Sunday, 13 November 2016

Is it time to learn to love Donald Trump?



So, there we are. The little ‘first woman president’ fantasy was not to be. As I suspected three posts back, it was foolish to expect something fabulous to happen.

Instead, we have the complete opposite – a randy old sexist businessman in the oval office married to a former glamour model. Ouch. It’s like Berlusconi all over again but far worse.
It is all rather depressing, especially for us ‘liberal elites’ as we tie ourselves in knots tapping away at our blogs unpicking this apparent disaster.

Meanwhile, on the streets, there is anger – and fear – that Mr Trump will unravel Obama’s achievements for minorities and the poor and seek the persecution of immigrants.

It’s true, those of us who opposed Trump must get all of this off our chests and go through a mourning process for what might have been.
But soon – unless there is a dramatic assassination or impeachment – we are going to have to start to get used to Trump in office. Our politicians are going to have to make friends with him. Making friends with your enemies can be the best way to control them.

Now, the more outraged and principled among us may insist that we must reject him, and continue to rage against the prospect of his presidency. But in doing that – we reject the democratic process. And as far as I know, the election wasn’t rigged.

I’m somewhat in agreement with Boris Johnson (I don’t say that too often) that indulging in a ‘whinge-o-rama’ is not going to get us anywhere (that guy really should get a newspaper column…)

Sure, we need to get over the shock horror of waking up last Wednesday with the prospect of the unthinkable having happened. But we need to drink some wine and then move on.

It might be hard, but we must find something to love in Trump…he must have an upside apart from all that cash. As I stare at a picture of him across my desk, I try to imagine that maybe, quietly at home on a Sunday, he’s a lovely guy who praises his wife’s cooking and offers to clean out the cat litter tray. If I squint hard enough, he looks sort of like a kindly uncle with a silly haircut.
Perhaps we should also give him the benefit of the doubt on the racist and sexist pronouncements: maybe he has a form of Tourette’s and his podium-blatherings have no connection to his actual thoughts.

Even though these declarations obviously appeal to the racists and sexists, perhaps they won’t amount to a great deal more than hot air and those voters will be bitterly disappointed.
We can always pray that the forces of democracy will unseat Trump soon. But in the meantime, let’s just try to imagine him in his slippers, putting up a shelf in the lounge of his mansion, worrying about what compelled him to say “build a wall”.

Sunday, 6 November 2016

Efforts to widen girls' horizons should not devalue 'women's work'




Yet more evidence has emerged this week that children’s job aspirations are determined by their gender from an extremely young age. Girls, it seems would still much rather be an air hostess than a pilot, and only a tiny minority of boys are interested in playing at being a beautician.
The study may have come as no surprise to the majority of parents and those working with young children. Despite huge in-roads being made in gender equality on paper, we still see our little girls pushing prams around in nurses outfits and boys dressing as Bob the Builder. Many a feminist mum has eschewed pink for their daughter and bought them Meccano sets, only to find them asking to play teaparties with their dollies.
After birthing two machine-gun obsessed boys, even the raging feminist in me can't resist an inner hoot of delight as my little girl brings me a slice of wooden Battenberg cake on a plastic plate. At last, I've given birth to someone who understands me. I thank her but try not to reward her unduly for her servitude.
Obviously, like most people, I don’t believe people’s choices in life should be determined by their gender. Of course I encourage moves to ensure all children get a chance to see good role models, of all genders, in all the professions there are.
However, I do find something rather unsettling in the commentary that emerges following these kind of pieces of research. This ‘girls must be encouraged to take science and maths subjects’ refrain bothers me – not because I don’t agree with it – but because it implies somehow that the choices girls are currently making are in some way ‘wrong’.
For example, the message given out is that to choose to be a beautician or a carer or a nursery nurse is ‘failing oneself’.
It is as if traditional “women’s work” has no value and any girl worth her salt would steer well clear of it. This is madness, of course, because where would we all be without these professions? After all, who blow dries Theresa May’s hair, cares for David Cameron’s kids and looks after our elderly relatives so we can hang on to our livelihoods?
For the brave, intelligent and motivated, these jobs do have career paths too, God knows the country is in need of some good nursery managers. One of the big problems is that the brave, intelligent and motivated steer clear of them because of the poor status and remuneration that comes with them.
The only real thing ‘wrong’ with these jobs is that they are terrifically under-valued by society and under-paid…because they are traditionally female tasks.
Anyone who has left their child at a nursery knows the immense value of committed, intelligent, well-educated nursery nurses and early years teachers. You don't have to be able to spell to work here, but it helps.
It would be great too if something could be done to encourage young men into these roles, without feeling they were compromising their masculinity (remember Kindergarten Cop?). Boys, too, feel equally restricted in their choices, but I doubt there are many programmes to encourage them into ‘girly’ professions. There should be, as it is the only way things are ever going to change.
If all we do is constantly ram home the message that traditionally ‘men’s jobs’ are ‘good’ and girls should aspire to them, all we do is devalue traditionally female work even more.

Tuesday, 1 November 2016

Hillary and Me: Why it really does matter that the next president of the United States is a woman


Pic: Gage Skidmore


‘And yes, she happens to be a woman’ said Michelle Obama after trumpeting  Hillary Clinton’s presidential CV in Winston-Salem, North Carolina last week.
I know what she meant…she’s brilliant by any standards, her gender does not come into things.
But at the same time, I am certain that it does, and it must. Any commentator who complains that Hillary has played the “female card” too much, or that journalists place too much emphasis on this “first female president of the United States" stuff is wrong.
We have not yet reached the utopian dream of gender being an irrelevance and the glass ceiling being made of low fat cream cheese. So if she wins the election in a week’s time this will be a huge, momentous thing for womankind and the world.
I will cry tears of joy if she is elected and I no doubt will erect a small shrine in her honour in a corner of the lounge.
Feminist champagne corks - or, more realistically, Prosecco corks - will be popping in my kitchen as they will in many others.
Many would celebrate simply because of the man she isn’t – Donald Trump. But I will be leaping around the streets of East London wrapped in a star spangled banner because there is a living, breathing female human leading the free world.
And yet it seems  foolish to even start to fantasise about the possibility of a Hillary win. Today, it seems like a beautiful dew-covered cobweb that could be destroyed with the swish of a stick (possibly wielded by the FBI). The polls, unfortunately, are not looking very encouraging at all.
Mrs Clinton has endured a steady stream of misogyny on the path to the White House. The descriptions of her as ‘weak’, because she had a cold, or ‘lacking warmth’ or “power hungry” would not be levelled against a man.
What presidential candidate could not be described as ‘power hungry’? Do you have any idea how hungry you have to be survive the campaign trail?
Importantly – since most of us will never meet Hillary if she becomes president – it is the symbolism of a Clinton presidency that will matter for many. You can be the most incredible First Lady in history, but no matter what you say or do, you are still an appendage.
My mixed-race son was born just days before Barack Obama was elected to the White House in 2008. He has spent the first eight years of his life absorbing countless images, TV speeches and conversations about a black man in charge of the world.
Now, as my little daughter turns two, I want her see that a woman can do the same.
She will learn that people who wear dresses (and natty trouser suits) can make big decisions. She will see that mums can run more than the PTA and grandmas can survive pneumonia on the campaign trail. Wow. It puts my role modelling (going to work a bit, doing a lot of household chores) to shame.
Of course, we already have Theresa May. When she was first appointed home secretary in 2010, I recall at least two male colleagues sucking their teeth and saying something about “lack of experience”. And they weren’t talking about her suitability for her additional role as minister for women and equalities.
Well, she’s experienced now and has made it to prime minister. And while I don’t agree with much of what she says, I can’t wait to see her on the White House lawn with Hillary.