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Shocking, stunning, horrifying, unmissable. Guardian report on female invisibility.
282

Bidisha · 05/12/2011 00:00

The Guardian's Kira Cochrane has produced an exhaustive, serious and very informative, though devastating, study about the representation of women in all walks of life, from politics and the media to comedy. Full disclosure: I am quoted in it briefly. The article is the result of several months' study by a diverse group of researchers and gives a complete picture of just how strongly women are pushed out of the public frame - and how this impacts on girls and young women's sense of their own voices and possibilities.

I would urge anyone who cares about this to get onto the Guardian comment thread and talk, give your own experiences, encourage other women, participate positively and in solidarity. This is a hugely important article and it's all about us and our place and space. Don't let the derailers and trolls dominate!

Here's the article: www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/2011/dec/04/why-british-public-life-dominated-men

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WibblyBibble · 06/12/2011 12:14

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LieInsAreRarerThanTigers · 06/12/2011 13:12

Yes that irked me too Wibbly. And the snootiness about hairdressers and care assistants - as always it is assumed that everyone must be as capable as Xenia but we are just not trying hard enough! Actually, some people will never be high-flyers, and society would not work.

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forkful · 06/12/2011 13:16

Bidisha thanks for linking that article. I've also now emailed the Today program to complain about the lack of female voices.

Personally I take Xenia's encouragement in the spirit in which I think it is intended. I've been surrounded by messages that push me to take a back seat in my career (and indeed I have taken a step back) - however I like to hear the opposite. I know that there are many who dislike Xenia's tone - but I for one am very pleased that she posts here.

MoreBeta have your female friends tried to get onto charity boards as trustees in voluntary roles? That can be a good stepping stone to a NED position and this is what I am aiming to do.

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sheragim6 · 06/12/2011 13:21

i think it needs revolution in the way which people think it should be big start from family base there is still people who thinks having boy better than having girls and this kind of beliefs push the girls back!!!!

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hackmum · 06/12/2011 13:27

Kritiq - thanks for responding to my comment about the Life programme. Glad it wasn't just me who felt like that. Also I agree completely with this: "I keep thinking of when I tried to read Natasha Walters' first book, and seeing her interviewed on some programme, asserting that the battle for equality was over bar the shouting, and thinking no, no that's not right at all. "

I had exactly the same reaction. I didn't read the book, but I did read an excerpt, and I was completely infuriated. I'm glad she's changed her mind, though it's annoying that she had to catch up with the rest of us!

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forkful · 06/12/2011 13:29

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forkful · 06/12/2011 13:31

Oops sorry muddled up the Natasha's. Blush

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estya · 06/12/2011 13:39

forkful - exactly. When our friends and family don't see woman in successful positions (whether they aren't in these roles or in fact they are successful but aren't asked to comment on the Today program etc), we and our daughters will be expected to to the traditional female roles.

I don't think this is about whether a woman should want to be a SAHM and iron shirts all day. Its about whether other people want her to.

Its about what happens when we don't see many woman in public life.

And that is young woman find their role models elsewhere, employers find it easier to picture a man in the role and parents praise us for being good mothers when we give up work to be a SAHM, whether its whats we really want or not.

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verysmellyeli · 06/12/2011 14:22

I am a hospital consultant. I am one of five women in a department of around forty. I am currently on maternity leave with my third child which may colour my views! I think the issue is more complex that 'women should try harder' or 'women should be allowed to stay at home if they want to'. I have three children and work part-time, my husband is an academic and although he is extremely supportive, I am the 'main' parent in terms of administrating our family life. I do not want to sub-contract any more of this than I already do. (4 days of childcare including breakfast and after school club, a cleaner, holiday sports clubs, occasional help from grandparents, lots of online shopping)

It is about legitimising the WAY that women work and not presuming that in order to be at the 'top of your field' - and asked to go on Today and QT etc. - you need to be working all the hours in the day and never seeing your family.

I encounter casual sexism every day at work. Some is from colleagues who can be patronising (in a calm down dear sort of way) and some is offensive (suggesting I became pregnant again to get out of doing emergency work over the winter etc) but most is low-level. Some of you might say that I should challenge it all, but then I would never get any work done. Some of my patients (and their relatives) are still surprised to find a female consultant looking after them but over half of my medical students are women. So we have to work out sustainable ways of supporting women to prominence based on competence and achievement, rather than confidence and availability (ie. long hours!) We also need to allow women who want the chance to do the bulk of looking after their children when small to be able to do this without disastrously affecting their potential to return to the workplace and continue their trajectory. I worry that in the current economic climate that is not a priority. Certainly in medicine things like the GP retainer scheme and 'Flexible Careers' which allow people to do a small amount of clinical work to keep their hand in whilst they bring up a family are no longer funded.

I have done some media work, and it is ALWAYS very short notice, often at inconvenient times (school run etc) and in one memorable article for The Times, the journalist who interviewed me over the phone wrote a great article but all my quotes were changed from 'she says' to 'he says' - as if the sub couldn't possibly believe that I was female.

So I can't suggest a simple solution, apart from that fact that things do seem to be incrementally improving - perhaps we need to be better at 'rapid networking' - men often have ready made networks through uni/sports - using things like Mumsnet/Twitter. But actually, I love being a mother to my small children more than I want to continually bang my head against the glass ceiling.

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LePruneDeMaTante · 06/12/2011 14:25

Sorry - not to ignore the rest of your post, which was interesting - but the sub-editor changed all the pronouns to masculine ones? Shock
That is fucking outrageous!!

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AitchTwoOHoHoHo · 06/12/2011 14:26

it is quite bizarre. do you have a non-gender specific name?

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verysmellyeli · 06/12/2011 14:28

I was quoted as Dr Smelly. So obviously must be male.

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LePruneDeMaTante · 06/12/2011 14:28

But even if she has a name that's not gender-specific: it's still a job of work to go through and change she to he AND her to him AND hers to his. I know it's one button but you've got to do it for all the grammatical cases...

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verysmellyeli · 06/12/2011 14:35

Also - as an aside - I think that women often don't feel that they have 'enough' to say or the 'authority' to say it. When I am phoned up to give quotes or do press, I get very nervous and worried about making a fool of myself. I'm not sure that my male colleagues would worry about those things as much.

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porcamiseria · 06/12/2011 14:37

But actually, I love being a mother to my small children more than I want to continually bang my head against the glass ceiling.


I feel the same way too Confused

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AitchTwoOHoHoHo · 06/12/2011 14:37

that's crazy... have subbed and would have been binned for that i reckon.

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hackmum · 06/12/2011 14:38

verysmellyeli - that is unbelievable! I hope you rang the paper up and gave them hell.

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MMMarmite · 06/12/2011 14:39

That's dreadful about the reporter Smelly! Did you complain?

The rest of your post makes a good point.

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verysmellyeli · 06/12/2011 14:42

I did complain, and had a 'verbal apology'. The reporter complained too - it wasn't his mistake. The irony was that one of the reasons that I had been put forward by one of my professional organisations to comment on the issues was that the organisation is very aware of the gender bias and is trying to actively improve it Grin

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verysmellyeli · 06/12/2011 14:44

PS I would love to spend longer debating these issues but have to go and get the kids from school, take back the overdue library books and buy some more nappies. After that, I might have another pop at that glass ceiling. Or maybe just Wine.

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hackmum · 06/12/2011 15:01

This is going off-topic a bit, but you'd think the sub would have realised there was a reason the reporter had written "she" throughout. Did they just think, "Women are never consultants, therefore the reporter must have accidentally typed 'she' six times instead of 'he'"? I mean, wouldn't anyone with any sense just check with the journalist first? What an idiot.

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LeggyBlondeNE · 06/12/2011 15:03

verysmellyeil - Yes I've noticed media people don't have the best worklife balance themselves and don't tend to be willing to adapt to my attempts at such (or, you know, my teaching responsibilities, meeting etc etc etc). A 6am Breakfast news spot was arranged at 6pm the night before, even though I need to travel 300 miles for it (had on kids then, they very inefficiently flew me down on a late flight to Heathrow, got me a taxi to Amersham for a hotel and then a taxi to London at 4am. Last train and a cheap hotel in Kings Cross would have done it, but that's a whole other rant!). They often want mobile numbers to call people at home and a few weeks after the Breakfast thing I got a 6.30am call about a completely different matter from a researcher on a different news program.

Haven't done any media releases since I had the baby but I know it'll be much harder.

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Hullygully · 06/12/2011 15:45

plus ca change

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ElephantsAndMiasmas · 06/12/2011 15:53

I've just written as well, MMarmite.

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KRITIQ · 06/12/2011 15:58

Just wanted to cross reference to this thread with email contacts for Lord Patten for those who wish to write in with their concerns.

Given that the ASA seem to be taking complaints seriously now (see other thread on this,) we might as well try our arm with the BBC as well. What's to lose, eh?

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