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Diane Abbott, MP, Shadow Health Minister: live webchat about British culture becoming 'increasingly pornified', Thursday 21st March, 1pm

(84 Posts)
MylinhMumsnet (MNHQ) Tue 19-Mar-13 14:41:54

Hello

We'll be welcoming Diane Abbott, Shadow Minister for Public Health and MP for Hackney North and Stoke Newington, for a webchat this Thursday 21 March, at 1pm.

Diane made history in 1987 by becoming the first black woman ever elected to the British Parliament. In May 2010 Diane was re-elected in her constituency and doubled her majority on an increased turnout, and in June 2010 she made the ballot for the next Labour leadership contest. She is a leading Labour politician and also has a distinguished career as a broadcaster and commentator.

Earlier this year, we read with interest Diane's comments about British culture being 'increasingly pornified' and damaging to young people. Diane has since told us that some of what Mumsnetters have said on the issue, especially in relation to our Let Girls Be Girls campaign, has been a big influence on her thinking.

Diane is interested in hearing your questions on this - and more - in relation to her role as both an MP and a Shadow Health Minister. Please join us on Thursday from 1pm and, as ever, feel free to post advance questions below.

Thanks
MNHQ

AnnabelKarma Thu 21-Mar-13 13:23:38

Agreed Diane. What do you think of the prevailing culture of gender specific toys/clothes/activities? I find that many parents seem to support the whole pink thing without even realising what they are doing could have a negative impact on their girls.

DianeAbbottMP Thu 21-Mar-13 13:25:50

LineRunner

Diane

I absolutely agree that pornification is happening and that it isbad for us all, and I say that as the mother of a teenage boy and a teenage girl. I think that it is a bit of a no-brainer to be honest.

But what can and will Parliament actually DO?

You only have to look at the hysterical and stalky pro-porn male trolls who come on MumsNet to see how determined they are to defend their 'rights' to objectify woman and girls.

I’m really concerned by the way that online bullying has become so fashionable. It’s a very strange, disturbing and sad cultural development.
On the point you’re making, I think there’s lots we can do. I think we’re often told that ‘the world has changed’ and there’s nothing we can do, but there are plenty of things, without going out and making people feel that sex is wrong and shameful. We need to talk about these issues more for a start.
However, I just wanted to make a point about men. Because I think many men and young boys aren’t happy this culture either. In fact, my next speech is going to be about masculinity, and what I see as a crisis of masculinity in this country.

MorphsMum Thu 21-Mar-13 13:26:07

Thanks Diane, I didn't know Stonewall had already set up a programme, that is brilliant.

dizzydori Thu 21-Mar-13 13:27:49

Hi Diane,
My MA dissertation topic is pornification of culture and young people. I will be mainly concentrating on teenagers age 16 and over. I know the Bailey Review, EVAW, Mumsnet and the Papadopoulos Report all concentrated on this topic. Sexualisation is endemic in our society, thanks for highlighting this topic again. I hope we as parents and a society can change this.

FrenchyM Thu 21-Mar-13 13:30:32

Hi,
Appreciate the concern parents must have about their children seeing things that we might not have seen when we were their age but truth is, there is no conclusive evidence that online pornography has an impact on young people's sexual behaviour. I was wondering what Diane thinks about calls to not let our fears run away with us before we know exactly how porn/sexual images are impacting on young people?

I know resilient kids who are able to cope perfectly fine with the images they see and it doesn't effect their esteem or sexual behaviour.

Just a thought!

DianeAbbottMP Thu 21-Mar-13 13:30:35

AnnabelKarma

Agreed Diane. What do you think of the prevailing culture of gender specific toys/clothes/activities? I find that many parents seem to support the whole pink thing without even realising what they are doing could have a negative impact on their girls.

I really admire activists who fight against gender specific toys/activities/clothes etc. I seem to remember that the big toy shop Hamleys used to have a whole (very pink) floor for girls, until people challenged them. But I have to admit, as the single mother of a boy, that when he was a toddler he developed a passion for books about aeroplanes and cars all on his own!

Lucie09876 Thu 21-Mar-13 13:31:39

Hi Diane! Hackney resident and proud <parades tshirt>
I read your comments in the Citizen about how the horsemeat scandal has affected poorer income families disproportionately and how Hackney is one of those poorer boroughs. While you challenged the gov to tackle food packaging and illegal sourcing, have you personally done anything to reassure constituents? Has there been much of an outcry or concerns raised from Hackneyites?

DianeAbbottMP Thu 21-Mar-13 13:33:01

Creameggkr

Diane thanks for raising this. I'm from Cheltenham and every race week the pubs a d clubs are allowed a special licence for strippers which I know creates the need for extra police resources to ensure the law is being followed.
However no extra resources are put in place to protect us females from the baying Neanderthal men who spill out of these places under the impression that all women are fair game.
Last Thursday I was verbally sexually abused in a chip shop at ten o'clock at night. I am no shrinking violet but was scared and extremely angry. I was threatened with sexual violence and then called names when I ignored them.
The girls in the chip shop said they'd suffered this all night as had other locals.
If councils are going to freely support the sex industry then surely they have an obligation to protect innocent bystanders from the back lash.
Verbal abuse of women needs to be treated seriously by society, police and the courts.

Hi creamegg. I’m sorry to hear about your experience. It sounds all too familiar. The NUS published a great piece of research recently. It didn’t get the coverage it perhaps deserved. It was about ‘lad culture’ and outlined this culture of harassment in universities, and how students feel about this.
We need to work towards creating a society in which young people and adults can navigate their sexualities without risk of shame, harassment or violence.
I think we have a culture now where sexuality, and women, have become commodified. And one of the problems between this blurring between sex and the marketplace, and the pornification of British culture, is this myth of women's unconditional sexual availability and object status.
One of the basic things we can do is transforming sex education for boys and girls. Yet the government has blocked any movement on legislation to introduce compulsory sex and relationship education with zero tolerance of violence in schools for three years now.

DianeAbbottMP Thu 21-Mar-13 13:36:16

FrenchyM

Hi,
Appreciate the concern parents must have about their children seeing things that we might not have seen when we were their age but truth is, there is no conclusive evidence that online pornography has an impact on young people's sexual behaviour. I was wondering what Diane thinks about calls to not let our fears run away with us before we know exactly how porn/sexual images are impacting on young people?

I know resilient kids who are able to cope perfectly fine with the images they see and it doesn't effect their esteem or sexual behaviour.

Just a thought!

Let me stress that I am not anti-sex! and most young people are quite resilient. But the extreme nature of the things children can view is worrying, as is "sexting" and sexual bullying. And the permanence of social media is an entirely new phenomenon. Texting a photograph of your naked breast to a boy when you are 12 may seem like a joke. But it is not so funny when the pictures haunt you years later. I also believe that the pervasive sexualisation of the culture can erode women and girls self esteem.

DianeAbbottMP Thu 21-Mar-13 13:39:56

payphone

Hi Diane.

Did you support the recent proposal by Stella Creasy and Amber Rudd that sex ed should be given a much higher priority in schools? I'm worried that the Department for Education seem determined to downgrade sex ed when really, our children need it more than ever in order to negotiate a world in which rather rigid (and sometimes worrying) templates of adult sexuality are presented very freely, very early.

Actually I was calling for a revolution in sex ed before Stella Creasy and Amber Rudd. But i am glad that they are supporting this campaign. The more people campaigning on this issue the better. The way this government has turned its back on sex education is relly concerning.

We need much more must focus on preparing young people to form healthy, respectful, emotionally fulfilling relationships, and also deal with issues of self-esteem.
I agree exactly with what you’ve said. We need to empower our young people to navigate their sexuality in a healthy, confident way, in a world that I think has become pornified, market-driven and hostile to many aspects of female sexuality.

Teachercreature Thu 21-Mar-13 13:40:13

I agree there are some major issues facing teenagers. Although I think it's good that issues such as exposure to porn is being dealt with, what about things like music videos and teen magazines? Or scenes in daytime programmes like Hollyoaks? Even if you remove obvious problem areas children are still facing overly-sexualised images. Given that this can happen well before sex education, children can end up confused and with conflicting messages. How will this be tackled?

Pennykettle Thu 21-Mar-13 13:42:17

Frenchym - you know of kids who are watching porn and obviously that's fine by you (are you supply it? Watching it with them?) so how would you know if they are negatively affected if the 'joys' of porn are just dandy as far as you're concerned? Plus the fact that not all kids are the same.

We shouldn't forget that we are a bunch of primates living on a rock: monkey see, monkey do.

Pennykettle Thu 21-Mar-13 13:42:19

Frenchym - you know of kids who are watching porn and obviously that's fine by you (are you supply it? Watching it with them?) so how would you know if they are negatively affected if the 'joys' of porn are just dandy as far as you're concerned? Plus the fact that not all kids are the same.

We shouldn't forget that we are a bunch of primates living on a rock: monkey see, monkey do.

DianeAbbottMP Thu 21-Mar-13 13:47:49

jmcintosh

Diane, how would you justify your failure to oppose the workfare bill to Cait Reilly and Jamieson Wilson?

Our spokesperson on these issues Liam Byrne explains his position as follows

TheOriginalLadyFT Thu 21-Mar-13 13:48:38

While I agree extreme porn and the easy access to it is a serious issue, I'd like to see us challenge what has become a 'norm' - for example, page 3 and the use of sexualised images of women to sell anything from computer programmes to off road bikes.

What do you think the chances are of us starting small and banning page 3? I have a son, and it worries me that he is swimming against the tide constantly to grown up viewing women as equal when all the time he sees them as somehow lesser because of this sexualisation

Xenia Thu 21-Mar-13 13:49:06

There are risks to girls from two sides - the objectification issues above but also the no go Muslim areas in London and elsewhere trying to prevent women who aren't covered from being out and about. We want women to be free to be sexy once they are old enough and choose to be so and not feel they have to dress modestly or cover up or be housewives.

LineRunner Thu 21-Mar-13 13:50:17

Diane

Thanks for your answer.

If you are going to address masculinity, I hope you will be able to explore the point that the current issues facing boys (white British and black) are the result of constructions of masculinity and are not caused by feminism.

DianeAbbottMP Thu 21-Mar-13 13:52:26

Lucie09876

Hi Diane! Hackney resident and proud <parades tshirt>
I read your comments in the Citizen about how the horsemeat scandal has affected poorer income families disproportionately and how Hackney is one of those poorer boroughs. While you challenged the gov to tackle food packaging and illegal sourcing, have you personally done anything to reassure constituents? Has there been much of an outcry or concerns raised from Hackneyites?

In fact not many constituents have raised the horsemeat scandal with me. But I feel strongly it the very poorest families that end up buying this meat of dubious provenance and that I have a responsibility to speak up for them. I am meeting with retailers to find out more about where they source their food. This week I met with Waitrose who were relatively reassuring.

eggsandham Thu 21-Mar-13 13:52:54

Hi Diane. Thanks for coming on here. I read somewhere that you were thinking of running for London Mayor. Is that true?

DianeAbbottMP Thu 21-Mar-13 13:53:52

LineRunner

Diane

Thanks for your answer.

If you are going to address masculinity, I hope you will be able to explore the point that the current issues facing boys (white British and black) are the result of constructions of masculinity and are not caused by feminism.

Absolutely. One reason i am anxious to make a big speech about men, boys and male identity is to nail the lie that feminism is somehow the cause of the problem.

DianeAbbottMP Thu 21-Mar-13 13:58:35

strangerwithmyface

Hi Diane, I love watching you discuss the day's issues on This Week. I have two questions.

Do you think we ask too much of schools when it comes to sex education? We expect them to introduce children to sexual health, their sexual rights, and now, to counter-balance a misogynistic, hyper-sexualised society. Surely some of these responsibilities should fall within the remit of parents, the media, politicians, etc... And their solution shouldn't be - we'll add it to the curriculum.

Secondly - what are you reading at the moment?

I saw the brilliant Stephen Spielberg film about the US president Abraham Lincoln. So I am currently re-reading "Team of Rivals" by Doris Kearns which is all about Lincoln and is one of Barack Obama's favourite books.

FrenchyM Thu 21-Mar-13 14:01:26

Hi - should clarify. When I said 'kids' I meant young people in their mid teens. Apologies, should have been been clearer. Certainly not supplying porn to children!!!

I know a young person who watches porn because I have discussed it with them not because I have supplied it or watched it with them. I believe if we open up discussions rather than trying to stop them watching it's much more useful for both parties.

jmcintosh Thu 21-Mar-13 14:01:48

Diane, thanks for your answer. Unfortunately, Liam Byrne's explanation of his position in no way explains why, by abstaining from voting against the bill, you have helped the government avoid repayment of benefits that were illegally withheld. Shameful.

DianeAbbottMP Thu 21-Mar-13 14:02:52

EmpressOfTheSevenOceans

As the white mother of a black 12-year-old girl, I was both furious and devastated when she experienced her first racist incident recently (a comment on her "fat black face"). She's beautiful but she's already learning that beauty = white & size 6.

Could you give me any advice on helping her to feel confident about her own body and to deal with racism in general since I doubt this will be the last time it happens? sad

Thank you.

Young black girls sometimes have problem with self-esteem when so many popular culture role models are blonde and a size 6. I would encourage her to go online and learn about people like Michelle Obama who is a brilliant role model and a normal sized black woman. There are a couple of websites devoted to her. You should also encourage her to read about black history and culture. It helped me!

DianeAbbottMP Thu 21-Mar-13 14:07:10

plainbellysneetch

Is it true that you actually went to school with Michael Portillo? If so, that's rather lovely - like childhood sweethearts wink

On which note, when are you coming back to This Week's sofa? I used to love watching you and Michael rolling your eyes flirtily at each other. Now it's all just... politics and that.

I went to Harrow County Grammar School for Girls. And he went to Harrow County Grammar School for Boys and there was lots of joint sixth form activity (!) It was great working alongside him on This Week. We definitely seemed to have a bond. His mum told me once that she loved the programme because I put Michael in his place!

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