Backlash alive and well – as if we hadn’t noticed…

// 1 July 2008

Kira Cochrane has written a very cogent analysis of the ways in which women are still discriminated against.

I found myself tripping over signs, left and right, that not only does the feminist movement still have far to go, but that arguments we thought were long-won have been re-opened, rights we thought were settled are suddenly under threat. These signs came in a whole variety of forms, some ridiculous, some devastating.

Read More Here

And The F Words gets mentioned too which is a lovely bonus!

Comments From You

Sabre // Posted 1 July 2008 at 12:34 pm

That’s a really good article. I had a conversation with someone who thought feminism was dead, and I struggled to articulate why we still need it. It helps when someone puts all the issues together in one place. One nitpick: Kira calls it an ‘all-out assault on feminism’ but really isn’t it an assault on women?

I have noticed that as a feminist one of my main feelings is a sense of loneliness. There’s plenty of feminist stuff online but where is this backlash occurring in the real world? I don’t personally know anyone (male or female) who would call themselves feminist or pro-feminist yet they usually have feminist views. There’s a rich online world devoted to feminism, but where is it in real life, to influence the people who don’t go out to seek it? Where are the TV shows about women that DON’T focus on looks, the glossy weekly or monthly magazines that AREN’T full of tips on how to dress fashionably/please your man/bitch about celebrities or women routinely achieving acclaim for work in science, politics, arts, anything?!

Where is this backlash? Am I looking in the wrong place or something?

jacoma // Posted 1 July 2008 at 1:00 pm

This was a great piece by Kira – it really pulled everything together. People don’t easily get that violence against women (vaw) is a matter of equality. Her article puts VAW alongside career options, child care, equal pay and all the issues of inequality. the only thing she didn’t add is that this is why the End Violence Against Women coalition is arguing for an Integrated strategy – in fact they are presenting one on 4 july – fingers crossed government will get it at last!

tomhulley // Posted 1 July 2008 at 1:43 pm

As someone deeply influenced by sixties/ second wave feminists I have always found signs of backlash troublesome. So many people tell me everything is fine now -women are equal, all expressions of sexuality are tolerated, disabled people have access to everything etc etc.

That is why F-word and other contemporary feminist activities are so important. More power to all involved. Best wishes, Tom.

ps Admirable unshakeable optimism in Kira’s piece even if I would be more impatient for justice.

Soirore // Posted 1 July 2008 at 1:43 pm

There is so much to be depressed about in that article. I usually only have to deal with these issues one at a time.

However, regarding the “Dragon” Theo Paphitis. He owns La Senza and Contessa lingerie stores doesn’t he? Perhaps we could contact them and state that we won’t be buying their underwear due to his offensive, sexist views on the women who work for him. Seeing as only women will work in these stores (as bra fitters) it seems absurd as well as nasty for him not to recognise their value and contribution to his wealth.

Laurel Dearing // Posted 1 July 2008 at 2:32 pm

i have a feeling these arent going to be easy times to be born into…

All this stuff is actually scaring me. Im picturing some sort of war between the equalists and the anti-feminists. I know thats very dramatic but seeing as there’s hardly any coverage of articles like that, and how feminism is avoided by the media unless its critical, and this mirage that everything’s totally equal now, it’s very hard to fight before they fight.

i don’t know if any amount of letters and marches will make a difference with them being ignored, and put aside as things being done by whiners and man-haters. I don’t see the general public having a clue what has been going on until their rights are seriously violated. And will some of them even know it then? The media could still cover all the people who are happily housewives and the pole-dancers that feel liberated rather than the many who would have been forced back.

am I paranoid?

classicmum // Posted 1 July 2008 at 3:44 pm

I thought this was a terrific and thought-provoking article.

As a new mum, the prejudice I experienced from my boss was eye-opening to me, as I’d assumed his sort of beliefs (about women simply giving up work once they got pregnant) had gone the way of the dinosaurs; but I experienced as much incredulity from women as from men when I returned to work swiftly after my daughter’s birth.

As a teacher, I find it depressing sending girls out into a world where they are can be high achieving super women OR wonderful mothers, instead of a world where they can be both.

Louise // Posted 1 July 2008 at 4:22 pm

Sabre, I agree with you about feeling like a one voice. Only one of my female friends would call herself a feminist, and my male friends get offended if I bring up any inequality, to the point that I have to censor myself. I dragged an open-minded male friend to Ladyfest recently and he seemed to get a lot out of it, but I felt really sad that I didn’t have a group of girl friends to go with. It’s frustrating that most people, male and female, seem to just accept all this stuff. Scarily, could it be that a lot of women are actually not at all worried about it??

Beth // Posted 1 July 2008 at 4:43 pm

I thought this article this morning by Kira was great. As many people have said, it really brings together a lot of issues which need to be addressed. The comment about the Women’s Refuge etc getting less funding than the Donkey Sanctuary made me laugh. If I hadn’t laughed I think I would have burst into tears.

For me, the majority of magazines and papers that form the media are the most damaging tool of misogyny and women hating that we have in Britain today. The point Kira makes about the media focusing on falsely reported cases of rape is a point which has disturbed and upset me greatly over the last few years. How on earth do we change this? So many people now take the view that rape is often made up by ‘mad bitches’ to get back at boyfriends etc. How do you address these kinds of warped ideas? It all seems a bit hopeless sometimes…

Chris // Posted 1 July 2008 at 5:46 pm

Personally I feel that many feminist writers and bloggers contribute to any backlash by being disingenuous with the metrics and statistics they use to further their cause. This is something I find prevalent in many equality and anti-equality(?) movements alike. It’s hard to put your full support behind someone when you feel they are just short of lying to you.

Another problem is that many feminists make generalised statements about men and women alike. As a young man who treats everyone, male and females alike, in the same fair way in which I would like to be treated, I read a few articles on this website and infact it turns out I am a woman hating bigot with a well paid job and lots of power. Excuse my exaggeration :)

Controversy can be a powerful tool for moving an issue into the mainstream but now I feel it’s time for a debate with more moderate language being used.

Lindsey Spilman // Posted 1 July 2008 at 6:53 pm

Yes I agree there is lots of backlash. It is like the old fashioned mother or sex object thing is back. Women are showed in the media as sex object or mother’s, that’s when they are not been shown as child neglecters and failures. Throughout the 21st centaury the fashion has also focused more on beauty instead of practicality, and is re enforcing the idea that women should dress differently then men. Women are being convinced that reclaiming so called femininity is liberating them and that feminism of the past caused them to loss this so called femininity. The question I ask is why so many women feel the need to constantly be reassured that they are feminine. I wonder if it has something to do with how abusive some men are to women who in there eyes do not meet the standard of what a woman should look like, or weather its because some women are being made to feel so useless and bad about there selves that they feel the only way to get any acceptance in society is through there appearance. Even in the environmental movement there is anti-feminist under-currents. Things like talk about houses having two cars, names like eco chick to describe women who wear eco friendly clothing. Next they will be telling women to stay at home to save the planet.

Seamus MacDhai // Posted 1 July 2008 at 7:27 pm

Cochrane on false rape accusations: “The number of women who take false complaints to the police is thought to stand at 3% of the total.”

Cochrane doesn’t specify where she got this figure from.

Home Office research estimates that, actually: “between 3% and 9% of all reports of rape are found to be false.”

The rape conviction rate is shockingly low, I agree, but it’s vital that feminists do not distort and minimise the serious issue of false accusations or simplistically blame “media focus” for what is a real and serious problem in our society.

Laura // Posted 1 July 2008 at 8:03 pm


Which disingenuous statistics would those be? I tend to find that statisics feminists use (while acknowledging that stats is dodgy territory generally) tend to be considered false simply because people do not want to believe what we are saying, or (in the case of rape/sexual assault, for example) because women are not believed (point to statistics compiled by rape crisis centres – the people who are really in the know – and the accuser tends to scoff).

As for generalised statements – we need to highlight problems. We need to get things done. We could write “some men, not all men of course, although they may be engaging in x behaviour without realising it, or due to their socialisation rather than because they are bastards” etc etc before every statement, but one would hope that on a website aimed specifically at feminists and those interested in feminism, readers would realise that if it doesn’t apply to you, the piece in question is not being directed at you.

We have bigger fish to fry than worry about someone taking offence, to be honest. I take no offence when a person of colour highlights something “white people” do. I may not do it, or (more likely) it may be something I do but have never noticed or thought to question before, due to the fact that I am in a more privileged position when it comes to race. Taking offence doesn’t help anyone, and if I’m a true ally, I will listen and learn, and not make it all about me. Same goes for men when it comes to feminism.

More here:


Laura // Posted 1 July 2008 at 8:25 pm


The fact that out of all the issues brought up that really quite lengthy article you chose to focus on false rape accusations reflects the fact that society views false rape accusation as much more of a serious and pressing problem than any of the many issues facing women today, and certainly as a bigger problem than rape itself. This would be because society values men over women. As a result, any woman who is courageous enough to report her rapist is automatically assumed to be lying. This has got to change.

Seamus MacDhai // Posted 1 July 2008 at 9:20 pm


I brought up false rape accusations simply because I believe that it is these accusations – and the public perception of them – that are hugely responsible for the drop in rape convictions.

Home Office estimates suggest that as many as 1 in 11 women (9%, max) who make rape accusations are quite simply lying.

A typical jury will be aware of this trend because of high-profile cases involving celebrities – the BBC article I linked on this issue refers to Neil and Christine Hamilton facing false accusations, but there are many other examples (footballers are a common target, it seems).

I would suggest that there is a direct correlation between declining rape convictions and high-profile false rape accusations being exposed in the media.

Therefore, an excellent way of reversing the shamefully low rape conviction rate in this country would be to A) highlight the issue of false-rape accusations and B) treat false-accusers extremely harshly, because their lies are making it more difficult for genuine rape victims.

james // Posted 1 July 2008 at 9:54 pm

I think some ‘feminist’ ideas have gone too far. I thinking of employment in particular, there are an incredible array of rights: a years maternity leave, the right to request flexible working, child tax credits, government sponsored childcare. It is ridiculous.

I have the word ‘feminist’ in quotes above because I think it is possible to be a feminist and think these ideas are crazy. So I think the way ‘backlash’ is used as a rhetorical device to try and present feminism as a monolith and criticism as evil and anti-feminist is a bit misleading.

Chris // Posted 1 July 2008 at 10:27 pm

Hi Laura,

I wouldn’t say it’s a question of offence, I’m certainly not offended by any negative generalised statements I might read about men as I’m confident enough in myself to know that they don’t apply to me. For me it’s a question of judgement and trust. If someone makes a seemingly ignorant statement about a whole gender/race etc I will instantly question their judgement and motives.

In my eyes two wrongs don’t make a right, but I’m probably being too much of a stickler:)

I understand the need to highlight problems, but are you not already, for lack of a better phrase, preaching to the perverted. You state this website is aimed specifically at feminists and those interested in feminism but surely this is not where the backlash, which the article mentions, originates from. Is it time to adopt more inclusive rhetoric that highlights only those who are doing wrong in the hope that this will bring more people onside, in the understanding that equality for women will be a benifit to us all reagrdless of gender.

Laura // Posted 1 July 2008 at 11:04 pm


These things are not ridiculous. They are necessary in order for women to no longer be forced into the role of bringing up the next generation, in order that women can participate in all areas of society, as men have been doing for so long. The traditional work model was created by and for men, and entirely relies on women shouldering the burden of childcare and domestic duties. Many of us would rather not do that, so work models need to change in order to accomodate parents, both male and female, though currently primarily female as the responsibility for child care still falls very much on the mother.

Feminism, in my opinion at least, isn’t about fitting women into a manmade world; it’s about creating a world in which we can all be free, in which everyone’s needs are met, and that requires big changes in all areas of society. Hence the backlash – society had been built around male power, men see that being challenged, and those who perceive themselves as having little to gain from social change do everything in their power to turn back the clock.

Cara // Posted 2 July 2008 at 12:11 am

Seamus – as Laura said, that you bring up false rape accusations proves the point.

The Home Office report actually states that 3% is likely to be closer to the correct figure, which is what Kira Cochrane quoted. 2-3% is the typical rate of false reporting for all crimes.

The police figure was 9% – but the police designated some reports as false that were probably not:

Even if she “admits” the accusation was false, this may reflect a woman who was disbelieved by the police anyway and bullied into retracting, or just couldn’t face the prospect of continuing.

I don’t think vilifying false rape accusers is going to help anyone, for precisely the reason that genuine reports are disbelieved and so such a law would be misused against genuine rape victims. Oh, this already happens.

That said, I have no fondness for women who falsely accuse rape – I agree that they do a disservice to women who have genuinely been raped. If there is actual proof that an allegation is false, the police already have powers to prosecute for wasting police time and so on, and I support them doing so. That goes for allegations of all crimes, not just rape. There are people who feel the need to falsely accuse others, for whatever reason – most of them are more sad and pathetic than bad.

It is not a question of cabals of evil women going around making malicious false allegations. And not one of those 3% or 9%, whichever you like, of false allegations in the report went to court.

And most rapes aren’t even reported. Like 85%.

Men claim terror of being falsely accused, thrown in prison and having their lives ruined – if a man didn’t do it, (or even if he did), chances are he won’t even have to go to the trouble of being interviewed by the police. Some perspective would not go amiss.

Lara // Posted 2 July 2008 at 9:16 am

I am surprised the article described the increasing number of rapes reported as a direct raise in actual instances of rape. Surely it is symptomatic of more people coming forward due to less of a stigma etc, rather than an increase in rapes? More people coming forward to report rape and a diminishing number of convictions is arguably the greater issue?

In response to what Seamus said that many false rape accusations are women simply ‘lying’. Don’t many women who make false rape accusations do so because of sexual abuse or rape in their formative years? Obviously this is horrific for the accused men – but raises the point of why is it not being addressed earlier?

This is the first time I have posted on here (or indeed, on anything!)


Louise Livesey // Posted 2 July 2008 at 9:41 am

Personally I feel that many feminist writers and bloggers contribute to any backlash by being disingenuous with the metrics and statistics they use to further their cause.

Another problem is that many feminists make generalised statements

Oh irony you are a cruel mistress…..

Dear Chris, please cite evidence for your claim that feminist writers misuse empirical evidence. Otherwise consider why you might feel that feminists (and therefore, generally, women) don’t properly use largely statistical evidence?

Very often, as an academic, I’ve found statistical work by women dismissed by men purely on the assumption that “women can’t do maths”. It’s a view that pervades our culture (women scientists are seen as an anathema). Funnily enough I’ve never yet seen a feminist researcher who is unable to understand statistics, charts and data – it’s our stock in trade.

Louise Livesey // Posted 2 July 2008 at 9:46 am

As the Gap or Chasm? report identified the drop in conviction is largely due to a drop in Police bringing cases to the CPS to prosecute and the CPS taking them to trail. It’s not that juries are finding men not guilty – it’s that reports are either not investigated or not proceeded with even where there is plenty of evidence.

You also completely ignore the pressures on women complainants from the institutionally sexist Police Force to the media to family and friends (to be raped is still considered shameful in the UK amongst all populations and women tend to be blamed for it) to withdraw complaints. To assume, as you suggest, that these accusations are therefore false is a nonsense and ignores thirty years of feminist writing on sexual violence and the best government funded research.

Sarah // Posted 2 July 2008 at 9:53 am

On the false rape accusation issue – a ‘false accusation’ doesn’t necessarily mean the victim was ‘simply lying’, it could be the case that the rape actually took place but the wrong man was identified/accused as the rapist, or that there was an assault that the victim reported as rape but which did not meet the legal definition. Or it may be that she was telling the truth and was not believed – miscarriages of justice work both ways, you know.

Also men can be rape victims as well – do you believe a significant proportion of them are lying, or is it just women who have a genetic propensity to invent outrageous lies at every opportunity?

I take the point about high-profile ‘false accusation’ cases influencing a jury’s thinking. But I would blame the media’s reporting of such issues and the villification of the woman involved (which in my opinion goes far beyond that directed at men who actually rape). And of course the underlying cultural beliefs (women are liars/can’t be trusted/dirty sluts who wanted it really etc.) that such reporting taps into, which is why it makes such a powerful impression in people’s minds – it confirms what, on some level, they already believe to be true. It’s the old story – one man drives badly, people think he’s a bad driver; one woman drives badly, people think all women are bad drivers. One woman lies…well, you get the idea.

As for women’s rights in the workplace – no these are not ‘ridiculous’ at all, they’re sensible and necessary measures to ensure women can balance family life with paid work. If anything I’d like to see more such opportunities extended to men so all parents and families can share childcare and employment in the way that works best for them. People are not going to just stop having children any time soon, nor are we going to lose the need to work for a living – it makes sense to me to work towards ways of making these fundamental parts of life more compatible. I think that benefits everyone.

Louise Livesey // Posted 2 July 2008 at 9:58 am

Yes James it’s obviously “crazy” for women to think they should be able to have children and work at the same time. What were we thinking. End Sarcasm

Flexible working, child tax credits and government childcare benefit men as well. And men, generally speaking enjoy being parents too, so if their wives couldn’t take maternity leave (of which by the way only 39 weeks is paid so really the entitlement for most women is actually only 9 months and 3 weeks) then men would complain they were being denied their “rights” to fatherhood.

“Backlash” is used to describe actions and ideas which are anti-women’s rights, rights which have had to be hard fought for. Maternity leave was first introduced in 1976, a mere thirty-two years ago and this was limited to women who’d worked for the same employer for over two years, thus excluding approaching 50% of women in employment (for example by 1988 it was 40% of women who were excluded on these grounds). It was only in 1992 that the UK introduced maternity leave for all women, irrespective of employment length and that was only for 14 weeks compared to Denmark’s 24 weeks (for example). We lag behind almost all other European nations on maternity provisions (see here, here and here and herefor examples.

Louise Livesey // Posted 2 July 2008 at 10:38 am

Don’t many women who make false rape accusations do so because of sexual abuse or rape in their formative years?

Dear Lara,

Whilst there is some empirical evidence that children may falsely identify their abuser as part of the trust-building process in disclosing abuse (although it is disputed)has been no suggestion from the research material that this process bleeds over into adulthood. To suggest that women survivors would be more likely to make false accusations is actually rather victim-blaming and insulting to survivors of childhood sexual violences.

QuestionThat // Posted 2 July 2008 at 11:29 am

Nothing to do with rape, but one “disingenuous statistic” I’m sick to the back teeth of seeing in articles and on blogs is the wage-gap one. You know the one I mean.

“Women working part-time earn nearly 40% less than full-time men, a pay penalty that has hardly changed in 30 years.”

How many occupations are there where full-time workers earn the same or less than part-time workers???

Rhona // Posted 2 July 2008 at 11:32 am

I thought this was an excellent and thought -provoking article – I’m off to reread Faludi now and see if anything has changed in 16 years!

Re the rise in reports of rape – I wonder if this could be related to the similar comparable rise in the number of complaints made re racist/homophobic crimes? The police, in fairness, have made some effort to make reporting such crimes less traumatic – for example, by instigating support groups and training dedicated specialist officers (although could do better!), so the question is has there been an actual rise in the number of crimes taking place or are there just more rpeorts being made?

I’m no statistician, so please correct me if I am off the mark here. Realistically, though, the issue is not the number of reports made – it is the shockingly low number of cases taken to court and the convictions arising that is more depressing…

Chris // Posted 2 July 2008 at 11:48 am

Hi Laura,

Many does not equal all as I’m sure you understand.

Also it’s a bit underhand to try and lump me in with anyone who has said to you that “woman can’t do maths”. I made no such assertion.

I won’t be posting again as I don’t feel this is a place for adult rational debate.

Anne Onne // Posted 2 July 2008 at 11:50 am

Seamus, I’m not going to add much, because others have addressed it very well, but even assuming your figures are correct, the false accusations are still far outnumbered by the number of rapes not convicted. Assuming that 3% or even 10% are not legally ‘rape’, that means that the other 90 something percent are, and yet the vast majority of those are not convicted, or reported, or are convicted and thrown out of court.

The very fact you insist that the way to deal with the 90 something % that are telling the truth and are being ignored by focusing on the 3% who are ‘lying’ is exactly what is wrong here. The incidence of false accusations of rape isn’t hugely different to false accusations for other crimes (even crimes that are, like rape, hard to prove). We don’t focus on false accusations for other crimes when talkign about how to increase convictions, why should rape be an exception? This focus on the men in the equation is disproportionate, since statistically speaking, a man accused of rape is still overhwelmingly likely to have done it. Come to think of it, statistically speaking, it’s fairly likely any man off the street is a rapist or abuser. This doesn’t mean people should automatically assume a man did something with no evidence, but it does mean we need to step away from our automatic assumptions that women are probably lying.

Cranium // Posted 2 July 2008 at 12:25 pm

Ms. Cochrane’s assertion is about 3% is inaccurate. In “Until Proven Innocent,” the widely praised widely (praised even by liberal publications such as the New York Times, which the book skewers) and painstaking study of the Duke Lacrosse non-rape case, Stuart Taylor and Professor K.C. Johnson explain that the exact number of false claims is elusive but “[t]he standard assertion by feminists that only 2 percent of rape claims are false, which traces to Susan Brownmiller’s 1975 book “Against Our Will,” is without empirical foundation and belied by a wealth of empirical data. These data suggest that at least 9 percent and probably closer to half of all rape claims are false . . . .” (Page 374.) Whatever the exact number, it is significant, and it is multiple times the three percent cited by Ms. Cochrane.

The crime of making a false rape report has been largely, and improperly, removed from the public discourse about rape. Sexual assault counselors and feminists such as Ms. Cochrane often disingenuously refer to false accusations as a “myth” or a “bugaboo” or, as here, the product of someone’s “imagination.” Denigrating the experience of the falsely accused by dismissing their victimization as a myth is not merely dishonest but morally grotesque.

Far from elevating false rape claims over real rape claims, we live in a culture that pretends false rape claims are so aberrational that their occurrence must be news. Sentences for this crime are notoriously light, if any charges are brought at all. It is not uncommon for the falsely accused male to serve more jail time than the criminal who put him there. Moreover, the news coverage afforded these stories typically focuses on the “real” victims of a false claim — future, hypothetical, phantom, even unborn women who might, maybe, perhaps, possibly will be deterred from “coming forward” because of skepticism caused by the lie. The innocent men often publicly destroyed by a false accusation (since, unlike their accusers, they are not afforded lifetime anonymity) are treated as collateral damage in the war on rape.

Louise Livesey // Posted 2 July 2008 at 12:29 pm

You are abolsutely right and I’ve always queried that too (although I think what they are referring to is the hourly paid rate of male full time and female part time workers so the comparison isn’t as shoddy as it first might seem). However here are the fulltime comparative rates:

In 2007, median weekly earnings of full-time employees for women of £394 were 21 per cent less than those for men (£498), unchanged from 2006. Figures from 2007 and from National Statistics Service

Additionally from the site:

The gap between women’s median hourly pay and men’s was 12.6 per cent

The largest difference was in the South East region, where women’s median pay was 15.9 per cent less than men’s.

On the internationally comparable measure based on mean earnings, women’s average hourly pay (excluding overtime) was 17.2 per cent less than men’s pay

Louise Livesey // Posted 2 July 2008 at 12:36 pm

Dear Chris,

It’s Louise, not Laura (I know those pesky female names just all look the same don’t they).

I agree many doesn’t equal all, didn’t suggest it did. I asked you to give examples (i.e. substantiate your assertion). Your response is to cry foul and claim to leave. Not sure your criteria of adult behaviour but that doesn’t meet mine.

Louise Livesey // Posted 2 July 2008 at 12:47 pm

Ms. Cochrane’s assertion is about 3% is inaccurate

I believe it’s actually from the Gap or Chasm? report I already gave link to elsewhere.

As for Taylor and Johnson’s polemic, it isn’t based on empirical research (not they don’t substantiate their claim to “a wealth of empirical data” and leap from 9% (which as discussed was the Police rate identified in the UK but which is problematic (no criming occurs only on Police Officer’s “hunch”) to 40%, The entire book is based only on their opinions of what may or may not have happened.

The crime of false allegation is far from hidden from public discourse – you can’t say “rape” without someone saying “what about false allegations” these days (see this discussion as an example!).

phantom, even unborn women who might, maybe, perhaps, possibly will be deterred from “coming forward” because of skepticism caused by the lie

Other than this getting more than a little hyperbolus this ignores thirty years of research on why women don’t come forward and stigmatisation and fear of disbelief are the most cited reasons in both child sexual abuse and adult rape cases.

As for the poor innocent men who are collateral. If we take the Home Office’s own 1 in 3 figure for experience of sexual violence over lifecourse we’re taking in the region of 10,534,548 women in Britain at the current time. They are the real victims. Lets not forget that in hyperbole about false allegations.

Legible Susan // Posted 2 July 2008 at 1:04 pm

Actually (before the troll comes back and picks up on it), I think you’ve doubled the figure there, Louise. In round figures I’d believe a population of 60 million, but not 60 million women.

That was a remarkably polite response to him though.

Louise Livesey // Posted 2 July 2008 at 1:37 pm

Thanks for the correction, now done. And thank for the compliment. *Tips Hat*

tomhulley // Posted 2 July 2008 at 1:49 pm

Chris, I don’t believe you. Treating everyone fairly? Then you jump on to a feminist website and put the boot in.

At least the hostile anti-feminists don’t pretend.(Well they do sometimes but that’s men for you).

Ever thought how some/ many women might change their accounts under pressure -is that a ‘false’ report?

Trust feminists. When a feminist makes a mistake another feminist will help. I don’t agree with everything every feminist says as this would be impossible but I don’t jump in either.

Try listening, supporting, thinking and put your (internalised?) male privilege agenda to sleep. Nobody brought up in a patriarchal society has the ability to treat everyone fairly -think about it. Being picky means that you are not even trying.

Amy // Posted 2 July 2008 at 2:22 pm

It’s depressing to see most of the fellas who have decided to comment here are concentrating on false rape allegations, but it’s not really surprising. What’s sad is that these male commenters cannot look beyond their own conditioning to see things rationally.

Firstly, the fact is – it is much worse to *be* raped than to be falsely accused of being a rapist. Rape victims not only suffer physically but the mental scars can last a lifetime – relationships suffer, a victim can have post traumatic stress, panic attacks, depression and be driven to suicide. This suffering should be our society’s first concern when it comes to addressing this crime. In a just society, those with the most needs should be in receipt of the most attention and help. If a few people get falsely accused along the way, well that’s the price you pay for ensuring justice for all the people (the vast majority) who do genuinely suffer. It is this way for other crimes, so it should be for rape. It is not ‘morally grotesque’, it is a utilitarian moral stance – the greatest good for the greatest number.

Secondly – as has already been said, 85% of rapes don’t even get reported. Wouldn’t it be prudent to ask why this is? And isn’t the only answer that victims are frightened that they won’t be believed? If all those 85% *were* actually reported (you can assume that they’re true for obvious reasons – a false allegation is only a false allegation if it’s reported), then even the higher false accusation rate of 9% would drop to just over 1%. So much lower than the average for other crimes. Something to think about.

Thirdly, the media aggressively report false allegations to give people the impression that these allegations are more prevalent than they really are – again, think about it – newspapers are a business, so they sell more papers if they report things which confirm the beliefs their readership already has. It’s not hard to whip up a false impression of something, this is what the media does all the time. It confirms prejudices and makes people think they are clever for believing the ‘right’ thing. It’s then very difficult when you’re in the less powerful position in society, as women are, to confront and discredit this prejudice. But it would help if people didn’t automatically believe what they read in the papers.

To the men who have commented on this issue and others who may believe in the myth of widespread false rape allegations – please be rational.

Torygirl // Posted 2 July 2008 at 9:13 pm

I love Kira Cochrane’s writing in general and this article was no exception. It was doubly interesting as I’m also reading Backlash at the moment (in snippets when the kids are asleep).

I thought it was perfectly timed as on Sunday I bought the News of the World (for the £5 off supermarket shopping only!) and was pretty appalled to see an item on the return of the “surrendered wife”.

And this just weeks after that awful Hambleton-Jones slice-yourself-happy woman was quoted as saying she’s not a feminist – she’d rather be sexy.

Obviously these are superlight pop media snippets but I can’t get away from thinking that they probably have a much bigger audience than Kira Cochrane, which makes me very sad.

james // Posted 2 July 2008 at 10:12 pm

Louise – Is there some point at which you’d think “‘job done’ any extension of these rights would just be taking the piss”?

Because I don’t support any increase in rights, you portray me as thinking women should have no rights and the clock should be rolled back to 1900. That’s not true. But surely there must be a line somewhere?

Mothers with partners are actually quite an economically privileged group. I think it is questionable that we need to funnel more support at them to help them attain the rather shallow dream of of mixing domesticity and work that you and Laura are waxing lyrical about.

It isn’t obvious by any means that a years maternity leave is needed for women to balance work and children. It isn’t obvious that 50% of childcare needs to be paid for by the government. It isn’t obvious that parents of 16 year olds (who can look after themselves) should have the right to request flexible working. I’m not sure these rights are being hard fought for, what’s seem noticable to me is how little opposition there has been the recent bout of extension we’re seeing.

Shea // Posted 3 July 2008 at 3:29 am

“It isn’t obvious by any means that a years maternity leave is needed for women to balance work and children.”

I think a year is actually a meagre amount of time to recover and nurse a child. There are the physical aspects, such as recovery from the birth, breast feeding etc. But further a year when the child is at its most vulnerable, when it is crucial to bond with and care for the baby is essential. In a 40+ working life a year is nothing. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t also be campaigning to extend paternity leave to a year also, which would help massively.

“It isn’t obvious that 50% of childcare needs to be paid for by the government.”

It isn’t. Nothing is paid for by the government it all comes from general taxation which comes from those working and contributing to the economy, which includes women and mothers. It would be better if employers started recognising the contribution of their female employees and providing free childcare (pipe dreams Shea, stop it!) but in lieu of that the government is subsidising employers and the underpaying of female labour generally by choosing to funnel money for childcare. That way the mothers can work and contribute to the taxation base.

“It isn’t obvious that parents of 16 year olds (who can look after themselves) should have the right to request flexible working.”

It isn’t simply parents who do this. Those caring for an infirm or elderly relative do this too. Personally I think it is the best of both worlds, they care for the person in question and thereby save the state thousands AND contribute economically. I don’t see the controversy. Sixteen year olds do need looking after, its just our society likes to thrust responsibility onto them prematurely, but doesn’t see them as old enough or responsible enough to give the freedom to vote or buy alcohol or be paid a decent wage. But hell we can send them to fight and die for their country, no problem.

“Mothers with partners are actually quite an economically privileged group.”

Far from it. They are among the most financially vulnerable. Their partners are the most economically priviledged of the two, in being allowed to continue to progress in their career without any penalties and still have a happy family life with children. In the meantime the women will have had to sacrifice some career progression in order to achieve a family. They will then have to attempt a juggling act trying to balance work and family and no matter how well they combine them, they will still be made to feel like abject failures by society and the media at large.

“seems noticeable to me how little opposition there has been the recent bout of extension we’re seeing.”

What seems obvious to me is how little you value the economic contribution of women in this country. James –the economy should serve the needs of the population not vice versa. In our world of de regulated labour where exploitation and abuse are the norm anything that strengthens the position of workers should be wholeheartedly embraced.

Sarah // Posted 3 July 2008 at 9:16 am

I think the way to look at it is more as moving towards a model of ‘flexible’ working and good work-life balance for everyone, not so much ‘special rights for mothers’. I agree the focus has possibly been too much on mothers, which I’m sure is well-meant, but has the unfortunate consequence of reinforcing the idea that childcare and housework is ‘women’s work’, rather than trying to get towards a situation where these things are shared more equitably.

As for thinking ‘job done’, I’m not sure when or if that would happen – I think with this as with any aspect of society there’s always scope for examining the situation and thinking whether we could improve or refine it.

But that’s for the future anyway – I think most feminists would agree that we’re a long way from the situation where women are able to be equal in the workplace, and men are equally able to take an active part in their children’s lives. Laura made a good point above which is that the aim of feminism is not to ‘fit women into a man’s world’ – and to some extent that’s what we’ve been doing so far – introcuding regulations and special treatment to help a woman/mother be able to function in what is still very much a traditional working-man’s role. This is better than nothing, but doesn’t work perfectly – it often leads to women just doing their traditional ‘women’s work’ on top of their employment – affecting their career, not to mention health and happiness – and can cause resentment among those who aren’t entitled to such ‘privileges’. What I and many feminists envisage is a more radical change for everyone.

I don’t agree that mixing home life and paid work is a ‘shallow dream. It’s what most of us know as ‘life’. That’s why I think it’s in everyone’s interest to make this work!

Lara // Posted 3 July 2008 at 9:41 am

Hi Louise,

I wasn’t saying victims of abuse are more likely to make false accusations – just that in case of false allegations being made it is often more complicated than women ‘simply lying’. Previous abuse or rape is sometimes one of the reasons a false accusation is made.

I don’t understand when in cases of men being violent towards women a great deal is often made of abuse or negligence in their formative years (often blaming the mother) when in cases of women doing ill to men, it is written off as the actions of a madwoman?

Amy // Posted 3 July 2008 at 11:39 am

“But surely there must be a line somewhere?”

James, I’ll try and put it simply. Men are human beings; women are human beings. We are all human beings and as such deserve equal rights. A man can have a career and a family, no questions asked. If a woman wants to do this, she is criticised, penalised, forced to choose between work and home… do you see the point yet? Furthermore a child has *two* parents, and apart from birthing and breastfeeding, there is no reason why its father can’t look after it (or feed it a bottle of expressed breast milk for that matter). The fact that women now don’t want to put up with being unpaid skivvies means rights must exist to ensure *both* sexes can work and have a family without this being a big deal, and *both* sexes can look after their offspring. (Btw, in Iceland, parental leave can be shared, and men actually *do* take it. The society is much healthier as a result.)

So in answer to your question, the “line” would be when men and women have equal rights to both pursue their careers and reproduce if they choose to.

Feminist Avatar // Posted 3 July 2008 at 9:18 pm

I would like to second Amy’s last comment. Children have TWO parents. It may be women taking maternity leave, but the state is supporting everybody’s right to have children.

Plus children are not the property of individuals and their private whims- they are part of society. They deserve protection and support like the rest of us get from the state. Adult men also get support from the state. They get healthcare, unemployment benefit, pensions, tapped water, sewage, subsidised public transport, etc, etc. They, if they were young enough, got to have mothers who were paid maternity leave so she could afford to bring them into the world.

Louise Livesey // Posted 4 July 2008 at 2:30 pm

Is there some point at which you’d think “‘job done’ any extension of these rights would just be taking the piss”?

Yes absolutely – it’s the point where women aren’t disadvantaged just for being female.

Because I don’t support any increase in rights, you portray me as thinking women should have no rights and the clock should be rolled back to 1900.

I am fairly sure I haven’t actually – I responded to your idea that women were “crazy” for wanting basic rights which benefit families (which include men). Given other people’s comments (Laura’s, Shea’s etc) I am not alone.

Mothers with partners

You see there you ago again identifying women as the sole responsible person for the parental role. Some of those “partners” will be biological fathers, others will be non-biological fathers, don’t they also have a role? Or do you really believe men are invisible/absent from child-rearing issues?

are actually quite an economically privileged group.

Only if they are either a two-income household or are middle classed and some of the few who can manage on a single income. Most families I know economically need two people working to manage subsistence – not because they are profligate but because they are in low paid jobs.

I think it is questionable that we need to funnel more support at them to help them attain the rather shallow dream of of mixing domesticity and work that you and Laura are waxing lyrical about.

If it’s shallow why has it been the solid basis of male existence for the past two hundred years or so? Why is it you believe women should be exiled to the private sphere for giving birth? I’d rather see society change for the benefit of men, women and children rather than the financial propping up of an unfair and ando-centric system but in the meantime if that what it takes for women to be treated as equals, I’ll accept it.

It isn’t obvious by any means that a years maternity leave i needed for women to balance work and children.

Remember it’s only 36 weeks paid. And you’re right, we should all return to work immediately because there is such a wide range of affordable childcare that it isn’t an issue. Oh wait, no there isn’t.

It isn’t obvious that 50% of childcare needs to be paid for by the government.

It isn’t obvious that 50% *is* paid for by the government. Can you cite a source for that claim? When you think about the large amount of informal care of children done, largely, by women (grandmothers, aunts, friends pooling care etc), state-funded care accounts for a very small part of the whole.

It isn’t obvious that parents of 16 year olds (who can look after themselves) should have the right to request flexible working.

Nor can you – it’s only for children under 6 and disabled children up to 18 and it’s only a statutory right to request flexible working, the employer can say no.

I’m not sure these rights are being hard fought for

Then perhaps you need to look at the organisations lobbying and fighting for family rights.

what’s seem noticable to me is how little opposition there has been the recent bout of extension we’re seeing.

Maybe that’s because most people see that it makes sense.

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