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)