THE NOUGHTIE GIRL’S GUIDE TO FEMINISM

feminist, Gender, Gender stereotypes, girls, Ms.

Around this time last year I was introduced to a bright young journalist who was embarking on writing a book on what I judged to be a very exciting and much needed topic; a modern girls’ guide to feminism.

The definitive Ms Ellie Levenson, whose name remains as thus despite getting married this year, this week celebrated launching her  book titled ‘The Noughtie Girl’s Guide to Feminism’. Complete with badges announcing ‘I’m a noughties girl’.

I now ordered a copy of this book and I’m looking forward to reading it, following which I will publish a book review of it on my blog.

noughties

Having spoken to Ellie about her  book over a year ago, I have high hopes that it’s going to provide me with a lot of food for thought. Ellie’s articles for the Guardian’s women’s section, and regular comment pieces for the Independent,  make top reads and have started to set the agenda in terms of modern feminist discussion.

So I recommend that you buy it and then let me know your take on it when I reveiw it in the next few weeks. (NB I haven’t linked to Amazon given my previous rants about their sale of supremely anti-feminist literarture and games!)

DEMAND FOR CHANGE!

Equal Rights, feminist, London, prostitution, Sex Trade, Sexual Equality, Trade Unions, Women MPs, Women's Rights

I was delighted to be invited to speak, on work undertaken in the EU on prostitution, at the launch of OBJECT and eaves’ new DEMAND CHANGE! campaign in Parliament yesterday afternoon.

Two powerful and inspiring organisations, OBJECT, is a campaigning organisation which is fundamentally against the objectification of women. And eaves is a London based feminist charity that provides supported housing to vulnerable women, women trafficked into prostitution, and those who have experienced domestic violence.

The new joint initiative between eaves and OBJECT – DEMAND CHANGE! – aims to promote an increased understanding of the myths and realities surrounding prostitution; calls for prostitution to be seen and widely understood as a form of violence against women; and is lobbying for the adoption of the ‘Nordic model’ of tackling demand and decriminalising women in prostitution.

Answering questions at the DEMAND CHANGE! event in Parliament

Answering questions at the DEMAND CHANGE! event in Parliament

As an ardent supporter of the Nordic model, of tackling trafficking and violence against women through prostitution by criminalising the purchase of sex, I wholly support the DEMAND CHANGE! campaign and its aims. I believe campaigns such as these are key to changing the public perceptions and entrenched cultural attitudes towards the sale of women’s bodies for sex, which is  is the only route towards the UK adopting the Nordic model to reduce this intolerable violence against women, children and men.

This event was a great opportunity to take back the battle ground on prostitution from the garish vocalists for pimps and punters The English Collection of Prostitutes and the International Union of Sex Workers. Who interestingly, now that legislation on lap-dancing clubs and prostitution have now passed out of the Commons, were not present at the event. A key indication of the sorts of people that are behind these frighteningly naive organisations, which deny figures on trafficking and offer up prostitution as a feminist choice when the clear reality is that no one would ever wish this destructive and demeaning career  on anyone whom they cared about.

In my speech I discussed the European Parliament’s women’s committee’s inability to agree on the issue of prostitution due to the very varied legislation of each member state. As heated debate on the topic of the health of prostitutes, in the socialist group of the FEMM committee, showed last year, prostitution remains the last great feminist taboo.

Speaking to Swedish expert on the 'Nordic Model' Gunilla Exberg

Speaking to Swedish expert on the 'Nordic Model' Gunilla Exberg

FEMINIST IN CHIEF OR WILL OBAMA KEEP LADIES WAITING?

America, Barack Obama, construction, equality, ethic minority, family planning, Fawcett Society, feminist, Ms., President, Rick Warren

 

“I am a feminist” exclaimed the man pinned with the world’s hopes, Barack Obama, when he met two eminent experts on women’s rights last year.

One of these women, editor of America’s leading feminist magazine Ms. seems to have been convinced by this statement. The front cover of this month’s magazine has the President ripping off his inaugural day red tie and white shirt to reveal a t-shirt emblazoned with “This is what a feminist looks like”.

However, as the President sits down this week to an in-tray, of economic despair and two wars, will women’s issues be in the forefront of his mind?

Let’s hope so. In his first week, which incidentally shares the 36th anniversary of US women’s abortion rights, the President has pledged to rescind the Global Gag Rule that stops UN family planning programs receiving US federal funds. This rule has been the subject of political ping-pong for the past 25 years, initially put in by Reagan, rescinded by Clinton then reinstated by Bush. A telling example of how presidential powers set the lifelong agendas of women across the world.

Obama’s next planned move, in what is fast looking like a full set of political ping-pong, is to overturn the shameful decision, by the Supreme Court in Ledbetter v. Goodyear Tire Rubber, with a new Fair Pay Act. This will re-empower American women workers to sue for wage discrimination. In a country where parking attendants still make more than childcare workers, and there’s only one woman on the Supreme Court, this is some much needed equality legislation.

However, as we know from over 30 years of equality legislation in the UK and a widening pay gap, legislation can only go so far. American economist, Randy Albelda, points out in a recent article “The Macho Stimulus Plan” that in order to effect any real change government rhetoric must match the statute books. And so far, for all Obama’s oratory heights, in my opinion his triplets don’t look far enough past alliteration to make any great cause for feminisation. In Obama’s speech on stimulating the economy he spoke of “building roads, bridges and schools, developing eco friendly technologies”. But as these are construction based industries that are dominated by men (just 2.7 per cent of US construction workers are women) such fiscal stimulation is almost to the sole benefit of male workers. To rectify this Albelda proposes an additional stimulus plan for the female side of the economy: “caring for those who cannot care for themselves, healthcare and primary education are the very foundation of a civil society. Investing in these outcomes is as vital to our long-term economic health as airports, highways, wind turbines, and energy retrofitted buildings.” She points out that not only do these jobs disproportionately employ women, but “investments in direct care, education, and healthcare would also go a long way in alleviating poverty.”

Taking it a little closer to home let’s examine Obama the boss. How is the new president shaping up as a pro-female employer? Disappointingly, just five out of the 20 cabinet-level posts in his administration have gone to women. A number comparable to cabinets of the last previous presidents, which has earned the scorn of one journalist who claimed Obama’s feminist credentials as no more “impressive than any previous president”.

A measly one in four ratio in no way gives the voices of American women equal representation in the room where all the big decisions are being made. But it can be argued that Obama’s cabinet does not just have the responsibility of being representative in terms of gender, but also ethically, politically and in terms of people’s life experience.

According to the Fawcett Society ethnic minority women face double discrimination on the grounds of their gender and race. So Obama’s appointment of six black women as his closest aides and ambassadors pushes back barriers of discrimination beyond that of gender.

Nonetheless, rumbles of discontent amongst many women’s groups are already audible in the media. Co-founder of non-partisan women’s group New Agenda has accused the new president of taking “shocking steps backwards”.

The President’s choice of pastor Rick Warren to lead the invocation at his inauguration ceremony was also felt to be an affront by many liberal women’s groups who had previously backed Obama in his campaign. On this issue, I think people’s upset and confusion is justified. Choosing a pastor who preaches socially conservative views on abortion rights and gay marriage does not shout “I am a feminist” to me.

But President Obama got to his position and an approval rating of 80 percent, dramatically higher than either Clinton or Bush, not by making enemies but by finding common ground with people with whom he disagreed with on some issues. This is most certainly an outstanding skill to have as a diplomat and even as a politician, world leader and president. But will it will make for an outstanding feminist? We don’t have time to wait and see. Feminists of all political colours across the world need to put pressure on Obama to set about making concrete feminist policies and include the needs of women in all of his globally inspiring oratories. As one thing you can be sure of, is that pretty much every other interest group is doing that, right now.