In defence of Megan Fox

Hiring a night nurse doesn’t make Megan Fox neglectful of her child – she’s just a woman trying to survive in the patriarchy like the rest of us.

Until today, the only thing I knew about Megan Fox was that she starred in the first two Transformers movies and that she may or may not have been fired from the third for calling the director Michael Bay a misogynist. It's hard to say if she walked or was fired as Fox is keeping a dignified silence whilst Bay, and her former co-star Shia LeBoeuf, are bad-mouthing her at every opportunity. Whatever actually happened, Fox is clearly a better person than either Bay or LeBoeuf; although that isn't the best compliment since I've eaten carrots that had more empathy than Bay. Suffice it to say, I'm on Team Fox.

Today, I learned that Fox is now married and has a very new baby. 

I learned about Fox's new baby from an op-ed piece in the Independent which effectively accuses Fox, but not her husband, of child neglect for hiring a night nurse. I have no idea who the writer Susan Elkin actually is, above her very basic biography attached to the article, but it's been a while since I've read a piece written by a woman who so clearly hates other women. 

Because there is no excuse for what Elkin has written. 

There is no excuse for the Independent to have published the op-ed piece. 

But, you know what, I would like to thank Megan Fox for publicly acknowledging that she has hired a night nurse. 

Because what really pisses me off is the culture of "motherhood" that requires "celebrity" women to pretend that they do everything all by themselves after having a baby. That is what is harmful to all women: the idea that a woman who has just given birth must immediately lose all their baby weight, baking 250 cupcakes for the school fete, going back to work full-time at six weeks whilst simultaneously looking immaculate in their immaculate house. Celebrity women who try to exist outside this narrow and punitive construction of mother are punished by the likes of Perez Hilton calling them fat and Hello mag making snide remarks about their lack of make-up.

So, power to Megan Fox for being honest about something that was going to result in her being bullied. How freaking brave is she?

And, that shit about whether or not Fox breastfeeds, well that's none of our business. The culture which pushes formula feeding unnecessarily onto new mothers and which sexualises women's breasts to the point that women can not breastfeed publicly without feeling uncomfortable is the problem. The culture which believes that women's bodies belong to their husbands and that a man's rights to access his possession's breasts are more important than a new infant is the problem. The culture which defines any woman who has given birth as unfuckable until they lose all their "baby weight" is the problem. That is what we need to address.

We won't create a breast-feeding friendly culture when women write shit like this:

Babies are born to women – whether some feminists like it or not and wish it otherwise – and nature provides the baby’s food in the form of breast milk. That milk, and suckling it from the mother’s breast, is the child’s entitlement. Direct access to its mother’s breast milk is, in my book, every child’s human right.

That doesn’t mean extracting it with a pump and handing it over to someone else to pour into the child either. It means proper tactile feeding from the breast and all the bonding which goes with that. Everyone knows that there is nothing better than breast milk for a baby’s health and, there are benefits for the mother too – not least, it is much easier to lose the baby weight if you breast feed than if you don’t. It is also considerable less hassle – at a time when you’re tired and maybe stressed – than fiddling about with bottles which have to be sterilised. And you have it with you, on tap as it were, wherever you and the child happen to be.

If you hire a night nurse the child may be losing out on part of this and I regard that as a form of neglect.

Now, I get that Elkin is clearly trying to flog some book that no one actually wants to read but, unless you are actually stupid, no one would think the above was going to increase the number of women breastfeeding exclusively for six months. It just isn't. All it does is make women feel like failures if they don't. As for the hyperbole of child neglect, well, I'd suggest that Elkin wasn't the most effective teacher on the planet if that's her definition of child neglect.

Plus, Elkin doesn't actually understand the mechanics of breast-feeding. It's not the breast-feeding which changes the shape of women's breasts. That's the result of the weight gain during pregnancy and the subsequent loss of weight thereafter. Not breastfeeding will do nothing to prevent a woman's breasts from changing. Pregnancy changes women's breasts.

And women shouldn't be policing other women's bodies. We should be standing up for other women being forced by Patriarchal structures into making "choices" they do no want for fear of reprisal. 

In many ways, this article is just spiteful. It's just the kind of spiteful that the Patriarchy loves: pitting women against women. Normally, I'd veer on the side of ignoring, however insulting a woman who has just given birth and making her personally responsible for the decisions of a thousand other women isn't kind. 

Megan Fox may be a very privileged woman but she is still a woman. She doesn't deserve this kind of treatment. 

Megan Fox is just a woman trying to survive in the Patriarchy; just like the rest of us.

Louise Pennington is a feminist activist, historian and writer. Her personal blog My Elegant Gathering of White Snows is part of the Mumsnet Bloggers Network. This piece originally appeared on her blog here and is crossposted with her permission.

Megan Fox may be privileged, but she is still just a woman trying to make the best of things. Photograph: Getty Images

Louise Pennington is a feminist activist, historian and writer. Her personal blog My Elegant Gathering of White Snows is part of the Mumsnet Bloggers Network.

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Chuka Umunna calls for "solidarity" among Labour MPs, whoever is voted leader

The full text of shadow business secretary Chuka Umunna's speech to Policy Network on election-winning ideas for Labour's future, and the weaknesses of the New Labour project.

There has never been an easy time to be a social democrat (or “democratic socialist” as we sometimes call ourselves in Britain). Whereas the right can demonise the poor and extol the virtues of the market, and the hard left can demonise the market and extol the role of the state, our position of constraining the domination of markets and reforming the state is, by definition, more complex.

It is nonetheless the case that social democracy has a historic responsibility, in every generation, to renew democracy and preserve a civic culture. This is achieved not through soundbites and slogans, but through the hard-headed development of a progressive politics that reconciles liberty and democracy, new comers and locals to our communities, business and workers, in a common life that preserves security, prosperity and peace.  This historic mission is all the more urgent now and my determination that we succeed has grown not weakened since our election defeat last May.

But, in order to be heard, it is necessary to make balanced and reasonable argument that both animates and inspires our movement, and which is popular and plausible with the people.  The first is pre-requisite to the second; and there is no choice to be made between your party’s fundamental principles and electability. They are mutually dependent - you cannot do one without the other.

We are in the midst of choosing a new leader and it is clear to anyone who has watched the UK Labour Party leadership election this summer that amongst a significant number there is a profound rage against Third Way politics – as pursued by the likes of Bill Clinton, Tony Blair, Gerhard Schröder and others - as a rejection of our fundamental values.

In the UK there is a view that New Labour accepted an uncritical accommodation with global capital that widened inequality, weakened organised labour and we were too close to the US Republicans and too far from the European left.

I do not believe this is fair, not least because we rescued many of our public services from the scrap heap when we came to office in 1997 and there were very significant achievements  we should celebrate.  New Labour renewed our National Health Service in a fundamental way; we built new schools and improved existing ones; we set up new children’s centres all over the country; we brought in a National Minimum Wage; we worked with others to bring peace to Northern Ireland; we introduced civil partnerships.  Just some of our achievements.

However, though we may take issue with the critique, I do not think we can simply dismiss out of hand those who hold critical views of New Labour. Like any government, the New Labour administration made mistakes - it could and should have achieved more, and done more to challenge the Right’s assumptions about the world. In the end, it is not unreasonable to be ambitious for what your party in government can achieve in building greater equality, liberty, democracy and sustainability. It is far better we acknowledge, not reject, this ambition for a better world, as we seek to forge a new politics of the common good fit for the future.

Realising our values in office has been disrupted by globalisation and the surge of technological forces that are displacing and reshaping industry after industry.

Some argue that globalisation as an ideological construct of the right. But we must recognise that we live in an increasingly integrated world in which markets have led to an unprecedented participation of excluded people in prosperity, a rise in living standards for hundreds of millions  of people and a literacy unprecedented in human history – this is particularly so in emerging economies like my father’s native Nigeria. And the internet has led to a level of accountability that has disturbed elites.

Yet, this has been combined with a concentration of ownership that needs to be challenged, of a subordination of politics that requires creative rather than reactive thinking, and these global forces have exacerbated inequalities as well as helped reduce poverty.

So it is important that we understand the sheer scale and impact of new technologies. At the moment we are engaged in a debate about Uber and its threat to one of the last vestiges of vocational labour markets left in London, those of the black taxi cabs and their attainment of 'The Knowledge'. But the reality is that within the next decade there will be the emergence of driverless cars so we have to intensify our exploration of how to support people in a knowledge economy and the realities of lifelong learning, as well as lifelong teaching. As people live longer we will have to think about how to engage them constructively in work and teaching in new ways.

Once again, I'm addressing all of this, Social Democracy requires a balanced view that domesticates the destructive energy of capital while recognising its creative energy, that recognises the need for new skills rather than simply the protection of old ones. A Social Democracy that recognises that internationalism requires co-operation between states and not a zero sum game that protectionism would encourage.

Above all, Social Democratic politics must recognise the importance of place, of the resources to be found in the local through which the pressures of globalisation can be mediated and shaped. Our job is to shape the future and neither to accept it as a passive fate nor to indulge the fantasy that we can dominate it but to work with the grain of change in order to renew our tradition, recognising the creativity of the workforce, the benefits of democracy and the importance of building a common life.  Sources of value are to be found in local traditions and institutions.

This also requires a recognition that though demonstration and protest are important,; but relationships and conversations are a far more effective way of building a movement for political change.

One of the huge weaknesses of New Labour was in its reliance on mobilisation from the centre rather than organising. It therefore allowed itself to be characterised as an elite project with wide popular support but it did not build a base for its support within the party across the country, and it did not develop leaders from the communities it represented. It was strong on policy but weak on strengthening democratic politics, particularly Labour politics.

Over half a million people are now members, supporters or affiliated supporters of our party, with hundreds of thousands joining in the last few weeks. Some have joined in order to thwart the pursuit of Labour values but many more have joined to further the pursuit of those values, including lots of young people. At a time when so many are walking away from centre left parties across the Western world and many young people do not vote let alone join a party, this is surely something to celebrate.

So it is vital that we now embrace our new joiners and harness the energy they can bring to renewing Labour’s connection with the people. First, we must help as many them as possible to become doorstep activists for our politics. Second, I have long argued UK Labour should campaign and organise not only to win elections but to affect tangible change through local community campaigns. We brought Arnie Graf, the Chicago community organiser who mentored President Obama in his early years, over from the U.S. to help teach us how to community organise more effectively. We should bring Arnie back over to finish the job and help empower our new joiners to be the change they want to see in every community – we need to build on the links they have with local groups and organisations.

I mentioned at the beginning that in every generation Social Democracy is besieged from left and right but the achievements of each generation are defined by the strength of a complex political tradition that strengthens solidarity through protecting democracy and liberty, a role for the state and the market and seeks to shape the future through an inclusive politics. Solidarity is key which is why we must accept the result of our contest when it comes and support our new leader in developing an agenda that can return Labour to office.

Yes, these are troubled times for social democrats. All over Europe there is a sense among our traditional voters that we are remote and do not share their concerns or represent their interests or values.  There is surge of support for populist right wing parties from Denmark to France, of more left wing parties in Greece and Spain and in Britain too. There is renewal of imperial politics in Russia, the murderous and abhorrent regime of ISIL in the Middle East, volatility in the Chinese economy and in Europe a flow of immigration that causes fear and anxiety.

But, the task of Social Democracy in our time is to fashion a politics of hope that can bring together divided populations around justice, peace and prosperity so that we can govern ourselves democratically. We have seen worse than this and weathered the storm. I am looking forward, with great optimism to be being part of a generation that renews our relevance and popularity in the years to come.

Chuka Umunna is the shadow business secretary and the Labour MP for Streatham.