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.

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.

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

Are men finally shunning the noose? – another nail in the coffin of the tie

Have the media at last stopped worrying about what politicians wear?

This election has been one of the most amusing and close-fought for many years and, hopefully, we can expect a good turnout on Polling Day. I am not the most sartorially aware of men, but I have noticed a significant change in the media this year. So often in the past, the media has seemed to comment on the way politicians dress, rather than their policies. This year, perhaps because they have found an abundance of other subjects to talk about, dress has taken a back seat. I know that it is a common complaint from feminists that women politicians are unfairly targeted by the media when it comes to their appearance: I have made it clear in other posts that I believe this is due to the fact that they are allowed to to choose what they wear while the men are forced to wear their school uniform. It will come as no surprise, then, that the most significant aspect of this for me is that the men have not received a constant barrage of criticism for daring to appear in public without a tie. This contrasts greatly to the last election when the appearance of David Cameron or Gordon Brown in an open-necked shirt prompted a whole string of outraged invective in the media. Why the change?

Another nail in the coffin of the noose!

Since the last election, the relentless demise of the tie has continued apace, with more and more men coming to regard it as an optional fashion accessory rather than an obligatory discomfort to be endured until heat stroke is imminent. If you think this is an exaggeration, remember that the first thing you are taught on a first aid course is to remove a man’s tie so that he stands a chance of breathing freely!

High heels vie with ties as the most pointless items of clothing (Guess who is in these shoes)

Lets face it, the two most useless items of clothing in everyday use are the tie for men and high heels for women ( the difference being, of course, that high heels are always a choice, whereas ties are still often forced on men). It is a mystery why men have accepted the imposition of the tie for so long, when women have gradually been allowed so much more flexibility in what they wear. It is not only politicians leading the way in the struggle to show that men are quite capable, if they choose, of working successfully without the constraint of a leash!

BBC current affairs and news presenters are also more frequently seen sans corde on television than was the case in the past, the most notable, perhaps, being Evan Davis. Mr Davis treats the tie for what it is – a fashion accessory, to be worn when the mood dictates, rather than following a dictate of the producer. His predecessor, Jeremy Paxman, did not have Evan’s strength of character and bottled out after his foray into tielessness led to complaints to the BBC.

Perhaps one of the funniest political moments of the year was the absolute incredulity of the British and European political establishment when the newly elected Prime Minister of Greece dared to meet them without the benefit of his full uniform. When Mr Alexis Tsipras was inaugurated earlier this year, every radio news broadcast started with words along the lines of “Mr Alexis Tsipras, who was not wearing a tie…”

Senior European politicians were completely taken aback by the barefaced (or, perhaps, barenecked) cheek of a man who succeeded in being elected to high office despite refusing to follow their dress code. They clearly thought that the world as they know it was about to come to an end, trials and tribulations would beset the oligarchy of Brussels and Strasbourg, and the one island of stability in the ever-changing ocean of European politics, the ironically comfortable uniformity of the obligatory male tie, was about to sink beneath the waves for ever. One of them even publicly offered him a tie to wear, which Mr Tsipras accepted with good humour: no doubt it is now in the bin. There is still a long way to go until men have the freedom to dress as they please: a freedom enjoyed by women for decades. Nevertheless, good luck to all those high profile men, who don’t see why they should be trussed up like turkeys for the whole of their working lives.

Domestic violence is a problem for men, too

Once again we see an online article in a major national newspaper misrepresenting or, rather, partially representing, the nature of domestic violence in the UK. There is a comment in the Daily Telegraph today (24th April 2015) entitled “Domestic violence is on the political agenda like never before“, which portrays women as the only victims of domestic violence. Whilst there is nothing factually incorrect in this piece (that I know of, anyway), it falls into the trap of so many other such articles by completely ignoring the many male victims of domestic violence, and violence generally, in our country. The struggle to end violence against women and girls is, of course, enormously important and worthy of publicity, but in the whole of this rather lengthy article there is not a single word about male victims.

It is an interesting fact that these articles never give links back to the original source of data, which is the Office of National Statistics. For those with a genuine interest in the reality behind the gender-biased hype, this is the link to the real figures released on 12th February 2015 by the ONS. These figures are broadly in line with those published in previous years. Please don’t misunderstand me, it is true that greater numbers of women than men  are the victims of domestic violence. However, it is equally true that men are the most likely by far to be victims of violence generally, and 68%, over two-thirds, of murder victims are men. Many, if not most, of these male victims, are no more likely to be able effectively to defend themselves than women, even if misplaced male pride prevents them from admitting it.

The actual split of domestic abuse victims by gender is women 1,400,000, men 700,000: the first figure you will see reported everywhere, the second will very rarely be quoted. To ignore it so completely is an insult to those 700,000 men who must feel that no-one is interested and nobody cares. It is  highly probable that the figure for men is greatly understated as male victims are much less likely than women to report their abuse due to the fear of being mocked or disbelieved. The sheltered facilities provided for male victims are a very, very tiny fraction of those provided for women. I have neither the time nor the inclination to check the figures, but it is reputed that there are more spaces in sheltered accommodation for abused horses than for abused men, rather as fish are better represented in the Cabinet than men are.

Of course we should do everything possible to stop violence against women and girls, but please let us have just a little bit of even-handedness in the way we report the blight of domestic violence.

Although male victims are generally ignored by the media, politicians and feminists, it is recognised as a real problem by more sensible and less soundbite-conscious folk and advice is available if required. If you are affected by this you can get information from the Men’s Advice Line, The Mankind Initiative, and the NHS.

Labour Launches “Pink Manifesto” – do they really need to be so patronising to women today?


Vincent.limshowchen_-_Bee_and_flower_(by-sa)After shooting themselves in the foot by using a pink bus to attract women to the polling stations, perhaps rather like a plant hoping to use a colourful flower to attract recalcitrant bees, the Labour Party has now launched its pink manifesto “A Better Future for Women“. The colour doesn’t bother me in the least, although it does seem to be something of a rebuke to the various feminist organisations that complain vociferously about the injustice of marketing pink clothes for girls! What does concern me, though, is the patronising approach to women adopted in the document

The most overtly patronising part of the manifesto is Section 4 “Equality in Public Life”. Despite protestations to the contrary, women do have equal opportunity today. Young girls can, and do follow any career they choose, and for which they have the necessary qualifications and personal characteristics. All girls today know this: to assume otherwise is to question the intelligence of a whole generation of young women. They may still choose not to go into certain careers, but that is a different issue. I passed two teams of refuse collectors on the road today: out of a total of about ten workers, none was female.

Do women really still need men to give them a hand up?

In this respect, the concept of positive discrimination is outdated and inappropriate: it is unfair to the person discriminated against, and belittling to the person who benefits. This is especially true of all woman shortlists for parliamentary candidates. At best, these are demeaning for the poor women who need a hand up in order to compete with the men: at worst, they are atrociously anti-democratic and dictatorial. I suspect, but this is just a personal view with no supporting evidence, that there are far fewer women than men with a burning desire to become Members of Parliament. If this is indeed the case, why on Earth should it be written in stone that half of all MPs should be female? The same goes for the composition of the Cabinet. If there are fewer women than men in parliament, insisting on fifty percent in the Cabinet is, statistically, lowering the bar for ministers by saying that a ministerial position must be given to a (relatively) under qualified woman to the exclusion of a better qualified man. Of course women should be fairly represented in public office, but only if they are the best person for the job. The current political sound-bite for this is “getting the best value for money for the taxpayer”. True, sustainable equality is equality of opportunity, not equality of outcome. Only 150 out of 30,000 midwives are men, but I wouldn’t expect to be given the job just because I filled in the application form and have the necessary tools (a Swiss army knife and two pieces of string)! I imagine that the potential mothers, too, would prefer a properly qualified woman, even if the search for the Holy Grail of equality of numbers was not being served.

Do Nicola Sturgeon and the SNP believe that men should receive their state pension at a younger age than women?

Nicola Sturgeon believes that higher state pension ages disadvantage Scots, who have a shorter life expectancy than those South of the border. Does this mean they believe men should receive their pension earlier than women?

We all know that for many decades men have received their state pension at the age of 65, whilst women, who have a significantly longer life expectancy, received it, until very recently, at 60. The pension ages are very slowly being equalised and by 2018, both men and women will retire at 65: this move was announced in 1995! Afterwards, state pension age for both men and women is set to rise together to 66 and ever upwards.

The assumption has always been that men and women’s state pension ages would then remain equal, despite the obvious fact that women’s greater life expectancy means they will receive their pension, on average, for several years longer than men. However, a surprise policy announcement this week by Nicola Sturgeon, leader of the Scottish National Party, throws that into doubt and suggests that, in their view, pension ages should be linked to life expectancy.

According to Ms Sturgeon, in the event of a hung parliament the SNP will refuse to support any rises in state pension age as this disadvantages Scots, who live, on average, around two years less than their English counterparts. Although the difference between men and women was not stated explicitly in this announcement, the gap in life expectancy between the two countries is significantly less than that between men and women throughout the UK. This must lead to speculation that SNP policy on fairness in state pension age will inevitably lead to moves to make women work two or more years longer than men in order to receive the same pension.

On the face of it, that is not unreasonable, as it means that the average man and the average woman will receive their pensions for around the same length of time. It remains to be seen, though, how women’s pressure groups will react to the possibility of this further step towards pension equality.