Cross-posted from: We mixed our drinks
Originally published: 17.01.14


We Mixed Our Drinks I write about feminism, politics, the media and Christianity, with the odd post about something else completely unrelated thrown in. My politics are left-wing, I happily call myself a feminist and am also an evangelical Christian (n.b. evangelicalism is not the same as fundamentalism, fact fans). Building a bridge between feminism and Christianity is important to me; people from both camps often view the other with suspicion although I firmly believe that the two are compatible. I am passionate about gender equality in the church [@boudledidge]

What would you say would be a really good reason for leaving a church? Pastor and blogger Aaron Loy* has five reasons he thinks are really bad, but I don’t think I agree with him.

No doubt, as a pastor and church planter Aaron Loy has heard the concerns and complaints of many members of his congregation. And this post must have been borne out of a certain amount of frustration at concerns and complaints that he can’t fully address or resolve, because some of that responsibility lies with someone else, even the complainant themselves. But my own concern is that just as we can be pretty one-sided in the way we look at issues in our church life, his response to this was just as one-sided and actually comes across as dismissive and patronising, hurtful to those dealing with the issues he lists, and even going as far as to remove responsibility and accountability from leaders.

Discussing the post on Twitter, someone I know commented that it read “too much like cajoling someone to stay in an abusive relationship”.


The science behind sex differences is still in dispute, by @feministborgia

Cross-posted with permission from Feminist Borgia who blogs occasionally about feminism, rape culture and games [@feministborgia].

In November 2013 a study was published in the journal ‘Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the USA’ titled, ‘Sex differences in the structural connectome of the human brain’. Now if you don’t know what a connectome is, don’t worry, the term was only coined in around 2005. It refers to a map of neural connections in the brain, and it exists as a way of trying to connect the physical structure of the brain with its function. Fancy new terminology aside, the purpose of the study was to measure structural connections within the brains of just below 1000 young people (aged 8 to 22) and their results showed some interesting differences. Using a technique called diffusion tensor imaging (an MRI technique that measures the restricted diffusion of water) they found that after the age of 13 there were significant differences in how the brains of men and women were connected. In the study men’s brains were found to connect more within a given hemisphere. and women’s had great cross connectivity (seen below the connectome maps published, showing the male brain in blue and the female brain in orange:

As you can see, the male brain shows more longitudal connections whilst the female brains shows more transverse connections.

The abstract for the study states, ‘the results suggest that male brains are structured to facilitate connectivity between perception and coordinated action, whereas female brains are designed to facilitate communication between analytical and intuitive processing modes’, having earlier noted that ‘Males have better motor and spatial abilities, whereas females have superior memory and social cognition skills’.

The publication of this paper resulted in a number of excitable and fairly familiar newspaper headlines:

The Telegraph announced boldly ‘Brains of men and women are poles apart’, (demonstrating once and for all that broadsheets aren’t immune to headline puns) telling us that women’s brains are set up to have better memories (for anniversaries!) and gauge social situations better while men’s brains coordinate their actions with their senses, so can navigate better (not to mention be better at parking cars).

The Independent declared these differences, ‘could explain why men are ‘better at map reading”.
The Belfast Telegraph gets the prize for the best reporting on this, by first reminding us that ‘men are from Mars, women are from Venus’ before going on to declare that the study has shown ‘men and women’s brains are wired in completely different ways, as if they were species from different planets.’

With the possible exception of the Belfast Telegraph (who seem to have got themselves hopelessly overexcited), you can’t place too much fault on the reporting here. It is a clear cut case of ‘science says’, and in this case has the benefits of a peer reviewed journal to back it up. The study itself made reference to differences in male and female behaviours, stating that men have better ‘motor and spacial abilities’ whereas women show, ‘superior memory and social cognition’. Unfortunately, whilst this paper may make that claim, the preceding study (of which the participants of this study were a subset) does not back that up (abstract here ). Of the 26 behavioural measures made for comparison (for example executive control, memory, reasoning, spatial processing, sensorimotor skills, and social cognition), 11 showed sex differences that were non existent, or as small as 53:47 (the expected sex outperforming the opposite only 53% of the time), Even in those areas where the differences are meant to be the greatest (spatial or social awareness) the performance difference was only 60:40-a measurable and noticeable difference for sure, but hardly enough to declare difference species.

My problem is not with this study or with their results, but rather with the way the conclusions have been drawn, and with the extrapolations. They have shown interesting differences in how men’s and women’s brains connect with themselves, but then rather than taking any further interesting steps, drilling down further into the data, they have attached some male/female stereotypes and called it job done. One of the authors has even suggested that the ‘hard wired’ differences found could explain the ‘gut feelings’ that women demonstrate more than men, and which makes them good mothers (‘intuition’ and ‘mothering’, or indeed ‘nurturing’ was not in fact measured in this study).

There could be other reasons than ‘men are better at map reading’ for the differences observed. Men’s brains are frequently bigger than women’s brains, the difference in the wiring could be due to physical necessity (there are also studies on this).

Then there’s the most interesting part of the study that has been the least discussed: the structural differences are not observed in a significant manner until after age 13. And we have to ask ourselves why. One of the proposed explanations is that this is the approximate average age for the development of secondary sexual characteristics. There are massive changes in the body, hormones flooding everything, the logic seems to be that the brain changes at this time too. However there is a better explanation, and one less routed in speculation. See, there’s this thing called neuroplasticity. It refers to the changes in neural pathways and synapses due to changes in behaviour or environment. Literally as you learn, your brain changes shape. Then we have to bear in mind that gender as a social construct is learned. It is taught. Little girls aren’t born liking pink. They are taught that girls like pink, and that they are a girl, therefore they then like pink. You put those two things together and what you end up with is the possibility that, rather than being innate, related to the release of hormones at puberty, the structural differences in the brains are programmed in by telling girls that boys are boisterous and girls play nice, that boys are good at maths and girls are caring, that boys build things and girls decorate them. But no mention is made in the study of any consideration of gendered activities in their subjects, or indeed any activities that may (and in fact do) influence how our brains are wired.

If you take this into account, the claim that ‘sex differences are hard wired’ seems a little less proven than it was before.

I am very fond of saying ‘peer reviewed journal or it didn’t happen’. But we have to be able to treat even these studies critically. Their data may be fixed and immutable (tho that is not always the case) but the conclusions have more room for movement. And the people making those conclusions are not immune from sexism.

The study may have shown that men and women’s brains connect differently. But it hasn’t shown why. And it hasn’t shown that the differences are innate. It has shown they are learned. ‘Men and women are taught to be different’ is a less interesting conclusions perhaps, but it is a more truthful one.

Post script: If you are interested in this subject, may I recommend the very excellent Delusions of Gender by Cordelia Fine. Her article on this study was also very useful to me.

Cross-posted with permission from Feminist Borgia who blogs occasionally about feminism, rape culture and games [@feministborgia].

See also: Extra, Extra! Scientists Misunderstand their own Research by @Marstrina

A Tale of Lovely People!from JemJaBella

Cross-posted with permission from JemJaBella

I have just taken a break from the chaos of downstairs (Karl + kids + all that entails) to move some money around and make sure cash is in the right place so that I can pay my car tax & cover the childcare bill that comes out tomorrow (Oliver starts nursery this month) and I happened upon a £10 transfer into my account from a lady I met in a café.

On Christmas Eve we’d popped out for some last minute shopping in Ironbridge and had stopped for lunch in a café. As they don’t accept debit cards, I had to do battle with their cash machine. First it spat a receipt at me, and then it gave me £20 despite me requesting £30. I assume it was a mistake *I’d* made and left it alone.

Nearly an hour later as we were getting ready to leave, I overheard a lady mention to her friend that the cash machine had given her an extra £10. I honestly nearly left it – because what are the chances it was my £10? – but £10 is half a week’s shopping here! I popped onto the chair next to her and explained my situation. She was perfectly lovely about it, and said that she’d check her bank balance when she got home so that she didn’t accidentally give £10 away that was hers and lose out. I gave her my business card and my bank details and left it at that.

Few hours later, by which time I’d forgotten about the whole thing, she rang me up to confirm that she’d paid me the £10. This woman, who would probably never see me again, took the time out of her day on Christmas Eve to look at her account and make that transfer. How nice is that?

The other lovely people don’t involve me eavesdropping and interrupting a conversation(!) but rather just some old fashioned manners. To get me out of my snot-filled misery yesterday, we all went out to Shrewsbury on the park and ride (gist: park your car on the outskirts of town, get a bus to the middle so as not to clog up centre with vehicles). I was carrying Oliver in the R&R, as usual, and despite the bus being rammed with people there and back, 4 gentlemen offered me their seat. Although I turned them down as I’m fine standing, just being offered was nice 🙂

The Ian Watkins case – is rape ever ok?

Cross-posted with permission from Delusions of Candour

Trigger warning: child abuse, rape, sexual assault.

Today the former rock star Ian Watkins was sentenced to 29 years in prison for sexual offences against children, including the attempted rape of a 10 month old baby (news article here). He must serve a minimum of two thirds of his sentence before being considered for parole. His two co-defendants, mothers of children that Watkins abused, were sentenced to 14 years and 17 years. They cannot be named for legal reasons; to do so would be to identify their children who, as victims if sexual crimes, have their identities protected by law.

The public has understandably been filled with horror and anger towards Watkins. This is particularly evident on social media sites and discussion forums. But some take that anger a step further, a step too far. They exult that Watkins is likely to be attacked in prison, and gleefully hope that he will be raped. This is not ok. In fact this is very far from ok.

Rape is never acceptable, no matter the circumstances.

When I worked as a forensic scientist I spent a lot of my time working in the digital forensics section, extracting data from electronic devices seized from suspects and/or victims in criminal cases. This data included images and videos and it was part of my job to examine and watch every media file that was extracted. This meant that I often had to watch videos of rapes, sexual assaults and child abuse. It was, to say the least, deeply unpleasant. I understand the disgust and almost indescribable revulsion that seeing such abuse evokes and it makes me angry as hell.

But you cannot on one hand say that rape is abhorrent, vile, a despicable act, and on the other hand wish it on someone else. “Rape is never ok – oh, unless it’s someone I don’t like who’s being raped. Then it’s fine”. It just doesn’t make sense. And in the same way that no law-abiding man, woman or child deserves to be raped, no alleged or convicted criminal does either.

No-one ever deserves to be raped.

When I was a student I occasionally moved in the same circles as Watkins, going to the same parties and clubs. I was one of the early fans of his band, Lostprophets and he always seemed to be a decent man, a normal man. But he clearly isn’t and today I feel the same fury, horror and disgust towards him as anyone else. I understand the urge to hurt him as he has hurt others but I don’t feel it.

These pro-rape sentiments contribute to the normalisation of what is a revolting act, designed to degrade, humiliate and control. After all, if it’s ok to rape a child-abuser is it ok to rape a murderer? A burglar? Someone who’s annoyed you? No. Rape is never an excusable act and there is never a justifiable reason for it.

So if you’re one of those who think that Watkins and his ilk deserve to be raped, stop and think for a moment. You may be part of the problem, not the solution.

Delusions of Candour: I blog about mental health, motherhood and topical issues.

Being is Bewildering by Portia

Cross-posted with permission from Portia Smart

My name is Portia Smart and I have Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). *TUMBLEWEED*.

What would you say to that?! “I’m sorry….erm…wow that sounds tough”? Would you change the subject? Would you say nothing? You’d not be alone. I tend not to share my experience of PTSD with people outside of those I trust. Because it isn’t the type of thing you drop into a conversation and because I manage it well most days.

This purpose of this post is twofold – a chance to introduce what PTSD is and how it affects people, and secondly, it gives me the chance to share my experience. My hope is that it will help people to better understand and empathise with people experiencing PTSD. I also hope that maybe others will recognise symptoms/experiences that mirror their own, and can access support. My post is dedicated to everyone who has experienced trauma.

What is PTSD?

PTSD is a condition that can affect anyone who experiences, witnesses or hears about events where there is a threat to life.

NICE guidelines state that: “Post-traumatic stress disorder is the name given to the psychological and physical problems that can sometimes follow particular threatening or distressing events…. The trauma can be a single event or a series of events taking place over many months or even years.”

My story.

After experiencing a range of trauma caused by male violence, I was diagnosed with PTSD by a clinical supervisor and trauma psychotherapist in my early twenties.

What causes PTSD?

As previously mentioned, many events can trigger PTSD. The following list is by no means exhaustive:

  • a major disaster
  • war
  • rape or sexual, physical or emotional abuse
  • witnessing violence
  • a serious accident
  • traumatic childbirth
  • experiencing trauma by proxy (hearing about a traumatic experience, for example)

Personally, I find these lists quite off-putting. Sometimes, I have developed traumatic reactions to events not often associated with PTSD. The key to understanding what can cause PTSD is to understand that it can occur when a person experiences acute fear, horror or helplessness in a situation that is traumatic.

My causes

For me, it is difficult to identify when it started as I have had significant traumatic experiences since early childhood. It is believed that it may have been triggered as a baby/toddler living in a household with domestic violence. Subsequent traumas include rape and sexual abuse in childhood, physical assault in childhood, rape and sexual abuse as an adult, domestic abuse as an adult, bereavement and witnessing events where people were killed. I have “layered trauma” or complex PTSD – meaning that I am managing many traumas.

Symptoms of PTSD.

As with all conditions, PTSD affects people in different ways. However there are some *symptoms which are often experienced (*this list is by no means exhaustive):

  • Flashbacks to the event/reliving the trauma
  • Intrusive thoughts/memories
  • Anger/distress
  • Dissociation
  • Sleep problems
  • Hyper vigilance
  • Numbness/emptiness
  • Acute anxiety
  • Avoidance (to minimise triggers)
  • Nightmares
  • Survivor guilt
  • Fight or flight responses
  • Suicidal ideation

(please note – people experience a variety of symptoms with PTSD – you may experience only a few of those listed above, or some which haven’t been included)

The symptoms listed above will be in play for the first few weeks after the traumatic event – this is seen as a natural, if frightening, experience to trauma. PTSD develops if these symptoms last longer than 4 weeks.

How PTSD affects me

In all honesty, although I seem to manage my PTSD quite well, I do adjust my living to accommodate it. I startle easily at loud noises, raised voices. I sometimes have flashbacks and/or dissociate when triggered by images/language/media relating to male violence. I disengage/cut people out of my life if they exhibit abusive behaviour (although this may have happened without my experience of PTSD). Trigger is a word often associated with PTSD. It means that something or someone “triggers” a distressing memory and that triggers off some of the symptoms listed above. Smells, sounds, places, faces, media…. Some directly linked – the same aftershave – some more tenuous – a song that reminds me of my childhood. It is hard to know what may or may not trigger me. Thankfully, my triggers seem to happen less frequently these days. My sleeping pattern is problematic and distorted. I don’t experience nightmares or sleep paralysis as much as I used to, but because of my hyper-vigilance, I startle easily. I also experienceVicarious Trauma – which I believe is connected to my experience of PTSD. This seems a lot more prevalent for me at present.

How to manage

It is recommended by mental health services that you seek professional support via your GP. If this is not possible, contact your local Mind  – they can provide information about a suitable service. People manage their experience of PTSD via many different ways.

Coping strategies

Before seeking professional support, many people self-manage using a variety of coping strategies: sometimes these strategies can cause harm as well as alleviating distress.

Drugs and alcohol may be used to manage symptoms and numb the distress. People may engage in risk-taking behaviour – such as driving dangerously or gambling. Some people suppress feelings/memories in order to “cope” better. This works short-term but over time can cause deeper distress. Self-harming may provide a release, a grounding, a connection to emotions or a dissociation for people with PTSD. Some people may consciously or subconsciously seek to actively re-traumatise themselves in order to “face their fear”. Some coping strategies can help more than harm – meditation, relaxation, self-help via books or online websites. This list is by no means exhaustive – you may be able to share a dozen more examples of your own.


Anti-depressants, sleeping tablets and anti-anxiety medication such as beta blockers can be prescribed to people with PTSD but should never be the first option. Medication should be prescribed alongside therapy and should not replace therapy, unless the person with PTSD specifically requests medication alone or has to wait a long time for therapy.

Talking therapies

Talking about your experience to someone you feel safe with can help. However, it is VITAL that you only talk about your experience when you are ready. Any forced discussion of your experience can actually re-traumatise you and cause deeper distress. The following therapies for PTSD are available via the National Health Service:

CBT is a therapy that looks at your thoughts, feelings and behaviours and how they influence one another. The idea with CBT is to challenge your thinking so that your feelings and behaviour may become less negative and or/restrictive to your life.

This is a therapy where you become less sensitive to your trauma by making a repeated movement of your eyes whilst remembering the trauma that you experienced.

Other therapies that may help, although are not necessarily available for PTSD via the NHS include:

My experience of managing PTSD

In my younger years, I avoided spending time alone with men and boys as much as possible (I still do!). As a teen I used coping strategies to manage the symptoms – some helpful (keeping a journal, self-help), some unhealthy (eating distress, alcohol). I experienced sleep problems for so many years. Nightmares and sleep paralysis were very debilitating for me. When I started to journal my nightmares, I could identify the “theme” and I started to work through a particular part of the trauma. I also tried to connect to the younger me – to reassure her that she is safe now and that she survived. This process helped me immensely.

I also started volunteering at Rape Crisis. I needed to understand what I was feeling and why. Thankfully, I was self-aware enough to not work with clients until I was well enough to be boundaried. Rape Crisis not only changed my life, but saved it as well. The more I learned about PTSD and sexual violence, the more I realised that I was not abnormal, but responding naturally to trauma.

In terms of talking therapies, although the woman who diagnosed me was an excellent therapist – and specialised in trauma from sexual abuse in childhood, I don’t engage well in therapy. I decided to self-help by working through the causes of my own PTSD (domestic abuse in childhood, child sexual abuse, rape, bereavement). I used incredible books (listed at the end of the post) to work through my feelings and memories, as and when I could. I was successful by working really hard at processing the trauma that I could remember. However, a significant portion of the trauma in childhood is inaccessible. Until I feel safe enough to remember those memories, I am unable to process them. The biggest discovery for my experience of PTSD is that I need to be patient. I am so determined and forceful in all aspects of my life – fixing and micro managing…..yet this is one area that I have to allow to unfold of its own accord. It is not always easy but I recognise that memories will be released when I feel safe enough to process them. And so I wait…


It’s possible! That’s why I am able to write about PTSD – because I am in recovery. I can’t envisage a time when I won’t have PTSD but I know it is possible. I worked with people experiencing mental ill health for many years, some of which experienced PTSD and some of whom were in recovery. Recovery is not the same as cure – for some people it means living with PTSD for others it is living without PTSD symptoms. Recovery will mean something different for every person with mental ill health. And recovery is fluid – some people may become symptom-free only to have symptoms return… That is OK – mental health is on a continuum – it is fluid. Not too many years ago there was the widely held belief that mental ill health was fixed and permanent. Thankfully today, we know that is something that we can live with and recover from. And that is exactly what I intend to do!

Note: the picture at the top of the post is from The Princess and The Pea – it’s what my beautiful Nanna used to call me when I struggled sleeping as a bairn xxx

Helpful resources:



Twitter accounts

  • @TheFementalists –  Twitter account which is for feminists with mental health problems.

Books (if your trauma is based in sexual violence and abuse)

Portia Smart: I write about feminism, politics, male violence and mental health & wellbeing. My blog is women-centred [@PortiaSmart]

#16Days: Erasing The Victims of Men’s Violence, by Frothy Dragon

Cross-posted with permission from Frothy Dragon and the Patriarchal Stone

We hear the statistic so frequently. In the UK, two women a week are killed by a current or former partner, and in most cases, there is documented proof of abuse in the relationship.

As a quick note, non-abusive men do not kill their former or current partners. Non-abusive men do not use intimidation or threats against women’s lives to ensure their wishes are met. Just because abuse isn’t documented in some of these murders, doesn’t mean it didn’t exist. It merely wasn’t recorded. So when people tell me a man who has murdered his current or former partner was ‘such a nice guy’, I call bullshit.

But the two women a week statistic is a lie. These statistics aren’t being exaggerated, or overestimated, much as those who hate women would like to claim otherwise. Instead, they ignore 60 – 83% of domestic violence related deaths.

On Monday, an acquaintance of mine raised the subject of suicides in relation to domestic abuse; an area which seems to be largely ignored. I found a statistic that sent me reeling into a state of shock; that 30 women a day attempt suicide in order to escape domestic violence. For those who were wondering, that works out to 210 a week, or 480 during the 16 Days of Activism.

Of those 210 attempts each week, between 3 and 10 women successfully commit suicide. I’ve found conflicting statistics, with Enfield’s Health and Wellbeing service stating the higher number. [x] Yet these women’s deaths are largely ignored when measuring the extent of men’s violence against women. Men may actively kill two women a week, but their violence is factored in to at least five deaths nationally a week. We serve the victims of men’s violence no justice if we ignore those killed by suicide.

We need better discussion around the invisible fatalities of men’s violence. We need for women to know that there is support out there; not just in relation to domestic violence, but with regards to suicide and helping these women to survive. We need for those involved in helping women who are experiencing domestic violence, or who have done in the past, to be aware of the number of women who attempt suicide daily. We need those who help victims and survivors of domestic abuse to know the warning signs in relation to suicide,and for them to receive training in how to help women who are contemplating suicide. And we need to hold men accountable when their violence is a factor in a woman’s attempt to take her own life, whether she survives the attempt or not.

But most of all, we need to give these women hope. And we need to let them know that they are not alone.

Further reading:

Refuge: Taking Lives campaign –

Enfield Health and Well-Being: Domestic Violence – http://www.enfield.gov.uk/healthandwellbeing/info/15/enfield_place/187/domestic_violence

Rape Victim calls for law change as three women a week commit suicide to escape violent partners –

Domestic Violence, Forced Marriage and ‘Honour’ Based Violence –
Volume 2

Victim’s suicide leads to fight for new law-

Refuge call for 16 days of fundraising against domestic violence –

Frothy Dragon and the Patriarchal Stone I Got 99 Problems, And The Fact You’re Still Calling Me A Bitch Is One [@FrothyDragon]

Three Years in Prison Without Trial for a Miscarriage, by Cath Andrews

Cross-posted from Hiding Under the Bed is not the answer

Virginia, a young indigenous women from Guerrero, suffered a miscarriage in 2009. Since then she has been in prison in Huamuxtitlan, Guanajuato, charged with murder. There has never been an autopsy to determine the cause of fetal death. All judicial proceedings against Virginia have been carried in out in Spanish and she was not offered a translator who could explain proceeding in her native Nahuatl. Neither did she have access to a defense lawyer who could speak her language.

In January this year, thanks to the work of the NGO Las Libres and the volunteer law students from the Centro de Investigación y Docencia Económica (CIDE) in Mexico City, a federal judge ruled that her human rights had not been respected. In the light of the fact that there was no evidence to support the charge against her, the judge also ordered that she should be released. However, this has not happened. Instead, the local judge re-issued a warrant for her arrest on the same charges.

Verónica Cruz, director of Las Libres, told news agencies that this new warrant was a “reprisal” against Virginia for exposing the abuses committed by the judicial authorities in Huamuxtitlan. She also observed that her plight was the result of the “triple discrimination” Virginia has been subjected to in the judicial process as a poor, indigenous woman.

As I reported last week, this “triple discrimination” is sadly the norm for the Mexican justice system. However, in the case of Virginia, there is also a further difficulty. Guanajuato is one of the most conservative states in Mexico. It was one of the first states to reform its constitution in 2010 in to declare that the right to life began at conception. As I reported recently, its governor has openly opposed federal directives which oblige health service providers to grant abortions to women who have suffered sexual assault.

Guanajuato has a long track record of imprisoning women for miscarriages and still-births. As is the case with Virginia, the strategy of the judicial authorities is to charge them with murder –which can be punished with sentences as long as 25 years– rather than for procuring an abortion, which has a five-year tariff. Two years ago, Las Libres and students from the CIDE law school successfully championed the cases of six women who had been in prison for as long as eight years. Like Virginia they were convicted of murder after losing their pregnancies. None of the women jailed had actually procured an abortion; rather each one had suffered a miscarriage, which due to family circumstances, poverty and/or ignorance they had tried to conceal. Once they had been forced to seek medical attention, one of the people who attended them (doctor/social worker) had then made the accusation with the relevant authorities. All of the women were from the poorest areas of the state and lived in conditions of poverty and social marginalization. They were unable to neither defend themselves personally against such charges nor pay someone competent to do it for them.

Cruz is certain that Virginia can be absolved if only the judicial process could be concluded. The fact that she is merely charged and not formally sentenced means that there is a limit to what her defense lawyers are able to do. It is evident that the local authorities in Huamuxtitlan know this and are purposely dragging their feet to stall the case being sentenced. As a result, Virigina has now been in prison for three years.

As I wrote last week, life is extremely difficult inside prison for women such as Virginia who don’t speak Spanish and are far away from home and access to support networks. It is testament to the deep misogyny of Mexican society that its most vulnerable women are treated in this way.

An edited version of this article was published on e-feminist

Hiding Under the Bed is not the Answer is the blog of historian of Mexican politics Cath Andrews who also writes for e-feminist and Toda historia es contemporánea. She tweets at @Andrews_Cath

A Portrait of a Male Space – Henley Royal Regatta, at It’s Just Not Feminine

Cross-posted with permission from It’s Just not Feminine.

Most people within the UK have heard of Henley Royal Regatta even if they know nothing about rowing at all. The picture conjured up is probably one of white, male, public school, wealth and privilege and that is incredibly accurate. Let’s make no mistake Henley Royal Regatta (HRR), the most prestigious rowing regatta in the world is all about the men, white men at that. Oh yes women attend but overwhelmingly in support roles.

Lets look at some of the stats

Out of 1550 rowers1 who will be competing at HRR 136 (8.8%) will be women.

Out of 301 crews 32 (10.6%) will be female.

Out of 20 events 4 (20%) are for women.

Of those 4 events 3 are for International standard crews and one is for juniors (under 18). So no events for women of a reasonable/intermediate standard (there are 8 events of that nature for men).

Out of 65 Henley Stewards2, 2 are women.

Mind you, we should be grateful. This is a massive improvement. Back in the day (pre 1993) it was an exclusively male event. Then the men at the top woke up one morning, enlightened, realised how sexist they were being and opened the regatta to women, apologising for their privilege in the process. Not really. Years of campaigning, negotiating, begging and justification occurred before they deigned to let women walk the hallowed ground and compete on the same river as men. Crumbs off the table.

But the benefits for men don’t stop at the adulation of their sporting prowess and being the main focus of attention. Prizes for the men go beyond the regatta: entry to the most prestigious and elite rowing club in the UK; invitation to become a member of the Stewards Enclosure3; talent spotted for the GB squad; more networking and career advancing opportunities not afforded women (be that rowing or other careers). And this is how male spaces work. The power and money gather and bestow their gifts on the chosen few.

And they don’t just work to advance men, they work to exclude women. It’s not just that women are woefully under represented in terms of the athletes, there are many other subtler exclusionary tactics.

For a start, there are special enclosures which require special badges to enter. The two main ones are the competitors enclosure and Steward’s enclosure. The more exclusive and therefore higher in the networking stakes is the Stewards. Tickets to these are predominantly held by men so who is allowed in and out is governed by men.

Then there are the obligatory uniform, rules and regulations. Entry for women to the Stewards will only be allowed if they are wearing a dress or a skirt with a hemline below the knee. This is in bold on the HRR website, less we forget what modest feminine qualities entail. No trousers, shorts or culottes. In addition, “it is customary for ladies to wear hats”. Dear God, what century are we in? Men basically have to wear a suit. Although they aren’t allowed to take off their jackets (unless it gets so hot they are passing out. Who said the patriarchy didn’t hurt men as well?). Most men have a suit. Do most women have a dress with a hemline below the knee given today’s fashions?

Another rule of the Stewards is that no children under 10 are allowed in. Personally I wouldn’t take a child younger than a teenager in because there is literally nothing to do other than talk, watch racing, drink and eat. But this exclusion of children will also exclude women as the predominant child-carers. It is really common in male-dominated spaces.

But HRR is so much more than a rowing event. It is a Corporate Hospitality event. And guess who holds most of the tickets to those because Joanna Bloggs off the street can’t just wander in and sip champagne with Corporate elite. Yep, men. Plenty of business takes place at Henley. Men again hold the power to regulate who gets to network and do business and who doesn’t. The cards are stacked against women.

All these exclusive little areas, rules and regulations are just so patriarchal. They are designed to either directly exclude women, to make it more difficult for women and the women who do attend have to conform to a certain view of women.

We also have the ‘banter’ that seems to come hand in hand with male dominated spaces. The casual and not so casual sexism can be intimidating and excluding for women. There is implied or direct pressure to accept with a good grace or a laugh. Even though there maybe a lot of women around at HRR men still own the space and like to remind women of this fact.

And then we get on to violence. In the last 10 years or so, not unrelated to an uptrend in attendees and an increase in hospitality tents, violence has been creeping in over the evenings. This is exclusively male on male violence fuelled by alcohol. The local boys butting heads with the Hooray Henrys. I feel sad that this seems to be inevitable. Men are prepared to put up with violence in order to maintain their privilege, be that privilege be over other men or over women.

In order to counteract the whole exclusivity of HRR, a wonderful group of women headed by Rosie Mayglothling in 1987, decided to set up an event that would be the pinnacle of a female rowers year – Henley Women’s Regatta (HWR). This was not without its own issues. From the Henley Women’s Regatta – a short history it is hugely apparent that even though women were organising their own event men were still pulling the strings. Words like “permission”, “allow” and “prevent” are used a lot. Here are a couple of extracts to illustrate:

Naturally, the crux of the matter was the attitude of the Stewards of Henley Royal Regatta. Whilst they do not own the water, they do own most of the land each side of the course, as well as all the installations, and their support was vital. The reaction of the Chairman of the Committee of Management to Rosie Mayglothling’s initial approach was such that the idea appeared to be a non-starter; nevertheless, the polite but determined persistence of Rosie and the first Chairman of the proposed event, Christine Aistrop, finally won the day and permission was given for a women’s regatta to be held on the Royal Regatta course in June, 1988.It was made clear from the outset that the ‘Henley Women’s Regatta’ (HWR) could not use the HRR enclosures or boat tents. HWR was to be held three weeks before the Royal and, should bad weather delay the timetable for the regatta installations (as had happened in the past), the course would not be usable by HWR. It was at this point that the project was saved by the enthusiastic help and co-operation of the owner of Remenham Farm, Mr Tom Copas. By offering the use of the farm as the enclosure for HWR, the problems of boating and spectator facilities were largely solved.

Difficulties didn’t end there though when the regatta wanted to expand to the whole weekend rather than just the Saturday:

After the increased entry in 1989, the Chairman, Margaret Adams had sounded out the HRR Committee of Management on the possibility of HWR becoming a two-day regatta. This had been rejected on the basis that men’s crews racing at Marlow traditionally rowed up to Henley on the Sunday and they would be prevented from doing so if HWR was extended to two days.

Women couldn’t be allowed to prevent men rowing up the river from a regatta in a nearby town for some random tradition. A woman’s event couldn’t possibly be given priority over a man’s event.

However despite this HWR has been a complete success. There are no exclusive areas. There are no dress codes or spectator rules and regulations.  There are no Corporate event tents. The spectators can walk the whole course, right next to the rowers and all the rowers are women. It is a lovely event with a massively positive feel.

Nevertheless the men are still not happy. This event is not about them, obviously, yet they still feel fit to offer their opinions. On rowing forums you can often see derogatory (and misogynistic) remarks about the women and the events. There are subjective opinions on ‘standards’ under the guise that if only women were just ‘better’ then they would be able to join in with the men, they would be treated equally and respected (sound abusive anyone?). There are remarks about the inadequacy of course length (which is not within women’s power to change) and other things like the size of the event which are again out of women’s control. And to a certain extent they are correct HWR is the poor relation to HRR.  But that isn’t women’s fault. It is men’s fault. They are the ones setting these limitations. Women aren’t allowed to organise events for themselves and be left alone, they have to be approved by men.

So here we have a male dominated space that even though women are allowed in the opportunities are still predominantly for men. Then a woman’s space that is routinely disparaged and prevented from fulfilling its potential by men. This is what structural oppression looks like. This is how it is maintained. It is incredibly different to achieve liberation and equality when we are being kept down from all sides.

Please note: Although I only mentioned it briefly at the start of the piece, there is also racial exclusivity at work too. Rowing is overwhelmingly white and HRR and HWR both represent that.

1 In 1975 female coxes (steering the boats) were allowed. In any particular year there are only a handful of female coxes and without access to all the crew names it is impossible to tell how many are female so coxes in general have been omitted from the statistics.

2 Henley Stewards are the management team of the regatta and make decisions on the major changes for the regatta, alongside the Chairman and his team.

3 The Stewards Enclosure is an enclosure set up by the Stewards which allows members to access the spectator area near the finish.  Members of the Stewards Enclosure number 6500 and are predominantly male. To become a member of the Stewards involves an application form, sponsors and a very long waiting list.

 ScallopsRGreat: Feminism, Sport and a little bit of life [@scallopsrgreat]

Lady, by @MillieSlavidou

Cross-posted from: Glossologics

Today we can use this word to refer to any woman, if we so choose, as well as women who happen to have it as a title. You might be forgiven for thinking that its origins are associated with words meaning “woman”, “girl” or perhaps, thinking about the historical context of the title, “wife of a lord”.

In fact, as we shall see, there is much more to the story than that. We can find references to “lady” in similar forms to the one we use today from around the 14th century onwards. Before that, there was another sound in the middle of the word that has now been lost: /f/ or sometimes /v/.

In the 1200s, we can find the Middle English forms lafdi, leafdi and lavede. Here is an example from the Ancrene Wisse, which was a list of rules written for anchoresses, women wishing to live a religious life similar to hermits, from around 1230:

Þe oþer is as leafdi, þeos as hire þuften.

(The inner rule is as lady, the external rule as her servant).

This form may seem removed from its modern counterpart, but it had already come a long way. Compare the form in the Saxon Chronicle from around the 9th Century:

Ðá com seó hlǽfdige hider tó lande

(Then came the lady to this country).

At that time, the word was hlǽfdige, used to mean a highborn lady, the wife of a lord – the reference here is to the wife of King Aethelred. And this is where it gets very interesting. We can break this word into two parts: hlǽf, or hlaf and dige. You might recognise a modern version of hlaf, not as “lady”, but in the word “loaf”. And that’s exactly what it meant then, too; “bread” or “loaf”. This meaning continued to be associated with the word hlaf, while the compound word took on another meaning. Here is hlaf sometime after the Saxon Chronicles, from the Blickling Homilies, dated to the 10th century.

Sing ðis on ánum berenan hláfe and syle ðan horse etan

(Sing this over a barley loaf and give it the horse to eat)

The second part of hlǽfdige is of course dige. Although it had come to mean “maid”, it has its origins in daege, which meant “breadmaker”, from dág, meaning “dough”. As you can see, “dough” is itself from the same root, making it a modern cognate of “lady”, or at least of its second half!

Does this mean that historically women were in charge of baking the bread? Or was bread-making considered such an important activity that the woman in charge had to be a ruler? Perhaps the etymology can tell us something about cultural norms at that time.


Glossologics: a blog on language, with special emphasis on etymology, and including references to languages other than English. @MillieSlavidou

The Single Most Important Aspect of Sex by @SianFergs

…is the very thing that defines it as sex as opposed to rape. Consent.

When done right, sex can be lovely and amazing and mind-altering. When abused, it can become the most terrifying and traumatising ordeal one could ever go through – rape.

There is a poorly-recognised, but definite line that separates sex from rape: consent. It seems pretty straightforward: if the involved parties consent to having sex, it’s good, and if they don’t, that’s rape, which is bad. But if there’s one thing I’ve picked up from the public discourse surrounding reports of rape cases – including that of Steubenville, Vavi, and more recently Brickz – it’s that many people are confused about what consent is.

And I don’t really blame all of them. It is often said that we live in a society where we teach people not to be raped instead of teaching people not to rape. Even at primary and high school, we all learn more about ensuring our own safety than learning about consent. While well-intentioned, this method of preventing rape is problematic because the responsibility to prevent rape is forced onto the victim, not the perpetrator, at a sub-conscious or conscious level.

In order for us to move away from rape culture and into ‘consent culture’, as it is often called, we should all educate ourselves about consent.

So what exactly is consent?

According to the Sexual Offences and Related Matters Amendment Act, No. 32 of 2007, rape is any non-consensual sexual penetration. The Act outlines the definition of penetration, as well as instances in which consent is nullified or where one cannot give consent.

A person cannot give consent, or their consent is considered invalid, if they are:

  • Intimidated, forced or threatened in any way, through violence or threats of violence against you or someone you love, or damage to your property
  • Compelled by someone who abuses their power or authority, for instance if someone tells you that you will lose your job if you do not have sex with them
  • Lied to by a doctor or other health-worker who tells you that a sex act is part of a physical examination, or is necessary for your mental or physical health
  • Asleep, or unconscious
  • In an ‘altered state of mind’ as a result of consuming drugs or alcohol, so much so that the victim’s judgement and/or consciousness is impaired.
  • A child under the age of 12
  • A person with a mental disability

In other words, consent isn’t not saying no. It is saying yes; it is agreeing to sex without being forced or intimidated into agreeing to sex. One of the most shocking discoveries in the Steubenville case – wherein a young woman was raped by two men at a party while she was unconscious, and others watched – was that many onlookers didn’t know that it was rape. Often people think that rape always looks ‘violent’, with the victim attempting to ‘fight off’ the attacker. This is not always the case, as sometimes victims ‘freeze up’, are intimidated by the attacker, are drugged or drunk, or – in this case – are asleep or unconscious. As the victim in this case was unconscious she couldn’t consent to sex, nor could she refuse it. What most people don’t understand is that the absence of both a ‘yes’ and a ‘no’ should be taken to mean a ‘no’. You need a ‘yes’, or its rape. Similarly, when it comes to sexual contact that doesn’t involve penetration, a ‘yes’ is also mandatory.

The idea of the mandatory ‘yes’ can freak people out. Often, silence is seen as romantic and sexy. Romantic comedies and Disney movies tell us that when we meet our one true love, we’ll intuitively know what they do and don’t want. Without verbally touching base with one another, the characters would grab each other and kiss passionately. There’s the romanticised idea that you’ll be so in tune with your one true love that they will always want you, which is simply not true. Indeed, sometimes consent can be non-verbal: it can come in the form of enthusiastic participation. But if you have any doubts, ask. I’d argue that, ethically, it’s always best to ask for verbal consent.

Saying to someone “Hey, can I just get your consent on this? Because you know, I really don’t want to rape you,” can be a bit of a buzzkill. But when you weigh it up, would you prefer to avoid asking an awkwardish question, or to avoid raping or harassing someone? I think the latter. Sometimes people don’t want to ask permission to kiss someone else as it makes room for rejection: they’d rather go in and hope the other person is awkward enough to just play along and kiss them back. To this mentality, I’d say that rejection might be hurtful, but it doesn’t really compare to the hurt and upset that comes with being harassed. Set your pride aside for another’s bodily autonomy.

The conversation on how to make consent less awkward is an interesting one. “Consent is sexy!” is a popular adage of the sex-positive community. This mentality has been criticised by some. I came across the following post on tumblr a while back: “Consent is sexy in the same way that not shitting on people’s doorsteps is sweet and neighbourly.” This is completely true: It’s not like not raping someone is sexy. It should be expected. But just because something is mandatory doesn’t mean it can’t be sensual; that’s why we have ribbed condoms. So look at it this way: consent is always mandatory, and it can be sexy. We have to embrace consent culture in order to get away from rape culture, so why not make consent as sensual as possible?

There are many ways to make consent a romantic and sexy part of your tapping routine. If you’re in a committed relationship, or if you have recurring hook-ups with a certain person, the implementation of boundaries and safewords is always a good idea. Communicate about what you’re comfortable and uncomfortable with.

If you’re hooking up with someone for the first time, just ask. There are a number of sexy, romantic, heart-melting ways to request or give consent. Envisage: you’re in the club, looking fine, hair did, and you’re dancing closely with a person you rather fancy. You’d like to kiss them, but you understand the importance of consent. So you whisper into their ear, “I’d really like to kiss you right now.” Now THAT is an example of consent being sexy. Keep a couple consent-seeking phrases in your hook-up arsenal; I think the simple question “May I kiss you?” coupled with a sweet smile is always wonderful.

It’s easy to forget to educate ourselves about the most important part of sex: consent. But it is the most essential part of a sexual relationship, so embrace it, make it sexy, and above all else, remember that it’s mandatory.

Just a South African Woman: An intersectional feminist blog tackling issues from a unique South African perspective. The posts attempt to explain and discuss some academic feminist theories in a simple manner, so as to make feminism accessible to more people. Follow me on Twitter at @sianfergs.
See the following on consent:

Gertrude Stein and Cultural Femicide, by @sianushka

Cross-posted from: Sian and Crooked Rib
Originally published: 13.12.13

Cross posted with permission from SianandCrookedRib

The other morning I re-watched the film Midnight in Paris, directed by Woody Allen in 2011. For those of you who haven’t seen it, it’s hardly a classic, but it is good fun. In it, Gil, played by Owen Wilson, is visiting Paris with his fiancée. He’s a ‘Hollywood hack’ who wants to write a novel, and is obsessed with 1920s Paris. He is walking through the city at midnight, and finds himself transported back in time to 1920s Paris, where he meets the Fitzgeralds, Hemingway, Picasso, Dali, Man Ray, Bunuel, Cole Porter, TS Eliot – the whole crowd. He falls in love with Adriana, played to perfection by Marion Cotillard, who had affairs with Modigliani, Picasso and Braque. In the film, that is.

It’s a fun film and it makes you want to go to Paris. But on my second viewing I noticed something that escaped my attention first time round, and it’s been making me cross.

When Gil meets Hemingway, he asks him to read his novel. Hemingway refuses, saying that you should never give your work to another writer to read. He then says he will take it to Gertrude Stein.
Read more Gertrude Stein and Cultural Femicide, by @sianushka

What should you wear to Slutwalk?, by @marstrina

Cross-posted from: It's not a Zero Sum Game
Originally published: 24.05.11

I have a very complicated relationship with the amount of coverage or display that my skin gets. I think most women of my background or similar – secular feminists who grew up in a traditional, religious society – would recognise the dilemmas that I had with seemingly frivolous things like skirt length while growing up.

In Jerusalem, where I grew up, what a woman wears immediately speaks volumes about her religion, her values, even her politics. Whether your skirt brushes the ground (settler), is modestly below the knee (conservative), is a voluminous part of a Mother Hubbard-like dress (orthodox) or is revealingly short (secular) gives clues to other parts of your life: what you eat (kosher/treif), who you vote for (left/right), where and when you socialise (at home or in a club on a Friday night), your sexual politics (patriarchal/permissive). The signs are not infallible, but they are ubiquitous and strong in a way that simply doesn’t exist in the secular west, except for the most pious Jewish or Muslim women. And people in Israel routinely use these signs to facilitate everyday interactions, like knowing whether to shake hands with a woman, ask her for her number, ask her for directions, all kinds of normal stuff. It’s not stereotyping (much), it’s common sense.

Read more What should you wear to Slutwalk?, by @marstrina

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

Cross-posted from: The Psychology Super Computer
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

What do I blame myself for?, by @carregonnen (content note)

Cross-posted from: Carregonnen
Originally published: 18.08.13

Cross-posted with permission from Carregonnen

content note for child sexual abuse

My father abused me and, as far as I know two of my friends, one when we were 8 and another when we were 10. He may have abused other friends but the reason I know about these two friends is that I was there when the abuse was happening. It took me many years to stop blaming myself for this. Especially D when we were eight because it was me that suggested we go into bed with my father. I have no idea why I did this and I suspect the reasons are complex and tangled. The other friend G told me what my father had done to her the first time and then I saw them together many times after that. Her father was posted to Gibraltar very soon after she told another friend’s parents what my father had done to her. Nothing else was done other than that – nothing. I have no idea whether anything was said to my father – whether he was even reprimanded for what he had done. All I know is life went on and the violence increased in our house. The sexual, physical and emotional abuse of my mother and me and the physical and emotional abuse of my two little brothers.
Read more What do I blame myself for?, by @carregonnen (content note)

Consent Is Sexy And Sexy Is Mandatory

Cross-posted from: Root Veg
Originally published: 10.08.13

I want to start this post by clarifying that I obviously accept that consent is an important legal requirement for a variety of things, including surgical procedures and sexual activity. I also understand why it is politically expedient to endorse a ‘black and white’ view of consent with a view to challenging rape culture, and I do not dispute the fact that rape is not a ‘grey area’. My post here is not concerned with the issue of nonconsent, which mainstream feminism largely does a good job of addressing. Rather, my concerns are pointed in the opposite direction: the inadequacy of consent.

I was first made aware of Consensual Spin The Bottle about two months ago by a friend of mine, who seemed to find it as noble as she did exciting. The premise of the game is simple: you spin the bottle while sitting in a circle, and instead of being obliged to kiss the person it points to upon its rest, you must instead obtain consent for whatever act you want the person to perform (and I use the word perform very mindfully indeed here) with you. If they consent, you both do whatever you requested. If they refuse, then you don’t. If they suggest an alternative, you can consent to this, or decline. So far, so middle school. I wasn’t overly interested, mostly because what are you like 13? Spin the bottle? Give me a fucking break. Better yet: give me a pizza, a joint, Blue Planet in HD and leave me at home alone if that’s what your parties are like. Anyway, I digress.
Read more Consent Is Sexy And Sexy Is Mandatory

Jeanne de Montbaston – Penis Trees Against the Misogynists?, by @LucyAllenFWR

Cross-posted from: Reading Medieval Bools
Originally published: 23.10.13


The above image – a sheepish-looking monk handing an unfeasibly large penis to a disconcerted nun – may look familiar to anyone who’s read my first post in this blog.

It’s one of a sequence of illuminations made in the margins of a manuscript by the medieval artist Jeanne de Montbaston. Jeanne worked with her husband, Richard, in Rue Neuve in fourteenth-century Paris. She did the illustrations for a fairly large number of manuscripts, including dozens of copies of the popular Romance of the Rose. This poem is an allegorical reflection on love, but it is also justifiably famous as one of the most misogynistic books around, the subject of medieval author Christine de Pizan’s brilliant attack on male writers who treat women only as sex objects.

A short passage can illustrate what Christine meant. In the poem, the allegorical figure of ‘Genius’ (who is male) argues that all men should take advantage of women as sexual objects, and he compares the (male) act of writing with the act of penetration, while picturing women as passive, blank like an unwritten page. In a vicious rant, he declares:
Read more Jeanne de Montbaston – Penis Trees Against the Misogynists?, by @LucyAllenFWR

The Lynx Effect: Rape culture in action, by @glosswitch

Cross-posted with permission from Glosswitch

Lynx. The perfect Secret Santa gift for the male colleague you don’t know and/or don’t particularly like. The heterosexual male equivalent of one of those Baylis & Harding “looks vaguely like Molton Brown but totally isn’t” bath sets. The year before last, I received the latter, my partner got the former. What this says about us as colleagues is something I’d rather not consider.

Having had some Lynx in our household within the recent past, I can say at least this with certainty: the Lynx Effect doesn’t work. One whiff of Africa, Cool Metal, Excite or Fever does not provoke unstoppable horniness. It provokes, first, amusement because it smells so fucking awful, second, vague memories of some really creepy lads in Year 10, and, finally, a migraine. Only the first of these is even remotely fun.

Back in the 1980s there was, sort of, a female equivalent to the Lynx Effect, when Impulse used the “men just can’t help acting on it” tagline.
Read more The Lynx Effect: Rape culture in action, by @glosswitch

Patriarchy’s Magic Trick: How Anything Perceived As Women’s Work Immediately Sheds Its Value, by @CratesNRibbons

Cross-posted from: Crates N Ribbons

The gender wage gap has long been an issue of importance for feminists, and one that consistently finds itself on the UN and government agendas. Despite this, there is a persistent idea among many in mainstream society (mostly men, and some women) that the gender wage gap is simply a myth, that women are paid less on average because of the specific choices that women make in their careers. Everything, they claim, from the industry a woman chooses to establish herself in, to the hours she chooses to work, to her decision to take time off to spend with her children, and so on, leads to lower pay, for reasons, they confidently assure us, that have nothing at all to do with sexism. Now we could delve into, and rebut, these points at length, but in this post, I will focus only on the assertion that the wage gap exists partly because women choose to go into industries that just happen — what a coincidence! — to be lower paid.

So here’s how the argument usually goes. Women, they say, gravitate towards lower-paid industries such as nursing, cleaning, teaching, social work, childcare, customer service or administrative work, while men choose to work in politics, business, science, and other manly, well-paid industries. Those who propagate this idea usually aren’t interested in a solution, since they see no problem, but if asked to provide one, they might suggest that women behave more like men, one aspect of this being to take up careers in male-dominated industries that are more well-paid (and respected, but they seldom say this out loud).
Read more Patriarchy’s Magic Trick: How Anything Perceived As Women’s Work Immediately Sheds Its Value, by @CratesNRibbons

The Signs of Controlling Behaviour – Red Flags and How to Spot Them, by @JumpMag

Cross-posted from: Salt & Caramel

If we were able to teach young people to recognise the signs of controlling behaviour, the ‘red flags’, would we be able to protect them from abusive relationships?

If we were to teach children in schools how to spot a controlling person, would be help save them from misery and self-doubt?

If we talk openly with friends about the ‘red flags’ would they recognise their own relationships and find the strength to walk away?

I hope so.

For this reason, I am writing two blog posts today. One for adults, here on this blog, and one for pre-teens on Jump! Mag for Girls. When writing for pre-teens, I am very concious of the fact that not all parents will have had The Talk with their young girls, and some of our readers are just seven or eight years old. For this reason, sex is a taboo topic on Jump! Mag, but I believe that the foundation for healthy relationship building is laid before children hit puberty.
Read more The Signs of Controlling Behaviour – Red Flags and How to Spot Them, by @JumpMag

“The reason so many rapists get off is because there is a grey area”, by @Herbeatittude

Cross-posted from: Herbs and Hags
Originally published: 06.12.12

When you sit there with your friends and the subject of rape comes up, this is one of the most persistent rape myths that they put forward. OK maybe that’s just my friends. I apologise for them in advance and I’m working on getting new ones, I promise.

The idea that there are “grey areas” in women’s bodily integrity; that perfectly nice men are confused by the assumption that if you want to enter another human being’s body, then you ought to be 100% sure that they want you there and you ought to check that that’s the case, is surprisingly widespread and accepted even among people who are reasonably educated, lefty, progressive in their views on all other subjects. The grey area myth, tells us that normally-functioning compos-mentis men who are allowed out unsupervised, can’t be expected to know that they need to check another human being wants them in her body, because of the famous grey area which confuses them and makes them into accidental rapists, who may have done the wrong thing, but surely don’t deserve jail?
Read more “The reason so many rapists get off is because there is a grey area”, by @Herbeatittude