Dr Lucy Worsley: Education, not reproduction
The television historian Lucy Worsley upset a lot of women when she told Radio Times recently that she had "been educated out of the natural reproductive function". Instead, she added, "I get to spend my time doing things I enjoy." Sandra Parsons and Fiona Phillips, of the Mail and Mirror respectively, took exception to Worsley's implication that only unintelligent women choose motherhood.
Judith Woods, in the Telegraph, dismissed their response as a "cri de coeur from women who, if they had been a bit brighter, would have recognised a joke when they saw one". Well, Worsley's allies can fall back on this defence: it was just a joke, it wasn't serious, get over it. But that's usually the answer given when someone finds themselves in hot water for having said something crass.
The Independent's Christina Patterson put a different gloss on it: "What she was saying was that nobody gets to do everything in a life, and that what you have to do, in all kinds of areas, even if you'd sometimes prefer not to have to, is make a choice." That may be what Dr Worsley was trying to say but it was not what she actually said. As the presenter of several BBC series and as Chief Curator of the Tower of London, Hampton Court and other royal palaces, she ought to know how to express her ideas clearly. She should not have to rely on others to provide a critical gloss for her words.
Maybe, though, Lucy Worsley meant exactly what she said. It's a mindset I'm familiar with. As a woman in my thirties with an Oxford doctorate, I am yet to have children of my own but I have plenty of childcare experience, and I recognise the impulse to think, when frazzled after refereeing squabbles and collecting up scattered toys, "I went to university for this?"