What we’re reading this week from: @rae_ritchie_ @sianushka @wordspinster & @MelTankardReist ‏

When boys struggle at A-level, it’s a crisis. When girls do, it’s celebrated, by Sian Norris

It’s that time of year again, when papers post pictures of jumping girls while middle-aged white male celebrities pompously explain how failing their exams never did them any harm. It’s A-level results day!

This year, the Daily Mail greeted the results with a resounding “Let’s Hear It For The Boys” headline (it was later updated). For the second year in a row, male students outperformed girls. The Guardianmeanwhile, reported “the proportion of students in England gaining C grades or above in A-levels fell back this year, driven by a relatively weaker performance among girls”.

This shift towards improved boys’ results has come after a change to A-level courses was introduced. The new structure places more emphasis on final exams, with less coursework and fewer practical assessments. A 2013 study by the Independent Schools Association, as reported by the Telegraph, claimed that “a shift towards more end-of-course exams would […] have a disproportionate impact on girls who appear to favour coursework-style tasks”. …

Love Between Black Girls Has the Power to Save in Night Comes On, by Claire Heuchan

Angel is a girl with a mission. On her eighteenth birthday, she’s released from juvie after a year’s imprisonment. She leaves with two objectives. One: to find a gun. Two: to find out where her father lives. Newcomer Dominique Fishback gives a captivating performance in Night Comes On, the flashes of vulnerability in Angel making it impossible to look away from the devastating story. Angel’s mother was murdered by her father, who has been living free while his two daughters were shunted from foster home to foster home.

The driving force behind the film is Angel’s need to avenge her mother’s death. In her single-minded pursuit of these goals, it becomes clear that Angel is as determined as she is loyal to the memory of her mother. Only one thing has the power to shift Angel’s focus from revenge: her ten-year-old sister, Abby. …

The illusion of inclusion, by @wordspinster

Feminists (and other progressive types) talk a lot about ‘inclusive language’, and it’s generally assumed that we’re in favour of it. But what exactly is it? What makes a word or an expression ‘inclusive’? And are feminists’ purposes always best served by inclusive terms?

Back in the 1970s and 1980s, feminists criticising conventional usage rarely talked about ‘inclusive’ (or its antonym, ‘exclusionary’) language: we talked much more about ‘sexist’ and ‘non-sexist’ language. As the issue became more mainstream, other terms came into use which were seen as less overtly political and thus more palatable to people of moderate liberal opinions. Many included the word ‘gender’: it became common for institutions to formulate policies and guidelines about ‘gender equal’, ‘gender free’ or ‘gender fair’ language.

The concept of ‘inclusive language’ has become popular more recently, and it represents a further move away from the original feminist critique of sexism. ‘Inclusiveness’ is much more general concept: guidelines on ‘inclusive language’ may address concerns about the linguistic representation not only of women, but also of other marginalised groups like ethnic minorities, disabled people and LGBT people. And while most feminists would probably see this broadening as a good thing in principle, some (myself included) might argue that in defining the problem as ‘inclusion versus exclusion’ we have both narrowed the scope of the earlier analysis of sexism and lost some of its more radical insights. …

How Pinterest has changed my life (or at least been super useful for work), by @rae_ritchie_

Screen Shot 2018-08-20 at 08.22.31

WIN: DFO pulls down ‘Starving for Fashion’ billboard after protest initiated by 13 year old, by Melinda Tankard Reist

It’s so good to be able to share another win with supporters. This one thanks to 13-year-old Melbourne teen Naomi, who spotted this billboard advertising the DFO at Morabbin Airport in Melbourne

Naomi told her mother, long time supporter Gloria Anderson, who texted me the images and her daughter’s comments.

“I knew it was wrong because it was promoting anorexia, sending a message that you need to be skinny to be fashionable, which is obviously not true.”

Screen Shot 2018-08-20 at 08.19.06

Great feminist & womanist writing to start the week: via @ClaireShrugged @LucyFWR @SianFergs

As part of our Changing Things Up! drive, we are changing the ‘What we’ reading this week. From now on, we’re no longer collating writing by women who aren’t members under heading “What we’re reading”. Instead, every Monday we will be publishing writing by our members entitled “Great feminist & womanist writing to start the week”.

We Need to Talk About Misogyny and the LGBT Community’s Erasure of Black Lesbian History, by Claire Heuchan 

Finding the stories of our Black lesbian foremothers isn’t always easy. That’s not because there were none. Despite what the history books say, Black lesbian women have been around for hundreds of years, living lives filled with the extraordinary and the everyday. Women like Stormé DeLarverie have led revolutions. And yet Black lesbian stories are hard to find.

Those who have traditionally held the power to decide whose stories get to be recorded as history have been white, male, and invested in the social order of women living lives centered around men: the system of heteropatriarchy. For the most part, those historians considered the experiences and inner-lives of Black women beneath their notice. Close reflections on the average Black woman’s life at any point in the last few hundred years would also have held the risk of making it that much harder to sustain the myth that Black people weren’t really human, bringing home the ugly truths of white supremacy.

Dislikeable female characters aren’t inherently feminist – but that’s okay, by Sian Ferguson 

In a world where female characters are often one-dimensional props that add to a narrative centered around male characters, complex female characters are pretty revolutionary. What’s even more revolutionary is when these female characters aren’t super palatable and likable.

‘Dislikeable’ female characters force us to ask ourselves why we don’t like them. More often than not, dislikeable female characters unpack potentially problematic beliefs in ourselves. This introspection is valuable because it makes us realize whether we have attitudes or actions that we need to change. …

What does one word matter? Doctoral women on twitter via @LucyAllenFWR

A few days ago Dr Fern Riddell, a historian (who, like me, works on sex and gender), was involved in a nasty twitter conversation with a man who poured scorn on her expertise and – gasp! – what he considered to be her arrogance in defending her qualifications. In response to her refusal to be patronised, storms of women academics have been changing their twitter handles to include ‘Dr’. The negative responses are predictable. What does one word matter? What do these women think they’re proving to anyone? Who cares how you talk about yourself? And so on.

For a lot of women academics I know, Riddell’s is a familiar story. Outside academia, ‘Dr’ is a man. Despite the fact that increasing numbers of women are going into medicine, ‘Dr’ is also a medic. Academic woman come in for a double dose of slapdown for advertising their qualifications as a result, and the scaremongering hits in at full force. Use ‘Dr’ on your passport? You’ll endanger the lives of millions as you are forced, coerced, into performing an emergency tracheostomy in a Boeing 747, since your doctorate almost certainly required the removal of your common sense and your ability to say ‘no, I’m not a medic’. Other academics – I leave you to guess their typical gender – will tell you condescendingly that they have no need to use ‘Dr’ with their students. I prefer to be Dave. They respect me just the same, and by the way, did you see how my teaching evaluations didn’t contain a single comment on my clothing or my tits? Amazing. A woman who pretends to academic expertise is presumed to be overreaching or posturing, and if she points to her qualifications, she’s insecurely boasting. …

Family carers are doing more care, at Women’s Views on the News, 

The current social care system is putting pressure on families to step in and provide care for relatives where the state does not.

Such family care is an essential element of the current overall system of social care yet it is not often put at the centre of conversation about the care system.

A report, Caring for Carers, published by the Social Market Foundation on 16 July 2018, estimates that there are 7.6 million family carers over the age of 16 in the UK – and that the majority of family carers are women.

The report’s authors, Kathryn Petrie and James Kirkup, found that 16 per cent of women and 12 per cent of men provide family care.

There is a clear gender difference in family care: six in ten (59 per cent) carers are women. Over the last decade, the share of women providing care has increased by 11 per cent. The share of men providing care has increased by 3 per cent….

Like a Bird on a Wire; Standing up, standing firm and never losing faith, via @abigailrieley

Cross-posted from: Abigail Reiley
Originally published: 08.03.18

Sussex strike 1

I’ve been listening to a lot of Leonard Cohen lately, Pete Seegar too. There’s something in the air at the moment. A whiff of revolution. It almost feels like a sea change but it’s too early to tell.

I usually write a post for International Women’s Day and that’s what I’m sitting here trying to write but what I’m thinking about this year is solidarity. Solidarity has been a theme of the #Metoo campaign and may yet see it change the way things are. Frances McDormand’s Best Actress speech at the Oscars this week paid tribute to every female nominee and called for “inclusion riders” to be negotiated into contracts to ensure more diverse casts and crew in films from now on. The Atlantic picked up on the fact that the Oscars began as a response to the threat of unionisation in the studios. This little factoid seems particularly apt in today’s climate. It really does feel as if something’s changed.
Read more Like a Bird on a Wire; Standing up, standing firm and never losing faith, via @abigailrieley

Academia and Class Politics, by @RevoltingWoman

Cross-posted from: Opinionated Planet
Originally published: 07.08.17

I’ve not felt this working class in a long time. For working class, read inferior/not up to standard/not our sort – delete as applicable.
Applying for a funded PhD is a fairly painful process at the best of times. Even applying for one that you self-fund is a trial. But without your own secret stash of cash, it can be a valuable lesson in class politics.

Class politics. You know, the social class system that doesn’t exist anymore because the Tories got rid of it and made us all equal? Or maybe it was New Labour. I forget now. I was probably cleaning toilets or doing some woman’s ironing for a shilling or something working class like that at the time. Busy making myself equal.

Anyway, why should applying for a PhD have anything to do with class politics I hear you ask.

Mek a brew, duck, an ah’ll tell ya..
Read more Academia and Class Politics, by @RevoltingWoman

I’m coming out…………….as Working Class by @psycho_claire

Cross-posted from: The Psychology Super-Computer
Originally published: 09.10.15

There has been a lot of talk on my twitter timeline recently about class. Specifically the tensions of negotiating Middle Class spaces as a Working Class woman; and whilst I don’t intend to add my comments to what’s been happening it has given me the impetus to write this post.

So, this is me, coming out as Working Class: I’m a working class woman, trying to negotiate the very foreign world of academia and I have some thoughts I want to share on this experience.

I grew up on council estates, after my family home was repossessed in the recession in the 1980s because my parents could no longer afford the mortgage. I watched from an upstairs window as my dad argued with the bailiffs when they came to repossess the car. We didn’t have much money when I was growing up. My parents worked in low income jobs and life was tough. At birthdays and Christmas I grew so used to being told “We can’t afford that” that I stopped asking for expensive gifts. I remember one year when I wanted a Ghettoblaster for my birthday, and it nearly broke my parents paying for it.
Read more I’m coming out…………….as Working Class by @psycho_claire

Dark Circles Are Your Friends: Finishing a PhD Thesis

Cross-posted from: Americas Studies
Originally published: 20.01.15

There are lots of posts out there offering useful hints and tips about finishing a PhD thesis. Having recently submitted my own, I decided to write about my experience of finishing. Rather than provide a “top 10 tips” type of article I’ll highlight a few of the major moments and experiences I had.
Read more Dark Circles Are Your Friends: Finishing a PhD Thesis

Why should we focus on women in STEM? by @psycho_claire

Cross-posted from: The Psychology Supercomputer
Originally published: 23.09.13

So, the question posed as the title for this post prompted a twitter discussion between myself and a friend the other day. The discuss got a bit heated, which some could see as a bad thing, personally I see it as a consequence of debate between passionate people. What came out of that debate though, is that I’ve thought about this question a lot, I assumed that everyone understood why this is an important issue and why we should be focussing on it now, but it seems that assumption May be wrong. I’ve been thinking about how best to explain it, and so I approached my friend to see if he’d be ok with me writing a post on this subject. I want to make clear, this is in no way a continuation of some imagined disagreement. He’s happy for me to write this, and I’m looking forward to coffee with him soon. There’s no personal vendetta here.

 Right, so that’s the disclaimer out of the way. :)
Before I explain the why. I suppose I’d better explain the what. What is the women in STEM issue. For those that don’t know STEM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths. And currently we have a problem in STEM subjects and careers. That problem is the low uptake of women. This is not just a recruitment problem, in fact you could argue it’s not a recruitment problem at all. Since girls tend to like and do well in STEM subjects through high school. The women in STEM problem is being referred to as the “leaky pipeline” – at each further stage of education and career progression the proportion of women to men drops. It starts at A-levels, with fewer girls doing a-level in STEM subjects despite out performing boys at GCSE level. Fewer still continue to study STEM subjects at undergraduate level, and fewer at post-graduate. This trend continues through career progression, for example in academia, after PhD, fewer women become lecturers, then fewer become senior lecturers; on and on. Women disappear. Despite clear interest and aptitude in STEM subjects they vanish. But we don’t know why. This is the women in STEM problem.


Read more Why should we focus on women in STEM? by @psycho_claire