Guest blog from Ed Miliband: we must change how women are portrayed in our culture

(121 Posts)
KateMumsnet (MNHQ) Fri 28-Jun-13 11:33:16

Last night, Ed Miliband gave a keynote speech about gender and equality in which he promised that a Labour government would ensure that children were given relationships education from the age of five - good news for Mumsnetters, who have been pushing for this for a while.

He also argued that our culture needs to change how it portrays women - and in today's guest blog, he expands on why he thinks the representation of women is in crisis - and why it matters.

"Our banknotes are about to change. Not a major political issue, you might think. But it does have one important effect. Winston Churchill is going to replace Elizabeth Fry on the £5 note. And that means that everyone who will appear on our banknotes - apart from the Queen, our Head of State - will be a man.

I am worried about what kind of signal that sends. I read this week that the people who make these decisions think it is OK that there will be no women on our banknotes, because Jane Austen is "quietly waiting in the wings" to appear on her own note one day. But 100 years on from the great struggle to give women the right to vote, women shouldn't be "waiting quietly in the wings" for anything, should they?

Why don't we have one of our great women scientists, like Elizabeth Garrett Anderson, and a suffragette like Emmeline Pankhurst on our banknotes already?

This is a small but important symbol of the kind of country we are. In fact, I think it reveals a crisis in the representation of women more generally in our society.

Of course, greater prominence is given to fantastic role models for women and girls today than was true in the past. People like Clare Balding, Doreen Lawrence, J.K. Rowling, Jocelyn Bell and Burnell. And it is not just these people who provide role models for the next generation. My kids will grow up with Dora the Explorer as much as my generation did with Dennis the Menace, and that matters. And this week we have been supporting Laura Robson just as much as Andy Murray at Wimbledon.

But we should not be fooling ourselves by denying the problems. It is not just the absence of women from our banknotes or the way men out-number women in the statues on our streets. There are problems in our everyday culture too.

Young people talk a lot today about the problems of a culture that is tolerant of increasingly sexualised images. They are especially worried about a culture that says that girls will only get on in life, if they live up to the crudest of stereotypes. A culture where pornographic images, some violent, are available to children at a click on a smartphone or a laptop.

In discussing this problem, one young woman, 15 years old, wrote in to the Everyday Sexism site recently. She said: "I wish people would think about what pressures they are putting on everyone, not just teenage girls ... I wish the people who had real power and control of the images and messages we get fed all day actually thought about what they did for once."

She was right. There are things that government can do about it, like safer default settings on our computers. But that young woman's point is different. She believes there is a responsibility on all of us to do what we can to counter these images and to provide a better example for the future.

So, for example, schools should offer proper relationship education at all stages to ensure all our children have a proper chance to understand what good loving relationships are about. And they should always encourage the aspirations of girls and boys.

And advertisers and magazines should change the way they act too. We all know there are still too many images in our advertising that reflect outdated ideas about the role of men and women, boys and girls. And it matters how people are seen. About the images we have of each other. It sets an example, especially for the next generation.

Women face all sorts of injustices in our society today, many of which go far beyond our culture. There are still far too few women MPs, too few women in our boardrooms, the Cabinet or in senior management positions. Women have suffered more than men during Britain's recent economic troubles too, with this government's cuts affecting them three times as hard as men.

We need to act on all of these. But as we do so we must not forget the importance of cultural representation too. Many of these issues cannot and should not be decided by parliament or politicians. But it is something we must all talk about, as citizens and, especially, as parents. This is something that a new wave of young women are campaigning on, and talking about. They are right to do so and we should listen to their voices - that means politicians, advertisers, business leaders, and newspaper editors.

We can only be One Nation if we have real equality between men and women."

woeface Fri 28-Jun-13 12:08:01

Well said. Good to see engagement with this issue - it's no good telling our daughters to reach for the stars if the world they see reflected around them reduces them to either 'hot plaything' or 'busy mum'.

Very lovely words. And nice to hear from a leading male politician for a change. However, it's nothing that women, whether they identify as feminists or not, haven't been saying for a long time. So now we should pay attention because a man said it? And, um, what actual plans does he have to address any of these issues apart for saying that we should "talk about" them.

I've been talking about them for years. Not a lot has actually happened though, has it?

Fuzzysnout Fri 28-Jun-13 12:37:07

A great sentiment Ed. As you have already stated that you will not be reversing the cuts of the current government, how do you propose to redress the disproportionate effect of these cuts on women which so concerns you?

Yes Annie - completely agree. Really good stuff, but a small element of mansplaining ?! (for example, slight error from him to my thinking when he says "She was right" !! Does she think you're right too Milliband ? wink

But, hey, we feminists are a tricky lot. You're forgiven really - And well said.

milbracat Fri 28-Jun-13 12:48:36

I think it is disingenuous tosh - spouting what he feels women want to hear in order to buy their votes.

Tee2072 Fri 28-Jun-13 13:05:37

Well, thank god Ed said that. I never would have known otherwise...

Dackyduddles Fri 28-Jun-13 13:11:36

Wonderful. Well hopefully as a man has said something something will happen as sweet fanny Anne has happened and women have been banging on about it since suffrage started!

Stop talking Ed, start DOING!

OmNom Fri 28-Jun-13 13:15:59

Looks good to me. It's not a radfem manifesto but then I wouldn't have expected that from him. I get the impression he takes equalities stuff seriously, unlike the LibDems or the Tories.

I'd like to know, though, what he's going to do about promoting more women to both the Labour front bench and to his own personal team. I've heard it said that the group around him is pretty macho and that talented women like Polly Billington have been frozen out.

And yes - some policies would be nice (beyond the sex ed stuff - I hope that will be a manifesto commitment). Whatcha going to do about it Ed?

Tee2072 Fri 28-Jun-13 13:22:09

Yes, I am also getting a 'put your money where your mouth is' sort of vibe.

Talk is cheap.

Also? They need to get into power first...

VictorianDaddy Fri 28-Jun-13 13:23:28

milbracat has it spot on - this is hot air designed to hoover up a few votes from the naiive.

No politician can change the culture of a nation - especially not one so lacking in charisma...

The only place that happens is in the sort of authoritarian state we wouldnt really want.

JessieXL Fri 28-Jun-13 13:24:54

Can Miliband outline, say, three practical changes he will commit Labour to making and which will have a positive effect on women's representation?

Words are all well and good but I want to see some action.

woeface Fri 28-Jun-13 13:26:02

Agree with OmNom - think he takes equalities stuff more seriously (and understands them better) than most.

Accusing him of 'mansplaining' is unfair - he's setting out his party's thinking on the representation of women, and to do credibly so he has to demonstrate that he 'gets' the issues.

woeface Fri 28-Jun-13 13:27:46

gah 'to do so credibly'.

ksrwr Fri 28-Jun-13 13:29:15

what milbracat said

OmNom Fri 28-Jun-13 13:37:54

'No politician can change the culture of a nation - especially not one so lacking in charisma...'

i think there are quite a few politicians who've done exactly this aren't there? Thatcher for starters.

Agree Ed's not the most compelling personality, but personally I rather like his thoughtfulness. I'd take him over the superficial glad-handing of Blair and Cameron any time.

Tournesol Fri 28-Jun-13 13:41:39

I agree with the sentiment and am happy that equality is something Miliband cares about.

However I would like to see a policy to make nursery care cheaper and flexible or part time working promoted so that parents (and let's face it many mothers) are not pushed out of careers due to having a family. This is a policy I would vote for.

happyon Fri 28-Jun-13 13:43:33

Thanks for this and for supporting quotas within the Labour Party. Please keep this theme going. There are millions of decent people who really do care about gender equality.

More glad than ever that I voted for him in the leadership ballot.

woeface Fri 28-Jun-13 13:51:05

But Milbracat, it's not 'buying votes'; it's speaking to a group of prospective voters about issues that he knows they are concerned about, to demonstrate that his party also thinks those issues are important.

All politicians talk about what their party stands for to win voters over. If they weren't allowed to do so, they'd have to discuss their policies through the medium of mime or something. Maybe dance.

VictorianDaddy Fri 28-Jun-13 13:55:45

OmNom, perhaps I should have put 'no current (or recent) politician'.

Agree on Thatcher - though she was pretty brutal about it. I think those days are gone - for the past 20 years politics seems to have been getting progressively more wishy-washy, with no-one having the guts to do anything significant, in case it put them 2 inches left or right of dead centre.

And now we can't afford to do anything significant even if one of them had the nouse and willpower to push it through. I'm pretty certain the coalition Tories wouldn't be cutting hard if they didn't have to. They want to be popular just as much as anybody else.

We've gone off topic a bit. I think the point I'm making is, culture changes from the bottom up, not the top down. Even more so now we're all so much more interconnected.

VictorianDaddy Fri 28-Jun-13 14:06:47

woeface, YY to 'the medium of dance' grin

Suggest an online petition demanding the next election leadership debates must be held through the medium of dance.

And Nigel Farage must be allowed to join in grin

Biscuitsareme Fri 28-Jun-13 14:12:25

Victoriandad: I don't agree that culture only changes from the bottom up. Changes in legislation, even if not supported by a significant majority, do change the culture of a country as a whole. The changes to child benefit and other austerity measures are changing the way people think about the benefit system, for example. Changes in tuition fees has an effect on nrs of young people choosing to go to uni etc.

Anyway, about the blog:

The words are nice to hear; I'm curious about practical implementation, particularly keeping in mind the upper-class macho culture of national politics.

IMO the current and future austerity measures will have a detrimental effect of the quality of life & mental health of many, especially those with caring responsibilities (usually women). It's very hard to reverse such a trend.

Will be keeping an eye on Mr Milliband but am not holding my breath. Remember how we all thought Tony Blair would change the world for the better?

JuliaScurr Fri 28-Jun-13 14:22:22

love 'medium of mime'
fuzzy yy - cuts! Cuts Ed, cuts! No reversal, stay in spending limits? So what's the point?

TheFallenNinja Fri 28-Jun-13 14:25:02

Just more rubbish from a scumbag politician trying to get votes.

You could put The Hoobs on banknotes for all I care. Fix the economy, sort out crime and immigration and properly fund the NHS, education and defence. Stop pussyfooting around.

OmNom Fri 28-Jun-13 14:25:43

Actually though (and having just had a go at him) Blair did make big cultural changes I think, especially around gay rights. The transition from UK being a pretty brutal place for gay people to (almost) everyone happily accepting civil partnerships and gay adoption etc happened almost entirely under New Labour - and of course Tories (or the Notting Hill ones anyway) happily jumped on board when they saw how the wind was blowing.

Maybe big politicians can pick up on underlying trends, amplify them, turn them into tangible legislation and sort of mirror back to the population the incremental social changes that society is undergoing? And then we all look at each other and think 'oh yeah, it turns out most of us are on the same page.'

Slightly off-topic. But in summary, think it's unfair to have a go at Miliband for trying.

TheFallenNinja Fri 28-Jun-13 14:26:48

It's not like Ed Balls would have anything smaller than £20's anyway.

"think it's unfair to have a go at Milliband for trying"

really ?

I think it's completely fair to analyse and comment on his words and actions in any way anyone sees fit.

And is he really trying ? And if so how much effort is he putting into that ?

TheFallenNinja Fri 28-Jun-13 14:49:52

Unfair to have a go at Milliband?


Because of the unmitigated success of the previous government of which he was a part?

Because of the clear message that his opposition party have offered the electorate?

Because he is genuinely and earnestly trying to build a better country for all levels of achievement?

Milliband is a ghost, has nothing to say, nothing to offer. He is the face of a wounded party.

All politicians should be relentlessly scrutinised, challenged and pressurised every moment of every day, their every move should have a spotlight shone on it to ensure that they are out to do their best for us all.

harryhausen Fri 28-Jun-13 14:51:34

I agree with what Ed Milliband is saying. Actually changing anything is harder. Not 'trying' isn't going to help anyone though is it?

My (tom boy) 8 yr old dd broke my heart the other day when she said she wished she actually was a boy. I asked why - women are great! Mummy works hard at something she really wants to and is successful, blah blah. However she just said "boys can be whatever they want" hmm

Something has gone terribly wrong somewhere. I think putting more female figures on the history curriculum at school would help for starters. Also, I know it seems minor and petty bit all the pink gender toys stuff really seeps into little brains early. If girls are taught that when they're older all they can do is change nappies, cook in the kitchen and be a little princess then somewhere it will rub off.

I grew up in 70's and 80's. The excitement about being able to do any job when older abounded in school and amongst my friends. Girls wanted to be doctors, lawyers, scientists, even politicians (in fact one of them is an MP now). We seemed to have lost this somehow.

And I do care that cuts to public services have hit women three times harder than men.
I've lost my job and livlihood this year, not DH.

It's not something that can be brushed under the carpet as though we won't mind.

MoreBeta Fri 28-Jun-13 15:14:31

Fine words from Ed and who could disagree with them - but look at \nd do something about the mote in the eye of Labour Party and the Union movement.

No Labour woman party leader ever, far fewer front bench women than men, far fewer female MPs, far fewer female union leaders. Worst of all no acknowledgement that union leaders for years and years negotiated pay deals that deliberately paid women less than men in equivalent jobs.

Lets not get blindsided about how Labour supports women and women's rights. It speaks about it but doesn't act.

MoreBeta Fri 28-Jun-13 15:22:18

Two practical things Labour could do is:

1. Immediately force mandatory publication of full details of pay, bonus and other emoluments of every employee in a firm for the last 5 years so everyone can see what their colleagues were/are being paid.

2. Force a quota of at least 35% women on Boards by 2020.

It will not happen because of the business lobby.

OmNom Fri 28-Jun-13 15:24:55

By 'trying', I meant 'trying to change the culture' - which was what that particular tangent was about. i think this speech is evidence of him giving that a go. Whether he carries it through into legislative proposals and action of course remains to be seen.

I think Labour did a lot for women when in government: working tax credits, child tax credits, minimum wage all impacted well for women, especially those who were low paid or part-time. SureStart and childcare help, wraparound care in schools were all encouraged by Labour and (given the reality that women tend to take responsibility for childcare) helped to broaden women's working choices. Equalities Act is massive for women. Domestic violence action under Jacqui Smith was profound in some ways. Visibility of self-declared feminists like Harman (paving the way for women like Teresa May to happily identify as feminists and not take half the flak that Harman has taken).

I take issue with a lot of things Labour did, but I think their record on women is good.

MoreBeta Fri 28-Jun-13 15:28:36

OmNom - "Equalities Act is massive for women."

Yes but the last Labour Government deliberately made it harder for women to bring equal pay and sex discrimination cases before Tribunals. They did that under pressure from the business lobby.

Spiritedwolf Fri 28-Jun-13 15:38:58

I'm not Tony Blair's biggest fan either, but he and Gordon Brown did do a lot to help women and young children (minimum wage, Sure Start, health in pregnancy grant, more maternity leave, Tax Credits, Child Tax Credits etc). Things did change - especially for single mothers, same-sex couples etc.

Labour could have, and should have gone further - helping carers, disabled people and there is more they could have done for women and girls. So I'm glad that Ed Miliband is listening.

And the attacks on his personality, really? You want the Tony Blairs, David Camerons and Margaret Thatchers of this world to be the only types who get in office?

I have heard some good stuff from him on this and other issues. I'm not entirely convinced about the stance Labour is taking at the moment (in danger of looking like not much different to the Tories on economy and welfare) but I am interested to see where he's going, and what he'll do. I think sorting out good quality childcare at an affordable rate will be a big part of things. Affordable (genuinely affordable) housing is another area that needs a lot of work.

Having read "Why Love Matters" after having my son, I was struck by how important Sure Start and good maternity/paternity leave, and other related policies are. If we can make sure parents have good support and are able to either be there for their children, or have good quality childcare when they can't be, it won't just benefit the children at the time, it will be good for the whole of society.

Dawnywoo Fri 28-Jun-13 15:45:05

Yes, it does sound good. I just wonder if his spin people said 'gosh, we could get a massive female audience / votes if we went on mumsnet and made all the right noises'

As always, we have to decide whether to trust what they say if we want to give them a chance to put their money where their mouth is.

Spiritedwolf Fri 28-Jun-13 16:34:35

Labour and the unions can and should do more on female representation, but Labour already has more female representatives than the other parties. It had more women in Cabinet than the current government, it actively selects female candidates in winnable seats and tries hard to get more of its female members to stand as candidates, and supports all female shortlists for selection in winnable seats.

Labour isn't at 50:50 equality yet, but I do think they are doing better than the other parties.

LordChilde Fri 28-Jun-13 16:40:11

How terribly PC of dear Ed. It's just awful that there are so few mugs of wimin on our banknotes... and it's just ghastly the way our female friends are portrayed in the media.

This sycophantic squawking makes me squirm with embarrassment. I suggest Ed (and others of a twee persuasion) get treatment for Obsessive Gender Studies disorder.

Timeforabiscuit Fri 28-Jun-13 17:35:07

I agree with ensuring this is followed through with legislation - and yes it means getting much firmer with the business lobby.

I would like to see parity in the number part time roles given to men and women - there should be equal access to this.

Also at the moment part time is hours are really at the whim of the company you work for, the only right you have is to ask - which in my opinion isn't good enough.

EdMiliband Fri 28-Jun-13 18:41:08

Thanks to all those who have posted.

On policy, we would take some very specific measures to change things in terms of the depiction of women and men.

It starts with sex and relationship education in schools at all key stages, which actually teaches a truly equal story of women and men, their aspirations and what to expect from relationships.

We need to move to default safe search on the internet and more effective age registration, as advocated by Labour's Helen Goodman. So that we at least try and restrict kids' access to the sometimes violent, often degrading material out there.

And we need to ensure the role of women in our history is not a sideline in the national curriculum but is central to what is taught.

That's just a start. The answer is not simply legislation, it is also about forcing a debate with those who wield huge influence on representation.

Unless we talk about these issues, we won't influence advertisers, newspaper editors and others who have such power in this area.

Thanks to all on mumsnet and thanks also in particular to all of the women in the new wave of the feminist movement who have put these questions centre stage.

twistyfeet Fri 28-Jun-13 19:31:15

meanwhile Ed supports the cuts which will hit women hardest, especially Carers who are mainly women.
Put your money where your mouth is Ed.

Panonabike Fri 28-Jun-13 19:33:18

I am greatly heartened by your highlighting of the sexualised imaging of women and children in the media, and how that conveys damaging stereo-types. Really. It's something close to my Equalities and personal heart. I think we all recognise the potential barriers that 'good people' face in trying to effect change. But I'd appeal to you and your party to be a hell of a lot braver in proposing changes. 'Business' folk have little motivation, other than having the nouss to capture the idealism/civility of youth. And frankly young people, in your potential voting demographic (As well as females) would be brought round by some gumption being shown.
I also say this as someone who has the Labour website on my 'bookmark' list, but haven't the confidence yet to actually sign up as a member. That's because I want to see some leadership shown in these areas. I am sure I am not alone in this. This coalition are a bunch of barbarians. I want to see that Ed Milliband as PM would be a real alternative.

Wow, is that really Ed on here ?!
If so, thanks for coming on and joining us.
Liking your follow up post a lot.

Panonabike Fri 28-Jun-13 19:46:34

and by the way Ed, if you or someone is still reading, there is a whole strata of liberal lefts, soft lefts, green lefts, hippy lefts, 'naice' lefts but don't vote, even 'hard' lefts, civilised people, frustrated socialists, Bennites, pro-Eurpeans, old Labour/New Labour, who would give you a majority and who would v happily sink this current shower...if you only appealed to them, and stop worrying about the nonsense of 'middle England' and the Daily Mail.

TippiShagpile Fri 28-Jun-13 20:03:24

Well said Panonabike.

I heart you.

Nikabilla Fri 28-Jun-13 20:05:18

I thought he spoke well, it was almost as if a woman wrote the speech for him hmm.... I certainly felt it was a bit tooooo spot on, almost as though he knew that's exactly what many women wanted to hear, which made me a bit suspicious.

If he truly feels that and wrote his own speech then that's amazing and pat on the back to him grin

Nikabilla Fri 28-Jun-13 20:07:21

Oh just realised he's on here blush, umm, pat on the back to you Ed, you certainly talk the talk grin

LoveBeingUpAt4InTheMorning Fri 28-Jun-13 20:30:53

But what would he actually do?

KaseyM Fri 28-Jun-13 21:04:08

If you're still listening, any chance of doing something to combat the hideous sexism in the toy industry which is where the problem begins so early for lots of girls. If you walk into many toy shops toys are clearly separated by gender. Whilst girls get pink toys to do with beauty and domesticity under the blatantly sexist heading "girls' toys" whilst boys get construction and science kits.

It starts early, giving girls the message that they need to groom themselves to be beautiful whilst also diminishing their aspirations to be doctors, scientists, engineers, basically anything highly paid.

It seems crazy that this kind of thing is allowed whilst pricing products on the basis of gender is illegal.

Please stop by the LetToysBeToys campaign to see what's being done to combat this.

QueenoftheHolly Fri 28-Jun-13 21:08:56

Ok, I would describe myself as a lifelong Tory voter & this caught my attention.
Of course ed is a politician so to all those saying he's 'pandering to women' etc etc well, duh.., politicians do pander to voters its their job! & good for him figuring out that women make up at least 50% of the vote - probably more as old people vote more & women live longer!

Something that really annoys me that gets ignored when politicians & the media talk about women having children, & childcare etc is the fact that economically its vital that women do have children, they are tomorrows tax payers! And the more educated women who have children, the more likely that future generations will be paying higher levels of tax.
It's definitely possible to argue that women who have children, and often sacrifice their maximum career potential to do so, are doing their country a good turn, even if its just a by product of a 'selfish' desire to have a child.

SunshineBossaNova Fri 28-Jun-13 21:11:12

Thanks Ed for coming on here.

KaseyM Fri 28-Jun-13 21:16:38

Queen, that annoys me too. People talk as if taking time out from our careers to raise children and the fall out in terms of money & status that goes with it is a personal choice, which yes it is. But it's also something of vital importance to the country!

woeface Fri 28-Jun-13 21:18:34

"That's just a start. The answer is not simply legislation, it is also about forcing a debate with those who wield huge influence on representation."

This. You can't legislate a culture. At least Ed M is prepared to mention the fact that this is an issue - for us now, and for our daughters in the future. I think that's worth something - don't see anyone else engaging with this <ironic quotation marks hand movement" issue.

Yes, I agree that early years education is of vital importance to raising the next generation - and brings a massive (x6 ?) return on investment due to improved job prospects (and therefore higher taxes paid) and lower criminality in the next generation. As childcare it also enables more women to work, improving life choices for women and families.
So, what's not to like ?!
If I was a politician I'd get behind improved early years education and childcare as a massive win/win opportunity for everyone smile
Look to Scandinavia to see what's going on there.
(eg recent Panorama programme)

Panonabike Fri 28-Jun-13 21:47:02

yes, I don;t see other political leaders even mentioning these issues in the media. Ed, keep the momentum and we might actually vote for you.

Tee2072 Fri 28-Jun-13 21:55:50

I'm impressed that Ed came back to answer the questions. Usually the blogs are posted and the writer is like the wind.

HelenMumsnet (MNHQ) Fri 28-Jun-13 22:43:45


Wow, is that really Ed on here ?!
If so, thanks for coming on and joining us.
Liking your follow up post a lot.

Yes it is!

Panonabike Fri 28-Jun-13 22:48:08

But not at MNHQ, so no difficult biscuit question then, Helen? [phew]. grin

LackaDAISYcal Fri 28-Jun-13 23:39:57

The words are all well and good, but why not put your moeny where your mouth is and have 50% of your shadow cabinet posts filled by women? And have women in the prominent roles of treasury, health, education and defense?

OK, so your home secretary is a woman. However, I think that giving her the joint title of Minister for women and equalities lessens her role as shadow home secretary somewhat.

Before getting at others Mr Milliband, please get your own house in order.

Crumbledwalnuts Sat 29-Jun-13 00:34:14

This is a joke. Ninja YY

LackaDAISYcal Sat 29-Jun-13 01:04:08

"It starts with sex and relationship education in schools at all key stages, which actually teaches a truly equal story of women and men, their aspirations and what to expect from relationships"

Are you teaching this to the boys as well as the girls though? Telling them that the porn image of women that is being shoved down their throats is actually a very narrow view and that women are to be respected? It's one thing telling the girls they are equal, but another to actually get this information over to a bunch of boys who think that they have the upper hand in all aspects of their relationshiop based on what they see in popular culture, computer games and all to readily accessible computer based pornography

wonderingagain Sat 29-Jun-13 01:53:50

And what did our lovely labour government do to prevent the internet seeping undetected images into teenage girls homes, completely unrestricted with no guidance or guidelines, no parental advice, no research on the damage it was doing, no concern about the legality of pornography aimed at teenagers? All of this was on your watch Ed. Thanks to your complacency and lack of interest in childrens health and your obsession with freedom of speech teenage now refer to their friends as 'bitches'.

Ed you really have no idea. Feminism is about stuff you DO, not stuff you talk about. And topless young girls are still served up for breakfast in the newspaper.

An unrecognisable historical figure on a note is really going to make a lot of difference? Trafficked women are still being imprisoned for prostitution in this country. Sort out the law and order, the legal and the non-legal, the institutional abuse. Then get on with changing the effing banknote.

I really do despair, voted labour all my life (except last time) and am desperate to become a proper supporter again, but there's just too much inaction happening.

wonderingagain Sat 29-Jun-13 01:58:00

Oh and what happened to our heinous child rapist trafficking Pakistanis - they got 95 years between 8 of them. That's about 12 years each. Great. Sends out a great message to all the other trafficked children scared of fighting for their own justice because their abusers might get back out of prison too quickly.

If this is the best this country can do there is something very very seriously wrong with the justice system.

Crumbledwalnuts Sat 29-Jun-13 02:00:12

Labour did nothing. Anything they say now is PR, and that is it.

wonderingagain Sat 29-Jun-13 02:35:22

Nothing for what?

YoniMatopoeia Sat 29-Jun-13 06:35:43

Ed. If you are serious about this, can you pledge that the labour party will get behind, and formally support, the campaign to get rid of page 3?

That would be a nice start.

HenWithAttitude Sat 29-Jun-13 07:45:13

Well I could be churlish and say its just words to win a bunch of voters but's the right words so let's hear more and then follow them up.

zazara Sat 29-Jun-13 08:04:44

Message deleted by Mumsnet for breaking our Talk Guidelines. Replies may also be deleted.

agree but would like to see more specifics - like what would you do about judges who repeatedly and flagrantly are swayed by rape culture and apologetics and let people off or hand out piddling little sentences when they have sexually abused women and girls? to me that is a HUGE issue. it sends out more of a message than anything else if actually the attacking and abusing of females is seen as something serious that a) needs punishing loudly and b) they deserve to be protected from rather than having these men slapped on the wrist and dropped back in amongst us to do it again... and again generally.

let's face it when tackling racism we had to face we needed to firmly tackle our institutions - mostly the judiciary. the same has to happen now for women and girls. every time i have to read an article about some violent, psychotic monster being excused because the child in question was 'clearly willing' or 'appeared older than her 11 years' or any of the other foul things that come out of these judges mouths i feel sicker and more aware that the country is being run by sick minded misogynists.

YoniMatopoeia Sat 29-Jun-13 10:17:01

Totally agree with SAF

maybe you could also try excluding all 'previous' members of PIE from your party and all rape apologist twats who stick their heads above the parapet. that'd be a start.

YoniMatopoeia Sat 29-Jun-13 10:59:10


Panonabike Sat 29-Jun-13 11:24:55

Paedophile Information Exchange. It's scary what was seen as 'acceptable' in the 1970s.

SunshineBossaNova Sat 29-Jun-13 11:26:31

Paedophile Information Exchange

apologies for my tone ed milliband - it is the subject matter rather than you than brings up such disgust me - thought i'd better clarify that. but whilst we have your attention can you please, please, please put up a fight and be a clear opposition party challenging the hideous things that are being done under the current government? not doing so makes me feel that labour actually are quite happy to go along with it all and agree with it so will quietly sit on their hands and let these guys take the flack.

i shall be left with no one to vote for.

Murraylover Sat 29-Jun-13 11:47:21

Try encouraging equality in schools so the gender balance in Physics & Maths is 50/50. Then more girls will be encouraged into 'Professions'. Too many barriers into Banking, Engineering & Science already exist

oh yes and primary schools - try recruiting more men and then DON'T promote them all to headmaster within ten years. all very well giving lessons on equality when what they can actually see right there in their own school tells a different story.

wonderingagain Sat 29-Jun-13 17:26:21

Good point SAF - teachers are women, heads are men. Look how far we've really come.

Catmint Sat 29-Jun-13 19:13:08

Dear Ed

Are you still reading? Please do follow up your rhetoric with real action on equality. Please look at the changes about no fault dismissal and charges for bringing ET, both of are blatant attacks on equality by this government. The utter lack of evidence driving the current gov position on these policies is staggering. I believe the changes are despicable. Please act forcefully and do not allow this dreadful erosion of employee rights, which will hit women, people from minority ethnic backgrounds and low paid workers hardest.

Ed, if not you, then who?

Thanks for reading, if you still are.

Lioninthesun Sat 29-Jun-13 20:16:57

Finally a politician who realises that half of the population of this country have been left in the cold, not just with the recent cuts, but in education and the media.

Trouble is, was he not in the Labour party when Blair was in power? Has he only just realised that decades of this behaviour have been acceptable whilst his party happily had the helm? At least Blair had his 'Babes' eh? hmm

If he can do something about men walking/opting out of families and deciding not to pay for their children to be raised (usually in cahoots with their bosses hiding from CSA) then I am all for him. No point blaming the single mum who stays behind that their kids are being raised in poverty; try tackling the actual source of the problem - dad's not paying. That would solve a lot of gender issues, cut benefit spending on single parent families and hopefully enhance the idea of a relationship ideal starting in the home. Letting men run off and make kids all over the country without any shame or accountability does the opposite and enhances the stereotype that the one who stays to pick up the pieces for the child is the scrounging 'single mother'.

oh yes - also please don't charge women and children for enforcing absent men to pay towards their children. it should be a legal duty that is automatically pursued and deducted direct from their salaries - not an opportunity to charge women for the privilege of trying to get a pitiful amount of child support from the father's of their children.

as it stands my son and i will be punished for his father's absence and refusal to be part of his life by having our finally established csa claim cancelled, being charged to take it up again and then through them deducting a percentage of my son's money every month thereafter. obviously as you are concerned about equality you'll be announcing your opposition to this and labours commitment to overturn it if elected.

thanks muchly.

TooClassToGrass Sat 29-Jun-13 22:55:14

SAF raises a good point. I wonder if Ed could come back and explain exactly why a percentage needs to be taken from both NRP and RP in CSA cases that totals almost 1/4 of the total amount paid, for the costs of supporting a child, to a government agency that has been given teeth and resolutely refused to use them?

Can he state that he is going to ensure that charging for this 'service' will ensure it is effective and actually uses the powers it has been given by law to compel NRPs to pay for their own children?

Will his government do anything about the loopholes which mean that one deduction is made from an NRPs wage or benefits and that must be split between however many children they have decided to have and abandon? Because I have to say that while getting Austen on a note would be awesome and saying that her or any other woman being absent is not acceptable, change starts with the things which make a day to day difference. Letting people (predominantly men but not always) have children then abandon them with no extra cost to themselves is absolutely immoral and quite simply must be stopped.

To charge resident parents who already bear the brunt of the costs of raising these abandoned children, to be able to access a fraction of the 50% of the costs of raising that child is abhorrent and to expect the resident parent (statistically speaking, likely a woman) to cut back further on their household budget because their feckless ex has created and abandoned another child smacks of the worst kind of misogyny.

Lioninthesun Sat 29-Jun-13 23:25:48

Yes, how much of my £13 a week will I actually get once I give some back to pay for the service where they haven't found out his true salary?
Will anyone actually bother to find out why ex is still online currently working for his old company (clear under any search of his name and their product - hardly rocket science) where he was earning £45k a year ago but now apparently doesn't work for them and earns around £17k despite having very recently worked on a blockbuster film (according to his company website) for his old company who flew him to the other side of the planet just a couple of months ago?
This is why I resent paying for the 'service'. But I am one of the lucky few seeing ANYTHING at all from ex, so I should probably stop complaining...

yep. i have to say banknotes are low on my list of priorities.

the idea is it will encourage parents to come to amicable agreements (or at least the spin - not the real idea obviously which is revenue). if a man has zero contact with his child or the mother how is she supposed reach an agreement with him and why should she be punished for not being able to? this is literally a stealing candy from a baby tax.

top 3 things to do if you genuinely give a shit:

- stop the csa charges upon the mother and making it clearly illegal and punishable to not provide for your children (as it is for the RP who can be taken to court for neglect, not sending her children to school etc).

-deal with the judiciary's treatment of crimes against women and come up with serious strategies to tackle endemic violence against women (including obviously sorting out the legal aid fiasco)

-reverse/revise all cuts that can clearly be proven to hit women more than men and therefore are clearly discriminatory even if we pretend that wasn't the aim (the equality act makes it clear it's not just intentional discrimination that is illegal but actions that disproportionately hit a protected group).

anyone who was committed to doing those three things would have my vote. to be honest anyone who isn't committed to those three things doesn't deserve anyone's vote or to be a politician full stop. and yet are any of them? can we think of one?

just think of this madness if you want to talk about equality -

if next year i take my child (well cared for, advanced at school due to parental input, etc) out of school for a few days for a trip away i can be legally fined for my horrific neglect of my child. meanwhile his father can legally allow him to starve to death for all he knows by refusing to even contribute to my child's upkeep.

me - missing a few days school = criminal, punishable with immediate fine.

him - total, absolute neglect = well if you can find the money and the energy to start a new claim and wait many months we'll try and get him to pay a piddly amount of his salary which we'll charge you for collecting on a monthly basis and no, he's not a criminal and he won't be fined - you will be fined with a fee.

i'm not getting into whether term time holidays are right or wrong here but look at the reality women live in and how equitable they are in the law.

the reality is the biggest inequalities come through the realities of parenthood so that is where change needs to be made.

however government seems to still be clinging onto the notion that a) it should and b) it has the right to dabble in social engineering with the tactics for doing so being to punish single mothers with poverty. i'm not sure if this is meant to make us go out and marry the next available man or if it's to scare the good girls into not leaving their husbands but it belongs firmly in the past.

why is it 'nanny state' mentality to think men should be enforced to pay for their children but not nanny state to think parents need criminalising carte blanche for taking a few days off school?

right. will try to stop mad multiple posts now, sorry. but please if you're still reading YES it's lovely to hear a nice sentiment but please do understand that we're not stupid, we're not dogs grateful for crumbs of acknowledgement from the big boys table - we are full grown up human beings and citizens and workers and parents and thinkers and......

we need to see real plans and specifics and they should be there. it is a matter of very basic ethics. when they're not there it makes it very clear those basic ethics are absent too. meaning what? that we have to try and vote for the lesser evil? pretend we're not women and vote as if we were men? not much options.

sparkle9 Sun 30-Jun-13 08:46:43

Real subsidies for childcare for working parents and better maternity pay please. I am the high earner in my household - earning more than double what my male DP does. This is great for me personally and a 'win' for equality/women's rights - until we have a baby and then take a massive financial hit due to low maternity pay and possible part-time working. It's likely DP will take some of the maternity pay and then work part-time because this makes financial sense but it is not what either of us would prefer to do. So even when a woman has achieved a senior position, she is not enabled to make choices really due to poor maternity pay, high childcare costs and low childcare subsidies. It seems to me that the maternity pay set-up assumes that the woman earns less than the man and it is his income that is more important so a family can do without her salary when she has a baby. I do not think this is a good assumption at all and it diminishes a woman's status both at work and at home. Having children is ultimately good for society so the government should provide good, proper maternity pay to working women who take, in the grand scheme of things, a very small amount of time off after having a baby before returning to their jobs.

I also agree with points raised by other posters regarding CSA, pornography, criminal justice and the term-time holiday fines.

twistyfeet Sun 30-Jun-13 10:54:11

You still reading Ed? Perhaps you could explain why numerous emails to Labour HQ and phone calls go unanswered. I know I was just a lowly member but wanting to know why I was left sat outside in my wheelchair at one of your speeches because your minions had booked an inaccessible venue could at least rate a reply. Even if it was 'bog off, we hate disabled people'.
You are completely out of touch with ordinary Labour party members. you know, the ones that pay the subs...

Seems to me that Ed's original blog post was about how women are portrayed in the media - yes, a massive and important issue in itself, which sadly only seems to be getting worse for my daughter's generation compared to my own (growing up as a young woman in the 70s/80s)

But so interesting that this thread has developed into discussion on a wide range of deep and ingrained inequalities in women's lives, which are only exacerbated as saf has said by the "realities of parenthood"

Tackling these huge underlying inequalities is surely essential to being able to change the somewhat more superficial issue of how women are portrayed in our society.

I would argue that we cannot merely paper over the cracks - even with a large number of thoroughly PC women celebrating bank notes !

We need, as we always have done, some fundamental and foundational changes.

BTW - As a Quaker (and as a woman) having Elizabeth Fry on our bank notes for the last few years has been a source of pride and inspiration for me and my children - as well as a handy talking point when I've given talks on Quakers to others. So, I do think it's an important issue and I contributed to the MN discussion on this recently. It should be simple to fix - just always have a woman celebrated on at least one of our bank notes.
As DS would say - Simples !
It's just I can see other issues affecting our lives more, and more complex to solve.

ooh juggling i may pick your brain at some point. i recently read an very interesting and moving publication by the quakers and others about the upcoming wwI anniversary (a bit of a way off yet but...) and how they want to ensure that the people who were anti war, the conscientious objectors and their supporters who took care of their families and kept records of who was being held in what prison and tried to make sure they were ok etc are remembered and honoured.

it actually made me cry! plus it was huge times for women organising into anti war movements and created a split between the sufragettes/feminists of the time as some went for the 'must get behind the war movement' and others said no fucking way are we supporting patriarchal warfare and slaughter. massive times for the socialists and marxists also who objected to the working man being slaughtered for the interests of the ruling classes. fascinating how religious, political and feminist groups came and worked together in that time.

sorry for thread detour! but if you give talks i assume you're pretty informed and could be a great resource. hopefully i'll still have my equality and diversity position in college when the anniversary comes around and want to do join with the campaign to make sure these people are remembered and celebrated as the visionaries they were and their messages applied to modern times.

sorry over excited typing led to many typos and grammarflops there blush

Thanks saf - I'm not massively well informed on Quakers and WW1 - my talks have just been whatever has come up - such as leading a prayer group session at my DD's school, introducing Quakers to other churches through our city's ecumenical group, and joining a group to talk about Quakers for an article in the local newspaper. However happy to help where I can ..

One very interesting thing is that Quakers were awarded the nobel peace prize in 1947, largely for the work of (individual) Friends setting up and running the Friends Ambulance Unit, which many conscientious objectors felt able to serve in during both WW1 and WW2.

Another interesting thing is the memorial to conscientious objectors in Tavistock Square in London, which also has a statue of Gandhi, and a memorial cherry tree with origami cranes to remember the nuclear bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki at the end of WW2. It's a lovely place and well worth a visit as very thought provoking, and also peaceful in a profound way I find.

If you're still here Ed I think it would be wonderful to celebrate the life and bravery of conscientious objectors during WW1 (especially next year during the centenary of the start of WW1), alongside the many events remembering the undoubted bravery of those who fought in the war too.

juggling i will send you the link to the document if i remember when i'm in work tomorrow. it mentions tavistock sq memorial and the friends ambulance service.

In an attempt to get thread back on track (because I know others sometimes care about such things !) .... it would also be good to see women's experience remembered during the WW1 centenary remembrances next year - and, as for the men, in all it's diversity (of experience)

Thanks saf thanks

yes to the diversity. not just the COs but also ppl like my granddad who were kept back for farming work and were treated horrendously for it by some people. i'm very glad he was or i may not have had him in my life growing up.

Yes, fortunately for him and me my DGP had just got himself apprenticed in the car industry when war (WW1) broke out when he was a very young man (maybe 18) So (perhaps surprisingly) he was obliged to fulfill that duty (can't imagine an apprenticeship being taken so seriously these days !)
When the apprenticeship ended he was able to join the Royal Flying Corps - again luckily for him the war ended a few weeks after he signed up and he survived - otherwise yes, I wouldn't have known him, and I might not even have been here ! sad

gosh yes - that's a point. i wouldn't be here in all likelihood. how did i miss that?! grin

again sorry for tangent.

I know it has been a bit of a tangent - I blame saf grin
- but maybe not that much of one as Ed and others did talk about the inclusion of women in our story of our history ?

A very important area regarding how our children grow up seeing themselves as girls and boys, women and men.

Thanks for coming on here.

We chatted in the park about a year ago. Our DCs were playing together my DD had stolen your DS's toys and I wanted to let you know then that I had no idea who to vote for any more. But it wasn't the right time so thank you for coming on to mumsnet so I get another chance.

I was a life long labour supporter until all in the in fighting and bickering put me off. We want to see politicians on the left motivated by social justice and I didn't get that from the last labour PM. That aside I can't vote Tory.

David Cameron laughed at Caroline Lucas when she raised the no more page 3 issue. He's refused to even consider the damage that is done to girls and women by over sexualised. I will never vote for him for this alone. My protest vote was going to go to the greens.

This is a fantastic chance for you and the Labour Party to show you are a party that insists on equality. Please let's have an intelligent debate about violence against women and how women are portrayed in the media and if there are links. Let's also stop ignoring the impact of internet porn on our society.

And well done for being the only leader to say that you would have intervened while Nigella Lawson was being assaulted. Clegg fudged and Cameron diminished.

poor bloody nigella - as if what happened wasn't awful enough without it being splattered all over the media.

i'm like you on who the hell to vote for. i actually think as a woman and as someone with a commitment to ethics and justice there is no one currently fit to represent the british people.

Marylou2 Sun 30-Jun-13 16:12:02

Pathetic,patronising vote grubbing. We weren't born yesterday Mr Milliband.

wonderingagain Sun 30-Jun-13 18:33:19

I voted against the labour party for the first time at the last election too.

You had a lot of good women in the party and they all magically disappeared. If you don't put your egos in a box occasionally you will never get good women - women just don't do ego in that way and the party culture has got to change.

poorbuthappy Sun 30-Jun-13 22:02:33

Tis awful to realise that 51% of the population in this country, can not vote for a party who considers them useful. But because no one does.

I seriously worry for my 3 girls growing up in this society.

libertarianj Mon 01-Jul-13 00:10:21

oh no! not the bloody porn filters crap from him as well and the sexualisation of society bull shit. Maybe he should give up politics and write for the Daily Mail instead.

Wuldric Mon 01-Jul-13 04:38:18

Did this OP actually chime with anyone?

Do I care about banknotes? Not particularly. I care more about cabbies offering me a free trip if I have sex with them.

Do I care about relationship education? Not very much at all. I'd far rather have equal pay and equal chances for promotion and to sit at tables which aren't 90% male.

What is Ed actually suggesting behind all the hyperbole? What is his routemap to equality? Routemap? There is no routemap. He's not going to change a chuffing thing.

actually i really don't want school giving my son 'relationship' education at every stage especially when governed by a state so intent on social engineering and heteronormativity.

i want students made clearly aware of the law with particular regard to what constitutes rape, domestic abuse, sexual harassment etc and that is more a citizenship than 'let's talk about love and respect'. I'd like them to be clearly challenged and if needs be punished when they sexually harass girls in school (as we know happens) and where stuff comes up organically in the classroom for teachers to challenge and deal with misogynistic attitudes, victim blaming and rape mythology.

i would then like them to see what they are told about the law and rights and responsibilities being upheld in society - by seeing that people who do these things are punished and disapproved of rather than let off by courts, courted by the media if they happen to be famous and rather than seeing endless victim blaming and misogyny out there. otherwise we know, and they will know, that it's a joke.

it doesn't need a new subject or to be made into a 'soft' skills issue - citizenship should be about what your responsibilities are, what the law is, what rights you have etc. i'd rather it was in that context given how serious it is rather than some touchy feely lame arse attempt at hearts and minds stuff.

musicalfamily Mon 01-Jul-13 08:53:08

I have been listening very carefully recently to my children, as I think their comments accurately and spontaneously reflect what they pick up in their environment, school in particular.

My 6 year old son asks why is always mums who help in school and not dads.

My 8 year old daughter was recently off sick and was asked 3 times in one day if she was happy to help mum around the house today

My 8 year old daughter and my 3 year old daughter were role playing and I overheard them both say "mum stays at home and dad goes out to work"

Bearing in mind I have always worked and my husband does more than me at home and with the children, I think society strongly influences children to see women firmly pigeon holed in a particular role. I wonder what this does to help women feel equal as they are growing up.

I think we should talk more with our teens about sex and relationships though in a positive way too, as they seem to be able to do in say the Netherlands. I think many countries have found that giving young people more knowledge and opportunity to talk about sex and relationships has actually resulted in young people choosing to become sexually active later and also to reduced teen pregnancies, and I'm sure also more healthy and positive adult relationships generally. We still seem to have both a much more negative message and a head in the sand - don't tell them anything and they won't find out ! - approach. It's not been working well !

As a small example when I stayed in a hostel in Amsterdam condoms were given out individually to everyone during check-in. I thought that actually gave a very positive life affirming message. There was no mention of whether or not you might be likely to need one.

musicalfamily Mon 01-Jul-13 08:54:45

PS given the above observations I would be appalled to hear school give my children advice about equality, as I think they promote the opposite of what I want my children to pick up!

How do you mean musical ? (which particular observations ?)

musicalfamily Mon 01-Jul-13 10:27:43

sorry I meant my own above your post!! (you just beat me to it whilst I was posting ps!!)

Yes, I think the reality is we've got a long way to go before we reach anything like real equality.
I think young children's play is pretty much reflecting that reality as they see it !

there's a lot of old school simpering to the male headteacher, who thinks he's hilarious spouting 'funny' stereotypes about boys and girls, by the female teachers at my school. there's also a lot of asking mum's to bake cakes, sending home last minute requests for costumes with recommendations we just sew an old sheet into a tunic and attach whatever to the hem and much general assumption mum's don't have jobs or lives and live to bake and sew. they really are the last people to be talking about gender equality.

and the last secondary school i taught in before running for the hills had the 'ladies' bringing in the cakes and organising the coffee fund etc whilst the men sat around making oafish jokes. so you'd have no joy there either.

Oh, and just in case you're still reading Ed how about doing something to improve maternity services, both on labour wards and especially on post-natal wards. It's such an important and brief time in a woman and family's life, but so important to get everyone off to a good start.

Can we please put the resources in so that every woman has someone to talk to and excellent all round care at least in the 24 hours after giving birth, and in labour too. Designated midwives, continuity of care, staff with enough time and training to listen. (And let's get rid of commercial pressures such as Bounty as well - see current MN campaign)

NancysNews Wed 17-Jul-13 17:18:53

After reading Zoe Williams excellent article in todays G2, I thought I would try and spend a little time promoting a SIMPLE BUT EFFECTIVE new campaign called ‘Turn The Sport Round’. A year or so ago I felt moved to ask our local shop – The Balcombe Stores – to please turn The Sport round so that the back sports page was the one on show, and not the disgusting explicit front page images of naked women bending over.

The women running it happily obliged and it has been turned round ever since. Those wanting to buy it can still see it is there, but others and more importantly the children who are at eye level no longer have to look at it when they come in for their comics and sweets which are right next to it.

If we all went into our local Newsagents, Supermarkets and garages and requested that they turn The Sport round we could really begin to get somewhere.

If people do not feel comfortable asking the newsagents to do this they could either say the following or print off a little leaflet with the following words and hand it in to on to them:


A new campaign has been started by concerned parents and others who are sick of seeing sexually explicit images on The Sport newspaper which is more often than not at children’s eye level, next to comics and sweets.

All local newsagents, supermarkets and garages are being asked if they would mind ‘Turning The Sport Round’. This way, those who want to buy the Sport can still see it in its usual place, but children and others do not have to look at these images.

Many thanks for your assistance in this matter!!

From many of your customers

Please use, post or promote this in anyway you see fit if you think its a good idea.

Kindest regards

Nancy Towers (mother of two girls 14 and 11)

noobieteacher Fri 19-Jul-13 11:49:42

I only just spotted Ed's response to all our comments, in particular this:

^The answer is not simply legislation, it is also about forcing a debate with those who wield huge influence on representation.

Unless we talk about these issues, we won't influence advertisers, newspaper editors and others who have such power in this area.^

Are you saying government has no power to restrict degrading images on the internet? This is a feeble excuse. Page 3 and Renault ads are the least of our worries. Exposing children to pornography is a form of child abuse (neglect) - are you going to continue to blame parents for that?

At the moment as the law stands, if it happened to your child, you could have your children taken into care.

We really don't need any more debate on this.

noobieteacher Tue 23-Jul-13 00:53:27

Ed, your passive on the fence attitude and your concern about what the papers say has astounded me. Dave has now stepped in with some guts about the issue and this is what you should have done. Although I still could never vote Tory, I hope you learn from this.

The censorship playingfield has changed beyond recognition and the game needs to be played with new rules.

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