Category Archives: women

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

Extra reading: Vagina and the End of Men

What to read in that rare “downtime”…

As a PhD researcher, I spend a lot of time reading. Whether it is news reports, policy documents, journal articles, academic books, it all adds up to a lot of time following words along a page or screen. While this probably is a main reason for the frighteningly rapid deterioration in my eyesight over the last few years, it can’t be helped. It’s one of the major parts of the job!

But reading is also a leisure activity. Over the years of this PhD journey I have gone through ups and downs with leisure-time reading. Sometimes I pick up a novel and hide away for three days just to finish it (which means three days without head space to think about the PhD). Sometimes I go for months and months without reading anything unrelated to my PhD, but then I begin to feel somewhat out of touch with the social conversations going on around me.

So I’ve found a new middle-ground. I now read nonfiction that is unrelated to my PhD! That way I don’t get so engrossed in the book that I have to physically take holidays to get it finished (30 minutes before bed is sufficient to get through it!), and I also don’t get the feeling that I’m totally disconnected from the world around me.

My latest nonfiction reading was Naomi Wolf’s “Vagina”. You may have noticed from some earlier posts of mine (e.g. on Street Harassment or on Women at the Top?) that I have strong feelings about equality of all sorts, but especially between men and women. It’s a tricky topic.

I had originally thought that Wolf’s book would be a bit of feminist manifesto, but I was wrong! It is in fact an easy-to-read history of the role of the vagina (or the “feminine”) in history, and how this has developed from an attitude of reverence towards it to one of shame or debasement over the centuries. It’s an interesting discussion of Western/modern attitudes to women and to sex in general and how it has become distorted over the years. (As an aside, pornography is probably one of the major examples of disrespecting women and/or the feminine. An article in the BBC magazine even asks the question: should we educate our children about pornography? More young people today are confused about the difference between pornography and reality…)

Wolf draws on plenty of emerging scientific evidence about the nerval connections between the vagina and brain to argue her point that a happy vagina = a happy, creative woman. But, it’s not a feminist call to ditch men. In fact, Wolf  does state that a healthy relationship between a man and a woman is an excellent way to achieve a healthy vagina. Conclusion? (Heterosexual) Women need men.

But don’t stop there.

I’ve now moved onto reading a book by Hanna Rosin called The End of Men and the Rise of Women, and I’ve gotten through about half of this book already. This is a fascinating book to move onto immediately after finishing Wolf’s book. Rosin’s argument focuses on the US and how the economic recession there has affected the balance of women and men in employment. As the traditional manufacturing economy has collapsed in the US, more men than women lost their jobs, and the balance is that more women are now working than men. However, this doesn’t mean that men are competing with women for jobs – no, they are rather sitting around being depressed! Her stories tell of women who have higher education, higher drive to find work, more transferable skills, but men who are still not interested in retraining in what have been seen as traditionally women’s professions. Teaching training and nursing schools still struggle to recruit male students, while these health, education and service industries are where jobs are to be found in the recession!

But that’s not all. Not only are women making more money than men, and more women are employed than men, but the women are also STILL doing the lion’s share of the housework and childcare. What are the men doing? It’s a good question. Several of the cases in Rosin’s book point out that women have decided they are better off taking care of the house and children by themselves. A man is seen by several of these women as “just another mouth to feed”.

So – do women need men, do men need women, should we just stop these sorts of conversations?

I am looking forward to Rosin following up with a new book in about fifteen years that I hope will describe how the women currently in the lower levels of the economy (albeit in greater numbers than men), rise to the top. Will our working lives look different with women in command? That still remains to be seen.

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Filed under downtime, women, Work/life balance

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