On the Agenda: Gender Making News


Gender Agenda

Gender Agenda

Issue 2 Michaelmas 2002

The magazine of


Women's Union

On the Agenda: Gender Making News

Naomi Wynter-Vincent

National News

  • Babyfather – A new survey by the Equal Opportunities Commission
    has found that a majority of fathers in the UK are still failing to pull
    their weight in the home. EOC chairwoman Julie Mellor said: “Until we have
    equal pay, decent childcare and more opportunities to work flexible hours,
    many fathers will continue to find it hard to be there for their
    children; and many women will continue to lose out at work. This is not
    necessarily the best solution for parents, children or employers.” The
    study identified four ‘styles’ of fathering: from the ‘Enforcer’ dads who
    spend little time with their children but see themselves as the final
    arbiter of rules in the household; the ‘Entertainer’ dad, who gets
    involved in the ‘fun’ aspects of parenting, like playing with the
    children, but rarely helps to help with cooking and cleaning; the ‘Useful’
    father, who is happy to help with household and parental tasks, but still
    takes his cues from the mother, and the ‘fully involved’ dad, who is
    equally involved in household tasks and raising the children. The EOC
    found that most men in the UK fall into the middle two categories. 
  • Designer babies – The UK moved one step closer to parents
    being allowed to choose the sex of their baby. The Human Fertilisation and
    Embryology Authority has produced a consultation paper this month making
    the case for a relaxation of the rules surrounding sex-selection
    techniques, following medical advances in fertility treatments. Currently,
    reproductive sex-selection may be made only where there is a clear medical
    case, for example where there is a high risk of a sex-specific hereditary
    illness being passed to the foetus, but changes to legislation might mean
    that couples could choose the sex of their baby on ‘family balancing’
    grounds as well.
  • Date rape – The revelation that TV presenter Ulrika Jonsson
    was date-raped when she was 19 has put date-rape firmly back on the
    agenda. The Home Office is set to tighten up the ‘honest belief’ defence,
    in which defendants are able to say that they believed the woman had
    consented to sex. Men accused of rape will now have to convince the court
    that they took all reasonable attempts to gain explicit consent at the
    time. Currently only one in ten reports of rape ever result in a
    conviction and thousands of attacks go unreported each year.
  • Smooth criminals – It has been interesting again to note the
    way in which the press responds to women associated with violent crimes
    against children. Whilst the tabloid press still can’t countenance the
    release of jailed Moors murderer, Myra Hindley, many years after finishing
    her original sentence, Maxine Carr, charged with seeking to pervert the
    course of justice in the Soham murder case, has been the subject of
    frenzied media interest. Amidst speculation that she may have attempted
    suicide a couple of weeks ago, it is interesting to consider her treatment
    by the press compared to that of her partner, Ian Hunter. Unlike him,
    Maxine Carr has not been accused of murder but she has suffered as much if
    not more vilification in the press, and was the subject of the serious
    crowd incident which happened outside Peterborough Magistrates Court, when
    hundreds of people gathered to shout abuse (such as ‘Kill her! Kill her!),
    despite her case not yet having reached trial.

International News

  • Indians with attitude – The results of a survey in India
    suggest that Indian women are becoming more sexually assertive and less
    willing to put up with abusive or uncaring husbands. It found that Indian
    women valued sensitivity and honesty over good looks or money, and
    preferred to marry a man who was sexually inexperienced. Nearly half of
    the 2000 women interviewed declared that they were happy to take the
    initiative in sex and tell their husbands about former boyfriends. The
    survey also found a marked unwillingness to put up with domestic violence,
    with a third of those questioned saying they would fight back or leave
    their husbands. The survey has gone some way to reflect the changing
    attitudes of women in a country widely thought to be still traditionally
    patriarchal. 
  • Lipstick liberation? – There are plans to open a
    western-style beauty school in Afghanistan, funded by American companies,
    in January 2003. The school, which will be based inside the Afghan
    Ministry of Women’s Affairs in Kabul, will provide courses on hairdressing
    and beauty therapy, as well as advice on setting up and running a
    business. Companies such as Revlon and MAC will be donating make-up and
    beauty products. The idea was devised by American Aid worker Mary
    MacMakin, who sees the school as a way to encourage financial independence
    as well as a boost to the confidence of Afghan women who are only now
    emerging from their burkhas after the demise of the Taliban. Critics say
    that instruction in beauty techniques should be low on the list of
    development priorities: “Women in Afghanistan need midwives, then
    mascara,” said a spokesperson for the Women’s Alliance for Peace and Human
    Rights in Afghanistan. Supporters point out that there were underground
    beauty parlours during the Taliban regime, and that this is one way to
    help Afghan women to support themselves, re-establish themselves in the
    workforce and feel more confident about their future.
  • Sex trade in the Middle East – A conference in Dhaka has
    highlighted the problem of migrant Bangladeshi women being forced into the
    sex trade in India and the Middle East. Thousands of young women, some as
    young as 12, travel abroad to India, Kuwait, Dubai, Bahrain and Saudi
    Arabia, looking to escape a life of poverty. The Bangladesh government has
    banned young, unskilled women from travelling overseas by themselves,
    ostensibly to protect them from being sucked into the sex trade, but in
    practice women continue to travel abroad through the black market by
    paying large sums of money to unscrupulous black-market dealers who
    subsequently force the women to repay the money through prostitution.
  • Women’s gun club in US – the Second Amendment Sisters (SAS),
    a women’s pro-gun lobby, has opened its first college group at Mount
    Holyoke, a prestigious and historically left-wing women’s college in
    Massachusetts. Reacting against women’s groups in the US who oppose the
    gun-lobby, SAS see themselves as an empowered and even feminist group of
    women who do not need to rely on men to defend them: “I feel like
    self-defence is a natural part of empowerment, and I really question those
    who say they’re feminists… usually they turn to men for defence, and
    depend on them. That’s not what I was taught taking care of yourself
    meant.”

 


 

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