It's another one of those "we still need feminism" pieces. But why does she think women are hard done by? She gives four reasons, the last being the most original.
1) The bedroom
Jill Singer is outraged at the idea that a woman might have sex with her husband when she doesn't really feel like it:
We might as well start with the bedroom. You'd like to think that women these days wouldn't have sex unless they wanted to. Yet nothing could be further from the case.
Evidence is a book by Australian writer Bettina Arndt which encourages women to say yes at times to give their marriages a chance. An offended Jill Singer is not amused:
... the likes of Bettina Arndt, author of The Sex Diaries - an odious little tome that advises women it is their wifely duty to sexually serve their husbands.
The dutiful Bettina would be a hit in Afghanistan today, considering her views dovetail nicely with the likes of the grunting primitives running that women-hating joint.
So Jill Singer wants us to treat Bettina Arndt's views as repugnant, backward and beyond the pale. Which is a pity as Bettina Arndt is doing nothing more than encouraging wives to be generous towards their husbands as an expression of marital love:
it seems extraordinary that sex is treated so differently from all the other ways in which a loving couple cater to each other's needs and desires. We are willing to go out of our way to do other things to please each other - cooking his favourite meal, sitting through repeats of her beloved television show. Why, then, are we so ungenerous when it comes to "making love", the ultimate expression of that mutual caring?
What does Jill Singer really expect? That you can have a system of marriage based on sacred female choice alone? That there is to be no giving or caring from the female side? Arndt wrote her book because she actually listened to some anguished husbands who loved their wives and who wanted their marriages to last but who felt unable, as one of them put it, to "live like a monk".
Jill Singer wants women to fight for a principle which puts the utmost strain on fidelity in marriage. It does not reasonably justify a commitment to feminism.
Jill Singer believes that violence against women justifies feminist outrage:
... while not as severe as the problem in Afghanistan, an unholy number of men here are bashing, raping and killing women.
According to Rob Hulls, Victoria's Attorney-General, violence against women is the leading cause of death, disease and disability in women aged from 15 to 44. It's a disgrace.
Ironically, the only time Jill Singer has gone on record as being the victim of violence the perpetrators were a group of self-entitled young women:
While [the tram] stops in Middle Park, a loud and boisterous cluster of teenage girls shove me aside as they make to leap aboard.
"Get out of our way, you effing slut," says one of these charmers ...
The aggression of the girls did not seem fuelled by alcohol or drugs - but by an apparent sense of absolute entitlement.
... It was the "Out of our way!" that inflamed, and the sheer arrogance ... to my shame, I fired back a barb ... "Well, I might be an effing slut but at least I'm not fat".
With this I jump off the tram. The five screaming banshees leap off after me, screaming: "You effing slut" - and worse.
... one girl throws a drink in my face, while another whacks me over the head.
As for the claim that violence against women is the leading cause of death, disease and disability in women aged from 15 to 44, this is a preposterous lie. That Jill Singer is willing to believe this statistic undermines her credibility.
I've dealt with this rogue statistic many times before. It has also been taken apart by Tim Harford, who presents a statistics show for BBC radio. For the record, the main causes of death for young Australian women are, by a long way, cancer, suicide and car accidents.
A useful counter-statistic, one listed in the Australian Bureau of Statistics Women's Safety Survey (1996) is that women are much less likely to suffer violence when in a married or de facto relationship than when single. Single women are more than twice as likely to suffer violence from any source, four times as likely to suffer violence from strangers and eleven times as likely to suffer violence from a previous partner. Being in a stable relationship with a man does make a woman, on average, more physically secure.
3) Pay gap
Jill Singer is shocked that there is a pay gap of 17% between men and women:
According to a concerned Tanya Plibersek, Minister for Women's Affairs, the pay gap between male and female earnings in Australia is a shocking 17.2 per cent.
A recently announced review will attempt to find ways of reducing this gulf, but we shouldn't hold our breath waiting.
Again, I've dealt with this issue many times before (you can click on the "feminism and equal pay tag" below if you're interested). I'll limit myself here to two points. First, I managed to get into an argument with a feminist on this issue just recently. I did finally get her to admit that women in most jobs are paid the same rate as men. Her fall back position was that amongst executives in private industry a woman with equivalent experience and qualifications would be paid less than a man.
It turns out that even this isn't true. Last year a Carnegie Mellon University study was released that looked at the earnings of 16,000 executives over 14 years. It found that women were promoted as quickly as men of the same age, educational background and experience and earned on average a higher salary. (hat tip: Feckblog)
Despite these advantages, the female executives ended up earning less - but only because they were more likely to quit their jobs:
At any given level of the career hierarchy, women are paid slightly more than men with the same background, have slightly less income uncertainty and are promoted as quickly ... We concluded that the gender pay gap and differences in job rank in this most lucrative occupation is explained by females leaving the market at higher rates than males.
My second point is this: it wouldn't help relationships much if men weren't so committed to holding down their jobs and earning a steady income. Married women generally expect their husbands to be good providers. If you don't believe me, you only have to listen to Jill Singer herself in a column from 2006:
While there's a growing number of women fortunate to have supportive stay-at-home husbands, the majority probably still prefer their man to be a traditional bread-winner.
Just as men hanker for women who are more gorgeous but less clever than themselves, women will generally keep seeking men who can provide for their family in material terms ...
Women might melt at the sight of men who are good with children and doggies, but what really brings us undone is an old-style bloke who knows one end of a spanner from the other and black from red in a balance sheet.
... Snags are for nagging, not shagging.
It seems that Jill Singer is underwhelmed by men who can't take care of the family finances. She recognises that the majority of women feel this way. And yet she somehow thinks that you can have a sexual dynamic in which men are expected to be providers and still end up with equal lifetime earnings for men and women.
4) Public role
Jill Singer does make one telling point at the end:
I was recently invited, for example, to be interviewed on 3AW about single sex clubs.
The male interviewer wrongly assumed I'd be irate about "men only" clubs - but I couldn't care less about them and pointed out I personally favour "women only" gyms.
As he blathered on about how outrageous he thought men's clubs are, it didn't occur to him that 3AW is one of the most exclusive men's clubs in town.
She's caught a radio host following the "liberalism for thee but not for me" syndrome. He deserves to have this pointed out to him.
But Jill Singer follows up with her own feminist syndrome. She says she wants more women in public life, but it turns out that only a certain type of woman, acceptable to her, will do. It's similar to the response of feminist women in America to the idea of Sarah Palin becoming Vice-President. The American feminists unleashed a most bitter and hostile attack on Sarah Palin, much more intense than anything they subjected a male politician to. What feminists seem to want is not more women in public life but more women of a certain kind, made in their own likeness.
What grounds do most women have, therefore, to support feminism? The rate of violence against women who are married to men without mental health, drug or employment issues is not high. The wage gap for Generation X women is small and is not due to discrimination. And the idea of becoming a feminist to deny a husband sex is, hopefully, not going to inspire most women to a lifelong political commitment.