
It’s unleashed a wave of spluttering fury - unfair not least because it makes the interview sound much more exciting than it is when you actually go and read it. Which, these being busy times, most of the furious splutterers haven’t.
There are lots of problems with Kirstie’s proposal of course. It’s built on assumptions, starting with the idea that women a) want children, b) know whether they want them or not by the time they’re 27, c) have found someone they want to have them with by the age of 27, d) can afford to have them and then go to university, e) can afford to have them at all, and a whole alphabet of other conditionals that exclude most women who aren’t in the Allsopp mould. It’s not a universal solution. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t valid.
The truth is, she’s right that we need to give ourselves a few more options. Choices, guys! We like choices, remember? How can we have a bajillion TV channels and seven flavours of Kit-Kat, but no room for more than one interpretation of female success?
As someone who’s apparently only a year away from my baby-making prime (they can just sleep in a drawer for the first year, right? Although I don’t have any empty drawers, come to think of it) the idea that I should have skipped uni and feathered a nest for infants instead is quite terrifying - but not really any more terrifying than the only option being to build a career, save thousands of pounds, buy a home and pop out a family during the next decade.
More useful than Allsopp’s rosy view of young motherhood, I think, is the fact that she’s raising it in the name of equality. “As a passionate feminist, I feel we have not been honest enough with women about this issue,” she says on the topic of dwindling fertility. “Women have this time pressure that men don’t have.” It might not look like feminism as many of us know it - probably because it’s not aimed at us - but for women who shy away from the F-word because they still think it means they’re not allowed to prioritise family over career, statements like this could be game-changers.
Kirstie’s views might be the Cath Kidston cardigan of empowerment (cosy and expensive), but we’ll never all manage to be happy if we’re relying on one-size-fits-all philosophies. A few more options, a few fewer pressures and a bit more shouldering the responsibility on both sides of the gender gap, please.
And in the meantime, because I can’t have a break from biology, I’ll have a Kit-Kat.