"Showing off her bump" - the vanishing identity of a pregnant woman

A pregnant woman is more than just a bump with a woman attached.

It's a painful experience, but I do read the Daily Mail every day. I always feel that it's important to be aware of the misinformed bile it's giving out to people.

On right-hand side of their web page there's a column called "Femail Today" which gives an index of articles about various celebrities going out wearing clothes and either putting on or losing weight. Each are bad, apparently. Because that's what women should be interested in. 
 
They often use a ridiculous phrase whenever a pregnant woman steps out in public. They say that she's "showing off her bump". Today it was Holly Madison. I wouldn't have heard of the former Playboy playmate and US reality star either if she hadn't been in Dancing with the Stars three years ago. What was Ms Madison doing? She was filling with car with petrol. I can't imagine for a moment that she was thinking "I must show my bump to the world". More likely it was something like "darn, the red light's flashing, I'd better get some gas."
 
She only announced she was pregnant the day before. It's quite common for a woman's identity to just disappear, even if the baby you're carrying is not much bigger than a grain of rice. Suddenly you become public property. People come up to you in the street and pat your bump and think they have the right to ask you all sorts of personal questions.
 
Pregnancy takes around 40 weeks. During that time, you pretty much carry on as normal. You go to work, you go shopping, you go to the gym, you go out to parties. Harriet Harman fought and won a parliamentary by-election in 1982 during her pregnancy. Angela Constance, now the Scottish Government's youth employment minister, won her Livingston constituency from Labour while in the early stages of her pregnancy with son Cyrus. I'm sure that neither of them thought for a second that they were "showing off their bump" as they headed off to the next stop on their campaign trail. 
 
You can't exactly leave your bump at home when you are pregnant, but it shouldn't define everything about you. Pregnant women don't stop being nurses, lawyers, government ministers or whatever. 
 
Further down, by the way, the Mail decided to have a pop at some other pregnant celebrity who was on her way to a yoga class. The paper expressed disbelief that anyone could bend with a bump, showing their usual ignorance of both pregnancy and yoga. 
 
It really annoys me that the aspirations of young girls appear to be directed towards fashion, frivolity and footballers by the likes of celebrity magazines and the Femail column on the Mail website. I kid you not - Louis Walsh actually suggested in his book Fast Track to Fame that aspiring female singers should give their career a boost by dating a footballer. We need to provide alternative sources of inspiration for young girls. Let's hope that will be a big part of the Olympic legacy with so many positive role models - from the warmth and wide ranging wisdom of Clare Balding's broadcasting to Jessica Ennis and Victoria Pendleton and now Sarah Storey's and many others' achievements in their sports. 
 
At some point in the next few years it is likelier than not that Kate and William will have one or more children. The media will go into overdrive and Kate will have even more ridiculous things written about her. The reporting on William will be very much business as usual, while the reports on his wife will be, pretty much, about a bump with a woman attached. It's a depressing thought.
 
Caron Lindsay is a Lib Dem activist and blogger. This post originally appeared on her blog here. You can find her on Twitter as @caronmlindsay
Who is the woman attached to this bump? You can't even tell... Photograph: Getty Images
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Building peace in a dangerous world needs resources, not just goodwill

Conflict resolution is only the first step.

Thursday 21 September is the UN-designated International Day of Peace. At noon on this day, which has been celebrated for the last 25 years, the UN general secretary will ring the Peace Bell on the UN headquarters in New York and people of good will around the world will take part in events to mark the occasion. At the same time, spending on every conceivable type of weaponry will continue at record levels.

The first couple of decades after the end of the Cold War saw a steady reduction in conflict, but lately that trend seems to have been reversed. There are currently around 40 active armed conflicts around the world with violence and suffering at record levels. According to the 2017 Global Peace Index worldwide military spending last year amounted to a staggering $1.7 trillion and a further trillion dollars worth of economic growth was lost as a result. This compares with around 10 billion dollars spent on long term peace building.

To mark World Peace Day, International Alert, a London-based non-government agency which specialises in peace building, is this week publishing Redressing the Balance, a report contrasting the trivial amounts spent on reconciliation and the avoidance of war with the enormous and ever growing global military expenditure.  Using data from the Institute for Economics and Peace, the report’s author, Phil Vernon, argues that money spent on avoiding and mitigating the consequences of conflict is not only morally right, but cost-effective – "every dollar invested in peace building reduces the cost of conflict".

According to Vernon, "the international community has a tendency to focus on peacemaking and peacekeeping at the expense of long term peace building."  There are currently 100,000 soldiers, police and other observers serving 16 UN operations on four continents. He says what’s needed instead of just peace keeping is a much greater sustained investment, involving individuals and agencies at all levels, to address the causes of violence and to give all parties a stake in the future. Above all, although funding and expertise can come from outside, constructing a durable peace will only work if there is local ownership of the process.

The picture is not wholly depressing. Even in the direst conflicts there are examples where the international community has help to fund and train local agencies with the result that local disputes can often be settled without escalating into full blown conflicts. In countries as diverse as East Timor, Sierra Leone, Rwanda and Nepal long term commitment by the international community working with local people has helped build durable institutions in the wake of vicious civil wars. Nearer to home, there has long been recognition that peace in Ireland can only be sustained by addressing long-standing grievances, building resilient institutions and ensuring that all communities have a stake in the outcome.

At a micro level, too, there is evidence that funding and training local agencies can contribute to longer term stability. In the eastern Congo, for example, various non-government organisations have worked with local leaders, men and women from different ethnic groups to settle disputes over land ownership which have helped fuel 40 years of mayhem. In the Central African Republic training and support to local Muslim and Christian leaders has helped reduce tensions. In north east Nigeria several agencies are helping to reintegrate the hundreds of traumatised girls and young women who have escaped the clutches of Boko Haram only to find themselves rejected by their communities.

Peace building, says Vernon, is the poor cousin of other approaches to conflict resolution. In future, he concludes, it must become a core component of future international interventions. "This means a major re-think by donor governments and multilateral organisations of how they measure success… with a greater focus placed on anticipation, prevention and the long term." Or, to quote the young Pakistani winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, Malala Yousufzai: "If you want to avoid war, then instead of sending guns, send books. Instead of tanks, send pens. Instead of soldiers, send teachers."

Redressing the Balance by Phil Vernon is published on September 21.   Chris Mullin is the chairman of International Alert.