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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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kickassangel · 07/12/2011 21:07

the problem is that there are 2 questions within this debate

  1. why/how women don't achieve to the same level as men.
  2. even when they do, they aren't 'seen' to the same degree as men.

    it doesn't always help to discuss what women do 'wrong' to make them less materially successful than men, although that side cannot be ignored. however, there are ways in which the dice are loaded & it makes it ridiculously hard for them. e.g. i went to an all girls school - woodwork/metalwork/engineering of any kind were not on the agenda at all (plenty of praying & cookery classes). i am capable of learning those skills, but lack confidence and the kind of background knowledge that means I can approach a problem & resolve it relatively easily within those areas.

    so, I had almost no choice about going into typical 'feminine' type jobs. and they don't pay as well.

    it's hard to fight against these things at the age of 12 or 13. the only way to have overcome them would have been to attend lessons at the next door boys school - i wasn't prepared to be the only girl in the class, so I just went with the flow & never learnt whole areas of knowledge.

    my back story isn't really of interest, except that I am one example of a whole bank of statistics - there are many thousands of us who just weren't told - make the most of you, otherwise you will end up relying on a man, which makes you vulnerable & unhappy.

    another point - it is typically MALE jobs that get the most attention. Since when have head teachers been interviewed on question time? or mothers? or the owner of a clothing store? these people all contribute to society, why is it that certain jobs make people more 'worthy' of being on a news show than others?

    It implies that teachers, mothers etc have no valid political opinions, which is a very insulting assumption to make.
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kickassangel · 07/12/2011 21:09

fwiw xenia - at time of marriage, I married 'down' in terms of family background & job, but 'up' in terms of education. I was VERY quickly overtaken on the job front though.

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UnlikelyAmazonian · 07/12/2011 21:14

smelly women are often not available for interviews/spending a day shooting for a package/can't make a short notice phono as they have to pick kids up etc. It's a perpetuated cycle - men are much easier to get hold of for quotes/interviews/clips etc. We are often urged to 'get a woman if you can' but when you're up against a deadline and you need a clip in the next hour, well, you go for the male quote. Easy as that.

I am amazed the word creche hasn't come up yet.

Xenia I did the equivalent of you getting up every day and typing in order to get those 30 books out: for twenty years I got up at sparrow stupid hour, punched my arse out and came home exhausted. I had a string of shit fuck up relationships and no time to see how crap they were or get over their demise. I lived in a man's world and was as good as them. But in the end it nearly bloody killed me. The men in it nearly killed me. Some workplaces will not tolerate women standing up to sexism. They do what the media is so good at in order to get rid of pregnant/PND/groujnd down by the sheer sexist shit they encounter every day. They.. (as the men always said with a smirk)... 'Make Your Life Hell Until You Throw The Towel In'.

I threw the towel in, then stumbled across a shit-hot corporate lawyer who was brilliant and saved my bacon. She was worth her weight in gold. I imagine that you, Xenia, are as amazingly ball-busting as she is. And all power to you! But I so wish a woman like her/you had been fighting for the rights and visibility of the many other female employees in that newsroom who were utterly shafted by the male patriarchy and their sniggering brown-nose followers.

Instead of course, she has made a fortune after the event.

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Pantofino · 07/12/2011 21:20

Xenia - 0f course career women don't do housework! They get another woman in to do it for them! What will happen when all these women are lawuers and doctors? Who will clean their houses and look after their children? It won't be women, obviously, as they will all be in Parliament and Lincoln Fields. It must be the MEN then that will be doing this, that or people from Eastern Europe (more likely).

When will some people GET than an equal life is not all about us making as much money as we can?

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thetasigmamum · 07/12/2011 21:27

kickassangel I went to an all girls comp. there was no woodwork, no metalwork, there was a bit of cooking but not for me - I was kicked out of cookery the very first lesson, I'm dyspraxic (not that it was a widely known 'thing' in the 80s) and after the third bit of crockery got broken (within the first ten minutes) the cooking teacher got very angry, shouted at me, I got very upset, shouted back, and stormed out. I went straight to the head (a lovely nun who I feel lucky to have known) and told her I'd rather be expelled than go back into cookery which was a waste of time as far as I was concerned anyway. She was cool with it. :)

I wasn't pushed towards any sort of career, really. I was just encouraged to fulfill my potential and told in no uncertain terms that I should not for one minute think that doing the Cambridge entrance exam wasn't for people like me.

Obviously the teachers at your school were very different, and didn't encourage you to fulfill your potential, but that was down to them as individuals not an inherent fault of all girls schools. As I understand it, girls who go to all girls schools do much better in Maths and the sciences, because there are no boys to hide behind. Girls schools are Good, as far as I'm concerned.

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UnlikelyAmazonian · 07/12/2011 21:32

I went to an all-girls convent too. It gave me a lot of confidence and I was very happy there.

But IME men generally hate girls like us - both at work and in relationships; we seem to be a threat to their wondrous masculinity and sense of fairness (warped) and they make life as difficult as they can without appearing to do so deliberately. We fight like cats but unless we are incredibly strong we get screwed over anyway.

But this is not a thread about that. Wink

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UnlikelyAmazonian · 07/12/2011 21:38

sorry the ..was not missing your point about comp, or making a point about convent - more about the going to an all-girls'-school-thing and only being taught cooking and sewing.

Have just bought a jigsaw as am trying to better myself and my son's life by doing up furniture, but am terrified of it.

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Pantofino · 07/12/2011 21:40

I don't have that impression though. I did well in school and my career. I don't have this bunch of men HATING me for it.

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thetasigmamum · 07/12/2011 21:44

Well, I just checked and DH says he doesn't hate me. But possibly he's lying!

I must admit I have encountered some dreadful sexism and discrimination during my career. But to be fair I reckon, certainly on the earlier days, I had more problems because of being a bit of a maverick. I now work with other like minded (male) mavericks and I'm much happier for it.

I still wish Id taken a different path at 18, mind you. But that's not for this thread. :)

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UnlikelyAmazonian · 07/12/2011 22:10

Smile
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messyisthenewtidy · 07/12/2011 22:19

IMO women shouldn't have to achieve successful careers in traditionally male fields in order to qualify for equal visibility. Women should be visible because they exist. Feminism isn't solely about giving women the chance to make it in areas dominated by men (although obviously this is a big part of it) but also about giving more attention and value to traditional areas of female expertise.
So much time is given to men's hobbies and pursuits in the media and very little to women's. I resent the fact that we need to adapt to the male model simply to get a voice.

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SallyDon · 07/12/2011 22:29

hackmum, I too thought that things were gradually improving in the 1980s, that was until I got out into the world and worked in a male-dominated industry. The sexism was sly and hidden and it felt like I was chasing shadows, nothing was ever overt enough to be able to pin down. I was ground down and left.

The situation in the media is similar, it is insidious and brainwashing. Not only are women not heard nearly often enough, we also seem to be spirited away more readily when we are deemed to be too old, so it's a double whammy.

I am sick of QI and the like and get cross whenever I see Noel Fielding on Never Mind the Buzzcocks being rude and dismissive towards the (token) female panellist. (Just one example.) Question Time, Newsnight, sport, cooking competitions etc etc are all men heavy. One stand out exception is the Newsnight Late Review which often includes intelligent, interesting women.

I thought I was alone in my frustrations so I will be joining the campaign.

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merrymouse · 07/12/2011 22:33

"0f course career women don't do housework! They get another woman in to do it for them!"

I think this is one of the difficulties - even women who do 'get another woman to do it for them' come home and do housework. Unless you are paid well enough to have a cleaner every day, fill your fridge with instant food, and have a live in nanny; running a house and having children is very time consuming. A cleaner once a week doesn't empty the dishwasher, keep the washing machine churning or clean up baby sick as necessary.

Nice Victorian women didn't have periods, discovered babies behind bushes, and didn't allow children to ruin the drawing room. Today, women go out to work, but are still expected to keep up the same front "Yes, I cleaned the floor, ensured everybody had clean pants, dropped into school for some random event, put food on the table, etc. etc. just by wafting around at home for 5 minutes after work! - just off to tighten my corset, sorry I mean go to the gym!"

On the one hand it's mad to expect every woman to want to bake cup cakes, On the other, it's mad to pretend that all those things previously identified as 'women's work' were just time filling frivolities that we can all abandon now that we have proper work.

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Pantofino · 07/12/2011 22:56

Exactly Merrymouse. These things are NOT frivoloties. A clean house, food in the fridge, children looked after and happy, homework done, sex education, a discussion about whether god exists, what happens when x is mean to me etc etc etc. This is NOt frivolous. This is life. Someone has to do this.

I am pretty happy to outsource the "chores" and "babysitting" where necessary. But to bring up MY child with the values Iwould like her to have....

The Xenia model says we all work 60+ hours per week and outsource the other stuff to who.....?

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Pantofino · 07/12/2011 23:00

And I speak as someone who works FT and has a cleaner!

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gallicgirl · 07/12/2011 23:05

Lots of interesting points here....it's been an intriguing read following everyone's ideas.

I work in local government (supervisor) so women are perhaps better represented in senior management levels than the private sector but I get the impression that there is a perception that they must conform to a male model in order to get there. Most of the managers are mid-40s upwards and have therefore had their children already. I can't think I've ever seen a single female manager in her 30s but there are plenty of young male managers. Similarly, I've never seen a manager working part-time. In my office, the general manager had her child (10 years ago) and wanted to come back part-time. She was told she couldn't come back to that post part-time and had to take a drop in responsibilities and presumably, salary. The state is supposed to be the beacon in matters of equality but can't manage something simple like part-time hours and job shares.

I'm currently on maternity leave and colleagues have asked if I will return part-time, assuming I will return. No-one ever asked "Have you or your partner considered working part-time?". The assumption is always that the mother will take the cut. I think there were a few raised eye-brows when I said that if one of us was to give-up work, it would be my partner as I have greater earning power.

I think my point is that we need role-models to show that the current norm can change. When it is difficult to see role models in the media or government, then it's even more important for us to be role-models in our own lives. I'd like to think that by challenging the status quo, I've made it a little easier for someone else to go against the flow. Until people start thinking that change is possible, change won't happen.

Oh, and for the record, my DP does more cooking than me and housework is split pretty evenly Xmas Wink

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kickassangel · 07/12/2011 23:37

i have to admit that my parents are so old fashioned that they are before their time, iykwim. a woman without a man is like a fish out of water. there's pity/horror/disapproval of single mums. they're ok with me working, but would feel uncomfortable if i turned into a 'mega worker'.

i also remember my mum's snide comments about the neighbour being 'superwoman' cos she had 4 kids & worked 3 days a week as a GP!

I try to avoid conversation about these things, as of course, I'm just being 'awkward' if I disagree.

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sakura · 08/12/2011 08:32

I think mumsnet helps women in the sense that we women now have other entertainment options. Imagine 20 years ago when the only entertainment our mothers' had was what men provided them! Can you think of anything more boring! Football, crappy comedy (usually involving men dressed up as women because that's Oh So Funny, except recently some other men decided it was no longer funny and we're not supposed to laugh anymore...)

The positive effect of this, I should imagine, is that women's energy is gradually being withdrawn from the places where it's not wanted and where it's not in our best interest to be.

We shouldn't support male media in any way shape or form. We shouldn't laugh at the shit jokes that the "comedians" make just because the men in our lives think they're funny, for example.

MUmsnetters are miles funnier and more intelligent than the men you see on TV and hear on the radio. It's pretty obvious why they don't want women competing with them in the wit department. They're worried.

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Xenia · 08/12/2011 08:41

It is a visibility thread really. I was saying what I did on that score and I think other women should try to as well. Getting on whether you work for yourself as I now do so are constantly marketing yourself or else getting on within a bit organisation and seeking to be a leader in your field is not just about being good. Part of the game is letting others know you are good. Some women are very good at this and some aren't.

(I was asked about the latish (5pm) conference call.. well we are all making a lot out of this; all of us, all the women on all sides are self employed, if we don't work our children starve etc so that tends to concentrate the mind; the work is great fun anyway. 5pm isn't that late. We've taken the calls in sorts of ways without problems. There is a US element so it always has to be after 2 on this matter which is fine. if one of us cannot make one of the calls that's fine. I was party to one on a train which is not ideal the other day as I wanted to be getting back to my family rather than hanging around where I happened to be but I was not saying much it worked out okay. I would regard it as sexist to say to someone with a toddler who is female can you make a call at 5 when she is a leading professional. If she has to be gone by then which I am pretty sure she doesn't and you can take these calls from home with the toddler in another room with the nanny anyway. Anyway the minor point on that is that we all earn a lot and guess what we all work hard and all like our work. It's a nice combination but just as important is that we all have children and hobbies and lives - this is worth saying that plenty of high paid women love their work and familise and it is very very doable and I go on about that because i want it visible and out there that a cohort of women (and men) a very few of us are very good, very keen on our work, very very hard working and do pretty well and have families).

I don't like gender sterotypes. Plenty of men do as much at home as women and women who are clever tend not to be the dim wits who tolerate sexism at home from a man.

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sakura · 08/12/2011 08:41

Xenia, the basis of feminist politics is to understand that the reason women are poor, powerless and prostituted is not because they don't work hard enough.
The reason men have all the power and women have hardly none at all is because society is structured in such a way that keeps women oppressed and discriminated against. Not because women are lazy and thick or what have you.
Or because they have babies.
None of that should matter. Women are much more important to society than men, and men can't stand that they're so insignificant to the human species, so they actively keep women down. It is done on purpose, by men. It has nothing to do with the decisions women make. As one feminist woman once said, men haven't got over their primal shock, their realization that women are more important to the species, and so they do everything in their power to compensate and make themselves seem important:to themselves and to women.
But they're not important. So the only way men make themselves important is by hogging all the power and money, (and terrorizing women by killing and raping them on a fairly regular basis )
THat's what they do because to do otherwize would mean they would have to face their evolutionary truth: that they aren't mother nature's chosen ones.

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Xenia · 08/12/2011 08:48

I don't see it as a battle between men and women. Men are lovely and so are women. We have more in common than we have differences. Some of us are untalented and never get anywhere and plenty of us aren't.
A woman who allows her man not to pull his weight at home needs to kick herself and ensure that doesn't happen. let's not be a nation of moaners - women are past masters of it. Act, change, don't moan.

Also be visible. Leave sunny Jim holding the babies whilst you go on television. i went on a TV thing. It was a hassle. They sent a car for me but it took a lot of time I might hvae been with the children but it was fun, unpaid, but fun.

Women should seek to over come the visibility issue. If there is a chance to give a talk make sure you are the one giving it. If there is a press panel get yourself on to that. If could write about your field do it. Ask ask ask. you will often be rejected but by asking you can sometimes find you get through.

if an employer doesn't recognise your talents form your own firm. There are female hedge fund owners. Nothing stops a woman who is being discriminated or thinks she is at her work forming her own work. There are lots of women on mumsnet who run businesses of various kinds. In some ways people who gave up work to mind the house and chidlren, more fool them, get a second chance - it's a great opportunity to found a business and earn 10x your ex boss. The power and money is often not in working as an employee for anyone but in owning the whole enterprise. Women own 1% of the planet's wealth andI think 25% of income so we've a good long way to go but more women aremillionaire in the UK under 40 than men so things get better.

Women will continue to bei nvisible though if they take the housewive choice and join the secluded seraglio. Every decision to work part or flexitime or give up work to live off male earnings damages all women. It is a political choice which hugely contributes to the invisivbility of women.

Anyway I must go forth and earn a crust now.

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sakura · 08/12/2011 09:01

no men aren't lovely.
Yesterday was the anniversary of the Montreal massacre, the day a man walked into an engineering college, separated the men from the women, shouted "I hate feminists" and shot all the women.
For daring to study engineering, a "man's job"

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sakura · 08/12/2011 09:02

those women are fairly invisible now, aren't they. ANd it's not because they weren't trying, is it. It's because a man invisibilized them.

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thetasigmamum · 08/12/2011 09:11

Sakura attitudes like yours damage women in the workplace just as much as the attitudes of the sort of old fashioned white middle aged men who dominate certain professions in the UK.

Of course Some men are lovely. And some women are stupid idiots. Frothing on about 'evolutionary truth' and being 'mother mature's chosen ones' is just ridiculous and will help nobody other than not-lovely men who wish to portray all women as nutters.

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sakura · 08/12/2011 09:18

nope,
attitudes like mine don't affect women in the workplace at all. Can you show me all the news articles where radical feminists are writing about their rage about the Montreal massacre?
Oh yeah that's right. News items like that don't exist. This point of view is invisible.
WHat actually keeps women down in the workplace is not a random POV by a woman on the internet, but solid tangible informal and formal policies that discriminate against women.

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