Wednesday, 24 March 2010

I'm blogging for UK Feminista

Hi there

Over the next 4 weeks i am blogging for UK Feminista website about feminism and the Bristol Feminist Network.
You can find out all about it here:

Have to say - it is a massive honour to blog with a group of truly fascinating and inspirational women

Tuesday, 23 March 2010

BBC4's Women Documentary - bad

I was really looking forward to BBC4's series Women and so was really upset by how disappointed I was.

I really enjoyed the first episode despite the shocking omission of BME women and context. However it was inspirational for me to hear the voices of women I admire such as Marilyn French and Susan Brownmiller. But why no mention of Gloria Steinem? Or, ffs, Betty Friedan? I know she had her faults but she invented NOW! She was incredibly influential.

I missed the Mothers episode so caught up with the series last night for the Activist episode and was horrifically disappointed and frankly very angry.
I cannot understand or believe that Engles did not talk about the feminist movement across the country and only focused on LFN. This is not a criticism of LFN, but to just focus on one group was completely absurd.
For starters, by only focusing on LFN the impression was given that the modern feminist movement is a small group of white, middle class women living in London. This is simply not true. The feminist movement is all over the UK and from all different backgrounds. Although I don't expect Engles to go to every town in the UK and talk to every feminist, to not even mention activism in other cities was so odd. At the time she was filming this doc I was writing in the Guardian about the rise of feminist networks in the UK. I live in Bristol and am a member of BFN - I could easily have just interviewed women from Bristol, but I didn't! I interviewed women from all over the UK because, just as feminists don't just live in Bristol, they don't just live in London.

The other problem of just focusing on LFN is that it makes it look as if all feminists in the UK agree with or are 'governed' by LFN. No disrespect to Finn McKay who I admire as an activist and passionate advocate of women's rights, but to describe her as 'the political brain behind the feminist movement' was ridiculous. She may be the political brain behind LFN, but that is LFN, not the feminists all over the UK! Nor did she 'start Reclaim the Night'. Again, please don't take this as a criticism of Finn or LFN as I'm sure they didn't and wouldn't describe themselves in those terms. It just made me and I'm sure other feminists all over the UK feel invisible.

There were moments that were really good, one woman talking about how her daughter's friend was gang raped and that this galvanized her to become involved in feminism was incredibly moving. And the work and co-operation between young and old women was heartening.

As I say, although I admire the work of LFN I strongly disagree with some of their stand points, such as excluding men. I felt that by representing feminism as LFN was doing the wide range of view points and debates within feminism a massive disservice. Also, the blatant transphobia on display was hideous and again, did not honestly reflect the other opinions and view points of feminists around the UK.

I also felt Engles' attitude and questions was appalling. Asking women about why they painted their fingernails, surely we're not still on this issue! She repeatedly asked the women whether they're angry people - as if there is something wrong with women and that they're not justifiably angry about the gross inequalities women face. And why did she keep talking to their parents - as if these women were angry children and not autonomous, independent women? I cannot imagine this happening with any other documentary about any other movement.
So, all in all, i was grossly disappointed. I wish Engles had spoken to a wider range of women and actually given the young women the respect she gave to the second wave women. It was a real shame that what could have been a real inspiration and a real chance to show the world what feminism is doing so patently failed to do that.

Tuesday, 9 March 2010

debi wither's book

I'm in it! She interviewed me to talk of this very blog and you can read all about it here:

Representations of Women in the Media 2009 - results!

Hi all

As those of you who know will realise, 2009 was a bit year for the representations of women in the media project.

And i had a big role in organising, researching and co-ordinating what was an amazing venture.

Bristol Fawcett Society have put the findings on their website and can be found here:

Under 2009 Powerpoint Presentation

You can also see the film of the airbrushing protest we did.

Wednesday, 3 March 2010

speech i made at Bristol Reclaim the Night 2010

this is the speech i made at Bristol Reclaim the Night

We still live in a culture that blames women for their attacks. In a recent London based survey, over 70% of those polled said women were partially to blame if they were drunk when they were attacked, or got into bed with their attacker. Less than 20 years since marital rape became illegal, there remains this culture that if a woman gets into bed with her attacker, she is culpable.

The reality is that no woman is responsible for her rape. The rapist is fully and ultimately responsible. Whether the woman is drunk, wearing a short skirt, walking home on her own, has a sexual history with the rapist, has a sexual history full stop, none of these things matter. What matters is that the rapist is to blame for the rape.

One theory suggests that women blame other women as a way to comfort themselves that the rape victim ‘didn’t follow the rules’, that if you ‘follow the rules’ you are safe. There are no rules I’m afraid. The only rule in place is the one that tells men not to rape.

Consent still, unbelievably, continues to be a thorny issue. As does the pervasive belief that stranger rape is “real rape” and date rape isn’t “violent rape”. All rape, by its very definition, is violent. There are no degrees of nastiness here.

The restrictions of women’s freedom continues to be an issue. When there are attacks on women that make the news, the response remains the same. Stay indoors, don’t drink, use the buddy system. At Christmas, posters all over the country warned women about the dangers of rape by telling them to restrict their freedoms. But those who are guilty of rape, those who are to blame, they continue to have their freedom. Posters urged women to take licensed cabs rather than unlicensed mini cabs, as black cab driver John Worbouys continued his attacks and his victims continued to be ignored and dismissed by the Metropolitan Police.

So what can we do? Well, the aims of Reclaim the Night are to educate about consent and violence against women. To educate and eradicate the myths that surround rape, to eradicate the belief that women are to blame if their drunk or have a history with the attacker, to educate and eradicate the belief that men can’t stop once they’ve started, to educate and eradicate the belief that only stranger rape is real rape. To educate about respect and consent in relationships. To educate and empower men and women about their sexuality and relationships.

We aim to bring justice to victims, to improve the conviction rate so that those who are guilty of rape pay for their crime, to ensure that women are believed.

And we aim to support the services in Bristol that are helping victims and survivors of sexual assault every day – rape crisis, the SARC, One25, and many many more. These services are vital to the women in Bristol, and yet are always under threat due to lack of funds.

I recently had a response from 10 Downing Street regarding a petition I signed to improve funding for rape crisis centres in the UK. They happily informed me that they would be providing £1 million for Rape Crisis and Survivor’s Trust. Nationally. £1 million for the whole country. A country where, according to the Haven Survey, 1 in 4 women have been sexually assaulted. We live in a country where rape crisis centres are not in every city, where many many women have no where to turn to after they have been raped where they will be listened to and believed. With a paltry million put aside to provide for these services, this isn’t changing any time soon, Clearly, women’s freedom and safety is not high on the government agenda. But it is high on ours. That is why we are here. That is what we are fighting for.