Controversy has broken out over the government’s plans to allow shops to stay open for longer on Sunday during the Olympics, so that spectators can boost the economy while they are there. This move has reopened the question of Sunday shopping hours. I was moved to write this blog by seeing two letters in the newspapers, one expressing concern that shopworkers would not have time to go to church before work if Sunday shopping hours were extended, and the other pointing out the selectivity of the concerns – that is, we all want and expect hospitals, pubs, transport etc. to be available on Sunday, all day long, so why not shopping? I agree with this. There is an element of snobbery about the objections and also some sexism.
First the snobbery. We do indeed all take it for granted that on Sunday the electricity is on, the water and gas flow, and that emergency services, such as police and ambulances will be there to assist us if necessary. We want to go to the cinema, restaurants, the park, concerts, the pub, the gym and the garage as on every other day. So what is the problem about shopping? It seems to centre on a view of the family as gathered together all day Sunday after church, and workers having a day of rest. Whether one likes it or not, churchgoing is less than universal, and families can gather, if they wish to, on any day of the week that suits them. Workers may take a different day off. In fact, it seems from my observations, that families are often together enjoying a day out shopping on Sunday, the only day when they can go together to choose a major item.
The sexism in this is that objections to longer Sunday opening hours appear to come in the most from men. They are quite happy to have the pub, sport and the garage on Sunday as usual, but I suppose don’t want their wives out when they might be required at home to make lunch. Cooking, visiting relatives, laundry and childcare are all taken for granted on Sundays. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if all women downed tools at home on Sunday on the ground that it was a day of rest? What working women want is a day when they can catch up with the shopping and other tasks impossible to perform during the working week – shopping number one, preferably with another family member; and if only hairdressers and dry cleaners and post offices were open too, one might manage a more stressfree week in general. Here’s to the success of the longer Sunday opening hours!