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!)