Tag Archives: feminism

Dutch support for a Millicent Fawcett Statue in Parliament Square

For Dutch Social Liberals, being a party activist and being a feminist have always been strongly (90%) overlapping aspects of our social behavior and social activism. Whereas Dutch Social Democracy until 1934 neglected the women’s emancipation struggle because the emancipation of all proletarians came first, we are proud that from the beginning, Dutch social-liberal parties (Radikale Bond/RB, 1892-1901, VDB, 1901-’46, D66) have always had feminist spokespersons in their parliamentary parties. Aletta Jacobs, our most famous late 19th century feminist, was a RB founder/activist, and it was a VDB bill which gave Dutch women the vote. And the 1966 founders of D66 were strongly involved in the Second Feminist Wave (raising male consciousness about issues like equal pay, equal family law rights, childcare and family planning), and proudly conscious of the RB and VDB feminist tradition.

And British feminists, Millicent Garrett Fawcett (and her sister, Elizabeth Garrett Anderson) in particular, played an indispensable role in getting that Dutch feminist tradition going.

In 1870-’76 a young Dutch liberal, Victor Gerritsen, lived in London where he immersed himself in the Radical and Liberal scene around John Stuart Mill and the Garrett sisters. In those years (thanks to permission by liberal prime minister Thorbecke), Aletta Jacobs was able to study medicine including her Ph. D. promotion. On his return here, Gerritsen heard about this, and that Jacobs wanted to study medical practices in London. Gerritsen wrote her, giving her useful contact addresses, and telling about the advent of British female medical doctors (this proved the start of their love- and later marriage relationship).

According to the authoritative biography of Jacobs, she visited London in March-September 1879. Via the brothers George and Charles Robert Drysdale (women’s doctors and pioneers in Neo-Malthusianism) she met Elizabeth Garrett (Britain’s first female doctor meeting the first Dutch one), and worked with her in the London Medical School of Women, New Hospital for Women, and in Garrett’s “St. Mary’s Dispensary” aimed at mothers and children. Via Elizabeth, Jacobs also met Millicent Garrett and her husband, the Cambridge economist/suffragist Henry Fawcett (their mutual supportive, loving relationship was to be copied by Jacobs and Gerritsen), who were more involved in the women’s voting right movement. Gerritsen already subscribed to the suffragist “Englishwomen’s Review”, and had his British friends send him new Liberal, feminist and radical publications; when the Dutch feminist movement got started in the 1880’s, his substantial library was used by everybody in Dutch social liberalism and feminism.

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WATCH Jo Swinson launch action plan on maternity discrimination

Yesterday, Jo Swinson, as chair of Maternity Action, helped to launch an action plan aimed at tackling maternity discrimination.

If you think that this stuff doesn’t go on any more, take an hour out to watch the video of the event and you will see that it very much does.  A woman called Amelia tells the shocking story of what happened to her when she told her employers she was pregnant.

The video is available on Maternity Action’s You Tube channel here. Unfortunately, it’s not embeddable here, but do go and watch it.

Here are some tweets from the event:

The number of women adversely affected each year is staggering:

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Two reports highlight ongoing need for feminism

Two reports today show that feminism’s work is far from done.

A worrying analysis from the Children’s Society says that 1 in 7 girls are unhappy with more than 1 in 3 being particularly anxious over their appearance.  Given the massive media pressure on what constitutes beauty, it’s hardly surprising that body image remains such a strong trigger of unhappiness.

Girls suffer significantly more unhappiness than boys and this feeds into greater rates of mental ill health.

It’s not difficult to see why if you look at the SRE Now tag on Twitter and read Laura Bates’ and Sarah Green’s recent Telegraph article which highlights the issues of sexual harassment girls face in school. Even in primary school, damaging attitudes about gender roles and consent are prevalent. Green and Bates say:

The evidence is not just anecdotal. A recent BBC Freedom of Information request revealed that 5,500 alleged sexual offences, including 600 rapes, were reported to police as having taken place in schools over three years. That’s an average of almost exactly one rape per school day. Meanwhile, a YouGov survey for the End Violence Against Women coalition revealed that almost one in three 16-18 year old girls experienced unwanted sexual touching at school.

Against this backdrop, we desperately need to educate children about concepts like consent, respect and healthy relationships. But at present, there is no requirement for schools to teach anything apart from the basic biology of sex.

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Book review: My life on the road by Gloria Steinem

Gloria Steimen My life on the road coverI read this book as the primary campaigns started in the US earlier this year. There is a chapter dedicated to the misogynistic bile directed at Hillary Clinton in 2008, which seems tame given what she’s getting now. “Life’s a b****. Don’t vote for one.” was an actual badge being sold by Republicans in Cleveland at their convention. I’d like to think that Federal Conference Committee Chair Andrew Wiseman would fling out anyone selling similar at a Liberal Democrat Conference.

My Life on the Road details four decades of travel all over the world as Gloria Steinem’s work took her to all sorts of  places. It is a wise and gentle book which is primarily about bringing people together and making sure diverse voices were heard. It’s a great insight in to the  history of the feminist movement and the importance of intersectionality within that.

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Embrace feminism, says Justin Trudeau. Lib Dems could learn from that.

It seems that every day there’s a new reason to admire Canadian Liberal Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

The Guardian has a report of a panel session in Davos where he said that everyone should embrace feminism. He said that a more diverse team makes better decisions in both politics and business.

I particularly liked the clip in the video in which he said that his wife had reminded him that he not only had to encourage his daughter into taking leadership roles, but also to talk to his sons about treating women properly.

He also said that he thinks there will be as big changes in attitudes to equality in the next 20 years as there has been in the last 40.

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Who runs the World?

I had an absolutely brilliant day on Thursday at the first ever national Scottish Conference organised by the Women 50/50 Campaign and Engender entitled Who runs the World.

Women from all over the country gathered in Edinburgh’s MacDonald Hotel to discuss politics, the media, getting involved in councils and public appointments and ensuring that all areas of our public and political life had at least 50% women running them. There was a keynote speech from First Minister Nicola Sturgeon who said that the Women 50/50 campaign was one of the most significant campaigns in Scotland today.

I’m going to write in more detail about some of the sessions later but here are some of the highlights.

How sexism stops women fulfilling their ambitions

There were two panel sessions during the day. The first, in the morning, discussed participation in and portrayal of women in the media. One of the journalists on the panel, Gina Davidson, told us how she had wanted to the crime reporting job on the paper she was working for. She was turned down for that and given health. Conservative MSP Mary Scanlon had come into Parliament desperate to get on the Audit Committee. Her request was denied by the leadership and she ended up with health, a subject that she knew nothing about. Having said that, she has developed quite an affinity with it – she intends to spend her retirement volunteering for a mental health project. Even so, women are often directed into areas traditionally seen as theirs.

Working across parties

It’s great when women from all parties get together. We find out that we share a lot of the same frustrations and come across the same behaviours across politics. There was some talk on whether there should be a formal Women’s Caucus at Holyrood, something that the MSPs there thought could be useful. There are already examples of cross party working. Labour leader Kezia Dugdale talked about having a quiet word with then Employment Minister Angela Constance (also on the panel) after she’d noticed that all the photos on the construction page of Skills Development Scotland showed men wearing hard hats. Angela went and got it changed.

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Jo Swinson speaks out against gender quotas on boards

From PoliticsHome:

Senior leaders from business and government have gone head-to-head over whether mandatory quotas are needed to get more women to the top of organisations.

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