Women who would otherwise have been housewives
[David] Willetts blamed the entry of women into the workplace and universities for the lack of progress for men.
“Feminism trumped egalitarianism,” he said, adding that women who would otherwise have been housewives had taken university places and well-paid jobs that could have gone to ambitious working-class men.
Yes, and working-class men who would otherwise have been miners had taken university places and well-paid jobs that could have gone to ambitious women. What about it?
Everybody could always have been and done something else; so what? It’s no more inevitable or Right or How Things Ought to Be that women “are” housewives than it is that working-class men “are” miners. The university places and well-paid jobs don’t somehow belong to men, and women aren’t stealing them if they try to get them too.
Women who would otherwise have been housewives would have been housewives because things were rigged against them. That’s what that “otherwise” is pointing at. Willetts is thinking back to a time when it was just taken for granted that women would “be” housewives and that they would not “be” anything else, especially not anything demanding brains and hard work, and he’s thinking of it as if it were a natural or default state which we have now weirdly departed from, with the result that women are grabbing jobs that should have gone to men.
It looks to me as if David Willetts grabbed a job that should have gone to someone who doesn’t think that way.