Not so positive discrimination: Some Equalities ministers are more equal than others

Individual women in power do not become champions of all women by default, a truth ably demonstrated by David Cameron's new Cabinet appointees


From all the fuss, you'd think something significant had happened. On Tuesday, David Cameron appointed three female MPs to Cabinet-attending positions. (For those keeping score, that makes five women in the Cabinet and 17 men.) On Wednesday, the Daily Mail heralded these promotions in its own inimitable way: a double-page photo-spread assessing the physical appearance of "thigh-flashing Esther" McVey, "Eighties air hostess" Liz Truss and their colleagues. It seemed everyone was outraged, except, surprisingly, McVey herself, who cheerfully told Sky News she thought the Mail's piece might "start a whole generation of new young girls talking about what jobs [they] can do".

On Thursday, the Labour MP Helen Goodman took a different tack: "#Mail's page on Tory women was fair," she tweeted. "All are puppets who'll change nothing and their appearance really is most interesting thing about them." Goodman later apologised for the tweet, although it seems obvious it was not intended as a criticism of women in politics – she is one, so that would be weird. Rather, it was a criticism of Tory attitudes to women in politics – and since she's a Labour politician, what's weird about that?

The usual grumble regarding efforts to promote women is that it results in meritless promotions. This argument conveniently ignores the many meritless male MPs who owe their seats to a society-wide, centuries-old discrimination in their favour. Well if not that, what else could explain the disproportionate 503 men to 147 women. It certainly wasn't their dress sense, was it?

Actually this row isn't really about positive discrimination at all. You can recognise the necessity of getting more women into power, and still not feel it necessary to celebrate every female appointment as a victory. Individual women in power do not become champions of all women by default, a truth ably demonstrated by Cameron's new appointees. It's not so much that Nicky Morgan, the new Education minister, voted for restricted abortion access in 2011, or that both Morgan and McVey voted against equal marriage in 2013. It's that none of the promoted MPs have much of a record of speaking up on equality at all. If they had, would they have risen so speedily to the top ranks of their party? It should tell us something about the Government's priorities that Morgan will be the third Tory MP in a row to juggle the Minister for Women and Equalities role with another, higher profile position.

Perhaps it would be sisterly to celebrate the career achievements of any women in politics. Whatever she stands for at least she is in some snail-like progression towards the Government's pathetic target of having one-third of ministers be female. Unfortunately, if the 35 years since Britain elected its first and so far only female prime minister have taught us anything, it's not to be appeased so easily. The promotion of a women means very little unless the interests of women are also promoted.

Work is its own reward

This week marked the 63rd year since the first publication of every thoughtful teen's favourite book, Catcher in the Rye. Not a particularly significant number, perhaps, but if the rumours are true, it will be the last such anniversary before J D Salinger's body of work increases in size considerably. According to a biography published in 2013, when the author died four years ago, he left instructions for the staggered release of five unpublished titles between 2015 and 2020.

Maybe this will happen, maybe it won't, and maybe it would be a shame if it did. Certainly Salinger seemed to believe for most of his life that work is better when it escapes all public recognition. We know this not only because of his famously reclusive habits, but because the idea is often found in his books.

According to the Eastern mystic philosophies espoused in his novella Zooey, among others, work done for no audience (or the audience only of Seymour Glass's hypothetical "Fat Lady") is more sacred than work tarnished by the world's praise. Readers love him for this consoling philosophy, but it seems Salinger rather wrote himself into a corner. The books he didn't publish are now much more meaningful than the ones he did.

The milk of human piousness

Soya milk messes with your fertility, rice milk may contain arsenic and anyone with a lactose intolerance or a care for the future of humanity surely knows that cow's milk is the juice of death. Now, thanks to a much-discussed article in the US news magazine Mother Jones, even almond milk has been declared an environmentally ruinous rip-off. Is there any point at all in trying to eat right?

As in the story of the princess and the soya bean, healthy eaters are people with such delicate regard for their own physical equilibrium, the slightest impurity keeps them up at night – and then they proffer this sensitivity as proof of their moral superiority.

It's time to wake up and smell the Fairtrade coffee. As each new food fad is exposed as a scam, only the common sense approach to healthy eating remains: everything in moderation, especially rice milk.

Back to the drawing board

I'm not surprised by Edward Snowden's claims that NSA workers regularly find and perv over "sexually compromising" pictures which are "completely unrelated to their work in any sort of necessary sense". I am surprised that people are still taking nudie phone pics of themselves and their partners. Wasn't the miserable invention of "revenge porn" (intimate material shared online by an ex-partner) discouragement enough? Call me a luddite, but if a simple pencil sketch was sexy enough for Jack and Rose in Titanic, it's sexy enough for the rest of us. Time to bring back the lost art of life drawing.

Landen on their feet

Inspirational memes aren't usually my bag, but I'll make an exception for the Roma of Landen in Belgium. At 9am on Wednesday morning, the local mayor tried to force the community to leave a plot of land by blasting Dire Straits' "Sultans of Swing" at top volume. The Roma responded with an impromptu disco, which lasted until 12pm when the music was eventually switched off. So this weekend, don't dance like nobody's watching; dance like the Mayor of Landen just tried to evict you and you're having too much fun to notice.

React Now

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Part-time Payroll Officer - Yorkshire - Professional Services

£25000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A successful professional services firm is lo...

Ashdown Group: Helpdesk / Trainee Application Support Analyst - Hampshire

£25000 per annum + pension, 25 days holiday: Ashdown Group: A highly reputable...

Ashdown Group: Helpdesk Analyst / Trainee Application Support Analyst - Essex

£25000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A highly reputable business is looking to rec...

Ashdown Group: IT Support Engineer - Hertfordshire -Large Established Business

£22000 - £28000 per annum + study support, gym: Ashdown Group: A large busines...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Nicola Sturgeon could have considerable influence over David Cameron in a hung parliament  

General Election 2015: What if Cameron were to end up in hock to the SNP?

Steve Richards
Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before