Diane Abbott Appreciation

Diane Abbott was the first Black woman elected to parliament. Here are 4 love letters to Abbott and, in her own words, the racist and misogynist abuse she has received over the years for standing up for her constituents and women across the UK.

Diane Abbott & Unrelenting Misogynoir , by Danielle Dash

Diane Abbot was the first black woman elected to the House of Commons as a Member of Parliament in 1987. Bridget Minamore’s article on The Pool outlines clearly and succinctly “racism and misogyny explains why there are so few black women in politics.” Minamore details Abbott’s experiences of misogynoir (the intersection of racism and sexism) as an example of the challenges all black women politicians face “all Members of Parliament (especially the female ones) get online abuse. But still, I’ve never seen a white female MP get abuse at the scale Abbott does.” The online abuse Minamore’s article focuses on isn’t from your average, backwater troll. It is public figures “journalists who write about her and her parliamentary peers” and so confident are they in the acceptance of misogynoir by the British public, they do not even seek the protection of anonymity online trolls enjoy. …

Racism and misogyny explains why there are so few black women in politics, by Bridget Minamore

Diane Abbott – the first black woman to be elected to the House of Commons – is easily one of the most well known female politicians in the UK. She is also, arguably, the most attacked; if you want to look into the pits of world wide web abuse, try having a scroll through her twitter mentions. Saying that, all MPs (especially the female ones) get online abuse. But still, I’ve never seen a white female MP get abuse at the scale Abbot does from people who should be relied upon to show a decent level of respect: the journalists who write about her, and her parliamentary peers. …

Like all women, the way we look is often disparaged, but brown skin takes any sexist mocking or criticism and adds a grimy layer of racism to it – like the icing on a particularly shitty cake …

We need to talk about Diane Abbott. Now. (EXPLICIT CONTENT)  via @MxJackMonroe

…  Diane was first elected as an MP in 1987, the year before I was born. She has been dedicated to serving the British public for longer than I have even been alive. Hold that thought. Understand it.

Diane was the first black woman to have a seat in the House of Commons. She MADE HISTORY. Her father was welder, her mother a nurse. How many working class kids do we have in politics these days? Fuck all, really.

Diane went to Cambridge University to study history. IN THE SEVENTIES. In 2017 only 15 black kids went to Cambridge. Sit down and listen.

Diane worked for the Home Office in 1976. She was so smart they put her on a course to fast-track her career. (I’m just getting started.)

Diane was Race Relations Officer at the National Council for Civil Liberties from 1978 to 1980. (Big fucking job. Bet you couldn’t do it.) …

Diane’s political career began in 1982, on Westminster City Council. Then in 1987, I’ll say it again, she became the first black female MP.

In 2008, her speech on civil liberties in the counterterrorism debate won Parliamentary Speech Of The Year in the Spectator awards.

That speech is here. Watch it, and then come back.  https://t.co/qNMvtilMa1

Polly Billington: The shame of those who doubt the truth of Diane Abbott’s illness  via @labourlist

Diane Abbott is, as Stephen Bush recently wrote, an astronaut. She has gone where no-one like her had gone before. It is worth remembering why: the first black woman ever to be elected to parliament 30 years ago, British politics has been transformed in her lifetime, partly because of what she has achieved. Being black female and working class make life difficult enough now: in the 1970s when Diane graduated from Cambridge and joined the Home Office fast-stream she was smashing barriers, for others to follow. You don’t have to like her, or agree with everything she says, but you have to admire her grit and resilience, not least these past few weeks. …

I fought racism and misogyny to become an MP. The fight is getting harder | Diane Abbott

The Nobel prize-winning author Toni Morrison once said, “If there is a book you want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it.” And as a young woman the “book I wanted to read” was a narrative where a black woman could be a member of the UK parliament.

It was an extremely unlikely aspiration. After the 1983 general election, out of 650 members of parliament in total, there were no black, Asian or minority ethnic MPs – and only 23 women. But I ignored the odds and was elected in 1987, the first ever black woman MP. The campaign was tough. A brick was thrown through a window at my campaign HQ. Many Labour party members worked hard to back me, others went missing. The Times had marked my selection by complaining about my “rhetoric of class struggle and skin-colour consciousness”. Judging by the wariness with which I was treated when I entered the House of Commons, many MPs agreed with the Times. …

Not the Decent Hard Working Guy

Cross-posted from: Pondering Lif
Originally published: 15.11.16

Sitting in the pub smiling,talking, living.

Aware of the next table, of being glared at,

by those that say they know you, never having met;

but you know someone told them this and crap.

What are they saying; they cant say that!

Don’t you go and correct them, sit down,

don’t go giving them my pain; laying it bare like a carcass bleeding,

let them think what they think,

let them imagine my stink, my crime,

my dishonour, my mystique.

For I’m just The Cunt with a cunt

with poor excuses,

not the decent hard working guy.

Expose the truth, leave it out in the air,

unpolished,

baked bare in the bright moonlight,forever seen unseen; they will still call it lie.

Why? Because I’m just a Cunt with a cunt, not a hard working guy

that’s why.

Today I bent and kissed my Granddaughter

goodbye at the gates of learning

and I whispered, be a good girl; as the sound was leaving my lips

I wanted to grab them and shove them back down my throat, swallowing hard

so that I’ll never say them again.

Digesting all the injustice,

the pain the anger,

the shock the disapointment

the shame, the disgust the hate,

the distrust the paranoia the fear, the anger, the lies, the saddness

the anger the fear the confusion. The confusion.

Better to be a Cunt with a cunt

than the eternal Good Girl, bending so hard

that the spine permenantly cracks

and the pages, sliding fall out;

he wanted me to burn my pages.

Burn all those Daddys little girl t-shirts;

burn tradition,

destroy the Big day, say no to that guy.

Smile and be polite, its in their eyes even if they dont say it. Don’t explain; your

truth isn’t meant for their gossip,

even though they desire it.

be the Cunt with a cunt, they wont like it;

they dont understand it.

They want it;

ownership of your story, to tell it their way,

the guy’s way.

Superglue your tearducts and vasaline that smile.

Fix the spine.

Rearrange the pages, set the title, tell the story,

living, talking,being the Cunt with a cunt

with the angry eye, with the knowing look

smiling.

Smiling the Good Girl smile, they don’t believe it;

the good girl smile, but then you don’t either.

Your the Cunt with a cunt not the decent hardworking guy.

 

PonderingLifMy blog is a mixture of feminist thought on events in my life as well as comments on recent events. It also includes short stories. I’m not sure what specific category you would include me under if you chose to do so. @PonderingLif, also on facebook.

 

Is Wonder Woman privileged? by @MogPlus

Cross-posted from: MOG Plus
Originally published: 31.05.17

It might seem strange to apply a real world principle, like privilege, to a fictional character. But I think it can be quite interesting to consider it in this manner, as it has the potential benefit of allowing a degree of distance and objectivity.

The reason I’ve chosen to do this is partly because I’m a little bit excited about the Wonder Woman film, but also because she is a character who is raised in a radically different environment to the one she ends up in.

For those who don’t already know, Wonder Woman AKA Diana Prince is born and raised on the island Themyscira, previously titled Paradise Island. This is an island populated solely by women who have no experience of life with men, and therefore exist entirely outside of the patriachy. (If you wanted to read a book that Paradise Island was likely based on I can highly recommend Herland by Charlotte Perkins Gilman)

On Themyscira no woman has been socialised to believe that there are women’s roles and men’s roles, as women are required to do all roles through necessity. As such they are unlikely to have been taught that women have to fit into a narrow personality type, or only be interested in selected hobbies, or any of the other demands that are placed on women in our society.

 


Read more Is Wonder Woman privileged? by @MogPlus

What we’re reading: on racism, motherhood, capitalism, and women-only spaces

Why I’m no longer talking to white people about race by Reni Eddo-Lodge

… “At best, white people have been taught not to mention that people of colour are “different” in case it offends us. They truly believe that the experiences of their life as a result of their skin colour can and should be universal. I just can’t engage with the bewilderment and the defensiveness as they try to grapple with the fact that not everyone experiences the world in the way that they do.

“They’ve never had to think about what it means, in power terms, to be white, so any time they’re vaguely reminded of this fact, they interpret it as an affront. Their eyes glaze over in boredom or widen in indignation. Their mouths start twitching as they get defensive. Their throats open up as they try to interrupt, itching to talk over you but not to really listen, because they need to let you know that you’ve got it wrong. …

Whole Foods represents the failures of ‘conscious capitalism‘ by Nicole Aschoff

“Mackey has loudly declared unions akin to herpes and state regulation little more than “crony capitalism” – that all we need to solve things like the climate crisis are better, smarter, “conscious” capitalists. The crisis of Whole Foods belies this notion. There’s no way to “fix” corporations’ compulsion to produce ever more, ever more cheaply. It’s written into the DNA of global capitalism. … “

All I Have Are Questions, And the Most Unbelievable Broken Heart”  by Jacqueline Hoy

” … Before my sons passed away, I had absolutely no idea how common stillbirth is. Well, it claims the lives of six babies every day in Australia, more than 2,000 each year. It’s believed one third of these heartbreaking losses can be prevented.

Yet stillbirth remains such a taboo subject. I feel it most when I run into people who I haven’t seen since I lost the twins. Their questions, their judgement, the awkwardness and uncertainty of not knowing what to say. The “do we talk about the elephant in the room?” look on their faces.

But I want to talk about them. I want friends to ask me about them. I want people to know their names and know what it was like carrying them and to be able to talk about the precious time we spent with them after they passed away, before we buried them together so that they could stay by each other’s side forever. …”

Why there’s nothing racist about black-only spaces | Charlie Brinkhurst-Cuff

” …. Some white people have got so upset about their exclusion from parts of the Nyansapo festival, an intersectional black feminist gathering scheduled for 28-30 July in Paris, that the mayor of the city called for the festival to be banned, until organisers clarify details with her, and anti-racist groups have claimed that Rosa Parks would be “turning in her grave” at the event.

In the same week that some men have kicked up a fuss over not being allowed to attend women-only film screenings of Wonder Woman it seems a discussion is needed as to why spaces that are centred around marginalised groups, whether they be women or people of colour, are not racist or sexist.

Unofficial safe spaces have existed for all denominations for centuries, and self-organising has long been a key part of anti-racist and feminist movements. As one of the editors for gal-dem, a magazine and creative collective written and produced exclusively by women of colour, I think about our position of racial exclusivity a lot. In some ways I appreciate it might be difficult to grasp why such spaces feel so necessary. The simplest way to understand why the Nyansapo festival has elements that aren’t open to white people (the festival is split into three areas, one specifically for black women, another for black people, and a third for everyone) is to acknowledge the racism we suffer in western society. There’s no moving forward unless we accept that racism against people of colour is deeply systemic. …”

Black motherhood and survival: what my mother has taught me by Christine Pungong

My conscience is the sound of my mother’s voice. I hear it echoing in the back of my mind whenever I do something I know she’d disapprove of. Sometimes it’s scrutinizing, sometimes it’s cautionary, but most of the time it’s just concerned. Though I often try and resign myself to just not caring, truthfully I know that my mother’s disappointment, second to her worry, is my biggest fear. I’ve been thinking a lot about my conscience, and specifically about emotional and psychological burdens. Both my mother’s and, in turn, the ones she has laden me with over the years.

I find that it’s sometimes all too easy to forget that our mothers had their own lives before motherhood. That they argued with their parents, laughed at terrible jokes, lamented the loss of close friends, had doubts about their faith, hated their clothes, and spent long melancholic summer evenings contemplating the direction their lives would eventually take. For a lot of women, motherhood snatches away these memories, eclipsing them with the newest priorities in their lives: their children. Despite its often-touted (and false) status as ‘the pinnacle of womanhood’, motherhood is in fact characterized by a series of painful dichotomies and unattainable expectations. …

Nothing Like A Toddler to Dash Your Feelings of Self-Importance

Cross-posted from: Never Trust a Jellyfish
Originally published: 08.12.16

3 Year old: Mommy let’s go to the big bouncy place!

Me: Ok Lilly, we’ll go tomorrow. Do you want to go alone or with friends?

3: No friends!

Me: Ok, go alone then?

3:  Not alone mommy, I want to go with you!

Me: Awwww, that’s so sweet, I’d love to go with you. 
Read more Nothing Like A Toddler to Dash Your Feelings of Self-Importance

Include me out. How ‘inclusion’ is killing feminism.

Cross-posted from: Sister Hex
Originally published: 16.12.15

The problem with this modern obsession for ‘inclusion’, especially for university societies, is that it’s not only killing the soul of feminism or lesbian/gay rights but it’s basically devoid of any common sense.

The reason we’ve always had separation in activism has never been particularly about exclusion specifically, but for reasons of focus, empowerment, allowing an oppressed voice space to speak and sharing experience. This, in turn, lead to clear analysis and particular campaigning. Separation in activism is both common and successful and has been used in anything from civil to gay rights.


Read more Include me out. How ‘inclusion’ is killing feminism.

Tiffany Dufu’s ‘Drop the Ball’: Women Blaming Themselves, Again, by @LucyAllenFWR

Cross-posted from: Reading Medieval Books
Originally published: 14.04.17

A quick post, in irritation. Today, I read in the Guardian that women should expect more of their partners, and less of themselves. Not terrible advice (though not really a revelation either). The article is a puff piece for a book I never plan to buy, written by new mother and bringer of epiphanies to the oblivious, Tiffany Dufu. In her book, so we are told, Dufu describes her revelatory experience navigating the return to work after her first child’s birth, and her growing realisation that her partner would have to do some of the work around the home, since they both had full time jobs. The experience that brought on this revelation sounds depressingly familiar. Back from a full day of work, while struggling with breastfeeding difficulties, Dufu heard her husband return home to the meal she had prepared, past the dry-cleaning she had picked up, only to dump his dirty plates in the sink for her to clean.


Read more Tiffany Dufu’s ‘Drop the Ball’: Women Blaming Themselves, Again, by @LucyAllenFWR

What we’re reading: The Manchester Bombing and the targeting of women and girls

Does ISIS Hate Little Girls? by Bina Shah

In the aftermath of the horrific Manchester Arena bombing, in which children were targeted at an Ariana Grande concert, an opinion piece by renowned journalist Lauren Wolfe was published, called “ISIS targets ‘dangerous women’ in Manchester Attack.”

In it, Wolfe makes the premise that Salman Abedi targeted “Girls who want to grow up and be beautiful like her, wear makeup and tight clothes when they want to, and talk about who and how they love without consequences, as Grande does in her songs.” The attack was, according to Wolfe, “It was a double-hit for the terror group: The attack told us that they can kill an invaluable part of our society at will, and that they will not stand for women having any kind of freedom.”

On the other hand, Abedi’s sister has said that his motivation was not to make a statement about women’s freedom, but to hurt children in retaliation for US airstrikes in Syria that killed Syrian children. …

ISIS targets ‘dangerous women’ in Manchester attack, by Lauren Wolfe.

With this morning’s news that the Islamic State has claimed responsibility for the suicide bombing at the UK’s Manchester Arena Monday night, the obviousness of the target begins to make a sick kind of sense.

Ariana Grande, 23, who had just finished her last song when the bomb hit, is the epitome of all ISIS fears in the world. Grande represents a society in which women can choose what they do, wear, and say. The show’s audience was made up mainly of young girls who idolize the singer. Girls who want to grow up and be beautiful like her, wear makeup and tight clothes when they want to, and talk about who and how they love without consequences, as Grande does in her songs.

It is exactly this freedom that ISIS finds most threatening to their ideology, which calls for women to remain severely subdued in order for men to succeed. …

Why Manchester Bomber Targeted Girls by Emily Crockett

We don’t know the exact motivation behind Monday’s horrifying terrorist attack in Manchester, England, which killed 22 people, including an 8-year-old girl. And given that the bomber died in the attack, we’re unlikely to ever find out precisely what was going through his head as he detonated that device. But one thing we do know is the demographic he targeted: young girls and women. As is so often the case with acts of violence, misogyny was deeply woven into this attack.

ISIS, which has claimed responsibility for the attack, is of course notorious for its ghastly treatment of women and girls – for mass imprisonments, rapes and acts of torture. It’s not yet known if the suicide bomber, whom police have named as 22-year-old British national Salman Abedi, acted alone, or what his exposure to ISIS might have been. Regardless, the symbolism of his attack is clear and devastating. During Ariana Grande’s Dangerous Woman tour, Abedi gave the world a sick reminder of the dangers of being a woman in public in 2017, attacking largely female concertgoers for doing nothing but enjoying themselves while listening to music. …

The horrific bombing on Manchester was very much purposefully an attack against women and girls. by Gretchen Gales

As I watched MSNBC for coverage about the Manchester bombing, which left 22 dead after an attack at an Ariana Grande concert, one correspondent mentioned how ISIS will “turn away recruits” because of their targeted attack on young girls and women. Another reporter expressed confusion over how ISIS could possibly achieve “the heart of their crusade” by attacking at an Ariana Grande concert. It is clear by their statements how little they understand the world’s demonization of young girls and women, and specifically the often-gendered aspects of terrorism.

The Manchester bombing could have easily happened at another venue, another concert, another night. But instead the attackers picked Ariana Grande “Dangerous Woman” show—for the purpose of punishing girls for admiring someone who they view as a strong female role model.

It is not divisive to say so, but necessary to combat societal violence on women.  …

Why I Think The Manchester Attack Was Aimed At Women And Girls, by ELSAMARIE D’SILVA

Early Tuesday morning I awoke to the horrific news of the Manchester terror attack. A suspected suicide bomber killed at least 22 people and injured dozens more at an Ariana Grande concert.

I must admit that I don’t know Ariana Grande or her music, but since then I have learned that she has a large fan base of female teens and tweens. So I now wonder: Was this attack a deliberate attempt to silence those young women and girls enjoying themselves at a concert?

The Attack in Manchester was an Attack on Women and Girls  via @K_IngalaSmith

We now know the names of the 22 people confirmed dead in the attack in Manchester, and we know the 17 of them were women and girls.  Whilst not to deny or denigrate the lives of the 5 men that were also taken, it is essential that we view the attack as an attack on women.

Daesh have claimed responsibility and so the attack is rightly framed in the context of religious extremism.  The patriarchal oppression of women by men is at the heart of this ideology,  and in that respect Daesh is not alone.  Inequality between women and men and men’s violence against women go hand-in-hand the world over.  It is estimated that across the globe  66,000 women and girls are killed violently every year .  Generally those countries with the highest homicide rates are those with the highest rates of fatal violence against women and girls; but other factors are at play too,  countries with higher levels of sex  inequality also have high rates of men’s violence against women and girls. The UK is no exception, this year, even before the attack in Manchester, at least 37 UK women had been killed by men. Links between men who perpetrate violence against women  and terrorism are now being identified; and mass killers, including school shooters, are almost always male. …

The bombing at a Manchester Ariana Grande show was an attack on girls and women, by Christina Cauterucci via @doublexmag

British authorities have identified a suspect in what appears to have been a suicide bombing and an act of terrorism outside an Ariana Grande concert in Manchester, England on May 22. Details are still emerging, but as of late Monday night, authorities had confirmed 19 people dead and more than 50 injured.

The victims of Monday’s bombing will almost certainly be mostly girls and women. The Grande fan demographic also includes a number of older millennial women, gay men, and general lovers of pop music, of course, but her live concerts are largely populated by tween and teenage girls and their moms. By staging the attack at a Grande show, the perpetrator or perpetrators chose to target children who may or may not have had an adult around to help them through an emergency situation. …

 

In memory,

Angelica Klis, 40

Georgina Callendar, 18

Saffie Roussos, 8

Kelly Brewster , 32

Olivia Campbell, 15

Alison Howe,45

Lisa Lees, 47

Jane Tweddle-Taylor, 51

Megan Hurley, 15

Nell Jones, 14

Michelle Kiss, 45

Sorrell Leczkowski, 14

Chloe Rutherford, 17

Eilidh Macleod, 14

Wendy Fawell, 50

Courtney Boyle, 19

Elaine McIver,43

And also,

Martyn Hett, 29

Marcin Klis, 42

John Atkinson, 28

Liam Curry, 19

Philip Tron, 32

The Attack in Manchester was an Attack on Women and Girls by @K_IngalaSmith

Cross-posted from: Karen Ingala Smith
Originally published: 25.05.17

Manchester 16

We now know the names of the 22 people confirmed dead in the attack in Manchester, and we know the 17 of them were women and girls.  Whilst not to deny or denigrate the lives of the 5 men that were also taken, it is essential that we view the attack as an attack on women.

Daesh have claimed responsibility and so the attack is rightly framed in the context of religious extremism.  The patriarchal oppression of women by men is at the heart of this ideology,  and in that respect Daesh is not alone.  Inequality between women and men and men’s violence against women go hand-in-hand the world over.  It is estimated that across the globe  66,000 women and girls are killed violently every year .  Generally those countries with the highest homicide rates are those with the highest rates of fatal violence against women and girls; but other factors are at play too,  countries with higher levels of sex  inequality also have high rates of men’s violence against women and girls. Links between men who perpetrate violence against women  and terrorism are being identified and mass killersincluding school shooters, are almost always male.
Read more The Attack in Manchester was an Attack on Women and Girls by @K_IngalaSmith

Night Terrors by @sianfergs

Cross-posted from: Just a South African Woman
Originally published: 09.03.15

There is no fear in the daylight. The sunshine is a distraction.

But when the moon drains the day of colour, I’ll have to close my eyes,

Withdraw from the warmth of the day,

And retreat into the scariest place I know.

I’ve been told to follow my dreams, so I do,

And they lead me to the backs of my eyelids

A place permeable to the demons of my present

Who use my mind as storage space for their grief.

I fear being frozen.
Read more Night Terrors by @sianfergs

Making Music Accessible by @JenFarrant

Cross-posted from: Jen Farrant
Originally published: 13.01.17

I’ve been published in High Notes, the Making Music publication. It focuses on making music groups accessible to people physical difficulties.

I have written extensively how playing in a band has made me a much better musician, but also how it has helped me to win back my sense of self, and something to focus on other than just being ill. It has helped me to make new friends and I adore going to band each week.

IMG_8215This Wedesday was a very bad day for me (it’s the cold and damp), I struggled to get out of bed and I had to have a bath to make the pain bearable. I was drunk walking everywhere which is where I stagger about even with my walking stick. None the less I went to band in the evening, even though I felt dreadful.

We working on brand new pieces and they are all geeky, which is fantastic as it means I actually know the music. There is nothing like playing music in a group, it creates a resonance in me which is difficult to describe. I can tell you that I was grinning about ten minutes in.
Read more Making Music Accessible by @JenFarrant

The Problem That Has No Name because “Woman” is too Essentialist by @ClaireShrugged

Cross-posted from: Sister Outrider
Originally published: 15.03.17

This is the third in my series of essays on sex and gender (see parts 1 & 2). Inspired by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s comments on gender identity and the subsequent response, I have written about language within feminist discourse and the significance of the word woman.

Update (17/03.17): this essay is now available in French.


 

Screenshot_20170315-144208“…what’s a shorter non-essentialist way to refer to ‘people who have a uterus and all that stuff’?” In many ways, Laurie Penny’s quest to find a term describing biologically female people without ever actually using the word woman typifies the greatest challenge within ongoing feminist discourse. The tension between women acknowledging and erasing the role of biology in structural analysis of our oppression has developed into a fault line (MacKay, 2015) within the feminist movement. Contradictions arise when feminists simultaneously attempt to address how women’s biology shapes our oppression under patriarchal society whilst denying that our oppression is material in basis. At points, rigorous structural analysis and inclusivity make uneasy bedfellows.

That same week Dame Jeni Murray, who has BBC Woman’s Hour for forty years, faced criticism for asking “Can someone who has lived as a man, with all the privilege that entails, really lay claim to womanhood?” Writing for the Sunday Times, Murray reflected upon the role of gendered socialisation received during formative years in shaping subsequent behaviour, challenging the notion that it is possible to divorce the physical self from socio-political context. Similarly, the novelist Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie came under fire for her comments on gender identity. 
Read more The Problem That Has No Name because “Woman” is too Essentialist by @ClaireShrugged

The Sex Delusion by @GappyTales

Cross-posted from: Jeni Harvey
Originally published: 24.04.17

We live in an age of alternative facts.

And so this article will begin with the premise that there are knowable truths, separate from our personal perspectives and belief systems. Water is wet, for example. Whether on the left or right of the political spectrum, water is never dry. With this in mind, here are some long agreed upon and universally recognised word definitions: 
Read more The Sex Delusion by @GappyTales

What we’re reading: sisterhood, gender, and feminist mothering

The trouble with the sisterhood in academia by anonymous

I’ve wanted to write this for some time, but never found the words. If I’m honest, I’m certain that some fellow women academics will not be pleased to hear what I have to say. Luckily, I’m currently on a flight, 12km above the ground, where I feel safe from the judgments that would confront me were I to exorcise this academic grievance at the coffee station. But we need to start talking about the way women hold back other women’s careers.

At my institute I’ve recently joined a lively discussion on equality in academia that was initiated by the Athena Swan programme. I’ve taken part in several earnest official conversations during lunches, and several unofficial conversations after work in the pub. Much of this has focused on gender inequality, and the problems that male – and predominantly white male – academics create for early career women in particular. …

The Good Daughter by @VictoriaPeckham

In Tate Britain is a painting by the Victorian artist George Elgar Hicks of a woman ministering tenderly to her invalid father. It is called Comfort of Old Age. The work is the final panel of Hicks’s triptych Woman’s Mission. The first part, Guide of Childhood, in which the same figure teaches her little boy to walk, has been lost. But the second panel also hangs at the Tate in London: Companion of Manhood shows our heroine consoling her husband after ghastly news.

Hicks depicted “woman” in her three guises – mother, wife, daughter – and in her ideal state, the selfless provider of guidance, solace and care. Her life has meaning only in so far as it nourishes and facilitates the lives of others, principally men. …

Black British writing: a tribute to Buchi Emecheta by Eashani Chavda

On Wednesday 25th January 2017, Nigerian author Buchi Emecheta passed away at the age of 72. There is so much to be said about Buchi and the impact she had on black British writing. I never had the honour of meeting her, but she is a true heroine of mine and an inspiration to my own writing. Her voice and sheer determination made her one of the first successful black British female authors and paved the way for other black British women. Emecheta’s greatest contribution to black British writing is  the voice she gave to a community and the socio-political issues that marginalised them. 

Whilst black writing had soared overseas in conjunction with the civil rights movement in America, its progress in Britain was much more gradual and largely lead by men. Despite this, Buchi Emecheta is up there with Samuel Selvon, Stuart Hall, Joan Riley (to name just a few) as a great pioneer of black British writing. While male writers covered topics of class and racism in mid-20th Century Britain, Buchi highlighted the plight of black women in Britain and the double-colonisation they faced. While intersectionality has become a buzzword for feminists today, Buchi approached the topic of misogynoir back in the 1970s. The struggle of black migrant women following the Windrush era, and the layers of oppression they faced were fluently articulated in Buchi’s writing. The social realities she depicted in her novels were felt by a large community of women, who being isolated in their own homes, workplaces and on the bleak streets of London, could finally feel some relief in knowing that they were not alone. Not only did she expose the racial, gendered and classist discrimination of 20th Century Britain, Buchi defied patriarchal structures within the Nigerian community, all whilst taking great pride in her culture and her blackness. …

Why I’m raising my kids to know their sex, not their gender by J.J Barnes  via @FeministCurrent

In January 2017, the BBC aired a controversial documentary called, “Transgender Kids: Who Knows Best?” which explored the doctrine that children know best when it comes to their “gender identity,” and that we should accept their beliefs without question. Following the airing of this documentary, the BBC came under fire from trans activists, who claimed the documentary would spark prejudice and lead to the social rejection of “trans kids.”

As the mother of a four-year-old girl and a 10-month-old girl, and step-mother to a four-year-old boy, I find the limited discourse around “trans kids” troubling. As I watch my children growing, learning, changing, and exploring, the idea of allowing them to make such a life-changing choice, so young, without question, is abhorrent. …

Is It OK If Other People Discipline Your Child? by @cwknews

Cross-posted from: Communicating with Kids
Originally published: 05.06.16

other people discipline your childI was on BBC Radio Tees last week discussing whether it’s ever OK if other people discipline your child (you can listen here, from about 01.29.00) , which made me think we’ve come full circle: in my parents’ generation it went without saying that it was everyone’s duty to do so. ‘Bobbies on the beat’ would give kids a clip round the ear if they were caught stealing apples or being ‘cheeky.’

It’s surprising to me that some people have such strong views that you should never discipline another child, until they state the reason: “because THAT’S THE PARENTS’ JOB” and then I get it. Parents these days! No authority!

To inject some nuance into the discussion, there’s a huge difference between different parents, some of whom I have great sympathy for and some of whom I don’t.
Read more Is It OK If Other People Discipline Your Child? by @cwknews

BLACKBERRIES by @extreme_crochet

Cross-posted from: Extreme Crochet
Originally published: 25.09.15

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‘Tis the time to go a hunting for blackberries….

Yesterday, I went blackberry picking with my children and my cat. That’s right, my cat! She decided to join us on the whole journey, dutifully following us like a lost puppy. Anyway, I digress, this was the second time we’ve been blackberry picking. It’s become an Autumn ritual for me and I have been eyeing up the brambles all year.


Read more BLACKBERRIES by @extreme_crochet

On friendship by @saramsalem

Cross-posted from: Neocolonial Thoughts and Its Discontents
Originally published: 21.02.17
I wrote this post a year ago and just remembered it after seeing the following quote from Toni Morrison:
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There is something very beautiful about female friendships. They have always been central to women’s lives, and yet we spend much more time analysing relationships with men than we do with each other, except when we talk about how destructive women can be towards one another. That is true; many women are socialised to see other women as competition – that continues to be one of the central pillars of patriarchy. We all do it – we say “women are like this” or “women do this and that.” We talk about how much easier it is to hang out or work with men. We worry a lot about where we are in terms of looks, intelligence, etc compared to other women – all the while measuring ourselves according to what we think men like or want. All of this is true and a lot has been said about this in feminism.


Read more On friendship by @saramsalem

These are the actual divides among feminists by @MsAfropolitan

Cross-posted from: Ms Afropolitan
Originally published: 29.11.16

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Last night, as part of the 100 Women season, the BBC hosted a panel discussion about whether the feminist movement has succeeded in inclusively engaging women. The speakers were Heather Rabbatts, Kimberlé Williams Crenshaw and Gail Lewis. It was great to hear Williams Crenshaw speak authoritatively about intersectionality, a term which she coined. Rabbatts too was a compassionate speaker and there is only one word needed to describe Gail Lewis’s contribution – brilliant. I recommend listening to the audio recap.

However, on the other hand, the audience’s comments largely revealed the gimmick that western feminism is rapidly becoming. The audience was diverse, with a slight leaning toward young women in their late 20s or so. There was also an encouraging number of men, same age group, which confirms that millennials are the male feminist generation.

You can read the full text here at Ms Afropolitan.

Ms. AfropolitanA site about Africa and Diaspora in society from a feminist perspective.  Twitter @MsAfropolitan

How do we get more boys reading? (Clue: ‘boy books’ aren’t the answer.)

Cross-posted from: Tricialo
Originally published: 10.10.15

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The Let Books Be Books campaign has attracted much media coverage and high profile support, but labelling books ‘for boys’ is sometimes defended as a useful tool for getting boys to read. Tricia Lowther argues that gendering reading doesn’t help literacy, and may even be harming boys’ chances.

The Let Books Be Books campaign asks children’s publishers to take the ‘Boys’ and ‘Girls’ labels off books and allow children real free choice in the kinds of stories and activity books that interest them. The campaign has had success with publishers and retailers like Usborne Parragon, and Paperchase, and seen support from prominent authors, but of course there have been people who disagree with us, and one argument in particular keeps cropping up; gendered books are acceptable because we need to encourage boys to read more. 
Read more How do we get more boys reading? (Clue: ‘boy books’ aren’t the answer.)

What we’re reading: on women’s health, radical feminism, and Wonder Woman

Women in Labor Stop Pushing, See Amazing Results by Kama Lee Jackson

… If you’ve ever seen a woman delivering a baby in a movie or a television show, you have heard the rallying cry: “Push!” If you’ve had a baby yourself, you’ve likely heard it too.

The staff at Medway Maritime Hospital in Kent initiated a project to stop telling women to push. The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) and the Royal College of Midwives put out a call for action after seeing a sharp rise in severe perineal tearing affecting nearly 14,000 women in 2013 to 2014.

Over a 12-month period after the program was implemented, the incidence of women with severe tearing went down from 7% to 1%. How have they gotten such amazing results? Largely, simply by not asking women to push when they are in labor. …

Grasping Things at the Root: On Young Women & Radical Feminism  via @ClaireShrugged

Radical feminism isn’t popular. That’s not exactly a secret – Pat Robertson’s infamous Holy Cow! Too Funny!!!!!!claim that the feminist agenda “…encourages women to leave their husbands, kill their children, practice witchcraft, destroy capitalism, and become lesbians” has set the tone for mainstream discussions of radical feminism. While Robertson’s perspective on radical feminism verges upon parody, his misogyny served with a side of blatant lesbophobia, it has also served to frame radical feminism as suspect.

If radical feminism can be written off as something sinister or dismissed as the butt of a joke, none of the difficult questions about the patriarchal structuring of society need to be answered – subsequently, power need not be redistributed, and members of the oppressor classes are saved from any challenging self-reflection. Rendering radical feminism monstrous is a highly effective way of shutting down meaningful political change, of maintaining the status quo. It is, therefore, predictable that the socially conservative right are opposed to radical feminism. …

French translation here. 

Women Are Dying Because Doctors Treat Us Like Men by 

The best day of Starr Mirza’s life was the day she went into cardiac arrest. To understand why a then 23-year-old would be overjoyed at a life-threatening condition, one that would require a device to be implanted permanently in her chest, we have to start at the beginning of her medical history.

As a teenager growing up in Lake Los Angeles, a small town an hour outside of L.A., Mirza loved softball, even though she wasn’t any good. The running joke among her teammates was that she couldn’t make it from first base to second base without falling. “I don’t know why they kept me on the team,” she says. “I think it was more my spirit than my skill.” She didn’t know what was wrong with her body, only that she would frequently see stars, hear a ringing sound, feel tingly, and then pass out. When she was a preteen, she went to see a doctor. “I remember it like it was yesterday—I walked in, and right away, I got the eye-rolling,” Mirza recalls. “They asked me what I had eaten, if I had issues with my weight, if I had a problem with my brother getting better grades in school than I did. They were trying to say, ‘Look, she’s doing this for attention.'” …

You aren’t imagining it, #WonderWoman really isn’t being well promoted by Donna Dickens  via @UPROXX

Did you know Wonder Woman arrives in theaters a little over a month from now? On June 2, 2017, Princess Diana of Themyscira will get her first live action movie. Wonder Woman will be the first superheroine to have her own solo film since DC and Marvel reinvigorated the genre and started their own Cola Wars™ for audience eyeballs and wallets. This is a big deal. Wonder Woman has been around for over three-quarters of a century. Yet, unlike the other two pillars of the DC Trinity (Superman and Batman), she’s been relegated to animated films, television, and a minifig appearance in The LEGO Movie franchise. Even folks who have never picked up a comic book in their life know who Wonder Woman is and that she stands for feminism. Or, if the F-word freaks you out because you bought into a toxic idea of what feminism is, she stands for equality.

But if you didn’t know Wonder Woman starring Gal Gadot was coming out in 36 days as of today, no one could blame you. Warner Bros. has been weirdly reticent about the marketing campaign for one of the most iconic superheroes in the world. The hype should be off the charts. But, as Shana O’Neil points out over at SyfyWire, it isn’t. When Suicide Squad came out, you couldn’t escape the world’s worst heroes. They were everywhere, despite the average audience-goer knowing only who Harley Quinn and the Joker were due to pop culture osmosis. Everyone knows who Wonder Woman is. Yet a quick look at the playlist for Suicide Squad vs. Wonder Woman on the official Warner Bros. YouTube page is as different as night and day.