Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Feminism in London 09

Saturday 10th October saw Feminism in London 2009 take place at Conway Hall. Though I cannot speak for the range of panels and workshops on the day, I just wanted to discuss my own experience of the day and welcome discussion/further insights.

Opening speakers this year were Beatrice Campbell and Susie Orbach ('Fat is a Feminist Issue'). This was my first encounter of Beatrice Campbell but I thought she was absolutely marvelous. A real character and what she spoke about really hit home with me. Beatrice spoke of 'neo-patriarchy' and the suggestion that whilst in society we now have knowledge (even acknowledgement) of gender issues, we have seen no change (for instance the gender pay gap still exists though we have increased awareness of this issue). Another example was of the working mother; the fact we can now be included in full-time employment but this is coupled with childcare. Beatrice spoke of the narrative of the 'work-life balance' in society which assigns this problem to us rather than tackling the problem. Beatrice talked also about the link between masculinity and violence which is never tackled as society masks the link under the disguise of youth violence and so forth. I found her talk really interesting and refreshing. It was intriguing that on my way out after, however, I overheard two women commenting that they disliked its complexity and academic nature so it didn't appear to be to everyone's taste.

When Susie Orbach spoke I really felt wanting more. It was a shame that it seemed time ran out, it would have been good to have heard more from her. But again, the issue of violence emerged and she linked the interalisation of women's oppression though body insecurities. I definitly want to read her latest book now to find out more.

During the day I went to a slide show/talk, a workshop and one panel. The slide-show was on anti-porn and namely the pornification of culture and the 'grooming' of young children by such culture. A lot of concepts were covered like the idea of the pseudo-child in pornography, the sexualisation of father-daughter incest, the model of normalization, sexualisation of disney and compliant victimization. It pretty much confirmed feelings I had already regarding the sexualisation of culture and how it targets children but I think it really made clear my thoughts on pornography as a whole. The workshop I attended after followed a similar theme "Raising Children in the Age of Porn". I hoped to come away from this with an idea of maybe strategies for dealing with such an issue but I don't think I got as much from it that I would have liked. One idea positioned by a fellow attendee did really get me thinking though and that was the stress now, it seems, in society on childrens' physical safety (worrying about kidnapping, pregnancy, perhaps even obesity) whilst other areas they aren't as protected (exposure to tv, internet and such).

The panel was 'Motherhood and Poverty' which was good and covered quite a bit of ground. After this was the closing speakers: Mawete vo Teka Sala, Hannana Siddiqui and Finn Mackay. I must admit that by this time my eyes were getting quite droppy (I had had to get up at 4am that morning for my train to London afterall!) so though I enjoyed the first two speakers I did not make any notes nor do I have any further comements. Finn Mackay's closing speech truly perked me back up again with the sheer emotion and enthuasiasm involved, it was such a shame it had to be cut short. But it was an excellent note to close on, especially the comments on the recession and women's part in this state in response to which I ranted to my friend later that evening - "No, we didn't make the decisions that got us where we are! But look at what cost we're paying for someone else's choices!" Food for thought indeed.


Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Subtext Blog has Moved

Please update your rss feeds, or take your regular eyes away from here and back to www.subtextmagazine.co.uk where the blog is now based in a beautiful redesigned, remodeled, rediculously good website.

Alright. See you there.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Media Backlash: Keeping things the way they used to be

My awareness of the backlash against feminism has become acute, particularly when in the mainstream media, particularly in misrepresentation of facts, figures and even words. As newspapers are my preferred medium, let me use headlines to make my point.

Today's Observer carries the headline

Up to 64,000 women in UK 'are child-sex offenders'
After Plymouth case shocked the nation, police say number of women abusing children is rising

The ilk of the story is that women are growing in numbers as abusers. But, I would suggest awareness of women being abusers is increasing - that there has been no change in the behaviour of women, that we are not becoming this evil out of control gender but it's just impossible to continue to tie us down to wishy washy delicate lady stereotypes.

Added to this, the coverage of working mums supposedly failing their kids - I griped about that previously, but this time rather than the evil sexual deviant, women who work are simply tutted at for deserting their proper place in the home.

Both stories in their own way begin to paint a picture of women out of control, that their behaviour, now masculine and undesirable, is the cause of all social ills.

Coupled with the fact the real winning articles in women's interest are arts and crafts, it's ok to wear make-up, bat your eyes, femininity is feminism and we can see a clear remodelling of women's place in society.

There is room to remind the mainstream audience that feminism isn't at odds with femininity but to do so often comes at the cost of reinforcing the idea of old, hairy, women's libbers, the "undesirables". And to do so, creates a bigger crevice between all women and feminists, and calls for a pat on the back to the reclaimation of something which remains a want of the patriarchy. And every day I see a little more how damaging this is to us all.

We should leave open the ability to criticize, to discuss certain parts of life - but the work/life balance is the problem, not women's behaviour if working mothers have no choice but to sacrafice time at home. Mainstream medias inability to see men in the picture of the family and childcare is another block in the road of progression. And as long as we allow ourselves to feed and condone a media system which thrives on supporting trad and damaging stereotypes, we continue to hold back the change we're fighting for.



Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Working Mums, what of Dad's?

Allow me to doubt this reporting in the Times, Working mums have the unhealthiest children, research finds

How can you talk about 'a possible link between parental working habits and child health' without mentioning fathers?

I couldn't find the original study, but I think this may be the Times' emphasis as quotes lifted from the study mention the existence of more than one parent. (obviously, assuming that this is a sample of heterosexual parents, but again, no info)

I think that without really addressing the socioeconomic backgrounds of the mothers this article mentions we get the creation of a real get back in the kitchen feel to something which may actually address the pressures exerted on women to go into badly paid, awkward part time work to meet policy needs.


Saturday, September 26, 2009

Feminism in London Conference Filling Out

Excuse the lazy reposting but...

Feminism in London, October 10, 2009

Pornification, the pay gap, eating disorders...
Where do we go from here?
If you are a woman or a pro-feminist man, come along to join the discussion.


Susie Orbach, Beatrix Campbell, Gunilla S. Ekberg, Sabrina Qureshi, Marai Larasi, Claudia da Silva, Denise Marshall, Rebecca Mott, Mawete vo Teka Sala, Abi Moore, Pragna Patel.


- Racism and sexism
- What's wrong with prostitution?
- Poverty and motherhood: how society undervalues women's work
- It's easy out here for a pimp (anti-porn slide show)
- Raising children in the age of porn (practical strategies)
- Feminist self defence and assertiveness training
- Media training with camera
- Activism training
- Rape and sexual violence
- No recourse to public funds
- Power in bed (How to live an anti-oppressive life and still be sexy and have fun)
- What are the issues for pro-feminist men?




Website: http://www.fil.btik.com/home.ikml
Email: feminismlondon@yahoo.co.uk


Line-up includes

Eve Webster: http://www.facebook.com/l/56110;www.evewebster.com/index.html
Chambers and Nettleton: http://www.facebook.com/l/56110;www.chambersandnettleton.com/
Abi Roberts: http://www.facebook.com/l/56110;www.abiroberts.com/
Kate Smurthwaite (compere): http://www.facebook.com/l/56110;www.comedycv.co.uk/katesmurthwaite/

Find out more and buy tickets: http://www.facebook.com/l/56110;www.fil.btik.com/p_cabaret09.ikml

Friday, September 25, 2009

Tackling Violence Against Women in the Welsh Assembly Government

H/T Million Women Rise – from Hannah Austin

“We are campaigning for the Welsh Assembly Government to improve their policies to tackle violence against women in Wales. 2 women a week are still dying of domestic abuse alone in Wales, and the rape conviction rate remains a shocking 8% in Wales.

Please visit our Facebook group – lots more info there: http://www.facebook.com/home.php?ref=home#/group.php?gid=162717965118&ref=mf

Most importantly – PLEASE email the following letter to the Social Justice Minister, Brian Gibbons AM.

Spread the word! Thanks so much!”

SEND LETTER TO: brian.gibbons@wales.gsi.gov.uk

Dear Minister


The level of violence against women in Wales still remains very high, with one in four women suffering some from violence during their lifetime.

Though the Welsh Assembly Government has made good progress on tackling some elements of violence against women, there is no integrated, cross-governmental strategy to protect women from violence.

I am calling on you to redouble your efforts to tackle violence against women in all its forms, and ensure that the women in Wales are not less protected than women in other parts of the UK.

Only a strategy and action plan led by the Welsh Assembly Government will be able to bring together the disparate strands of public services and investment will tackle violence against women and fulfil the UN CEDAW obligations.

Violence against women blights thousands of lives in Wales each year, and its time for a whole-government approach to protect women.

Yours sincerely


Thursday, September 24, 2009

Read All About It: Sensationalism Sucks

Someone thought it appropriate to send this link to one of my feminist associates email addresses

The number of women guilty of domestic violence has risen sharply and has been blamed on the agression fuelled “ladette” culture.

I'm reading a book called Women who kill by Ann Jones, it points to increases in female participation in DV or intimate violence when they have the least options, that is when we are most abandoned by the system, when male violence against women increases, when we have no option.

I would also add that by choosing to hook the story with females being violent, despite the fact that males still commit the most violent crimes distasteful and by far the reason women's issues are maligned, why we're told we're asking for it and so on and so on.


Sunday, September 20, 2009

I am Emma Humphreys

Understanding the systems, legal and cultural, which lead to the lack of safety for women in society is the first step to changing them. H/T Julie Bindel's facebook page.

I Am Emma Humphreys
Friday 25 September
9.00-10.00pm BBC RADIO 4

Emma Humphreys was a pretty, upbeat, endearing young woman who had a tragically short life. She had been in 11 children's homes, was beaten, abused, went on the run and self-harmed. At 16 years old, she moved in with Trevor Armitage and, by the time she was 17, she had killed him. She was charged with murder, said nothing in her defence and was sentenced to life.

This play is a true story and presents the raw account of Emma's life and how her case changed the law and may contribute to further controversial changes in the defence laws for murder, currently going through Parliament.

While working at East Sutton Park Open Prison, writer Shelley Silas met Harriet Wistrich, now one of the UK's leading human rights lawyers and part of the team currently representing the family of Jean Charles de Menezes. She also met journalist Julie Bindel who handled Emma's press campaign. Together in 1991 they set up Justice For Women. They inspired Shelley to write a play about Emma Humphreys.

Joanne Froggatt plays Emma, Stephen Critchlow plays Trevor Armitage, Delroy Brown plays Stuart, Susan Jameson plays Vera Baird, Lynne Verrall plays Harriet Wistrich, Stephen Hogan plays the Judge in Nottingham and David Hargreaves is Lord Justice Hirst.


Saturday, September 19, 2009

QUick Book Stop: Sexism in America: Alive, Well and Ruining Our Future

Barbara Berg's new book, Sexism in America, is an exciting and engaging fast paced look at the feminist movement in recent years, based solidly within the context of the political and social sphere of America. Berg, a historian by trade, compiles this memoir of the movement beautifully through oral histories, personal experiences and well researched facts and figures.

As a woman of twenty-five, the nuanced look at the second wave movement and it's reception by the USA's shock jock news system, branding the burgeoning sisterhood as "satanism" -something literally so ridiculous we need older women to tell these stories to us so we believe them.

Equitable rights and treatment for women - what we asked for seemed so simple, so just, so right, we approached the next decade eager to see our hard-won gains extended and amplified.

The book moves quickly on to more times not long gone, through the Bush's, Clinton and into present day Obama - a country measured by the men at it's helm. And each presidential era marked by it's social or moral crusade, burnt into the fabric of society - through TV, film and the mainstream media. Moral crusades which have, at times of the social conservatives been so anti progression, anti equality it breaks the hearts.

Not always carrying an entirely positive message, this book stirs questions page by page, and more importantly erases the line that has been erected between generations of feminists. You will, I think, read your own thoughts in these pages and be pushed to take them further with the help of the voice and education of a woman who has been there, and done that and spoke to others of her generation - as well as women of ours, who helped drive her need to share this information.

"We're so obsessed with appearance' a twenty-six ear old from North Carolina suggested, "because while we're told we can be anything we want, what a lot of us are realizing is that it translates into: we can look any way we want to look. So we're focusing on that, instead of what in our hearts and minds we want to become."

It offers a great platform to begin your critical thinking on relationships, sex, biology as destiny, work place politics, political parity, sexism's effect on children and youths, pressures of plastic surgery, reproductive rights, motherhood, films, tv, music, body image - with a fantastic bibliography attached, and for women based in the US a mini yellow-pages of contacts.

The only negative I could come up with is the fact that we don't yet have this book in England, that our shared histories in the UK have still not found a hard form to exist in - and that if we are to continue erasing the lines that society has fought to erect between generations of women - as competitors instead of allies - it's something I think we need. For women unsure of their most recent histories, for women unsure of where their dissatisfaction with life comes from, for young women unaware that we are still fighting the good fight set by the second wave.

We're not there yet, but we're much further along than we were before the 1970's, back in those dark ages when a girl's future was mapped out at birth, when you couldn't wear slacks without being excommunicated by your church, when you were expected to stop your education after high school so your brother could go to college, when you could be refused service at a restaurant because you were dining alone, and refused a credit card or mortgage if you were single, when you couldn't refuse to have sex with a diseased husband, an abusive husband, any husband


Thursday, September 17, 2009

Of course we're to blame!

This week's issue of Grazia magazine features an article entitled "So, is it our fault we get paid less than men?" in response to a report detailing gender pay gaps in 'the City'. In the 'YES' corner is writer and broadcaster Lowri Turner who asks "What is it about us that we accept this sort of discrimination?" (my emphasis). Turner claims that:

...like the battered wife who goes back to her abusive husband, so City women meekly trot back for more. Many even excuse the system that discriminates against them.

And that:

City women should be thumping their fists on the boardroom tables. Instead, they buy into a system that treats them shabbily. For that, they have themselves to blame.

Personally I'm confused. Am I meant to salute Turner for not falling fault to such behavior and for trying to remove the blinkers from these poor women's eyes? Or am I meant to boo in her direction for merely shifting the blame?


Because sports ruin your hair...

Hair straightener bid to boost PE

Taken from the piece over at The Guardian:

A council spokeswoman said: "West Dunbartonshire Council has installed nine sets of hair straighteners within the changing facilities at each of the council's three new flagship schools...The falling rate of female participation in sport was a key issue discussed by pupils and improvements to changing and showering facilities, including the installation of hair straighteners, was considered important in reversing this trend. The installation amounts to a total expenditure of less than £1,000 to encourage more girls to participate in PE and support positive self-image."

So to support positive self-image in girls we are providing them with hair and beauty facilities to encourage them to participate in PE...surely this is merely reinforcing the message that it's all about how we look? How about promoting positive self-image through demonstrating that physical appearance isn't the be all and end all?


Saturday, September 12, 2009

Video Roam: Fatal Promises, Human Trafficking, Prostitution, Labor and Emma Thompson

I know it's awful to be all gushy, but gush I must! I was extremely excited to meet Emma Thompson, a frankly fantastic actor but more importantly a committed activist working to stop human trafficking at the preview of new documentary, Fatal Promises.

Fatal Promises looks at part of the enormous human trafficking trade that takes women and men from the Ukraine under false pretenses and lands them in dangerous labor practices on illegal boats without food, or trapped in forms of sex work controlled by violent "caretakers"

For many, it is a story heard before, but until it ends it is worth hearing over and over again. Though not form the school of slick documentary making that in vogue issues like climate change and fair trade seem to come packaged in, Fatal Promises is as raw and blunt aesthetically as it is in content. But the blunt presentation helps the films core message's, the brisk and broad education, shine clearly as communicated by personal testimony, facts from NGO's and clips from activists and conferences.

Emma Thompson and director, Kat Rohrer gave context and further learning to a small and eager crowd at the Cinema Village in New York on Saturday 12th September.

Six more clips here


Friday, September 4, 2009

Female Firefighters and the Union in New York

I just wanted to share some video I made at a talk by author of Sisters in the Brotherhoods, Jane LaTour at the Women's eNews office in New York.

JoAnn Jacobs also spoke at the event, she was one of the first black female firefighters in NY and had a great deal of her life to share with us - I captured three Q&A's which shone a little light on being a woman in "a man's world"

I left the event with a greater feeling of the importance of oral histories, especially amongst women because our histories - the stories of women who have come before us, those that would act as superb role models and inspirations - get lost and ignored by those who have the power to record and keep these words, much to our detriment.


Wednesday, September 2, 2009

It's hard not to hate American Apparel

You know some bandwagons are all to easy to get on, and hating American Apparel and their increasingly skin crawling, porn lite, prepostorous adverts is one of those.

We all know Don Charney's reputation for exploiting and sexually harassing his female staff, firing the aesthetically unpleasing as noted by his taste. (See the heavy link loaded recent article over at Jezebel)

I do love the UK, I love that we have the Advertising Standards Agency, even if they don't always come through for us, they have this time stepped up to stick the pen of reasonable imagery in advertising into the American Apparel empire's eye.

The challenge was put forward on a recent hoody add

The complainant challenged whether:

1. the depiction of nudity in the ad was offensive and unsuitable to appear on the back of a free magazine that could be seen by anyone, including children;

2. the ad was offensive and inappropriate, because the model seemed young and vulnerable and could be seen to sexualise a child.

AA defend their recent kiddie porn esque ads by saying

They said the ad focused on the hoody rather than the model and did not portray her as a sex object or in a negative or derogatory light.

They reiterated that the ad did not portray the model as a sex object, nor did it portray her in a manner that was negative or exploitative. There was no suggestion that she had been coerced into appearing in the photographs or that she was doing so against her will. AA strongly refuted the complainant's belief that the ad could be seen to sexualise a child.

They said the ad promoted a unisex product and therefore it sought to demonstrate the versatility of the fleece by showing the same model achieving six different looks. In that context, Vice believed that showing the fleece unzipped was justified to demonstrate how a man would wear it.


Where to start, AA's idea that the advert focused on the hoody and not the model literally made me wet my pants laughing - AA are not famed for a face but for the faceless contorted young female bodies they fetishize under the guise of focusing on the clothes.

That having the female model wearing the hoody unzipped would make guys think - "hey, this is a unisex item of clothing, I will buy it" is trash.

I'd respect their balls for showing so much front in supporting their brand if their slew of adverts didn't make me so disgusted I can't even go into their shops without needing to wash off the bad.

Images are everywhere, they bleed into life almost unnoticed and they frame our perception of the world, of other people and that is why we have to be careful with them. Images do not ask anything of us, they don't always raise a questioned response like text can and so we can absorb them, repeat, support and believe them.

Images which replicate pornography in advertising, something which creeps in as edgy ideas for those with no others, moves that imagery - often the submission of women to men - into the mainstream and I'm not OK with that. Women in submissive roles to men is not the norm, women to adorn and decorate proliferates but it is not my perfect world.

Now if only the ASA could have a broader knowledge of gender issues and the social implications of the sexualisation of all sectors of life, not just childhood...

2. Upheld
We noted the model was 23 years old and had been styled without make-up to give a natural look. We nevertheless considered that she appeared young, and in some of the pictures, looked under 16. We did not however consider that she appeared especially vulnerable.

While the ad depicted only partial nudity, we considered that the images were provocative with the model exposing progressively more skin in each photo in the series. We considered that the photographs suggested that she was stripping off for an amateur-style photo shoot.

Because the ad could be seen to sexualise a model who appeared to be a child, under the age of 16 years, we concluded that it was inappropriate and could cause serious offence to some readers.

On this point, the ad breached CAP Code clause 2.2 (Social responsibility) and 5.1 (Taste and decency).

The ad must not appear again in its current form.


Saturday, August 29, 2009

Flex Your Muscles

What!!! The Krypton Factor!!

Since the show began in the 1977, there has been only one female winner out of a possible twenty. We had seven female contestants in the last series, none of which got through to the final. This series we would like an equal mix of men and women and it would be fantastic to have a woman in the final, or even better a woman to bear the title of Krypton Factor Champion 2010.

Last year The Krypton Factor returned in style for the 21st Century. Now
it’s your turn to prove you have the mental and physical abilities needed to become…

Krypton Factor Champion 2010!

If you have super-quick mental prowess, outstanding general knowledge and the physical strength and speed to surpass all others - this is the challenge for you.

We are looking for smart, athletic individuals to compete in the next series of The Krypton Factor,
presented by Ben Shephard.

Auditions will be held in September across the UK.

If you can prove you can apply the skills needed to win please visit: www.itv.com/thekryptonfactor.com

Applicants must be 18 or over and a current legal resident of the United Kingdom. Terms and conditions apply.

Deadline for applications is 17:00 on 16th September 2009

Off you go then, you powerful athletic bunch you!