Monday, November 12, 2007

why women only? Cameron speaks out

David Cameron has spoken out today about the disgracefully low percentage of convictions for rape in a speech at the Conservative Women's Organisation conference. Follow the link for the BBC story.

There was a discussion on Woman's Hour (radio 4) about his proposals which you can listen to here if you missed it. The F-word blog has a post on this topic too. The main points they both make seems to relate to the need to reform the legal system to address the issue of low conviction rates, which Cameron has not directly addressed.

Cameron pledged longer-term funding for rape crisis centres, to change attitudes towards rape through sex education and announced a Tory review of sentencing.

He said "Studies have shown that as many as one in two young men believe there are some circumstances when it's okay to force a woman to have sex" and called for "widespread cultural change" as treating women as sex objects has become viewed as "cool".

He called for compulsory sex education in schools to drive home the message that sex without consent is a criminal offence.

Cameron referred to statistics suggesting one in 20 women had been raped, yet three-quarters of them never report the crime. And of those that are reported, just 5.7% result in a conviction.

He also said the number of rape crisis support centres had fallen from 68 in 1984 to 45, and funding decisions on those that remained were short-term and being made mid-way through the financial year. "As a result, these centres are forced to survive hand-to-mouth and often face the threat of imminent closure," he said. "All this has led to an appalling and tragic lack of support for the victims of rape."

As a socialist I feel concern that it is a Tory that has had to raise this issue. Despite this, I find myself saying "good on him for getting us talking about it in the mainstream". I have not yet heard the Government's response but I am very disappointed that they did not lead the debate.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

why women only?

The latest report from the Women's Resource Centre sets out the arguments and evidence of the benefits of a ‘women-only’ approach in a climate where women’s organisations are increasingly being asked to justify their ‘women-only’ status.

The research was featured in the Guardian here. The research, based on a survey of 101 women's voluntary groups and a random sample of 1,000 women, found that 97% of women wanted choice of a women-only service after sexual assault and 78% preferred access to a female counsellor.

"The public thinks women have got equality and we don't need women's services any longer. But our research has shown that women want the choice to access women-only services as diverse as gyms, training, and drug and alcohol counselling, not just rape and domestic violence."

The report can be downloaded from the WRC website here.

The WRC urge you to write a letter to the Minister for the Third Sector Minister and the Minister for Women to ask them to support women’s organisations.

The original Why Women? report and a free DVD called "Why Women?" to help you campaign, are available from the WRC on the Why Women website.

The WRC have 2 events coming up -
  • On Wednesday 14 November WRC and Women Acting in Today’s Society are holding an important meeting in Birmingham to plan for a national women’s sector forum. This strategy day is open to all organisations that want to help develop a stronger women’s voluntary and community sector.
  • Making Rights Real is a conference on 15th November in Birmingham for voluntary and community organisations working to tackle inequality and promote human rights.

the value of women

Why are women, generally, globally, believed to be of less value than men?

This question arose in my house after watching "India's Missing Girls" on BBC TV a couple of weeks ago. This was a moving programme. UN figures state that 750,000 girls are aborted every year in India and others are killed when very young. There are now only 840 girls for every 1,000 boys according to Indian government information.

The main rationale for this is the high cost of dowries that families have to find in order to pay a man's family for him to marry their daughter. But this is not just an economic issue, as abortion of female foetus's is common in wealthier families.

So, this led me and my partner, T to wonder and discuss how this ridiculous and terrifying position came to be. It is not the case in every culture, but it's almost globally the case that women are not seen as valuable compared to men. The UK situation regarding unequal pay is a good local example of the same issue.

Could it be that it's because it is almost impossible to tell who the father of a child is, but it's certain who the mother is, when she gives birth, and so men have to control women if they are going to be certain of their heir? It cannot be that men are more necessary in order to pro-create, as the opposite is true, one man can father children with many women.

Could it be that on average men are physically stronger than women, despite women tending to do much of the physical domestic work worldwide. This means that in a capitalist world, where labour is needed to generate profit for those in power, brawn is prized? Women ensure the next generation of labourers grow up strong, but one woman can bring up many boys to be labourers, but it helps if she has the support of others to do so.

Do we need to understand why, in order for there to be a new world order? India is the world's biggest democracy yet it is still a highly unequal society. The power to make changes through political decision making is not an answer in itself. Changing the culture is much more complex. The whole of global society is predicated upon the lesser value of women.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Women's No Pay Day - take action!

Fawcett and UNISON have joined forces to declare October 30th Women's No Pay Day because the 17% hourly pay gap is equivalent to men getting paid all year but women working for nothing from October 30th until the year end.

If you do just one thing for Women's No Pay Day, do this:
Sign the online petition to Gordon Brown demanding stronger action on the pay gap that rips women off. It takes less than a couple of minutes.

Click here to sign the petition

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Sunday, September 30, 2007

didn't think I'd been gone that long!

I'm amazed to find that I haven't posted here since February!
I started my new job in Feb and have obviously been having such an interesting/ busy time since then that blogging didn't fit in anymore.
Should I carry on?
Well, I don't know, but I'm not ready to close it down yet.

4 important changes have taken place recently
1 - I feel comfortable with myself at work - I feel like I fit in - I'm a lecture at a University locally, based in the arts/ sociology department
2 - my partner T has Rheumatoid Arthritis and is having treatment that is not really working yet, so things are quite unpredicatable and it's hard to plan ahead. It also means that there are lots of challenges brought about by the oppression of disabled people that we face and I support T to get through as best I can.
3 - I work 3 days a week but have been doing extra days for other organisations to earn a bit more. When I am not working, T and I get out and about as much as we can in the campervan.
4 - My youngest step-son has just started at Uni, the older one having left home last year to do that, but it didn't suit him and now he is working and studying new subjects planning to go away to Uni next year. So, the house is now empty of "children".

All this means that I am sometimes stressed, always busy, but overall content with my lot. This doesn't mean I no longer care about "issues", but I have other things that take priority over blogging.

I am sure there will be times in the winter months ahead when this blog will be useful to me.
I will probably shifting the focus from women's oppression to disablism somewhat - but my feminism is always a thread that runs through everything I do.

Saturday, February 17, 2007


Last year I posted about the Mencap SNAP photography competition. Since then as part of my old job I have been working with a group of people to organise activities to raise awareness and promote the equal rights of people with learning disabilities in Stoke-on-Trent.

We have arranged to borrow the exhibition of the 2006 SNAP winners photographs. They are currently on show at Keele University. On Monday I will go and collect them and take them to 3 venues in the city - Burslem School of Art, Staffordshire University and The Observatory clubhouse. They will be there until mid April.

The press release is accompanied by a feedback form, designed by other group members, to encourage viewers to think about the impact of the images. I can tell you what I think of them.....

The photos place people with learning disabilities in the public eye - as people with value and dignity.

I have some reservations about some of the photos - well not so much the photos as the words that go with some of them. It is obvious that some of the words although written as though they are the words of the person with a learning disability, are actually the words of a carer/ supporter. I find this very patronising and disempowering. I wonder if someone does not speak, it is not better to have no words with the photo?

There is also a wider point about the photographs - if I cannot take my own photo and cannot tell you what I want a photograph taking of, or do not like my photo begin taken, then I cannot not take part in the competition. Not everyone can/ wants to take photos. I don’t think it is "equality" to pretend that everyone can do that - we are all different. I wonder if there is a debate here?

I am going to link the exhibition in with diversity month at Staffs Uni and set up a discussion event sometime in the next few weeks, to pick up some of these issues.

I've started....

my new job at Staffordshire University.

I was shockingly overwhelmed on my first and 3rd days. I had a headache all day on Tuesday ( my first day) and choked back tears 3 or 4 times on Thursday afternoon/ evening after my 3rd day.

But I still think it was a good move.

Wednesday was the best - I felt at home there all morning and had lunch with my job share co-worker, who is great - funny, intelligent, kind - we should get on like a house on fire.

It was very peculiar doing 3 days and knowing I'd done my first week's work. It's also odd knowing I don't go back in until Tuesday. I hope I don't get used to it, so that it always feels like a treat.

I will be busy on Monday anyway as I have volunteered (but then had it agreed that I can do it as part of my new job) to organise an exhibition of the Mencap SNAP photographs.

body hair.....

is in up for debate again - Shazia Mirza is a convert to hairy bodies. Take a look at her website - it's worth a visit.

There is an article in the guardian about her fashion show - she got women to agree to stop removing hair and model for her. They were then asked to model clothes made from body hair.

The article picks up on some of the negative attitudes Shazia faced - although it features a discussion she had with Loaded magazine, and I wouldn't have expected anything other than the reaction she got from them - after all they clearly see women as sex objects only and the less that is "real" and sexual about the women they like the better - women in that magazine are either treated as "girls", pre-pubescent, and doll-like, or as whores or dogs (animals).

I would have liked to know more about what other women thought but it's a start. She's going to present an hour-long comedy debate programme called F*** off, I'm a Hairy Woman on BBC3 in March - not quite, but nearly mainstream media.

Sunday, January 21, 2007


is really exciting me at the moment.

I read Donna Tartt's "The Little Friend" over Christmas and I was bereft when I finished it - I eked out the last few pages as I did not want it to end. The atmosphere totally captivated me - it is one of the best books I have ever read. I seem to have a thing for books written from a young girl's viewpoint - "A Crime In The Neighbourhood" by Suzanne Berne, "Cat's Eye" my favourite Margaret Atwood, L P Hartley's "The Go-Between" and "To Kill A Mockingbird" by Harper Lee all spring to mind as books I have loved.
22-1-07 Thanks to Alec for reminding me about "Lovely Bones" - a fantastically moving novel in the same category - Alice Sebold.

I am now reading "Alias Grace", one of the last un-read Atwood's in my collection. It's reminiscent of Sarah Waters' "Fingersmith", so far - and that was a brilliant read late last year too. I've yet to read her new book "Nightwatch" set in the second world war, but have heard great reviews.

Issue 2 of Subtext is out, and I read that from cover to cover - better than issue 1 (although quite hard to read sometimes due to the layout/ font) - it stimulated me to think a lot more about trafficking, and I have renewed my membership of Amnesty International on the back of it. It's only £3.50 with no ads - all produced by volunteers. Well worth it.

As far as work goes, I am reading the report of the investigation by the Healthcare Commission into abuse of people with learning disabilities in hospitals and care homes in London (Sutton and Merton) and Hastings - it's distressing and depressing but essential reading. The clear summary here is a quick outline of what went on. I am continually amazed by what humans can do to each other - particularly in the name of "care" - the abuse includes what amounts to imprisonment, torture and violence and would be a total scandal if the report was about children. Because the people affected are adults and find it hard to speak up for themselves, they are ignored by most of us and we allow this appalling treatment to continue. This is the second investigation into abuse of people with learning disabilities in NHS care in the last year - the Cornwall report came out in July 2006 with similar but more serious findings. The clear summary here is a quick outline of what went on in Cornwall - read it - please.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007


women in senior positions.

According to the Equal Opportunities Commission publication "Sex and power: who runs Britain? 2007" - at the current rate of progess it will take…

Another 20 years to achieve equality in Civil Service top management.
Another 40 years to achieve an equal number of senior women in the judiciary.
Another 60 years to achieve an equal number of female directors of FTSE 100 companies.
Up to 200 years – another 40 elections – to achieve an equal number of women in Parliament.

"Where are the women missing from our boardrooms and public life?
If we hope to shatter the glass ceiling across the public and private sectors, the Equal Opportunities Commission (EOC) has calculated that we would need to find the nearly 6,000 women ‘missing’ from more than 33,000 top spots. The pace of change is painfully slow and in some cases is even going into reverse, so that is quite a challenge. This year, as the EOC publishes the final Sex and Power index before moving into the new Commission for Equality and Human Rights (CEHR) in October 2007, the EOC asks: Where are the women missing from our boardrooms and public life? What’s holding them back? And what price are
we – as a society and as employers – paying for their absence?"

The price is - the continuation of the patriarchy is confirmed.