Interesting developments in Europe II

We also learn that the French parliament is taking steps to ban websites that encourage anorexia (the ‘pro ana’ movements):

  • ‘If, as expected, the legislation is also approved by the Senate, it will become a criminal offence in France “to encourage another person to seek excessive thinness… which could expose them to a risk of death or endanger their health”. Offenders risk two years in prison or a €30,000 (£24,000) fine’

Might magazines that have pictures of skinny models be deemed to encourage the seeking of excessive thinness? THis aspect of the problem is also being addressed:

  • ‘At the same time, Mme Boyer [author of the law] and the Health Minister [Roselyne Bachelot]  have drawn up a “voluntary charter on bodily image and anorexia”. French advertisers, model agencies and prêt-à-porter fashion houses have agreed to sign the charter and to “refuse to publish images, especially of young people, which could promote an ideal of extreme thinness.”

Interesting developments in Europe, I

Here’s Mr Zapatero, Spanish Prime Minister, and the majority of his cabinet:

JAVIER SORIANO/AFP/Getty ImagesThe Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero poses on the steps of the Moncloa palace in Madrid with his female cabinet ministers (left to right) Science and Innovation minister Cristina Garmendia, Transport and Development minister Magdalena Alvarez, Education, Social Affairs and Sports minister Mercedes Cabrera Calvo, Defence minister Carme Chacon, deputy prime minister Maria Teresa Fernandez de la Vega, Public Administration minister Elena Salgado, Equality minister Bibiana Aido, Housing minister Beatriz Corredor and Agriculture and Environment minister Elena Espinosa

Yes!! In the Spanish cabinet 9 out of 17 members are women. “I am not only an anti-machoist, I am a feminist,” Mr Zapatero [Prime Minister] once said. In the Independent, we hear that this has not been universally well-received:

‘the spectacle of the 37-year-old Chacon inspecting the troops on Monday morning dressed in black pants and a white tunic, and visibly pregnant, was altogether too much for the Conservative daily El Mundo, which raged against what it called “an exercise in political marketing” that offended the traditional values and culture of the Spanish army.’

Of course, depending on how one characterises these values (macho? sexist?) one might think this is a good thing. But in anycase, they’d better get used to it: the Spanish government has introduced a ‘40% rule’:

  • ‘This prohibits men or women from making up more than 60 per cent of the candidates of any political party that contests national or local elections. It also demands, but does not require, that by 2010 any company negotiating for public contracts should appoint women to 40 per cent of the places on their boards of directors.’

Other interesting structures for promoting gender equality are discussed in the article, including:

  • ‘the so-called “zipper” system [operative in Sweden], under which if there is a man at the top of the party list, the number two position must be occupied by a woman, the third by a man, and so on.’

In the UK, only 19.5% of Parliamentarians are women. Denis MacShane, Britain’s former Europe minister, commented:’ I hope Gordon Brown and his ministers can spend more time going to Spain and learning.” Indeed! 


Mr Jender sent me a link to this stunningly blatant sexist coffee commercial (message: make your man Folger’s or he’ll withdraw his affection and pay too much attention to the ‘girls’ in the office):

And I started wondering how far we’ve REALLY come. Sure, you’d never see a commercial like that, which is good. But now think about the way that many pundits blamed Elliot Spitzer’s wife for the fact that he was hiring prostitutes– obviously she wasn’t making him feel “like a hero”, so of course his loyalties wandered. (And, like any hero, he wanted unprotected sex with prostitutes.) It’s not all about coffee now (and if it was, it surely wouldn’t be Folgers Crystals!), but what the husband does is still the wife’s fault.