News roundup for June 2001

A round up of the months news, compiled by Catherine Redfern

, 16 June 2001

General Election 2001

It’s all over! For a more in-depth analysis go to our special feature on the


Abortion issue is raised in Ireland and

Northern Ireland

BBC News Q&A: Abortion in Northern Ireland

Facts about the state of the law and the legal battle for access to


BBC News: Abortion ship heads for Dublin

As the Dutch group Women on

Waves sailed a floating clinic to Dublin intending to offer

abortions to Irish women in international waters, a high court judge

agreed to a judicial review on the question of abortion rights in

Northern Ireland. Abortion is illegal in the Irish Republic, and in

Northern Ireland, meaning that women living there do not have the same

rights as women in the rest of the UK. The case has been brought by

the Family Planning Association, who claim that the law is

inconsistent. This looks likely to be an incredibly controversial

issue in the province. There are strong anti-abortion groups in

Northern Ireland and the Republic, who have attacked the FPA and Women

on Waves. Geraldine Martin of the ‘Pro-Life Campaign’ said of Women on

Waves: “It is a kind of hysterical approach. It is basically a

publicity stunt.” Considering the actions of some pro-life activists,

this brings to mind the words ‘pot’, ‘kettle’, and ‘black.’

James Brown: for women who should know better

Fomer Loaded editor James Brown has declared he is

thinking about bringing ‘ladd-ism’ to the women’s magazine market.

Er, yeah right, that’s just what we need. But will he really bring us

anything that More or Cosmo’s naked male centrefolds

hasn’t already? We’re on the edge of our seat, James. Go on, surprise


Wilma Flintstone found

The oldest painting of a female figure has been discovered in an

‘obscure corner’ of the Chauvet caves in southern France. The

drawing, which is is 32,000 years old, shows the figure of a woman’s

hips, belly, legs and sexual organs. Although small statuettes of

female figures have been found from around the same period, this seems

to be the oldest cave painting to be found. It’s slightly

depressing that what remains of ancient history is paintings of men

hunting, men fighting, men doing this, men doing that – and one

solitary woman’s lower body. Women wiped from history – seems to be a

recurring theme.

Congratulations, it’s a tomboy

Full Report

Oh-oh, here comes another scientific study. This one suggests that

a mother’s testosterone levels during pregnancy influences whether

their daughter will play with Barbie dolls and makeup or toy trucks

and footballs instead. The study was completed by City University,

London, and looked at three-year old children. The newspapers

highlighted the apparent testosterone link; but then, almost as a

footnote, admitted that socialisation was an even more important

factor. And what about the boys? Well, apparently the mother’s hormone

levels have less of an effect on them, ‘possibly because their hormone

levels were already high’ (eh?) and because ‘they were under greater

social pressure to behave in certain ways.’ Hmmm. In other words, no

parent wants their little boy to play with dolls or act in any way

like a girl. And on the other hand, tomboy-ism is generally

not seen as a natural personality trait of that child but a phase they

will pass through.

Cultural imperialism is alive and well

Western standards of beauty strike again. The organisers of a beauty

contest held in South Africa have rejected entrants from Uganda.

Apparently Ugandan women’s hips are too big and they are too short to

be considered. Despite the fact that Africans prefer bigger (i.e. normal

sized) women as opposed to the skeletal-like, caucasian features of

western models (some cultures fatten up brides before their wedding

day), the selectors have rejected these women in favour of those who

are more likely to win the prize: being signed to a New York modelling


British Airways ‘girls’ reject ‘very sexy’


Givenchy’s artistic director and fashion designer Julien Macdonald

angered British Airways staff when he was asked to design new

uniforms. He explained that he intended to ‘bring back glamour to

travel’ and said ‘the girls will look very sexy and the men will look

like strong heroes.’ Oh for goodness sake. ‘Girls’? ‘Strong heroes’?

Patronising, moi? Happily the Transport and General Workers’ Union

complained, saying that cabin crew were not ‘dollies with trolleys.’

BA apparently conceded that ‘sexy’ was not the preferred image.


‘Institutional sexism’

Two police officers who are making claims against the

Metropolitan Police have claimed that sexism, like racism, is

institutionalised at the Met. They have alleged systematic sexist

behavior from their colleagues such as verbal abuse, bra-strap

pulling and bottom slapping. The allegations are being investigated

by the Met, but a spokesperson claimed that the force has a ‘robust

equal opportunities policy and will not tolerate any form of


Health news

Family Planning


A new contraceptive patch called Evra is being developed

which works in the same way as the pill but, sticks onto the skin

for a week at a time rather than being swallowed, and releases

hormones through the skin itself. It is hoped that this will avoid the

problem of women forgetting to take the pill. Other developments in

contraception have included Oves, a disposable silicone

barrier method for women which can remain in place for 72 hours (now

on sale), and Nuvaring which is a hormonal contraceptive

which sits in the vagina (should be available in the UK next year).

Unfortunately, the ‘male pill’ is still nowhere near completion. Seems

we’ll have to wait as long as 10 years for that.

‘That’s not what we meant!’

A survey by the internet firm has shown that

amongst hoteliers, women on hen nights have a far worse reputation

than men on stag nights. Women on hen nights indulge in far worse

behaviour than the men do, and are just as likely to be turned away by

hotels when looking for a venue, they told the company. So, let loose

the pundits who claim feminism is to blame! Let loose the feminist

columnists to tell us ‘that’s not what we meant!’ I can hear the

pencils being sharpened now…

Fancy a port in the Garrick?

The Club and Institute Union (CIU) has announced that it will

abolish a clause in its constitution which prevents women from

entering some of the most traditional and elite men’s clubs in the

country. Only 40% of members of the CIU offer full membership to

women, so the organisation is likely to encounter some resistence and

it’s not certain that they will be able to push the amendment through.

However, Kevin Smyth, general secretary of the CIU, said “The union’s

executive has recognised for some time that this is an anachronistic

rule which doesn’t belong in this day and age.” Well said, and it’s

about time, too.

Orange Prize for Fiction winner praised by

both genders

The controversial Orange Prize for women’s

fiction has announced its winner, a book chosen by the offical,

all-female jury, and the ‘just for fun’ male ‘shadow’ jury.

The Prize has been criticised for being patronising to women, and it

has been questioned whether ‘female’ and ‘male’ styles of writing are

really that different. However, the winner, The Idea of

Perfection by Kate Grenville, was enjoyed by both juries. Well,

it seems good fiction is simply just good fiction, no matter the


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