Category Archives: Equality

Got a brain? Forget daytime tv.

On a sick day at home and took a break from work (yes, even on a sick day) on the couch. Discovered daytime tv is just horrible. And insulting.

If it wasn’t for BBC World News‘ repetitive coverage of the life of Margaret Thatcher,* I probably would never have known… But French daytime tv is just awful. Perhaps people have warned me that this was the case, but I’ve never taken the time to pay attention before today.

Of course it’s not my fault that I was home sick the same day that Margaret Thatcher passed away, but it is a pity that BBC World News spent so long on that one story and less on the stories of the rest of the world (what with “World News” being part of its title). BBC’s usually interesting news stories were replaced with a loop of people describing their impressions of the life and influence of the late Iron Lady – resulting in too much repetition for my liking.

I ending up zapping/channel hopping. Oh dear.

And I landed on “Comment ça va bien” on France 2. Dear God.

Firstly, is all daytime tv outside of the 24-hour news channels so blatantly targeted at women assumed to be living in the 1950s? The show was horrific. The first segment was about fake hair accessories, with Max (complete with red dicky-bow) demonstrating with the youngest and slimmest member of the (seemingly all-female) audience how to wear a high-ponytail attachment (real hair, though). Then Max showed us the wonders of the synthetic hair bow clip (just like Lady Gaga!). And last, but not least, the full-blown wig that you simply clip over your ponytail and add a hairband for that retro Brigitte Bardot look! Cringe.

Secondly, there was a “craft” segment. Just what do you do with those boring old plates? Why not give them some new life with porcelain markers! Or a dash of paint! Yes, a whole segment on drawing designs on plates. Just like you did in playschool/kindergarten/crèche. But as a grown woman, of course you’ll be very excited by this.

To top it off, there was a special guest whose name I can’t remember (not being up-to-speed with the minor French celebrities), who plainly thought most of this was ridiculous. They made him take part in the hair and plate demonstrations. It seemed he was taking the piss, but everyone else was Deadly. Serious.

Then I couldn’t handle it anymore. I switched off, and in my indignation wrote a tweet in French about it, but that wasn’t enough venting, so here I am writing this.

I generally felt sad about the very existence of this show:

– because the clear target audience for this show (airing at 3 o’clock in the afternoon) is women. Women are more likely to be at home watching tv at 3pm than anyone else? Still?

– because this daytime tv show seems to be aimed at no women I know (i.e. is this target audience of the tv show the majority intelligent, independent women of the 21st century? It doesn’t seem so);

– because the question I can’t answer is whether tv shows exist like this because there is actually a demand for them or whether these tv shows exist because they’ve always existed… Where does this start/end?

– because I always thought that we were so close to the day on which women wouldn’t have their intelligence and brains insulted so blatantly in public. Call me naïve.


Needless to say, those two segments on the show were as much as I could handle and motivation enough to get back to work/twitter/blog venting. But sick day blues has been topped off with general fed-upness with the state of the world.


 *Very impressed with how speedily Wikipedia updated Margaret Thatcher’s date of death on their page about her…


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Filed under downtime, Equality, Health, women

Street Harassment

And now for something completely different…

I had a bit of an unpleasant experience on the streets of Brussels recently. It was beyond the usual name-calling, propositioning and car-honking that many women experience (myself included) when they walk alone through the streets of many towns in the world. Unfortunately street harassment is too regular an occurrence. I never quite understand it: what do these (usually) men think they can achieve by shouting at a women or honking at her or (as in this rather unpleasant case) spitting at her?


Anyway, my distress after the event turned to anger, and I decided to find out more about street harassment generally. I wanted to find out about its causes and about how to combat it. So much of the problem of street harassment is related to the respect for women in society (or lack thereof), and hence related to issues of gender equality. Deep-rooted issues that take time to repair!

In my search, I stumbled upon this website: I quickly learned that street harassment is a global phenomenon, but there are positive actions that can be carried out! This organisation tries to improve awareness of the issue and allows people to share their stories related to street harassment. I contributed the story of what happened to me in Brussels on their website. If you are really curious about what happened (you should be), you can read my story here.

And do read more of the stories (both the positive stories promoting change, and the negative experiences) on the stopstreetharassment blog. One step to improving the situation includes raising awareness, so why not start with raising your own awareness of this issue?


22 October, 2012 · 09:56

Women at the top?

There have been some interesting articles appearing lately dealing with the possibility for women to hold positions of power or top posts in various walks of life. First there was that controversial article by Anne-Marie Slaughter in the Atlantic, which she titled ‘Why women still can’t have it all’ (read it here if you haven’t already). The article received such varied responses and remarks, that it’s hard to take one stance on it. On the one hand, she’s absolutely right to point out the societal structures in place that are more likely to prevent women from reaching and/or staying in positions of power and influence, but on the other hand, these same practices prevent everyone (men and women alike) from benefiting from an ideal ‘work/life/family’ balance. Reading her article could also easily get the blood of less-elite women boiling. ‘She has got it all’ is one of the major reactions I’ve heard from several women who have read this article and with whom I have discussed it.

But that’s not all. The BBC’s new director general is a man. As usual. And suddenly this has many people begging the question: just why aren’t the women in the BBC (of whom there are many!) making it to the top positions? Read, for example, this comment by Catherine Bennett at the Guardian, who tries to tackle this precise question. An example of tradition and role perception winning the day yet again?

Clearly, there is something going on. The feminist movements of the 1960s have given so much to women in terms of equal access to education, workforce etc. But are we now just beginning to realise that, hey, that’s not quite enough? It’s not only that women continue to remain excluded from positions of power and influence, but that the entire social system we are working in is rather unhelpful when it comes to promoting equality. In many couples, there still needs to be decision made about how to balance work and life and family and career. I would rather like to see a society where there needs to be no such choice – where work and family can be integrated into a lifestyle for both parents to feel balanced and involved.

This may be a utopian ideal that I won’t see in my lifetime. But, at least there is a conversation going on. Let’s keep it up!

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Filed under Academia and research, Equality