Sunday, 14 December 2008

Saturday, 20 September 2008

On your bikes, women.

Is this possible - are we such shallow creatures? Helmet hair, and sweating put women off cycling. Come on, get real, dolls. Try something really powerful.

Friday, 19 September 2008

Body image

Article in Independent today about unrealistic expectations from plastic surgery, and the advertising.

Thursday, 4 September 2008

Glass ceiling thickens

Report from Equality and Human Rights Commission. In 12 of the 25 categories of jobs, fewer women are reching the top. In 8 categories there are more. Is this part of the usual phenomenon - in a recession or downturn, women's jobs are seen as less essential? See BBC article today.

Monday, 18 August 2008

Population growth and women's status

Interesting article on status of women and population growth in today's Independent. It looks at the issue on a world-wide scale, linking high rates of fertility with fundamentalist religion of all kinds, as well as with women's economic status, and the amount of responsibility men take for the home and childcare.

Sunday, 10 August 2008

How to be a real man

Yes, I said 'man!. I really like this article about 24-year-old Gareth May's website

There are those among us who believe the 21st Century is bubbling over with boys who can't be bothered to get out of bed let alone learn how to shave.

They seem to think we're born with an innate understanding of the female psyche and the instructions to change a car tyre are etched inside our heads.

But being a boy isn't easy. There's no manual to growing up. There's just a series of signposts scattered throughout our youth, pointing us in the right direction.
Welcome to 21st Century Boy, one of those signposts.

Includes articles on checking for testicular cancer, how to hold a baby, how to change a car tyre among others.

Friday, 8 August 2008

Mothers set up businesses

Article on BBC website, looks at women who set up businesses when they have children, as a way of ensuring flexibility, and escaping workaholic culture.

Too many women in jail

Article in today's Independent investigates why the numbers of women in prisons have risen so steeply, and what should be done.
I haven't read the comments yet, but expect there will be some 'equality' gripes.

Wednesday, 6 August 2008

Back to the home, women!

It seems that more men and women believe women should spend more time at home, looking after children, than was the case in the 1990s.
Guardian article examines in detail the reasons for this and the implications.

The best article I have seen so far was in the Daily Telegraph . I quote the final paragraphs:

There are two answers to the problem. One has two legs, often suffers from pattern baldness, and doesn't seem to figure in this report. If women find they can't manage work and family, it is because they either don't have men around or the men aren't pulling their weight domestically.

The other lies with employers who still seem reluctant to accept that Britain's long working hours are not something to be proud of. I'm lucky in being able to work a "normal" eight-hour day. Occasionally I take time off for a child's physio appointment. If there's no pressing deadline, I sometimes break off mid-sentence to do my other job at home. That principle doesn't just apply to my industry. I could go into it, but it's time to cook dinner... Sorry.


The 'crisis in masculinity'

Zoe Williams article hits back.

Thursday, 31 July 2008

Plastic perfection - why?

Great, at last a whole article arguing against cosmetic breast enlargement in particular, and considering the possible motives for it.

Why alter a perfectly functional body just to make it conform to some bizarre ideal? Because someone somewhere is making money out of it - plastic surgeons, journalists among others.

I know, I'm a bit of a killjoy/puritan/don't-mess-with-nature-unless-you-have-to freak.

Wednesday, 23 July 2008

Changes in Law on Murder

Under changes to the murder laws announced this week, the defences available to women on trial for murder who have killed a partner as a result of domestic violence are to be widened and clarified; whereas men who kill their wives claiming that they were provoked into it because of her "nagging" or alleged infidelity will find that they have far less sympathy from the courts.

Article by Julie Bindel in today's Guardian shows reasons why.

Friday, 18 July 2008

Politics and the City website

The site is looking quite interesting, once you enter the News and Informed Post sections - not many comments, yet, but I think it could build up. They have highlighted a few interesting stories.

Brain differences (continued)

The Independent has summarised the New Scientist article in detail and added some comments from well-known professionals etc. The guide below is the Independent's own summary of the differences.

A guide to the male and female control panels
Controlled by the frontal lobe, which is proportionally larger in women.
Controlled by the limbic cortex, which is also proportionally larger in women.
Controlled by the parietal cortex , which regulates how we move around. Proportionally larger in men.
Controlled by the amygdala, which is proportionally larger in men. When recalling an emotionally charged scene, men enlist its right side, women its left. Men remember the gist of the scene, and women the details.
Controlled by the periaqueductal grey, an area of grey matter in the mid-brain, known to have a role in the suppression of pain in men but perhaps not in women.

For some reason they have omitted this difference -
Controlled by the hippocampus, proportionally larger in WOMEN, 'perhaps surprisingly given women's reputation as bad map-readers.' from New Scientist article.

However, I don't understand how all this has been summarised by Politics and the City as

'Apparently, women concentrate on emotions, decision-making and spatial navigation.
Men, on the other hand, concentrate mainly on sex.
No surprises there then, apart from the spatial navigation thing. Who says women can’t read maps?'

and similarly in the Daily Mail article

The study found that women devote more brain inches to decision-making, emotions and, perhaps surprisingly given their poor reputation for map-reading, to spatial navigation.
The male brain, however, appears to conform to stereotype, with a bigger emphasis on sex.

The only reference to sex that I found in the original New Scientist article, was this:
In men, proportionally larger areas include...and the amygdala, which controls emotions and sexual behaviour. Not exactly the same? Do we see what we wish to see?

Thursday, 17 July 2008

Brain differences male/female

I am still digesting the article in The New Scientist this week and will summarise later. These myths were tacked on at the end. I've simply reprinted them.

Myths and misconceptions
Give a man a sheet of paper printed with tangled streets and he can tell you where you need to go. But don't be afraid to ask a woman for directions. Chances are she'll get you there, too, but using a different technique. Drawing on her hippocampus, she'll offer you physical cues like the bakery, the post office and the Chinese restaurant.

He might not remember the details of the big blow-up you had during your honeymoon, ladies, but just because you can it doesn't mean he's insensitive. Women are simply better at remembering the details surrounding emotional events, because their amygdala is tuned to capture them.

Modern folklore claims women speak nearly three times as many words as men. Don't believe the hype. Women and men both say 16,000 words a day, on average.

While it's true that males mainly secrete testosterone from the testes, oestrogen is important to male brain development in the womb. In the male brain, testosterone is converted into oestradiol, which acts on oestrogen receptors and sets the hypothalamus to "male".

Wednesday, 16 July 2008

Women and music

From an interview with kd lang by Emine Saner in today's Guardian, this quote stood out for me:

"I don't know, there's some sort of disregard for women's perspective after a while. Music and the business of music is so sexually driven ... It depends, I guess, on how you were perceived. When women make their image about youth and sexuality, and not about intellect, that's kind of a dead-end road. So I think it's a combination of self-entrapment and entrapment by society."

Tuesday, 15 July 2008

Women and Science

Article in NY Times today discussing reasons behind the gender imbalance in scientific careers. Is it because women are discriminated against or discouraged? Is it on the other hand, because hard science, such as physics and engineering don't interest women?

Monday, 14 July 2008

Pressure on Teenage Girls

Pressure to grow up too quickly, to own iPods and other items, and then exams. All examined in a Guardian article this morning.

Maternity Leave

Maternity leave damages careers. What should be done? Abolish it, or make it compulsory for men and women to share this?

There are some very interesting ideas in the Times online and I also heard the matter being discussed on Radio 2 today.

My solution? Let's give parental leave, to be shared between father and mother, and a recognition by those without children that their future health care and pensions may be in part guaranteed by those children, who are the responsibility and the future of all of us.

Wednesday, 9 July 2008

Politics and the City

I haven't looked at this very closely yet - but it may be interesting.
From the BBC website today:

TV presenter June Sarpong hopes her new website,, will be the cool place for all ambitious women to be.
The 31-year-old, best known to teenagers as the face of Channel 4's youth programme T4, reckons there is a gap in the market for fashionable young women who like celebrities and gossip - but also want to keep on top of current affairs.
The result is a slick looking site which covers, politics, news, fashion, beauty, gossip and music.

Come on, you under 40s, let me know what you think. My immediate reaction is, why do we have to sugar the pill? But hey, I'm just an old fuddy feminist.

How important is this teenager's FF bra cup?

The headline on the main UK news page reads -

Sleepy baby bat beds down in receptionist's FF bra cup

Above the story itself, we have Teenager finds bat asleep in bra. Why the titillating (geddit?) headline?
Yes, I know, it's a light-hearted little story to be sure - there must be a couple of cartoons in it somewhere.

Well, dang me, they've changed it, since I wrote in and commented.
It's now:
The woman who thought she was going batty when her bra vibrated.

How far have we come?

A woman's place

Ninety years after British women won the right to vote, the Guardian website Comment is free is running a week-long debate asking: how far have we come?

Monday, 7 July 2008

Some more links

Thanks to Guardian's Comment Is Free today - a few more feminist site links on the right hand side.

Male/female brain differences examined

In a series of articles in Slate magazine , Amanda Schaffer examines the quality of the science behind the highly publicised recent research into differences between male and female brains.

I'm flagging this up ( again) for summarising later.

Sunday, 6 July 2008

Sexism at Wimbledon?

Article in (where else?) the Independent on Sunday. Some of the comments left by readers rather prove the writers' point. I get a bit tired of the pantie shots from the 'crotch-cam' too. And the endless discussion about clothes. One commentator has already got Laura Robson lined up as the next fashion icon after Sharapova.

Tuesday, 1 July 2008

The Backlash

Thought-provoking article by Kira Cochrane in the Guardian about the Backlash against feminism.

From comment about bodies to high-profile employers like Alan kiss-my-arse Sugar. Another one to summarise late.

Monday, 30 June 2008

Harriet Harman's Equality Bill

Johann Hari writes about this. He gives interesting facts and figures, which I shall try to summarise later.

Thursday, 26 June 2008

Is this feminine?

From an article in today's Independent -
World is 'effeminate' thanks to men's fashion, says President's daughter
By Raushan Nurshayeva

The influential daughter of Kazakhstan's President said that the world has become "increasingly effeminate" because of men's new interest in fashion and beauty.
"Men are now paying more attention to themselves and fashion," Dariga Nazarbayeva, 45, told a women's congress. "They have started going to beauty parlours and hair salons a lot more often. They have started doing manicure.
"Looking at the appearance of contemporary young men, one may notice how much their notions of masculinity have changed, how this masculinity is sometimes being replaced by femininity."
But, she added to the 400 women and the 10 or so men at the conference: "One cannot help but notice that the world of men has become increasingly effeminate... I don't know if we can see this as our gender's victory."

Why should these pursuits be categorised as essentially 'feminine' ? I'd prefer to ask whether it's not simply that the world in general has become more obsessed with trivia and keeping up appearances. At several stages in history similar phenomena have existed.

Wednesday, 25 June 2008

Rosie Swale-Pope

Rosie has run around the world and should arrive home in Tenby, Wales in a few weeks time.
She started the run in 2003, when she was 57, to raise money and awareness about prostate cancer, after her husband's death.

Now, while this is not strictly a feminist issue, I think she is a remarkable role-model to all women, and to older ones in particular.
I shall think of her next time I have doubts about trying something new or scary.

Saturday, 14 June 2008

Naked old ladies of the world unite.

I bought a copy of the Big Issue this morning. It advertises today’s Naked Bike Ride ‘to protest against car culture and oil dependency’

I have no problem with that …, but then it adds ‘herds of naked cyclists will be scaring old ladies around Britain’.

My hackles rose – hang on folks, I bet some of those ‘old ladies’ will be joining in the ride! Less of the sexism and ageism in your 'humour', please.

Thursday, 12 June 2008

Priceless and Sex in the City

I shall have to watch these films, not as I originally intended, in order to sneer comfortably, but in order to understand the motivation and how something that was once considered Bad has now become acceptable and desirable.

For an opinion on Priceless, this is worth reading. As for Sex and the City...I'm sure there's plenty to find. Is it all just harmless fun?

Wednesday, 21 May 2008

The abortion debate

I simply want to register my relief that the limit has not been lowered - not because I relish the thought of killing babies, or indeed of any abortions, but because women need this safety net.

Most late abortions come in one of three categories. It may be for medical reasons. The women may be teenagers who have either not realised they were pregnant or have tried to hide it from themselves. Thirdly, some of these are older women whose pregnancy symptoms could have been attributed to the onset of the menopause.

It has been said many times, but I shall repeat it - no woman undertakes abortion lightly.
Those who seem to are usually the ones whose lives are so messed up that one more mess doesn't make things a lot worse.

Thursday, 15 May 2008


One that I really want to believe.

Johann Hari in today's Independent discusses the threat to the world posed by overpopulation.
I reprint the final two paragraphs, in hope. The sentences in bold are the key ones, in my opinion.

'There is a far better way – and it is something we should be pursuing anyway. It is called feminism. Where women have control over their own bodies – through contraception, abortion and general independence – they choose not to be perpetually pregnant. The UN Fund For Population Activities has calculated that 350 million women in the poorest countries didn't want their last child, but didn't have the means to prevent it. We should be helping them by building a global anti-Vatican, distributing the pill and the words of Mary Wollstonecraft.

So after studying the evidence, I am left in a position I didn't expect. Yes, the argument about overpopulation is distasteful, often discussed inappropriately, and far from being a panacea-solution – but it can't be dismissed entirely. It will be easier for 6 billion people to cope on a heaving, boiling planet than for nine or 10 billion – and we will only get there by freeing women to make their own reproductive choices. To achieve this green goal, it's necessary to mix some oestrogen into the environmentalist palette.'

Girls and Crime

It seems that crimes committed by girls have risen by 25% in three years. The Youth Justice Board says girls committed 59,000 offences in 2006-07 - up 12,000 on 2003-4 but still far less crime than that committed by boys.

But maybe girls aren't getting worse

From the Independent - a very detailed article - I reprint the summary below:

Is there a crimewave among girls?
* A 25 per cent rise in offences is objective proof of more lawlessness among girls.
* Female binge-drinking is growing, resulting in more violent crime offences.
* There has been a succession of reports about girl violence in all parts of the country.
* Girls commit far fewer crimes than boys – only 20 per cent of the offences committed by children.
* They are being prosecuted for offences that would have previously received an informal warning.
* Drink-fuelled high spirits are hardly a pointer to criminal behaviour in later life.

Not sure how long this will be available as a link, but the comments on the BBC's Have Your Say are an interesting example of reactions to the headlines.

Monday, 12 May 2008

Women in politics in Spain and Italy

Another quick link to a BBC article. It would be mean-spirited of me to call them 'Berlusconi's Babes.'

Women and child poverty

I just caught the end of a discussion on Woman's Hour this morning:

Is targeting women a useful way to tackle child poverty?

The Government has said that it wants to eradicate child poverty by 2020, and today the Fawcett Society suggests, in a new report called “Keeping Mum”, that the problem can only be truly tackled by recognising the link between mothers’ and childrens’ poverty. They say that mothers are at greater risk of poverty in the UK than in any other western European country. Jane is joined by Katherine Rake, Director of the Fawcett Society, and Lisa Harker, Co-Director of the Institute for Public Policy Research, to discuss the new report and the issues it raises.

Brief notes about the content of the discussion.

In spite of legislation, it appears that 30 000 women leave work because they are pregnant. Employers can get away with dismissing women, since the likelihood of any woman challenging them is tiny. It costs too much financially and psychologically.

The speakers admit that the government has taken some action to help and that Tax Credits and Child Benefit are usually received by women.

They talked about 'embedded inequalities '– unequal pay for men and women, and limited opportunities for either sex to combine work and parenthood.

An important step would be to narrow the gender pay gap. Though they gave no figures, they did say that the gap is one of worst in Europe and that the UK has the worst rate of women’s poverty.

They would also like to see official encouragement for fathers to take up paternity leave. It is only recently that fathers have been asked in job interviews about arrangements for childcare - the assumption previously has been that this is the woman's responsibility.

Inevitably, higher taxes are needed to pay for this, but if money is spent to prevent child poverty, it will be saved in the long term. The children will be less likely to be a drain on the Education budget or tellingly, the criminal justice system.

Friday, 2 May 2008

Thinking Pink

Found another pile of Guardian articles yesterday, including this by Eleanor Bailey: The Tyranny of Pink.

Bailey discusses the increasing gender-segregation in toy shops, the predominance of pink clothes and girlie accessories for girls and the dangers for a future generation of women restricted to limited choices. Lyn Mikel Brown explains that these dangers include "depression, eating disorders and self-esteem issues."

Bailey suggests that, if pink is here to stay, perhaps we can "use it as a force for good," referring to the positive effects on mood and emotions associated with the colour pink.

Rosalyn Ball echoes such concerns with the stereotyping of toys. In her article, Dreaming of a Pink Christmas, Ball considers how toys are "still unbelievably segregated along strict gender lines" to the extent that 'femaleness' is seen as "humiliating for boys."

Such concerns are also echoed by a frustrated father in his consideration of gender stereotyping and toys: I’m tired of seeing pink. I’m tired of seeing blue. And I’m both pissed off and saddened deeply that at age three, my daughter and her friends, both girls and boys, have already learned to see those colors, and what they are supposed to mean, so well. And I know that this isn’t the last time I’m going to start a sentence with, "No, baby, both boys and girls can….?"

Another father, who often writes thoughtful considerations of gender and parenting, is (un)relaxeddad. In his post entitled 'Gendering' he makes some very interesting points about pink and pretty with reference to boys and girls, refers to Judith Butler and the ideas in her Gender Trouble, and finishes with a thought-provoking question: "How do we bring someone up to be comfortable with her own idea of what it means to be a 'she' without bricking her into a limiting corner of 'she-ness' designed by men for the benefit of men?"

In defence of poor maligned and feared pink, I spent ages trying to track down a reference to 'thinking pink' as a common concept in rock-climbing. I'm sure I read somehere that to 'think pink' is to remain 'in the zone' or incredibly focussed. But I couldn't find anything. Does anyone else know anything about it?

What I did find, was a piece about pink as the colour of love, joy and concentration.

I also found things about thinking pink in marketing:

At Acton Marketing, advice to "think twice before you think pink," because not only does pink tend to alienate men, it often makes women suspicious. There is also a quote from Don't Think Pink by Lisa Johnson and Andrea Learned: "As you can imagine, pink campaigns feel like a patronizing pat on the head for many women."

Andrea Learned has written a post on her blog, When Everyone's to Blame for Gender Stereotyping, arguing that regardless of our upbringing, as adults we choose our own perspectives on gender: "More men and women are realizing they've got their own work to do - whether that be to stop stereotyping the opposite sex or to stop perpetuating the stereotypes of their own sex."

I love pink! I think it's a feelgood colour. Like purple. And turquoise. And orange. When on earth did a single colour (or rather a combination of red and white) define an entire gender? When did pink become the colour that should be avoided by boys, and the colour that girls should (or shouldn't) wear?

Thursday, 1 May 2008

Progress is All Relative

With thanks to DoshDosh on Twitter, for this one:

A BBC News Report about how Saudi women are being "kept in childhood" with severe restrictions limiting academic and professional lives and even limitations on their rights as parents.

A recent UN Report, calling for basic rights for women in Saudi, condemned the patriarchal society's record of violence against women and complained that Saudi men and women "do not have equal rights when it comes to marriage, divorce, child custody and inheritance and says female illiteracy is still high in the world's top oil exporter."

Pressure for reform (for men as well as women) is mounting in Saudi, leading to an increase in arrests of reformists.

So, relatively speaking, women in Western society (at least, those women who are white, middle class and straight - more about that in my next post!), have indeed come a long way. We have much to be thankful for. On fundamental issues like education and marriage, Western women have attained a position much more like equal.

And on the issue of parenting, women usually have more rights than men in our society (and that's a whole other post too!)

Saturday, 26 April 2008

How far have we come?

With thanks to lovely folks on Twitter:

The 1943 Guide to Hiring Women, shared by Alyssa Royse at the Seattle PI Readers' Blog.

LOL! It seems more of a guide against hiring women:

... cantankerous and fussy?
... mentally or physically unfit for the job?
... service is likely to be slowed up?
... bothering the management for instructions every few minutes?

Silvio Berlusconi might agree with much on the list, having declared that the new Spanish government is "too pink" and warned that the Spanish Prime Minister will struggle to control the women in his cabinet: "He will have problems leading them. Now he's asked for it."

Indeed, as Emine Saner explains, the Berlusconi camp seem intent on undermining women at every turn, going as far as to suggest "that they are either too good looking or too ugly to be taken seriously." Media representation of women in politics encourages such a viewpoint; Emine gives a number of examples of women in politics who are often judged for the way they look rather than for their policies.

Catherine Bennett agrees that there is a good deal of inequality when it comes to men and women in politics; unlike male politicians, the criteria of a female politician's appearance is always included in "any thorough assessment of her achievements."

Hmmm. How far have we really come?

Another gem from Twitter:

The Fifties Woman: The Good Wives Guide:

A good wife always knows her place?

A generation of women fought hard for changes, for the right to live our own lives and make our own decisions, to leave the home and go out to work, to communicate with men in our lives on an equal footing, to raise our children as individuals rather than simply as "little teasures ... playing the part."

Yet here we are, a time when public life is more male than at any time since the 1970s, as Jackie Ashley explains: "Those of us interested in politics must reclaim our space."

And shouldn't we all be interested in politics? Surely politics have an effect on each and every one of us (irrelevant of gender) in one way or another?

And perhaps the real question is not, "How far have we come?"

But rather, "How far can we go?"


Thursday, 24 April 2008

A comment on 'Women in Politics'

Well, I'm looking after 'the baby' while Aliqot has a well-deserved break. This is a response to her post about the newly elected Spanish government. I was going to leave a comment on Aliqot's post about how I was interested to note that three of the top four countries (in their levels of representation by women) were Scandinavian. Or rather, Nordic.

Being a curious type, I decided to see if I could find out why! And my comment turned into a post (thanks Aliqot!):

In their discussion of the politics of women in Northern Ireland, Anne Marie Gray and Deirdre Heenan suggest these countries have strived for increased female representation on three main principles:

First is democratic justice- that justice is an important principle, and that it is unjust that women are under-represented on decision-making bodies.

Second is resource utilisation - that valuable human resources are wasted when half the population is not involved in politics.

The third is interest representation - that because of the different experiences of women and men (in relation to economic and social structures) they have different political interests, implying that in politics women will employ a different set of values and pursue different interests from men.

Gray and Heenan also suggest that while women in the UK have the advantage of increased education, theoretically opening both political and professional doors, we remain at a disadvantage:

... entering the labour market has not resulted in a lessening of their domestic responsibilities. To many, the prospect of active involvement in politics must seem little more than a potential additional burden.


... "those elected will be peculiarly skewed to a certain kind of woman who, like the generations of men who went before her, will be a well-educated professional, and devoted to politics full-time". [14] Even in the Nordic countries, greater proportionality has not resulted in equal access for all women. We need to think beyond the numerical and to grasp the wider issue of representation. We need to think about how to encourage a more diverse range of women to put themselves forward, which involves rethinking women's role within the family.

The Fawcett Society concurs on the positive example of Scandinavian (or Nordic) countries but points out that Rwanda have an even higher representation of women in the government:

Women held 48.8% of the seats after last year’s election compared with a world average of 16%

How did this happen? The better question is: How was this achieved? The women of Rwanda collectively used their powers of intelligence, experience and determination to create the world they wanted to live in:

Decide what kind of world you want to live in and act accordingly.
Playing the blame game only does harm to ourselves and society.
Richard L Franklin

Rwandan women lobbied heavily, helped to draft a new constitution and developed voting guidelines that guaranteed seats for women candidates.

There are in fact a growing number of governments in sub-Saharan Africa that are following in Rwandan footseps:

In South Africa and Mozambique, for example, women hold about 30% of the seats in parliament - matching the international target set at the Fourth World Conference on Women, held in Beijing, China, in 1995.

The UK government flounders at 19.5% although the women in Wales and Scotland have had more positive results:

In both Scotland and Wales, women took advantage of the emergent devolved institutions to achieve new heights of political representation, winning 40% of the seats in the Welsh Assembly and almost 39% of those in the Scottish Parliament in the 1999 elections (Brown, 1998; Edwards and McAllister, 2001).

Ian McAllister and Donley T. Studlar, in Women’s Representation in Anglo-American Systems (Journal of Representative Democracy), also consider the political systems of New Zealand, the United States, Canada and Australia.


Wednesday, 16 April 2008

Women in Politics

In Spain, there are now more women than men in the Cabinet - see article in today's Independent .
The article adds statistics about women MPs in Europe.

Women MPs in EU countries
Percentage of women MPs (equivalents) per member state:
Sweden 47.0
Finland 41.5
The Netherlands 39.3
Denmark 38.0
Spain 36.6
Belgium 35.3
Austria 32.8
Germany 31.6
Portugal 28.3
Luxembourg 23.3
Lithuania 22.7
Bulgaria 21.7
Estonia 20.8
Poland 20.4
Latvia 20.0
UK 19.5
Slovakia 19.3
France 18.2
Italy 17.3
Czech Republic 15.5

As of 31 December 2007. Source: Inter-Parliamentary Union

Hmm. Could do better?
Where is Ireland? any other missing countries?

Tuesday, 15 April 2008

Girlification, unequal pay and the F-word

Great article and discussion on girlification and pay gaps in today's Guardian. It also refers to an article from Saturday by Erica Jong lamenting the eclipse of feminism (yes, that F-word) in her own inimitable and witty way.

Virago Books

Virago Modern Classics is 30 years old in May. They are republishing eight of their most popular titles in hardback, with cover designs by textile designers such as Lucienne Day and Celia Birtwell, and with new introductions. Ali Smith has written an introduction to Muriel Spark's A Far Cry From Kensington, Alexander McCall Smith writes on Barbara Pym's Excellent Women, and Jilly Cooper introduces EM Delafield's Diary of a Provincial Lady.
This article by Rachel Cooke examines the history and importance of the imprint.

Monday, 14 April 2008

Me Me Me Feminism Versus Collectivity

The original print version of this caught my attention as I recently spent some time finally filing a huge pile of assorted articles into useful categories. It's from the Guardian Review dated (ahem!) 14th June, 2007:

Take Risks: An Interview with Michèle Roberts by Lucasta Miller

Roberts makes an interesting comment about feminism today: "My sort of feminism was defeated in the Thatcher years, as socialism was. I feel that the feminism that triumphed is the sort I don't like: what I call shoulderpads feminism. It's all about being an individual in a capitalist society. Put on your suit, go to the City, make a lot of money: it's all me, me, me. My sort of feminism is about collectivity."

Perhaps struggling for equality in a capitalist society has led to feminism being expressed in terms of 'things' because sadly (in our society) power, status and success are recognised in the things acquired by money. So a woman (or a man) is seen as successful by what she has: house, car, gadgets, holidays. If she has earned these things for herself, she may also be seen (and think of herself) as a successful feminist, fighting the good cause, proving we can do it for ourselves.

But the problem goes beyond feminism, because feminism today has been influenced not just by capitalism but increasingly by individualism, as has society in general. Huge demographic changes and increased geographic mobility have loosened community bonds, even family bonds in some cases, or at least put them under immense pressure. As women have strived for equality in the professional sphere while also maintaining a hugely important role in the domestic sphere, they have perhaps from necessity had to neglect the social sphere. Many women now go out to work all day, come home to care for loved ones (a partner and/or children and possibly even an elderly relative too), to do all the myriad of endless chores involved in raising a family ... is there any wonder they may have little time for building positive relationships with other, equally stretched women? Is there any wonder that feminism has become a case of, "I can do this on my own!"

Yet surely relationships between women are essential to feminism? Equally important is the fact that a network of female friends provides essential support for women as individuals ... who else will really understand (because they have personally experienced) the difficulties and challenges of being a woman today, or truly recognise the triumphs?

I fear Michèle Roberts may be right about the 'triumph' of "me me me" feminism, but am optimistic to note that collectivity still exists: the support and encouragement shared by the women in the blogging community is inspirational!


Sunday, 13 April 2008

Women and Poetry

In the Guardian blogs there has been a long discussion about women and poetry in response to an article by Frances Leviston headed This great poets list has only one woman. About right, too .

So, how can women who write poetry raise their public profile? Would you accept publication in an anthology of ‘women poets’?

Yes, because...

  • positive discrimination is still needed.
  • women’s poetry is seen as less serious and tends to be left out.
  • women fail to network as well as men .
  • women still tend to minimise their own achievements.
  • women still lack confidence in their own abilities.

No, because...

  • the work should stand on its own merits as good poetry.Gender is irrelevant. Quality is the thing.
  • positive discrimination is another way of ghettoising women so that their poetry doesn't become mainstream.
  • separate anthologies imply that women’s interests differ from men’s.
  • we should be fighting for equal representation in the anthologies that are being made. (Although, aren't quotas just positive discrimination with a different hat?)

Any thoughts about this?

Friday, 4 April 2008

IWD: Past and Present

Just a few links I didn't get chance to post yesterday:

You can find a brief history of the origins of IWD in an (unfortunately unnamed)article from 'Womankind' (March, 1972) which also tells the tale of courageous women in America, campaigning for "Bread and Roses":

The story of American working women is often tokenly recognized by referring to great heroines of the movement Mother Jones, Ella Reeve Bloor, Kate Mullaney, Sojourner Truth, and Elizabeth Gurley Flynn. These were remarkable women and so were their stories. A good cure for depression is to read a chapter of Flynn's autobiography or reread the account of Mother Jones terrorizing scabs and participating in the 1919 steel strike at the age of 90. But it should not be forgotten that these were individual women, and that the bulk of the' organizing, struggling, as well as succeeding and failing, was done by ordinary women whom we willnever know. These were women who, realized the tactical necessity of standing and working together lest they be destroyed individually, women who put to shame the ridiculous theories of "woman's place'," women who in the famous Lawrence textile strike carried picket signs reading "We want Bread and Roses, too", symbolizing their demands for not only a living wage but a decent and human life.

The BBC have some great pictures of women from around the world, taken on International Women's Day, this year (2008.)

Joyce Stevens has put together a History of International Women's Day in Words and Images.

The UN and International Women's Day:

"Increasingly, International Women's Day is a time to reflect on progress made, to call for change and to celebrate acts of courage and determination by ordinary women who have played an extraordinary role in the history of women's rights."

And this is exactly why I feel it's so important to talk about IWD ... wouldn't it be great if every woman in the world was able to celebrate International Women's Day!

Thursday, 3 April 2008

IWD: Origins, Supporters, Stats and Local Events

The Origins

A conference of over 100 women, from more than 17 countries, met in Copenhagen in 1910. A decision was made to establish an international women's day, to honour the movement for women's rights. The first International Women's Day was celebrated on the 19th of March the following year, when more than one million women and men attended rallies in Austria, Germany, Denmark and Switzerland.

Russian women celebrated the day for the first time in 1914 as part of the growing Peace Movement on the eve of the first World War. They were joined the following year by women all over Europe, in rallies to protest against the war and to show solidarity to the sisterhood.

Some Supporting Organisations and Scary Stats

International Women's Day is supported by a number of organisations today, including:

Action Aid

Women count for 70% of those living in poverty around the world.

Amnesty International

At least one out of every three women has been beaten, coerced into sex, or otherwise abused in her lifetime.

Every year, close to 500,000 women are trafficked to Western Europe. It is also estimated that approximately 50,000 women are trafficked to the U.S. every year. This problem also exists in India where almost 200,000 Nepalese women are trafficked into brothels.


Every week at least two women are killed by violent partners or ex-partners.

Women's Aid

Although domestic violence is traditionally an under-reported crime, the Police in the UK receive one call every minute about this issue.


The eradication of poverty cannot succeed without equality and justice for women.

... current international policies rob women of livelihoods, healthcare and other economic rights, while feeding fundamentalist backlash and militarism that deprive women of personal autonomy and choices.

This GCAP Feminist Taskforce webpage has some great ideas for celebrating IWD, by the way, if you fancy organising something yourself next year!

UK Events in 2008

Although aliqot and I found it hard to dig up much information at the time, it seems IWD is indeed celebrated around the world and there were even many events in the UK. So, why do so few women seem to know much (if anything) about it?

Perhaps it's just the women I know who don't know! Because IWD was celebrated this year in various ways in towns, cities and boroughs across the country, including:

Barking and Dagenham - held a day filled with speakers, workshops and presentations, with the theme of 'Shaping Progress.'

Brighton and Hove - have been celebrating IWD for almost 20 years and held a week of events from the 6th to the 12th of March.

Cambridge - celebrated IWD throughout March.

There were plenty of other examples, but none in Scarborough ... I'm working on that for next year, though!

Did you know of (or were you involved in) any International Women's Day celebrations this year?


Politcal correctness gone mad?

From the Guardian April 3 2008 (scroll down to the bottom ;@) )

A leading building firm is banning its brickies from wolf-whistling at women, saying the "outdated" tradition had become a distraction for young househunters. George Wimpey Bristol has outlawed the practice, for fear of putting off "savvy and sophisticated" buyers visiting sites. Sales and marketing director Richard Goad told Bristol staff in a memo that builders could not wolf-whistle on any of the city's six sites from 9am today. He said: "In the 21st century the wolf whistle is out of place. Our buyers know what they want and the general feeling is that women won't stand for being whistled at by builders." Press Association

I'm waiting for the squeals of 'political correctness gone mad'. But hey, either these guys whistle because they think you're attractive, or they don't whistle because they think you are too old, too ugly or too dowdy. What gives them the right? Would they do it if they were on their own? Is it really an inter-male communication, a display of virility? Am I talking rubbish?
I'm old enough not to care which of the three 'undesirable' categories I'm in and I don't worry about walking past building sites now, though I used to hate it. What do other people think?

woolly jumpers and higher geometry and girlie power and ecological awareness and mad Texan housewives all at once

Remember the news about the Great Pacific Garbage Patch - the swirling plastic soup that collects in the North Pacific Gyre, which possibly covers an area twice the size of the continental US. Just for info this is what it is.

'Mr Moore, a former sailor, came across the sea of waste by chance in 1997, while taking a short cut home from a Los Angeles to Hawaii yacht race. He had steered his craft into the "North Pacific gyre" – a vortex where the ocean circulates slowly because of little wind and extreme high pressure systems. Usually sailors avoid it.

He was astonished to find himself surrounded by rubbish, day after day, thousands of miles from land. "Every time I came on deck, there was trash floating by," he said in an interview. "How could we have fouled such a huge area? How could this go on for a week?"'

From an Independent article:

These women, Margaret and Christine Wertheim at the Institute For Figuring in Los Angeles ( - worth visiting), with the help of the worldwide community are trying to make a statement about it through a fascinating mixture of mathematics, art, environmentalism, feminism and craft.

From Margaret and Christine:
“Growing up in Queensland with the Great Barrier Reef, we were always aware of its vulnerability. But with global warming over the past few decades, bleaching events and coral die-off have accelerated to the point where it's now conceivable the whole thing may wiped out. We wanted in some way to respond to that. And now ocean life is also facing the added threat of vast amounts of plastic garbage, which is turning our seas into a toxic stew and literally strangling marine life.

We both grew up sewing and knitting and crocheting - we were making our own clothes through high school, and we both have a deep love of feminine handicrafts, which our mother (Barbara Wertheim) taught us - and taught us to value, from her own experience as a Catholic mother of six and as a feminist activist. The Crochet Reef project was a way to bring all this together. Plus it's based on mathematics, in which we both have a professional interest, and on a discovery made by a woman mathematician, Dr Daina Taimina. People ask: Is it art? Is it craft? Is it math? Is it science? Is it feminism? It's all of the above.

The Crochet Reef itself is very much like a living reef - it grows and "spawns" as more participants get involved - and people are now involved all over the world. Like a living head of coral, the Crochet Reef is a colonial organism in which each individual "polyp" adds to the beauty and scale of the whole. The whole really is much more than the sum of its parts. For us it's not just the beauty of the finished work that matters but the process of its production - it's collective and collaborative and the totality emerges from the energies and imaginations of all the people involved. It’s very much a celebration of traditional feminine craft and a homage to the power of women's labor. And it's absurd.

When most people see the Reef the first thing they do is laugh. It is woolly jumpers and higher geometry and girlie power and ecological awareness and mad Texan housewives all at once.

We welcome you all and assure you that the only rule is there are no rules. We encourage you all to go beserk and can't wait to see what you produce.”

The IFF along with women across the world is bringing into being a 'crocheted invocation' of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, - one made from yarn and plastic trash.

Monday, 31 March 2008

Women lack humour.

Men are funnier than women?
Oh no they're not! Oh yes they are! Or are they?

Apparently when Prof Shuster ( a dermatologist) unicyles around his town, more men than women make comments, and more younger men than older ones. Men's comments are usually humorous ( or jeering) such as "Lost yer wheel, mate?" "Couldn't you afford the other one?" and similar gems. Women are more admiring and encouraging.The prof puts this down to the fact that the young men regard him as a rival in the sex stakes, and to cover their aggression, use 'humour'. From this , according to the articles quoted, he makes the equation testosterone = humour.The humour involved is hardly startling or original, and not terribly funny in my opinion. Of course, as a 60-year-old female, I guess I lack the requisite testosterone to appreciate or make such jokes.

Women and Power

This is a fairly long post - condensed from an interview in The Guardian by Sharon Krum. She spoke to with Dee Dee Myers, aithor of a book 'Why Women should rule the World' , due to be published by HarperCollins on April 7, priced £14.99 .

Dee Dee Myers was the White House’s first female press secretary. A comment made by her daughter of nursery school age inspired the book. The child said that only boys could become President of the USA, though girls could be presidents’ wives. In fact women are still under-represented in public life and account for only17% of members of national parliaments.

Myers is not interested in knocking men, but in investigating why so few women take powerful positions alongside them. Hillary Clinton’s quest for office has exposed wide-spread sexism. Though not all Clinton’s problems have been gender-related, misogynists have had their moments during her campaign, heckling her with signs that read “Iron my Shirt”, for instance. Clinton has also found herself faced with the classic dilemma: women in power are expected to act like men, but when they do they are accused of being unlikeable.

Myers feels it is important to acknowledge certain differences between the sexes, for example, according to recent research into male and female brains, women are hard-wired to defuse conflict. “I think many differences are rooted in biology and reinforced through culture,” says Myers, “ If you say men and women are the same and if male behaviour is the norm, we will never be as good at being men as men are.” She finds that while sporting prowess is considered a key indicator of leadership potential in the US, bringing up children - which builds skills such as diplomacy, team-playing and flexibility - is undervalued.

However, it is not just sexism that keeps women out of power. At times, she says, women undermine themselves. “We don’t raise our hands for promotions, we don’t take credit for our accomplishments.”Researching her book, Myers interviewed a number of successful women, including the late Anita Roddick, who said that women are not comfortable with the concept of power. “They see what it’s done to men and they want no bloody part of it,” Roddick said. When Myers asked women if they considered themselves powerful, they tended to reject the term. “But if you asked them if they like the ability to make a difference, they loved that.”

She is optimistic that younger women will step on to the public stage, motivated partly by seeing other females in power. “Women in senior jobs still represent all womankind and aren’t allowed to fail quite as much [as men], but I am encouraged to see women are being elected in Chile, Argentina, Liberia, Ireland.” She pauses briefly. “More is more.”

With thanks to Sharon Krum.

Sunday, 30 March 2008

International Women's Day 2008 ? I blinked and missed it.

On March 9th, the day after the big one, I could find very little about this in the news online.
AOL had its usual front page of celeb bad boob jobs, fit celebs with gorgeous bodies, weather 'babes'.
Two other mentions of women or girls - Margaret Thatcher's 'hospitalization', and a murder victim. Oh well, I guess it was a bad day.The Guardian had three films about key issues that affect women in the developing world titled Why International Women's Day matters.

The Independent had an article about intellectual women ending with the words 'Women beware women.' I only found this by searching for an article about women in the opinion section.

The Telegraph had an interesting article about male and female sexuality in France.
Maybe I was looking in the wrong places, but IWD did not hit me in the face.

International Women's Day

My attempt to explain and publicise this Day.

We women have it all ways. All jobs are open to us. No-one judges us on our looks any more. We have sex with anyone, male or female, who attracts us. We have nurseries, nannies or au pairs to look after our children. We have supportive partners who share housework, cooking and childcare.Isn’t this true? So, why do we need a special Day? Surely this battle has been won.

This year's theme is ‘Shaping Progress’ and events all over the world are being held today and throughout March. These events celebrate the centuries of struggle for equality and justice, and the real achievements of women. They also encourage women to continue to fight any remaining obstacles. And many do remain.

Some shocking facts.
According to The Independent, last year Thursday March 8th 2007, in the world as a whole:

  • Women produce half the world's food, but own less than 2 per cent of the land.
  • Of the more than 1 billion people living in extreme poverty, 70% are women.
  • Half of all murdered women are killed by their current or former husbands or partners.
  • Two thirds of the world's 800 million illiterate adults are women.
  • 2 million girls aged from 5 to 15 join the commercial sex market every year.
  • Violence against women causes more deaths and disabilities amongst women aged from 15 to 44 than cancer, malaria, traffic accidents or war.

From the Guardian (6.3.08)
In Britain women fill only 14.5% of non-executive board positions. One in four of the FTSE 100 boards has no women at all. The number of women holding executive directorships in FTSE 100 companies fell last year to the lowest level for nine years.And of course, most women still work in the notoriously underpaid fields of health, caring, catering, shop-work and education.

I’m not a feminist but
Feminism has become a dirty word. Many women arguing a feminist case, will begin by saying, ‘I’m not a feminist, but…’ Most feminists don’t hate men, but simply want men and women to have equal opportunities and equal responsibilities. Feminism is about women (and men) going beyond the traditional limitations of their gender.
Men and women are not the same.There are differences between the sexes, but these differences are not so great as the differences between individuals. Gender differences are often exaggerated by the way we dress boys and girls, and treat them differently . Children are encouraged to conform to the stereotypical view of a girl or a boy. This is constantly reinforced by scientific articles about gender differences, and children’s needs, backed up by often misleading headlines.Why can we not raise children to act as human beings first, who happen to be male or female?