Who should fund MPs’ nannies? And more

// 7 June 2008

Over at Penny Red, Laurie alerts us to a story about the Tory party apologising for one of their MPs, who paid for a nanny out of her parliamentary allowance.

Was the nanny found delinquently dancing on rooftops with rogue chimney sweeps? Or is the issue simply that childcare isn’t seen as an important part of a politician’s expenses, particularly if that politician is female? Excuse me whilst I remove my jacket: it’s getting rather hot under this glass ceiling.

If the Conservatives do get into power next time, the results of this survey at ConservativeHome do not bode well for women’s rights – only 11% of candidates support the 24-week time limit, and you can bet your blue rosette that the rest are not calling for progressive reform to extend access to abortion. (Thanks Sunny)

Speaking of which, Feministe points to a telling article in the New York Times, by an 80-something doctor who was practicing medicine before Roe v Wade legalised abortion in the US. It’s a stark reminder that banning abortion does not stop women having them; it just takes away the safe methods of doing so:

Almost any implement you can imagine had been and was used to start an abortion — darning needles, crochet hooks, cut-glass salt shakers, soda bottles, sometimes intact, sometimes with the top broken off.

Another method that I did not encounter, but heard about from colleagues in other hospitals, was a soap solution forced through the cervical canal with a syringe. This could cause almost immediate death if a bubble in the solution entered a blood vessel and was transported to the heart.

The worst case I saw, and one I hope no one else will ever have to face, was that of a nurse who was admitted with what looked like a partly delivered umbilical cord. Yet as soon as we examined her, we realized that what we thought was the cord was in fact part of her intestine, which had been hooked and torn by whatever implement had been used in the abortion. It took six hours of surgery to remove the infected uterus and ovaries and repair the part of the bowel that was still functional.

Muslimah Media Watch has a great dissection of the way that Muslim women are portrayed:

Let’s play a game, shall we? It will be like a drinking game, but without drinking. Okay, here are the rules: every time you read a columnist use the follow words in an article that talks about Muslim women, give five dollars to charity:

  • “pushing boundaries”

  • “East and West”

  • “tradition”

  • a description of what a Muslim woman wears that includes “free-flowing hair” or “veiled”
  • She nails how patronising these reductive and oft-repeated descriptions are in one particular example in the LA Times:

    But when the Middle East (I say “Middle East” because the article only mentions Egypt and Lebanon specifically when speaking of Mowafi, and Haifa Wehbe and Nada Abou Farhat, respectively. The article does not address which country playwright Lina Khoury lives in, and Egypt and Lebanon are stretched into an entire region) wants to talk about sex or women’s issues on TV or in books or through plays, the credit it always somehow detoured back to the U.S. Credit is given to “Oprah Winfrey, Beyonce and even Hillary Rodham Clinton,” but no Middle Eastern or Muslim female role models, as if there have never been any and aren’t any in existence. With no explanation as to what Oprah or Clinton ever did for these women.

    Even these women’s western educations are given the credit for their work rather than they themselves, as if they never would have thought of some of these things themselves if they had been educated in the Middle East.

    Brownfemipower explains why some women of colour in the US think its offensive when white women express disappointment that Clinton lost to Obama:

    I feel your loss, I understand why it hurts to see a woman lose, probably (I disagree, but I am willing to see your point) because of sexism.

    But some of us who care about institutional misogyny don’t feel a loss at Clinton not being elected. There would have been no barrier broken if she were elected. I personally don’t look at Clinton and think-geez, look at all she accomplished-now I can do the same thing-I think-geez-she supported the militarization of the Mexican/U.S. border. There are women now being raped, arrested, imprisoned, and ripped from their children because she actively supports increased militarization at the border.

    Charcoal Ink has some thoughts about Germaine Greer.

    Boing Boing has a story about a woman in Ontario who was fired for shaving her head. Hmmm!

    Her employer, Dan Hilliard, says his restaurant has certain standards prohibiting men from wearing earrings and requiring employees to keep their hair at a reasonable length.

    Beth Granter wonders why online services such as Spock insist on asking gender – and only provide two options.

    Comments From You

    Sian // Posted 8 June 2008 at 12:39 pm

    I was bemused by the furore of this (2nd?) nannygate-I think the MP in question says that the nanny did some secretarial work for her, rather than the money being for childcare-but the way it’s been reported makes out she’s paying for a nanny’s services and this is AWFUL. Now, perhaps the full cost of a NANNY shouldn’t be paid for by taxpayers, but childcare definitely should be-maybe give the going rate for a creche and the individual can top that up for a nanny if they wish? Also, does anyone know if there’s a parliamentary creche? Such a big employer could easily fill one up I imagine, including other staff like cleaners children etc-and would be an excellent example to set to UK businesses.

    And thanks for pointing out the New York Times article, and Charcoal Ink’s-both thought provoking. I like Germaine even when I’m disagreeing with her.

    The gender question irritates the hell out of me, even as someone who’s cisgender-it’s surely such an irrelevant question. The only reasons I can think of that they might want to know, is a half-arsed fraud prevention mechanism (though I’m sure a thief could just get his sister to use your credit card) and to send you gender-targeted marketing stuff-you know, all that pink stuff.

    Paul Leake // Posted 9 June 2008 at 12:04 pm

    Quite apart from MPs expenses though – none of the main parties have any real provision for childcare for the party’s candidates and voluntary officers – and this is one of the main reasons women with caring responsibilities find it so hard to get selected to stand for Parliament. It is near impossible to get selected for Parliament / win a seat without putting in huge numbers of unpaid hours in party meetings / on the doorstep, which instantly writes off thousands of excellent candidates.

    Sandy // Posted 11 June 2008 at 11:27 am

    The point about MPs expenses for whatever – childcare, new kitchens, second homes, secretaries – is that despite the fact that they award themselves huge salaries and loads of perks, they are so greedy they still want to grab more and more. It’s the point for me as a taxpayer, anyway.

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