Archive | June, 2012

The 84% – starting the digital fightback

29 Jun

by Amy Jackson

Coalition cuts have resulted in massive unemployment for women. Of the 231,000 made redundant since the cuts were implemented, 193,000 are women. That is 84%. Worryingly, this attack on women’s At the job centreemployment has been given little to no airplay by traditional media, despite the fact that the number of women out of work now is the highest in 25 years. Worse still, this trend is likely to carry on as the government continues to bring the axe down on the public sector, where women make up 65% of the workforce. In November 2011, the Office of Budgetary Responsibility estimated that 710,000 jobs will be lost in the public sector between now and 2017.

The evidence showing that women are bearing the brunt of the cuts is easy to find. The Fawcett Society, who campaign for equality for women, say on their website:

‘Figures from the Office for National Statistics reveal that, since the end of the recession (at the end of 2009), women’s unemployment has been rising at a significantly disproportionate rate to men’s. In February 2012, men’s unemployment stood slightly below where it did back then (at 1.535 million) whereas women’s unemployment has increased by over 20% (from 945,000 to 1.14 million). In fact, over the past two years women have accounted for 100% of the increase in unemployment.’

Yet outside of the websites and press releases of women’s groups and trade unions, there is very little coverage of the issue. A very quick scan of news results on ‘Google News’ shows articles dealing specifically with women’s unemployment are few and far between, mostly making a passing reference to women while discussing the wider issues of unemployment as a whole. The lack of media attention means the issue is going unnoticed by the majority, and the government is not being held accountable for its attack on women workers. 

Donna Govan, campaigner for Unison, said, ‘Having been signed up to all both the political blogs and the ‘feminist’ blogs, I’ve been concerned that this issues appears to be ignored by the political blogosphere because it is a women’s issue and ignored by the feminist channels because it is an employment issue.  We simply can’t afford this silence, politically, economically and as a society.’

To combat this silence, the Netroots conference tomorrow will be holding a workshop on the issue – ‘The 84%: Starting the digital fight back’ . Focussing on how we can use digital channels to bring make the 84% a mainstream issue, the session aims find a way to move these redundancies from the personal to the political in a way that gets grabs the media’s attention, and brings this mass unemployment of women more in to the public arena. Left Out will be there, we hope you can make it too!

 

The session will take  place at 11am, Saturday 30th June, at the Netroots Conference: Congress Centre, Great Russell St, London, WC1B 3LS

 

You can find out more details about Netroots and buy your tickets (only a fiver!) here.

Is it still politic to play the good wife?

26 Jun

by Jackie Gregory
WVoN co-editor

“The great value of wives, prime minister” mused Judge Leveson at the Leveson Inquiry into press standards.

It was an off-the-cuff remark, and possibly judiciously sarcastic, but had it appeared in a Jane Austen novel, scholars would describe it as perfectly crafted, weighted with class and precisely pinpointing the place of women in society.

But this is 2012 and the prime minister is David Cameron, who had to ask partner Samantha Cameron to consult their weekend diary (yes, we all have one, it’s called the kitchen calendar in our house) to see how many times he had enjoyed a “country supper” with former News International executive Rebekah Brooks.

Too many, she could have curtly replied, but no, Mrs Cameron as the PM referred to her, was able to help him out of the frying pan.

After she had consulted her diary, her husband was able to clarify that he and Brooks had met every six weeks, and not more frequently. It was then that the judge made the remark that has attracted much comment.

Quentin Letts in the Daily Mail mused: “Yikes. Harriet Harman and the sisterhood may not approve of that remark. I do hope the good Lord Justice is not subject to a class action complaint for sexism.”

It’s obvious that neither the judge nor Cameron nor Brooks, a former tabloid editor, realised that country supper  – words used in a text by Brooks to Cameron – has a totally different meaning in today’s street language, being slang for oral sex on a female.Samantha Cameron

And so through linguistics, the clubby culture and remoteness of the British ruling elite are exposed.

Cameron consulting Mrs Cameron firmly underlines her role as “the good wife”.

It’s this concept that sickened Tanya Gold who wrote in The Guardian: “How I would love an inquiry into how politicians treat their wives, how they swap access for favours, how they beg them to dumb down, down, all the way to the glove drawer.

“The good wife is neat, smiling and ubiquitous, performing her role as professional tea caddy and shock absorber for her male … It is a tedious narrative but politicians need the vision of the happy woman as they harm women and their families elsewhere.”

It brings back uncomfortable memories of Judith Mellor, a couple of decades back, being forced to stand by the country gate smiling after husband David Mellor, then Tory Minister for Sport, was revealed to be having an affair.

Norma Major stayed quiet, in public at least, after John, then prime minister, had a fling with Edwina Currie. Even Sarah Brown was called in to speak up for Gordon to try to humanise his image.

Note the backlash against Cherie Booth which is still ongoing, because she failed to be a demure good wife to Tony Blair, and instead had her own career and identity. Sally Bercow, the wife of the speaker of the House of Commons, faces similar scrutiny.

Michelle Obama in the vegetable gardenYet Naomi Wolf detects a change – on the Continent at least. While Mrs Cameron may be busy listing her husband’s supper dates, and Mrs Obama swaps a law career for growing veg in the garden, there are partners of politicians in other countries who are refusing to toe the line.

Wolf points out that the French president, the German president and the mayor of New York are not married to their partners – and no-one seems to care.

Wolf says: “Smart women may be unwilling to marry high-profile political men these days, owing to the tremendous potential downside. Other domestic arrangements might be easier than taking the matrimonial plunge, with its prospect of thankless exposure in the event of a scandal.”

Another reason is generational change with an expectation that women will have their own careers. Wolf argues this helps diminish the fear in some voters’ eyes that adoring good wives are the power behind the throne, unelected and unaccountable.

If a wife is too busy with her own career to get involved, this diminishes her power in the eyes of some electorate.

Wolf concludes: “The adoring political wife was always more caricature than character. Now, fortunately, she can finally retire.”

If Mrs Cameron does decide to step away, then she had better leave the weekend diary on Dave’s desk.

Jackie Gregory is a co-editor of Women’s Views on News

Why we support the London bus strike

22 Jun

by Amy Jackson

 

Today, tubes and trains across London are cramming in yet more passengers, cycle lanes are cluttered and pavements are crowded with more pedestrians than usual, as bus users are forced to find alternative ways to get to work. Only 3 bus companies are operational, as London bus workers in seventeen bus companies go out on strike.

The industrial action has gone ahead despite attempts to block it by a high court injunction, which the drivers’ union, Unite, branded an ‘affront to democracy.’

As some who lives in London, I am all too aware of the chaos that transport strikes bring. They make travelling in London even more stressful than usual, and in turn, Londoners even more grumpy than they normally are. But, for all the inconvenience, the strike is worth it. Here’s why:

  • It is estimated that six million people will be visiting London for the Games. This will put huge pressure on the transport system and it is perfectly reasonable that transport workers are rewarded for fairly for their efforts.
  • Tube and train drivers have already been promised at least a £500 bonus for the Olympics, why should bus drivers be left out?
  • This strike is a last resort. TfL and the bus companies refused to even meet with bus drivers until the 11th hour, despite repeated requests for meetings from Unite and the workforce.
  • Billions of pounds have been spent on the Olympics and personal fortunes have been made out of lucrative contracts. It is unfair that bus drivers, crucial to the success of the Games, are denied a mere £17.24 extra a day.
  •  The top 7 executives at TfL will be awarded an £80,000 bonus each after the Olympic Games, and yet they have condemned bus drivers for asking for £500 – less than one per cent of their huge bonuses.
  •  Bus drivers are not expecting the bonus for ‘free’. A visit to any tube station will show you that Londoners are being encouraged to walk and cycle to work as the strain on the transport system will be so great. London already copes with a huge number of visitors each day, but the numbers flocking to the city for the Games are unprecedented. TfL are expecting at least 800,000 extra people to be using buses.
  • Of the 21,000 drivers balloted , 97% of them backed industrial action. This is workers demonstrating their right to withdraw labour, and despite the transport problems caused,  the right to strike is fundamental to democracy and should be respected.
  • The bus operators have collectively made over £2 billion in profits according to their latest annual accounts. Unite’s regional secretary for London, Peter Kavanagh said,  “Despite the huge profits bus operators have given their workers three years of below inflation pay increases or pay freezes. If the operators shirk their responsibilities now they will sow the seeds of massive anger and frustration across the bus network inevitably leading to strife and industrial action during and way beyond the Olympic Games.”

 

Of course, people travelling daily in London tend not to have the collective patience of a saint, and this dispute needs to be resolved. The strike should act as a wake up call to the bus companies and TfL to get round the table and negotiate meaningfully about rewarding bus workers for their indispensable role in the Olympics. After all, it’s only fair.

 

 

 

 

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