11 JULY 1981, Page 26


About time

Richard Ingrams

I at last managed to catch up with the lesbians on Sunday, and about time too is all that I can say. For once they came on at the reasonable hour of 11 o'clock and on this occasion the only alternative viewing was yet another discussion about the rights and wrongs of Lonrho's takeover of the Observer, featuring the insufferable Donald Trelford. Gay Life, I'm happy to say, is only shown in the London area but readers in other parts of the country may like to know what they are being spared. The compere was once again the overweight Alison Henigan of Gay News; her subject was lesbian motherhood, and the campaign to ensure that lesbian women who cohabit with other lesbians should not be deprived of the joys of being a mother just because there isn't a man about the house. There is now a clinic in Harley Street where women can go and be inseminated with the sperm of a medical student (who is paid to be a donor — a fact which the programme did not mention). Failing that, there is a growing movement for do-it-yourself Artificial Insemination, a more satisfactory method in many lesbian eyes because one can ensure that the donor is a suitable person — presumably a Guardian-reading Gay. Various mournful specimens were wheeled on to hail this Brave New World. One neurotic looking woman called Jane Foley who said she loved the 'emotional integrity' that takes place in her family claimed that her children were more spontaneous and had 'a wider vision of life' than they would get from living in a conventional home. To illustrate this ability to think for himself her rather twitchy son Ben said, 'Some of the boys in my class, they think of women as objects'. Nothing was said by anyone about the dangers involved in all these experiments in eugenics, the deliberate breeding of children — who are almost bound to grow up as neurotic misfits — simply to gratify the selfish urges of a lot of perverts. There might be someone at London Weekend Television who would see that even in our wonderful new permissive society there were good grounds for not allowing this sort of propaganda to be made without giving some indication of the perils attached.

Programmes like this are beginning to erode my belief in the British as a fundamentally sensible lot with their hearts in the right place. A few years ago lesbians were rightly regarded as subjects for humour or else sympathy. Now, if people like LWT have their way, we are expected to treat them as a quasi-political movement with 'rights'. Most of this is the fault of the so-called Women's Movement, of which the lesbian activists are the extreme wing. On Monday a timely discussion about divorce was mounted by the BBC2 'problem' programme, Brass Tacks. Again, in clear contradiction of any notion that we are a sensible down-to-earth lot, it appears that one in three marriages now ends in divorce. This is a ludicrous figure by any standards and the human misery, not to mention the cost, must be colossal. Several speakers on Brass Tacks referred in passing to 'the more independent role of women' as being the most important cause of all the divorces, but this was never analysed, despite the fact that everyone present, even the professional women like Anna Coote and Erin Pizzey, seemed to be agreed that it was so. Instead Leo Abse, whose 1969 Bill did so much to make divorce easier, said that we must now struggle to make it more difficult, while the unattractive Ms Pizzey said that on the contrary two years was far too long to wait, repeating the parrot cry that children cannot wait for their warring parents to split up, a notion which was voiced not so long ago by Claire Rayner on her advice programme, but one which I believe is utterly false.

But if we are to get down to brass tacks, as the title of the programme implies, it is no use discussing legal tinkerings. The Women's Movement has to be confronted head on and asked what has been gained by propagating the idea that bringing up chil dren at home is degrading. We have all got too accustomed to appeasing the Cootes and Pizzeys of this world, and it is time they were all sent packing.