Archive | April, 2012

Does the world really need another macaroon recipe?

20 Apr

I’m at a lunchtime concert in Southbank centre where a young lady is singing a song called ‘It’s a beautiful world’. Whilst on my laps is a book by George Monbiot, ‘6 arguments for global justice’, which is an overview of the many atrocities and injustices that plague our planet. When the singer asks us to join in with the chorus ‘it’s a beautiful world’, I do as I’m told and start singing. Then I realise what I’m singing is a lie. How beautiful is it for the 1 in 7 people who are hungry, the 25,000 US prisoners currently held in isolation, the 1000 women who die each day from complications during pregnancy and childbirth (to give just a couple of examples)?

We sit here, singing along and listening intently. How many of the people that are here would sit so patiently through an hour of solutions for global poverty and inequalities?

I’m not condemning having fun, but everything should be done in moderation – when you sing a song about something as vacuous as, for example, your boyfriend, also sing a song about global issues or something pertinent. If you are going to attend a concert, mirror that commitment with also going to a debate, protest, meeting about something that benefits other people.

A lot of my female friends have started writing blogs and not one of them has been a call to action other than the action of baking. With so many years of trying to get women out of the kitchen and encouraging the view that being a woman isn’t synonymous with being a cookie-making machine, we are now desperately crawling back in and dragging the blogosphere in with us. How much better will the world really be with yet another macaroon recipe?

Women should be setting the bar higher – our blogs, our articles, our songs, our activities. Women have so much potential and if we are squandering it, then who is going to make the world a better and more equal place? I’m not saying that I never do anything hedonistic or outright pointless, but I’m trying to balance that out with doing something that encourages positive change, and if I became a singer I would far prefer to be a Tracy Chapman than a Kylie Minogue.

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The cuts, cutting us out

16 Apr

I think, talk and write a lot about the pornification of our society, and I’m not the only one. A lot of feminists write about it because, what with overtly sexual adverts on billboards, readily available porn mags, and naked ladies bizarrely placed on the front pages of certain newspapers, it is impossible to avoid. Faced with a constant stream of this stuff, no wonder it takes up so much of the blogosphere.

But, there are many other problems too, and quite a few aren’t as explicitly violating women’s rights and butchering equality. Take for example, budget cuts. When our Government professes that ‘we’re all in it together’, you wouldn’t think that “budget cuts” are disproportionally affecting women. Yet with job cuts, benefits freezes and reductions in legal aid, women are feeling the effects of our austerity much more than men.

Job cuts have meant that, at present, there are 1.13 million unemployed women in Britain, and according to The Office for National Statistics, between October and December 2011, 32,000 women became unemployed compared with only 16,000 men.

The progress women have been making in gaining equal access to the workplace is slowly but surely being undermined. Have men always seen us as dispensable? Has this view been lying dormant over the last few years and is now rearing its ugly head in a time of crisis?  It’s hard to think otherwise, when, according to data collected by the Fawcett Society, in the last quarter 81% of those losing their jobs were women; and in some local councils 100% of those fired were women.

And let’s not forget that for those depleting number of few women still in jobs, they face a full-time pay gap of 20.4%.

There are many problems facing women – feminists understandably will prioritise one area over another. But today, let us not stay quiet on as issue as profound and damaging as that of unequal pay and unequal job cuts. Write to your local media, write to your MP, attend a rally, check out what the Fawcett Society is suggesting we do. Losing what women before us fought for, that’s not something we want done on our watch.

Female Solidarity….. huh?!

5 Apr

It is female journalists and writers who often make the most disparaging comments about women. Virgina Ironside once wrote ‘if you put a load of women together, a toxic chemical change seems to occur — one that turns them into bitchy, gossiping harpies, and produces an explosive reaction in me’.

Whilst she herself is being nasty about other women, the point she makes is one that other’s have made too: apparently viewers of The Apprentice ‘frequently complain that the women’s attempts to work together descend into unedifying, shrill arguments. One of the show’s advisers, Karren Brady, has even pulled contestants up for it, telling them their in-fighting was giving women a bad name’.

Yet I have never met a man who talks badly about another man, instead men tend to call one another ‘mate’ even if they have only just met, as if part of some brotherhood. We need to build a similar type of solidarity, a language that unites us, even when we are strangers, a language which creates a sense of sisterhood. I don’t just mean a language for addressing one another, but a language of equality. An agreement about what we will, together, stand for, and against.

A few months ago I watched an interview on HardTalk with a young feminist, Kat Banyard, who was talking about the problems of the sex industry. The interviewer, Zeinab Badawi, also a woman, was making remarks that were dismissive, patronizing and mocking, whilst staunchly protecting the sex industry. Her comments included ‘‘all men are guilty, all men, are they?!’, angry that all men were being accused of using strip clubs. Then, a dismissive, ‘‘it’s a tiny minority of men who use these [strip] clubs and even if they do, does it mean that they will go onto beat up their women folk when they’re at home’?’. Frankly, the whole interview made me really sad. That two women couldn’t see eye to eye on issues around equality showed how far we have yet to go.

Obviously women are not a homogenous group of robots with the same thoughts and opinions. We are all different. But it would help us a significant amount if we could start singing from the same hymn sheet. Perhaps we should have a 10 commandments style list, or a mandate of some sort which we could generally all agree on? Just a thought….