"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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A small dose of facts could transform Britain's immigration debate

While "myth-busting" doesn't always work, there is an appetite for a better informed conversation than the one we're having now. 

For some time opinion polls have shown that the public sees immigration as one of the most important issues facing Britain. At the same time, public understanding of the economic and social impacts of immigration is poor and strongly influenced by the media: people consistently over-estimate the proportion of the population born outside the UK and know little about policy measures such as the cap on skilled non-EU migration. The public gets it wrong on other issues too - on teenage pregnancy, the Muslim population of the UK and benefit fraud to name just three. However, in the case of immigration, the strength of public opinion has led governments and political parties to reformulate policies and rules. Theresa May said she was cracking down on “health tourists” not because of any evidence they exist but because of public “feeling”. Immigration was of course a key factor in David Cameron’s decision to call a referendum on the UK’s membership with the EU and has been central to his current renegotiations.  

Do immigration facts always make us more stubborn and confused?

The question of how to both improve public understanding and raise the low quality of the immigration debate has been exercising the minds of those with a policy and research interest in the issue. Could the use of facts address misconceptions, improve the abysmally low quality of the debate and bring evidence to policy making? The respected think tank British Future rightly warns of the dangers associated with excessive reliance on statistical and economic evidence. Their own research finds that it leaves people hardened and confused. Where does that leave those of us who believe in informed debate and evidence based policy? Can a more limited use of facts help improve understandings and raise the quality of the debate?

My colleagues Jonathan Portes and Nathan Hudson-Sharp and I set out to look at whether attitudes towards immigration can be influenced by evidence, presented in a simple and straightforward way. We scripted a short video animation in a cartoon format conveying some statistics and simple messages taken from research findings on the economic and social impacts of immigration.

Targeted at a wide audience, we framed the video within a ‘cost-benefit’ narrative, showing the economic benefits through migrants’ skills and taxes and the (limited) impact on services. A pilot was shown to focus groups attended separately by the general public, school pupils studying ‘A’ level economics and employers.

Some statistics are useful

To some extent our findings confirm that the public is not very interested in big statistics, such as the number of migrants in the UK. But our respondents did find some statistics useful. These included rates of benefit claims among migrants, effects on wages, effects on jobs and the economic contribution of migrants through taxes. They also wanted more information from which to answer their own questions about immigration. These related to a number of current narratives around selective migration versus free movement, ‘welfare tourism’ and the idea that our services are under strain.

Our research suggests that statistics can play a useful role in the immigration debate when linked closely to specific issues that are of direct concern to the public. There is a role for careful and accurate explanation of the evidence, and indeed there is considerable demand for this among people who are interested in immigration but do not have strong preconceptions. At the same time, there was a clear message from the focus groups that statistics should be kept simple. Participants also wanted to be sure that the statistics they were given were from credible and unbiased sources.

The public is ready for a more sophisticated public debate on immigration

The appetite for facts and interest in having an informed debate was clear, but can views be changed through fact-based evidence? We found that when situated within a facts-based discussion, our participants questioned some common misconceptions about the impact of immigration on jobs, pay and services. Participants saw the ‘costs and benefits’ narrative of the video as meaningful, responding particularly to the message that immigrants contribute to their costs through paying taxes. They also talked of a range of other economic, social and cultural contributions. But they also felt that those impacts were not the full story. They were also concerned about the perceived impact of immigration on communities, where issues become more complex, subjective and intangible for statistics to be used in a meaningful way.

Opinion poll findings are often taken as proof that the public cannot have a sensible discussion on immigration and the debate is frequently described as ‘toxic’. But our research suggests that behind headline figures showing concern for its scale there may be both a more nuanced set of views and a real appetite for informed discussion. A small dose of statistics might just help to detoxify the debate. With immigration a deciding factor in how people cast their vote in the forthcoming referendum there can be no better time to try.