WEBCHAT GUIDELINES 1. One question per member plus one follow-up once you've had a response. 2. Keep your question brief 3. Don't moan if your question doesn't get answered. 4. Do be civil/polite. See full guidelines here.

Jo Swinson MP: Live webchat, Wednesday 6 November, 1.00 - 2.00PM

(74 Posts)
KateHMumsnet (MNHQ) Fri 01-Nov-13 16:08:51

We'll be welcoming Lib Dem MP and Women and Equalities Minister Jo Swinson this Wednesday from 1pm - 2pm for a live webchat on body confidence.

As Minister for Women and Equalities Jo heads up the Government's Body Confidence Campaign. The campaign has been active since 2010 and works with the media, advertising, retail and fashion industries to encourage more diverse and realistic representation of human bodies.

She has campaigned on this issue for many years and is especially interested in your questions on the issue; have you, or your children, experienced low body confidence? What do you think can be done about it?

Come and chat to Jo on Wednesday lunchtime or post a question in advance on this thread.

Thanks,
MNHQ

Hey there, thanks for coming on.

I wondered if you'd like to talk a bit about the news today that Debenhams is going to be using size 16 mannequins in its displays. I was listening to the report on the Today programme this morning, and it mentioned both your endorsement and the fact that "the average UK dress size has increased from a 12 to a 16 in a decade". (here's the Telegraph's coverage of the story)

While I absolutely applaud the move to reflect normal body shapes and sizes/not create an environment in which young girls are taught to aspire to unrealistic physical models, I've got to admit that I was pretty shocked at the change to our average size in a decade. Surely a shift of this magnitude across the population will have knock on health effects? How do you accommodate that possibility, while still trying to make sure that women don't feel anguished/depressed/failures for looking normal? Genuinely asking: it feels to me like an astonishingly tricky circle to square.

BigEmma Wed 06-Nov-13 11:20:52

Hi Jo,
In your capacity as Consumer Affairs Minister, can you tell me if you're planning any action re payday loan companies. I saw the head of Wonga the other night say that he would warn people that their chances of getting a mortgage might be damaged by taking out a payday loan only if the regulator made him. So will the government get involved?

Crumblemum Wed 06-Nov-13 11:23:42

Hi there Jo

Good luck on the impending birth. I'd be interested to know what you think about Bounty sales reps being given access to maternity wards. Most of us are just in hospital for a couple of hours/ 1 night after giving birth. But despite that, Bounty are allowed in and try to get personal details and pressurise you into expensive photos. Mumsnet has got a campaign against.

It would be interesting to hear your own experience and whether you think the government/ Trading Standards should get involved (I do!!)

horseshoe123 Wed 06-Nov-13 11:55:10

There was a good post in the Guardian this morning about the Government's failure to implement the Equality Act within the education system.
www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2013/nov/06/gove-running-department-for-inequality
My own experience as mother of a special needs daughter adopted from India adds weight to this. Her GCSE paper was lost by the school, as a result of the school's inability to operate the agreed access arrangements. The exam board (AQA) have failed to comply with Ofqual's Code of Practice in resolving this. They are also ignoring the Equality Act 2010 which is referred to in the JCQ's document "Adjustments for Candidates with Special Disabilities and Learning Difficulties and Access Arrangements and Reasonable Adjustments" as follows:

"The duty for an awarding body to make a reasonable adjustment will apply where assessment arrangements would put a disabled candidate at a substantial disadvantage in comparison with a candidate who is not disabled. In such circumstances, the awarding body is required to take reasonable steps to avoid that disadvantage."

In this case, it is clear to us that the AQA are ignoring the Equality Act, so I would be interested to know how the Equalities Minister can get the exam boards - and indeed schools - to comply with the Act. And from a personal viewpoint, how can I take action against an Exam Board which is in breach of the Equality Act?

Halexlo Wed 06-Nov-13 12:02:48

Hi Jo,

It was reported you said it could be considered sexist to offer a pregnant woman a seat when she is standing up (after the fuss at PMQs) is that really how you feel? I find old-fashioned acts of chivalry sometimes quite cringe, like men making a show of opening the door for me etc. and would agree with you there, but I do think when being pregnant and tired, its just polite and useful to be given the chance to sit down. Parliament is one thing, but what about bus and tube politics? I think more people could be encouraged to be thoughtful on transport, so giving people another excuse not be isn't helpful! Would you agree?
thanks!

TorchesTorches Wed 06-Nov-13 12:03:10

Hi jo, who do you think is a good role model for young women and why.

eggsandham Wed 06-Nov-13 12:41:53

Hi Jo. Thanks for coming on here. I think it's true that you're the Minister responsible for Payday loans?

My question is - why aren't the Government doing anything about these? The only politician I seem to see making any headway on the issue is Stella Creasy. Shouldn't the Government be doing more?

Thank you.

JoSwinson Wed 06-Nov-13 12:54:06

Test

KatieMumsnet (MNHQ) Wed 06-Nov-13 12:59:10

Hi everyone. Jo is here (or more accurately we're with Jo at the BIS HQ in Westminster), fresh from PMQs and itching to get started, so do ask away!

Best

Katie

JoSwinson Wed 06-Nov-13 13:03:53

BoffinMum

Hello Jo,

Do you think it's essentially patronising to women, the 21st century existence of posts such as 'Women's Minister'?

Ta,
Boff

Hi everyone - delighted to be here and taking part in this Mumsnet webchat.

I don't think it is patronising to have a women's minister in the 21st century - sadly women still face many disadvantages from the enduring pay gap, to violence against women, to outdated sexist attitudes in the media and elsewhere.

But I'll be celebrating when we get to a stage of equality where we no longer need to have the position of minister for women.

Jo

JoSwinson Wed 06-Nov-13 13:08:40

domesticslattern

Hello Jo
Thank you for coming to MN. While body confidence is of course a very real issue, I'm a bit disappointed that it is seemingly top of your brief. What about the impact of housing policies, education policies, economic policies, public sector policies (for example) on women. I would much rather you spent your time on those issues than on Heat magazine's circle of shame. Or is it that they are a bit more challenging?

I do lots of webchats on the wide range of issues in my brief - this one happens to be focused on body confidence though happy to answer on a range of issues.

Yesterday I was busy promoting the action we're taking to clampdown on payday lending, and as consumer minister this week (National Consumer Week) is busy with announcements on used cars, rogue companies and new initiatives to help consumers. Tomorrow we're also announcing the goverrnment's action plan in response to the Women's Business Council report and I've also been highlighting the need for more girls and women to consider engineering as a career.

So I tackle a wide variety of issues - but it's sadly not up to me what the media chooses to focus on, and it's often much more difficult to get them to take seriously stories on some of the issues I am most keen to promote, whereas they love writing about body image.

Of course it is an important issue too - for women and girls (and men and boys) dealing with self esteem issues, the impact on public health and eating disorders, and people realising their potential - so I'm glad it is one part of my brief.

Jo

Binkybix Wed 06-Nov-13 13:08:40

Hi Jo

Please could you let me know whether you think the post office will be affected by the recent sale of a Royal Mail - do you think their relationship will be affected?

JoSwinson Wed 06-Nov-13 13:12:50

LoveAndSqualor

Hey there, thanks for coming on.

I wondered if you'd like to talk a bit about the news today that Debenhams is going to be using size 16 mannequins in its displays. I was listening to the report on the Today programme this morning, and it mentioned both your endorsement and the fact that "the average UK dress size has increased from a 12 to a 16 in a decade". (here's the Telegraph's coverage of the story)

While I absolutely applaud the move to reflect normal body shapes and sizes/not create an environment in which young girls are taught to aspire to unrealistic physical models, I've got to admit that I was pretty shocked at the change to our average size in a decade. Surely a shift of this magnitude across the population will have knock on health effects? How do you accommodate that possibility, while still trying to make sure that women don't feel anguished/depressed/failures for looking normal? Genuinely asking: it feels to me like an astonishingly tricky circle to square.

It was great this morning to launch Debenhams' new mannequins which are size 16, to be displayed alongside their current ones. Women come in all shapes and sizes so there's no reason why fashion and retail imagery shouldn't reflect this.

I'm not actually convinced by the "fact" that the average size has gone from 12 to 16 in ten years - a good caution always not to believe everything you read in the newspapers!

We want to promote health and fitness, and that can't easily be judged by size. BMI does have significant drawbacks as a proxy for health - while clearly obesity is a public health concern, that's not to say that everyone who is classed as overweight is therefore unfit. And there are plenty of thinner people who don't exercise and are not actually living very healthy lifestyles.

Finally there is a connection between how people feel about their bodies and how likely they are to exercise - so feeling bad about your size or body can actually prevent people from getting active

Jo

Hi Jo, I think the way to increase women's body confidence is to take the focus away from women's looks, not to make sure we objectify 'celebrate' a wider range of women's bodies.

We definitely need a greater range of women in the media (and lots more older women, especially), but we need them not to be there primarily for their youth, looks and willingness to show flesh.

While women are only valued for their looks, they are always going to worry about what they look like.

JoSwinson Wed 06-Nov-13 13:16:10

bishbashboosh

Hello,

As someone who has suffered eating disorders and low body confidence in the past, I really feel what has helped me is exercise, especially for self esteem.

Everything I hear from the government is about food, healthy start, 5 a day...

What do you think about the time given to physical education on the a national Curriculum? Should children be encouraged more to be fit and strong, rather than a specific bmi?

Firstly, congratulations on tackling your own body confidence issues and dealing with your eating disorders - delighted to hear you are feeling better.

I share your love for exercise myself, and always feel better after going out for a run (though not at the moment at 7.5 months pregnant!). We do need to encourage people to exercise and enjoy it, and PE is compulsory under the new national curriculum. Personally, I think encouraging activity and health is more important than fixating on a BMI figure.

Jo

OmNom Wed 06-Nov-13 13:17:54

Interesting that the media love to write stories about body image - I wonder why that is (genuine question, if rhetorical)

Do you have anything you'd like to say to Terry Wogan over his remarks this week about women 'using' their looks to get work on TV (and therefore that they shouldn't moan when they're subject to ageist discrimination)?

JoSwinson Wed 06-Nov-13 13:21:09

Halexlo

Hi Jo,

It was reported you said it could be considered sexist to offer a pregnant woman a seat when she is standing up (after the fuss at PMQs) is that really how you feel? I find old-fashioned acts of chivalry sometimes quite cringe, like men making a show of opening the door for me etc. and would agree with you there, but I do think when being pregnant and tired, its just polite and useful to be given the chance to sit down. Parliament is one thing, but what about bus and tube politics? I think more people could be encouraged to be thoughtful on transport, so giving people another excuse not be isn't helpful! Would you agree?
thanks!

As I said, don't believe everything you read in the newspapers. If I had a pound for every time they'd written something inaccurate about me...

I never said that, and absolutely don't think it is sexist. It's lovely to be offered a seat - I don't always want one though. On the Tube with heavy bags, often I say yes, though that day at pmqs I knew I could only be there for 15 minutes and was standing with my back against a wooden pillar very comfortably. It was a little frustrating that the media seemed not to care whether I actually thought it was a problem or not, and deemed that if I was standing it must obviously have been because I had been "forced" to, as they put it!

I just think it's great for people to offer, and part of life's little courtesies. Though when I was incredibly fatigued at about 10 weeks but of course didn't look pregnant was when it has been most difficult so far!

Jo

JoSwinson Wed 06-Nov-13 13:24:01

TorchesTorches

Hi jo, who do you think is a good role model for young women and why.

There's lots - but sadly too few celebrated in our mainstream media. Wasn't last summer fab with all the Olympians and Paralympians? Especially Katherine Grainger - who comes from my constituency - showing the value of perseverance.

Outside of sport, how about hearing more from our women engineers and scientists (like Roma who designed the spire of the Shard, who I met on Monday) and businesswomen like the fantastic entrepreneurs I meet regularly when out and about as a Business Minister. But they're too invisible in a press that wants to write about celebrity and little else!

ifyourehoppyandyouknowit Wed 06-Nov-13 13:28:30

Hi Jo, do you think maybe we should be focusing more on how to get girls and women to aspire to more than just something for other people to look at? I find all the focus on body image worrying, when we look a the % of girls and women in certain industries, in employment in general and society's attitudes to gender roles. I don't want my daughter worrying if she is fat or what her hair should look like, I want her to worry about having too much choice in what she feels she can do with her life!

JoSwinson Wed 06-Nov-13 13:28:38

Mmelindor

Hello Jo.

To add to MotherInferior's excellent question - how do we promote body confidence in a positive way?

I have an 11yr old daughter who recently chose her pizza based on the calorie count displayed on the menu.

While I see the need for information, I worry that the message being sent is one of 'good food' and bad food', which then leads to a child feeling guilty for eating the 'bad food'.

How do we promote healthy eating in a way that doesn't demonise selected food groups?

Society increasingly has a pretty dysfunctional relationship with food, and it is worrying when that gets passed on to the next generation. Children's diets are different from adults' diets for a start, in terms of what nutrition they need - but in any case the demonising of certain food groups is not helpful.

I'll be back on here for tips I'm sure, as having watched my sister try to get my 3 year old niece to eat healthily I know it is not always easy, especially when they start eating everything and then go through a fussy phase and you just want to ensure they're eating something.

So I don't have the magic answer, but part of it I think is the wider cultural issue of addressing some of the hang-ups that adults have about food.

Jo

JoSwinson Wed 06-Nov-13 13:32:31

BigEmma

Hi Jo,
In your capacity as Consumer Affairs Minister, can you tell me if you're planning any action re payday loan companies. I saw the head of Wonga the other night say that he would warn people that their chances of getting a mortgage might be damaged by taking out a payday loan only if the regulator made him. So will the government get involved?

Yes certainly - and we have already taken lots of action! I know eggsandham (great book!) has also asked about this.

So the current regulator, the OFT have done a thorough review of the industry and taken enforcement action - they wrote to the top 50 payday lenders with detailed analysis of how they were failing to abide by the guidance and that they had 12 weeks to shape up or risk losing their licence. 19 of these 50 decided to leave the market entirely as a result. A further 3 firms had their licences revoked.

But we recognise more needs to be done and the OFT powers aren't wide enough, so we are giving the new regulator, the Financial Conduct Authority, more robust powers to ban products, impose unlimited fines and order firms to pay money back to consumers. They have proposed tough new rules to come into force next year - to limit rollovers to 2, heavily restrict the use of continuous payment authority (when the lenders dip into your bank account to take the money - one of the major problems) and impose advertising changes, so ads will have to carry risk warnings and info on where you can get free debt advice.

The Competition Commission is also now investigating the entire industry.

Jo

Mmelindor Wed 06-Nov-13 13:34:25

Yes, I agree that it is worrying that we are passing on our issues.

A friend of mine gives her kids fruit with the words, 'Shall we have something nice and fresh'.

I like the use of 'fresh' rather than 'healthy'.

ifyourehoppyandyouknowit Wed 06-Nov-13 13:35:25

<off topic> If MNHQ are with you, does that mean that they are on the receiving end of The Great Biscuit Indicator?

MNHQ spill, are we talking fancy M&S or plain old rich teas?

JoSwinson Wed 06-Nov-13 13:36:14

Crumblemum

Hi there Jo

Good luck on the impending birth. I'd be interested to know what you think about Bounty sales reps being given access to maternity wards. Most of us are just in hospital for a couple of hours/ 1 night after giving birth. But despite that, Bounty are allowed in and try to get personal details and pressurise you into expensive photos. Mumsnet has got a campaign against.

It would be interesting to hear your own experience and whether you think the government/ Trading Standards should get involved (I do!!)

My own experience so far is I got handed a pack of flyers and info early on in the pregnancy which was vaguely helpful in some ways, but thankfully have not been subject to the kind of worryingly aggressive tactics that I've read about - and may seem to be more centred around contact at the time of the birth.

Clearly that kind of behaviour is unacceptable at a time that is about families bonding with their new arrival. I know the Health Minister has been looking at the behaviour of Bounty and how NHS Trusts are monitoring the way they behave. I'd encourage anyone who has had a bad experience to make sure you complain so the NHS can't say there isn't a problem.

Jo

KatieMumsnet (MNHQ) Wed 06-Nov-13 13:38:06

HopALongOn

<off topic> If MNHQ are with you, does that mean that they are on the receiving end of The Great Biscuit Indicator?

MNHQ spill, are we talking fancy M&S or plain old rich teas?

We were very kindly offered hot and cold beverages, but there is as yet [ahem] no sign of any biscuitage.

Join the discussion

Join the discussion

Registering is free, easy, and means you can join in the discussion, get discounts, win prizes and lots more.

Register now