Monday, November 19, 2012

Red tape and red herrings

Wish I had time to write about this at more length.  Maybe later.  Still... This is totally chilling.  David Cameron says he wants to "cut red tape". What he's actually doing is removing almost all of the checks and balances that exist to ensure proposed legislation works properly and doesn't disadvantage particular groups. The loss of equalities assessments means they can now just bring in new policies without bothering to check if they will have a negative impact on certain groups. And getting rid of the 12 weeks of consultation on new policies is frightening.  So they can just steamroller new policy through without anyone who might be affected having a chance to voice their concerns.  It rather begs the question - why would politicians WANT this?  If I was developing new policy I'd want a period of time to listen to ideas and views on it and have the chance to modify it to reflect what is best for everyone.  I'd also want to have a look at the impact of it on disadvantaged groups. Can only think you'd have to be REALLY corrupt to not even want to check that.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

A problem called Maria. Or why this government is a DISASTER on women's issues. Line-by-line.

Maria Miller is the government's Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sports and Minister for Women and Equalities. Note firstly just how much has been dumped on one persons plate. Presumably she allocates Mondays to her constituents, Tuesdays to parliamentary business, Wednesdays to Culture and uh-oh, appoints an underling to cover Equalities once they've finished the photocopying. Secondly note the horrific contradiction. Sport and the media are two of the areas where women get the roughest deal. The Leveson Enquiry has heard about women's appalling treatment in the major papers and sport these days is another word for a section of the paper aimed exclusively at men. I want a Womens Minister who's going to grab the Secretary of State for Sport by the lapels and not let go til legislative change begins. Thirdly note the order of the jobs, culture first, women and equalities last. Fourthly, yes FOURTHLY, it's that bad, have a look at the article Ms Miller wrote today in the Huffington Post. It's called "The Airy Fairy Generalisations of Women in the Workplace" because discussing how sexism can be overcome is a fluffy subject and all us silly girls who waste our time lounging about spilling yet another bottle of Chardonnay discussing it need a good talking to. Here's what's wrong with every single line of it...

"There's an awful lot of nonsense spoken and written about women and employment."
I know, not least because I sense I might be reading it right now.
"Airy generalisations slug it out with specious stereotyping and the simple reality gets lost in the clatter."
This doesn't really seem to mean anything does it? We have to generalise about problems in the workplace if we are to solve them. Unless she plans on going round every woman in the UK individually and helping them one by one. We have to identify common problems and solve them. Inaccurate (or specious) stereotyping of women is also known as sexism. One thing we need to do it identify that and call it out. None of this is clatter - it's prejudice and efforts to combat it. The reality is not simple at all, if it was we'd have solved it centuries ago.
"Because the truth is, that women are at the heart of this country's economic growth strategy."
Yes. As far as I can tell the economic growth strategy is to rip every piece of support out from under the feet of women (and of course children, the elderly, the disabled and the health service) and spend the money letting mega corporations off their tax bills, right?
"And if we're serious about recovery - and we are - we must to do everything possible to maximise their contribution to the workplace."
Hmm, but women already do more hours of (paid and unpaid) work every week than men. I don't want my contribution maximised, I want my reward for that work equalised. 
"But, although there are more women in work than ever before, there are still real barriers to women entering and progressing in work."
Oh yes, sexism, let go Maria, cut the clatter and call out the sexism.
"And this is not just about focusing on boardrooms, and encouraging more female faces there."
I don't remember anyone saying it was, guess I must have hit the target with the Chardonnay that night! But more "female faces" (not bodies, eww, with their icky vaginas and breasts) in the boardroom is vital to raise the aspirations of women further down the ladder. So we "clatter" on about it for a reason.
"It's just as important to work on how things are in everyday families, and what women are doing to balance their financial needs and career aspirations with family life."
Screech... Stop right there, two things (1) Did we just suddenly jump from what's best for women to what's best for families? Trust me, whatever is best for me is also best for my lodger, my fuckbuddy and that stray cat I sometimes feed. But DO NOT go assuming women = families. Even if I did have a doting husband, 2.4 kids and a golden retriever it is still not acceptable to assume my needs are subordinate to theirs. (2) Another problem word here is "balance", I image you used it because some underpaid intern told you "juggle" was totes last year. Women do not want to balance their needs or juggle their priorities they want to meet their needs and satisfy their priorities. As soon as you say "balance" or "juggle" you imply that women who dare to breed are wilfully putting themselves in a precarious and probably untenable position. Anyone caught balancing or juggling children should be asked to leave the circus.
"Whenever women get together to talk about the prospect of going back to work after having had a baby, it's a fair bet that the one worry that unites them all, regardless of their background or circumstances, will be a single question: what am I going to do about childcare?"
Also whether anyone can get the Chardonnay open with a steak knife cos one of the kids appears to have eaten the corkscrew. Same old, same old. But yes, accepted, this country is crap at childcare, we can do better, onwards, Miller, onwards.
"And I stress the first person singular in this because, for all the advances that have taken place in modern relationships, this remains one question that pretty well always falls to the mother to resolve."
Maybe true. So lets tackle that first up. Paternity leave. Lets make it as long as maternity leave, shall we? Write that down please.
"And if it's not sorted out to the mother's satisfaction, then it very often becomes a show-stopper for the whole return to work issue."
Yeah those crazy women who aren't prepared to leave little Timmy in a disused silo for the afternoon, eh? Whatcha gonna do?
"If a mother can't be as close to 100 per cent sure that her child is safe and well cared for, her chances of working effectively can dwindle to nothing."
Because its a gender thing. Men are able to focus fully on the photocopying while their little darlings are gaffer taped to the wall in the utility closet.
"And for every woman - and there are far too many, I fear - that ends up abandoning the world of work because there are just no childcare options available, other than mum staying at home, there can all too often be another missed opportunity for personal fulfilment."
Lets hope your idea of personal fulfilment doesn't involve making it onto the executive board though, cos we're having none of that!
"Which is not to denigrate or dismiss stay-at-home mums."
No, but it is to very rudely ignore stay-at-home, single, primary care-giver and gay dads. In case you were wondering. You've also completely forgotten to do anything for women who don't have kids. But ho-hum, eh. 
"It's having the choice that makes the difference."
If you're well off that is of course, if you dare to be poor and on benefits your choice to stay home with your kids is out.
"And it's not having the choice that stifles ambition."
Also sexism. The one word Maria Miller can't say out loud. Sexism.
"So a big priority for me as Secretary of State in the government with responsibility for women and equality, has been to see what can be done to address this."
...and you'll get on the case just as soon as you finish criticising women who are promoting other ways to boost women's position in the workplace. I suppose I shouldn't moan, at least you're not in a jungle eating bugs.
"I'm beginning with a new £2 million scheme to provide grants to help people wanting to set up a nursery or child-minding business in England."
Seriously, there are women out there, like me, with a maths degree. That's less than 4p per person in the UK. That's how much childcare matters to you? That's one three thousandth of the estimated tax bill your colleagues have just let Vodaphone off the hook for. It's pathetic, it's so insulting you might as well just write "FUCK YOU" on every single child benefit cheque sent out.
"From next April, grants of up to £500 will be available to help cover things like legal and insurance costs, training, equipment and adaptations to premises."
I strongly suspect this isn't going to be enough to make much of a difference, but I'll humour you on this one Maria, lets assume 100% take-up and success rate (you know, like other government projects have had...).
"This could lead to as many as 6,000 more childcare businesses getting off the ground."
And assuming an ambitious 8 kids per day care, that's an extra childcare place for every 1,292 people in the UK. Better hope the other 1,290 don't decide to have their kid in the same decade as you, eh?!
"And this could be an especially neat win-win, because the businesses themselves will provide jobs themselves, as well as helping to get their clients back to work."
Great news stay-at-home mums, the Minister for Women is here to liberate you from raising your kid on your own to raising eight kids all at once! Now act grateful.
"And the great majority of the new jobs created in the sector will, on past experience, go to women."
So the plan is, seriously, lets not push women into boardrooms, lets have them mop up baby puke for minimum wage? Really? That's the plan?
"Another thing I like about this kind of solution is that it goes with the grain of how people - and not just women - prefer to operate."
Yes that's how I prefer to operate. I like to have someone make incorrect assumptions about me, refuse to do anything about my actual problems and offer me a distant long shot at a pittance in support to do an incredible difficult and important job that I probably don't want for not much money.
"There's no compulsion in it, no externally imposed requirement that puts a burden on businesses which, in many cases, are finding it hard simply to keep their heads above water."
Oh great, lets fight sexism by not actually requiring businesses with demonstrable track records of sexism to do anything about it. After all what if not being an asshole is DIFFICULT or something?
"The grants will complement people's drive and initiative as they set up childcare businesses, and help provide a genuine and much-needed service for employees and employers alike."
But just to be clear it will still be the employees who are paying for this. And the employers will contribute their 4p a head by paying tax. Well they might do, or they might manage to sort that out quietly over canap├ęs at some flash Whitehall function.
"But the wider point here, as I said at the beginning of this piece, is to do with the position that women occupy in our society as a whole and in the workplace in particular."
Wider? Than 4p worth of help each? Oh Maria, you charmer...
"We're serious about this and our childcare business grant initiative comes on top of a package of measures that the Government is taking forward to boost childcare, including extending the right to request flexible working to all employees and allowing parents to share up to a year's leave to care for their new born child."
Yes allowing parents to share up to a year of leave. The same year that women used to get while men got at least a few weeks. I'm all for making it flexible - which, footnote, was Nick Clegg's idea so (1) not your party and (2) probably wont actually happen then - but ultimately you're actually taking away leave, not offering something extra.
"So we're on the way to creating the conditions in which a truly fair and equal society can exist."
We're 4p a head and several weeks less overall parental leave on the way. Excuse me if I'm not skipping.
"There's much still to do, and I can't wait to get on with it."
Here's the next thing I think you should do. Take one large glass of Chardonnay, call a press conference and say this: Sexism exists. Sexism is a problem. Women's issues are not the same thing as childcare issues. The pay gap is real, discrimination is real. Equality is impossible with rape and domestic violence at epidemic levels. We need to stop dismissing discussion of women's rights as "clatter" and start listening to and acting on what experts in the field are saying. This is more important than sports and culture. This is more important than me desperately trying to appease as many people as possible for the benefit of my career. This is so important that I'm going to stand up to Cameron and Osborne and fight for this until real money is committed and real change takes place.
That would mean a lot more to the field of women and employment than this nonsense.

Saturday, November 03, 2012

Oh look, racism on the BBC website...

A video sequence showing the history of immigration to the US.  Fair enough.  But check the later part... Daunting heavy-base horror-film type music and they question whether one day white non-hispanic people might become a MINORITY in the US.  As if that's a bad/scary thing. Oh dear.