Tag Archives: feminism

Lib Link: Alex Cole-Hamilton: We still don’t value women in public life

If you wander round Edinburgh, you might think that men were the only people who ever did anything important.  Alex Cole-Hamilton has reflected of the lack of recognition for women in a post for the Women 50/50 campaign’s blog:

Well, because all told, statues of animals outnumber statues of women in the city by about 5:1. Walking down the Royal Mile, you couldn’t swing a dead Great Auk around your head for fear of hitting the stone effigy of a bloke who was big during the enlightenment – but there is no sign of the women who built so much of this city and its legacy.

A number of city MSPs and I from all parties have recently taken up the campaign to see Elsie Inglis commemorated on the Royal Mile. Elsie was a leading Suffragist in the late 19th century and was close friends with Millicent Fawcett. As a doctor, she established the Women’s Hospitals Movement which took mobile field hospitals to the bloodiest battlefields of World War 1. She was one of the only women ever to receive a state funeral and there are statues to her in Serbia and in France. Her only recognition in the capital is a small plaque in St Giles Cathedral.

The commemoration of important and trail-blazing women matters. It matters because if we don’t do it then the subliminal impact of public art is to cement the patriarchal view that only men can ever achieve greatness. I want to be able to walk up the Royal Mile with my daughter, Darcy, from the palace to castle, and ignite her ambition by pointing out famous female lawyers, politicians and authors and walk her through the steps she’ll need to take if she wants to be like them. The same is true for TV; modern political dramas, whether it be House of Cards or Designated survivor, idealise the rise of men and show the lead character using his male resources to grasp the reins of power. I don’t know about you, but I would like to see a TV adaptation of the life and career of Mary Esslemont, Barbara Castle or Shirley Williams.

I have a slight quibble with his conclusion, though:

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The Independent View: Invitation to Lib Dem Women – Be involved with research on women’s political representation

One hundred years after women gained the right to vote and to be elected to Parliament, women are still fewer than one-third of MPs. The Fawcett Society, with the support of the Government Equalities Office, is undertaking a landmark piece of research into the barriers to women being selected by political parties, and then elected to Parliament.

We are working with all major political parties across the UK, and we need your help. Have you at any time since 2010:

– Been selected as a Lib Dem parliamentary candidate but not subsequently elected
OR
– Considered putting yourself forward for selection but, for any reason, decided against standing

If you fit one of these categories, then we would really appreciate if could attend one of our focus groups and share your experiences in a group of Lib Dem women. Our focus groups will be held weekday evenings in London over the 2-week period 14th – 24th May. We will be holding similar sessions with all the major political parties in cities around the UK.

All the information you share will be anonymised and treated in strictest confidence. Focus groups will be facilitated by a member of the Fawcett Society team. Food and refreshments will be provided.

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Jo Swinson on sexism, making space for learning and how equal power benefits us all

There’s a really good interview with Jo Swinson in online publication The Debrief. She talks about her book, Equal Power, and about how to combat the polarising culture we find ourselves in. Making time for learning is something she has found useful. Perhaps men who feel threatened by feminism might wish to approach the subject the way she approached the issue of racism by reading up and empathising with those who experience it. That, by the way, is something we should all think about in the wake of the Alderdice Review.

In our Twitter age…in this very polarised time where everything is painted in a very extreme light. It’s made to seem as though it’s one thing or its polar opposite but there has to be space for learning’. The truth is that the continuing fight for true equality between men and women is not, as Parris kept suggesting, about ‘winning’. Women’s equality will not be ‘won’ at the expense of men because a truly equal society will benefit us all.

A good example for the benefits of creating space for learning as opposed to polarising opposition, Swinson tells me was the impact of Renni Eddo-Lodge’s book Why I’m No Longer Talking To White People About Race. After reading it, she says she is ‘much more aware of the privilege’ she has ‘as a white skinned person’. Reading the book did not make her defensive or protective of her privilege but instead made her think ‘oh my goodness have I been blind to injustice’. She explains ‘in the same way that I’ve not experienced discrimination or discrimination about my sexual orientation, I have to listen and learn to people who have and realise that privilege – it’s similar for men – they might get it, or they might not get it, but they want to – we need to speak with them, so they can learn – this is what I suggest in my book – talking to your male friends and colleagues about your experiences’. Even individual conversations within a personal circle of trust can be powerful, she says in helping people to understand power dynamics because ‘when it’s your friend, sister or daughter telling you it’s harder to dismiss and easier to understand.’

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There’s no hypocrisy in putting grid girls out of work

Formula 1 recently announced that they would no longer have scantily clad women acting as “grid girls” during races. This seems like a no-brainer to me, but there has been a wave of backlash against the decision. The main argument against it appears to be this:

These women have chosen to use their looks to make money, which is their free choice. And now pressure from a bunch of angry feminists has made them lose their jobs. So much for respecting women’s choices. 

Variations of this argument have recently appeared in the Mail, Mirror, Metro and Times.

And it is a terrible argument.

It wrongly assumes that feminists must support a woman’s right to be paraded for her looks on whatever platform she chooses.

But this just isn’t true. Imagine if Prime Ministers Questions decided that, to raise their viewership, a woman would introduce proceedings every week in her underwear. That would be absurd, whether it gave a job to a young woman or not. People don’t have a god-given right to dress in a sexualised way to advertise a brand. Feminists aren’t hypocrites if they don’t support giving people such a platform.

When brands like Formula One promote Grid Girls in the way that they do, it has damaging effects on other women and on society. It implies that women should be seen as decoration – only relevant for their looks – while the male drivers are heralded for their sporting ability. What kind of message does that send to young girls who see them on TV? This isn’t the same as being anti-sex, or saying that women shouldn’t be able to dress how they like in their everyday lives. It’s about context. Why should there be a platform for parading half-naked women during a race? How is that relevant to sport? 

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Jo Swinson calls for misogyny to be made a hate crime

Crimes motivated by prejudice such as homophobia and racism already carry stiffer penalties, so if we accept that principle, why on earth do we not include misogyny in that?

Jo Swinson this week made that very point using some colourful language on the Victoria Derbyshire show.

You can watch the whole thing here from 1:26:31

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Feminist and trans equality organisations can work very well together – Scotland leads the way

You can hardly open a newspaper these days – including some which should know better – without seeing some horrible, untrue and vicious stories about transgender people.

It’s terrifying to me as a cisgender woman to see any group of people targeted in this way. Imagine what it must be like if you are transgender. Your very right to exist is being questioned. In the US, an ignorant President undermines you at every opportunity.

As Liberals, I would argue that we have an absolute duty to do everything we can to stand up for people who are being targeted with so much hate. Doing nothing is simply not an option.

It makes me furious when I see some vocal feminists target transgender women. It really, really does not have to be this way. I don’t often voluntarily share articles from The National, but on this occasion, I am proud to do so. James Norton, who works for the Scottish Trans Alliance wrote an excellent piece about how feminist and transgender rights activists and organisations work so well together in Scotland. He writes about a decade of respectful dialogue has done all it can

to ensure that trans equality enhances wider gender/sex equality and that discussion is factual, friendly and diverse.

He continues:

Together, Scotland’s trans and feminist movements have grown in our mutual understanding and support of each other. We have found huge common ground in our desire to prevent sexual assault and domestic violence, ensure bodily autonomy and reproductive freedoms, implement equal pay and challenge gender stereotypes. There cannot be full trans equality without full equality for women.

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The next time you think about saying “But what about the men?”, read this

Almost every time an article appears on the internet highlighting discrimination against women and girls, there is likely to be at least one man derailing the discussion by saying “but what about the men?”

Believe me, as a woman who dares to express her opinion on the internet, I come up against this sort of attitude a lot.

Does the same thing happen when someone highlights problems faced by men? I certainly haven’t been aware of it.

However, this week blogger Jessica Eaton wrote a thought-provoking piece about the different reactions she has had when running projects aimed at helping men and  women.

Five years ago, she and her family set up a charity aimed at supporting adult men with addiction and mental health problems. They have done some amazing work in that time. When she writes about it, does she get abuse for not doing work for women?

I can’t tell you about the hundreds of messages or tweets we get asking ‘what about women?’ – because it’s never happened.

I don’t have any stories about the times we got sent a tonne of abuse when we conducted research with general public in the community about male mental health stigma – because it’s never happened.

I can switch over to the TEF twitter account right now and write literally anything about men and nothing bad will ever happen. Our Facebook page has thousands of followers and we never get threats, abuse or whataboutery.

That’s great and as it should be.

But what about when she does stuff aimed at helping women, including the research for her PhD thesis which is about victim blaming of women and girls in the media and other studies aimed at supporting women who have been victims of violence? That’s a completely different story.

I did one study where there was a free text question at the end and a whopping 9% of respondents chose to use that box to criticise me for not researching men. I say whopping because the free text box didn’t even ask them a question about that and 63 people still managed to use the box to whack in some ‘whataboutery’.

Not only that but a further 14% (over 90 people) left comments that were just plain nasty or abusive. One guy told me that my work was shit and he hopes I fail my PhD. And then left his full name and job title. He was an academic at a university. In my field. He even put some kisses on.

Why does she think this is happening?

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged , and | 46 Comments

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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Suffragette – a moment for shame

The film “Suffragette” is now on general release. It is very much worth watching.

Posted in The Arts | Also tagged , and | 50 Comments

Why My Sexy MP is not just a bit of harmless fun

My heart sank yesterday when I saw courtesy of the Telegraph that reality TV star Francis Boulle had updated his My Sexy MP site for the new Parliament.

This horrible site gives you pictures of two MPs and asks you to choose between them. As the title suggests, it’s not their good works, values or key speeches you are being asked to judge. It’s not even just their looks. This site takes creepiness and objectification to a whole new level, asking its readers “Which MP would you rather have sex with?”

No doubt some readers will just dismiss me as …

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged and | 29 Comments

Miriam Gonzalez Durantez argues for quotas on boards – but warns that inclusive culture is also necessary

Remarkably, we’ve seen a consensus between our two leadership candidates that some for of action such as all women shortlists or zipping in list contests, is necessary to do something about the party’s shockingly poor record on diversity.

Miriam Gonzalez Durantez, as reported in the International Business Times, has called for quotas on company boards:

I am a reluctant supporter of temporary quotas. Intervention, on a temporary basis, is probably the only solution to make a big change. It irritates my legal mind because obviously discrimination cannot be sorted with another discrimination, but I’ve come to the conclusion that unless you make an intervention, change will to be difficult.

She did go on to say, though, that where there must be no tokenism. Companies must allow women on their boards to play a full part:

Boards have a specific role: controlling what the situation is for shareholders and the community as a whole, that is why they were created. Too many boards are either not diverse or diverse nominally and not inclusive. They sit women around the table but they don’t participate in discussions, those boards are not fulfilling.

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Lynne Featherstone: Good riddance to Page 3

There’s some interesting discussion on my social media timeline about  the Sun’s decision to stop printing clothes of topless women on Page 3. On one hand you have the male dominated group of people who think this is a dreadful infringement of liberty enacted by sinister feminists with An Agenda. Just you wait, they’ll be after your porn yet, they warn. They don’t like the fact that the No More Page 3 campaign started by Lucy-Anne Holmes and backed by more than 200,000 people has got what it wanted. It’s illiberal, they scream, for one group of people to interfere with the freedoms of others. That’s interesting. Presumably they would also be in favour of continuing to use the deeply racist language that was deemed acceptable when I was a child. Perhaps they’d oppose interfering in employers’ rights to send children up chimneys.

I just wonder how some of the men complaining about this decision if, every single day, there were pictures of naked men in a newspaper in a society where most of the positions of power were occupied by women who were never depicted in such a way. I don’t think they’d like it very much.

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Clegg backs Fawcett Society over feminism t-shirt

Nick Clegg has said that he believes that the Fawcett Society would never have knowingly commissioned their “This is what a feminist looks like” t-shirt if they had been thought it had been produced in the conditions described by the Mail on Sunday. The Standard has the story:

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Why would you not be a feminist? says Clegg

Screen Shot 2014-10-27 at 17.45.31Elle magazine is doing  a big push for feminism at the moment. It attempted to get the three main party leaders south of the border to wear their “This is what a feminist looks like” t-shirt.

Ed Miliband was happy to do it and so was Nick Clegg, who said:

I support equality and choice – so yes, I’m a feminist. How on earth in this day and age can you not be? As a wiser person than me once said: “Men who actually treat women as equals are the ones with more cojones.”

That wiser person is, of course, is his wife Miriam Gonzalez Durantez, who made the comment in relation to childcare earlier this year, much to the consternation of the Daily Fail.

David Cameron decided not to risk the wrath of the right wing tabloids by daring to wear a t-shirt with the F word on it. Elle magazine aren’t wildly chuffed about that. Editor-in-chief Lorraine Candy said:

We asked the Prime Minister five times if he would wear the Fawcett Society’s iconic This Is What A Feminist Looks Like slogan T-shirt and send us a snapshot (it would only take 10 minutes). Five times, he declined. This is a shame on so many levels, especially given he knew Nick Clegg and Ed Miliband had agreed without hesitation, alongside many other influential men who were more than happy to call themselves feminists. It seems the Prime Minister still has an issue with the word “feminist”.

I was personally disappointed that we couldn’t feature Mr Cameron in our Feminism Issue because it is ELLE’s aim to engage with men in the fight for equality: because of parliament’s current gender imbalance, it is men who have the power to make changes in every area of British women’s lives. When the man in charge doesn’t engage, it doesn’t bode well. Given the huge international male support for UN Women’s #HeForShe campaign, it does rather make our Prime Minister look like the odd one out.’

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Lib Dem equalities minister Jo Swinson backs Elle magazine’s ‘Make Them Pay’ campaign

jo swinson by paul walterJo Swinson is not only the government minister responsible for employment relations, consumer and postal affairs – she’s also the Lib Dems’ equalities minister. And she appears in November’s issue of Elle magazine backing its ‘Make Them Pay‘ campaign:

Today, we are proud to announce, the government has gotten behind us too. Women and Equalities minister Jo Swinson is urging all women to follow the advice in The Feminist Times and Mother campaign: ‘If he does the same job as you, ask him his salary.’

Praising our initiative,

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Opinion: Why I stayed off Twitter on Sunday (despite Doctor Who)

Lots of discussion was had about “#twittersilence” this weekend.

The premise is clear. Following the diabolical harassment of feminist campaigner Caroline Criado-Perez, threats included the most heinous debasement, the threat of rape; feminists around the world pledged to go silent on Twitter for National Friendship Day.

As a feminist and social media user myself, as well as being an aspiring politician, I’ve experienced my fair share of offensive behaviour, comments and abuse. Indeed the downside of social media in society seems to be that it creates a form of mask through which people can hide in order to persecute and …

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged and | 7 Comments

Jo Swinson uses the F word in Guardian interview

jo swinsonLast week, I said that Liberal Democrats should use the word feminist much more than we do. Women Liberal Democrats has done so much to advance policy on women’s equality over the years and its successor Liberal Democrat Women has a bright future ahead of it. However, women’s hard won rights are under attack all over the world, whether it’s the disgrace of female genital mutilation practised at home or abroad, domestic violence, employment rights, rape culture or abortion rights. Projects like Everyday Sexism expose a misogyny that is …

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