WEP – Women’s Entitlement Party?

Captain Kirk: I see they’ve created a “Women’s Equality Party”, Spock!
Mr Spock: Illogical, Captain. Surely you must mean either an “Equality Party” or a “Women’s Entitlement Party”

I have never been a member of a political party in my life, nor have I ever been tempted to join one. I would, however, seriously consider joining a party that had, as a serious objective, encouraging genuine equality between men and women.

However, I find the very idea that anyone can form a political party called a “Women’s Equality Party”, quite disturbing. Even more worrying is the fact that it can be given serious and unquestioning publicity in the media. The very name is hypocritical and illogical in the extreme. If you are fighting for the notion of equality between men and women, you might well imagine forming an “Equality Party”, with even-handed policies seeking out and eliminating disadvantages on both sides of the gender fence. On the other hand, you might form a party that is interested only in eliminating disadvantages suffered by women, leaving the men to rot. Surely such a party, whose objective is to make sure that women get the best, and only the best, bits would be better called the “Women’s Entitlement Party”.

Some of their policies, such as shared parental leave, have the potential to be genuinely egalitarian, provided that, in the detail, both parents have a right to take the half the leave and the mother does not have the right to insist on taking all the leave for herself. Other policies are just more of the same old, old ideas based on the principle of women’s entitlement and the well-known fact that misinformation, if repeated often enough, will be accepted as fact by the gullible.

The Gender Pay Gap
I am happy that companies should provide gender pay gap information, but, as I have discussed in another post, such information should be made available on a controlled variable basis, so that experience and ability are taken into account. I haven’t found recent controlled variable analysis for the UK, but in the US, the much-publicised 23 cent gap reduces to just a few cents cents under controlled conditions. This should not be a surprise: many men know from experience that career gaps or career changes affect men’s earning power too. I accept that even a small gap, genuinely attributable directly to gender, should be closed, but it is complete nonsense to suggest that someone who takes a gap of several years should automatically be paid the same as someone who has built up years of relevant experience.

Companies exist to make money, not to socially engineer financial equality between between employees. If a CEO believed that he or she could get the same benefit from a woman more cheaply than from a man, he or she would do it in a flash.

Violence against women
Of course violence against women is wrong, but so is violence against men. Men make up around 70% of the victims of violence in general, and over one-third of the victims of domestic violence, yet they are completely ignored in discussions on the subject. The Women’s Entitlement Party wants yet more refuge places for women, yet there are virtually no refuge places for male victims. Surely an equality-seeking party would want more places for both men and women.

Sex Workers

The Women’s Entitlement Party wants women to be free to sell themselves for sex, but wants men to be criminalised for buying. This is like saying that a High Street newsagent can put whatever pornography they want on the shelves, but the customer will be arrested for buying it. Surely a truly equality-seeking party would criminalise both the man and the woman, or, indeed, neither. Forcing women, or men for that matter, to be sex workers should certainly be illegal, but why on earth should a woman be entitled to voluntarily offer sex for money, but a man be criminalised for taking up her offer. Pure, bigoted misandry.

Equal Representation
The Women’s Entitlement Party wants 66% of parliamentary candidates to be women. Wow – if ever there was an anti-democratic policy, it is this one. They also want 75% of new peers to be women. Like all quotas, this is unfair to men, and hugely patronising to women. I would be very happy to have equal number of men and women in parliament, but choosing a higher proportion of women from a smaller pool of potential parliamentarians, is not the way to do it. Yes, I know that I have just thought the unthinkable, spoken the unspeakable and written the unwriteable – I do not believe for one minute that as many woman as men are interested in becoming MPs. The same goes for boards, and I can only repeat what I said above. Companies exist to make money. They are not part of a patriarchal plot to tie women to the kitchen sink. If a CEO thought that having more women on the board would increase the profitability of his or her company, men wouldn’t get a look-in.

Thw WEP believes that schools should be forced to use female role models wherever possible and girls should be forced into STEM subjects. When will they realise that sustainable equality is equality of opportunity not equality of outcome.

I apologise to the WEP if I am overestimating the intelligence of schoolgirls here, but I do not believe that there is a single female student in the country today who does not know she has just the same opportunities as a boy. Nevertheless, girls still choose different options, and will continue to do so in the future. I agree that school sex lessons should explain consent, but (sorry, balance raising its ugly head again) I also believe that girls should be taught the importance of sending clear signals, behaving sensibly in potentially dangerous situations, and the enormity of the crime of making a malicious false allegation of rape.

Let’s end the hypocrisy, we either want equality or we don’t. George Orwell would have been proud (or perhaps ashamed) that his famous Animal Farm writing on the wall has been changed to “Both genders are equal, but women are more equal than men”.

Gender Pay Gap Disclosure

In the UK, companies with more than 250 employees are being forced to disclose the “gender pay gap” between men and women: If they were wise, they would disclose so much more.

There is no doubt that, in the past, women got a tough deal when it came to pay. Most companies had different pay scales for men and women, with women earning a fraction of the pay of men doing the same job. To listen to the hype in the press at the moment, you could be forgiven for believing that this was still the case, but it is just sheer nonsense.

There is a statistical difference between the average pay of men and women, but that does not imply that employers pay women less just because they are female. Forget altruism: companies exist only to make money. Even charitable organisations exist only to maximise the money available to donate to their good causes. The idea that there is some patriarchal plot to keep down the wages of women is so far removed from the reality of business as to be almost laughable. If employers believed that they could pay women less for doing the same job, at the same level, and with the same results, they would all employ women rather than men at all levels. If CEO’s felt that having more women on the board would increase the profitability of their companies, they would do so.

Up to the age of around 40, there is virtually no pay gap between men and women. For younger graduates, women earn more than men. There are several reasons why the wage gap increases in later years: all are reasonable and logical, but to see them you have to abandon the “women are always the victims” mantra. So what are these reasons and why do I think that companies should disclose more pay gap information rather than less?


Career Gaps and changes of career: This is the probably the biggest reason for the pay gap. It is still the case that women are much more likely than men to take time off work to look after the children. This will slowly and inevitably change as young women now often earn significantly more than their partner. I know more than one couple where the woman will have to go back to work to pay the mortgage, leaving the man at home. Neither are particularly happy with the situation.

If society, largely due to years of feminism, undervalues “stay-at-home mums”, it undervalues much more “stay-at-home dads”. Again, this arises from decades, even centuries, of men being regarded as the breadwinner, and those who don’t win the bread, risk losing the respect of both their partners and society in general. There are other reasons why both men and women may take a career break, or change careers, and I would suggest that they too would suffer financially as a consequence. So, my suggestion to companies disclosing pay information would be to show their salary distribution not only by gender, but also by years of experience in either the company itself, or a comparable company.

Performance: I worked for many years in a large company and salaries were vastly different amongst those doing nominally the same job. This was due to both experience, mentioned above, and the outcome of performance reviews.

Generally, performance related pay is thought to be a good thing and companies will do their best to retain, reward and promote their best performers. Companies exist to maximise profit, not to socially engineer equality between employees. I have no idea how women perform relative to men in different jobs, but, if I were an employer, I would find a way of bringing performance into my pay disclosure. In other words, and I don’t know the answer to this, are women (or men, for that matter) paid less because of their gender, or is it really related to relatively poor performance.

Choice: In our affluent society, we have the privilege of a relatively high standard of living. We have much more freedom than those in many other societies to choice jobs and careers that reflect our interests.

We all know that girls at school are now put under a lot of pressure to enter science and engineering, and I am sure that there cannot be a schoolgirl in the country who does not know that she has the freedom to go in that direction if she wishes. Nevertheless, it is still the case that, completely by choice, girls and boys still gravitate towards different subjects. This is not a patriarchal plot, it just reflects different priorities and interests. Similarly, many women choose to work part time, even after the children have flown the nest. This is not wrong, it is a choice, but it does influence average earnings. If I was an employer, I would relate the number of employees in part-time or lower paid jobs to the number applying for those jobs. If there are twice as many women working part time, does that reflect the proportion of women applying for jobs of that type.

In summary, I believe that employers are being set up to appear to be sexist in their pay policies with no real basis in fact. They should preempt the accusations by presenting all the evidence they can to show that differences in pay are due to many factors, but are not directly related to the gender of the employee.

The Tie Fetish

Q: What makes otherwise sane, normal, caring people persist in trying to force men to spend the whole of their working lives with a noose around their neck?
A:  Fetish (Merriam-Webster): an object of irrational reverence or obsessive devotion.

I have nothing against ties per se, but I have long thought that the blind insistence that they are the one and only means by which a man can look smart, is irrational and, frankly, somewhat odd. With the rather obvious exceptions of the wimple and the dog-collar, no other item of clothing today, for either men or women, is treated as an almost religious symbol of piety and virtue in quite the same way as the tie. The mere wearing of a badly tied and dubiously stained tie bestows on its wearer, in the eyes of many, an unassailable aura of probity and sartorial elegance, while its absence plunges the hapless, though comfortable, non-wearer into the abyss of lazy, incompetent ineptitude.

It seems that the tie almost rivals the wimple and dog-collar in the unassailable aura of probity and sanctity it confers on its wearer.



I have been following, and participating in, the comments on several newspaper blogs on this subject recently and have come to the conclusion that, if we discount the theory that the tie is a substitute religious vestment, the insistence on others wearing one can only be regarded as fetishism. I looked up “fetish” on the Oxford and Merriam-Webster online dictionaries. Being of a charitable nature, I put the definitions involving sartorially-related sexual habits on the back burner for the moment, but, even if we discount these, the following two definitions seem do sum up quite well the irrational, illogical and objectively unjustifiable attitude of the “tie-or-die” brigade.

Fetish (Oxford): An excessive and irrational devotion or commitment to a particular thing.

Fetish (Merriam-Webster): an object of irrational reverence or obsessive devotion.

The arguments in favour of forcing men to wear ties are always subjective, usually pompous and opinionated, and often downright nonsensical. I have tried to summarise some of the comments I have come across in blogs on the subject, with my response:

“I just think they look nice”
Everyone is entitled to their opinion, and, as in the case with Granny here, may succeed in charming others into giving in. That’s fine, but not all men like to be treated like children.



…and in a similar vein… “I think they are sooooo sexy…”

OK – perhaps even ties have their good points.



“Today, the tie is largely a workplace accessory, used to neatly demarcate work and leisure time”

Sorry, this is nonsense: if a man needs a tie to tell whether or not he is at work, he has bigger problems than his dress sense. I wonder what on earth the poor women are supposed to do, since they no longer have any compulsory items of work wear to help them decide if they are in the office or at home?


The argument that I find the most pathetic, though, is “wearing a tie shows respect for the other person“.
I find the idea that a man has to show respect by tying a leash about his neck almost feudal in its expectation of servility. Must a man also touch his forelock to show respect? Should we still expect women to curtsy and look down demurely at the floor as a token of respect? I am afraid that if your only way of recognising respect involves the other person wearing a tie, psychiatric help may be in order.

If we accept this argument, how on Earth do women manage to show respect? They rarely wear a suit, even more rarely a tie, and would certainly shout “sexism” at the top of their voices if they were forced to dress as uniformly as men.

By all means wear a tie if you want to (and I often do), but don’t try to force others to do so using the false argument of “showing respect”.

To come back to my original thesis, there is absolutely no logical reason to insist on men wearing ties. Those who do so are merely trying to inflict their own tastes and stereotypes on others. The fact that some folk place so much value on such a meaningless piece of cloth, and judge themselves and others on that basis, is a clear example of a fetish: an excessive and irrational devotion or commitment to a particular thing.

So, by all means complain every time you see a politician or news presenter in an open-necked shirt. Whine about the good old days of doublet and hose. Remember with nostalgia the days when men were men, and women made the coffee. Don’t think, though, that you have the moral high ground. At the end of the day, insisting that a man wears a tie is no different to insisting that a woman wears high heels, a leather mini-skirt, or fishnet stockings.

So-called sexist air-conditioning – the tip of the iceberg in dress code discrimination!

Although there are claims in the media that women suffer from cold due to air-conditioning, the truth of the matter is that most dress codes still allow women much more freedom than men when it comes to dressing comfortably at work.

The simple fact is that men’s dress codes lag behind women’s in terms of flexibility and comfort.

A woman can always put on a jacket or cardigan if she is cold, but a man is still often forced into dress shirt and tie (and, of course, long trousers)

In today’s lopsided, politically correct world, we are used to hearing claims of sexism, always with the woman as victim, coming from every direction. The recent nonsense in the media about air-conditioning, though, defies all logic and flies in the face of any concept of fairness.

I first read about this in a blog in the UK Daily Telegraph. The female blogger made an astonishingly thoughtless comment, which (almost literally) made my blood boil.

“In summer it’s even worse. If you’re a woman in the middle of AC wars, you can’t just put on a summer dress sans tights like the lucky women who work in AC-less offices.”

I would like to welcome her to the world of men – and I hope she won’t expect a great deal of sympathy! Men have no choice but to wear long trousers. Many are still, shockingly in our supposedly gender-equal times, forced to wear ties no matter what the weather. They are usually obliged to wear heavy dress shoes, whereas it is perfectly acceptable for women to wear open sandals. Women should be grateful for the huge flexibility they have in workplace dress codes when compared to men. If they are cold, they should put on a jumper and pity the men who have to sweat in ties in “AC-less offices”.

1950s businessman

This recent so-called sexist air-conditioning nonsense is, however, just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to dress code unfairness. Over the last 40 or 50 years, both men’s and women’s fashions outside the workplace have moved on significantly. In our leisure time, we dress more casually and more flexibly than we did in the past. However, while acceptable workplace clothing for women has moved in parallel to the “outside world”, very many men still find themselves limited to the same hot, uncomfortable dress codes as their fathers, or even their grandfathers. The 1950s businessman pictured left is indistinguishable from very many of his sweating present-day counterparts.

There is sometimes a thin line between opposing sexism and aiming to support and extend female entitlement. This issue is on the wrong side of the line. Women are not entitled to wear as little as they want to at work, have the air-conditioning attuned to their skimpy frocks, and leave the men sweating due to the relative strictness of the male dress code. Any woman not convinced by this argument should, perhaps, be forced to wear a suit and tie (properly done up, of course) to work every day for a month in the middle of summer. Perhaps then she will appreciate her privileged position when it comes to choice of clothing.

Although women already have much greater choice of work clothing than men, anything that prevents them having complete freedom to wear what they please is branded as sexist. This is well illustrated by another case in the media recently concerning a female JP Penney employee, who was sent home for wearing shorts and is crying “sexism”. In fact, shorts are banned for both men and women and, unless male employees are allowed to “get away with” shorts, then there is not the slightest issue of sexism here. My personal view is that smart, tailored shorts should be allowed for both males and females in hot weather, but banning them for both is certainly not sexist. It would be interesting to see the entire dress code: I would be willing to bet that the men have no more flexibility in how they dress than the women – probably the reverse. There is an interesting trend on Twitter at the time of publishing this post, concerning wearing shorts at work: take a look at #freetheknee.

The real villain of the piece in all this is the ineffectiveness of equality laws when it comes to giving men and women the same freedom to choose how they dress in the workplace. Countries with so-called “equality at work” laws should simply ban gender-specific dress codes.

Bishop Luffa School Shorts Hypocrisy

Bishop Luffa school – short in equality, long in hypocrisy

Bishop Luffa School
Before you read on, compare the shorts for which the boys were excluded with those worn by the girl in the rear centre, to which the school apparently turns a blind eye! It is the duty of a school to break down gender stereotypes, not reinforce them. (Photo-still from news footage, credit to BBC South Today)

I know I have bit of a thing about the unfairness to men and boys of dress codes: a brief look at the menu on this site will give ample evidence of this. Seldom, though, have I heard a sexist and gender-stereotyped position defended in such an unconvincing and deeply hypocritical way by a figure in authority. This is disturbing, as one of the roles of schools today is to model gender equality and do away with old-fashioned prejudice and gender-stereotyping.

The issue arose on Friday, 3rd July, when a number of Sixth Form boys were refused entry to Bishop Luffa School in Chichester for daring to wear shorts in the middle of a heat wave. This was reported on the BBC, as well as on local radio and in local newspapers.

The boys’ actions were provoked by the fact that the girls are allowed to wear skirts and shorts, which are intrinsically much more comfortable in hot weather than the long trousers imposed on the boys. The school dress code for the Sixth Form does, indeed, have a blanket ban on shorts for both boys and girls, but the Head Teacher, Nick Taunt, is apparently unable or unwilling to enforce the ban on the girls, who are allowed on site in shorts, which, from the videos and photos linked above, are sometimes very short indeed.

Why is this sexist?

I think that this is fairly self-explanatory. Nobody, not even Mr Taunt, claims that it is not sexist. Those in favour of keeping the ban for boys (both Mr Taunt and a tiny minority of forum comments), merely give a series of dubious reasons why the fact that it is sexist does not matter. Anyone with a clear sense of fairness, open-mindedness and natural justice surely cannot argue that it is fair to allow girls significantly more comfort than boys. Here is a transcript of part of an interview with Mr Taunt on the Chichester Observer website (my comments in bold).

“There are some boys, some members of Sixth Form, who feel it is rather hot today and would like to wear shorts. We don’t allow shorts (comment: this is apparently untrue. Although shorts are theoretically banned for all, girls are, in fact, allowed to wear them) We have a Sixth Form dress code. We don’t have a uniform, as some Sixth Form’s have, but we do have a dress code… ….  but it has to be something that’s appropriate for the school environment and to prepare them for later life in the workplace (comment: women are rarely allowed to wear shorts in the workplace, yet he allows the girls to wear them in school)…We have said, for boys and girls, that shorts are not allowed in school (comment: again, if the words of the students, and the images in the videos and photographs are to be believed, girls are allowed to wear shorts to school, so this statement is again untrue)… They said that they (the boys) felt hot and uncomfortable and I said that, well, as a boy so do I (comment: so it’s ok to make boys, but not girls, feel hot and uncomfortable – if that’s not blatantly sexist, I don’t know what is!)“”

“In our society, girls wear dresses and boys wear trousers” (comment: but he allows the girls to wear skirts and trousers and shorts)

If you agree with the students, please sign the petition at change.org 


In another part of the interview, Mr Taunt says that he wants to avoid “nitpicking” with the boys over the length of their shorts. What, I wonder, does he do when a girl wears her skirt, or her theoretically-banned-shorts too short? Does he “nitpick” with her, does he exclude her, or does he simply allow her to get away with it in staunch support of the woman’s right to choose? Why on Earth should he be willing to pick the girls’ nits but not the boys’?

Much is made in schools and the media today about issues associated with body image, particularly with respect to girls. Why should anyone feel that we can persist in this attitude that there is something unpleasant, or unacceptable, about boys showing their legs, while it is ok for girls to do so?

Incidentally, Mr Taunt has apparently warned the boys (comment in a forum), that they will also be turned away if they wear skirts, although the dress code does not specify that skirts are for girls only.

In a related story a couple of months ago, when a Bridlington Head Teacher banned skirts for girls, one of the arguments raised against her by parents was that it was unfair to make the girls wear hot trousers in the summer: no-one mentioned the unfairness to the boys. At least the Bridlington Head can’t be accused of sexism: boys and girls both wear long trousers now. At around the same time as the Luffa protest. another UK school, Trentham High School, banned girls from wearing skirts because they persistently ignored rules on skirt length. Again, this is simply equality for all, although, personally, I would prefer to see the boys allowed to wear shorts, and the girls stick to reasonable rules on skirt length. It is interesting that both of these schools have female Head Teachers: a male Head would never have the courage to do this as, by enforcing equality, he would be scared of being branded as sexist. What a strange world we live in when it comes to concepts of equality!

Why is the Head’s argument hypocritical?

On the school website, we see the following statement: ”

“We recognise our duty under the Equality Act 2010
The Equality Act has simplified and strengthened the discrimination laws which protect people from unfair treatment.”

Mr Taunt does not argue that the shorts rule is fair, but rather that boys should accept the unfair treatment because they are…well…boys…

The transcript of the interview above also points out the sheer, unadulterated hypocrisy of saying that shorts are banned in order to prepare the students for the workplace. He allows the girls to wear shorts, but there is scarcely an employer in the UK that allows adult women to wear shorts to work: those who do probably allow men to wear them too. In any case, the vast majority of Bishop Luffa Sixth Form students go to university, where several years as a student will make an absolute nonsense of the claim that the purpose of the shorts ban is to prepare the boys for work!

In my view, the simple fact of the matter is that the Head wants to inflict his outdated, discriminatory sense of male dress obligations on the boys, and is determined to do so despite the lack of all logical argument and all sense of fair play. It is simply perpetuating the idea that women have the right to choose what they wear, men have to expect to toe the line.

The lower school summer uniform is also a little lacking in the equality department, as all pupils are allowed to remove blazers and pullovers, but the boys alone are expected to still wear their ties: so much for equal treatment.

Why do I care?

I believe very strongly in true gender equality and fair treatment for boys and girls, men and women. It is true that there are other, perhaps more serious, issues of gender inequality throughout the world, but there are none as widespread among schoolchildren in the UK as the disparity in uniform and dress codes between boys and girls.

With the possible exception of some faith schools, I defy anyone to give me an example of a school in which the boys have more choice, more flexibility and more comfort than the girls. There are thousands where the opposite is true. Girls nearly always have the choice of a skirt, and very often don’t have to wear ties. Many schools have a more comfortable summer uniform for girls but not for boys (or, as in Bishop Luffa, less favourable for the boys).  This does nothing at all to encourage a sense of real gender equality among the boys, but rather seems to support the increasingly popular view that the search for gender equality is a one-way street. Full credit to those girls who demonstrated their genuine belief in equality by supporting the boys.  It is very sad that school managers can put so much effort into the concept of equality, yet let themselves down so badly by persisting with retrograde, sexist attitudes such as this.

I am sure that Mr Taunt is an excellent Head Teacher in many respects, but he is mistaken in his inflexible and poorly thought-out response to this situation. It is the duty of the Head to instill a sense of equality and justice in his pupils, and both he and the school governors should do everything possible to make sure that the uniform code is fair to all. It is the duty of a school to break down gender stereotypes, not reinforce them, and it should not be acceptable in 2015 to say that boys should be expected to put up with unnecessary discomfort just because they are boys.

(I believe the facts are correct based on interviews and news reports. If there are any factual errors, please let me know and I will correct them)

Is Sexism Endemic at the BBC?

When will the BBC start taking male politicians seriously based on what they say rather than what they wear?

In Andrew Marr’s weekly current affairs television programme last Sunday, he interviewed Yanis Varoufakis to discuss the impending disaster of Greece defaulting on its debt repayments to the European Union. In his preamble to the interview, Mr Marr introduced this senior Greek politician as “Greece’s leather-jacketed Finance Minister, Yanis Varoufakis”, in defiance of the fact Mr Varoufakis was not actually wearing his leather jacket at the time. Is it not shameful that the BBC should pay so much attention to the sartorial habits of male politicians? After all, men do have brains too, and often have important contributions to make to the political life of a nation. They are not just eye-candy existing solely to decorate our television screens, and deserve to be treated with the same respect as female politicians.

One cannot help but wonder what the reaction would have been if he had introduced “the leopard-shod Home Secretary, Theresa May”, “the trouser-wearing Acting Leader of the Labour Party, Harriet Harman”, or the “short-skirted Shadow Home Secretary, Yvette Cooper”. I am sure Ms Cooper would not wear a short skirt on television, or at least I couldn’t find a photograph, but I am sure you get my point!

So come on, BBC, you wouldn’t dare criticise the way a female politician was dressed, even if she defied convention by wearing trousers at such a traditional occasion as the State Opening of Parliament: what makes you think it’s appropriate to comment on the dress of a foreign Finance Minister? I shudder to think what the reaction of your commentator would have been if David Cameron had been equally “liberated” and had walked beside Ms Harman wearing an open-necked shirt.

Is sexism endemic at the BBC? Perhaps it is.

The Global Gender Gap Index – an example of Orwellian doublethink?

The way this index is calculated, the UK can soar to the top by taking four simple steps:
Ban boys from receiving any education
Confine all men to the home or slave labour
Give all paid employment, including being a member of parliament, to women
Deny all men medical treatment so that they have an average life expectancy of around 50

Each of the points in bold above would, astonishingly, increase our score in the “Global Gender Gap Index” for the UK and make us seemingly better egalitarians. The explanation for this is that factors disadvantaging men are completely ignored! I will go on to explain in more detail. Those of you who have read any of my other posts will know that I believe strongly in gender equality, but question whether, in the search for “equality”, men’s issues are ignored.  I particularly question whether the feminist movement is truly struggling for equality for all. The other day, I was looking at the relevance of some Gender Gap/Equality Indices, of which there are several, and I must admit that, even with my rather high level of “equality cynicism”, I was surprised by how completely they seem to support my view that the current road to equality is a one-way street. I am going to talk particularly about the Global Gender Gap Index, but my intention is not to rubbish the index, as it does focus attention on some key areas where women are disadvantaged, but just to point out how absurdly one-sided it is.

My attention was caught by news reports from last year that the UK had fallen out of the top twenty countries in the “Global Gender Gap Index”. The reports suggested that the UK was falling behind in the equality race, so I thought it would be interesting to find out exactly what was meant by the word “equality” in this case. Some of you may not believe that the picture can be as skewed as I am going to paint it, so I will start by giving a link to the source of my information. I will give a little more detail later, but here is the quote, from the page linked above, that sums up the astonishingly biased methodology used to calculate the index. The first paragraph is discussing the two different methods which could have been used, the second the consequences of choosing the one-sided method.

“One was a negative-positive scale capturing the size and direction of the gender gap. This scale penalizes either men’s advantage over women or women’s advantage over men, and gives the highest points to absolute equality. The second choice was a one-sided scale that measures how close women are to reaching parity with men but does not reward or penalize countries for having a gender gap in the other direction. We find the one-sided scale more appropriate for our purposes, as it does not reward countries for having exceeded the parity benchmark.”  

and, from the same page...

“Hence, the Index rewards countries that reach the point where outcomes for women equal those for men, but it neither rewards nor penalizes cases in which women are outperforming men on particular variables in some countries. Thus a country, which has higher enrolment for girls rather than boys in secondary school, will score equal to a country where boys’ and girls’ enrolment is the same.”
(From the Global Gender Gap linked above – my bold)

This potentially leads to a huge distortion and bias in the figures. For example, many countries, including the UK, have significantly more women than men in tertiary education, but this is completely ignored in the calculation. All concept of balance is lost.

The thing that worries me most about this, is that not one of the reports about the UK’s position in the index (ok, I admit that I didn’t read them all), mentioned the fact that the index is openly designed not to measure equality. It excludes, as a matter of principle, any inequality working to the advantage of women. Have our ideas of equality become so twisted that we accept unquestioningly the validity of a “gender gap” report that completely ignores any disadvantages applying to half the population?

One of the most astonishing aspects of the methodology, is that it goes so far as to assume that women are entitled to live at least 6% longer than men. No – you didn’t misread that last sentence, read it again to be sure. Unless women live at least 6% longer than men, the country is penalised for having a gender gap disadvantaging women. The fact that the gap is narrowing in the UK counts against us in the rankings – it really does! There are many factors that could lead to men having a lower life expectancy than women: these include violence (most murder victims are male and the vast majority of those killed in war are male), suicide (in the UK there are 4 times as many male suicides as female), and poor lifestyle ( traditionally men have smoked more and drunk more alcohol than women). These factors are, as they should be, taken into account in the calculation of life expectancy, thus improvements in these factors for men, or a deterioration for women, decrease the  life expectancy gap between men and women thus increasing the “gender gap” by their definition.

This measure provides an estimate of the number of years that women and men can expect to live in good health by taking into account the years lost to violence, disease, malnutrition or other relevant factors………..the healthy life expectancy benchmark is set to be 1.06 (From the Global Gender Gap linked above – my bold)

The gap between the life expectancy for men and women is slowly decreasing in the UK, perhaps because of changing social responsibilities (women have a greater role as breadwinner), lifestyle (the proportion of women to men smoking and drinking regularly is increasing), and probably for many other complex reasons. Anything we do that decreases the gap , such finding a cure for prostate cancer, or increasing the number of women in dangerous jobs (94% of those killed in accidents at work are male), can have only a negative impact on our “Gender Gap” as measured by this index.

Decreasing the life expectancy gap between genders actually increases the “Gender Gap”: George Orwell would have been proud of this fine example of doublethink.

Of course, other examples of discrimination against men, such as compulsory military service, higher state retirement ages, or more severe punishments for the same crime, are also ignored by this and other so-called gender equality indexes.

I believe that the Gender Equality Index (European Institute of Gender Equality) at least counts gaps in both directions, but I don’t believe they include factors such as compulsory military service, retirement age differences etc: I have asked them and await a response. I wonder if we have a single, “official” gender equality index that genuinely takes an even-handed view of the situation, and includes the various factors mentioned above in which you might reasonably say men are disadvantaged. If you know of one, please let me know.

Sexism on the carpet: women forced to wear high heels, men wear whatever they like (provided it’s a dinner jacket and bow tie)

Women may prefer to be down-at-heel…

Here we go again! At a premier in Cannes a day or so ago, a number of women were refused entry via the red carpet because they were not wearing high heels. This, of course, has caused the expected howls of outrage around the theme of sexism and gender discrimination. I actually agree with the several commentators, and de-carpeted women, who tell us that high heels are uncomfortable, useless and potentially bad for the health (very bad, if you fall off them). I agree, too, that it is ridiculous to make them compulsory.

…but men always get it in the neck!

However, are women treated in an unfair or discriminatory manner compared to men? Not at all. Exactly the same rules that prevent a woman from flat-footed access to the red carpet, also force a man to use the side-door unless he is wearing the male uniform of a suit and tie. No-one can possibly complain about the sheer, bloody-minded uselessness of high heels without complaining equally loudly about the sheer, bloody-minded uselessness of the tie. High heels vie with the tie for the title of most useless, unnecessary and uncomfortable fashion accessory. The big difference, of course, is that it very unusual for a woman to be forced to wear high heels, most do it by choice. The opposite is true of ties: most men don’t wear them unless they are obliged to do so. It is a sad reflection on the efficacy of our so-called gender equality laws that very many men are still forced to wear them to work on a daily basis, whether they want to or not. Ties, for men only of course, remain the only obligatory item of clothing in many workplaces.

What it boils down to is that forcing a man to dress in a certain way is called “maintaining standards”, forcing a woman to dress in a certain way is called “sexism”.

So come on, writers, critics and commentators, let’s have some balance! If you are going to complain magna voce about this tiny number of elegant women forced to wear high heels for a special occasion, please spare at least a whisper for the much, much greater number of unwilling men forced to wear a tie on a daily basis.

Remember that gender discrimination is not only in the eyes of the beholder, but can also be around the neck of the victim.

The Head may have the final say, but gender stereotyping in schools starts at the neck!

OK, I know she’s not really a Bridlington schoolgirl – but you get the point

We have heard many times over the last few years, how important it is to remove the spectre of gender stereotyping from our schools. Usually this is in the context of encouraging girls to study subjects which have traditionally been of more interest to boys. Today, many more girls than before choose these subjects, and I doubt whether there is a single Key Stage 4 girl in the country today who feels she does not have just as must right as a boy to study Physics, Chemistry or Maths. Strangely, the fact that many more girls than boys choose to study A-level English and Modern Foreign Languages gets nowhere near the same media attention – but that is another story. Despite the emphasis on this “subject stereotyping”, it is neither the only nor the most widespread example of gender stereotyping in schools today.

As a case in point, we have an article in today’s Daily Telegraph and other newspapers, in which the Head Teacher at Bridlington School is vilified by parents for daring to ban girls from wearing skirts to school. This was the result of a male teacher telling a girl off for wearing her skirt too short and being told by the girl “You shouldn’t be looking at my legs”. The fact that the girl had the arrogance to say this, and that the teacher felt sufficiently threatened by the possibility of being the subject of unfounded allegations to report the matter to the Head, speaks volumes for both the way men are viewed in schools, and the way many schoolgirls think that rules concerning dress don’t apply to them. Thankfully the Head backed the teacher to the hilt and, after due process, changed the uniform rules. There have been other cases in the past where head  teachers have done this, for similar reasons, and been rewarded by shouts of outrage from parents.

There are two important issues involved here. The first is the right of male staff to be able to work free from embarrassment and spurious allegations. If boys in the school were behaving or dressing in a way that embarrassed women teachers, the Head, teachers, governors and parents would all come down on them like a ton of bricks. However, because this case challenges the female entitlement to push the rules and dress as they please, the male teacher’s discomfort takes second place in the eyes of many. It is shameful that a teacher should be made to feel embarrassed or threatened merely for doing his job and pointing out a uniform infringement.

The other issue is the disparity in treatment of boys and girls (and women and men, for that matter) when it comes to comfort and freedom of choice in what they wear. In similar cases to this one, several arguments have been used against the head teachers. Here are three of them. The first is that girls have a “right” to wear skirts; the second, used in the recent Bridlington argument, is that trousers are expensive; the third, used in a previous case, was that it was just so unfair to make girls wear uncomfortable trousers during the summer!

Let’s take these one by one:

1. Schoolgirls have a right to wear skirts

This comes down to the whole issue of school uniform. Personally, I am in favour of school uniform as it removes so much stress and hassle from the lives of students and parents alike. The whole rat race of designer clothes, fashion parades and keeping up with the Joneses is eradicated in one fell swoop. So, if we accept school uniform, how are boys and girls treated when it comes to freedom choice and comfort?

The obvious answer, of course, is that boys are almost universally short-changed. With the possible exception of some of the more extreme faith schools, I challenge readers to give me a verifiable example of a school with stricter dress requirements for girls than for boys. I even extend this dress-code challenge to male and female members of staff. Some schools, for instance, make both boys and girls wear ties: many more, though make only boys wear them. This is a major source of discomfort during the summer months. One school, Maiden Erlegh, near Reading, and I am sure others, takes this stereotyping a step further and allows the girls (weaker sex, little dears, bless…) to wear a more comfortable summer uniform, but makes the boys (tough little soldiers, stiff upper lip, company-directors-to-be) struggle with their ties until they start to fall off their chairs with heat stroke. This, of course, can only create ill-feeling among the boys, and does nothing at all to make them feel that the sexes are, or even should be, treated equally. In addition, and this is the nub of the case today, nearly all schools give girls the option of wearing skirts without giving boys the equivalent right to wear smart shorts. These advantages given to the girls are neither a “right” nor an “entitlement”, and if they are abused, they should be withdrawn.

With apologies to those mothers who claim that their daughters wear skirts of a reasonable length, I am afraid you have forgotten your own school days! Many girls will arrive at school in skirts the same length as when they left home, but many others do the old trick of rolling up the waistband on the way to school. Come on, Mum, don’t pretend you never did that.

2. Trousers are expensive

I don’t really know where to start on this one without stating the downright obvious. Parents of boys are obliged to buy trousers for their sons: what a strange sense of equality we have if we think girls should be able to wear a different school uniform to boys merely because it is cheaper.

3. It is so unfair to make girls wear uncomfortable, hot trousers during the summer (yes- a mother really did say this)

Touched on in item 1 above, this claim also beggars belief. Boys are always obliged to wear trousers all year round, regardless of the heat. Why do parents not complain to headteachers about their sons’ discomfort during the summer months? Why do we still think it acceptable to expect boys to tolerate a higher degree of discomfort and formality than girls? If you are going to campaign for skirts on these grounds, at least have the sense of fairness to campaign for the boys to be allowed to wear shorts.

It is not only the boys who suffer from this type of gender-stereotyping, male staff are often the victims too. The Times Education Supplement forums sometimes have threads about staff dress codes, and it is still often the case that the men are expected to wear a jacket and tie, while women, working under the same conditions, can wear a light summer skirt and a t-shirt. The women in the threads complain because they are not allowed to wear denim and flip-flops: all the men want is to be allowed to enjoy the comfort of an open-necked shirt. Incredibly in these days of equality, it seems it is still acceptable for a Head Teacher to tell men how to dress, but the moment they try to limit the woman’s right to choose, they are accused of being sexist. Thankfully it is slowly changing. It is often said that “if the pupils have to wear ties, the teachers should too”. This is a specious argument if ever there was one: there are two girls schools near where I live where the girls wear ties – the female members of staff do not!

To end on a positive note, full marks to the Haydon School in Pinner, which has a uniform policy that could be a model for other schools in  blowing away gender stereotyping and treating all pupils equally. Do the boys there wear skirts? I doubt it, but that is their choice. The only thing missing is the option of smart shorts in the summer, for both girls and boys.

So, a message to Head Teachers everywhere: if you want to remove gender-stereotyping from your school, look first at your uniform, starting at the neck and working upwards and downwards to make sure you are treating all pupils equally. Unequal requirements with respect to ties, hair length and any other items of uniform foster resentment and do nothing to instill in pupils a sense of fairness and equality. Subject your staff dress code to the same scrutiny. Don’t hide behind false arguments of “maintaining standards”. If those standards are discriminatory and unfair they should, indeed, be challenged. To do otherwise is to avoid the responsibility of all schools to do away with gender stereotyping.

Related articles across the web

How can feminism claim to be seeking equality for all?

I feel that I should start this post with a clear statement that I have nothing intrinsically against feminism. It has had, and still does have, a role to play in advocating equality and human rights for oppressed women throughout the world. There – I’ve said it. Now to the but…

There are a couple of common misconceptions propagated by, or about, the “feminist movement” which, I am afraid, really get my goat. In case anyone wonders why I used quotation marks in the previous sentence, it is because there is no such thing as a unified feminist movement: feminism is an umbrella term covering a very wide range of views and actions, ranging from the highly laudable to the downright absurd. Back to the buts…

Misconception 1. Feminism is defined as the struggle for equality for all: if you believe in gender equality, you are a feminist – wrong

I often have discussions with feminist friends and colleagues, who gleefully throw this back at me, pointing to an article quoting the above, and saying “There, told you so! Feminism is about equality for all”. Sorry, just not true, at any level. While individual feminists may, and occasionally do, believe in equality for all, the “struggle” is strictly limited to instances where women are the ones disadvantaged. This is reflected in the way feminism and feminists are defined in the most commonly used English dictionaries (my bold).

The advocacy of women’s rights on the ground of the equality of the sexes. – Oxford
1:  the theory of the political, economic, and social equality of the sexes – Merriam-Websters
2:  organized activity on behalf of women’s rights and interestsMerriam-Websters


These definitions reflect the reality of the situation: feminists claim to be something they are not when they say they are seeking equality for all. The danger of allowing a misrepresentation like this to go unchallenged is that it leads to completely unfounded accusations such as the one I saw on a blog a few days ago saying “If you are not a feminist, you are sexist”. I resent this because I believe very much in real gender equality, but I would absolutely deny being a feminist, as feminism is only half the story.

We need a new word to describe the unbiased search for equality: “humanism” may have been a good candidate, but unfortunately has been appropriated for use in a religious, or perhaps anti-religious context. The word “feminism” is not bad, it just describes accurately what is inside the box. If we really want to search for successful, sustainable gender equality, we need a new word to describe a new movement that tackles men’s issues as well as women’s. Even Emma Watson’s famous speech, in which she broke the feminist mould by daring to admit that perhaps men had problems too, is not reflected in the content of the Heforshe website, which merely calls on men to support women’s issues and ignores men’s issues completely.

Misconception 2. Feminism benefits men as much as women – wrong

It is true that feminism may benefit men indirectly in some ways. For example, having more women exercising their talents in the workplace, politics and public life has to be a good thing, provided they are there because they are the best people for the job. Men also benefit from the fact that they are slowly becoming a little less likely to be perceived as having the main responsibility to provide for the family, which may well be a contributing factor in the slow narrowing of the life expectancy gap between men and women.

I accept that there are examples such as these arising from the general trend towards gender equality, but I haven’t yet been able to find any examples of feminist organisations actively campaigning to correct an inequality where men are the ones disadvantaged. Maybe you have examples you can send me.

Examples of feminist organisations fighting for equality when men are disadvantaged compared to women.
(send them in a comment and I will put them in the box after verification…I can always make the box bigger if you send me lots…Go on – chase the flying pigs away!


There have been a very limited number of specific examples of men benefiting directly as a result of the move towards gender equality, although they can hardly be attributed to direct action by feminists. One example is the equalisation of state pension ages (in the UK), which was pushed through by the Department of Work and Pensions and opposed by the then Minister for Women and Equalities. Even now, we still have the unbelievable situation where (at the time of writing) a 63 year old man pays around 25% more tax than a 63 year old woman on the same salary.

Don’t believe that men can be so disadvantaged? Check it out. For every £100  of salary, the woman pays £40 income tax: the man pays the same plus over £10 National Insurance. She pays £40, he pays £50, 25% more)

This would not be tolerated for ten seconds if the situations were reversed, but the inequality will not finally disappear until December 2018. Where is the feminist outrage on behalf of the male victims? Why is the Minister for Equality not jumping up and down and screaming about this deliberate, legally enshrined discrimination? Which gender is being discriminated against, I wonder?

In another example, Norway has recently become the first European country to extend its military service laws so that women now have exactly the same obligation to do National Service as men. It is about time that this became a burden which no longer automatically falls only on male shoulders and, if equality means anything at all, should become the norm in those countries that still have obligatory military service. This move to end a huge discrimination against men was opposed by the Norwegian Minister of Equality. Two examples of Equality Ministers, who would no doubt claim to be feminists, resisting clear moves towards equality in cases where men are disadvantaged!

There are many other examples of men being at the sharp end of gender discrimination, but they are for previous or subsequent posts.

So what, in my humble view, is feminism? Feminism is exactly what it says on the box. It serves a useful and necessary purpose, especially when it comes to helping seriously disadvantaged women in some parts of the world. It is not generally anti-male or man-hating, although some extreme forms of it certainly are. However, the movement in no way represents the interests of men, and fights for equality only when those disadvantaged are women. That does not make it a bad thing, unless it misquotes facts or misuses statistics to do so,  but it does mean that feminists are being dishonest and hypocritical if they claim that their movement is synonymous with the struggle for equality for all. Perhaps one of you can prove me wrong, with concrete examples. I believe strongly in gender equality and I think that some feminist causes are just and laudable. I am not, however, a feminist.