Honeyball’s Weekly Round-Up

Labour Party

The good news this week was that Obama has won a second term in office.  The election was predicted as being too close to call right up until Tuesday, but in the end Obama won the electoral vote comfortably.

The tone of this election was bleak, with both sides engaging in some rather underhand tactics, but the thought of a Romney presidency was just too much for most Americans in the end.  Looking at the coverage over here of American politics, you could easily believe that a large proportion of Americans are right-wing religious zealots, but, though they do have their fair share of such people, it would seem that America is actually quite a liberal place.

Three states, Maine, Maryland and Washington, have all voted to legalise same sex marriages.  This brings the total up to nine now in the U.S.

But all the pundits are saying that women, and in particular single women, were the deciding factor in this election.  The finding might seem unsurprising after a campaign season punctuated by offensive and biologically illiterate statements from Republican candidates about rape and pregnancy.

But pollsters said the newly identified electoral bloc of unmarried women voted for Obama for bringing the country through the recession – with the Democrats’ support for healthcare and equal pay.  Obama obliterated Romney when it came to the battle for the votes of unmarried women, beating him by 36 points.

It’s not difficult to see why this is happening, especially when Romney made his now infamous “47%” speech, where he said it was not his job to worry about people who made need help from the government.  I think the republicans need to think very carefully about how they come across to female voters.  This election has shown that telling women what they can and can’t do with their bodies and denying them access to much needed welfare is a sure fire way to lose their support.

The US election shows caring is the new politics

Labour Party

Radio 4’s Today programme ran a fascinating piece this morning on how much Barack Obama and Mitt Romney were thought by their electorate to care about the people whose vote they sought. Unsurprisingly Romney came out the worse by a long mile.

While not new in politics, the strength of the notion throughout the Presidential election campaign that politicians should care for the people they represent does, I believe, mark a sea change. The days when US citizens were concerned above all else about American might in the world are being overtaken by the feeling that politicians should care more about their voters as individuals, their daily lives and what matters to them, their families and their communities.

The way women voted is the most obvious example of this trend. Unlike racial groups who tend to vote a particular way, for example Latinos support Obama and in the UK the ethnic minority communities veer towards Labour, women owe no such allegiance. As 50 per cent of the population, women are just about as representative as you can get of the 100 per cent of voters.

The majority of women did not like Romney. They deserted him in droves. The principal reason for this extraordinary phenomenon was that women did not feel Romney cared about them, mainly because the GOP candidate and his Party chose to attack the only thing which makes women different from men – their reproductive capacity. The result was that women felt threatened and uncared for.

It was, in fact, quite a legacy for the Republican Party. In Missouri Todd Akin talked about “legitimate” rape, saying that if this was the case the female body had a way of shutting the whole thing down, Richard Mourdock from Indiana thought babies born as a result of rape were “a gift from God” while in the campaign for the Senate in Pennsylvania Tom Smith compared rape to unwed motherhood. Sadly, there is more. Atlantic Monthly gives a round up well worth a read.

Contraception and abortion were, of course, the other main focus of Republican attitudes to women. Romney himself is against abortion under any circumstances, opposed Roe v Wade and does not agree with insurance funding for contraception. Meanwhile Obama campaigned positively for contraception to be available and for women to have access to safe abortions.

Romney also looked as if he didn’t care about non-whites, highlighted by the phrase “he [Romney] hates Chinese”. Those who are less well-off fared possibly even worse when Romney stated that 47 per cent of Americans do not pay federal taxes.

The caring agenda came through loud and clear during the American Presidential campaign with women at the forefront. Governments and political leaders would do well to think hard about the American lesson. Individuals and their immediate concerns now really count and they want politicians to take note and look after them, taking up matters dear to their hearts rather than political, or in America, religious ideology.

Honeyball’s Weekly Round-Up

Labour Party

The apprenticeship scheme was thrown into question, following the damaging report by the government’s own department which found that it is being used as a way of getting cheap labour. Vincent Moss exposed the report and yesterday which stated: “One in five apprentices get no training and one in 20 are unpaid. Following the revelations Business Secretary, Vince Cable, has ordered a probe to look further into the findings.

Their average pay after tax is just £170 a week. The flaws exposed in some of the schemes must be addressed quickly. Labour’s Shadow Sills Minister, Gordon Marsden said just that. He said: “They should take up some of our proposals to expand the number of decent quality apprenticeships for young people which won’t result in them being exploited.”

You can read his article in full here.

On one level it’s somewhat superficial to examine the style of the First Lady, Michelle Obama, and Mitt Romney’s wife, Ann, but it’s also inevitable. Of course we wouldn’t do this about a male companion, but then he’d be donning the same suit, albeit in a different shade each day.

The stylish First Lady understands her own style and how to carry it off. But we don’t all get it right, so this kind of thing can provide a helpful reminder about what works and what doesn’t, without the need to be critical of either of them personally. Harriet Walker’s critique actually provides a good insight in how to look good wearing certain things.

She reminds us of the day the two ladies turned up to the second Presidential debate wearing matching shades of Schiaparelli pink, it was for Breast Cancer Awareness month.

Walker says of this potential clashing of outfits: “While the First Lady opted for a minimal Michael Kors shift dress and cropped jacket, her would-be successor was in silk Oscar de la Renta – upstanding and uptown American designers both, and part of the nation’s fashionable fabric, but with very different outlooks: the former, all sporty grace and ease, the latter more traditionally elegant and formal.”

You can read the article in full here.

There was a great article by Paul Harris in yesterday’s Observer ahead of the final push in the US Presidential Election. He’s observed both campaigns and reported just as he’s seen. It’s well worth a read. You can do so 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.