Tuesday, 23 September 2014

Feminism Must Stop Being Used as a Synonym for Man-Hating (#HeForShe)

Not my words (in my best Alan Carr voice), the words of Emma Watson in a speech to the United Nations. She was launching a new UN Women campaign, HeForShe; a gender-equality campaign which Emma herself has formally invited all men to join.

The speech focused on gender stereotyping of men and women, and how it affected both themselves and the opposite gender. "You don't often talk about men being imprisoned by gender stereotypes," Watson emotionally orated, "but I can see that they are, and when they are free things will change for women as a natural consequence."

She added, "If men don't have to be aggressive in order to be accepted, then women won't feel compelled to be submissive. If men don't have to control, women won't have to be controlled."

Gender, and indeed sexual, stereotyping is something that I have often been subjected to. For example, I really like musicals; when I'm in London I will often go and see a show if I possibly can; but such a position is seen by society as un-masculine or simply gay (despite Neil Patrick Harris telling us it's not just for gays any more). Well, I'm straight - so such a stereotype is a problem for me.

I was lucky to be brought up by a family that didn't push gender stereotypes on to me, in the same way that Emma Watson (as she says in her speech) was lucky to be afforded advice and encouragement that was blind to her gender.

Emma also tackled the problem of how feminism is seen, in her speech. She said, "fighting for women's rights, has far too often become synonymous with man-hating. If there is one thing for certain, it is that this has to stop." This could be taken in two ways, and perhaps it was left purposely ambiguous.

As a students' union welfare officer (5 years ago now), I was more or less excluded from feminism, and the reason was because I was never invited, or welcomed, to stand with the women's campaign. Isn't that horrendous? Isn't that just counter-productive? Indeed, Waston told the UN the same. She referenced a 1997 speech by Hillary Clinton about women's rights, where only a small proportion of the audience were male. This exclusion was what stuck out for Emma, "How can we affect change in the world, when only half of it is invited, or feel welcome, to participate in the conversation?"

That half of the world has been formally, indeed cordially, invited to join this campaign. I intend to do so. Who's with me?


Tuesday, 16 September 2014

The Case for Yes is "Not Proven"

Those who know anything about the Scottish legal system will know that there are three verdicts that can be arrived at in a criminal court case; guilty, not guilty, and not proven.

Not proven doesn't acquit the defendant, it just means that the prosecution's case hasn't been strong enough to convict - and the default position is the defendant is free to go.

The same situation seems to have arisen in the Scottish Referendum. If you believe the polls, the Yes campaign has simply not proven the case for independence, and in the end Scotland will vote for the default position of remaining in the union. The Yes camp have simply failed to answer the big questions on currency, jobs, the economy, and business, and can't provide any reassurance on things like corporation tax that will keep large companies domicile in Scotland (and therefore paying all their tax to the Scottish government).

With just 31 hours until the polls open, time is running out for the nationalists to prove to the Scottish people that they should vote Yes.


11 Things That Could Decide The Scottish Referendum On Thursday

The Scottish Independence Referendum is on a knife-edge. It could go either way, with the polls saying it’s just too close to call on whether the people of Scotland will vote to end the 307-year union, or remain within the United Kingdom.

I have created a BuzzFeed post (my first) which details 11 things that could decide the outcome on Thursday.



Wednesday, 10 September 2014

Scottish Referendum Polls: No Isn't Losing Ground, Yes Is Gaining It

You should never base a shift of public opinion on just one poll, but one poll is all it took for Cameron, Clegg, and Milliband to decamp north of the border in an attempt to save the three-hundred year old union.

What is interesting though, is that there aren't less people who would vote No, just more people who would vote Yes.

Back in February 2013, when the date of the independence referendum was set, polls showed that 47% would vote No, and 32% would vote Yes (21% Don't Know), a lead of 15 points for No. Whilst individual polls have been jumping up and down (indeed, one poll had 65% Yes, 26% No - most certainly an outlier) the trend of support has seen No stay where it started, and Yes gain ground from the don't knows.

The latest polls show No is on about 47-48%, and Yes on 42-44%. So as you can see, it is Yes that have gained from those who hadn't made up their minds, at least 10% of voters in total, and No have been stationary. Perhaps that is the reason for the Westminster visitors today; the failure of the Better Together campaign to secure the votes of those who will actually decide the vote next week - and from a very strong starting position.

It is quite likely that when the people of Scotland visit the polling stations, those who are still unsure will vote for the apparent status quo. Plenty of close referendums have ended up that way, and there's no reason to think that won't be repeated in Scotland. The job for Alex Salmond is to convince those people to vote Yes before they set out to the ballot box.

The good news for him, and the Yes campaign, is they've been pretty good at that so far; but is the intervention of the leaders of the unionist parties the very thing that might just persuade those undecided to stay in the union. We'll see very soon.


Friday, 20 June 2014

Labour's Problem: Miliband Too Easy to Take the Piss Out Of

What's Wallace (Ed Miliband) up to now? Offering everyone in the country an owl? No, just repackaging the current government policy of compulsory unpaid work for the long term jobless (with the loss of benefits for refusal) and ending up with compulsory training for young people out of work (with, again, loss of benefits for refusal). Is that what employers are really crying out for?

Of course, the problem is that such a policy is too easy for the opponents of Labour to take the piss out of because it's so inconsistent with their previous young job guarantee scheme policy, and the attacks on the current (very similar) government provision - not to mention it being a very un-Labour policy.

But worse than that; is is a policy that won't even be remembered next week, partly because it has no legs, but mostly because it was overshadowed by more piss taking after the Labour press twitter account was "hacked" (by which they mean the password was not strong or obscure enough) and announced that it was now Labour policy for everybody to "have his own owl". The Huffington Post getting in there first with the response above, and others also putting the boot in.

The Labour front bench often get rolled out saying how good a response they're getting about Ed Miliband on the doorstep, but the problem is nobody believes them; and it's because they're aren't getting that response (other than from a few die hard Labour voters). The polls have Miliband miles behind Cameron, and that's a big problem in a general election year. It's too easy for the Conservatives to shrug it off, just ignoring what the Labour representatives have to say on Ed, and keep banging on about their long term economic plan which, at least, the public believe is something that exists, even if they don't like it.

If Nigel Farage is the ultimate teflon politician, then Ed Miliband has a knack of mud sticking - from the bacon sandwich incident to pretending to be mates with the leader of the Labour group on Swindon council, despite not being able to remember his name (even when prompted). He even wildly overestimated the amount an average family spends on their weekly food shop, before admitting he didn't know how much he spent! Just to cap it all off, in a poll out yesterday Miliband scored a personal approval rating of minus 39, two points lower than Nick Clegg (yes, you read that correctly), whilst David Cameron is in positive territory!

I'm not sure the country can see Miliband as PM because it's far too easy to attack him, and those attacks tend to stick. When it comes to the election, it might just cost Labour.