Women ‘Let Down’ by Home Programmes: Dismissed as a Scary Ideology

4 Jan

I wanted to blog about how let down I feel women are by the home programs aimed at women.

Particularly I find distasteful the pro-misogynist crafting stance, which is utterly trivialising b****ks designed to make women feel guilty for not hand knitting their own toilet roll and making their homes look like a Kath Kidston showroom. In particular ‘Kirsty’s Home-made Christmas’ presents an arguable sexist, dogmatic and scary ideology that women should be working their fingers to the bone to create an outdated Christmas ideal that barely reflects the reality of the working woman.

The ideology the programs espouse fails to represent the needs of hundreds of thousands of women and men who have no desire to live in a twee environment or sew teddy bears, and whose confidence is damaged by the huge guilt perpetuated by such nonsense.

One viewer, who chose to remain anonymous said “The programmes are failing ordinary people like me. I’m privileged that I can afford Christmas, and ultimately all I want is a healthy happy family at Christmas time. I feel let down at the immense social pressure these programs put on women to behave in a certain way and conform to outdated stereotypes. I had a perfectly normal Christmas and everyone was fine in the end, but the whole experience was soured by being made to feel a failure by opting to join in with these voluntary programs”.

Responding to the comments, chief spokeswoman Mary Christmas said “Lifestyle programmes cover all aspects that are expected of a woman at Christmas, including spending excessive amounts of time sourcing and creating things which can be bought one eBay, or simply not used. The content of the programs is also influenced by the express needs and wants of the advertising industry and magazine spin-off opportunities they create. This means that some topics may be discussed at more lengths than others”.  Adding “I encourage feedback from others and ask them to contact me directly”.

I wanted to have a beautiful homemade Christmas, but couldn’t for various reasons, like having kids, a job, a normal amount of money and desire to have a life.

Sometimes that isn’t possible and an ordinary microwave-veg Christmas dinner with supermarket crackers and decorations is necessary, sometimes even engaging the men. I feel that women should be prepared for that too and not made to feel that they have failed if they don’t hand stitch every last c**king bauble themselves.


Obstructing Equality

19 Nov


I’ve added a great new post on the new .co.uk version of this blog – why not hop on over and take a look?! It’s here : Obstructing Equality

If you haven’t already signed up to continue follow the blog over there, please please do 🙂

This page will continue to be updated with links for a little while, then will ultimately be redirected – the IT hamsters are on it!


A New Home!

15 Nov

It’s a new day, it’s a new dawn, it’s a new blog, and I’m fee-eeling good!

If you’re new to the In a Different Voice blog, then welcome 🙂  If you’re a regular visitor, then I’m pleased to announce that the blog will soon be relocating to a new home!

Inadifferentvoice.co.uk is now up and running. Please free to have a look around and tell me what you think 🙂 I’m not sure of the etiquette to launch a new page – perhaps I should smash a bottle of champagne on the laptop in a minute to formalise the occasion?!

If you subscribe to the this blog, please accept my massive MASSIVE apologies for having to ask you to do it again on this site. I know it takes an effort to fill in the details and I’m conscious lots of friends did it already. I can assure you though that I have no intention of moving again! If you ‘follow’ via WordPress as a fellow blogger, in a few weeks time this should auto-redirect (although you’re welcome to subscribe via email instead!)

In the meantime, both pages will run while we cross the t’s and dot the lower-case j’s, and hopefully all the old links will soon redirect there with no need to do anything.

I’ve been blogging on the wordpress.com site for just under a year, and have had such a wonderful time doing it I thought I’d branch out and get a whole big page sorted. To be honest the ads for flatter stomachs and the like weren’t really to my taste, and pretty well contradicted what I talk about, so decided to take control.

Thanks again for reading – your comments make this great fun!


PS. Massive thanks to my web-guru – you know who you are xx

The Misogynist Elephant

6 Nov Copyright (c) 123RF Stock Photos

The under-representation of women in news reporting has come into the spotlight once again this week, courtesy of a series of high profile debates and discussions about women’s issues, which fail to involve women’s voices. The concern isn’t new;  the Guardian have run commentary and analysis on the ridiculously low levels of female participation in shows like the ‘Today Programme’ for some time, and continue to highlight how skewed the print media is against women’s voices.

Attention has rightly been focused on research and editorial decisions which silence women through poor representation, with a cyclical and oversimplified response of ‘we looked and couldn’t find any’ being neatly disposed of by Week Woman founder and journalist Caroline. Just a few days after the launch of the new ‘Women’s Room’ directory – a voluntary register for women to list their experience/expertise to help find these elusive ‘skilled women’ – many women have willingly signed up.

At the same time an uncomfortable theme has been emerging of women who are clearly experts feeling reluctant to say so. I’m not talking about those who say they just don’t want to be listed (which is fine – it’s not everyone’s cup of tea) but those who genuinely question whether they are good enough. In some cases, the challenge has not been locating women with expertise, but finding them confident enough to want to speak or write about it.

Yet these are not women afraid to speak. Tweeps, bloggers, women with careers, women who fight day-in and day-out as carers… i.e. people who have to use their voice to assert themselves in regular life, seemingly receiving the same message that they aren’t quite important enough to comment on anything in the news. It’s a worrying reality, because this most likely reflects the trend of low-confidence that seems to affect so many women, frequently to our own detriment as well as to others’.

There is an inherent risk (and arguably a culture) of jumping the gun and asserting that this justifies women’s absence in the media and other positions in society. But we mustn’t conflate observation with causation here.  That women feel less worthy to promote their expertise in a culture that repeatedly sends the message that women’s expertise is not worthy, is no more a surprise than it is the fault of the women involved.

I would even go as far as to say that we are not comfortable in Britain with female success. There’s a mind-set of enjoying seeing someone publicly brought down a peg or two; women may occupy some positions of authority, but heaven help them if they ‘know it’. Take for example Dragon’s Den, where the ‘dragons’ have become symbolic of the shrewd businessman – and contrast it with the huge attention and critique of the (until recently) sole female dragon Deborah Meaden, whether on her judgement, wardrobe, communications style – you name it she is scrutinised and picked up on by comedians more than the others put together. Or Samantha Brick, a case of such multi-level irony which had even seasoned feminist commentators tangling themselves in knots, which was perfectly laid out by the Daily Mail to faux-challenge and ruthlessly hammer home the message that a confident woman is to be ridiculed. Let alone the unending both subtle and blatant scrutiny of female politicians, not least the recent treatment of Harriet Harman for the supporting the campaign to end Page 3.

There’s a big grey area between the legislative rights women have to equality and the respect of those rights shown culturally in the UK, which to me is the misogynist elephant in the room at many discussions about why women are under-represented in X,Y or Z arena. Arguably most of the focus of Thirdwave feminism has been directed at this grey area, which makes it so tricky to easily define. It’s not unusual to find the sheer scope of the difficulties in overcoming this persistent cultural sexism outright daunting. On any given issue, critics can merely point to all the other parts of the grey area and say ‘why aren’t you questioning these?!’   In many ways, recent legislatures (not the current one) have matured more quickly on equal rights in principle through the human rights model, than UK culture can keep up with.

Until high-profile women can be respected unconditionally for their achievements without always being judged, picked apart, patronised on looks, questioned on integrity or subject to the barrage of irrelevant negativity that seems to fly past many successful men… all the equality legislation in the world and tick-box representation won’t address the cultural sexism which is so pervasive in the UK.

And that is one very good reason why women putting their hands up and giving their voices and expertise is so important.


*This post was originally written for the WeekWoman Magazine: http://weekwoman.wordpress.com

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Cover image courtesy of Copyright (c) http://www.123rf.com 123RF Stock Photos

Fun v Fear

24 Oct

I want to be a good parent. I want to take my daughters on idyllic trips out and about to meet the world with wonder. I do, and they do. And this is what often happens:

Agenda for the autumn walk:
1. Go for an adventure in the woods/park/etc.
2. Get grubby.
3. Find interesting things to touch, pick up, play with
4. Run with carefree abandon.
5. Collect leaves.
6. Fall into satisfied fresh-air fuelled slumber.
7. Kids tell Dad what a great time they had.
Minutes of the autumn walk:
1. Littlest refuse to wear the reins, four-year-old legs it out of sight. I panic about losing them all.
2. Kids run at biggest muddy bogs they can find, soaking each other and ending crying. I stress.
3. Kids head straight for spiky things, stinging nettles and litter. I repeatedly end up saying ‘ooh, not that one!’ ‘don’t touch it! DON’T TOUCH IT!!’
4. Kids run straight for tree roots, brambles and other trip hazards. I run behind with creased forehead and oh-god-someone’s-going-to-fall-face. Someone falls.
5. Kids interested only in collecting gunky rotting leaves or mud. I don’t want to put it in my bag and kids won’t carry it.
6. Everyone bundles back in the car stressed and grumpy.
7. Kids tell Dad what a great time they had.
The weird thing is that they don’t even seem to notice – they genuinely think it’s fab! I can’t help suspecting this is normal; kids go wild while parents internally freak out at sheer range of potential danger! Are we just carry their fear for them until they learn to use it themselves, or are we penciling in unnecessary boundaries? Answers on a postcard…


Sympathy Clicks

14 Oct

For about the twentieth time this week, a Facebook update has appeared from someone ‘liking’ a picture purporting to represent some stranger or animal with a severe disability/injury asking to agree they are beautiful. Call me cynical, and I am not doubting there may be some genuine examples, but I have a sneaky suspicion this trend for the condescending ‘like’ is turning into a weird game and has little to do with caring about actual people.

I’m rather baffled as to what these ‘chain-likes’ are meant to achieve. Is it meant to show compassion? Promote disability equality? ‘Break barriers’? I really don’t know. I just have this vision of thousands of ‘likers’ sitting nodding smugly to themselves at their generosity at clicking a thumbs-up button of a child who’s too young to know what being famous on Facebook even means. There seems to be little more to it than that, which is depressing given the level of dependency there frequently is on charitable support and need to highlight issues affecting disabled people and their carers. Moreover, there’s a myriad of useful things which could be done with the click of a button. Being ‘liked’ on pages which are often about shallow beauty contests for teenagers (which I find slightly disturbing anyway) seems utterly pointless; imagine the possibilities if those hundreds of thousands of people clicked a link to sign a petition, or to email their elected politician on behalf of a local issue, or offer some help to local carers’ charities.

There are many worthwhile causes which find getting people’s support incredibly hard, while at the same time so many people are apathetic or disengaged and don’t know how easy it is to have a voice in their community, or on issues that matter to them. Clicking on a Facebook page without following it up with any action – is basically just publicly doing nothing at all. Hell it wouldn’t hurt if more people saved up their energy from the clicks and used it to actually vote once every four years.

So here’s an alternative:

Life can be so cruel

Beauty has its downsides

This is my dog Barkney. She’s being pursued by the local boy-dogs for her cutesy good looks, but she’s upset that they mistake her for a virginal dog-next-door. To show that we understand what a dirty dog she really is, she said she would love you to browse at Change.org and find something useful to contribute to. Or if you’re stuck for time she suggested these:

Or just look at your local NHS or Council website, see what they are consulting on, and give them a reply. They love, love, love it. Especially if you’re not retired, and/or a disgruntled user, because those contributions are rarer than unicorn poo.

But please… enough of the pointless sympathy clicks already!

*UPDATED* Perhaps this answers some of my questions http://uk.news.yahoo.com/facebook-spam-scam-secret-revealed.html

The Mind of a Toddler

6 Oct

I have literally no idea what goes on in the mind of a toddler.

One of my youngest (nearly two) has become hugely attached to a toy she found in the kitchen yesterday.

I say toy, it’s more of a pet.

I say pet; it’s actually a potato. Or rather a pair of them.

So far this morning she has been inseparable from said pets, and has taken them for a walk in her play pram, cuddled them continuously, and while I was reading them all a story she crept off to give them a bottle of milk.

I offered her a range of more appropriate toys/pets, but she is adamant that only spud and tater will do.

The mind boggles.