Saturday, 9 May 2009
(This post is dedicated to the late Pauline Campbell, tireless campaigner who sadly passed away May 2008)
We asked a number of prominent female figures to answer the question: What is one way of making the world a better place for women?
Here are some of the replies:
1) Set up a monthly direct debit to a charity that specifically helps women, such as http://www.womankind.org.uk/, http://www.womenforwomen.org.uk/, http://www.fawcettsociety.org.uk/ also Oxfam Unwrapped offers woman-specific gifts.
Sarah L (Anti-Porn UK)
2) Lots but thinking more about violence it would have to be women need to make more noise, speak out more and make it easier for other women to speck of their experiences and especially to encourage young women, to ensure the next generation experiences a life free of violence. To make sure that women are united with each other and offer support, care and love. Sometimes we can be so separated and disconnected that we lose our ability to present an effective challenge to change the system.
Believe in ourselves.
Akima Thomas (Women and Girls Network)
3) The one thing that we could do to make the world a better place for women is to call for a complete separation of Church and State. The rise of religious fundamentalism throughout the world in all the major religions and the influence of religion in key public institutions, including the law and education, contribute to the violation of women's fundamental human rights. Religious fundamentalism threatens to undermine crucial gains that have been made and which have been hard fought for, especially in relation to marriage, sexuality and reproductive rights. This must be addressed urgently.
Pragna Patel (Southall Black Sisters)
4) One thing that women can do, they can go to Trapeze lessons instead of pole dancing ones. The skills, strength and sensuality needed are very similar but the difference is that Trapeze is an creative and challenging art form that exists outside of the sex exploitation industries and allows women to engage with their bodies and perform for themselves as well as their audience; it liberates them as artists rather than tricking them into serviceable objects for the benefit of a misogynist culture that must be laughing at them behind it's hand.
Rebecca Mordan (Scary Little Girls Productions, Feminist musician and a Co-organiser of Reclaim the Night)
5) I think women should come on the Reclaim The Night march!
"Put your feet on the streets for women on the UN International Day to End Violence Against Women and attend the 5th annual Reclaim The Night march against rape and male violence on Saturday 22nd November in London. The conviction rate for rape in the UK is still at its lowest ever, just over 5%. Shout a loud no to violence against women in all its forms and demand justice for rape survivors. It is time for freedom from fear. For yourself, for all women, for all those who can't be there – be there."
Finn Mackay (Organiser of Reclaim the Night, Founder of London Feminist Network)
6) One thing we can do to make the world a better place for women, is for women to simply try and be kinder to themselves. If we treated ourselves with more respect, and more compassion than criticism, perhaps then we could start being more genuine and understanding with other women.
Cate Sevilla (Cupcate.Vox.Com, young feminist)
7) Embrace your privilege. This sounds terrible, like saying "don't worry about the environment" or "forget about the poor" but, really, we all have some privilege and most of us seek more privileges, such as health insurance and home ownership. Denying this fact can be as offensive as flaunting it. Instead, deploy your privilege as a force for positive social change. Each one of us has assets that could benefit others. It might be a vast network of friends who you can rally for a cause, the ability to pay a living wage ($18 in New York City) rather than minimum wage ($7.15), or straight sexuality that might make you a more persuasive lobbyist for same sex partner benefits. Making friends with your privilege fights on two fronts: it gets rid of pointless liberal guilt and enables you to see yourself as a powerful force for good, rather than an oppressor.
8) It's very likely that you have at least one thing you're ashamed of; one thing that you fear only you have experienced and that will bring certain humiliation. Say it.
Some of the most profound shifts in social justice came when individuals told the truth about their lives, going against the social constructs of the time. In the late 1960s, women told the truth about their illegal abortions in public speakouts, ushering in legalized abortion and reproductive rights. By the late 1980s, pop stars, professors, and even some politicians told the truth about loving people of the same sex, and partner benefits, acceptance, and even gay marriage came to be regular dinner time conversation for average Americans. Telling the truth invites others to be honest, so you learn that you are far from alone. Speak the truth and witness your power.
Jennifer Baumgardner and Amy Richards, (co-authors Manifesta and Grassroots; co-owners of Soapbox, Inc.)
9) Get a mammogram. Survival rates among women diagnosed with breast cancer have been improving since 1990, largely due to early detection. No matter how much progress we make or how much better a place the world becomes for women, you've got to be alive to enjoy any of it. Here's one easy thing we can to keep ourselves healthy.
Ariel Levy, (author of Female Chauvinist Pig)
10) ABOLISH NO RECOURSE
EQUAL OPPORTUNITIES AND PAY FOR WOMEN
LOUDER VOICE IN SOCIETY
Comfort Momoh (FGM/Public Health Specialist)
11) To speak out and protest against the unnecessary imprisonment of women, in order to bring about an understanding and acceptance that custody must only be used for serious and violent offenders who pose a threat to the public.
Further detail: This is particularly important because, at the risk of stating the obvious, women and men are different. Therefore, within the criminal justice system, a different approach is needed for women in order to achieve equality of outcome. Unless and until this is taken on board, levels of self-harm within women's prisons will continue to be disproportionately high. At present, women in prison are more likely to kill themselves than men. This is wrong, and it is unjust.
[Bereaved mother of Sarah Elizabeth Campbell, 18, who died in the 'care' of Styal Prison, 2003]
Trustee of The Howard League for Penal Reform
12) I'd like to see women decide that they will no longer put women down on the basis of their looks; no more sniping at Hillary Clinton because her trouser suits are frumpy or at Jacqui Smith because her jackets don't fit; no more pointing the finger at Madonna's sinewy arms or Nicole Kidman's frozen face; no more column inches expended on who's put on weight and who must be anorexic. If we just shut up about all of that and concentrated on the real stuff; such as who is a good actor or politician or musician or who needs better policies or better roles, I think all women would benefit. Because that kind of relentless negativity rubs off on all women, not just those in the public eye.
Natasha Walter, (author of The New Feminism)
13) …Properly educate people – young and old, male and female – about the realities of prostitution.
the ruthless money-making machine of commercial sexual exploitation - which encompasses prostitution, lap dancing, strip clubs, pornography, advertising, and pole dancing for kids to name but a few – needs a brake on it. This starts with each of us taking responsibility for the hidden majority who have no choice but to work in the sex industry, rather than placing those who can choose on a PVC-encased, marabou-feathered pedestal.
Helen Atkins (The Poppy Project, Lilith)
14) Women can support the decisions and desires of women regardless of ideological, cultural, racial or religious background--provided those decisions and desires don't injure others.
Rebecca Walker (Journalist and author of Baby Love: Choosing Motherhood After a Lifetime of Ambivalence)
15) Liberation? Freedom from fear of violence and the control of men? For
women to be seen as human beings not to be defined or objectified in
terms of our sex, sexuality and biology?
Harriet Wistrich (Human Rights Solicitor, Birnberg & Peirce)
Thursday, 23 April 2009
As an answer to all the questions, yes there is a need for Feminism leading to the idea that there is no personal agenda rather an urgency to change the situation of today. What is a ‘gentlemen?’ a man opening a door for a woman, but refuses to speak out when she is being harassed by others? Only helping a woman when it suits themselves, then expecting absolute gratitude; although they sit in silence whilst seeing a woman go through agony? What does that say about men that only some are labelled ‘gentle?’
May be, there is a need to be like a gentleman; everyone that is. However it is called ‘common courtesy’ under female terms.
The word lady is not a term used nowadays, it represents an old-fashioned English upper class society that existed before. The proof is that girls in schools are no longer addressed ladies but women. Similarly, the idea of the gentleman should not exist, but the idea of courtesy should be universally used by both men and women.
Anti-porn does not mean anti-male, anti-sex or does not aim to be a censor. But as we are addressing the issue, there is a fine line between being a censor and anti-porn, as through societal terms, it automatically makes you a right-wing prude or someone who accepts that exploitation is the norm. Women are now seen as ‘prudish’ for not accepting that objectification of women is appropriate and conditioned into society, (that children will see it when they are older so it is fine to expose them to porn at an early age, when this should not even be the case). Hence feminists are not able to speak out at all ie. It is now us who are censored for apparently being ‘dictators.’ Yet, some more vulnerable people in society uncovered to the industry are free to be exploited.
Suddenly, we have seen that in society you can only be one or the other. ‘Censorship’ has been coined after many years of oppressive regimes, that only tyrants use censor, so if you are to use it- you automatically become the oppressive. Yet as we have such a lack of voice today-ultimately we are the oppressed by pornographic styled censorship.
There are always counter-arguments that women like to be filmed and pictured this way on newspapers and ‘lad’s mags,’ as well as watch porn themselves. However, why do they need to feel that the only way of being happy with oneself is to be able to expose and be naked in front of everyone, to be expected to be perfect? A prime example of these are reality-shows such as ‘How to look good naked?’ Does that mean because Gok Wan or any other dictatorial fashion designer tells me that the only way I will be happy is through getting a haircut or changing anything to my physical appearance, my life will be more satisfying?
What this does is continually drive and fuel the fire that female appearance is more important than the person themselves, thus losing individuality. Subsequently, WE ARE NOW OBJECTS.
Object is a strong word, but completely appropriate for this situation. The focus is not on the individual women who pose naked for money or pleasure- it goes much deeper beyond that. We address the underlying issue of society's expectations, of trying to fulfil the image of 'perfection.' You would not see a larger woman posing on these papers, because the main focus is of selling. For the woman, she believes its an ego boost because society tells her that the only way of getting ahead is through her body. She sells herself like a CV to get ahead. Yet now the only possibility to fulfil her aspirations is through her physical self. Her mind is totally undermined even if she did not want that as her focus of sale- thus creating the paranoid image that as soon as her body fails her from age and what not, she will be obsolete- an object. Worst of all this is in all aspects from life not just through porn.
A case of a young porn star who was not named for legal reasons, was interviewed for a documentary. It was a study on why women choose the porn path, the reasons they do it. She continually mentioned that she was a Law student and was this was a means of funding her education, and had no intention of doing this in the future. However, she was totally overlooked because the interviewer said that she was not saleable for having any other reasons.
The reason men are not put on page three is because women do not see them as bartering tools rather they aspire to be like men, thus the idea of a Female Chauvinist Pig is created. It is all about 'If you can't beat them, join them,' in order to get ahead with women. Men should be grateful that they have a choice between their mind and body to get further in the world.
Feminist groups do not blame individuals for this, rather it is society as a whole who are instigating covert misogyny. Anti-porn does not target the women who choose to model in this fashion, rather the indoctrination targeted at men, women and children to say that it is terrible to objectify a homosexual in a tutu or the horrible image of a black slave in shackles, but it is fine to see a woman as a ‘sex object/ slave.’ This leads to further demeaning of women. Furthermore lesbian porn is seen to prescribe sex. ‘Girl on girl’ porn for example stereotypes that all women must be actively sexual with other women. This loses any individuality for a person and detracts the women’s choice in sexual freedom and enjoyment. If we continually had a bombardment of racially discriminative images on Page Three of ‘The Sun,’ it would become a part of everyday as well as used in everyday life. For this reason, not only are women meant and seen to be passive, be ‘up for it’ whenever and wherever, the passivity has spiralled to the point that it is okay for a man or society to use violence against a woman in order to fit to her ‘social status.’
Originally, hardcore pornography was much more clandestine and sex was seen to be much more of a taboo. By addressing the issue was one way of educating the masses, but by commercialising porn, saturating into all of our daily lives created the exploitation of women. Businesses that profit from objectification, exploitation and dehumanisation of women are the real culprits behind the mass production of misogyny in all spreads of the media.
The porn industry has escalated to the point ‘torture porn’ has been introduced, seeing the brutal rape and killings of women as entertainment. Whilst, there has been wide grumbles about the topic and there is a big issue to ban it- we ask ourselves the question where does a horror film end and torture porn begin? Does this mean that the more we are inundated with violence against women, the more ‘natural’ it will become to abuse women in society just as it is to be naked on Page Three?
A key example is seen through 1972/ 2005 documentary based on the film ‘Deep Throat,’ as well as autobiography ‘Ordeal’ and ‘Out of Bondage.’ Linda Boreman aka porn actress Linda Lovelace spoke out against pornography, drawing from what she stated were her own experiences of coercion and abuse, before government hearings on pornography, provoking an intense controversy over both her charges and her objections to the pornography industry as a whole. She stated that “When you see the movie Deep Throat, you are watching me being raped. It is a crime that movie is still showing; there was a gun to my head the entire time.” However, the decision was overruled as it in ‘public’ interest as entertainment to see Boreman be horrifically raped. This reiterates the law that rape is still considered a 'common' crime such as burglary unlike GBH which is sectioned as 'hate crimes.' Now after thirty years, it has come back on its head with ‘torture porn.’
The organisation that I am part of focuses on the commercialisation of porn rather then ‘home-made’ porn, that remains at home; whilst the main issue that women (and some men) are not equal in society and demeaned psychologically, mentally and physically day-to-day with all the expectations is being addressed. Ask yourself why are there no male page three models with erect penises?
‘Consuming’ porn describes the addictions that come part-in-parcel with it. But because we see less outer effects (apart from proven mental and psychological breakdowns)it is considered a pleasure-but because drugs, alcohol and cigarettes has a physical overt consequence , there are many more devices to make it end, even naming it a ‘self-inflicted disease.’ So why is it that there is ‘censorship’ for drugs and alcohol, but no measure for a woman’s right to live?
Wednesday, 22 April 2009
You may be quick to judge with the majority of the adult population, “in my day, the exams were harder.” As a student, we have essentially drawn a short straw.
I admit that the A-Levels seem to be no comparison to the 'immaculate' International Baccalaureate (IB), having to study six compulsory subjects within two years. However, the media's covert message that in fact it is the students themselves who are gradually transforming into ignorant and lazy beings, rather then the introduction of easier exams; is only slightly offensive. After a mere fifteen years of studying, I would like to think that our efforts accounted for something worthwhile.
On the ill-fated month of August, we witness numerous students receiving their grades on results day. But instead of congratulating the effort put into producing infinite amounts of 'A's, the media conveniently forms an alliance with the government to introduce the A* grade in 2010, of course making life easier for young people.
A complicated ‘blessing in disguise’, the government's plans may actually benefit pupils. If students are unable to pass their exams from the various systems being introduced, not only will we save money from paying extortionate amounts for tuition fees- but universities will be exclusively for the elite, wealthy and intelligent (unless your application reveals that you are already a rocket-scientist.) Fifteen years wasted for no apparent reason.
In the long-run what will employers be expecting of future workers? Especially as the International Baccalaureate overtakes the A-Level; will all A-Level grades become unrecognisable and obsolete? Unable to find a job that is tailor-made for your grades, lacking a degree and finding out that you are not particularly gifted because you achieved 5 As and not A *grades does not set up much hope for prospective applicants.
It appears that over 40% of pupils believe the A-Levels did not adequately prepare them for their university course. Does this mean with the launch of the Baccalaureate, the majority of students who were equipped for further studies will be disregarded? As if the competition of applying to university was not enough, it seems as if the government has entered pupils unwillingly into a world wide competition, with Europe and the Baccalaureate.
Perhaps, it would be useful to know what pupils will actually ‘win’ from this publicity race against Europe. Hence, it appears that although exams may be easier, there are sufficient cracks in the system to make students suffer.
Teenagers are seen to be different species all by themselves. But after all the tantrums, hoodies and spending: they do need some guidance which the media fails to provide.
Receiving hospitalization for being too thin after years of being name-called ‘chubby’ as a child; this was the last straw. I frankly feel that if I officially became the public’s property, I would be dead by one or the other, let alone unhappy. In the words of my fellow teenagers- It’s so unfair.
The ever-increasing superficial world that we exist in leads us to complex decision- making when it comes to appearance. Obesity, pictured as repulsive while women with a BMI of less then 18 are considered ‘unhealthy.’ What are we trying to portray to youths who avidly follow the so-called transformation of the fashion and consumer industries? Who are we to control the optimum level of perfection in people’s lives?
From the hour-glass figure of the 1950s, to the drug induced models of the 1960s, it seems that the fashion enterprise has not been able to shake off the ‘skinny’ look throughout the years. But are we encouraging youths to gain weight or slim down; worse still, with drugs? With the introduction of banning ‘fatty’ product advertisements, as well as petite size ‘zero’ clothing-it seems to be heading towards one vital point; an imminent death from eating disorders.
After recent incidents of models starving to death, I honestly thought is being anorexic thin or obese just labels for this season simply like wearing a red or grey skirt? Although fashion marvel Giorgio Armani refutes the idea of skinny models, it is difficult to see actual implementations. After the highly popular series ‘Make me a Supermodel,’ adjudicator Rachel Hunter declined a finalist for being a larger model, contradicting recent comments from the fashion world.
This is what we teach to already very confused and hormonal teenagers, beauty before health and happiness. A period of their growing lives wasted on watching social corruption exposed throughout the media. Flung in an ASBO, and we have fate worse then hell for these poor creatures. We have to encourage young people to remain healthy internally rather then looking fantastic on the outside. It is rather pointless if we have a life expectancy of only 30 years.
In the wise words of Roman philosopher; “We live not according to reason, but according to fashion.” It has been thousands of years since Seneca said his famous words- I think it is time we moved on.
Have I got your attention yet with the title? It seems to be the main agenda with teenagers nowadays.
Morbid as the issue is as I continually address it, please spare a minute or two to read this:
Rape and the courts
80 per cent of rape charges fail to get past an investigation
0.86 the percentage of reported rapes that end in conviction in Gloucestershire
1 in 20 the proportion of women who have been raped at least once since the age of 16, according to a survey in 2000
Rape is still considered a 'common' crime such as burglary unlike GBH which is sectioned as 'hate crimes.' Out of 200 women who claimed to be raped in eastern region, 49 were taken to trial - only 2 convictions. Here just some of the horrific statistics I have learned from attending newly established campaign "WHO'S PERVERTING THE COURSE OF JUSTICE." Hearing about the endless rape cases were emotional enough, but learning about the recent escalating trend of convicting women for perverting the course of justice because they are unable to get a successful sentences for their rapists was terrifying. Worse still, I always felt that this was more of international complaint, women raped during war times-however to find out that this is happening right now in our own homes was shocking. I know that students of our generation are not really informed about the wider world corruption and politics- so as a victim myself of this horrible atrocity I can tell you it is much closer to home then you think. It may not ever happen to you or anyone close to you during your lifetimes, but please try and help the Justice for Women campaigns. If you need any information please send me an email. Seeing grown women so passionate about such a cause has inspired me to do the same. On 14th December this year- I will be attending the Court of Appeal to hopefully see an innocent women become free after 6 years imprisonment for killing in self-defence after years of living with an abusive husband (although the husband who murdered his wifeand stored her body in the freezer was only given two years imprisonment.) If you want to help I am starting letter writing sessions to top authorities- Crown Prosecution Service, Local governments even parliament to overturn the recent increase on prosecuting women. Even sending letters/ cards during the x-mas period to poor young women who have been jailed during this period of time for being falsely accused of lying. The Ipswich murders currently are causing a stir- they are not addressing the perpetrators- instead they are saying for all women to stay indoors. Is this really equality in the 21st century? I think not- women should be allowed walk safely amongst people. The message given out by all the convictions of women are that men are allowed to abuse women- and it will keep escalating if we do not do anything soon. I am not asking for much - just some help- one free evening to help victims of heineious crimes such as these incidents. Some may think that it is the women's duty to not indulge in drinking and put themselves into 'these' situations. Why should they be victim to rape everytime they drink whilst alcoholic men continue to act abusive towards other human beings? Its a sad world we live in- lets hope with the little help we can offer it can change.