Going Down With Advertising Standards

by Barbara Felix // 10 June 2005, 3:35 pm

My eye was drawn, in last issue’s Private Eye (issue 1133, 27/5-9/6/05) to the Ad Nauseam column, and to a little piece about the recent Keep Britain Tidy campaign, which is apparently being aimed at 18-24 year olds. The posters are described in the piece thus: “three images of a horny hunk and buxom blondes asking ‘While you’re down there…’ (at which point the eye is drawn to the pay-off line, printed on their crotch) ‘could you put this in the bin for me?'” the ladies in question are holding “items of litter” apparently. Apparently a Manchester agency called Lake Design created the advert, and the Eye conclude that the tiny size of the agency and the budget might have had something to do with the “attention seeking” approach, but they did pose the question “did it have to be quite so inane as to think that sex and refuse collection was a good fit?” apparently the beermats to accompany the campaign feature the same images, leading inevitably, speculate the Eye, to more litter.

Minister for Women sets out priorities

by Lynne Miles // , 2:22 pm

Interviewed in The Guardian yesterday, the new Minister for Women, Meg Munn (the one who\x92s been asked to do the job unpaid as the parliamentary salary budget has been spent elsewhere \x85 ) sets out her priorities for her time in office. These include:

* The Women and Work Commission (looking into job segregation and pay-gap issues);

* Ratification of the Equality Bill (brings together different equality commissions including those for race, disability, gender, into one single body);

* The Work and Families Bill (proposing increased maternity leave, and the possibility of transferring maternity leave allowance to fathers); and

* Flexible working.

She also says she\x92s supportive of all-women shortlists, and is keen to emphasise that measures such as the Work and Families Bill are going to be good for men too. You can have a look at her voting record here. I\x92m looking forward to hearing more from her!

Sexual orientation of a child’s parents is “irrelevant” to their upbringing, new research confirms.

What really matters is whether or not that child has a stable, loving family environment.

The study revealed that: “Teens with same-sex parents were identical to those with opposite-sex parents in almost every area analyzed, from anxiety levels to autonomy, and even grade-point average. It was kids’ relationships with their parents, not the gender of their parents’ partners, that clearly influenced their development. Those with warm, caring family bonds were doing better at home, in school, and in their social lives than those without them. Other studies have also found parental warmth – being a caring, understanding, and accepting parent – to be one of the most powerful forces behind the healthy development of children and adolescents, regardless of race, socioeconomic status, family structure, and sexual orientation. Gay and lesbian parents are just as likely as heterosexual parents to meet – or to fail to meet – their children’s needs for healthy development.”

But children of lesbian or gay parents may also be “freer from rigid gender roles”, says Orson Morrison, a clinical psychologist who has studied adult sons of gay men.

Cherie Blair Should Be Seen and Not Heard

by Lynne Miles // 9 June 2005, 7:03 pm

So all this brouhaha about Cherie Blair is starting to annoy me.

Now I personally don\x92t really care whether she makes a bit of spare cash in the evenings doing after dinner speeches. Frankly, if someone offered me £30k for a fifteen minute talk I\x92d be biting their hand off. Of course they won\x92t. Because I\x92m not married to Tony Blair. And therein lies the problem.

Everyone has their knickers in a knot because Cherie only commands such a fee by virtue of being the PM\x92s wife (her personal career success notwithstanding), and people seem to be saying it\x92s either plain wrong or just a bit unseemly for her to be taking advantage of it.

Now of course this isn\x92t an issue which troubles women in all spheres of life \x96 in showbiz, for example, many an anonymous woman has courted fame and fortune by association with someone better known than themselves \x96 think Abi Titmuss (nurse to Page 3 girl via John Leslie). Indeed, such behaviour is not restricted to women. Fran Cosgrove, anyone?

Cherie argues it\x92s only an issue because she\x92s a woman. On balance I think this doesn\x92t hold much water. The comparison she drew of Dennis Thatcher doesn\x92t really apply because, to the best of my knowledge, Dennis only ever made speeches or appearances directly related to his own professional affairs.

But I do think it\x92s fair to say that, since 1997, the press have vilified Cherie to a degree I find quite perplexing. And I suspect it\x92s because we really aren\x92t that keen on our \x91first ladies\x92 having careers and opinions, earning far in excess of their husbands and generally having a head on their shoulders. I\x92m reminded of an incident early in Bill Clinton\x92s presidency when he appointed Hilary to oversee a healthcare reform committee. Hilary, as most now accept, is a shrewd politician in her own right but at the time the American press reacted with outrage (they can really only tolerate First Ladies running campaigns of the \x91Just Say No\x92 variety, not overseeing important welfare state reform), and Hilary was forced to stand down.

Of course Cherie\x92s made some foolish errors of judgement in her time, and been guilty of some shamefully poor media management but, by and large, she\x92s intelligent, extremely professionally successful and attractive (whilst unfortunately being wildly un-photogenic). She ought to lead the type of life that young girls in this country are taught to aspire to. Yet all our press seem to do is print a series of photos of her caught pulling a silly face, or with visible cellulite, and patronise her career achievements. No wonder our girls want to be glamour models instead.

But A Wrap Skirt Is A Definite No No

by Barbara Felix // 8 June 2005, 9:02 pm

I’ve just been reading Natasha Walters’ article in The Guardian, concerning fiction for pre teen girls. She has noticed a new genre of fiction for this age group, which she dubs chicklet lit (I’m sorry Natasha, but that smacks of incredibly lazy journalism to me) Chicklet lit is exemplified by books such as the recent Daisy Meadows fairies books, according to Walters, and revolves around fairies, designer clothes, looking pretty, etc. Whilst the teenage version of the chick lit novel has been around for a few years now, chicklet lit is comparatively new, and Walters finds it to be a disturbing phenomenon. No wonder boys won’t read books by female authors, she seems to be arguing, look at the trash that’s being published for young girls.

To a degree, I can see her point, but only to a degree. For one thing, I don’t believe it’s fair to dub The Princess Diaries chicklet lit when it’s far more subversive than shopping and frocks. Also, I don’t believe that children’s fiction, whether it’s for boys or girls, is in as woeful a state as Walters believes. Yes, there is some trash out there (Mary Kate and Ashley anyone?) but there has always been trash out there: Sweet Valley High and it’s junior versions, Sweet Valley Twins and Sweet Valley Kids, have been around for years, and show no sign of going away. These kind of books appeal to the inner cheerleader in young girls (and if you have no inner cheerleader, there really is no point in reading these books…) they are Buffy without the satire. But what Natasha Walter appears to have failed to spot is that childrens fiction has a much wider scope than this. To be honest, at the moment, childrens fiction and teenage fiction has a much wider scope than adult fiction. There is more variety and, quite often, the quality is better. Can you really write off completely books such as Meg Rosoff’s How I Live Now, or Geraldine McCraughton’s Six Storey House purely because of Mary Kate and Ashley and some fashion obsessed fairies? If you really want to find some good quality junior fiction for your daughter to read, Natasha, then you could do a lot worse than buy her a book by Anne Fine (a past Children’s Laureate) or by Jacqueline Wilson (the current Children’s Laureate) Look beyond the glossy covers, and the hype, to what’s hiding behind the chicklet lit, neglected on the shelves. Maybe then you’ll find something with a bit more substance.

(Slight update after having slept on the matter)

Here, after much thought, are five books for the pre teen age group (about 7-11, depending upon reading age and parental strictness) and five books for the teenage age group (11+, again, depending upon reading age and parental strictness) that I believe could probably be read by girls and boys equally and which, I would say, are well written, innovative, and are not what Natasha Walter would call chicklet lit. I’ve also tried to list books that were published comparatively recently, though I’ll admit that it’s harder to come up with five teenage books that boys and girls would both read, and one of them (The Sisterhood Of The Travelling Pants) does have a pink cover. Still, Feeling Sorry For Celia has a blue cover, so that probably cancels it out.

Pre-Teen List:

Geraldine McCraughton – Six Storey House (Hodder Children’s Books, 2002)

Gennifer Choldenko – Notes From A Liar And Her Dog (Bloomsbury, 2002)

Hilary McKay – Permanent Rose (Hodder Children’s Books, 2005)

Anne Fine – The More The Merrier (Doubleday, 2003)

Polly Horvath – Everything On A Waffle (Scholastic, 2003)

Teenage List:

Meg Rosoff – How I Live Now (Puffin, 2004)

Jaclyn Moriarty – Feeling Sorry For Celia (Macmillan Children’s Books, 2001)

Tamora Pierce – Trickster’s Choice (Scholastic, 2004)

Sharon Creech – Bloomability (Macmillan Children’s Books, 1998)

Ann Brasheres – The Sisterhood Of The Travelling Pants (Corgi, 2002)

I don’t imagine Natasha Walter is reading this anyway, but I wanted to make my point as I get fed up of being accused of peddling trash to minors.

Padme not as cool as Leia

by Jess McCabe // , 8:22 pm

Star Wars. It seems to have taken over the planet. I’ve personally managed to avoid watching it on principle, because George Lucus should not be getting rich off making endless, terrible movies that only get an audience because they cash in on something good he made a really, really long time ago.

But Gina Barreca has delivered a damning verdict on the latest film, saying that from Leia to Padme, Lucus regressed from feisty, smart heroine to pathetic drip.

She says: “When little girls want to be the new heroine, Padm\xE9 (the name sounds like a new line of bras), what is it precisely they’ll be doing?

“As far as I can tell, she gets knocked up, pops out twins like English muffins from a toaster and then expires, like a carton of old milk.”

(Thanks to Nicolette for forwarding this on to me)

BBC shows women’s football

by Jess McCabe // , 7:46 pm

We all know that women’s sport is no-where near as high profile as men’s sport. And so it is refreshing to see that the BBC is to broadcast this year’s 2005 Women’s European Championship football finals. This Saturday, England play Sweden.

Fans can follow the action on The Guardian’s special blog.

In other football news, ZNet has found a truely charming correspondence between Subcomandante Marcos, the leader of the Zapatistas, and Massimo Moratti, President of the Milan International F.C. about a proposed football match between their teams.

(Thanks to F-Word reader Ealasaid for suggesting this post)

Orgasm is Genetic

by Louise Livesey // , 9:12 am

According to researchers from Keele and London our ability to reach an orgasm isn’t related to our partners skill as a lover or how in the mood we are but our genetics.

Research Professor Tim Spector and colleagues has argued that it is an evolutionary advantage for women to have genetically different abilities to orgasm as it means those women who can orgasm more easily are satisfied with less experienced or skillfull partners.

Professor Spector did admit that “It is possible that their [genes] influence is physical, causing variations in the G-spot, or psychological, altering arousal”, he said. His research states men only fail to reach orgasm around 2% of the time compared to around 40% for women.

Of course what he didn’t mention was that he asked about orgasm during penetration which has already been proven as unlikely to stimulate a woman to orgasm without additional stimulation. But then I guess it allows less skilled lovers to blame their partners genes rather than their own lack of performance….

Refuge for pets

by Louise Livesey // , 9:02 am

A charity has established a refuge service for the pets of women fleeing domestic violence. The Freedom Trust will now arrange for pets to go to volunteer carers whilst women are unable to look after them in hostels, refuges or with friends. A spokesperson for the Trust said many women do not leave home for fear their pet may come to harm and it is hoped this will encourage more people to seek help.

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/london/4071048.stm

TV show tries to mould ladies from ladettes

by Jess McCabe // , 12:59 am

Anyone who thought that reality tv couldn’t get any worse better brace themselves for Ladette to Lady.

ITV has really excelled itself with this. As the title suggests, the series takes 10 ‘geezer birds’ and attempts to transform them into ladies with perfect deportment and the skills to attract a society man, making them attend old-style finishing school. They are then eliminated when they fail to fully get behind this project to make their personalities more ‘acceptable’ and less tomboyish.

Some choice moments: One girl, a boxer, is expelled after being outed as ‘a bit of a feminist’. The girls are judged on the basis of their performance at a cocktail party, by eligible (read posh and rich) bachelors. One is shocked and appalled that one of the women is a gas fitter. (She is told she did surprisingly well at the party, but still wasn’t wearing enough makeup.) Another expresses contempt for a girl who’s never tried a prawn.

These women are being denigrated for failing to live up to some sort of ancient ideal of ladyhood, and the worst thing is that they are desperate to conform at the school. Despite efforts to ‘improve’ themselves, they are subject to degrading and insulting comments from the ‘teachers’.

The women are, undeniably, leary. But there is something unbelievably suspect about this attempt to make them conform to a classist and sexist idea of what it means to be a ‘lady’.

As Sarita Bhardwaj, the 26 year-old boxer who was the first to be kicked out, told the Sunday Mail, the tutors were “snobs”.

She said: “I was the only girl in there who stayed true to herself. The teachers were trying to turn us into Stepford Wives.”

Frida preview

by Jess McCabe // 7 June 2005, 3:27 pm

Check out The Guardian for a sneak preview of some of the self portraits due to go on show as part of the Frida Kahlo exhibition at the Tate Modern.

(Some) women get rich

by Jess McCabe // 6 June 2005, 3:06 pm

While many women in the UK still face poverty, some are doing very well for themselves.

Brewin Dolphin Wealth Management has identified 360,000 women worth £500,000 or more, with a collective wealth of £292.88 billion and an average of £798,000 each.

Maybe it is because women make smarter investment choices than men.

Of course, all this needs to be kept in perspective – women still face a massive pay gap, of up to 40% and remain significantly more likely to be poor than men. Although it is great that some women are able to do well, this should not obscure the very real financial inequalities faced by large numbers of less well off women.

The Met are to re-examine the way they investigate rape cases, in response to evidence that the number of convictions is falling, The Independent reports today.

Only one in 20 reported rapes end up in a conviction, and an increasing number are being classified as “no-crimes”.

A Home Office report cites changing attitudes, as heavy drinking and drug use means that some rape victims recall little of the attack, making it near-impossible to secure a conviction.

Brian Paddick, deputy assistant commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, has been asked to head the review.

A spokesperson said: “We are carrying out a review concerning the numbers of successful prosecutions for rape. As part of this process, we will be reviewing the number of rape allegations which are [not classified as crimes] and trying to establish why there are variations between boroughs in this category.”

Teenage girls want to be glamour models, not teachers, doctors or nurses, a new survey has revealed.

As reported in Manchester Online, 63% of girls aged 15-19 would rather be glamour models than take up a profession such as teaching.

One quarter said that they thought lap dancing would be a good profession. Only 3% choose teaching.

The survey, which was run by www.thelab.tv, found that Jordan and Abi Titmuss are seen are role models, not JK Rowling and Germaine Greer.

The Lab spokesperson Fraser Lewry said: “Teenagers are witnessing the likes of Abi Titmuss and Jodie Marsh gracing the covers of their favourite magazines every day, so it is hardly surprising that they want to follow in their footsteps.

“Taking your clothes off is now more lucrative than ever and teenagers see it as a great way of making money and becoming famous.”

Insights into Porn in the Guardian

by Holly Combe // 4 June 2005, 3:57 pm

Tags: , , ,

Talking of sex… The Natasha Walter article about the portrayal of women in magazines like Nuts and Zoo is continuing to stimulate debate within London Third Wave. A variety of views have been expressed on how to define and approach pornography and the debate has evolved towards the wider issues that have led Walter to her re-think.

My own view with regard to the magazines Natasha Walter talks about is that marginalizing their content will not treat the root of the thinking behind them. I’d suggest she is being unrealistic when she says their editors might wonder how they got to “peddle such trash” or that readers will “look around for another point of view” if stores put these magazines on their top shelves. All this action will do is make Nuts and Zoo look rebellious and edgy and ultimately more appealing to anyone with a sexist agenda and an axe to grind.

She suggests that the one-dimensional representation of women in these magazines means that those of us who previously “didn’t want to get bogged down in debating the effects of pornography” should perhaps now be changing our strategy and rallying against it. On the contrary, I would say it simply highlights the banality of mainstream depictions of female sexuality in comparison to what is actually categorized as pornography.

These pictures simulate porn, whilst at the same time separating themselves from it by merely being “saucy” rather than “nasty” (explicit?) and it is disappointing to see Natasha Walter perpetuating this divide. I would say Nuts and Zoo actually belong at the extremely bland and limited end of porn (not to mention men’s magazines in general) so why is Natasha Walter judging them as a lesser evil? There are actually a wider range of people and preferences represented in the hardcore sex industry than there are in silly publications like Nuts and Zoo, so addressing the undoutedly “aggressively reductive” view of women in the latter by rethinking one’s views on all pornography (and the possibilities it holds) seems like a big mistake to me.

It’s not that those of us who disagree are being “insouciant” or that we don’t want to get “bogged down” in debating pornography. It’s simply that some of us believe pushing the debate in this direction is potentially damaging to our feminist goals. Natasha Walter does not mention outright censorship and I hope that any anti-pornography strategies she’d propose do not involve it. I would say paternalistic protection is not the answer and I wholeheartedly agree with Rachel Jarvie’s suggestion that encouraging debate about the possible sociological significance of the recent trends seen in Nuts and Zoo is the real way forward.

According to blogcritic Adam Ash, feminism urgently needs a pro-sex feminist. I think he means well but why does this have to be a position for a “poster child” who both loves and is seen to love “screwing men”? He also seems to have forgotten feminism’s long relationship with the fight for sexual liberation. How could he overlook The Female Eunuch or Germaine Greer’s involvement with Suck and Oz? And what about currently active writers and speakers like Suzie Bright, Carol Queen, and Jill Nagle? What about the debate that has been re-invigorated by the arrival of Scarlet magazine?

This is not a job for just one spokesperson. I believe a better approach would be for a number of us to mix things up and confound common expectations. For example, as a control-freak who finds the idea of being taken in hand a turn-off, I believe it’s very important that I also defend the rights of masochists. Another example is that I’d like to see women who get off on sexual submission to argue against the determinists and traditionalists who are usually behind the promotion of the idea that such a preference in a woman is part of the natural order of things. Those of us for whom conventional intercourse is not a necessary part of our sexual fulfilment need to step forward and argue against the censorship of material that actually shows this act. Just as importantly, those of us who enjoy vaginal penetration need to defend the right to not bother with it and, more to the point, be open about such a preference without being labelled as “dysfunctional.” In other words, I see anyone who doesn’t adhere to the tradition that we ought to have sex when and how it’s expected of us (i.e not too much or too little and not too hard or too soft) as a comrade in the fight for true sexual freedom.

Band together like that and we’ll soon gainsay those stereotypes.

A man’s iron?

by Jess McCabe // , 7:08 am

Argos are to market a range of irons designed for men, The Guardian reports.

Apparently, “real men want a real iron”. On the one hand, women still do a vastly disproportionate amount of domestic chores and efforts to change that should be applauded. But this is wrapped up in an indigestible bundle of sexist, gender stereotyping.

The “men’s” iron will have “extra power knobs and sleeker designs, some in black rather than the traditional pastel and white, in the image of a 4×4 car”, and will be described in macho language.

Eddie Kemp, Argos’ iron buyer, said: “A man’s psychology toward ironing differs vastly to that of a woman. Women want to get rid of creases while men want to destroy them.”

So far, so much gender stereotyping of the most basic type. More men are doing their own ironing, so iron makers must sell them “masculine” irons? Argos says it is helping men overcome the “stigma” of helping out around the house. We are in a very sorry state if we need to rely on irons that look like “space stations” for men to pull their weight, or if those irons need to be marketed in such a retrogressive, sexist way.

As Pauline Maclaran, who specialises in gender marketing at De Montfort University, said to The Guardian: “It is stereotyping, but it’s being very blatant about it. It says women can’t deal with technology and it’s deliberately saying that the higher end of the market is for men.”

On a different note, Julie Bindel reflects on coming out and Channel 4’s adaptation of Julie Burchill’s Sugar Rush.

Meanwhile, in Uganda, Human Rights Watch are campaigning for the parliament to pass legislation which would outlaw marital rape and give girls and women greater equality.

The Domestic Relations Bill is seen as the first step in helping Uganda’s women, 40 per cent of which have been the victim of domestic violence. Human Rights Watch reports that many women are raped by their partners, putting them at risk of HIV.

In one horrific case, “Hadija Namaganda (a pseudonym) told Human Rights Watch that she tested positive for HIV in 1994. For years, her husband, who was HIV-positive, had routinely forced her to have unprotected sex with him and beat her viciously. He once attacked her so violently that he bit off half of her left ear. When he lay dying of AIDS and was too weak to beat her anymore, he ordered his younger brother to beat her for him.”

Unbelievably, Uganda’s president, Yoweri Museveni, has delayed the bill because it was “not urgently needed”. The bill has already languished for a decade, as politicians argue over whether it is possible for rape to occur within marriage.

A women’s rights activist in Bahrain faces trial this weekend, and the possibility of 15 years in jail, for publically criticising family judges.

Ghada Jamsheer leads the Women’s Petition Committee, which campaigns for reform of Bahrain’s family law. She has been accused of three seperate counts of criticising family judges, and a criminal charge from the ex-husband of a divorced woman she helped.

Reuters reports that Human Rights Watch has urged the Bahraini government to drop the charges, calling the multiple lawsuits a “blatent attempt to silence her and undermine the reform efforts she spearheads”.

The courts, which deal with family cases such as divorce, marriage, custody and inheritance, follow no fixed statute, only the judge’s interpretation of Islamic jurisprudence.

Human Rights Watch say Ms Jamsheer has been targeted after reporting dozens of incidents of judges mishandling cases.

“Women Who Have Abortions Again and Again”

by Lynne Miles // 31 May 2005, 3:59 pm

If I may, I’d like to take a moment to refer you to a fascinating blog entry (and ensuing discussion) over at Volsunga.

It centres around a “shock, horror” article in the ‘Daily Hate’ about the increasing number of women having abortions for “lifestyle reasons”. Gets a strategic early dig in at career driven bitches and wheels in Anne Atkins (one of my least favourite social commentators) for the prosecution.

It’s a pretty horrifying article all round, and I urge you all to read it. But I’m not sure I could express my distaste any more succinctly than Ms B, so I probably won’t try.

Fiction gender gap persists

by Jess McCabe // , 12:07 pm

A new report has revealed that men know that women are writing important books, but don’t want to read them, the Observer reports.

The report, which marks the 10th anniversary of the Orange prize for fiction, which is only open to women writers, found that “fiction by women remains ‘special interest’, while fiction by men still sets the standard for quality, narrative and style.”

The report revealed that men were still less likely to have read a novel by a woman than by a man. In contrast, women read books by both genders.

The report found that: “Pressed for a preference, many men also found it much more difficult to ‘like’ or ‘admire’ a novel authored by a woman – for them ‘great’ writing was male writing (oh – apart from Jane Austen, of course).

“No wonder, then, that each year when the winner of the Orange Prize is announced a chorus of disappointment goes up from ‘mainstream’ critics: how could such an undistinguished book have won?”

Never Get On A Bus in Calcutta

by Lynne Miles // , 11:28 am

A new move by the Indian state of West Bengal to employ women as bus conductors (only the second state to have done so) has been a resounding success (scroll down!). Although only 33 of over 1,600 conductors are women, their more professional and polite attitude to work has resulted in such positive feedback from passengers that the Calcutta State Transport Corporation are considering employing only female bus conductors in future.

Being almost entirely ignorant of gender issues in the Indian workplace I\x92m not sure whether this idea is forward thinking in a "women can excel in the workplace" way, or slightly more regressive in a "women are best at doing jobs where they have to be pretty and subservient" way. I\x92d be really interested to hear more from people who actually know what they\x92re talking about here!

Noted towards the bottom of the article, and perhaps of more pressing human concern, is the observation that public bus drivers in Calcutta regularly break the speed limit, and that many are addicted to drugs and alcohol. So if you do find yourself needing to get from A to B in Calcutta, consider walking.

Actually, I prefer mine warm

by Catherine Redfern // 29 May 2005, 5:06 pm

There are some new Fosters billboard ads out at the moment showing people trying to keep their lager (sorry guys, but it’s not beer) cold by holding their pint underneath something which casts a shadow. One shows a bride and groom, the groom with what I can only describe as a smug laddy expression, holding his pint under the bride’s veil, she shooting daggers at him with her eyes. Nice.

But that’s par for the course. I noticed another ad recently from the same series; what was very unusual was that the pint holder was a woman. What was interesting was that she was holding her pint underneath the chest of a extremely “well endowed” tall woman wearing a very tight fitting dress.

We practically never see women drinking beer in adverts: in fact in many they are explicitly excluded. For a prime example see Young’s frankly pathetic “It’s a Ram’s World” campaign (click on “advertising” at the top to see the ads, which probably set back CAMRA’s laudable but slightly misguided   attempts to attract women to real ale by several decades).

Is it cynical of me to wonder why the only time an ad shows a woman drinking beer or lager, she just happens to be doing so in a way that would probably be seen as rather sexist if it were a man?

On 17 May, we reported on a Guardian article that highlighted the pay gap between weekly earnings (i.e the fact that women’s median income is 53% of the median income for men).

I would like to draw attention to the gap of 14.4% between women and men’s hourly earnings because it seems to me this comparison may be a more relevant figure for highlighting gender disparity. The statistics quoted in the Guardian piece include all working men and women and it is that low because lots of women work part-time.

Like Madeline Bunting, I believe society needs to change the current work ethic and develop a culture that allows people (regardless of gender) to demand greater flexibility. More employers need to recognise the value of work life balance, if we are to achieve this goal. This is a huge task and any major change will be slow but I genuinely think we would see greater productivity, as our time would be valued by the hour rather than how much of our lives had been given up for the sake of our jobs. Part of my argument is that there would be less resentment from employees and a real desire in the majority of those involved to make this system as rewarding as possible for everyone (i.e employers have much to gain from challenging the overwork culture that we currently take for granted).

I also believe there would be positive results for both sexes. Men would be freer to have lives outside work and be more involved in the home environment and employers would no longer be able to punish women (as a gender overall) because of our previous greater tendency towards such a way of life. Women in heterosexual partnerships would no longer be expected to be the main child-carers or “have it all” (i.e “do it all”) because the sharing of responsibility would be made easier for everyone. Partners used to manage on one full-time wage so why shouldn’t it now be possible to manage on two part-time ones?

Sordid Japanese men make sex-ed comic a best-seller

by Jess McCabe // 27 May 2005, 9:56 am

Grown men have made a best-seller out of a realistic sex-education manga comic book aimed at elementary school girls in Japan, Mainichi Daily News reports.

Men, generally in their 30s, obsessed with manga depicting young girls’ sexuality are called Otaku in Japan.

The article quotes one writer as saying: “Moe is a word the otaku use to describe the thrill people get when they see pretty, two-dimensional girls, mostly in media such as anime or manga. ‘Moetan,’ a collection of English vocabulary words aimed at helping kids prepare for entrance exams (with the main character being a little girl getting ready to try and enter junior high school), sold 150,000 copies, so the otaku market knows no bounds.”

Hopefully some young girls will also end up reading the book as well, though, as the manga itself has been lauded for its realistic portrayal of emerging sexuality.

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