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Just five women are among the 91 people who have been entertained at private dinners with David Cameron and senior ministers. Figures taken from lists — published by the Conservative Party since a scandal over exclusive suppers at Number 10 — show that twice as many men called ‘Michael’ have been guests at at the so-called Leaders’ Group Meals.

The news will come as yet another blow to the Tories over their ‘women problem’, exacerbated by gaffes from David Cameron — who told a Labour frontbencher “calm down, dear” — and William Hague — who referred to another female MP as a “stupid woman”.

And despite Tory spin over the inclusion of more women in the cabinet, just one minister (Theresa May) has attended the meals. The lucky females are:

Men called ‘Michael’ are more in demand:

  • Michael Farmer
  • Michael Batt
  • Michael Davis
  • Michael Gove
  • Michael Alen-Buckley
  • Michael Gutman
  • Michael Hintze
  • Michael Spencer
  • Michael Fallon
  • Michael Freeman

Perhaps the BBC Comedy sketch of ‘Women: know your limits!’ has had an affect?


Only 19% of the public identify themselves as feminists, but 81% believe women should be treated as equal in every way

In an interview last week, David Cameron refused to describe himself as a feminist, whilst simultaneously stating his belief that men and women should be treated equally. In a subsequent interview for Channel 4 News he clarified his position “if that means equal rights for women, then yes”. The confusion exposed ambiguities in the term, but also hinted at wider issues in the public perception of “feminism”. New research reveals that although British people overwhelmingly support equal rights for women, most are reluctant to define themselves as feminists. Only fifth (19%) of the public claim to be feminists, including 27% of women and 10% of men. Two-thirds (66%) stated they were definitely not feminists, including 77% of men and even a majority (57%) of women. However, when asked about equal rights the public is unambiguous in its support. Four of every five (81%) believe men and women should have equal rights and status in society, and be treated equally in every way. Just 11% disagree with 8% unsure. The results suggest that, although most people support its key tenets, “feminism” has become a dirty word. See the full poll results 

via YouGov


British girls are the west’s biggest teenage drinkers. As we were with tobacco, we’re in deep denial about the dangers of alcohol.

Years ago, I started having two glasses of wine in the evening. Gradually, as my responsibilities grew larger, it morphed into three. After a hard day, wine helped to unhitch my shoulders from my ears, ease the transition from one role to another, numb my burgeoning anxiety and depression. And it helped me fall asleep.

Over many years, three glasses turned into four. Falling asleep became passing out. And when that happened, I blew the whistle on myself: I quit drinking. I was a high-functioning alcoholic who never crashed a car, never missed work. Still, after years of daily drinking, I was in serious trouble.

For a long, long time, alcohol was my partner, providing welcome support. Many women will identify with this to some degree: in a recent survey carried out by Netmums in Britain, 81% of those who drank past the government’s safe-drinking guidelines said they did so ”to wind down from a stressful day”, and 86% said they felt they should drink less.

This makes some kind of sense. But what of the news that close to 300 children aged 11 or under were admitted to accident and emergency units across the UK last year, all having had too much to drink? Or the fact that more than 6,500 under-18s were taken to hospital with alcohol-related illnesses? Among the teens, more girls than boys were admitted, a reversal of past trends.

Sadly, this makes sense too. There are well-recognised triggers for drinking during childhood. Top among these are bullying, sexual harassment and sexual abuse. Another key trigger? Being exposed to heavy-drinking parents. In Britain there are more than a million alcohol-related hospital admissions each year. We live in an alcogenic culture, awash with cheap liquor, where drunkenness has become normalised. It should come as no surprise that children are mimicking their parents.

What does confound the academics is this: why are women and girls closing the gender gap on risky drinking? The world’s leading epidemiologists are scratching their heads; women show no sign of slowing down. According to one index, the higher the level of “emancipation” – now there’s an old-fashioned word – the more likely the woman is to drink. In fact, the one protective factor in a woman’s life is a low-status occupation. Those working in male-dominated environments have an increased risk of alcohol use disorders.

Is alcohol the professional woman’s steroid, enabling her to do the heavy lifting involved in a complex, demanding world? Is it the escape valve women need, in the midst of a major social revolution that is still unfolding? For many such women the answer is a resounding yes. Racing in from a long day at the office, with an evening of cooking and homework ahead, the first instinct is to pop a cork, smoothing the shift from day to night. Chopping, dicing, sipping – it’s a modern ritual. Nobody questions it.

Women born after the second world war are more likely to binge-drink and develop alcohol-use disorders than their older counterparts. With these steep increases will come a larger burden of disease. Yet few women accept the consequences. Jürgen Rehm, director of social and epidemiological research at Toronto’s Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, says up to 15% of all breast cancer cases are related to alcohol consumption.

In Britain, a rising number of women in their twenties are presenting with end-stage liver disease, traditionally seen as the curse of old men. This mirrors what we saw with tobacco, when women caught up with men in relation to lung cancer. Surely, this is not what the great American feminist Gloria Steinem had in mind.

In many other ways too, alcohol is the new tobacco. It is a multibillion-dollar international industry dealing with market-friendly governments, enjoying virtually unrestricted access to advertising despite the growing evidence that the substance they sell has significant health risks.

It’s time we had an adult conversation about the risks associated with our favourite drug, but this seems unlikely. When it comes to alcohol, our values are fuzzy. We tend to “other” the problem – it’s their issue, not mine. Occasionally we read about a tragic case: last year’s death of Zara Malone, the 22-year-old Exeter student who died covered in her own vomit, alone in her flat, two empty vodka bottles in her room; or the death this year of Nicole Falkingham, the estranged wife of a millionaire property developer in Liverpool, who died of alcohol poisoning and hypothermia in the back of a friend’s car after a long stint in a wine bar. But for the most part, we distance ourselves from such stories. These are the rare cases. They have nothing to do with our lives, with us.

This is not true. In recent years Britain has distinguished itself as the Lindsay Lohan of the international set, with deaths from liver disease rising 20% in a decade. In a recent report by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, British girls were cited as the biggest teenage drinkers in the western world.

Prime minister David Cameron, declaring binge-drinking a national “scandal”, pushed for minimum alcohol pricing – and then backed away. What a mistake: alcohol is now 44% more affordable in real terms than it was in 1980, and easily accessible. According to a new study in the American Journal of Public Health, a 10% rise in the price of alcohol is associated with a 9% drop in hospital admissions for acute alcohol-related issues, and a similar drop over two to three years in admissions for chronic alcohol-related problems.

Here’s a question. Let’s say there’s a pond where a growing number of frogs are developing odd-looking growths. Do you send in surgeons to remove the growths, or do you say to yourself maybe there’s something in the water?

It’s high time we understood that there’s something in the water. We’re swimming in an ocean of cheap alcohol. Our children are in trouble. Women are too. We’re medicating what ails us with our culture’s cheapest drug. And as a culture, we’re in deep denial.

Ann Dowsett Johnston 


Women doctors are piling a ‘tremendous burden’ on the NHS by working part-time, a female Conservative MP has said in comments supported by a health minister. Conservative MP Anne McIntosh told the House of Commons that the increased numbers of women GPs caused a strain on the NHS because they took time off to raise children.

The comments were supported by health minister Anna Soubry, who said the MP raised an important point about the ‘unintended consequences’ of more women training to be doctors.

In the debate on the NHS 111 phone line yesterday, Ms McIntosh said female medical students are likely to want to marry, start, families and then work part-time.

She said: ‘It’s a controversial thing to say, but perhaps I as a woman can say this – 70% of medical students currently are women and they are very well educated and very well qualified.

‘When they go into practice and then in the normal course of events will marry and have children, they often want to go part-time and it is obviously a tremendous burden training what effectively might be two GPs working part-time where they are ladies.’

Ms Soubry agreed and said: ‘Could I just say very quickly you make an important point when you talk about, rightly, the good number of women who are training to be doctors, but the unintended consequences.’

doctor-woman-wheelchair

The Government’s five-year mandate to Health Education England commits the body to ensure that half of of medical training places to go to GPs by 2018.

GPC member Dr Beth McCarron-Nash said: ‘This is a very outdated view of women in the modern workplace. Having a family or choosing to work flexibly should not be perceived as a negative career option, for women or men.

‘The NHS needs to adapt its workforce planning to reflect the changing working patterns in society.’

 


“An anti-Page 3 campaign, SlutWalks and the relaunch of Spare Rib show that feminism is as vigorous – and necessary – as ever. Why did we ever doubt it?2

I’ve lost count of all the times I’ve been told that feminism is dead. I’ve even found myself described as a “post-feminist” writer, as if I were one of the survivors of a lost golden age. I’ve never taken it very seriously, because I know that writing off political movements is a mug’s game. But now feminism is back, and in such a big way that I can’t help wondering how all those doomsayers are feeling.

A lively internet campaign to get rid of Page 3 has collected more than 100,000 signatures and received the support of the Girl Guides. Another campaign, The Women’s Room, is encouraging women to add their names to a database of female experts to counter male bias in the media. And the pioneering feminist magazine Spare Rib is being relaunched in both paper and online editions.

I’m not in the least surprised. Feminism is one of the great human rights movements, and a raft of evidence shows that it is more necessary than ever. None of the big issues has gone away since I began writing Misogynies a quarter of a century ago; I seem to have been writing about equal pay throughout my career, and I’m still waiting for a government that will enforce the transparency we need to achieve it. Domestic violence accounts for one in seven recorded crimes of violence, while the exposure of “historic” rape cases on an industrial scale suggests that a culture of impunity existed for decades at such organisations as the BBC.

Two things combined to force feminism into the semi-underground it’s now emerging from so triumphantly. Like any transformative movement, feminism threatened the status quo, unsettling powerful men in business, politics and the media who saw their interests threatened. The movement was actually very diverse, encompassing radical feminists and women who worked in traditional political movements, but we were all caricatured. The slander worked, turning off younger women who didn’t want to be associated with the feminist label.

At the same time, feminist campaigns against the most egregious forms of sexism had begun to pay off, so younger women didn’t encounter them in the way my generation had. When I asked to study economics A level in the 1970s, I was told it wasn’t taught at my all-girls state school; when I started work on a local paper, the features editor assured me it wouldn’t be long before I could stop covering court cases and write about fashion. Thanks to the efforts of 70s and 80s feminists, some of that reflexive sexism has gone into decline, or at least become less visible. For many women in their 20s or early 30s, it’s only when discussions about pay, promotion and childcare kick in that they realise it’s still a man’s world in too many ways.

An anti-Page 3 protest.

Campaigners from Object and Turn Your Back On Page 3 protest outside the Sun’s offices. Photograph: Leon Neal/AFP/Getty Images

Journalism looks like a model of equal opportunities but three-quarters of news reporters on national titles are men, and women account for only a third of journalists covering politics and business. Rebekah Brooks, who was the most powerful female newspaper executive in the country until just before her arrest in the phone-hacking scandal, modelled herself on her most ambitious male colleagues — and cultivated exclusively male mentors.

For anyone who believes gender equality is no longer an issue, the economic crisis is a wakeup call. Unemployment among women rose by almost 20% between 2009 and 2012, compared with 0.32% among men. Vital services for women, including shelters for victims of domestic violence and trafficking, were among the first to feel the Coalition government’s axe. I’m sure some of the feminist energy that is around at the moment has been generated by the urgent need to protect women’s interests. But it’s also a reaction to  the growth of a vast commercial  sex industry, which has flooded popular culture with crude sexual images of women.

The legal side of the industry is visible in billboards advertising pole dancing clubs, targeted at high-earners in the City. But there’s also a huge illegal trade in the transport of girls and women across continents to provide sexual “services” to men in developed countries. Such things were unheard of when I wrote Misogynies and while I was aware of the horrors of female genital mutilation, I didn’t know it was happening in the UK.

In the light of all this, it would be amazing if feminism wasn’t undergoing a revival. One change for the better is the existence of the internet, which means campaigns can quickly become international. The SlutWalks movement started in Canada and was imported into the UK, where it updated the old Take Back the Night protests. I love seeing women asserting the right to be sexual on their own terms in a culture that promotes extreme images of women, from the preposterous “glamour” model Katie Price to the curiously sexless Duchess of Cambridge.

Women’s rights are human rights. It’s one of my favourite slogans. Twenty-first-century feminism is about girls’ education, safe contraception and abortion, freedom from sexual and domestic violence, and the right to enjoy public space. It’s a vibrant and radical manifesto for a supposedly defunct movement.

Joan Smith at the Guradian UK – http://www.guardian.co.uk/profile/joansmith