But equal opportunity in the workplace has not resulted in equal achievement, and not all of this is the fault of continuing chauvinism. Women bear the children and, far more often than not, they wish to be the primary carer for those children. At its most strident, feminism can be mistaken for an ideology designed to make women feel they are wrong to want that.
Worse, feminism has accidentally promoted the idea that it's pretty easy to work and have children, with the right support in place. On even an average income, it's never easy, even once children are at secondary school (though it's certainly easier then). Your priorities change. Work is no longer the most important thing, for a while anyway. Ambition can dissipate.
For many women, that's a self-evident truth. But feminism forbids women from admitting too many self-evident truths, for fear that the utterance of them will encourage discrimination. Feminism is paranoid about its most-feared enemy, the wedge, with its bayonet-thin edge. (This can be best seen in the abortion debate. Pro-choice minds have to be closed to the idea that science can alter the age of foetal viability, because such acknowledgement, even in theory, might offer succour to pro-lifers.)
Feminism is – or can be – so paranoid that it cannot acknowledge that there is a difficulty with being less than forthright about the genuine and intractable dichotomies in the lives of many woman. This itself perpetuates the most damaging wedge of all – between those willing to sign up for feminism, and those who have their reasonable doubts. There needs to be a bit less "tut-tutting" about failure to avow, and a bit more examination of the probable advantages in addressing the concerns of the uncommitted. Among whose number, I'm afraid, I ashamedly count myself.
Thank you, Deborah Orr, for your refreshing honesty.