Opinion

Paul McNamee: Act now for equal pay

"We get a lot from the BBC for a relatively small amount per year. But they need to clean up their house"

The Handmaids Tale

I’ve been watching The Handmaid’s Tale, gripped.

In case you’ve missed it, or like me, hadn’t read Margaret Atwood’s book upon which it’s based, this is the story: we’re in a very near future in which environmental issues have led to infertility on a huge scale. Fertile women become a prized commodity.

A sect of men, framing their beliefs upon literal interpretations of biblical tracts that suit them, launch a coup in the US, overthrowing the government and establishing Gilead, a place where the previous well-to-do men are in charge, and fertile women become their chattels, there to help them reproduce. Their wives, on the face of it, are complicit.

It’s incredible TV, hooked and led by Elisabeth Moss, all internalised anguish and fury and subtle looks. It’s the best performance on TV since Mark Rylance in Wolf Hall. She should win ALL the awards.

One of the reasons it has real purchase is because it feels incredibly timely. At some points, it feels like a documentary. The use of justified power to slowly subjugate, the questionable policies of the rulers to maintain their position, to bully, to maim, to kill and make examples chimes with much that is happening across the globe.

Her inspiration was from 30 years ago. But it doesn’t feel like things have changed at all

Atwood said all the behaviour she described in her book was based on things regimes across the world had actually done. That was 30 years ago. And they don’t feel like they’ve changed at all.

It’s very uncomfortable viewing for men. Men don’t come out of it with a lot of glory. That’s not just because they’re not nice guys (in Gilead). It’s because they’re fraudulent. The biblical lines they trot are convenient baloney, there to justify base needs.

And there is an inherent other problem that hasn’t been talked about. While this is a vision of a dystopia that is bad for everybody, I suspect some men won’t be totally against it. If needs must, it’s not so bad! The planet needs to keep going!

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I think this belief is hardwired into some men. That men are just a bit better than women. And boy, do we need to sort that right out.

It came through during the debate around BBC stars’ salaries. Conveniently published as hard focus trained on the government over stagnating public servant salaries, the furore continues to circle around the big bucks earned by some people. Look at Gary Lineker – the swine! He makes millions – and he’s on the beach!

This fundamentally misses the point. While some of the salaries are unquestionably high, I’ve never been one to condemn anybody for what they earn, if it’s a legitimate role. And, yes, this does open questions around legitimate roles. Why should Lineker earn so much and nurses so little? How about this – pay nurses more. They deserve more. Let’s bring their salaries UP.

It is outrageous that women doing the same job as men earn less. There is no argument for it. None

The fundamental issue around BBC wages is one of equality. It is outrageous that women doing the same job as men earn less. There is no argument for it. None. Try and make it. You’re wrong. This has to be fixed. And should be fixed immediately.

We get a lot from the BBC for a relatively small amount per year. But they need to clean up their house. Perhaps they should get Andy Murray in to firmly go through the salary lines and equalise everything. He knows.

It shouldn’t take The Handmaid’s Tale to deliver a wake-up call. Chaps, we’re not better than women. Get used  to it.

Image: Brian Snyder, Reuters

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