Honeyball’s Weekly Round-Up

Labour Party

Just one in 10 men do the fair share of household chores a survey revealed last week.

The research was conducted by the Institute for Public Policy Research which aimed to explore what 50 years of the feminist movement has done to change attitudes.

Their research revealed an anomaly that while just one in ten married men split familial duties like housework equally, three times as many describe themselves as house husbands than 15 years ago.

The report also explored salaries and found women working full-time born in 1958 were earning 35 per cent less than men by the age of 41-42.

Meanwhile, professional women earned three times as much as those in unskilled jobs born the same year.

So the statics reveal a familiar thought, that while much has been done, there is still a long way to go and much more work to be done before true parity is achieved.

You can read more here.

Tributes rolled in for David Miliband MP last week after he announced his intention to leave Parliament to take up the role of chief executive of the New York based charity, the International Rescue Committee. He has described this as his dream job, and while we are of course delighted for him, he will be missed.

As he made the announcement so fitting tributes rolled in including from former Prime Minister, Tony Blair, who said he had hoped it would be time out from politics rather than a permanent decision.

Similarly Lord Mandelson, the former business secretary described Miliband’s “huge” contribution but said it would be wrong to write off his future in British politics.

Mandelson told the World Tonight on Radio 4 last week: “He just combined policy, good judgment, real concern, a knowledge of economics and an ability to tie things together. That is how he will be remembered. And that is why he why he will be a loss. But never say never. I wouldn’t say goodbye to David Miliband forever in British politics.”

Even opponents talked of Miliband in glowing terms. Tim Farron, the president of the Lib Dems, said in a tweet: “If this story is true, it’s a big loss for parliament … David was a big thinker, great politician and a lovely man.”

I also wish David and his family well in his new role in New York.

You can read more here.

Honeyball’s Weekly Round-Up

Labour Party

The website Netmums (not to be confused with Mumsnet) asked their users what their attitudes towards feminism are and the majority felt that it was an old-fashioned word with little relevance to their lives.  This has led to articles in the Observer and the Independent asking whether or not feminism is dead.  Needless to say, both have concluded that it certainly isn’t.

It’s a strange question, especially when it seems every day there is a new story that demonstrates how the fight for gender equality is far from over.

The week began with the news that research conducted by the industry body Women in Journalism has shown that the front pages of British newspapers are dominated by sexist stereotypes, humiliating photographs of women and male bylines.

It transpites that male journalists wrote 78% of all front-page articles and men accounted for 84% of those mentioned or quoted in lead pieces, according to analysis of nine national newspapers, Monday to Saturday, over the course of four weeks.

The only females to be regularly pictured in the period were the Duchess of Cambridge; her sister, Pippa Middleton, and the crime victim Madeleine McCann. The three males most likely to be photographed were Simon Cowell, whose biography was published that month; Nicolas Sarkozy, who was fighting an election, and Prince William.

We then were treated to a pretty interesting demonstration of Romeny’s real feelings on gender equality in the second round of presidential debates this week as well.

It says something when a man trying to become the next president of the United States can make such a spectacular gaffe when talking about employing women, but Mitt Romney did just that this week.  As governor of Massachusetts, he explained: “We took a concerted effort to go out and find women who had backgrounds that could be qualified to become members of our cabinet. I went to a number of women’s groups and said: ‘Can you help us find folks?’ and they brought us whole binders full of women.”  And this was supposed to show people his feminist credentials.

Instead, he managed to conjure an image confirming every feminist’s worst fears about a Romney presidency; that he views women’s rights in the workplace as so much business admin, to be punched and filed and popped on a shelf. Worse still, it was irrelevant to the question he’d actually been asked, about pay inequality. And, according to several fact-checkers, untrue. He didn’t ask for the binders full of women. The list was compiled before he even took office. It wasn’t just a gaffe: it was a Freudian slip, a filibuster and a falsehood.

It also wasn’t even the daftest part of his answer. That would have to be this bizarre promise: “We’re going to have to have employers in the new economy, in the economy I’m going to bring to play, that are going to be so anxious to get good workers they’re going to be anxious to hire women.”

So anxious, they’ll hire women. Subtext: so desperate, they’ll hire anyone. Even women.

Again, not only is it stupid, but it’s addressing a question no one has asked. The problem is that women are paid less for the same jobs, not that the labour market isn’t flooded enough for employers to take a charitable gamble on them.

Romney’s attempt to paint himself as a feminist only proved he doesn’t know what the word means. That’s why whole binders full of women won’t be voting for him.

The ISPs, not the Tories, get it right

Labour Party

Four big internet service providers (ISPs) will be making it easier for parents to stop their children accessing explicit material online.

This means that, in future, if you buy an internet package with either Sky, TalkTalk, Virgin or BT Internet, you will have to ‘opt in’ to be able to view adult material online.  If you don’t ‘opt in’ then pornography and any other explicit or inappropriate material will not be accessible from within your home.

I’ll say now that I am totally in favour of this move.  Not so long ago it was relatively easy to stop your children getting access to inappropriate material, but the internet changed that.  I feel this measure goes some way to reversing the trend.  Any adult who has no children to worry about can simply choose to turn the blocking off.  I don’t know the specifics of how the ISPs will implement these new measures, but I can’t see them making it a difficult or embarrassing process.

I’m against pornography generally and  the idea of children having unfettered access to such explicit material is particularly worrying. Recently there has been a huge number of studies that demonstrate clearly that children accessing explicit images in an unrestricted environment can have a hugely damaging affect on their psychological development.  Young boys especially can develop very warped attitudes towards women and sexuality, though it can effect young women in similar ways as well.

I am, however, slightly wary as David Cameron’s attempt to lump this issue along with a lot of other concerns about the sexualisation of childhood. I think it’s worth mentioning that the ISPs’ decision to block access was not Tory policy, it was an internal industry decision as a result of the Bailey report which came out on June of this year.

The other matters David Cameron wants to address include the use of sexual imagery in outdoor advertising; the employment of young brand ambassadors to market products and services to children; permissible content in pre-watershed television programming; age ratings on music videos, and a retail code to crack down on sexualised slogans on children’s clothing.

I am, of course,  in favour of dealing with all of these – the young brand ambassadors is a particularly pernicious and unpleasant issue that we should be looking closely at. The problem is, as I said in my previous post on this subject that while the sexualisation of children is quite appalling, you can’t change society by banning things.  In order to enact real and lasting change we need to address the way we think about these issues.  Back in June Jackie Ashley hypothesized that the Bailey report would lead to a slew of ill thought out, reactive, legislative proposals that wouldn’t go anywhere near far enough to address these important issues.  I fear her prophecy may be coming true.

The Conservatives don’t want Rihanna dancing in an overtly sexual manner before 9.00 pm on programmes watched by children.  They also don’t want children, especially young girls, wearing t-shirts with slogans such as “Future Footballer’s Wife” imprinted on the front.  I don’t want those things either, but I’m more worried about the society that lets them happen and how it reflects our attitudes to women and sexuality.

I am certain that you are always better off reaching children through education, rather than restriction.  There will be many parents thanking the ISPs for their decision to block access to pornography from within their own home.  I wonder how many will even notice the other measures when they’re introduced.


feminist, Gender, Gender stereotypes, girls, Ms.

Around this time last year I was introduced to a bright young journalist who was embarking on writing a book on what I judged to be a very exciting and much needed topic; a modern girls’ guide to feminism.

The definitive Ms Ellie Levenson, whose name remains as thus despite getting married this year, this week celebrated launching her  book titled ‘The Noughtie Girl’s Guide to Feminism’. Complete with badges announcing ‘I’m a noughties girl’.

I now ordered a copy of this book and I’m looking forward to reading it, following which I will publish a book review of it on my blog.


Having spoken to Ellie about her  book over a year ago, I have high hopes that it’s going to provide me with a lot of food for thought. Ellie’s articles for the Guardian’s women’s section, and regular comment pieces for the Independent,  make top reads and have started to set the agenda in terms of modern feminist discussion.

So I recommend that you buy it and then let me know your take on it when I reveiw it in the next few weeks. (NB I haven’t linked to Amazon given my previous rants about their sale of supremely anti-feminist literarture and games!)


Crime, girls, Melanie Phillips, violence

Crime is indefensible. Committing crime is wrong and offenders must be brought to book in whatever way is appropriate for the crime they committed, the way we view that crime and the various rules and regulations about sentencing convicted offenders. I would never agree to any criminal being given an easy rise. Having spent some time in the Probation Service before becoming an MEP, I have seen the effects of crime first hand.

It is not possible to gloss over the increase in crime, particularly violent crime, amongst young women. Crime by young women and girls has risen by 25 percent. According to a report from the Youth Justice Board the number of crimes committed by girls aged ten to 17 climbed from 47,000 to 59,000 between 2003-4 and 2006-7. The figure for boys over the same period went down slightly from 240,000 to 236,000.

The proportional rise in female crime while that for young men has decreased is worrying. Predictably the Daily Mail’s resident siren anti-woman, anti-Labour voice, Melanie Phillips, has waded in, ranting on 12 May, “As a result of the feminist revolution, women have commandeered the freedoms and entitlements of the masculine world – while men themselves have now been largely reduced to sperm banks, walking wallets and occasional au pairs.”

Notwithstanding the arrant nonsense of Ms Phillips’s last couple of lines, her main contention – that feminism has made women more like men – needs addressing. There is no doubt that there has been a convergence between male and female behaviour. Young women now outperform young men at school. Women enter the labour market in much the same way as men. Equal pay legislation and improved childcare have allowed women to develop their careers, although more still needs to be done.

All this has helped our economy as well as providing fulfilment for women. Both men and women who are from generations younger than Ms Phillips’s baby boomers, take women’s participation in the world of work as a given. I doubt they would want women to stay at home tied to the kitchen sink as Ms Phillips hints at another point in her article, even if they could afford it. Interestingly Melanie Phillips herself earns a decent crust, presumably unencumbered by outdated notions of a woman’s place.

Now that women go to work and may take part in our society more or less on a par with men, we are finding that there is a downside – female crime is going up. This is obviously not desirable and we must all work to reduce crime. The Daily Mail blaming modern feminism does nothing to help.