Tuesday, January 08, 2013

Katy Perry and Taylor Swift are ruining women. Really?

Surely feminism should be about tolerance, acceptance and ...,  asks Paula Joye

Reading an attack on Taylor Swift and Katy Perry by feminist author Camille Paglia over the weekend made me despair. By the time I’d ingested all 2000 words of crazy, I wanted to throw my cup of coffee at the computer screen.

In a story for the Hollywood Reporter, Paglia suggests that Perry and Swift are ruining women by sending our personae and values back to the 1950s. Wait? What? That’s right. Two young girls and their guitars are single-handedly destroying four decades of feminist achievement.

Her description of Taylor - who made over $US57 million last year - is unequivocal: "In TV interviews, Swift affects a 'golly, gee whiz' persona of cultivated blandness and self-deprecation, which is completely at odds with her shrewd glam dress sense", she wrote.

"Swift affects a 'golly, gee whiz' persona of cultivated blandness and self-deprecation", says Paglia.

Meaning what, Camille? You can’t be polite and show your legs at the same time? The article goes on to praise pop princess Rihanna for having an "an elemental erotic intensity, a sensuality inspired by the beauty of the Caribbean sun and sea". The same Rihanna who this week posed nude on Twitter and had the name of her ex-boyfriend – the one who beat her up – tattooed on her body. Swift, 'insincere and sinister', is damaging to women while Rihanna's behaviour is 'powerful'.

She doesn’t leave it there. Next on the guillotine is Katy Perry - not for singing songs about kissing girls and partying, but for being a desperate “cyborg cheerleader”.

"Although now 28, Katy Perry is still stuck in wide-eyed teen-queen mode", Paglia wrote. "Especially after the train wreck of her brief marriage to epicene roué Russell Brand, her dazzling smiles are starting to look as artificial as those of the ageing, hard-bitten Joan Crawford. Perry's prolific hit songs, saturating mainstream radio, hammer and yammer mercilessly”.

These are songs that earned Perry $US45million last year. Songs that made her the only female artist to have five number one hits from one album. Why are they so bad? Because she sang them in a dress made out of fairy floss? If she’d sung about drugs instead of dreams, would she be powerful, too?

Paglia’s ultimate question is this: "How is it possible that such monumental fortunes could be accumulated by performers whose songs have barely escaped the hackneyed teenybopper genre?"

Perhaps their success highlights the fact that said 'teenyboppers' are enjoying a change from the proliferation of misogynist messaging in songs. Maybe all the 'lock my girlfriend up in the trunk while I set the house on fire after tying you up because chains and whips excite you' schtick is getting a little old? It's possible that some young women are finding security in a safer, less confronting voice? Singing about Romeo and Juliet when you're sixteen years old is bad because...?

The article touched a nerve because I have two daughters and yes, at the moment, this week, they like Taylor Swift and Katy Perry. I did not put them on a boat and row them to the island - they discovered the music themselves. Their albums sit in the iTunes library alongside The Beatles, Beyonce and (God help me!), One Direction. As a mother, Perry and Swift’s more innocent message has, frankly, been a delightful respite from the songs I mentioned earlier. Finally some lyrics I could explain, if asked, and video clips that I could let them watch - catchy, sugary, commercial, harmless pop. I struggle with why Paglia needs to turn it into a pile of negativity? There's no celebration of innocence in her message. We condemn it and question its authenticity - and, honestly, I find that desperately sad.

Paglia summarised with: "Middle-class white girls will never escape the cookie-cutter tyranny of their airless ghettos until the entertainment industry looks into its soul and starts giving them powerful models of mature womanliness".

Airless ghettos? There is nothing wrong with cookie-cutter. Just as there is nothing wrong with different. Or bland. Or raunchy. Or sexy. If Swift and Perry were the only influences in young women's lives, then perhaps we'd have an issue but Paglia has to give young women more credit. Just because they like a pop star and her music doesn't mean they're going to be abandon all other significant influences. It's because of women like Paglia that young girls now have freedom and choice - and it's not fair for her to wrestle it from them.

In 2013, feminism should not be about bullying other women. Surely it's more about tolerance, acceptance and inspiration... not Taylor Swift and Katy Perry’s wardrobes.


British Labour party risks being seen as party for scroungers after opposing benefits squeeze, says prominent member

Labour risks being seen as the party of 'scroungers' by opposing a squeeze on benefits, according to former home secretary Jacqui Smith.

Railing against her party's position on welfare, the former minister said party activists were being told on the doorstep that Labour was lacking ideas to cut the deficit.

Ed Miliband has ordered his party to vote against freezing rises in benefit payments to 1 per cent for the next three years in the Commons tomorrow, instead of the inflation rate which is currently 2.7 per cent.

The Labour leader has argued that most of those who will be affected are in work because the cap will also apply to tax credits. He called the policy an attack on 'strivers'.

But tensions within his party emerged last month when a senior Labour figure had described the policy as 'politically suicidal' and revealed a 'caucus of new Labour figures' were set against it.

This is because it left the party open to charges that it sided with 'scroungers' and was 'in denial over the need to cut the benefits bill'.

Yesterday Miss Smith weighed in to the debate, saying: 'Frankly you can count me into this 'caucus'. It would include a large number of people [Labour canvassers] who've knocked on doors recently and been told the problem for Labour is that they think we caused the deficit and they're not yet convinced we know how we'll solve it.

'The Tories want to paint us as a party which cares more about those unwilling to work than those struggling in work.'

A number of polls showing high levels of public support for a cap have painted Labour into a corner over its opposition to a freeze which would apply across the board except for carers benefits, some disability payments and the basic state pension.

The Treasury released figures yesterday showing that by opposing cuts to welfare spending, Labour would have saddled every working family with £5,000 of national debt by the next General Election.

They claim all welfare savings, including the move to aggregate most benefits into a Universal Credit, the 1 per cent cap, changes to child and housing benefit and council tax, and a crackdown on fraud and error in the system will save £83billion by 2015-16.

However Labour say 60 per cent of those who would be affected are in work and would be left struggling.

Ahead of the vote on the Welfare Uprating Bill, David Cameron said this argument was 'very odd' as they had backed a 1 per cent pay freeze for public sector workers, who the Prime Minister said 'work hard and do absolutely vital jobs'.

Mr Cameron told the BBC's Andrew Marr Show: 'The Labour party agree with the 1 per cent increase in public sector pay but they don't agree with the 1 per cent cap on welfare. It's a very odd argument to say people out of work, their incomes should be going up faster than people in work - we don't think that is right.'

Tory chairman Grant Shapps admitted there were probably 'a very small number' of 'shirkers' who preferred not to work.  But he said the system under Labour was 'blatently unfair' and so complex it prevented people working more hours.

Liam Byrne MP, Labour's Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary, said: 'This government are handing a £107,000 tax cut to millionaires but hitting millions of soldiers, nurses, cashiers and electricians with a strivers' tax that will cost them hundreds of pounds a year.'

Yesterday Ed Balls attacked the 'lies' about benefit scroungers yesterday, saying two thirds of those affects are in work, on low or middle incomes and two thirds and these are women.

The shadow chancellor also backed the Government's cap on benefits of £26,000 per family to 'get a grip on the benefits bill', but that it should be higher in London, saying it could lead to homelessness if set too low.

He said: 'There are people looking for work, who currently can't find work because the economy is in a bad state. These aren't the feckless, the work shy, people behind curtains whilst others go to work, these are striving people.

'And why should they see their incomes cut while our Prime Minister at the same time is cutting taxes for the richest people?'


From Baby P to this hospital of horrors, the Welfare State is protecting callous and incompetent staff

More than five years ago, the death of 17-month-old Peter Connelly, identified at first only as Baby P, shocked the nation.

The child had suffered more than 50 injuries over an eight-month period at the hands of his mother, her boyfriend and his brother, all of whom were jailed for causing or allowing the death of a child.

What so appalled people was not just the cruelty of these three but the neglect and incompetence of the social workers, health officials and police officers in Haringey, North London, who, despite seeing the child on some 60 occasions, had nevertheless left him to his terrible fate.

The Director of Haringey children’s services, Sharon Shoesmith, was sacked — although subsequently the Court of Appeal held that she had been unfairly dismissed. In a rare interview, she has now said she contemplated suicide in the wake of the controversy and is living on benefits because she is unemployable.

Such remarks will strike many as self-serving, turning herself into the victim, rather than the child her department so catastrophically abandoned. However, although her absence of contrition continues to jar, she makes a fair point that, while she was vilified, no one in the NHS or police lost their job over the way they, in turn, failed Baby P.

But this is all-too common in welfare services. Scandal follows scandal — and  yet hardly anyone ever seems to be held  to account.

Another example occurred at Mid-Staffordshire NHS Trust, where over three years from 2005 between 400 and 1,200 patients died needlessly as managers ruthlessly cut costs — particularly nursing numbers — to meet targets the Labour government laid down to win ‘foundation’ hospital status.

Doctors were diverted from critically-ill patients in order to deal with less serious cases to meet the target of discharging all patients from Accident & Emergency units within four hours of admission.

Vulnerable patients were left starving, in soiled bedsheets or screaming in pain. Some became so dehydrated they drank from flower vases. And those nurses who tried to protest were threatened by others.

According to accounts leaked at the weekend, the report on the scandal by Robert Francis QC due out this week will call for an overhaul of regulations to ensure poor managers are weeded out, and better training for nurses and healthcare assistants.

Apparently, the report will damn not just the Mid-Staffordshire management but a ‘culture of fear’ from Whitehall down to the wards, as managers became fixated on meeting targets and protecting ministers from political criticism.

Countless families in Mid-Staffordshire have been left grieving for loved ones who were, in effect, killed by the National Health Service. Justice surely required sackings going right to the top and maybe even criminal prosecutions.

Yet astoundingly hardly any of the executives who presided over the scandal was disciplined. The hospital’s director of nursing was suspended from the nursing register and then chose to retire.

Complaints about 41 doctors and at least 29 further nurses were sent to their professional bodies, yet none has been struck off.

More jaw-droppingly, others — including Martin Yeates, the Trust’s former chief executive, who refused to give evidence to the inquiry on medical grounds — have subsequently been appointed to other senior positions in the health sector.

Cynthia Bower was chief executive of West Midlands strategic health authority, whose year-long inquiry into the Mid-Staffordshire Trust wrongly rejected its alarmingly high death rates as a statistical error.

Yet one month after this report was produced, she was promoted to run the Care Quality Commission, the health and social care regulator — only to resign last February after severe criticism of the Commission’s failure to police hospitals and care homes. Well, there’s a surprise.

Most astonishing of all, Sir David Nicholson, who ran the health authority responsible for supervising Mid-Staffordshire from August 2005 to April 2006, went on to become the chief executive of the NHS.

He was recently appointed to run the NHS Commissioning Board, the key new body created to oversee GP services.

Sir David blithely dismissed the Mid-Staffordshire scandal as a one-off problem rather than a symptom of systemic NHS failings. His position is now surely untenable.

But how could he and others responsible for this scandal ever have gone on to top NHS jobs?  This is surely not so much a National Health Service as a national madhouse.

The short answer is that state-run services invariably put managers first and the public last — because as passive recipients of the Welfare State, the public have no leverage over it. The people running welfare services are accountable not to those recipients but to the State that pays their wages and keeps the funds rolling in regardless.

They use such feather-bedding to look after their own interests, protect their political paymasters’ backs — and do what those paymasters tell them.

The result is the pernicious ‘tick-box culture’ which focuses on targets that enable politicians to boast of false achievements rather than address people’s real needs. Just as this was the bane of Mid-Staffordshire, so it was in Haringey. Sharon Shoesmith’s great defence was always that ‘correct procedures’ had been followed; she even produced a pie chart to ‘prove’ her department’s effectiveness.

The Mid-Staffordshire scandal most certainly was not a one-off. As the Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt has acknowledged, there have been four NHS scandals since then, with many other patients being shockingly neglected, bullied or abused.

Without doubt, even more such horrors are occurring in the hospital service, with more Baby P-type abuses taking place under the noses of social workers, health officials and police officers.

Part of the reason is loss of competence. Social work had the stuffing knocked out of it decades ago when it replaced specialist child care officers with general social workers. For their part, the police have become frighteningly demoralised by top-down bullying and control.

And nursing lost the plot more than a decade ago when it decided that feminism meant ‘caring’ was demeaning to women.

Yet the shocking extent of the cruelty, neglect and sheer absence of humanity now on show in the health and social services surely tells us something else. The notion that state-run services are the only way to ensure compassion is totally wrong. Altruism is a moral concept — and it is morality which has gone missing here.

Far from engendering altruism, the Welfare State has all but destroyed it. Altruism comes from acting against one’s own  self-interest in a spirit of vocation.

But the Welfare State has created a culture of entitlement. In the NHS, this has fostered an attitude among many staff that patients should be grateful for what they get. That, in turn, has encouraged a resentment which dehumanises those whose needs are seen as overwhelming.

This is seen most starkly in the systematic ill-treatment and neglect of elderly and incapable patients.

In social services, meanwhile, the obsession with equality has replaced professionalism with a paralysing political correctness. The result is that when ethnic or sexual minorities commit abuses, these offences are invariably ignored.

The Welfare State — and most particularly the NHS — is seen as the ultimate example of compassion. In fact, it leaves patients and clients powerless, while protecting and even rewarding gross incompetence, and worse, by staff.

That’s why inquiry after inquiry follows scandal after scandal. And it’s why reform of the kind demanded by this week’s Francis report is not possible without a far more fundamental change of approach.

The Government must stop bowing down to the sacred cow of the NHS and rethink the basis of the Welfare State if care services are to become, in the Health Secretary’s words, ‘worthy of a civilised country’.

Altruism and compassion have to be, once again, enabled rather than stifled.

And no amount of self-justification by Sharon Shoesmith or hand-wringing over Mid-Staffordshire NHS Trust will bring that about.


How feminism is to blame for the breakdown of the family

By British Left-winger Diane Abbott!

Feminism is partly to blame for the breakdown of the family, one of Labour’s most senior female politicians has said.  Diane Abbott, the party’s public health spokesman, said that major issues facing society ‘stem from family breakdown’.

And in a surprise admission from one of the Left’s most outspoken feminists, she conceded that women’s rights campaigners have neglected the family.

Miss Abbott, a divorced mother with one son, also highlighted the harmful impact on society of internet pornography and fast food.

Perhaps most surprising, however, is her argument that Left-wingers and feminists should make family breakdown a key battleground rather than leave the issue to Conservatives.

In an interview with The Guardian, she said: ‘Those of us who came of age at the height of feminism had very mixed views about the family, since it seemed to be defined as a heterosexual thing with a certificate, children and mum at home.’

But she said the Left had to recognise that ‘some of the biggest public health issues stem from family breakdown’, explaining: ‘Doctors say to me that so many of the drug and alcohol problems they see stem from family difficulties.’

In a nod to Labour orthodoxy, Miss Abbott said: ‘When I talk about stable families, I do not only mean the heterosexual, 2.1-children set-up, but also extended families or same-sex relationships.’

But she added: ‘I still believe some kind of stable family structure is vital and that is what most people want around them. I do not think we should abandon that terrain to the Right.’

Miss Abbott’s intervention is remarkable since it echoes the views of Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith.

Miss Abbott, who stood for the Labour leadership in 2010, said local authorities should have stronger powers to ban the spread of fried chicken shops and other fast food outlets, adding: ‘For too many children, fast food is not a treat but a dietary staple.’

Miss Abbott also threw her support behind Tory MP Claire Perry’s crusade to introduce controls on viewing internet pornography.

‘Children very young, ten or 11, can go online and see stuff they could not have bought in a newsagent 20 years ago,’ she said. ‘This crude pornification is new, and leads to the objectification of the human body, especially girls’ bodies.’

Miss Abbott also said she had come to support school uniforms – traditionally opposed by the Left – to combat the modern obsession with designer brands. She said: ‘There are these young mums that do not necessarily read to their children, they do not take them to the library, but they think they are good mums because their children are dressed in brand names from top to bottom.’



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, AUSTRALIAN POLITICSDISSECTING 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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