Friday, September 28, 2012

Women CAN'T have it all

Amanda Platell

The alarm goes off at 5.15 am and so does his complaining. ‘Do you really have to get up now, just ten more minutes in bed, call in sick …’ he says. ‘I have to get to the gym, my first meeting’s at eight, I’ve got to go.’ Then the familiar retort: ‘It’s always all about you... and your career.’

Such was our morning ritual — alarm ringing, complaints and an abiding feeling that I was letting my boyfriend down and spending more time and energy on my career than on him, a fact he constantly reminded me of.

Then there were the broken promises. ‘I’ll cook us a lovely dinner tonight,’ only to arrive home two hours later than planned with a lukewarm take-away.

Worse still, to call and say I was working late and could he meet me in town instead for dinner, when what he had planned for the evening could not be conducted in any restaurant.

Ten-hour to 12-hour working days, constantly on call, endless emails and texts at night and weekends . . . the pressure of a job at the top of your game is hard enough for you, but is often unbearable for your partner and relationship. The guilt — it’s enough to drive you mad, and him away.

Which is why looking back over my years — one broken marriage, three long-term relationships and now dating in my mid-50s (aaarggh!) — I have come to believe that it’s almost impossible for a woman to have a great relationship and a high-flying career.

Would I be able to do the job I do up as I was this morning at six to write this piece, often out at night meeting contacts, working weekends, early mornings and late nights, if I was married with children? I very much doubt it.

One always has to come first and, in my case, it has too often been my career.

It’s a conclusion that singer Florence Welch, of Florence And The Machine, has also reached. The singer, who has best-selling albums behind her and the world at her feet, recently admitted she broke up with her boyfriend ‘to concentrate on her career’.

Sources revealed the singer’s gruelling work schedule was getting in the way of her 15-month romance with the public school-educated James Nesbitt, and as the 26-year-old singer prepared for her American tour she just decided ‘enough was enough’.

While Welch’s decision was a calculated one, TV comedienne Miranda Hart has found that the unexpected benefit of being unlucky in love is a thriving career.

In her autobiography Is It Just Me?, she puts the phenomenal success of her TV career down to the fact that as a girl she looked ‘like a sack of offal’ and was never part of the ‘pretty girl circle’ at school who was courted by the opposite sex and asked out to parties.

‘This may seem miserable — but you’ll have space, space you can constructively use to discover and hone your skills, learn a language, develop an interest in cosmology, practise the oboe, do whatever you fancy, so long as it doesn’t involve being looked at or snogging anyone,’ she writes.

As well as the oboe, being single gives you space to climb the career ladder. If Miranda had married and was now the mother of children, she believes she would never have had the success she has today.

And I have to agree. But I never consciously set out to put my work before my relationships.

When I married, at 26, I never wanted a ‘career’. I loved my job as a reporter but I loved the idea of being a wife and mother even more. However, it soon became clear my husband wasn’t the staying kind, more the straying kind.

When I suspected he was having an affair, working late was far preferable to going home to an empty house, wondering where he was and who he was with.

The more my husband cheated on me, the more I worked. Some have put my success down to naked ambition, but I know it was caused by my abject misery at the thought of him in bed with someone else. If my ex-husband hadn’t been such a louse, I wouldn’t have the career I have today.

We divorced and I worked to keep the pain away. Part of me was determined I’d never let myself be that dependent on anyone ever again, and my job gave me the security my marriage never did.

I didn’t have children, despite years of trying, so there was no maternity leave for me or heading home early for the nativity play, or a sick child. I can now see that, at times, I put my work before the relationships that came after my marriage. It’s not a choice you want to make but one you have to if you want to survive at the top.

One Saturday night in 2000, when I was working for William Hague, I had no sooner arrived at a birthday dinner with friends when the phone went. There was a crisis — there was always a crisis — so I spent the entire night in their study working, with drinks and dinner brought up to me.

By the time I’d got through with it, at about 11pm, my boyfriend was done with me and had gone home. And who can blame him?

How many men are prepared to put up with a woman who works through the night and stumbles into bed exhausted, cancels weekend plans, misses anniversaries and birthdays, or on a night-in together falls asleep on the sofa watching Mad Men.

When I divorced after six years, my husband, who was also a journalist, said he grew tired of ‘living in my shadow’. I wanted to say, but didn’t: ‘Then try casting one of your own.’

Cruel but true, yet it did make me realise very early on that it is incredibly difficult for love to flourish if a woman has a better job or earns more than her mate.

Most men judge themselves by their careers. It makes them feel vulnerable if their wife or partner’s career is more successful. That doesn’t make for happy relationships. Women, on the other hand, will usually accommodate a more successful husband and will often put being a good wife and mother ahead of a career.

My friend Christine, a happily married mother-of-four working part-time as a doctor, admitted to me: ‘I’d always dreamed I’d be a surgeon, but my children got in the way of that. ‘It’s not that I’m unhappy, I love my family, but they sure put paid to any ambitions I had. I look at you and think, you may not have been able to have children, but you’ve had the chance few women get to fulfil their full potential as a person.’

That might be — but is doing well at work worth sacrificing so much for?

Last week, I was invited to speak to a group of men and women, most in their 20s, at the start of their careers. Expecting to be asked tough questions about politics or journalism, the hardest one came from among the lovely, young shining faces of the women.

‘You’re at the top of your game, I want that, too,’ one young woman said. ‘I want a great career — and children and a husband. Is that possible?’

It’s the same question I used to agonise about in my late 20s. I paused for a moment, wanting to cite superwoman Nicola Horlick and others who had managed a family with phenomenal career success. But I know they are the exception to the rule.

So I said: ‘I’m sure of one thing. If my marriage had lasted and I’d had children, I would never have the career I have today.'

The young woman gasped.

‘And I would give it all up in a heartbeat for the family I’d always longed for.


Poor Amanda! This article is something of an "Apologia pro vita sua", it seems. She has indeed been a big wheel in British journalism but being now in her 50s she will not have children. I hope her career is a comfort to her but I think it will be less so the older she gets.

There is no substitute for children. My fondest memories are of times when I was helping to bring up children. I regard my rather successful academic career as a bucket of ashes now -- though it still has some uses -- JR

Homage to Orwell

Here's the latest sign of the decline and fall of the BBC: According to Baroness Bakewell, a Labour peeress who used to broadcast for the network, the BBC's departing director-general, Mark Thompson, nixed the idea of erecting a statue of George Orwell in front of the BBC's posh new headquarters at the top of Regent Street. Even though Orwell, n‚ Eric Blair, worked for the BBC during the Second World Disaster -- an experience that only reinforced his distaste for official propaganda, including his own.

According to Lady Bakewell, the idea of an Orwell statue was turned down because the writer was thought "too left-wing." Huh? The author of "The Road to Wigan Pier," "Animal Farm," "1984," and numerous essays puncturing every left-wing bias in the book was too left-wing?

The BBC's esteemed director-general sounds not just autocratic but ignorant. Can he have read any of those books? Not to mention Orwell's masterpiece about the Spanish civil war, "Homage to Catalonia."

Just his one essay on "Politics and the English Language," which every political commentator should read and reread from time to time, would have earned him an enduring place among those trying to preserve the integrity of the language.

George Orwell was incorrigibly independent, a combination of Trotskyite zeal in his youth and Tory sensibility as he aged and learned better. Especially after having been chased out of Spain by the Communists, where he'd gone to fight by their side in that country's disastrous civil war during the 1930s. Accusing him of left-wing bias sounds like a joke -- except that the BBC lost its sense of humor long ago, along with its integrity.

When the literary critic V.S. Pritchett called Orwell "the conscience of his generation," he may have been indulging in understatement, for by now more than one generation has come to appreciate Orwell's enduring honesty, clarity and simple decency. For someone writing about politics of all things to embody those qualities was and remains remarkable. Orwell's work is not just an English treasure but the world's.

This doesn't mean putting up a statue of Orwell in front of the BBC is a good idea. Orwell, who gave the world the image of Big Brother in "1984," would have been be the last to encourage a cult of personality.


Australia: Police insist tougher data retention laws needed

This would catch only little fish. Real criminals and terrorists will be aware of what is monitored and what is not and will get around the snooping in various ways

Civil libertarians say the Government's new data retention plans are an intrusion on privacy, but law enforcement agencies say they are nowhere near tough enough.

The Joint Parliamentary Committee on Intelligence and Security has started hearing from the Australian Security and Intelligence Organisation (ASIO), the Australian Federal Police (AFP) and state police and law enforcement agencies.

The spies and police want radical new powers, including forcing telecommunication providers to keep information indefinitely, but the Government's proposal would restrict them to two years of data retention.

NSW crime commissioner Peter Singleton says police are up against a net-savvy generation of crooks who juggle SIM cards and smart phones to stay one step ahead of the law.

"We have criminals who will walk around town with a pocket full of SIM cards," he said.

"They'll make one call, thrown the SIM card away; make the next call, throw the SIM card away. Each of these is done on a different telecommunications service."

It is against that sort of opponent that police argue for stronger laws to monitor phone and internet activity.

NSW Police Commissioner Andrew Scipione says what they want most is not the content but what is known as metadata - data about data.

"Not the content, but things like where the call or where the message or where the communication happened, the location, the time, the date, who the communication was to," he said.

"It's not the content that we're necessarily looking for storage on."

That is for phone and text, but Commissioner Scipione concedes that police also want records of where people have been on the net as well - "to the extent that we know where people were or what their ISP was that they were using, or the URL that they did visit."

At the moment some companies keep data, like SMS text messages, for only a matter of days.

Australian Federal Police Commissioner Tony Negus says that is frustrating. "There's no obligation on them at the moment to hold data," he said. "What we're saying is we'd like some consistency about how this is applied and that's really what the committee is here to consider."

Police originally wanted data to be kept for five years.

Stephen Blanks, from the New South Wales Council for Civil Liberties, says they have not really made a clear cut case for any reform.

"The current law is that telecommunications data can be accessed by these agencies without a warrant, but if they want to access content then they have to get a warrant," he said.

"But what's being proposed sounds like they want to wind back the supervision regime, they say there's never been a problem with corruption or misuse of these powers so the supervision regime is too onerous.

"They're looking at forcing telcos and others to retain data for up to two years so they can access it if they want to."

Keeping track of police

It is possible for anyone to keep track of what law enforcement agencies are up to, to a point.

The Telecommunications (Interception and Access) Act that allows bugging in the first place also requires that an annual report be published ever year, and it is available online at the Federal Attorney-General's website.

The document includes a table detailing which police agencies have been busy bugging and listening, and by far the most active is the New South Wales police force.

Over 2010-11, they carried out 1,279 intercepts and only three applications for a warrant were turned down.

The Federal Police carried out less than half as many at 523.

The various other state police forces tell quite a different story, carrying out comparatively fewer telecommunications intercepts.

Queensland had 177, WA 231, Victoria 317, and Tasmania, 27.

The overwhelming majority of intercepts are used in chasing down serious crimes like drug crimes, murder, money laundering, bribery and corruption.

Despite some popular perceptions, instances where they are used for suspected terrorism are comparatively rare.

Mr Blanks worries about an explosion of intercepts if federal law makers give police what they want.

"What this legislation, what this proposal would mean, is that all of these service providers would be turned into data collectors for the state," he said.

Seventeen separate law enforcement bodies have the legal right to get a warrant to listen to your phone calls, read your text messages and watch what you do on the internet.

Parliament will decide how long the information will be held, but the telco industry says it will not be cheap. It could cost as much as $700 million.

Police say the question of who would pay for that is a matter for politicians.


Australia: Grants to reduce extremist violence 'missing their target'

The Government has given community groups millions of dollars to try and reduce extremist violence, but some Muslim community members say the grants are not working.

The Federal Attorney-General's Department says the grants are aimed at building resilience to violent extremism and assisting individuals who are vulnerable to extremist influences.

Since the program began two years ago, $4.2 million has been handed out to sporting organisations, education providers and Islamic NGOs and community groups.

But some insiders have told triple j's Hack the money has been used to fund other programs which focus on mentoring high achievers instead of helping those likely to be at risk of extremism.

The Lebanese Muslim Association (LMA) is one of 52 organisations that have been given grants as part of the Countering Violent Extremism program.

The LMA's head, Samier Dandan, banded together a group of community organisations to jointly condemn the ugly scenes earlier this month during protests in Sydney.

This year, the LMA was given the equal biggest grant of $100,000 for its Positive Intellect Project.

But according to some Muslim community members, that $100,000 will go nowhere to build resilience to violent extremism and assist individuals who are vulnerable to extremist influences

"They were definitely missing their target audience," one member told Hack.

Rebecca Kay is a converted Muslim and former candidate for Bankstown Council and New South Wales Parliament.

She says those young people vulnerable to extremism do not feel engaged or represented and the LMA could have used the money more effectively.

"I think they really need to self evaluate how they've been running their organisation," she said.

They should be open and transparent about these things. That's one of the problems in our community

Hack asked the LMA for a response last Thursday, but the organisation requested the story not go to air for a few days so they could organise a response.

The LMA's project manager then said she would organise an interview with the group's head, but eventually they decided not to do the interview.

Hack has spoken to someone who was part of the LMA's program but who did not wish to be named.

They said the program gave leadership, religious, advocacy and media training to about 15 to 20 Muslims in their late teens and early twenties.

The participant said they were mostly all well educated and showed leadership potential.

But there was no mention of the training involving engagement with violent extremists.

Kuranda Seyit is the executive director of the Forum on Australia's Islamic Relations (FAIR). He has serious questions about what the grant program is achieving. "They should be open and transparent about these things. That's one of the problems in our community," he said.

Off target

Mr Seyit says the programs seem to be missing their mark.

"Well the question is whether we're doing this to empower the community or whether we're trying to counter extremism and radicalisation of Muslim youth," he said.

"If it's the latter then you've just got to look at the participants in the program and whether they're the actual target group or at risk youth.

"You can see that they're fairly strong sort of achievers in their own right so they're not the particularly at risk youth that we're targeting I think."

He says that if the programs are focused on empowering the community rather than directly targeting extremist youth, then it is not the role of the Attorney-General to be providing funding.

"After all the Attorney-General's main area is around legal and judicial issues and law enforcement so it does make sense if they were to put more effort into that side of the issue," he said.

Mr Seyit also has concerns about the level of scrutiny put on the organisations who received the grants.

"It may be excessively high for these organisations to receive such large amounts based on little research and potential for the programs to not really make an impact in the community," he said.

The Attorney-General's Department declined to be interviewed for this story but offered a statement.

It said the overwhelming feedback the Government has had is that these programs are incredibly popular and effective at starting the work to build community resilience.

The Department says these projects are designed to support a wide variety of activities, including mentoring for youth, intercultural and interfaith education in schools and leadership training.



Political correctness is most pervasive in universities and colleges but I rarely report the incidents concerned here as I have a separate blog for educational matters.

American "liberals" often deny being Leftists and say that they are very different from the Communist rulers of other countries. The only real difference, however, is how much power they have. In America, their power is limited by democracy. To see what they WOULD be like with more power, look at where they ARE already very powerful: in America's educational system -- particularly in the universities and colleges. They show there the same respect for free-speech and political diversity that Stalin did: None. So look to the colleges to see what the whole country would be like if "liberals" had their way. It would be a dictatorship.

For more postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, GREENIE WATCH, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, GUN WATCH, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN (Note that EYE ON BRITAIN has regular posts on the reality of socialized medicine). My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here.


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