Saudi women behind the wheel… A genuine step towards female liberation?

On the 24th of June 2018, Saudi Arabia finally allowed women the freedom to drive, and more than 120 000 Saudi women have already put in applications for driving licences.

Saudi women driving.jpeg

This change is part of ‘Vision 2030’, a package of social and economic reforms introduced by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MbS) designed to help modernise Saudi Arabia. Along with being allowed to drive, women have recently been granted the freedom to attend sporting and recreational events and have been given greater access to jobs.

But is this apparent move towards ‘female empowerment’ really that significant? There are other, more conservative forces in Saudi Arabia which are very much against these reforms: as recently as 2017 the Grand Mufti, Saudi Arabia’s most senior cleric, declared that driving was ‘a dangerous matter that exposes women to evil’, and the regime has also recently persecuted a number of feminist activists.

There’s also the fact that women still have the legal status of minors and need to permission of male guardians to study, travel, work or marry, so we’re still a long way off formal legal gender equality!

Source

The Week, issue 1183.

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Top five worst explanations for not appointing women to company boards…

While some progress has been made to breaking down near total male control and dominance of our top companies, the move towards greater gender equality at the top end of the economy is slowing, and today almost a 100 out of the top FTSE 250 companies still have only 1 woman on the board.

It would seam that for the leaders of our most powerful companies, promoting women is still a bit of a pain in the male ass, at least according to the recent government backed Hampton-Alexander Review of the attitudes of the Chairs and CEOs of Britain’s 350 FTSE 350 companies…

Some of the worst reasons for not appointing more women to the boards of the top companies included:

  1. ‘There aren’t that many women with the right credentials and depth of experience to sit on the board – the issues covered are extremely complex’
  2. ‘Most women don’t want the hassle or pressure of sitting on a board’
  3. ‘Shareholders just aren’t interested in the make-up of the board, so why should we be?’
  4. ‘My other board colleagues wouldn’t want to appoint a woman on our board’
  5. ‘I don’t think women fit comfortably into the board environment’

NB – these are my own rankings, I’ve gone with order because of the following logic:

  1. Based on the assumption that women are less capable of dealing with complexity than men.
  2. Based on stereotype of the ‘delicate female’.
  3. Based on the ‘denial of responsibility’ – ‘we’re not appointing because other people don’t want it’.
  4. Denial of responsibility again.
  5. We shouldn’t appoint women because there aren’t any women already. You might actually want to rank this first, because it also suggests that ‘women can’t handle unpleasant environments’.

Men enjoy 2 years more leisure time than women, over the course of a working life

Men are enjoying more leisure time than they did 15 years ago, while women have less. according to the latest stats from the Office for National Statistics.

In 2015 Men spent 43 hours a week on leisure activities, up from 42.88 hours in 2000. In the same period, women’s leisure time fell to 38.35 hours, from 39.24 hours.

NB – it doesn’t matter what age group we’re taking about, men have more leisure time than women (unlike the pay gap, which ‘switches’ in the 20s and 30s.)

gender inequality UK

Over a 40 year period, this means that men have 9672 more hours of leisure time than women, or just over 600 days (calculated by diving the original time by 16 to reflect the number of waking hours in a day), or getting on for 2 years….

I want to blame this on the X box, but other surveys suggest that one reason for this is that women spend more time caring for adult relatives than men.

Related Posts

This is good evidence supporting the view that the gendered division of labour is still not equal, in fact it’s suggesting the trend towards equality is reversing!

How equal are men and women in relationships these days? Student survey results

Women who do the lioness’s share of the housework, but men and women seem to have equal control over the finances, at least according to two surveys conduct by my A Level sociology students last week.

This acts as a useful update to the topic of power and equality within relationships, especially the ‘domestic division of labour’ aspect.

I actually did two surveys this week with the students this week, both on Socrative.

For the first survey, I simply asked students via Socrative, who did most of the domestic work when they were a child (mostly mother or mostly father – full range of possible responses are in the results below), with ‘domestic work’ broken down into tasks such as cleaning, laundry, DIY etc…

For the second Survey, I got students to write down possible survey questions on post it notes, then I selected 7 of them to make a brief questionnaire which they then used as a basis for interviewing three couples about who did the housework.

Selected results from the initial student survey on parents’ housework

These results were based on students’ memory!

Housework survey 2018

Housework survey 2018 DIY

Selected results from the second survey

based on student interviews with couples

Domestic labour questionnaire 2018

men women finances survey 2018

Discussion of the validity of the results…..

These two surveys on the domestic division of labour (and other things) provided a useful way into a discussion of the strengths and limitations of social surveys more generally….we touched on the following, among other things:

  • memory may limit validity in survey one
  • lack of possible options limits validity in survey two, also serves as an illustration of the imposition problem.
  • asking couples should act as a check on validity, because men can’t exaggerate if they are with their partner.
  • there are a few ethical problems with the ‘him’ and ‘her’ categories, which could be improved upon.

Postcript – on using student surveys to teach A-level sociology

All in all this is a great activity to do with students. It brings the research up to date, it gets them thinking about questionnaire design and, if you time it right, it even gets them out of the class room for half an hour, so you can just put yer feet up and chillax!

If you want to use the same surveys the links, which will allow you to modify as you see fit, are here:

  • Quiz one – https://b.socrative.com/teacher/#import-quiz/16728393
  • Quiz two – https://b.socrative.com/teacher/#import-quiz/33508597

 

Conceptualising Gender Equality in Relationships

A brief revision map of some of the main sociological concepts which have been developed to describe the ‘typical relationship’: taken together, they suggest a movement towards greater gender equality in relationships:

gender equality relationships

This is the briefest of revision slides on this topic, designed for A-level sociology paper 2: topics in sociology, families and households section (AQA exam board). For more details on this revision topic please see this post: are men and women equal in relationships?

 

Solutions to the ‘Crisis of Masculinity’

In the final section of Zimbardo and Coulombe’s ‘Man Disconnected’ the authors outline a few suggestions about how to combat the crisis faced by young men around the world. The post summarizes chapters 16-21).

Before reading this you might like to read the following posts:

  1. Man Disconnected, which summarizes the evidence that young men are in crisis (chapters 1-7)
  2. Man Disconnected summary part 2: why are young men in crisis? #1 (chapters 8-10)
  3. Man Disconnected summary part 3: why are young men in crisis #2 (chapter 11) – technology enchantment and arousal addiction
  4. Man Disconnected summary part 4: why are young men in crisis? #3 (chapters 12-15)

Solutions to the Crisis of Masculinity

Zimbardo and Coulombe break down their solutions to focus on what governments, schools, parents, men, women and finally the media can do…

What governments can do:

  • Support the role of the father
  • Limit the use of endocrine-disruptors
  • Get more men into grade school teaching positions
  • Get junk food out of schools
  • Improve how schools prepare students for their lives ahead

What schools can do:

  • Teach life skills
  • Incorporate new technology for more interactive learning
  • Quash grade inflation

What parents can do:

  • Teach children to be resilient by letting them organise their own play and take risks
  • Give children responsibility for important tasks within the family
  • Encourage children to think about a future career, and to explore vocational options
  • Discussing taboo topics like sex
  • Fathers need to priorities fatherhood
  • Get children to track how much time they spend on different activities

What men can do:

  • Turn off the porn
  • Track your activity and consider what else you could be doing!
  • Play sports
  • Make your bed (small accomplishments lead to bigger accomplishments)
  • Discover your inner power
  • Make a few female friends
  • Don’t call women sluts
  • Find a mentor, be a mentor
  • Vote

What women can do

  • Mothers and sisters basically need to encourage the strength and hardness associated with manhood, while having the depth of character and emotional sensitivity to help men become better communicators.
  • Don’t be promiscuous – because this just sends out the message to men that they will always have a string of available sexual partners
  • Choose a ‘good partner’ rather than a ‘flash partner’ – there are plenty of ‘good men’ (who want long term relationships) being overlooked because they are ‘drowned out’ on dating sites by better looking men who have no genuine interest in commitment.

Zimbardo’s final chapter is a brief one on what the media (especially the porn and gaming industries) can do to help stem the crisis of masculinity.

 

Man Disconnected #3: Young men in yet more crisis!

Chapter 12: Sour Grapes: Entitlement Versus Reality 

Young men are brought up being told that they can be whatever they can be, without even trying, and one thing which perpetuates this illusion is the education system: grade inflation has taken place over the last decades with more people getting grade As and second class upper degrees than in the past, with less work being done.

At some point, however, young men have to realize the ‘great disappointment’: the moment they realize they are not as able as they think they are. But the problem today is that they haven’t been prepared for this realization through their childhood or adolescence.

Both the cause and effect of this is the online world: boys growing up in unreality, and then retreating further into it when they realize actual reality does not match up to their own perception of themselves.

Chapter 13: The Rise of Women?

The chapter starts with a review of women’s ‘progress’, pointing out that women are increasingly learning to live without men, but that men’s issues need to be taken into account if we are to have a truly equal society – especially where men’s parenting rights are concerned, given that equal numbers of men and women would ‘rather be at home raising a family’ than working, but maternity rights tend to favour women.

The rest of the chapter outlines some of the overlapping issues men and women face dealing with such things as sexuality – Zimbardo and Coulombe outline how women, as well as men, face problems expressing their true feelings, how girls are more obsessed with their online networks than boys, and also how women are negatively affected by unrealistic ideas about romantic relationships portrayed in movies (they expect too much, in short).

The chapter rounds off with an interesting discussion how both men and women are generally not sexually liberated – what has happened since the 1970s is that porn has become liberated, and as a result we are now suffering the ‘Beyonce Effect’: we have certain ideas about what it means to be ‘sexually liberated’ provided to us by the media, but these are actually quite narrow and shallow ideas about sexuality.

Chapter 14: Patriarchy Myths

This chapter starts by suggesting that men are actually disadvantaged by patriarchy: men are effectively socialised into being more responsible than women: and the reason more men do STEM subjects and have higher paying careers is because they are brought up thinking it is their role to provide.

We may have equal rights, but men are expected to do more – at least according to male socialisation.

Evidence that men suffer more than women in society:

In the final sections of this chapter Zimbardo outlines how men have worse lives than women in the following respects:

  • Men die earlier than women
  • Men suffer from bottling up emotions
  • The amount of sexual violence experienced by men from men and women is under-reported, and not treated seriously. And, as role reversal takes place, this is likely to increase.
  • Men have higher incarceration rates than women
  • The pay gap is justified because men do riskier jobs than women.
  • Gender equal relationships are lower quality for both men and women.

NB – He doesn’t actually deny that women have issues to, so this isn’t exactly anti-feminist!

Chapter 15 – Economic Downturn

Basically the cost of living has increased, and young men, especially those with little education see no prospects of every being able to be the breadwinner, so now they don’t bother with relationships!

 

 

 

 

Man Disconnected #2: Why are young men in crisis?

Man Disconnected by Zimbardo and Coulombe is about the challenges young men face in our technological age. This post summarizes chapters 8-10. 

If you like this sort of thing, then you might also like…

  1. Man Disconnected summary part 1: which deals with the evidence of the problems faced by young men today.
  2. Man Disconnected summary part 3: why are young men in crisis #2 (chapter 11) – technology enchantment and arousal addiction
  3. Man Disconnected summary part 4: why are young men in crisis? #3 (chapters 12-15)
  4. Man Disconnected summary part 5: solutions to the crisis of masculinity (chapters 16-21)

Chapter 8: Rudderless Families, Absent Dads

Today, children are brought up with much less contact with adults: they used to be surrounded by extended families, but today the average household size is just below 3 in the US and 2.4 in the UK, and on top of this, the typically teacher pupil ratio at school is 1:20.

It’s not just quantity of contacts, but quality: something like 50% of households feel the ‘time pinch’ to the extent that they cannot find time to sit down to meals together on most days of the week.

Zimbardo also cites the tired evidence on the increasing number of children being brought up in cohabiting households, which have twice the break up rate of married households, and the fact that today about 1/3rd of US children and ¼ of UK children are brought up in single parent (mainly mother) households.

Declining trust

In the US trust in the general public has declined so much that we no longer even trust the nannies we employ to look after our kids – as evidenced by the increasing sales of ‘nanny cams’.

The percentage of people reporting that most people can be trusted has fallen from 55% in 1960 to  32% in 2009.

Zimbardo now seems to link declining trust to divorce, citing evidence that divorced people have lower immune systems than married people (yes, there are measurable physiological effects!)

He focuses first on the effects of divorce on separated mums and their children: arguing that only around 25% of single mums report that they are happy, half the number of married women. He also argues that girls brought up in single parent households are given mixed messages – that they should put their kids first, and get a career, but there are hardly any examples of people who successfully do both!

He then turns the effects on the separated dads: who have a suicide rate 10 times higher than divorced women, suggesting that the typical experience is for them to spend time working for someone else, who is now distanced from them, and basically having to ‘suck this up’ because they are conditioned to not seek help from anyone.

High divorce rates makes children who experience them think differently about relationships – he cites Vaillant’s famous Longitudinal Harvard Study as an example of the negative effects….suggesting that such children are suspicious of relationships (they are less likely to trust adults!) yet they are still caught up thinking that stable monogamous relationships are for everyone (thanks to Disney).  

Zimbardo finishes off with the usual trawl through the ‘problems’ which the decline of the nuclear family create for society – arguing that countries with more stable families (basically a prosperous society is based on the nuclear family seems to be his argument) are correlated with higher employment rates, more wealth generation, better qualifications and lower obesity levels. Although he cites Charles Murray as part of his evidence.

Boys are affected relatively more than girls by family break up

The USA leads the way in fatherlessness, and for those who do have fathers, the  average school boy spends just 30 minutes a week in conversation with his father, compared to around 44 hours in front of screens.

Zimbardo basically goes on to make the argument that boys need father figures – but that way too many of the current generation are missing out on this – boys are growing up thinking that ‘being male’ effectively means avoiding parenting (this is something mothers do); he cites further evidence that men are basically afraid of hanging out with teenage boys.

Boys need men to offer reassurance and guidance, but they are less likely to get it now than in the past.

This is further compounded by the fact that girls have been taught how to evolve into both traditionally male and female roles, but boys have no role models to teach them how to evolve into both roles either: and when they fail at the traditional male role, as they increasingly go, they are left in the shit.

This problem is further compounded by the lack of positive male role models in the media, and especially porn, which offers teenage boys instant gratification with no need to learn how to communicate.

Chapter 9: Failing schools

Education systems are failing our boys.

The general gist here is that schools focus on ‘academics’ which require children to sit still and focus for longer periods of time, and they require this from a younger and younger age. This disadvantages boys because boys mature later than girls, and they are thus turned of learning, which explains why boys end up with worse GCSE results than girls and for the dramatic increase in female graduates compared to males since the 1960s.

Then there’s the fact that school play times have been cut and that hardly any teachers are male, all of which has resulted in a gynocentric education system which is increasingly shaped in the interests females, and works against male achievement.

Zimbardo offers up Montessori style education as an alternative.

Finally, Zimbardo suggests that we need to start educating our children about sex properly from the ages of 10-11, rather than leaving it to the porn industry!

Environmental Changes

In this chapter Zimbardo makes the argument that toxic chemicals in a whole range of day to day products (such as tins) are causing endocrinal (hormonal) disruption, resulting in increasing health problems for men: such as higher rates of testicular cancer and a lower sperm counts.

In order to back up his claims, Zimbardo cites a range of evidence from studies on animals who have been exposed to toxic chemicals over the long term, and admits the effects of chemicals on human biology remain inconclusive.

He rounds off the chapter by suggesting that many harmful chemicals are built up in body fat tissues, and we don’t really know what the effects of the release of these when (if?) fat cells get broken down will be.

All in all this is something of a speculative chapter.

 

 

The Suffragettes and the Historic Battle for Women’s Votes

Who first called for women’s votes?

The first appeals for women to be given the right to vote date from the early 19th century. One of the first calling for such was Jeremy Bentham, who first suggested that women should be given the right to vote in his 1818 ‘Plan for Parliamentary Reform’.

Women at that time had no political rights at all, they were deemed to be represented by their husbands or their fathers.

A second historic call for women’s formal political equality was made by the radical MP Henry Hunt – who in 1832 presented a petition drawn up by Mary Smith, a rich Yorkshire woman, asking that unmarried women who owned property and paid taxes should be allowed to vote.

NB – to put this in context, following the 1832 Reform Act, only 18% of men had the right to vote, which was linked to property-ownership at that time.

When did the campaign really get going?

The first campaigning women’s groups weren’t formed until the end of the 19th century, initially focusing on the lack of education and employment opportunities for women and their lack of legal representation, and the vote gradually became the central symbolic and practical issue for these groups.

In 1867, Barbara Bodichon and others form the London Society for Women’s Suffrage; other committees then sprang up all over the country and in 1897 the National Union of Women’s Suffrage Societies (NUWSS), led by Millicent Garrett Fawcett was formed.

millicent-fawcett
Millicent Fawcett

How were their arguments received?

The issue gained traction throughout the later half of the nineteenth century. The philosopher and MP John Stuart Mill tabled an amendment to the 1867 Reform Bill, calling for all householders to be enfranchised. And, as the suffragists pointed out, the Reform Acts of 1867 and 1884 had enabled about 60% of men to vote, some of whom were barely literate; yet well-educated, taxpaying women still did not.

Motions were debated in Parliament throughout the 1870s, but they were defeated on the arguments that women were less able than men, that their natural sphere was in the home, that they were unable to fight for their country, or that they simply did not want the vote.

This later was at least partially true, and supported by some women: Florence Nightingale declared in 1867 that she had ‘never felt the want of a vote’.

What about the Suffragettes?

In 1903 the Women’s Social and Political Union was formed in Manchester by Emmeline Pankhurst and other campaigners. The WSPU, frustrated by slow progress on women’s rights, was committed to ‘deeds, not words’.

In 1905, Christabel Pankhurst and Annie Kenney repeatedly shoted over a speech by the MP Sir Edward Grey, asking ‘Will the Liberal government give votes to women?’. They assaulted police officers when asked to leave and were arrested. A series of mass processions followed: more than 250 000 women protested in Hyde Park in 1908, shocking Edwardian England.

How effective were their protests?

Most historians believe that the suffragettes were very effective in mobilising women around the campaign for votes for women. Many were arrested and treated brutally, with prisoners on hunger strike being force fed for example.

Over time their tactics became more radical: smashing shop windows and setting fire to letter boxes, libraries and even homes…. and in the most famous event of the period, Emily Davison threw herself under the kind’s horse on Derby Day, 1913 and was killed.

However, at the time, it was thought these violent and dramatic tactics were a step-backwards for their cause.

The First World War and Vote Reform

It was the First World War which finally brought the vote for women. The sacrifices of the war bolstered support for expanding the suffrage to women. The war saw more than a million women employed outside of the home – in munitions factories and engineering works for example, and the vote had traditionally been based on occupational status.

In 1918, The Representation of the People Act was passed be an enormous majority which gave women over 30 who were householders or married to one, or university graduates, the right to vote. However, the act also extended the vote to nearly all men over the age of 21.

It was not, however, until 1928, with the Equal Franchise Act, that men and women had equal voting rights.

Sources 

The Week, 3rd Feb 2018

On that Lewis Hamilton ‘Gender Shaming Video’

You may remember Lewis Hamilton posting a 12 second video of himself teasing his nephew about ‘wearing a princess dress’ at Christmas, basically telling him that ‘boys don’t wear princess dresses’.

And he got a lot of stick about ‘gender shaming his nephew from the liberal and trans community, so much in fact that he and later posted a video apologizing for his actions (probably on advice for his agent).

Lewis’ actions do seem somewhat out of touch with the times….. in our postmodern age of ‘gender diversity and fluidity’ the Scottish government has just published guidelines recommending that primary-school children should be allowed to identify as either gender without parental consent, while the Church of England has issued new guidance saying that children should be free to wear tiaras or fireman’s helmets,  whatever they want, with out prejudice.

There is a rational argument for allowing children the freedom of gender expression… Ruth Hunt, CEO of Stonewall, argues that society has nothing to fear from becoming more open-minded towards people who question their gender identity.  She argues that you can’t ‘turn’ children trans just by allowing boys to dress up as girls and girls to dress up a boys, because ‘trans’ is innate.

She further argues that the reason we’re seeing more trans people today, the reason they are more visible is because society is at last allowing them the freedom to express who they really believe themselves to be. From this perspective, I guess what Lewis Hamilton was doing was restricting the right of his child to ‘be who he really was’.

So it’s only a 12 second video clip, but the reaction to it tells us so much about the society in which we live – changing norms and values surrounding gender and the (terrifying?) way in which public discourse can penetrate into our private lives, if we choose to post videos of ourselves on Twitter that is!