Category Archives: Gender

How do women’s earnings effect the domestic division of labour?

In this Thinking Allowed Podcast Laurie Taylor interviews Clare Lyonette from the University of Warwick about whether men are more likely to do their fare share of the housework when women earn more.

Laurie starts off by pointing out that the gender pay gap has narrowed significantly in recent years according to the Office for National Statistics Annual Survey of Hours and Earnings. As outlined in the chart below the overall pay gap has fallen from about 27% to 19% since 1997.

Gender Pay Gap 2014

This trend towards increasing gender equality is most stark if you break median full-time earnings down by age – Women in their 20s and 30s actually earn more than men, but this is drastically reversed for older women, which is mainly down to the effect of couples having children and the fact that women are still the primary child carers (in approximately 6/7 couples according to other research I’ve read).

Gender Pay Gap Age

 

However, despite the evidence of this negative gender pay gap, according to a recent Survey for BBC Women’s Hour, women still do, on average, twice as much housework as men, as outlined in the infographic below:

chore wars

Of course the above survey only looks at overall averages, and Clare Lyonette’s research (details here) represents a nice extension of this because she looks at how the domestic division of labour is affected by the relative earnings of men and women in a household, especially timely now that women are the main income earners in 31% of households (up from 18% in 1997).

Some of the main findings of this research include:

  • There was a widespread ideological commitment to the idea that domestic chores should be shared: when asked about attitudes both men and women are very committed to actual sharing.
  • Women earning more than men does make a difference. Women who earned more than their male partners were more likely to contest any inequality in the domestic division of labour, and in these households, men did do a more equal share of housework.
  • However, in such households men did often not clean to as higher standards as women, and they also tended to engage in more visible chores which they could make a performance out of and demonstrate mastery of (cooking for example) rather than the more hidden housework such as ironing.
  • When children came along, the traditional patterns in the DDL reasserted themselves.
  • Very interestingly, men from lower income households did a more equal share of domestic labour and seemed more ideologically committed to it than men from higher income households.
  • In higher income households, men (or couples?) just avoided the issue of who should do the housework with both partners working by hiring domestic help, with mainly the woman doing the bits left over.

Analysis 

It seems that among lover income earners, the lack of ability to afford domestic help means that men and women are having to fall back on those age old face to face to face skills of negotiation and discussion to sort out the injustice of ‘the dual burden’, the result being that men are actually having to change both their attitudes and actions towards domestic labour – by actually doing more of it!

However, with high income earners who just throw money at the the problem of inequality in the domestic division of labour in the context of similar working hours, there is no discussion or adjustment necessary. Men simply don’t need to think about issues of gender equality, they just chuck money at it and the issue disappears and yet remains. This is somewhat worrying when the gender pay gap is significantly larger where high incomes are concerned:

gender pay gap income

It strikes me that this is a feature of the class-divide in the UK that hasn’t been picked up on by that many people – lower down the order we could have genuine steps towards lifeworld equality being taken, while among the top 10% inequality between men and women in terms of attitudes and practices remains greater.

PostScript

As a final note, I’d just like to comment on what I see as the incredible sub-optimality of working long hours and then hiring a cleaner because you don’t have time to clean, which effectively ties you into working long hours. So not only does doing this prevent discussion/ dialogue and progressive adjustment between couples it ties them into the long-work-high-consumption life cycle for years longer than is necessary.

 

 P.S. Americans – It’s ‘labour’ dammit! 

Gender and Education – Evaluating the Role of Out of School Factors (draft one)

One of the out of school factors which could explain why girls do better than boys in education is that girls have higher aspirations than boys.  Here’s some recent research which supports this while also suggesting that the relationship between gender and aspiration is also strongly influenced by social class background.

The data below’s taken from  The British Household Panel Survey and is based on a sample of nearly 5000 10-15 year olds. This research found (among other things!) that that boys are less likely than girls to aspire to go to college / university across all ethnic groups. The numbers are especially divergent for the white ethnic group – 57% (boys) and 74% (girls).

Gender and aspiration

However, when you break things down by social class background (NB this is analysis!) things look more differentiated – Basically, boys from professional class backgrounds aspire to university, but those from all other social class backgrounds generally do not, while girls from all social class backgrounds seem to aspire to go to university.

gender class and aspiration

To put it bluntly (OK crudely) what these statistical comparisons suggest is that working class boys don’t generally aspire to go to university, whereas working class girls do.

Strengths of this data

Nice easy comparisons – As evidenced in the perty charts.

You can use it as broad supporting evidence of girls aspirations being higher than boys, with an ‘analysis twist’

Limitations of this data 

Of course the above statistics (this is a classic limitation of quantitative data) tell you nothing about why working class boys but not working class girls do not aspire to go to university. It could be due to parental attitudes filtering down differently to girls than boys, or it may be other factors which have nothing to do with socialisation. These stats don’t actually tell us!

Questions for discussion 

  • Summarize the relationship between social class, gender and educational aspiration
  • Suggest one reason for the above relationship

Extension Question – This information was relatively easy to find, it’s quite easy to understand, directly relevant to the AS Sociology syllabus and gives you some easy analysis points – how many of the new (forthcoming) AS text books would you expect to find this information in?

 

 

Exploring the reasons for Rwanda’s unusually high degree of gender equality

Rwanda makes an interesting case study of a developing nation which appears to have atypically high levels of gender equality. It ranks no 7 in the Gender Empowerment Index, just behind the Nordic countries, and actually has a higher proportion of girls enrolled in education than boys (97% compared to 95%).

Given that East and North African nations typically have the lowest levels of gender equality in the world (take neighbouring DRC as an example, Rwanda not only bucks the regional trend, but it also bucks the general trend of the correlation between higher GDP and greater levels of gender equality.  So what’s its secret? I’m not exactly an expert in Rwandan history, but here are five things which might explain the high reported levels of gender equality in Rwanda.

Firstly, the genocide, may have (somewhat perversely) played a role in female empowerment.

In the aftermath of the genocide, Rwanda found itself a country composed of 70 percent women. The violence had been perpetrated by — and largely toward — men. There were simply fewer men due to death, imprisonment, and flight. Killings also targeted civic leaders during the genocide. Out of more than 780 judges nationwide, only 20 survived the violence. Not 20 percent, 20 total.

These skewed demographics resulted in a power vacuum. Prior to 1994, women only held between 10 and 15 percent of seats in Parliament. Out of sheer necessity, and a desire to rebuild their country, women stepped up as leaders in every realm of the nation, including politics.

Or in the words of one Rwandan woman….. “Many women were left as widows because of the genocide. Others had to work hard in the place of their jailed husbands for allegedly taking part in the genocide. So even young girls got that mentality to perform genuinely to access good jobs, and good jobs means going to school first,”

Secondly – (and no doubt related to the above) women’s rights have been rooted in the constitution for over a decade – The constitution stipulates that at least 30% of government positions should be filled by women. Rwanda now tops global league tables for the percentage of female parliamentarians. Fewer than 22% of MPs worldwide are women; in Rwanda, almost 64% are.

Thirdly (and probably a knock-on effect from point two) Rwanda spends huge proportions of its national budget on health and education, according to World Bank statistics. In 2011, almost 24% of total government expenditure went to health and 17% to education. High expenditure on the former has greatly improved maternal health and reduced child mortality, while high expenditure on the later has meant there is sufficient money to fund education for both boys and girls (as a general rule)

Fourthly (and probably a knock on effect from the above three points) – A relatively high proportion of women are employed in public sector jobs – In the education system – women have also outnumbered men as primary school teachers. Higher up the education system, things are not equal, but they are improving rapidly – At secondary school, however, fewer than 28% of teachers are women, up from 21% in 2001. In higher education, only 16% of teachers are women, but this is up from 10% in 1999 and 5% in 1990. In every local police station there is a ‘gender desk’ where incidents of gender related violence can be reported (something which I think is pretty much unheard of in most African countries.)

Fifthly, there is the role of women’s support groups in rebuilding the country after the decimation caused by the genocide. These groups initially just offered a place for women to talk about their experiences of being widowed and raped, but they morphed into workers co-operatives, which has, 20 years later, led on to a very high degree of engagement with women in local politics, which is increasingly integrated with national politics.

Limitations of Rwanda’s Gender Equality….

As with all statistics, they don’t tell the full picture, one of the posts below makes the following cautions – Firstly, 60% of Rwandans live below the poverty line, and while those women how have jobs in politics and education are on decent wages, there aren’t actually that many people in the population employed in these sectors and gender equality means very little to the vast majority of women when they can’t afford to eat. Secondly, DV statistics don’t make for pretty reading, with 2/5 women saying they have experienced domestic violence, with 1/5 saying they have experienced sexual violence – And you can imagine how low the prosecution rate of men is for such crimes.

A few thoughts on the meaning of all this….

Rwanda has experienced excellent economic growth compared to countries in Sub-Saharan Africa, which suggests that Gender Empowerment has a positive effect on development, but obviously this conclusion has to be treated with caution because there are so many other variables which need to be taken into account.

If it is indeed the prevalence of women and the absence of (certain types of?) men from a society which encourages development, there are some pretty challenging implications – Most obviously it raises the question of how we are to reduce (certain types of) male influence in developing countries?

Sources

http://www.theguardian.com/global-development/datablog/2014/apr/03/rwanda-genocide-growth-political-repression-data

http://www.theguardian.com/global-development/2014/apr/07/rwanda-women-empowered-impoverished

http://thinkafricapress.com/rwanda/women-gender-equality

http://harvardkennedyschoolreview.com/rwanda-strides-towards-gender-equality-in-government/

 

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.

 

 

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.

‘Honour’ Killings and ‘Honour’ crime on the increase

Reflecting on these may make you a bit less sympathetic to to the moral relitivism of Postmodernism – and a bit more sympathetic with the idea that Feminism might just still be relevant in today’s society after all.

Honour killings typically involve a family killing daughters who ‘dishonour’ the family name – namely through having boyfriends they don’t approve or, or through failing to marry (typically arranged) a partner the family approves of.

In a recent high profile quadruple honour killing in Canada - in which Mohammad Shafia, his second wife and their 20-year-old son are being tried for  four murders – of Mohammad’s first wife and three daughters.

Following a wiretap, Mohammed was was recorded voicing his disgust with his “treacherous” daughters and saying he would kill them again even if they came back to life a hundred times…… “Even if they hoist us onto the gallows … we have not done anything bad,” he says in the recordings, calling his daughters “whores” for having boyfriends.

But it’s not just Honour killings that are the problem – For obvious reasons, families may not be prepared to kill dishonourable daughters – instead they just beat and imprison them and subject them to emotional abuse (which I guess happens automatically if you’re being beaten and abused?!) – as the following case study indicates –

Maya’s story

When I was 16 my mum came into my room one day and said I had to get married to my cousin in Pakistan. I was horrified: I wanted to go to college and get a job, and I didn’t even know him, how could I marry him? But when I said no, my mum slapped me across the face. After that I wasn’t allowed out. My family treated me with disgust, as if I had shamed them. My father, mother, even my young brother, beat me on a daily basis. My body was covered in bruises. I wasn’t given any food for days on end, and I tried to take an overdose on several occasions. I just used to sit on my bed from morning to night. Prison would have been a better place.

 Honour crimes are much more widespread in the UK than you might think –

Thanks to an FOI request from The Iranian and Kurdish women’s rights Organisation (IKWRO) – we now know that there were almost 3000 honour crimes in the UK last year – recorded by the police – but the data only comes from 39 out of 52 police forces, the other 13 either failing to collect or provide data on honour crimes.

Such cases include such things as threats, abduction, acid attacks, beatings, forced marriage, mutilation and murder. To add to these shocking findings – based on the 12 police force areas for which comparable data was available, reports went up by 47% in just a year.

IKWRO makes the case that the increase is due to the fact that more women are resisting the demands made on them by their families –

This example illustrates a lot of Sociological themes –

It’s a good example of the relevance of Feminism – without this Feminist organisation we wouldn’t have this information available too us – obviously the media pick up on honour killings, but much less so with honour crimes.

Secondly, a good e.g. of a crime that, even with police recorded crime, remains hidden – IKWRO estimate that the actual number of honour crimes may be 4 times higher.

There is also a global dimension to this – many of these honour crimes are done when girls resist demands to go abroad to marry cousins or family aquaintences, and of course there is the obvious culture clash between the patriarchal states of Iran, Kurdistan, and also Pakistan (also strongly associated with honour killings) – in that in these states this kid of daughter abuse is not illegal.

A final dimension is that the increase in honour crimes may be an indiciation of increasing liberation of Asian and Middle Eastern women – at least those living in diaspora communities – as the increase in recorded crime occurs not only because they are prepared to resist their parents unreasonable wishes but also because they feel more confident in coming forwards…

So I guess that’s a positive note to end on, oddly?

BBC3 – Devoted to spreading The Beauty Myth…

While the primary function of BBC1 appears to spreading neoliberal hegemony, – so BBC3 seems to be increasingly devoted to perpetuating the beauty myth – at least if Wednesday’s current schedule is anything to go by – I mean look at this appalling array of programmes in which mainly women, but also occassionally men, demonstrate to us that being more beautiful is the true path to happiness.

19.00 – Hotter than my daughter - involves mothers who dress like tarts and daughters who ‘dress dowdy’ having their dress sense judged by a panel – typically resulting in the mother ‘toning it down’ and the daughter ‘glamming it up’ – in tonight’s episode, the mother was so overwhelmed with the transformation that she broke down in tears – as she said, her previously tom boy daughter who now had her hair trussed up, bright red lipstick, and checked dress – showing a few more curves – now ‘looked beautiful’ – This would have moved be to tears had I not been vomiting.
 

 

19.30 – Snog,  Marry or Avoid - this programme takes typically ugly or average looking (and normally vacuous) teens or twenty somethings who wear too much fake tan, too many lashes, and generally too little clothes, and subjects them to judgement by ‘lads on the street’ who typically report that they would avoid or snog these girls – but never marry them (samples never disclosed of course) – the subjects are then given a ‘make under’ – they tone down the make up and are dressed more conservatively, to bring out their ‘natural beauty’ and then told by their now admiring public that they would be married or snogged.

Even though we are moving away from ‘fakery’, the agenda is still very much focssed on the need for girls to look ‘beautiful’ – and all of this is made much worse by the fact that the show’s host Jenny Frost simply ooses natural beauty and viavaciousness out of every pore – so hardly a good base line against which to compare yourselves girls – the end result of the show is that the girls ‘compromise’ – so rather than being makeup disaster zones, they know tone down their fake tan and lashes to actually look ‘beautiful’    

21.00 – Hot Like Us – To be honest I’ve never watched it but I know it’s got something to do with young, attractive couples (probably shallow) who think looks matter above most other things – obviously a good basis for a long term stable relationship as we’ve all got more than enough time and money to plow into keeping ourselves looking unaturally young well into our 60s, and who wouldn’t want to end up with a Joan Collins lookalike when their 80? (I am being sarcastic btw – I’d rather be dead than end up with something looking like Joan Collins).

At the end of the day these three programmes – while presented to us as entertainment are really just reinforcing and even normalising the idea that ‘looks matter’ and that people, women especially, should spend inordinate amounts of time reflecting on and modifying their appearance. It is depressing just how many women buy into this game – reflecting the extent to which socialisation still reinforces the idea that a woman’s self-worth hinges on her appearance. It would be far better if these insidious programmes disappeared from our screens and they were replaced with a plain and simple message – women, you are more than your looks, get over them. – or something like that anyway.