Archive for December 10th, 2007


Has feminism failed?

We’re off air now, but you can podcast the programme here 


Sexy or clever. Does it matter which is more important to a teenage girl? Has feminism achieved what it set out to do, and are the latest general of girls and young women squandering hard-won opportunities?

I could spend 1OO Daily Emails discussing the definition of feminism but let me start with this. It’s a movement that has sought to remove gender inequality in all societies in the world. At the heart of this was the right of women to own property, to have equal opportunities in the work place and be paid equally, to live without fear of violence and the right to vote. Added to this must be the goal of stopping society from judging women by their appearance (famously put into words in the 90s by Naomi Wolf in The Beauty Myth), and instead judging them by their intellect, their personality and their achievements (though what an achievement is we could also debate).

The question is, looking at a range of stories in the news today, has feminism achieved these targets?

1. Better sexy than clever. US academic Carol Platt Liebau argues that’s the attitude of teenager girls. Hardly what feminism had in mind.2. Religious vigilantes have killed at least 40 women this year in the southern Iraqi city of Basra because of how they dressed.

3. Oprah tipped to have major US election impact.4. ‘Domestic violence is the single biggest health impact on women between the ages of 15-44″, says Australian expert.

5. Rwanda wins equality award with 48% female MPs.

6. Mini skirts don’t mean yes to sex in South Africa. But that’s what many men think. 

HAS FEMINISM FAILED? SOME ANSWERS FROM THE NET:Thinking girl blog / Blogger on a cast iron balcony /

NO SHOW TOMORROW… BUT STAY TUNEDWe’re off air tomorrow because it’s the first of three special debates recorded to mark the 75th anniversary of the BBC World Service. It’s been recorded already so you won’t be able to contribute to the discussion, but we’ll post on the blog so there’s somewhere for you to leave your reaction.

75th Season:

Speak to you later.


Getting out, getting in

Good morning, Peter here at BBC Television Centre today. What a grand name for a building – it all happens here and nowhere else… Anyway, I digress, as there’s plenty happening elsewhere.

First stop is Basra, where British Prime Minster Gordon Brown turnerd up on Sunday to announce the official handover of the province of Basra to Iraqi control. Is southern Iraq ready to take charge of its own security? Should this have happened sooner? Is the decision military, political or diplomatic?

Staying in Iraq, and in The Times on Saturday was a report that not just Muslim but also Christian women are being forced to wear headscarves. Last week Reuters reported fears in Basra about violence against women deemed to behave in an un-Islamic way. Is this the Iraq the British troops should be handing over? Or should it not be judged by Western standards of freedom?

In Turkey, meanwhile, the government is planning to ease restrictions on the wearing of headscarves. Any move to allow headscarves in state institutions such as universities is sure to spark controversy between the governing AK Party, which has Islamist roots, and the secular elite in Turkey. Are the tensions warranted? Is democracy strong enough in Turkey for the restrictions to be eased?

Over to Pakistan, where former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has said his party will take part in elections scheduled for January. His party were planning to boycott the poll, but with the party of his opposition rival Benazir Bhutto determined to take part, Mr Sharif has bowed to the political reality and got in the race. With both major opposition parties taking part, will the elections (which are, let’s face it, unlikely to be deemed “free and fair” by any credible international observers given the current state of emergency that will be lifted at the end of the week) reasonably reflect the will of the Pakistani people?

A boycott that did go ahead was Gordon Brown’s refusal to attend the EU-Africa summit in Portugal over the weekend, in protest at the presence of Zimbabwe’s President Robert Mugabe. It was a stormy gathering with rows over Mr Mugabe and trade in particular.

The Zimbabwe issue was given extra spice here in Britain on Sunday morning when the Archbishop of York cut up his dog collar on live TV and said he will not replace it until Zimbabwe’s President Robert Mugabe is out of office.

Dr John Sentamu said Mr Mugabe had “taken people’s identity” and “cut it to pieces”, prompting him to do the same. Later on the BBC, gay rights campaigner Peter Tatchell, who has twice tried to make a citizen’s arrest of Mr Mugabe, said the archbishop’s protest would have more weight if he criticized his fellow Anglican clergymen in Zimbabwe for not doing enough to end Mr Mugabe’s rule. Was the protest empty or worthwhile?

And a few quick thoughts to finish:
Should we take another look at Oprah’s role in the US presidential election? She’s been stumping with Barack Obama in Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina. We talked about this story a few weeks ago, and again when Barbra Streisand announced her backing for rival democrat Hillary Clinton. Can Oprah win the election for Obama? Do presidential candidates need celebrity endorsement?

 Is it Google’s job to help the poor? British Prime Minister Gordon Brown believes it is. He plans to engage some of the world’s biggest companies, incuding Google and Vodafone, in the struggle with what he calls a ‘development emergency’. He wants to persuade the private sector to provide expertise and investment to help achieve development goals. Should big business get involved in international development? Are multinational companies better placed than governments to solve the ‘development emergency’?

 Today’s girls prefer to look sexy rather than be clever, according to a new book by Carol Platt Liebau, editor of the Harvard Law Review. In the newly released book Prude: How The Sex Obsessed Culture Damages Girls, Carol Platt Liebau argues that modern society teaches girls that only through ‘promiscuity and sexual agression can girls achieve admiration and recognition’. Do you agree with Liebau’s conclusion? Is it more important for a girl to be sexy than intelligent these days? Is this a blow to feminism?