British MP Dianne Abbott is a classic example of secular incoherence.
Ms. Abbott is feminist and has recently acknowledged that feminism has been responsible for the instability of families. She is now expressing concerns about the social consequences of the breakdown of families but supports same sex families and clearly does not think all children so have a mother and father.
The challenge of a porn-riddled culture
Sunday, January 27, 2013
LAST week I gave a major speech on the sexualisation of women and girls in British culture. I described it as the “pornification” of British culture. But I believe that with increased materialism and the rise of new media these issues are becoming a challenge all over the world.
Adolescents have always been interested in sex and have always dressed to shock their parents. And there is a danger that we adults forget what we got up to when we were teenagers. But the growth of sexuality as a commodity and the rise of new media have created new challenges.
Mobile phones are also being used for “sexting” — the sending of sexually explicit messages and photographs.
We see the saturation of the media, advertising and billboards with images of women which, a generation ago, you would only have seen in pornographic magazines. Here in Britain you can purchase T-shirts for little girls with the slogan “future porn star”.
There are padded bras, thongs and high-heeled shoes marketed and sold to children. You can even buy little girls’ pencil cases with a Playboy Bunny logo. There are the ubiquitous “slack” music lyrics. And there is the pressure on women to achieve an artificial “pornified” image.
Above all, the issue is the easy availability of hard-core porn on the Internet. Some researchers say that, shockingly, in Britain the average age of kids viewing hardcore porn for the first time has dropped from 11 to eight.
Young children can view material on their mobile phones that would not even have been widely available a generation ago. Mobile phones are also being used for so-called “sexting” — the sending of sexually explicit messages and photographs.
Children don’t seem to realise that once those images are out there, they are out of their control. And girls feel under pressure to please the boys in their life.
Research on “sexting” has found rates of anywhere between 15 per cent and 40 per cent in school-age children. Increasingly young girls are subject to “slut shaming” and sexual bullying in schools. And, of course, the behaviour labelled sluttish in school girls is exactly the same behaviour school boys boast about amongst themselves. New technology, same old double standards.
Sexual liberation was considered a good thing. But a “pornified” culture can be a prison, putting incredible pressure on young women.
But there are things that communities, the church and parents can do. We need to focus on preparing young people to form healthy relationships, deal with issues of self-esteem and encourage them to resist peer group pressure. Above all, girls must be taught to value themselves and understand that they can say no.
Parents should be given information and support to educate their children about the issues. Your parents are a powerful force in shaping a child’s attitude to gender and sexuality. Even if children are sometimes loathe to admit it.
We must make it easier for parents to block adult and age-restricted material across all media. We also need to help our young people use new technology and media safely.
Talking about sex with your children is often embarrassing, both for parents and the children. But churches, the extended family and parents need to be prepared to have conversations with children about sex, pornography and technology. Otherwise our children may be pressured into behaviour that they may live to be severely embarrassed by.
Diane Abbott is the British Labour party MP for Hackney North and Stoke Newington and the party’s spokeswoman on public health
Diane Abbott outlines plan to curb fast food shops
Shadow health minister wants to give local authorities powers to curb spread of ‘chicken and chip’ shops near schools
Local authorities should be given stronger powers to ban the spread of fried chicken shops and other fast food outlets, and end the sale of cheap alcohol from corner shops, especially near schools, according to proposals put forward by Diane Abbott, the shadow public health minister.
In a wide-ranging interview, she also calls for clearer measures to prevent families being shaped by materialism and commercial brands, and to help younger girls understand their sexuality – saying British society is being increasingly “pornified”.
“The rise of the internet means young people’s lives are being saturated with porn and sex in a way that they were not 20 years ago,” she said. She supports controls to restrict children’s access to the internet pioneered by Tory MP Claire Perry.
Abbott, one of the Labour party’s most senior leftwing figures, argues that the left has to recognise that public health issues, including obesity and alcoholism, often have their roots in family breakdown.
“When I talk about stable families, I do not only mean the heterosexual, 2.1-children setup, but also extended families or same-sex relationships.
“But 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.”
Discussing the need to tackle obesity and alcoholism, she said: “I am looking at planning legislation to make it easier for local authorities to ban not just McDonald’s, but those chicken and chip shops that cluster around schools.
“I certainly think as part of Labour’s policy review we should make it easier for local authorities to use public health criteria in planning and to stop the proliferation of chicken and chip shops. For too many children, fast food is not a treat but a dietary staple.”
She also wants councils to have greater powers to control alcohol sales. “When you talk about alcoholism, people think in terms of pubs and bars. But the real issue is access to alcohol, and the grocery shops and sweet shops that sell alcohol. In some streets, every other shop is selling alcohol at prices cheaper than Coca Cola. I think planning legislation should make it easier for local authorities to control the number of outlets for alcohol on a street.”
She also calls for:
• A 50p per unit minimum price for alcohol, as also proposed by the Scottish government.
• Tighter controls on advertising of sugary foods directed at young children, especially on the internet.
• Rules requiring academies to abide by the same nutritional standards as maintained schools.
• A greater variety of sports for girls, to prevent a decline in physical activity in secondary schools.
• Tighter controls on children’s access to the internet.
“Some of the biggest public health issues stem from family breakdown,” she said. “Doctors say to me that so many of the drug and alcohol problems they see stem from family difficulties. These are not issues solely for the pages of women’s magazines, and for too long only the right has been able to talk about them. I think feminists should be able to talk about them.”
She added: “As a feminist, perhaps we have been ambivalent about families. In the 1980s, we used to say: ‘A woman without a man is like a fish without a bicycle.’ The more academic version was: ‘The family is the site of women’s oppression.’ So 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.”
Abbott also criticises what she describes as McParenting – where parents substitute materialism for parental responsibility.
“The days of your mum living next door are over, due to lack of available housing, so young women cast around as a way of measuring themselves as mothers. Because they don’t have a nan, or sisters, or aunties dropping in every day with a narrative of what being a mum is, they watch TV to try to find out. And the narrative from TV is about the brands that you can buy for your children.
“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, and that is because their narrative for being a good mum comes from the media. If your seven-year-old has Nike trainers and an Adidas jumper that makes you a good mum. It permeates people – you are defined by the brands you wear.
“As a young leftwinger I never thought I would see the point of school uniform, but you get less of that pressure to have this designer brand or the other. There is something wrong when the average child knows 300 or 400 brand names before the age of 11. It is terrible the way children’s lives are saturated by materialism.”
She added: “There is a danger that we have a changed narrative of motherhood. Now a good mum does not let her children out due to stranger fear – a good mum has her children in front of TV and the computer”.
Later this month, Abbott is due to deliver a speech on the sexualisation of children, including the growth of “sexting”, a form of sexual cyber-bullying, often via mobile phone texts.
“I think we live in a society that is increasingly pornified, and with the rise of the internet, young people’s lives are saturated with porn and sex in a way they were not 20 years ago. If you wanted to see a naked person you went to a newsagent and bought a magazine, and if you were clearly a young person, it would not be sold to you.
“Now, children very young, 10 or 11, can go online and see stuff they could not have bought in a newsagent 20 years ago. This crude pornification is new, and leads to the objectification of the human body, especially girls’ bodies.”
She says society needs to do more to help young girls withstand unwanted cultural and social pressures at school. “There are a series of modern issues that schools and families must confront – such as the rise of ‘sexting’ and ‘slut-shaming’ in schools. I think we need to work towards creating a society in which young people can navigate their sexuality without risk of shame, harassment or violence.”
Abbott admits that discussions of these issues can be perilous.
“Politicians should always be very careful about being involved in these social issues, partly because they are not normally susceptible to command and control politics, legislation and instruction. Nonetheless, they are big issues that speak to people’s sense of wellbeing and emotional resilience.”