Wednesday, 28 December 2011

Female 'Faces of the Year' . Thanks Beeb!

London Feminist points out :

Our active women, and their reasons for making the news, are: Adele (pop star), Sarah Burton (dress designer), Pauline Pearce (“heroine of Hackney”) and the Duchess of Alba (got married aged 88.)

Our passive women are: Gabrielle Giffords (got shot in the head and survived), Eman al-Obeidi (beaten and gang-raped by Gaddafi’s militia), Nafissatou Diallo (was allegedly subjected to a sexual attack by DSK), Jelena Lecic (her identity was stolen by a man pretending to be a Middle Eastern blogger), Charlene Wittstock (wept as she reluctantly married the Prince of Monaco – seriously, this woman’s fame is not something we as a society should be proud of), Rebecca Leighton (got falsely accused of murder) and Kelsey de Santis (got taken on a date by Justin Timberlake).

and don't forget the panda.

BBC link - Faces of the Year

Friday, 4 November 2011

Cuts hit women hard in the UK

Report from the Fawcett Society and various other groups. Article in the Guardian

As always some of the comments below the line show that some people's attitudes are well in reverse already.

Saturday, 29 October 2011

Sneery male writers

Reading what I normally find an intelligent site, Craig Murray which makes a decent analysis of the state of the world, I was annoyed by a (superficial? trivial?) issue today. He refers to Polly Toynbee as 'that poor deluded old bat'. Is there a male equivalent? Should anyone be referred to in this way, however much you disagree with their opinions?

Is the female version of ad hominem ad mulierem? I really fear that man cannot include woman in this case, since the patronising tone seems saved especially for women.

Yes, Polly can be too forgiving of the Labour Party, but where is the real alternative? Is it not true that the lesser of two evils is nevertheless, less evil. I paraphrase Chomsky, I think. And i do think that this government is more 'evil' than the last one.

I don't often allow myself to be provoked into a rant these days, but this did it. Hit both buttons - ageism and sexism.

Sunday, 23 October 2011

Women in Tunisia

hope that their rights are not side-lined as the new democracy takes shape.

Guardian/Observer publishes article by their Paris correspondent, Angelique Chrisafis.

Saturday, 1 October 2011

Ms/Miss/Mrs - Madame/Mademoiselle

A load of trivial bullshit, or something more?

Have you ever been in the position of being asked 'Miss or Mrs' and feeling annoyed, embarrassed, put on the spot? Perhaps it applies more to my generation (60+) than to younger women, but it always struck me as acutely unfair that personal questions start from something so simple as a child wishing to write a teacher's name on an exercise book.
For a man, it's just 'Mr'. No problem, no wondering. Simple.

And even now, in England, Ms is seen as the title mainly used by stroppy feminists, though it is useful in business situations, when a single title avoids the embarrassment of using the 'wrong' one.

In France feminists are demanding that all adult women should use the title 'Madame'. Now, would it be more practical, more equal, more feminist for all female English speakers over 18 to use 'Mrs'?

The fact that people think about this doesn't mean they cannot also think about social injustice, violence, people-trafficking.

Thursday, 22 September 2011

Jo Brand interview in Graun

I do like a lot of what this woman does and says.

Sunday, 11 September 2011

What is science-fictional in a story about equality of the sexes...?

Over at The Future Fire blog, where we are writing about a subgenre a day this month, Deirdre Murphy talks about Feminist Science Fiction. She begins:
I remember growing up in the ‘60s and ‘70s, looking out at the vital civil rights movement and imagining that I would one day live in a world where women were seen as equal partners in all things, a world where we didn’t suffer from a gender gap in terms of respect, power, airplay, or paychecks. I envisioned a world where gender wouldn’t matter, unless someone wanted to create a new baby. In contrast, I looked at stuff like Dick Tracey’s cool wrist communicator more as science-fantasy.
You see where this is going, right? Read the whole post here.

Wednesday, 4 May 2011

FeministSF Twitter chat in honour of Joanna Russ

Next Sunday at 14:00 Eastern US time, a group of interested writers, editors, readers and feminists will be participating in an informal Twitter chat in memory of Joanna Russ, the Feminist Science Fiction writer who died after suffering a series of strokes last week. (One of the best reminiscences of Russ's life is at the Body Impolitic blog; more links are collected at this SH post.)

If you're interested in taking part, either as a fan of Russ's novels The Female Man, Picnic on Paradise, etc., or her nonfiction writing such as How to Suppress Women's Writing; as a reader or producer of science fiction with an interest in women's or queer issues; or as a feminist who cares about imaginative and literary work in this field, details follow.

The conversation will take place on Twitter, the microblogging social network site, on Sunday May 8th at 14:00 (2pm) EDT (=17:00 BST, 11:00 PDT, etc.), and will last about an hour. All are welcome. To follow the conversation, search for the hashtag #FeministSF, and/or contact the chat coordinators @thefuturefire and @traciewelser. To post to the chat, simply use this same hashtag in a tweet, and it will appear to all other chatters who follow that search.

(And if you ever wondered how people could possibly have a meaningful conversation in 140-character snippets? Just watch.)

Thursday, 7 April 2011

Watch this woman - Eva Joly

I didn't pick this up when it was first published in February this year, but she sounds like someone who's trying to do some good. And she hasn't lost her enthusiasm as she's grown older.

More later.

Saturday, 2 April 2011

Sarah Outen sets off around the world

Sarah Outen, from Ashwell, Rutland, has set off on a two and a half year journey round the world, using human power - kayaking, cycling an rowing.
She is raising money for various charities - including breast cancer awareness charity Coppafeel, The Jubilee Sailing Trust, the Motor Neurone Disease Association and WaterAid

Not an April Fool - just a fool?

How many brains? Universities minister?

Progress, where is thy backlash leading?

Words (clearly) fail me this morning.

The best article I have read on this is from Laurie Penny in the New Statesman on 7 April.

Social mobility is a scam. It's a scam that is useful to governments implementing austerity programmes: after all, if anyone can make it, anyone who fails to do so must be personally at fault. Social mobility, however, is not an adequate substitute for social justice.

Which brings us neatly back to feminism, and to the uncomfortable admission that David Willetts does, in fact, have a point. Mass female employment has affected social mobility. Feminism is nowhere near as significant a factor in the stagnation of social mobility as the destruction of industry or wage repression. The fact remains, however, that if one accepts an unequal system whereby only a handful of elites make it into well-paying professions, and if one also accepts a feminism which settles for cramming a few extra women into those elite jobs, then some people are going to be nudged off the podium. What we have, to paraphrase Willetts, is neither feminism nor egalitarianism. What we have is a ruddy mess of recrimination and sharpened elbows.

Willetts has a point, and he is using that point to stab innocent bystanders in the back. Along with most of Westminster, Willetts has mistaken bourgeois feminism, which merely boosts the life chances of wealthy women within an unequal system, for feminism proper, which demands redistribution of work, wealth and power in order to deliver equality. Along with most of the country, Willetts has mistaken social mobility, which merely boosts the life chances of a few middle-class aspirants, for social justice.

Monday, 21 March 2011

A call for women's equality in Haiti

Marking the milestone of 100 years of International Women's Day is a cause for celebration - the fight for gender equality has come a long way. But there are still injustices that range from pay differences to glass ceilings; unfortunately the spectrum of inequality runs to far deeper injustices.

There are too many examples to list here, so I'll just pick one country: Haiti. It's been over a year since the earthquake devastated the region but the aftermath has given way to serious violence against women.

Here is a moving video of 15 year-old Katty Jean speaking at a meeting of the Zafe Fanm (Women's Issues) in Port-au-Prince, calling for the rights of women to be respected.

Let's hope someone will listen to her call.

Sunday, 20 March 2011

Anecdotal evidence: why we still need feminism

A column from a couple weeks ago, Lucy Mangan's The feminist fight is not over yet, and especially the criticism in some of the comments that it is all anecdotal and therefore meaningless, has clearly been percolating in the back of my mind since. I've heard more instances than I can count of similar, purely anecdotal, stories—on Twitter, overheard on commuter trains, from friends, in the news—that support my original reaction that the power of these anecdotal stories is precisely their representativeness, that we don't find them surprising. They're anecdotal, but they're not one-offs. This makes anecdotes powerful tools of argument in a way that an anomaly isn't; a two headed-lamb isn't an argument for anything, since it's unique or vanishingly rare—something that surprises no one is a powerful anecdote because it isn't rare. It's not a statistic, but it's a digestible instance of a bigger truth.

Arbitrarily I'll take Mangan's five examples and argue why I think they're representative, anecdotal or not.
  1. 15 year-old wolf-whistled: if this were a one-off, it would be upsetting and obnoxious, but it wouldn't be an argument for awareness-raising or the need for social change. But it isn't. I've heard so many stories recently (and forever) of women saying how unsurprised they are by street harassment (physical as well as verbal), that it's a daily occurrence, that the first time it happened to them they were 12; and seen people harass others online, on the train, in the workplace, that's it's hard to believe some people are still surprised when they learn things like this happen. Objectification and harassment, and the fear of it, is a daily fact of many people's lives, and it. Shouldn't. Be.
  2. Berlusconi: this might look dangerously like a two-headed lamb, but do you really not know anybody who has said, "So he slept with a teen call-girl, so he's a red-blooded male..."?
  3. Funny porn: this is already not really anecdotal, since the argument relies on large numbers of instances to start with, but there is a point here about (a) the nature of pornography (women inserting ridiculous objects in various orifices is not in any meaningful way an erotic display), (b) the lack of judgement of men in sharing such images and (by extension) their own interest in the source of such images, without wondering whom it might offend, or disgust, or trigger a traumatic memory, and (c) the casual and socially acceptable objectification of the female body in popular culture.
  4. Top Gear: again, everyone knows that the two-headed lambs that are the presenters of this repugnant show are pathetic, popularizing throwbacks, so why quote them and pretend to be shocked? I'd be a lot less shocked by their puerile nonsense if it weren't spouted on network television to a huge popular audience that admires their iconoclastic "outspokenness" and laddish "naughtiness".
  5. Casual domestic violence: the sad thing about this story is not that one man somewhere was physically cruel and disrespectful to his partner one time (and that she accepted it as unpleasant but apparently unremarkable), but that (i) he did this in a public place, with apparently no expectation that anybody would object to his treating his partner like chattel, in a way it's no longer acceptable to treat a child or an employee; (ii) that more than one woman present on the train had the same thought, that this was horrific treatment, that they recognised the pattern of abuse it foreshadowed, and were clearly personally touched by it; (iii) that nobody present felt able to say or do anything about it (and even a commenter on the Guardian blog felt the need to protest, "how dare you presume to know what this means in the context of their relationship?"), as if public violence suddenly becomes acceptable so long as it's performed by a man upon a woman of his house.
The fact that these five classes of sexist behaviour and attitude exist in our society are all arguments—not the only arguments, and not the strongest arguments, but arguments nevertheless—that feminism's work is not done, that we all, women and men alike, need to work for a more respectful and egalitarian society.

(Sadly comments on Mangan's column are now closed, but I've used rev="comment" microformat attributes in my links above to make this response discoverable.)

Friday, 18 March 2011

Female author wins award, but Jonathan Franzen doesn't...

Thanks to Jo Swingler for her link on Facebook to this MobyLives article:

Earlier this month Brooklyn-based novelist Jennifer Egan was awarded the National Book Critics Award for her most recent novel, A Visit From the Goon Squad. However, ... instead of celebrating Egan’s achievement, the LA Times decided to interpret the story from a somewhat different angle. They instead chose to highlight the fact that Jonathan Franzen did not win the award. Not only did the story focus on his loss, but the main photo used was of Franzen himself, rather than Egan, the winner. In the UK, we roll out the word ‘gobsmacking’ for instances like these.

Thursday, 17 March 2011

Hardy Girls, Healthy Women

I just received the newsletter from Hardy Girls, Healthy Women based in Maine, USA.   It includes Girls Rock Award Winners 2011,  news of a Girls Rock weekend (April 8-10 2011), details of local (Maine) events, and some interesting links to explore.

Saturday, 12 March 2011

Domestic violence in Glasgow

The article linked in the title has given rise to lots of very interesting discussion.  I'll pick out this one in particular: 

Tuesday, 1 March 2011

IWD March 8th 2011

This has actually been mentioned on Sky - a trail after the news...and on BBC World Service.

Sunday, 27 February 2011

Taking down the "Sex is Cheap" sexism

A short article that pulls no punches in its criticism of the already-notorious Slate article that explains why men don't have to fear losing power to women in the bedroom, at least, because modern women "give it up" too easily and so have no power.
(Flashback to every horror film I see these days in which any woman who shows sexual initiative is punished for it by being eaten by the monster seconds later.)

    "I'll Make a Man Out of You"--essay on strong women in Scifi TV

    This was published (uploaded as a PDF by the author to her blog) several months ago now, but I've just come across this interesting master's thesis about the role of strong female characters in science fiction and fantasy television shows. A fascinating study of gender stereotypes/archetypes and feminist theory, and why this popular culture phenomenon is important.

    Ouch - why should we all be the same? Labiaplasty on the increase

    Having your vulva cut up to make it neater, the labia smaller or more symmetrical is becoming more frequent, according to this article , and some blame it on the availability of internet porn.

    From the article in the Observer , Sunday 27 Feb, 2011:

    A partner in the King's University research, Dr David Veale, a consultant psychiatrist in cognitive behaviour therapy, said he believed the surge in demand could be linked to easier access to explicit sexual imagery. "We haven't completed the research, but there is suspicion that this is related to much greater access to porn, so it is easier for women to compare themselves to actresses who may have had it done. This is to do with the increasing sexualisation of society – it's the last part of the body to be changed."

    What imposed norm do we need to conform to now? Are our bodies and our genitals really so overwhelmingly important - as objects? Seems to me that we just become aware of perfectly normal variations, only to wish to remove them at whatever cost, financial, psychological or physical.

    Is it all part of a rather worrying trend for people to seek surgery as a solution to problems, major or minor - gastric bands  rather than exercise and diet, nose jobs and boob jobs for minor imperfections, not just real deformities, and now labiaplasty?  Or are we increasingly scared to be different?

    On the same paper's website there's a debate about women, fashion and beauty and the models who, it seems, are thinner each year.

    Yet, I think my initial reaction has been too negative - lots of us are not going along with these things, are we?

    Saturday, 26 February 2011

    Send a message to UN Women

    UN Women launched last Thursday, amid fears that funds will be short - any suggestions, messages, what needs to be done, why women need a separate organisation within the UN?

    Link in title to Guardian article

    They are setting up a Flickr group to collect your thoughts, opinions and messages. From the article:

    you can submit your photo to our group If you are not on Flickr, don't worry - you can email your photo to and we will add it to the Flickr group for you. Please add some information when you post or email your picture so we know who you are, where you're from and what your message means to you. By posting your pictures in this group, or sending it to us in response to this request, you agree to let us use it on our site and potentially in the newspaper (though copyright remains with you at all times, and you will be credited).

    Do feminists all hate men?

    Suzanne Moore writes for the Guardian and the Mail on Sunday. But I think this article has more than a smidgen of truth in it. I expect the comments to prove her point.

    Coming back a few minutes later, well they do..and I'm going to have to go through with a fine tooth comb to see where she 'hates' or 'puts down' men as a group....

    Later still - why, why, why do so many men react as though they think women's dearest wish was to exterminate them? (Tempting as it is, with some of the comments below the article ;-) )

    Friday, 25 February 2011

    Traveller and Roma women

    I don't always agree with Julie Bindel, but this is an interesting article.

    It seems that the programme My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding has fuelled even more prejudice against travellers than there was before.

    More hopefully, many of the women now want their own children, especially the girls, to be more educated and independent than in the past.

    Wednesday, 23 February 2011

    Teenage pregnancies down

    I briefly saw an article in the Guardian on this topic - a reduction of approximately 5% between 2008 and 2009 (I think). I'm writing this from memory since the article has 'disappeared'.

    There was also a comment from someone working in that area, that their organisation is facing cuts. Yet another case of this government trying to save money now by storing up problems for the future?

    When I find more facts on this - or an article in the press - I'll add a link.

    Ha - found one in the Independent

    Wednesday, 16 February 2011

    Planned Parenthood "exposed" in New Jersey

    The recent video recording of an employee of Planned Parenthood in New Jersey “aiding and abetting” a pimp in obtaining abortions and sexual health care for underage prostitutes has provoked substantial media attention and condemnation.

    A clinic manager was shown – in an edited video – advising a pimp on how to obtain sexual health care and abortions for underage girls who he “managed”, without attracting the attention of the authorities to his activities.

    Planned Parenthood as an organisation say that this clinic manager was not working to PP policies, and she has since been dismissed.

    In fact PP have a policy of reporting sexual exploitation of young people, and following (what transpired to be) hoax visits to several of their clinics, reported their concerns about a possible trafficking ring.

    "When Planned Parenthood learns of an operation that exploits young women, we vigilantly work with law enforcement authorities to uncover and stop this abhorrent activity," said Stuart Schear, PPFA vice president for communications. "Planned Parenthood’s top priority is the health and safety of our patients and the health and well-being of women and teens across the country, and we have been in contact with federal and local authorities to identify the persons involved in these visits." (Planned Parenthood press release 24.01.2011)

    However, the incident raises several questions.

    How ethical is it for anyone to enter a clinical situation, in which the professional person they are consulting is bound (in most cases, subject to legal reporting requirements etc) by confidentiality rules, and to deliberately trick them into potentially controversial responses by asking for help using false and manipulative stories?

    Apparently 12 clinics were infiltrated in this way, but it is only selected sections of one of the consultations which have been made public. The selected video footage was obviously intended to show the clinic manager in the worst possible light in order to discredit the organisation for which she worked, and to push an extreme agenda.

    Clinics such as these exist in order to help those who need their services.

    Many clients may be under age and in difficult circumstances, and while clinic staff are obliged to work within the law, and would wish to protect their clients from abuse as well as unwanted pregnancies and infections, immediate reporting to the Police on a routine basis might not always be in the best interests of the group of clients they serve.

    Establishing trust with vulnerable young people is a vital first step in helping them, and also in encouraging others to come for help. Staff therefore have to tread a very fine line, and risk either not being able to help those in need, or finding themselves in trouble with the law.

    Right wing groups are exploiting this vulnerability of staff working with some of the most disadvantaged groups in society in order to advance their own cause. They are pushing for government funding to be withdrawn from PP, an organisation which provides abortion and other sexual health care.

    Campaigns to discredit sexual health care services are widespread, and not just in the United States. They represent attempts to stigmatise all contraceptive and sexual health professionals by association, and can be highly damaging to the important health services provided by organisations such as Planned Parenthood. It is to the credit of staff of such organisations that they continue to work to improve the lives of often disadvantaged and vulnerable people despite the constant threats of adverse media attention and violence with which they are faced.


    Thursday, 27 January 2011

    UN Women

    Click on the title for an interesting article and comments below.

    Thursday, 6 January 2011

    UN Dispatch on Helping Women and Girls Face the Challenges of Post Earthquake Haiti

    The UN Dispatch website today podcasts an interview on the subject of the challenges faced by women since the earthquake in Haiti nearly one year ago. Just as the treatment and the equality of opportunity of women improves as a country becomes more prosperous and safe, so we see that when a catastrophe like the Haitian earthquake leaves a huge number of people in desperate poverty and physical danger, women suffer the effects disproportionately. From poor healthcare, lack of access to contraception and family planning education, poor security and the increased prevalence of sexual violence, things are pretty bleak (Haiti has the highest maternal mortality rate during childbirth in the western world). The director of women and population at the UN Foundation explains in this interview what her organization is doing to improve the situation for women in particular in the huge homeless camps across Haiti.