Round Up

// 1 December 2008

Yesterday I made a note to blog about the three women and one man short list for the Turner Prize. I optimistically wrote

might help with their dreadful gender ratio for winners as only three women have won it since 1984.

because I really didn’t think that women could lose on a 3:1 ratio. How depressingly wrong I was – readers, the sole man shortlisted won. Now there are several ways of trying to understand this phenomenon:

  • Women are bad at producing modern art because they are just less artistic
  • Women are bad at producing modern art because there is just something intrinsically macho about it
  • Women aren’t bad at producing modern art, but men are better
  • Women are good at producing modern art but men are better
  • Women are good at producing modern art, but are overlooked because of masculinist structures of art competitions
  • Women are good at modern art but sexism of judges means they aren’t rewarded

I don’t know enough about art to say which I think it is, but I do know there is something fish when the female:male ratio of winners is 1:8 and even with a 3:1 ratio of winning, a male artist wins.

Meanwhile a “butcher surgeon” who left women with deformed breasts and other complications has been cleared to practice by the GMC. I somehow have visions of Michael Winner patronising patients by going “Don’t worry dear, it’s only your breasts”.

Consultant Brian Gwynn was found guilty of serious professional misconduct in his treatment of three of the patients but the medical watchdog said he had since “remedied the deficiencies”. One of the complainants alleged she had been “butchered” by Mr Gwynn who performed breast reconstructive surgery on her at Staffordshire General Hospital in January 2001. She was left with a hole in her stomach following the operation.

It gets worse…

Here’s another example of why journalists and statistics often shouldn’t be left in a room together: apparently the credit crunch leads to more sex. Except it doesn’t, because this isn’t comparative in different economic circumstances or even over time.

As the credit crunch bites, Britons may be turning to sex as a cheap way to pass the time, a charity says. A YouGov survey of 2,000 adults found sex was the most popular free activity, ahead of window shopping and gossiping….But the sexes differed on their priorities, with women preferring to gossip with friends while men had sex firmly at the top of their list.

Of course there aren’t any issues around a sexual double standard that might lead to women fearing being stigmatised if they put sex first… especially if they aren’t currently in a long-term relationship. No, of course not.

Over at Womanist Musings is a really good article about re-evaluating whiteness.

The reason we need to talk about whiteness is because it is everywhere. It has become so dominant that it is normalized in every social institution. Everywhere you look there is the influence of white culture. I am well aware that many view culture as something that belongs to “others”; you know the “exotic darkies” but trust me whiteness has its own unique culture.

Even though whiteness is highly visible for all to see, it is something that is rarely discussed. Usually when we discuss racism we attack it from the point of view of the person of colour. We talk about things like how the legacy of slavery still haunts blacks, or the ways in which Indigenous cultures continue to be colonized. but never do we associate that as an act in maintenance of white hegemony.

Whiteness does not just exist, it is active, vibrant and alive. Daily whiteness works hard to make sure that it is the centre of matters from the important to the trivial. If we only speak about race in terms of the way that it effects people of colour, we are denying whiteness as a race and as an active participant in racial hierarchy.

Feminist Philosophers draw our attention to the disparity contained in “I’m not a feminist, but…”

  • 68% of women said they were being treated unfairly in the workplace.
  • 61% of women think there is a gender bias in the media.
  • Only 20% of women are willing to call themselves “feminist”
  • Only 17% of all voters said they would welcome their daughters using that label
  • 39% of men say that a male is “naturally more suited” to carrying out the duties of the President

Meanwhile there is some interesting double-standards being applied to the issue of lone parents and work.

The BBC “in-depth” article on a “workless household” chose a lone mother and her children. A lone mother who made the choice to be a full time mum and home maker.

By 17 she had met the father of her three children and by 22 had their first son William. From then on family, home life and dealing with a failing relationship took over, she says. While Elizabeth “feels angry” at herself for not getting into work when she was younger, at the same time she believes looking after the kids and the house has been a job in itself.

Wait but hang on – this “workless household” includes a 21 year old son who served the Army in Iraw for three and a half years – i.e. since the age of 17 or so. No mention is made of whether the father of the children, who remained in contact with them post-separation, worked whilst he and Elizabeth were together. He was murdered in 2006. The eldest son was also viciously attacked and stabbed by a gang twice and is now basically agoraphobic.

So this “workless household” contains – 1. a fulltime homemaker, 2. an agoraphobic ex-soldier, 3. another full-time Mum (eldest daughter) and 4. a school aged child. The importance of this? Well the government has just re-iterated it’s commitment that lone parents (who are largely women) have to work after their child hits seven. Reasonable enough except that it basically says “Only the rich should have the privilege of choices about parenting” and “Parenting/homemaking isn’t an occupation – it’s just a waste of valuable economically productive time”. At the same time, of course, that “lone parents” are being blamed for “feral” youth – so you ain’t allowed to make a decision to parent them but you ain’t allowed to stay home with them either.

Following World Aids Day yesterday, over here there are some inspirational songs from across the world about HIV and AIDs.

Comments From You

Amity // Posted 2 December 2008 at 7:55 pm

“Parenting/homemaking isn’t an occupation – it’s just a waste of valuable economically productive time”.

That pretty much sums up most people’s feelings on the matter, it seems.

Lisa // Posted 2 December 2008 at 8:49 pm

The BBC article on the so-called ‘workless’ household shows how cruel and short-sighted the Government’s plans are.

The real porblems in this household are: violence (the father murdered and eldest son still suffering the consequences of stabbing); the lack of flexible and varied opportunities to engage in public life (for all members of the family, paid or unpaid); finally the lack of careers support in their late teens for both the mother and daughter. It’s not so much the basic education that’s important for a teenager but access to adults with practical advice !! Too many teenagers without family support fall between the gaps of school, social services, the police or just get shuttled backwards and forwards until 18 when their files can be closed. Instead of focusing on supporting mothers and children, the Government prefers to reduce its benefits expenditure by whipping struggling mothers ‘out’ to work.

Bet the State won’t pay for nannies, cleaners and the extra room for the au pair or ‘magic’ a high-paying job out of nowhere for these women either. Perhaps more MPs should try running a home without the hired help and only make decisions with the benefit of some relevant life experience.

Sarah // Posted 2 December 2008 at 9:56 pm

With the ‘workless family’ story – it’s the old problem of conflating ‘work’ with ‘paid employment’ – I’m not a mother, but I’m aware that looking after a child is absolutely real work, especially if you don’t have a partner to share the parenting, and can’t afford or don’t want a nanny or childminder, in fact it involves far more hours of work and more responsibility than most of us have at our paid jobs.

I had limited sympathy for the daughter who felt she’d vaguely like to have a job but couldn’t get over the insurmountable hurdle of having to ‘write out your CV and everything and then hand it in to places’, but then again I know how throwaway comments can be quoted out of context, and I thought the whole article was quite a biased and mean-spirited thing which was just cherry-picking quotes and facts to present a nice ‘underclass’ stereotype for everyone to sneer at, and just glossed over the uncomfortable facts like violence, bereavement and mental health problems. And anyway, she had a small child, which means that if she went out to work someone else would have to be paid to look after the child (often with government/taxpayer assistance), so if she would rather stay home and do the job of childcare herself, I don’t really see the problem with her being ‘paid’ whatever pittance she gets from income support and child benefit for that.

Ruth Moss // Posted 3 December 2008 at 7:55 am

Nice roundup, interesting articles, and I really liked your take on the getting Mums back to work story:

““Parenting/homemaking isn’t an occupation – it’s just a waste of valuable economically productive time””

I often feel in two minds about the measures to get mothers back into paid work and I think you’ve just put your finger on the trouble with these sort of schemes.

maggie // Posted 3 December 2008 at 9:44 am

Excellent selection. The horror of the consultant being cleared to work by the GMC is sadly all too believable. I can’t imagine this being the case if the patients were say children or the bits operated on male.

Lone parents being forced to go back to work or face loss of benefits is a disgrace. There is no need to berate the parent. Give inducements and encouragement. It works.

Feminist Avatar // Posted 4 December 2008 at 2:51 pm

[on the non-working family] There was also absolutely no discussion of the fact that Easterhouse is probably the most deprived area of Scotland, where unemployment is systematic and generational. Average life expectancy is in the 50s. The local high school has the worst results in Scotland and hasn’t sent one person to university in years, if ever,- although a reasonable number of kids go on to college. When it was built, they put no infra-structure in place, so they effectively built a scheme with no shops, no jobs, no services of any kind- and then were puzzled when it turned into a ghetto. Recently, there has been huge investment in Easterhouse, but strutural problems aren’t solved overnight. It is also very easy to point to people not getting a job, but the truth is that until the last ten years, there weren’t jobs in Scotland for the non-skilled. This is an area where people would have traditionally been employed in the shipyards, in steel, in factories, to a lesser extent in coal- Maggie got rid of those jobs and they were never replaced. Now, there are increasing jobs in the service industry, but people from places like Easterhouse struggle to get them as they often have poor literacy and strong regional accents [which to a mc ear may even be a bit scary].

It is easy to laugh at a girl who can’t write a CV, but when you come from a world where no one has ever had one, and you don’t know what it looks like, and perhaps where you don’t have any qualifications or work experience to put on it- then sometimes what seems easy can feel insurmountable.

Cockney Hitcher // Posted 4 December 2008 at 3:38 pm

I read some of the ‘Have Your Say’ comments relating to the story about the ‘workless’ household. It’s so silly…I bet most of the commenters who berate the mum for not working are the same people who argued on that ridiculous ‘Should mothers work?’ HYS that mothers should stay at home ‘for the good of the family and society.’

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