I frequently read something that I want to blog about, but it’s rarely at the right moment to just whip out a response – especially as a lot of the things I want to blog about are issues that lead to a lot of thought or discussion. I tend to dip in and out of the news and blogs through the day, when I’m taking a moment’s break from children, work, family and friends, oh and housework too, I suppose, though I’d quite happily interrupt that one to write a blog post!
Last week I properly discovered Evernote (which I’ve had on my phone since I got it, but never really understood how to make good use out of it). And I’ve been using it to collate the articles and blog posts I’ve read that have made me think and that I want to talk or write about. And I’m going to write about them on a Sunday. Maybe not in huge depth. Or maybe it will be sometimes. I’m not going to worry about making sure the SEO is great by writing about each issue separately. I’m not going to worry about losing people’s interest, because I’ve written 2000 words instead of the optimum 500–1000 (or whatever the optimum actually is). I’m just going to tell you what I’ve been thinking about during the week. Maybe it’ll make you think, too. Maybe you’ll want to talk about it. Or maybe it’ll just be here for me to look back at next year and think ‘Huh. So, that’s what I was caring about last year.’
Thinking Week 26 November-2 December 2012
Employment, underemployment and unemployment
Sexism in the media
Let’s talk about Gaza
What should we talk about on Twitter?
Employment, underemployment and unemployment
It’s rare these days for me not to spend a decent chunk of time thinking about the attitudes toward benefit claimants and the prevalent idea that they are all scroungers. A few pieces on the BBC News site (yes, it’s still probably my top port of call for news), got me thinking about this a bit more.
I’m pleased to see more and more backlash against the big brands (Amazon, Starbucks…) who don’t pay tax. Looking at big corporations instead of blaming young single mums and immigrants for every problem in society is what we should be doing. But it’s actually not just about not paying tax – which is a huge issue, of course. But most people receiving benefits (leaving aside pensioners and the long-term disabled or sick) are in work. They just don’t get paid enough money. So this is topped up in benefits – working tax credits, income support, housing benefit. Inflation and the global economy have led to a situation where the majority of people working do not earn enough money to cover living costs and childcare costs. How does this make any sense? Why are the ordinary people – most of whom are working their butts off, rather than sitting around on them – being penalised and having their jobs cut back to part-time, or their salaries reduced, while the large corporations sit back and evade as much tax as they possibly can?
I am not an economist and I don’t have all the facts and figures, but when I read the article about underemployment, combined with a few friends in the blogosphere getting lucrative part-time positions running social media platforms for big brands, an idea struck me.
Get lots of employers to split jobs into two part-time jobs, for the same salary each. Yes, that means the employers will be paying twice as much, which sounds a bit crazy, doesn’t it? But… actually it’s not. Because in order to grow the economy (and so make more money for the employers), people need to be spending money. People are not spending money at the moment. Because they don’t have it. The current government has made everyone feel guilty and look to being incredibly thrifty. (On top of cutting huge swathes of public sector jobs and so making more people unemployed.) Which means there is less money going into the economy. Which means businesses are making less money. Which means businesses have to cut more jobs. Which means people are spending less money…
So, instead of cutting jobs, increase them – split jobs into two, but at full-time salaries. The newly employed will have money again and will start spending again. Those whose jobs are now part-time will have more time and will spend money in that time. The economy will grow. Businesses’ profits will grow. The income from income tax will grow. The income from business tax will grow (especially if we vote with our feet and stop giving money to the tax evaders and force them to start paying taxes). The outgoings in benefits will go down (though not immediately, as the businesses would probably need an initial incentive to double their salary payments!). And it will all turn around into a growing and healthy economy and everyone will live happily ever after.
What do you think? Will it work? Am I completely deluded? Shall I suggest it to Ed Miliband (somehow I don’t think David Cameron would go for it)?
Sexism in the media
Again, it’s fairly rare for me not to be enraged at some instance of sexism – whether in the media or in the blogosphere or in day-to-day life and not just focused on women, but also on men. Gender stereotypes work both ways, after all. Men like flowers. Boys can wear pink. Dolls and hoovers are appropriate toys for boys. Men can do housework and women should let them! But I’ve been astonished lately to read about the coverage of women in the media.
The Women’s Room was set up to attempt to address the paucity of female experts in the media (the BBC’s Today programme being a particularly bad culprit, using men to talk as experts about breast cancer and contraception). A post a few months back by Sam Missingham on FutureBook (The Bookseller’s digital blog) talked about this issue within digital publishing, too, and about the ratio of men to women talking at events and conferences was almost always in favour of the men, despite publishing being a predominantly female industry. She suggested that we (women) do not blow our own trumpet anywhere near as much as men. It takes a huge amount more for us to see ourselves as an expert than it does a man. And it’s interesting that I still haven’t added my name to The Women’s Room because I’m not sure what to claim expertise in. I can talk about a lot of things (especially, though not exclusively, within the area of my working life) knowledgeably and with experience, but does that make me an expert?
Do you believe you’re an expert in anything? Have you signed up to the Women’s Room?
Then there’s the big research project and report Just the Women which has been looking into how women are covered in the media. It’s not just about the Page 3 girls (a ‘feature’ that should absolutely not still be seen well into the 21st century) and the Sport’s upskirt shots (WTF?), both of which are completely unacceptable, but it’s also about the general coverage and who is writing the news, too. A recent Women in Journalism report showed that only 22% of front page stories are written by women and the majority of quoted experts are men (79%). And in the month of the study, only 3 of the top 10 most pictured people were female – The Duchess of Cambridge, Pippa Middleton and Madeleine McCann, whereas the men were predominantly defined by their jobs.
Heather, over at Not from Lapland, forced herself to read The Sun for a fortnight (to get a cheap trip to Disneyland Paris) and talks about what a horrible experience that was. And one of the biggest things that she saw on it was the awful attitude toward women. Of course, there’s Page 3 (which is a given, rather than something to be glossed over and dismissed – Page 3 is wrong. Full stop.), but there’s also an attitude that women are only newsworthy in terms of their sexuality – being topless, in a bikini or other revealing outfit, sleeping with someone famous, or being the victim of a sexual crime. Despite publishing provocative pictures of half-naked women, the general attitude in The Sun is that women should not wear revealing clothes unless they want to be raped. Because ogling the Page 3 girls isn’t enough for men to curb their sexual desires, apparently.
Heather goes on to list a lot of scary figures about domestic violence and rape. Apparently 36% of people think a women is (partly or wholly) responsible for being raped if she was drunk and 26% if she was wearing revealing clothing. This is covered in the Leveson Report on pages 660 to 664 and concludes that “these are important and sensitive issues which merit further consideration by any new regulator”. Of course, that would require an a proper new regulator to be set up, which looks a little doubtful at the moment.
What do you think? Do you think coverage of women in the media is satisfactory? Do you mind Page 3? What about the Sport and Star?
Let’s talk about Gaza
Dorkymum wrote a brilliant post that brought up a lot of questions I’ve been asking recently. I hate to admit it, but I saw the headlines about the violence in Gaza and Israel and rarely clicked through to read the articles. Because those I did read didn’t really help me understand. At all. I have never been able to understand this conflict and I did read a lot about it when I was in the sixth form (um, 21 years ago). I’ve watched news reports (and The West Wing) and I’ve not ever been able to understand it. Is anyone in the right or the wrong? I feel discomfort because if I were to come down in favour of one or the other, it would feel like rejecting their right to their religious beliefs, and I feel everyone should have a right to believe what they want to, as long as those beliefs don’t harm others. Ah… there’s the point, I suppose. Because when religion leads to conflict, then it is harming others.
But I don’t know, actually, if it is all down to religion, even. Often, conflicts that seem to be about religion can be about territory. Or resources. Or water (which is a resource, of course).
For me, my gut tells me that Israel is wrong, perhaps because the Palistinians are clearly the poorer nation. Perhaps because Israel is new country – and technically an occupying territory. But then I think about all the Jewish people who were killed in Germany, to all the Jewish people who have been persecuted over the years and I feel guilty about assuming that they could be doing wrong.
But, most importantly of all, I really do not understand and I wonder if I ever can – perhaps you can only understand it from within.
I do know though that, as Dorkymum said, “Killing children is wrong. Killing civilians is wrong” and both sides seem to be doing this to some extent – the Palistinians seem to bear the brunt of this because their infrastructure is so depleted, but they are also sending rockets off aimed at Israel and into populated areas.
Just because we don’t understand, does that mean we should ignore it? Surely it actually means that we should talk about it more. Read about it more. And then talk about it more. Doesn’t mean we can solve the problems and somehow create peace (wouldn’t that be nice, though?). Doesn’t mean that we’ll even manage to fully understand. But the more information me have. The more experiences we read about. The more we talk with people there (on both sides). The more we talk openly about it. The closer we will come to understanding. And maybe, in understanding, we might be able to help.
If you do want to read more about, Dorkymum has provided lots of links in the post and there are also a lot of comments, including some from people in the thick of the conflict.
What do you think? Do you understand what’s happening in Gaza? What’s been happening over the many years of conflict? Do you talk about it or just ignore it?
What should we talk about on Twitter?
Dorkymum also brings up the question of whether we should be using our social media channels just for fun and inanities or should we be using them to talk about the important stuff – like this.
I’m inclined to think it’s OK to do a bit of both. There is so much shit in the world that we couldn’t possibly address it all. We all have different ways of unwinding and we need to do that. We would be angry and sad constantly if we didn’t have the ability to turn off a bit. There are always wars. There are people going hungry throughout the world. There are people being politically oppressed. There are people dying from diseases that have cures and vaccinations because they (or their governments) can’t afford the cures. And there’s much, much, much more besides. We have to pick the things that we want to talk about and fight the fights we want to fight. Because we really can’t fight them all.
So, yes, there will be people talking about X Factor or minor celebrities cavorting in the mud, despite major bad things happening. There will be people having twitter parties about pocket money or Christmas presents. You might not want to join in with all or any of them, but (and I am one of the ones who really dislikes the reality show chatter) it doesn’t mean people are wrong to talk about. Filter it out if you like (I really must set up filters for the reality shows) or switch off for that hour, or just let it flow over you and talk with the people who share your concern about whatever it is that’s concerning you.
I will talk about some issues on Twitter, if someone else is. I’m inclined to leave the big issues for blog posts (my own or commenting on those of others’), though. But if someone tweets about an issue that is important to me I will respond and sometimes engage in a conversation. Likewise, if I see a Facebook status update or Google+ post talking about something that I care or know about, I will comment.
What do you think? What do you talk about on Twitter (and other social media)? Do you use it to talk about the ‘big stuff’ or do you keep that for your blog? Do you use different social media for different things?
So, there you go. Four posts for the price of one really. Hope you didn’t glaze over! I’d love comments if you have anything to say on one, any or all of these. Or maybe just tell me what has made you think this week? If you’ve blogged about it, leave a link to your post.