Thursday, March 05, 2009

Misogynist of the Week - Tom Harris MP

I never thought I'd have to give out another Misogynist of the Week award so quickly - 2 in 4 days is quite something - but Tom Harris is a very deserving winner.

Tom wrote a blog post yesterday, entitled "The Return of Morality" which was basically a rant against teenage mothers on benefits.

Oh my, where do we start with this?

“Teenage girls should not be having underage sex.”

He doesn't seem to be acknowledge the fact that teenage girls generally don’t have sex alone, or certainly not the sort that results in pregnancy. How come it’s the girls’ fault and not the boys'?

I did a post on this subject a couple of weeks ago and rather than focus on taking away benefits from these families, I looked at parenting classes, issues such as the way premature sexualisation of young women is tolerated and encouraged by our media and society and sex education.

And don’t assume teenagers all know the mechanics. You can say there’s loads of sex education, but that assumes that all the kids have been in school and not bunking off at the time, and if they’re there that they understand what’s being said to them.

Also remember the teenage assumption that it will never happen to them….

I saw a youth worker on Question Time the other week say that some of the kids she’d come across were using things like cling film and crisp packets for contraception. You would think that couldn’t happen in this day and age, but it clearly does.

If young people hope and young women in particular had confidence and self esteem, I expect that would help reduce the level of teenage pregnancy somewhat.

As far as dependency on benefits is concerned, the Labour Government of which Tom was a member has ensured that the Poverty Trap is as alive and well today as it was under the Tories. In fact, more children living in poverty come from families with working parents. How can that make any sense?

I think we all want to help those who are able to work back into the workplace. I would humbly suggest that Mr Harris' government had 11 years of the most benign economic circumstances on which to start on that process before the recession started. They could have built a benefits system that was responsive to individual circumstances and given their own staff who dealt with clients more discretion rather than build a one size fits all monolith that helps nobody.

I, however, don't hold with the idea that lone parents always should be forced back to work for many reasons but we'll leave that for the moment.

What I want to know is whether Tom Harris wants to return to the days where fingers were pointed at young, unmarried mothers? The days when they ware sent off to bleak homes to have their babies and immediately have them taken away from them, suffering unimaginable trauma. Does he really want to see young teenagers with newborns sleeping in bus shelters? Have we not moved on from these cruel and inhumane days?

As I said before, someone very close to me had her first child as a teenager. The baby was born prematurely. Of course when we saw her in hospital in her little incubator for the first time we fell in love with her. We were also incredibly proud of her mother who handled the whole thing fantastically and spent weeks in the hospital expressing milk round the clock and being a wonderfully sensitive and responsive mother.

That mother has herself established a career, had other children and the baby is now almost the same age as her mother was when she fell pregnant and she has a very sensible attitude to life.

If my daughter got pregnant as a teenager, and you had better believe that I would do everything I possibly could to stop that happening, I would love her and support her. What would Tom Harris want me to do? Throw her and her child out on the streets?

Tom's posting will no doubt win him some friends in the right wing tabloid press and amongst religious fundamentalists of all persuasions. It's all very well to have an outpouring of disapproval, but is returning to the days when unspeakable, inhuman horrors and injustices were handed out to young women who found themselves pregnant, the best that he can come up with?

LibDig This!


Claire Khaw said...

has a few recommendations about what to do about single mums inviting your comment.

(a) deprive a single mother of child benefit if she cannot produce a marriage certificate
(b) fine the single mother for producing an illegitimate baby, say £1000, if she does not name the father
(c) require her parent(s) to pay this sum if she cannot or will not
(d) fine the father of an illegitimate child a sum of money, say £1000
(e) require the parent(s) of that father to pay this sum if he cannot pay it himself
(f) require that the mother give up the child for adoption before more lives are ruined

Unknown said...

Illiberal, immoral and inhuman, I think, sum up my feelings about your set of proposals.

Anonymous said...

Nah. 'Self-righteous pish.' It's shorter.

Unknown said...

Norman, you have a point. I actually thought it was a joke at first - nobody could be quite so ignorant, could they?

Matthew Cain said...

I thought Harris' remarks were complete folly and betrayed a lack of thought, consideration and political nous:

Anonymous said...

I've been on the 1party4all site. I saw no jokes. I did not feel the need to establish anything apart from the fact the guy's bonkers. Exactly what part of the spectrum of madness he's on isnae' worth while establishing. Occam's Razor on number 10.

Unknown said...

Matthew - I read your excellent post and have sympathy and relief that Tom is in your party and not mine.


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