Category Archives: Feminism

Proactive Women and Individualised Men? Gender Differences in Mid-Life Solo-Living


The long term increase in Single Person Households in well documented – as in the infographic below.

Single Person Households UK

As is the fact that older people are more likely to live alone that younger people.

Single Person Households by age UK

As can be seen from the above chart, most of the increase in solo-living has come from middle aged people (45-64 year olds) and a recent longitudinal study: The Demographics of Living Alone in Midlife explores this in more depth:

The headline news (see the chart below, unfortunately going back to  2007) was that

  • At ages 35-49 there are approximately twice as many men living alone as women  – On average about 13% of men live alone compared to about 7% of women in these age categories.
  • At ages 50-54 the numbers of men and women living alone are approximately equal.
  • From age 55 and upwards the numbers of women living alone outnumber men and ratio gets larger as the population ages.

Percent Living Alone age and sex

To break this down into more detail….

  • The percentage of both men and women living alone has increased in all age categories.
  • For ages 35-39 approximately 15% of men live alone, compared to 6% of women.
  • For ages 40-49 approximately 12% of men live alone compared to 6% of women.
  • For the age categories 35-39, 40-44 and 45-49 the proportions of men living alone approximately doubled between 1984 and 2007 and in all of these aged categories there are twice as many men living alone as compared to women.
  • For the same age categories for women, the number of 35-39 year olds trebled over this period, and for women in their 40s, the the number living alone doubled between 1984 and 1997 and then stabilised from 1997 to 2007.
  • For the age category 50-54 roughly similar proportions of men and women live alone, with men rapidly catching up with women.
  • For people aged 55 and over, there are more women than men living alone and numbers have increased at similar levels.

This research also takes a more in-depth and comparative look at the social characteristics of middle-aged men and women who live alone – which reveals some of the possible reasons for the increasing numbers of men and women living alone.

Firstly – women who live alone are much more likely to be educated than men:

males females living alone education

Women living alone aged 35-64 are much more likely to have degrees – 38% of women living alone have degrees compared to 25% of men.

Men living alone aged 35-64 are twice as likely to have no qualifications – 15% of women have no qualifications compared to 27% of men living alone.

Given that men and women tend to couple up with people of similar (ish) ages (actually women on average go for men 6 years older, but that’s fairly similar) and people of at least similar class backgrounds  and levels of educational achievement  – the overall increase in people living alone across both sexes could be down to 20 years of women outperforming men in education resulting in a much higher proportion of educated women compared to men.

So possibly, we’re now living in a society in which millions of educated women aged 34-49 are living alone because they don’t want to settle for an uneducated male partner.

The converse of this is that we’ve also got millions of uneducated men aged 34-49 who are living alone, not out of choice, but because their more educated female peers don’t see them as a viable prospect.

Thirdly (I’m sure there are two reasons above!?) – If we look at the situation of people living alone in relation to children, we find that the increase in men living alone is probably mostly down to two combined factors – the long term increase in divorce and the fact that children (where they exist) are more likely to go and reside with the mother than the father…

families - children

As the table above shows us, for 35-64 year olds, an average of 15% of men living alone have at least one dependent child compared to only 2% of women, reflecting the fact that hardly any women with dependent children live apart from them.

To conclude on some Social Theory, one might tentatively say that the above research supports Giddens’ idea that increased gender equality has led to women being less prepared to settle for shallow relationships, as there is evidence of more (educated) women choosing to live alone rather than settling for any old relationship.

However, where men are concerned, perhaps Beck’s individualisation Thesis applies more – they appear to have less choice than women about whether they live alone or not – middle aged male solo-livers seem to be the ones being left on the shelf altogether or abandoned by their partners and children after a failed relationship.

Of course the above is hypothetical, you’d need to do some qualitative research with middle aged men and women to uncover the extent to which they’ve ‘chosen their solo lives.

The Gender Pay Gap – A Brief Analysis

This chart shows what most of us would regard as a generally positive trend – the decline in the gender pay gap – which is down to 9% for full-time workers, and even lower for part-time workers.

Gender Pay Gap 1 2014

However, there’s a lot more going on than this….

For starters, there is considerable variation by age – with women in their 20s and 30s actually earning more than men in the same age categories, with  a significant pay gap then emerging between older workers.

Gender Pay Gap by Age

The ONS notes that the gender pay gap between workers 40+ is probably down to women taking time off to become primary child carers, which to my mind is pretty bleak – Given the ‘negative’ gender pay gap between younger workers, this suggests women are getting into jobs which will give them the same (or better) wages than men (reflecting their higher educational achievement) but that this is then abruptly reversed when childcare responsibilities fall on the mother rather than the father.

It also seems that women in higher paid jobs lose out more compared to men in lower paid jobs – with the gender pay gap for the highest 10% of earners being near 20%, while it’s nearer 5% for the lowest 10% of earners (so rich women are less equal to rich men than poor women are to poor men, at least if we look purely at income). Of course this will also reflects the gendered age differences in the chart above.

Employment - gender pay gap

However to complicate matters there’s not a straightforward correlation between occupational class and the gender pay gap – it’s actually the traditionally masculine jobs which have the highest gender pay gap, not the highest income ‘professional and managerial’ jobs.

 gender pay gap occupation

There’s various explanations for this larger gender pay gap in traditionally male occupations – It could simply be the later entry of women into such occupations compared to women going into the professions – thus there are fewer older women than older men, so women on average earn less compared to men because older workers earn more than younger. An alternative explanation would be that women who go into these professions are less likely to return them after taking time out to raise children, in which case the question of whether this lack of return is due to gender-barriers, or genuine free-choice would arise. Of course, it’s probably a mixture of all three of these reasons.

Finally, it might be worth exploring what’s going in in Northern Ireland that’s led to such a significant reduction in the gender pay gap….. Whether this is down to social policy or just societal changes I don’t know, drop me a line if you do!

Employment - gender pay gap 1997 to 2014


The rise of the yummy mummies, and why you shouldn’t tolerate them

The rise of the ‘yummy mummy': popular conservativism and the neoliberal maternal in contemporary British culture

Jo Littler

This is a brief post summarising (much of it paraphrased) the above article,  which analyses the rise of the ‘yummy mummy’ – I’m not a huge fan of cultural studies, but I like this…. It’s helped me understand why I’m so intolerant of them, and why I’m right to be.

What is the yummy mummy?

In short, she is a white, thirty something in a position of privilege, shoring up the boundaries against the other side of the social divide (so-called ‘pramfaces’).

The yummy mummy, as constructed through autobiographical celebrity guidebooks and ‘henlit’ novels espouses a girlish, high consuming maternal ideal as a site of hyper-individualised pyschological ‘maturity’. ‘Successful’ maternal femininity in this context is often articulated by rejecting ‘environmentally-conscious’ behaviour – disavows wider structures of social political and ecological dependency in order for its conservative fantasy of autonomous, individualising retreatism to be maintained.

Whilst the characteristics of the yummy mummy might appear as changeable as her clothing, most often the term is used to symbolise a type of mother who is sexually attractive and well groomed, and who knows the importance of spending time on herself. She is, according to Liz Fraser’s book ‘The Yummy Mummy’s Survival Guide’ (2006) ‘the ultimate modern woman: someone who does not identify with the traditional, dowdy image of motherhood… who knows her Gap from her Gucci’.

There are various blogs and websites maintained by women ready to embrace the term, and is frequently used to describe glamourous celebrity mothers – books by Myleen Klass and Melanie Sykes are two well known examples in the UK.

Yummy mummys tend to think of themselves as exemplary successful individuals who are making the most of their lives and through their high-consumption lifestyles they demonstrate to the rest of us that it is possible to ‘have it all’ – the children, the job and the looks. Truly, they are (in their heads) the ultimate modern women.

However, just as with the yuppie, or the new man, the emergence of the yummy mummy can also be read as indivative of an underlying social crisis, in which case her emergence can tell us about how ideas of feminity and parenting are changing and about the times in which we are living….


Most obviously the yummy mummy positions the mother as a sexually desirable being. This is a substantial cultural shift – previously, mothers had been perceived as asexual.

For generations, patriarchal norms had typically constructed women as either Madonnas or Whores – either asexual Sacred Virgins or sexual beings deserving of brutalisation (hence witches being burnt at the stake) – It was precisely this myth of the asexual female which second wave Feminists such as Germaine Greer, Ann Oakly and Kate Millet criticised, (although little was said by any of them about the constructued asexuality of mothers in paprticular).

A brief history of motherhood in western cultures looks something life this (from Woodward 1997)

  • The 1950s domestic goddess – groomed yet chaste
  • The 1970s oppressed housewife – made-up and miserable
  • The 1980s working mother – powerful and besuited

Given this history, the yummy mummy’s positioing as desirable and sexually active might be regarded as emancipatory because now mothers themselves are encouraged to look hot, however, there are other ways of intererepting the yummy mummy – as outlined below…

A) As expressing a very limited (traditional) femininity and sexuality

Littler points to three limitations with the yummy mummy’s sexuality

Firstly, certain aspects of performance come to be expected – mothers are not just allowed to express their sexuality but are expected to express a particular kind of sexuality. Treatments like facials, for example, are now advised as necessary and routine. As minor UK celebrity (I love this description) Melanie Sykes tells us….

‘Being a gorgeous mum just takes a bit of imagination and more planning than it did before, but you  really have no exuse for sinking into frumption and blaming it on parenthood’

It is harder to imagine a clearer expression that this of how the onus, no matter the extent of resources or income, is on a self-governing subject to regulate herself. Such urgings are part of a wider canvas of neoliberal responsibilising through self-fashioning. In this context the yummy-mummy is an aspirational figure, with the specifics of how to become her outlined in various guidebooks suchaas The Fabulous Mum’s Handbook.

Second, sexuality is delimited because the preferred model of femininity is ultra-feminine – well-groomed, wearing fashionable clothes and being very slim. In other words, this is the extension of a fashion and beauty complext to the post-pregnant body.

Even the ‘slummy mummy’ still aspires to the yumm-mummy, the former being a Bridget-Jones type of mother – Still accepting the ideal, but endearing through her failure to live up to it. Both types (according to Mcrobbie) share in common a rejection of Feminism.

Third, the yummy mummy is more of a desired than a desiring object, although unlike with the pornoised MILF, there is something eerily infantile about the yummy mummy construction – part of the identity inolves a coming down to the level of the child and depoliticsing yourself, suggesting you are incapable of dealing with political issues, rather all you can do is consume.

(B) The yummy mummy as neoliberal agent (a social class based analysis)

In the UK there are generally two routes to motherhood, and there is now a signficant gulf between working class younger mothers who are demonised and middle class mothers in their 30s who are the ideal, and it is from this later type that the yummy mummy emerges.

The yummy-mummy is basically a high-consuming, stay at home mum drawn from the top 10% of society.  She does not think about the wider social context which affects all mothers, because she does not have to, and rather than doing politics she retreats from public life and and focuses on a very delimitted range of concerns – deciding what consumer-oriented activities her and her child should engage in. The message of the yummy mummy is clear – you have the power to solve your own problems, and the solution to these problems is conusme more – no need to get political.

The problem with this is that the very visiable yummy mummy construction ignores completely the wider structural context of motherhood and parenting….

This context is that neoliberal policies have reduced support for working mothers make it very hard for most mothers to stay at home for any length of time outside a year’s paid maternity leave – Working conditions remain very unflexible and radically unfriendly to families. On top of this there is still an expectation that the mother will be the ‘foundation parent’ (NB recent changes to paternity leave may help change this). This makes it very hard for parents (and especially women) to combine work and soical care in equitable and supportive fashion –

As a result the majority of mothers (say 90%) simply do not have the resources to be yummy mummys, only (say 10% do), and it is these 10% who get the air-time and get to publish books and tell the other 90% what they should be worrying about.

Thus in sociological terms the yummy mummy is a neoliberal agent whose function is to encourage individualisation and responsibilisation on the part of all mothers and to demonise mothers who are working class, in any way political and/ or do not subscribe to a tradtionally feminine (infantalised) sexuality.

C) – Finally, the yummy mummy is inherently anti-environmental

She is basically a pro-corporate consumer, and she has wider agency in encouraging and driving consumerism. In many contemporary novels, high end consumers are often contrasted against frugual-consumer mothers who are cast as freaks and social misfits.

It is not hard to see why the yummy-mummy is anti-environmental when you think that environmentalism is overtly political whereas the YM is high-consumption, individualistic and narcissistice.

In conclusion

This article has helped me understand my own high degree of irritation at yummy mummys and thier brats disturbing my peace and quiet in coffee shops around Reigate. Before reading this I was somewhat concerned that I should find this so annoying.

Now, however, I realise that I haven’t just been being irritated by the mums their brats, it must have been my unarticuclated subconscious telling me that these people are the shallow, selfish, narcissistic agents of neoliberalism.

In short, my peace in those coffee shops was being disturbed by the agents of everything that’s wrong with global politics, not to mention the reproduction of it at the level of the life-world.

Using twitter to research sexism

Just stumbled across an interesting use of twitter – I’m not sure exactly what time it started but sometime today (the first tweets originate from 8 Hrs ago, so it must have started circa 12.00 GMT) @EverydaySexism (website here) facilitated a TWITTER CHAT on Street Harassment on the #ShoutingBack encouraging users to tweet their experiences of harassment.
This post lists some of the responses and then discusses methods
A selection of tweets on #shoutingback
Most responses relayed experiences on the street and in bars. Some of the most shocking/ retweeted include – (NB – These are in no particular order, my twitter analysis skills aren’t up to that!)

Abi OAbi O@ashke50at 15, with friends on train, group of boys blocking our path and asking if they “made us wet”.

EverydaySexismRT TheAfricanHippy Walking home in the afternoon.Drunk guy says: If I knew where you lived, I’d follow you home and rape you

Emma AmatoEmma Amato ‏@emmatronic – A van that blocks you while cycling so the driver can tell you he wants to be your saddle

Rachel BichenerRachel Bichener ‏@rachelwaxinglyr – chased by a bin lorry full of jeering men for a mile while on my bike, aged 18. Never rode again until 32.

chillerchiller ‏@chiller – If I wrote down all the assaults & verbal harassment experienced since age 12 I’d be here for a month.

ylhlhrylhlhr ‏@stopgrinning – complaining about street harassment or harassment in general, being told by others you should feel ‘flattered’.

Dancing MisanthropeDancing Misanthrope ‏@DaMisanthrope – People shocked by India rape reports as if it’s a foreign problem, check your own backyard

Roxanna BennettRoxanna Bennett@roxannabennett – Male friends told me it was disgusting I was breast feeding and that’s not what tits are for

Natasha ViannaNatasha Vianna ‏@NatashaVianna – Clubs are the worst! How many times have I felt stiff penis on my back while dancing? Too many.

Ellie ThomasEllie Thomas ‏@EleanorMThomas – Friend and I trying to take down tent at festival without bending over, due to shouts of “legs” and “boobs”

Tarah STarah S ‏@tarahfied –  going out to a club. guys decide to dance&touch w/o asking, get offended when you push them away or say no.


I also quite liked this response…

Hollaback Girl ‏@hollabackgrrrl – Man in bar repeatedly groped me, used homophobic/sexist slurs. I yelled at him the first 3 times. The fourth I broke his nose.

So what are the strengths and limitations of this as a method for finding out about street harassment? 


  • Firstly on a practical note  it’s very easy to set up, free, and accessible
  • Secondly, it’s hopefully empowering for the women using it – I like to think of women reading thinking ‘I’m not the only one’ – quite a few tweets with ‘solidarity’
  • Thirdly, on the concept of validity – it’s giving users the freedom to define sexual harrassment, useful for facilitating debate around the issue.
  • Fourthly, it’s giving us an idea of the range of experiences of sexual harassment – could be a useful basis for operationalising a questionnaire with a more representative sampling frame.
Now to the limitations -
  • Firstly and most obviously, the sample will be biased in the extreme – limited to twitter users, and to users who follow @Everydaysexism and happen to be on twitter at the opportune moment, so this research is useless as a quantitative study.
  • Secondly, we always have to question the validity of what’s being said and it is very difficult to validate the truth of what these women are saying. I am not saying these women are lying, just that it is practically impossible to verify what they are saying.  Having said this, I personally wouldn’t have thought there is that much motivation to lie on twitter about such experiences given that ‘coming out with them’ is probably accompanied by negative emotions.
Find out More 

If you want to find out more about the extent of street harassment – then check out the collective action for safe spaces blog (U.S based)

This Guardian Article suggests 40% of women have experienced sexual harassment – based on a yougov poll

Hollaback – a depressing but useful site in which women in Birmingham share their experiences of harassment, has the potential to expand into more areas!


Ten Indicators of Gender Inequality in the UK 2012

OK So accuse me of selection bias… but here are 10 indicators of inequality in the UK by gender… Mainly focusing on work, politics and the media 

Looking at ‘positions of privilege’ women account for…

  1. 26% of News Journalists (2011) (3% of sports journalists!)
  2. 22% of Members of Parliament. Although admittedly numbers have more than doubled in the last 20 years.
  3. 23% of judges
  4. 16% of members of the cabinet
  5. 4.9% of directors of the FTSE 250 companies

Looking at ‘indicators of disadvantage’…

  1. 65% of the Tory Cuts to the public sector will be born by women
  2. 70% of people on the minimum wage are women
  3. 75% part-time workers are women
  4. 90% of Single Parents are women
  5. On top of all this, women earn only 85% of men (more usually expressed as a  gender pay gap of 14.9%)

Find out More

Also look out for an infographic I intend to to knock up on this topic (exciting I know!) 


Gender representation in the FTSE

Latest Figures show that there are now 163 women in executive positions in the FTSE 100 and 189 in the FTSE 250.  While this does represent an increase on 2010 figures (an additional 25 women being added to the FTSE 100 director posititions) representation remains poor – Only 15% of directorships in the FTSE 100 are female, and this figure drops to 4.6% of executive directorships of the FTSE 250.  


What’s of further interest is that you can pretty much forget any hope that the (very gradual) feminisation of business will herald in a new age of ethical business practices – There are some real ‘corporate clangers’ in the top 17 list of FTSE companies with female representation.

Top 17 FTSE companies with female representation on the board (2012)


Imperal Tobacco and BAE systems really stand out – It seems there are plenty of women out there just as willing as men to run companies that make their money out of encouraging weak minded, poor, low-status, and/ or ignorant people to shove a cancer sticks down their throats and plenty of even ‘harder women’ happy with making their bonuses out of selling even more storm shadow missiles to governments so they can kill relatively powerless people who might dare do things such as try to put their interests before those of Western Corporations.

Source of the TablesThe Female FTSE Board Report 2012 - Cranfield University School of Management

Related Links

Useful comments on methology here!

Broader knowledge on women in the labour force (UK) here (2010)

To Pole or not to Pole, is that Objectification?

My sixth form college (16-19) has just started ‘pole fitness’ classes and put this very large banner up to advertise them. The college’s take on this is to see ‘pole-fitness’ on a level with Zumba – It’s simply a different form of exercise that young women (let’s face it – it’s primarily women who will attend either) can use to empower themselves, but the former’s just a bit more aethletic and more ‘Burlesque’ than Zumba.

However some staff have commented that it just doesn’t seem appropriate for a 16-19 college to be promoting something that is associated with the sex-industry. The sexual connotations are visible in the banner – you can ‘clearly see cheek showing’ as one member of staff recently pointed out.

Of course I had to go away and do some digging on the issue, and it comes as no surprise that there are a wide range of opinions about whether or not Pole-Fitness is empowering or oppressive to women. To summarise just two…

Clare Mohan, writing at the Varsity Blogs about Pole Fitness in Cambridge University sets out the argument against it….

‘Whatever you name it, pole fitness or pole dancing, you’re still participating in the social context of the pole. Everyone knows where it comes from, that pole dancers are to be found in strip clubs and sex establishments up and down the country, and that pole dancing (which is, a huge percentage of the time, an activity carried out by women) is a dance form specifically designed to excite the watcher (who is, a huge percentage of the time, a man). So pole dancing encourages a view of the dancer [as a] sexual object.’

For more information on the objectification of women see the ‘Object‘ website.  

The ‘Pro-Pole’ voice comes from a number of women who both ‘pole’ and identify themselves as Feminists over at the StudioVeena.

Two of the more compelling arguments for ‘poling’ being empowering include…

(From ‘Nilla’) “Maybe people feel that way because stripping as a profession is often seen as something women would only do as a last resort, and that it’s degrading for any woman who does it (It can be, but so can working in the fast food industry).  So in a way, taking pole dance out of the stripping/sex industry context and doing it for your own enjoyment is the ultimate act of feminism, kind of taking the activity back for your own control and enjoyment rather than having to do it for the enjoyment of someone else.”

(From ‘Poledanceromance’) ’”To me, the answer is very simple (sex positive feminist): feminism must be about choice. It’s about women supporting other women in our efforts to explore undiscovered parts of ourselves. If I want to explore my potential by staying at home full-time to be the best mom I can be, you’d support me in that. If you wanted to explore yourself as a sexual being by experimenting in different sexual relationships, I’d support you in that (provided everyone is being safe!)”

If you read through the arguments for poling, many of them focus on the notion that it’s good for women to be allowed the freedom to express whatever they like through dance, including their sexuality if they damn well please, and they argue that in pole-fitness this process of exploration is completely liberated from the context of male domination and objectification that may exist in stripping.

What’s interesting is that both Pro and anti-pole stances see a sexual link in the activity, which brings me back to the original question – Is it right for a 16-19 college to be promoting something that has obvious sexual connotations? Moreover, is it right to do this when we all know that it will be mainly, probably solely young women, rather than young men, engaging in this sexualised activity?

Personally I don’t feel particularly comfortable with the college’s promoting pole-fitness, but am I just showing my age here? Or maybe this is my ‘inner patriarch’ just wanting to control young women from expressing their freedom? Or my ‘inner dad’ wanting to prevent young women from growing up?

Maybe I just need to get over it and start promoting pole-fitness in tutorials? Maybe that’s the future… ‘And don’t forget… final UCAS deadlines are this Friday, next Wednesday there’s a guest speaker talking about how to break into Journalism, and any young women wishing to explore their inner sex kitten are welcome to attend our new pole-fitness classes on Tuesdays… Please undress appropriately.’

Comments more than welcome…


Top Ten Resources for Teaching Gender and Development

OK – Only up to 5 – but I’ve really got to down the pub, and I really wanted to post something before I left!

These are in rough order of how much I like them – If you prefer other sites then let me know. These are just the best ones I know of , and I don’t know everything! (clearly!).

One – The UN’s hub page for the Gender Inequality Index

 ‘The Gender Inequality Index (GII) reflects women’s disadvantage in three dimensions—reproductive health, empowerment and the labour market—The index ranges from 0, which indicates that women and men fare equally, to 1, which indicates that women fare as poorly as possible in all measured dimensions.

  • The health dimension is measured by two indicators: maternal mortality ratio and the adolescent fertility rate.
  • The empowerment dimension is also measured by two indicators: the share of parliamentary seats held by each sex and by secondary and higher education attainment levels.
  • The labour dimension is measured by women’s participation in the work force.’

The above page has lots of useful links – one of the most accessible being this table showing details of gender inequalities for most countries in the world. You should also check out the ‘interactive data tools’ and ‘FAQ’s at the bottom of the page.

Two – The United Nations Development Fund for Women

Very broad in scope – The site says of itself ‘In July 2010, the United Nations General Assembly created UN Women, the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women. In doing so, UN Member States took an historic step in accelerating the Organization’s goals on gender equality and the empowerment of women.’

It’s also worth considering what the fact that this wasn’t established by the UN until 2 years ago says about what the UN’s development priorities really are!

Three – Gender Across Boarders – What a fantastic blog! – A team of writers blogging under various headings including (the ones that interest me) health, education and activism – and a load of stuff about culture too. The about section of the web site says of itself

‘Gender Across Borders (GAB) is an international feminist community where issues of gender, race, sexuality, and class are discussed and critically examined. We embrace people of all backgrounds to come together to voice and progress positive gender relations worldwide’

Four – International Women’s Day Web Site

International Women’s Day takes place on 8th March every year and the above link is a hub-site for events surrounding that day when thousands of events are held throughout the world to inspire women and celebrate achievements. The site (annoyingly for me) doesn’t actually explicitly state what its about – but I guess this is because a huge part of the ‘women’s empowerment’ agenda is to allow women with diverse aims to ‘speak for themselves’. Still, reading between the lines, the main posts and themes seem to be about celebrating women’s achievements and using these to inspire positive change in those parts of the world where ‘progress’ has yet to be made – and this means promoting women’s empowerment through improving the education, health, employment prospects and political power of women worldwide.

The day itself is very popular – to quote from the site….   ‘IWD is now an official holiday in Afghanistan, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Burkina Faso, Cambodia, China (for women only), Cuba, Georgia, Guinea-Bissau, Eritrea, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Laos, Madagascar (for women only), Moldova, Mongolia, Montenegro, Nepal (for women only), Russia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uganda, Ukraine, Uzbekistan, Vietnam and Zambia. The tradition sees men honouring their mothers, wives, girlfriends, colleagues, etc with flowers and small gifts. In some countries IWD has the equivalent status of Mother’s Day where children give small presents to their mothers and grandmothers.

Five – The Guardian’s Summary of the worst place in the world to be a woman – Includes a handy ‘interactive map’ where you can find out such things as ‘in Somalia girls have a 95% chance at being of risk of Female Genital Mutilation’

SixAmnesty International’s Women’s Rights Page

SevenUnseen is a UK based charity to help recovering victims of sex trafficking – and there are enough of them – estimates range from 500 to 800 000 per year being trafficked across Europe.

EightOne World Gender Guide - A nice ‘hub page’ with lots of resources on Gender Inequality in different countries

NineWomen for Women – An example of an NGO working with socially excluded women in 8 countries – a good example of what you might call ‘people centred development’ – a number of different projects are tweaked to meet the needs of different women in different situations – ranging from teaching economic skills to rights education.

Ten  – TrustLaw is a global hub for information on human rights and women’s rights. The link takes you to the ‘women’s rights’ section. While you might have to click on some of the links twice to get them to work, this is a good site for summaries of up to date news on women’s rights in international context and there is also a useful database which you can search for resources by keyword, region and country – although once again, the links to some of these are unreliable, so you may have to ‘cut and paste’ into another browser.



Gok Wan challenges the beauty myth?

Episode one of  Gok Wan’s ‘Teen’s The Naked Truth’ focussed on Body Dysmorphia – offering us three tragic tales of teens in anguish over their imperfect bodies.

Gok Wan - Teens the Naked Truth

I want to just focus on two of these cases – two girls  – One a 15 year old who spent several hours a day surfing ‘pro-anorexia sites’ and another 14 year old who had been through anorexia and seemed to now be coming out the other side.

Gok Wan’s approach to dealing with their body anxiety was to firstly, literally, just sit down with them and discuss the fact the ‘beauty myth’ they were trying to obtain was just that – a myth, and that the images they saw on pro-anorexia sites and in fashion magazines were not real.

One girl aspired to be so skinny as to be able to have a gap between her inner thighs when she had her legs closed: Gok simply pointed out that even the skinniest models he knew didn’t have such a gap and that the look had been engineered in photoshop; he took another to a photoshoot to demonstrate how it took 3 hours of make-up and just as long with photoshop to create the ‘glamour look’.

At this point I have to congratualate Gok (although I’m far from putting him in the ‘National Treasure’ category!) for actually putting in the effort to educate teens out of ‘chasing the beauty myth’ and encouraging them to be happy with whatever body shape they’ve got. Recognising that body dysmorphia has social causes is certainly a positive step beyond the BBC’s advice site – which treats body dismorphia as a genetic condition - Simply stating, in answer to the question ‘what causes it’ that ‘The cause of BDD is unclear, but it may be genetic or caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain’ which can be treated through antidepressant medication, cognitive behavioural therapy or a combination of both. Antipsychotic medication is sometimes used.

However, I would have liked to have seen Gok go further in criticising the ‘beauty industry’ – at one point he was actually face to face with someone who ‘retouched’ images in fashion magazines for a living – someone who actually gets paid to create the ‘beauty myth’ – and it would have been akward, but maybe he could have probed a little? – ‘Here is evidence of a 15 year old whose anorexia seems to have been inspired by the unrealistic photos in your magazine… given the direct social harm your industry contributes to, can you please explain to me, in your view, what justifies the job you do?’ – It would be interesting to hear from the ‘myth creaters’ – On this note – The Illusionists - is a good film to look out for that will hopefully be released relatively shortly.

Also, the programme could have been more informed by statistics – there is considerable evidence that, as Gok said more than once, if you suffer from these body issues, then you are not alone! – Chapter one of the Equality Illussion by Kat Banyard is especially good on this matter – which notes, among other things that…

  • 1.5 million people in the UK have an eating disorder – 90% of them women and girls
  • A survey conducted by Dove of 3000 women found that 90% of them wanted to change some aspect of their body with body weight and shape being the main concern.
  • One in four women has considered plastic surgery.
  • The more mainstream media high shcool students watch,  the more they believe beauty is important according to the American Psychological Association.
  • Some studies have shown that the more a girl monitors her appearance, the less satisfied she will be with her appearance.
  • Two thirds of women report having avoided activities such as going swimming or going to a party because they feel bad about their appearance while 16% of 15 -17 year olds have avoided going to school for the same reason.

Also, it has to be said that the programme oversimplified the issues somewhat – while I am critical of the ‘beauty-myth’ industry – it isn’t as simple as ‘see images of skinny girls’ – ‘become anorexic’! There could have been more recogition of this

Finally, I am not convinced by the ‘individualised therapeutic approach’ to sorting out problems that have social roots – but I will return to this in another blog…

Related Posts

For more info on Gok’s thoughts on the programme – see this Digital Spy interview  interview with Gok Wan

Lucy Jone’s Review in The Telegraph

Ilona Catherine’s Independent Blog


Changes to child maintenance policy adds insult to injury to victims of domestic violence

Shocking strap line from a recent Guardian article - worth passing on! Broad support for the radical feminist view that the government isn’t really interested in putting up money to actually support victims of domestic violence – also relevant also a nice case study below to remind you how domestic violence victims who have had children with an abusive partner may well end up remaining a victim of abuse even after leaving said partner – Just to summarise briefly from this grim article –

NB – Child Maintenance is what the absent parent pays the ‘primary care’ parent towards the cost of child care.

The proposed policy changes

The idea is to change the policy surrouding what happens when one ‘absent parent’ refuses to pay… it’s proposed that the government now charge the resident parent for chasing the absent one for money: £100 if you’re in work, £50 if you’re on benefits.

This sum could be paid repeatedly: if the non-resident parent stopped paying for any reason, such as changing jobs or changing bank accounts. This happens all the time; the kind of parent who can’t make an amicable agreement and has to be chased by the CSA will often cease maintenance if they find out their ex has done something frivolous, like bought shoes, and the whole process has to start all over again.

Problems with the proposed changes

50% of lone parents exist below the poverty line (50%) and £50 is a lot of money for someone in that situation to find (probably meaning a choice between eating or having gas and electricity for a week).

It is proposed that lone parents who were the victims of domestic violence. are to have their upfront fee waived, but they would still have to pay a percentage – 12% is on the table – of their maintenance payments back to the government.

The idea behind the policy is to encourage parents who have split to sort out privately who pays what for the children, rather than relying on the CSA – the problem is of course, that victims of DV are not exactly in a position to do this are they! As the article goes on to say…

Women are at more risk from a violent partner when they’ve split up from him. Plus, it’s quite rare to find an abuser with a completely normal, equitable relationship with money.

As on DV victim points out “They’ll try to buy you back after the abuse, so they’ll suddenly be showering you with luxury items. Or they’ll try to buy the kids, to turn them against you.”

Another adds, “One year, my ex arrived, and said ‘I’ll take you out and buy presents, but only if Mam comes.’ So I had to go, and he bought everything. Toy Story had just come out, he bought everything you can imagine. Then, a month before Christmas, he turned up on the doorstep and said he wanted everything back.”

So here is another, very bleak example of how some of the most vulnerable women could bear the costs of the public sector cuts in coming years.

So for the sake of the victims of domestic viollence – We’ve got to get these Patriarchal Tory Millionnaires out!

NB – This is also a pretty good case for not having kids.