Payback Time

Dear Auntie, As a lifelong feminist, I've always insisted on sharing the costs on dates. But I only work parttime and have money troubles, while the man I'm now seeing earns a lot more than me. So he always pays when we go out on dates.We've never talked about it but I feel awkward. Does that make me a bad feminist? Yours, Anne Elliot, Bath

May 1, 2007 · 2 min read

Dear Ms Elliot,

Take off the hairshirt, sister. If he’s got the money and you’re skint then let him pay.

In fact, there are good political reasons why he should pay. The UK has a gender pay gap of 17 per cent for equivalent work, according to official figures. That almost certainly underestimates the true picture, since women still don’t get these equivalent jobs. So next time he pays the bill at a restaurant, don’t think of it as confirming the patriarchy – treat it as a little bit of wealth redistribution. No need to feel awkward or guilty about it.

In my misguided youth, I used to sing that ‘If women were paid for all they do, there’d be a lot of wages due’. I thought that wages for housework would be a way to start tackling this economic inequality. But with age, and a partner who does his fair share of the cooking and cleaning (well, mostly), I came to realise that we shouldn’t limit our ambitions to a wage packet for ‘women’s work’.

Forget wages, what we need are reparations for housework.

My mother cooked, cleaned, ironed, washed and scrubbed, as women in my family had done for generations. I expect it’s the same in your family.

So next time your man flashes his cash for a cinema seat, top it up with an extra-large popcorn. And next time he shouts you a drink, make it a double. Then, as you’re nursing the hangover the following day, don’t forget to demand breakfast in bed and make sure that he does the washing-up.

The crack pipe of peace

Dear Auntie _ War, famine, economic depression and global warming - the idea that 'another world is possible' seems remoter than ever. Will we ever have a just and peaceful world? _ Desperate for peace, Preston

Learning by number

Dear Auntie _ At one of the Gaza protests in London, Stop the War put the number of protesters at around 100,000 but the police insisted it was only 20,000. Can Auntie reassure me that the Met has a scientific methodology for estimating crowd numbers? _ Numberless in London

No hope

Dear Auntie, All my left-wing friends seem to be overjoyed about Obama winning the US election, holding real hope that he will bring change, that he'll stop the wars, and that he'll somehow make America all cuddly and nice. But haven't we been here before? I'm getting flashbacks to the expectations people had of politicians like Tony Blair and Bill Clinton, and how quickly they betrayed us. Is it terrible that I think Obama will be just more of the same? Hopeless, London

Both feet not in the grave

Dear Auntie, Having reached 50, I've become invisible. It's the only explanation of why people look right through me. I'm ignored in shops and at bus stops; and getting served at the bar is an endurance test, as men and younger women always take priority. I have a lifetime of experience as an activist, but these days there's always a 'Darren' or 'Ryan' whose opinion matters more. I'd go as far as saying they don't even hear me speak! It seems white hair and wrinkles are taken as an early indication of Alzheimer's. But I'm not ready to go gently into the night and as Auntie looks of a similar age, does she have any advice? The invisible woman, London

Do what I say, not what I inhale

Dear Auntie, _ My daughter is starting to ask awkward questions such as 'Mum, did you take drugs when you were young?' I don't want to lie but I don't want her to venture down the same route. What do I tell her? _ Amy in London

Nice smelling poo

Dear Auntie, _ I'm a vegetarian who is fed up having to justify why I don't eat anything with a face on it. And it's the environmentalists who are also meat eaters who seem the most personally affronted by my choices. Do you have any suggestions how I can deal with this? _ Chickpea not chicken lover, Totnes