News roundup for September 2003

Stop writing off female authors, demands novelist

Guardian report

“Chick-lit is a deliberately condescending term they use to rubbish us all. If they called it slut-lit it couldn’t be any more insulting,” proclaimed Jenny Colgan at the Edinburgh book festival. The author said a whole generation of women’s writing, be it about “dysfunctional families, anorexia, death or other serious issues” is being written off by prejudiced book critics. Blaming “hairy-legged” female reviewers, she argued that “chick-lit” was more a marketing term than a literary genre, and that it was time to reclaim the name.

‘Designer vaginas’ increase in popularity

Observer report

Following collagen implants and Botox injections comes the latest cosmetic surgery craze: the so-called ‘designer vagina’. Last year over 100 women attended private clinics to have surgery that makes the vagina smaller, an operation with a small but significant mortality rate as well as a high risk of infection. It is marketed as helping women give more sexual pleasure to themselves and their partners, especially after childbirth. One 31-year-old woman said she had the operation as she had become self-conscious about the size of her labia, especially as she did a lot of sports: “I haven’t told my friends, except for one bloke, and he just laughed about it. I feel a lot more confident now. The whole procedure cost me £2,800 and it cost me a long time to save up, but I feel it was well worth it.”

The growing demand for the surgery comes after news from New York that the latest trend there is for women to have their toes shortened to fit into fashionable narrow shoes.

Boom for women’s spending power

BBC Report

The amount spent by women is set to rise sharply over the next five years, suggests a report by market analysts Datamonitor. Young women are remaining single for longer and increasingly looking for a fun-loving lifestyle, while those over 50 want to remain as active as possible. As a result, the amount spent by women in Europe and the US is set to rise to 2,000bn euros by 2007, compared with 1,400bn euros in 2002.

Women have traditionally focused their spending on household purchases but, said the report’s author Andrew Russell, in recent years they have become “independent and confident consumers,” not shy of spending money on themselves. They are also rejecting the “superwoman” role, he added, saying the pressure on women “to be not only a wife and mother but also a successful professional, one of the girls and a fulfilled individual is becoming too great.”

He went on to say that “media messages portraying this ideal woman are becoming unwelcome. In the future, rather than being expected to meet every demand 100%, women are going to be happy with 70%.” (Or is it that we’re realising that the remaining 30% was stuff we never actually wanted in the first place?)

Women “cheated out of £100 a week”, says union

Guardian report

Women are earning almost £100 a week less than their male counterparts despite tireless campaigning for equal pay by unions and equal opportunities organisations, said the GMB, Britain’s general trade union. Full-time female employers earn an average of £383 a week, just 74% of men’s earnings. Women who work part-time to meet childcare commitments are even worse off, earning 41% less than full-time male workers – the same gap as 25 years ago.

The Equal Opportunities Commission has warned in the past that complacency and secrecy were threatening to stop progress on equal pay, and both they and the GMB have urged employers to review their pay systems.

Doctors turn to ‘pro-ana’ websites to understand eating disorders

Observer report

Experts have argued that websites advocating anorexia and bulimia as ‘lifestyle choices’ can help doctors better understand understand people with eating disorders. Writing in The Psychologist magazine, Dr Patrick Davies and Dr Zara Lipsey note that looking at the sites gave them greater insight into the mindsets of the people involved: “It is interesting that individuals find it acceptable to publish their innermost thoughts on the most public medium ever created when they find it impossible to express some of these thoughts face to face.”

‘Pro-ana’ websites encourage visitors to swap stories, and offer tips on how to simulate eating and fake spending on food. The advice sections suggest “If your stomach grumbles, hit it,” and remind visitors that “Smoking burns calories.” The doctors acknowledge that the sites, often closed down by their internet service providers, encourage competitiveness between people with eating disorders and breed destructive relationships. Nonetheless, they conclude that they may be the only way for healthcare workers to understand an anorexia patient’s mind and develop better relationships with their patients.

More news this month in brief…

  • Grandmother makes plea for egg donor (see also July’s news…and February’s news…and….)
  • Canadian scientists reveal that morning sickness is “all in the mind”. Us women, anything for attention, eh?
  • Women “ignore breast cancer symptoms”
  • Investigation launched into the treatment of pregnant women in the workplace: many women are sacked or threatened with dismissal
  • Three-minute hysterectomy declared safe
  • Sex defendants may be granted anonymity
  • Regular exercise “prevents breast cancer” – and it’s never too late to start
  • Female doctors are better are breaking bad news than their male colleagues