This is why I leave work on time, sisters, via @thewritinghalf

Cross-posted from: The Writing Half
Originally published: 08.07.17

Look I haven’t been to yoga for a week so you’ll have to excuse me, alright? My zen has done a runner. I’m so jacked up on fury right now. Unfortunately, now that you’re here, you’re going to feel the full force of it. You and that almond croissant anyway. I’ve quit trying to stick to my self-enforced two-cups-a-day rule. Now I drink my caffeine by the bucket. And so that I can refill at any time of day I keep our kettle on a rolling boil, which – coincidentally – perfectly describes my mood.


One of my colleagues passed away unexpectedly this week. Someone broke their word and let me down. I’ve got a cold. Trump’s still president. You know. The usual.  
Read more This is why I leave work on time, sisters, via @thewritinghalf

On being one of the #hiddenhalf at We Mixed Our Drinks

Cross-posted from: We Mixed Our Drinks
Originally published: 17.07.17


“Some professionals just ask are you coping, are you OK? And think that is all they need to ask but this is a very closed question and too easy for a woman just to say yes when she could be crying out for someone to notice her or help her.” 
New research from the NCT has found that around half of new mothers’ mental health issues don’t get picked up by a healthcare professional. Consequently, the organisation has launched a new campaign – Hidden Half – to raise awareness and push for better postnatal care that will identify and treat more cases of postnatal depression (PND) and associated conditions. A key focus of the campaign is making sure the existing checkup that takes place six weeks after giving birth looks at the mental health of mothers – something that doesn’t always currently happen.
I want to talk about my own experiences in the wider context of postnatal mental health issues developing later on, after those first few weeks following the birth. I want to do this because I know from personal experience that it’s easy to dismiss symptoms when they’re not what you think PND looks like, when you’re busy and when very few people take the time to ask. I’ve never written about this in detail before, but having done a lot of processing of my experiences over the past few years having come to the point of understanding much more about how to practice good self-care, I’m hoping it will be useful, in some way, to at least someone.

Read more On being one of the #hiddenhalf at We Mixed Our Drinks

On gender and hierarchies by @saramsalem

Cross-posted from: NeoColonialism & It's Discontents
Originally published: 02.06.16


I think one of the first things I learned about feminism was an inherent contradiction that didn’t strike me as such when I first heard it: on the one hand, there are universal solutions to gender inequality, such as education, employment, sexual rights, and so on – these are not necessarily context-specific (the details can be) but need to happen everywhere in order for gender equality to become a reality. And yet on the other hand, there are very different levels of gender inequality across the world. This very difference  in the level of inequality could point to the need for different kinds of solutions, but this did not seem to be the case. Instead this difference functioned to create a very clear – even if rarely labelled such openly – hierarchy in terms of gender equality. At the top of this hierarchy we have the role model countries: Scandinavia, Western and Northern Europe, and sometimes Australia, the US and the UK. And then underneath we have a series of levels with different countries. Typically Egypt and other Arab and African countries come somewhere at the bottom.  …


Read Here.

Neo-Colonialism and it’s Discontents  A blog by Sara Salem on Postcolonialism, Marxism, feminism and other conspiracies.  Twitter: @saramsalem

Can gender equality be ‘exported’? at Femme Vision

Cross-posted from: Femme Vision
Originally published: 18.09.13

The empowerment of women and girls on a global scale is a topic of interest to governments and organisations in the global north. UN Women executive director Michelle Bachelet recently gave a statement on the subject of women’s empowerment in the Middle East and worldwide, in which she said that “women’s participation in politics and the economy reinforces women’s civil, political and economic rights”. This is clearly a progressive attitude and we can hope that it will lead to some positive changes for women in these countries. However, who is really gaining the most from these interventions?

This question was addressed in a talk I recently attended at the Women’s Library in east London that explored efforts to promote global gender equality by organisations such as the World Bank, the UN and the UK’s Department for International Development. I was intrigued by the title of the session, “‘Exporting’ Gender Equality: Postcolonial Feminist Reflections”. How can gender equality be ‘exported’ as if it were a finished product; perfected, tried and tested? I wanted to find out. The speakers at the session were all leading academics who have worked with women in Afghanistan, India and Iran and so, being a London-centric sort of feminist, I hoped I might learn something about the reality of women’s experiences in these countries, beyond what is presented in the media. The room in which the session was held was full, so clearly I was not the only one wanting more insight.

Read more Can gender equality be ‘exported’? at Femme Vision

Some brief thoughts on Emma Watson UN Speech on #HeForShe by @LK_Pennington

(Cross-posted from My Elegant Gathering of White Snows)

I was interviewed by BBC Radio Tees this morning on whether feminism is necessary following Emma Watson’s speech to the UN. I spoke with a male journalist (who clearly doesn’t like feminists) and Angela Epstein who has made a career out of belittling feminism. These are the notes I wrote just before the interview:

Reasons for Feminism:


  1. 2 women a week are murdered by current or former partners – this does not include homicides perpetrated by extended family members including fathers and brothers.
  2. 40 women an hour are raped in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
  3. Women and children are the vast majority of victims and refugees of war yet are veryrarely represented at national and international peace agreements.
  4. 150 women a day are turned away from refuges in the UK due to lack of space.
  5. Women are more likely to suffer ill health and death due to male violence than they are to die from cancer, heart disease and car accidents.
  6. Women still earn less than men for the same work – this gap is wider for Women of Colour.
  7. Last year, a 13 year old girl was labelled “sexually predatory” in all her actions by the attorney responsible for prosecuting her perpetrator of sexual assault – an appalling breach of her human rights which only got national attention due to the work of Ending Victimisation and Blame
  8. 1400 girls were sexually abused, raped and trafficked in Rotherham whilst the police, social services, CPS, and schools did nothing. The media has reported this as if it was a one-off event rather than simply an exemplar of what is happening to girls across the UK every day in places like Nottingham, York and Sheffield
  9. Jimmy Savile was allowed to continue sexually assaulting and raping hundreds of young girls and boys whilst working for the BBC and engaged in “charity work”. He was given his own rooms in hospitals. Staff everywhere knew and no one stepped up to support the children.

More obviously, feminism is important because a young woman stood up in front of an international audience and said women are equal to men. For this, she has had threats of sexual violence through the theft and release of private images and all manner of abuse. This is why feminism is necessary – because women have no right to an opinion in the public sphere.

Reasons for feminism pertaining directly to Emma Watson:

  1. The threat to release of photos of Watson nude which have been stolen and then released publicly: this is sexual violence
  2. Count down clock to Watson being “legal”
  3. the fact that the Daily Mail published an article on her outfit rather than the speech


My issues with Watson’s speech:

  • no practical advise on how to change,
  • very little structural analysis: remains embedded in neoliberal discourse on choice
  • the word feminism is important. There is a reason why that word is derided and insulted – it’s because the word has power. It makes it clear why women are trapped in continuing cycles of poverty, male violence and child-bearing and rearing,
  • Watson calls for men’s inclusion but ignores why men do not want to support women’s rights as it challenges their power,
  • real male allies do not need to be coaxed into clicking a button on a website. They are already doing the work by reading and listening to feminists and then putting their knowledge into practise by supporting women’s liberation,
  • We need to stop stroking men’s egos and worrying about their feelings. We’ve had 10 000 years of human history where women have been raped, tortured and murdered. Men have the power to change this and have chosen not too. We need to stop focusing on being inclusive to men and start actively challenging them,
  • This statement is odd: “If men don’t have to be aggressive in order to be accepted women won’t feel compelled to be submissive. If men don’t have to control, women won’t have to be controlled”
    • Women aren’t compelled to be submissive, they have no choice. Men do have a choice to be controlling and they make the choice to engage in this behaviour within the home and within the public sphere. Men absolutely do suffer because of gendered stereotypes but we need to be clear that men who use violence are making a choice to do so – if we think otherwise, we insult all the men who make the choice to act like a decent human being.

I do have criticisms of Watson’s speech but more importantly, I am dancing with joy that she stood up in front of an international audience and said women are equal to men. As a mother of members of the Harry Potter generation, I am ecstatic by this speech. As a feminist, I am happy that Watson stood up and defended women. I do have concerns about her speech, particularly the idea that we don’t need the word feminism, but I am so fucking glad she made it.

Here’s a great post from Clementine Ford on Watson’s speech.

Emma Watson, Feminism and Men by @hhbruichladdich

Emma Watson has given a speech to support the launch of UN “He for She” campaign. There has been considerable support, retweeting and endorsement of her speech and in particular the point at which she invites men to be part of the solution. Tweets like this: “Chaps out there. Sign up for @HeforShe and watch this moving speech. Thumbs up #EmmaWatson” (@evaliparova). There has also been some challenge and rejection to precisely this part of the speech. Tweets like this: “As far as I’m concerned, the liberation of women from male oppression will not be achieved by collusion” (@PlanetCath).

By the standards of much of feminist twitterati, her speech was quite tame. She calmly and quietly gave a very few examples along the lines of the most excellent “@everydaysexsim” such as being labelled bossy (age 8) for wanting to direct the play, noticing her classmates (age 15) falling away from sport as they were afraid that having muscles wasn’t feminine and sensitively noticing her male friends (ages 17 and 18) not feeling able to talk about their feelings.

Her approach was thereby as inclusive and caring as it could be. It recognized that gender norms and stereotypes harm men and boys as they do women. She did not even try to make a comparison as to who might have it worse as some of us would. She did not include statistics about males as predominantly perpetrators of violence against women and females as predominantly victims of male perpetrators as some of us would. She did try to challenge the silencing tactic that is used against feminists – that this means they are automatically man-hating. She went out of her way to support the “not all men” are violent and abusive line, indeed she went further and stressed how many fine and upstanding men and boys there were out there, as many of us would not.

This argument about the role of men in feminism has been doing the rounds for many years – it is not new. So many women do not want to be negative about their men – their sons, brothers, husbands, fathers, partners. Some of the refrains in support of working with men sound reasonable and include: They are part of the problem so they have to be part of the solution. We can’t do it without them. Most men are not abusers so we should work with those who can support us. We need their support, we shouldn’t alienate them. They are hurt by gender norms too, if they could be liberated from gender stereotypes, it will help us all. We are not fighting them, they are not the enemy, we just want equality.

The arguments against highlight the fact that what feminism is doing is challenging the power and the status quo. Those who have power and benefit from it in varying degrees generally do not cede it and share it – they protect and reinforce it. So it may be the case that men may find it harder to ask for help, may not visit health care so often, may find it hard to talk about their feelings – but they also benefit from being taken seriously, being respected and having higher status, receiving higher pay, being more likely to be in positions of power on boards, in companies and organisations, in governments etc. Consequently, women have no option but to try to wrest power away from those who hold it. Asking nicely just won’t cut it. So Emma’s approach was very unchallenging you would think. Nevertheless hackers have threatened to publish naked pictures of her in retaliation.

This too is not new. Whenever a woman takes up a public voice to speak on any matter of public policy but particularly one relating to women’s rights there is a backlash. The backlash usually consists of highly gendered abuse to put you back in your place – about your looks and your body, that you should be raped, that you are too ugly to rape, that you need to be taught a lesson and he’s the man to do it. I don’t need to retrace these here, Helen Lewis has admirably done so some while back.

While it may indeed be the case that men suffer from gender straitjacketing too, some of us would argue that we are entitled to demand our rights without apology, without reference to how this affects men, without sorting out all the men’s problems too. The anti-racism movement did not focus its energies on reassuring, including and prioritizing the needs of the white powers nor did it ask for their permission and guidance in how to overthrow them!

That is not to say there is no role for men, just not the role they are used to of leadership and power. Men are very welcome to say that they support us and to consult with us to see in what way they can be most useful to the cause and we will tell them.

We are likely to say stop being violent and abusive if you are and if you are not, then please challenge other men to discourage them from such behaviour as Karen Ingala Smith points out. We are particularly likely to say don’t try and take over our movement, don’t try and lead it, don’t try and distract us and others into talking about you, and certainly don’t presume to try to tell us we’re doing it wrong!