Glass Eye: A Bird with a Tall Tale About the Recession

“The economy as it’s set up now doesn’t work for women,”  “It’s structured around this idea of the autonomous economic man and he has this hidden invisible caring economy that supports him and enables him to go off and do everything he wants to do. While we continue to expect women to do that, women will never be able to be equal.” Caroline Criado-Perez

One of various reasons I ended up doing this blog is because I used to find myself frequently wanting to write something in the comment section underneath various vexing Guardian articles.  So it’s ironic that, yet again, the Glass Eye is focusing on the Independent.

This one can be filed under check your data privilege (before you make sweeping sexist non sensical statements about society and men in general).

Arguably Caroline Criado-Perez is the one guilty of making the sweeping sexist statement in question but it is her namesake, Independent columnist Elisa Criado, who sets it up with a dubioius question and catches the answer without so much as a blip on whatever equality impact assessment radar she’s employing to keep her article within the bounds of general reality.

Awareness is always the first step towards change. Stereotypes form part of our habitually flawed logic, and they perpetuate inequality. Elisa Criado

As a relatively newbie blogger myself, I confess to conflicted feelings about this particular exchange because it coincided with the launch of a blog that the article was designed to promote.  That said, I ultimately got the silent treatment when I attempted to engage Elisa in an adult discussion about economic trends so I guess I shouldn’t feel too bad.


(Defying the laws of physics with Elisa Criado)

In her article International Women’s Day 2015: 10 ways to make equality happen, Criado talks to to four women she admires about how to speed up gender equality.

In the second segment (be open to a different way) she makes the casual observation that that ‘three times as many women as men became long-term unemployed in recent austere times’ and expands on this narrative in the extended version of the interview on her blog with the piercing question: ‘Why do you think more women than men lost their jobs during the recession?’

“You want to go with what you know,” (during a financial crisis) “What people know is the old way of doing things, with men running things in their male way.”  Caroline Criado-Perez

So curious about where Elisa was sourcing her facts from I contributed the first comment to her new blog, prompting the following exchange:



Hi Elisa, good luck with the blog.
Just wondering where you (and Caroline I guess) are getting stats to show more women than men losing jobs during the recession? Pretty sure most research was saying the opposite?
Thanks EiB




Thanks for the quick reply Elisa, my recent experience has been that bizarrely many feminist writers simply ignore me, especially if I attempt to discuss potential flaws in their narrative.

Caroline’s recession narrative doesn’t make any sense logically. It also appears to be unreasonably biased against men’s collective contribution to society, especially if it is based on anything deeper than a surface level understanding of the Fawcett Societies’ interpretation of workforce trends.

The assessment that more women lost their jobs during the recession because of masculine values (and men running things in their very male way) seems deeply flawed, as well as unnecessarily dismissive of the experiences of many working men and women in this country.

Given that two thirds of the public sector workforce is female it would seem logical that in a redundancy situation proportionally more women would lose their jobs?

That’s without examining workforce trends during the worst recession the UK has experienced since the war (2008 to 2009). Research by various bodies including the Equalities & Human Right’s Commission (research report 47) showed that male unemployment rates rose at a higher level and the proportion of men (as compared to women) made redundant over the recession was almost double. One of the key factors for this was that predominately male workplaces such as construction and manufacturing where hit the hardest.

The data analysis included in the Fawcett Society press release that you linked to is indicative of a phenomenon that I blog about and describe as ‘the Glass Blind Spot’ – This is essentially where someone consciously or unconsciously ignores information relevant to a discussion about equality because it would undermine or distract from their preferred narrative.

For example, it is true to say that Women’s unemployment has risen whilst men’s is (comparatively) decreasing but, crucially, their analysis fails to acknowledge that the significant majority of long term unemployed are still men and female workforce participation is also at an all time high.

Just sayin.





So about a month after our conversation and a couple of days after I sent Elisa and Caroline a copy of this post for comment, the discussion was reignited:



Hi EiB, thanks again for engaging in conversation about this! Sorry for the slow reply, I am not ignoring you, just very snowed under at the moment! I am looking at the report you mentioned, and when I look at the stats I’m not seeing what you’re seeing… you’re right about the redundancy rates, but that is only one way in which people lose their jobs (or fail to get a new job). It is also financially the most comfortable way to find yourself without a job because of the official nature of it, payments made, etc. They also explain the gender difference:

“This gender difference is not surprising, given that women are less likely than men to have worked continuously, due to taking time out of the labour market to have children. They are also more likely to work on temporary contracts, often making them ineligible for redundancy payments. In spite of this, the redundancy rate for the three months to March 2009 showed an increase of 1.7 per thousand female employees, compared with 0.5 per thousand males.”

The table on page 112 shows that the Average Annual Growth Rate between 2008-2013 was still lower for women than for men. And my maths might be rusty but I make the percentage drops in the top of that table pretty much exactly the same (which in itself contradicts the Fawcett I suppose). So I’m confused by the conclusion that more men became unemployed.. (what is this based on? I have a feeling they are just considering fulltime employment in this.) However, the report as a whole seems very aware of the problems faced by women, for example:

“Women were more likely to be employed in less cyclically sensitive occupations and so were relatively protected from unemployment, but where women were employed in male-dominated sectors, they were often the first to be dismissed.”

and seems pretty sensitive to the risky situation: “nearly one in four men think that in difficult economic times it „makes more sense for people on maternity leave to be made redundant first‟.

I totally agree with you that you need to look at the whole picture- which is why I don’t think redundancy rates are worth focusing on too much on their own. Yes, as you say, female participation is increasing, and so it should! That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t still expect and work towards full equality, which we simply do not yet have.

I am curious to know, do you believe there should be equality, but we already have it, or do you believe that there shouldn’t be equality?




Hi Elisa,

Thanks for the reply. First things first, I think it’s probably best that I answer your query about my views on equality.

The answer to your question is a very clear and categorical no. I don’t believe that there should be equality, but we already have it and I most definitely don’t believe that there shouldn’t be equality. Quite the opposite in fact.

By way of example, despite the fact that the Sex Discrimination Act was introduced in the 1970’s, every year many women get pushed out of their jobs illegally for the sole reason that they have become pregnant. This phenomenon of direct sex discrimination tends to increase during the sort of downturns we are discussing.

You seem like an entirely decent human being and I have no reason to doubt the facts and quotations that you have quoted. Please accept that it is meant with genuine respect when I say that I’m not sure what your point is?

The point I have attempted to convey to you is that I believe that there are very obvious and fundamental flaws in your and Caroline’s narrative explaining why more women than men lost their jobs during the recession.

At the risk of being accused of cherry picking sections of the Equality & Human Rights Commission’s report that support my preferred position, this is best supported by one simple sentence in the executive summary:

While men have experienced higher job losses to date in the current recession, women may be more likely to be affected later, with a second wave of job losses expected in the public sector.

Please understand that I’m not interested in engaging in a boys v girls winner takes all playground shakedown. There are massive inequalities in the UK impacting on both women and men. One reason I started my blog but [is that] I agree with Alison Wolf that an awful lot of privileged middle class self identifying feminists appear to be too preoccupied with the prospect [of]nanny state quotas at the top end to focus on the big picture below (most especially when it comes to even acknowledging the apparently controversial concept that many men can and do experience inequalities too).

I accept that part of the quota argument is that if there were more women at the top then this might change things for women at the bottom but I’m not convinced. After all those pregnant workers are as likely to be fired by a female boss as by a male one.

So no, I don’t believe that there should be equality, but we already have it and I most definitely don’t believe that there shouldn’t be equality.

Do you?

Next | Laura Bates


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