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.


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!)


24 week time limit, girls, Poland, Romania

Today two horrific stories have been playing on my mind:

The first of a 14 year old girl in Poland who was raped by a school friend. She and her mother decided that she should have an abortion. Even though abortion is illegal in Poland under ‘normal’ circumstances it is legal if the pregnancy is the result of a crime. Nevertheless, when the young girl and her mother went to her doctor the doctor not only refused to perform the abortion but called in Fr Krzystof Podstaka, an anti-abortion campaigner, to ‘talk’ to the girl. When the girl and her mother went to a different clinic is Warsaw Fr Podstaka was there this time with a group of campaigners and managed to prevent the abortion taking place. Fr Podstaka also filed charges against the girl’s mother accusing her of ‘coercing’ her daughter into having the abortion. Although the court should have dismissed the case immediately as her mother was acting as the child’s legal guardian, the court started hearing witnesses that the girl should be put into foster care.

Thankfully, at the last minute Poland’s minister for health Ewa Kopacz intervened and found a clinic willing to perform the abortion. Kopacz now finds herself the focus of anti-abortionist’s campaigns; the girl’s mother still faces criminal charges. The first doctor who called Fr Podstaka faces no legal recrimination over breach of confidentiality as this is only an ethical guideline in Poland and not a legal requirement.

In Romania, an 11 year old girl, the victim of a horrendous rape by her uncle and is now 20 weeks pregnant is going through similar political wrangling. In Romania abortion is legal to up to just 14 weeks of pregnancy. The girl’s family did not suspect that their 11 year old was pregnant until her 17th week. The girl’s option is now to go to Britain to have this abortion performed as, thankfully, we have kept our 24 week limit. But things are not that easy for her. Two separate local government committees have passed two separate and contradictory rulings on her case. One has stated she should be allowed go to Britain, the other stating that as the mother and foetus are physically healthy the pregnancy should continue.

One wonders why these people do not take into account the mental health of this girl who has obviously suffered severe trauma after a rape and now pregnancy. Why do they insist she should be further tortured by carrying the pregnancy to term?

A government committee will rule tomorrow as to whether this girl’s ordeal will be put to an end and allow her to travel to the UK.

Luckily in the UK very few abortions take place so late in the term of a pregnancy but we are equally lucky that the option still remains. I think these two cases serve as a stark reminder as why the 24 week limit is so very important for women in the UK.


Crime, girls, Melanie Phillips, violence

Crime is indefensible. Committing crime is wrong and offenders must be brought to book in whatever way is appropriate for the crime they committed, the way we view that crime and the various rules and regulations about sentencing convicted offenders. I would never agree to any criminal being given an easy rise. Having spent some time in the Probation Service before becoming an MEP, I have seen the effects of crime first hand.

It is not possible to gloss over the increase in crime, particularly violent crime, amongst young women. Crime by young women and girls has risen by 25 percent. According to a report from the Youth Justice Board the number of crimes committed by girls aged ten to 17 climbed from 47,000 to 59,000 between 2003-4 and 2006-7. The figure for boys over the same period went down slightly from 240,000 to 236,000.

The proportional rise in female crime while that for young men has decreased is worrying. Predictably the Daily Mail’s resident siren anti-woman, anti-Labour voice, Melanie Phillips, has waded in, ranting on 12 May, “As a result of the feminist revolution, women have commandeered the freedoms and entitlements of the masculine world – while men themselves have now been largely reduced to sperm banks, walking wallets and occasional au pairs.”

Notwithstanding the arrant nonsense of Ms Phillips’s last couple of lines, her main contention – that feminism has made women more like men – needs addressing. There is no doubt that there has been a convergence between male and female behaviour. Young women now outperform young men at school. Women enter the labour market in much the same way as men. Equal pay legislation and improved childcare have allowed women to develop their careers, although more still needs to be done.

All this has helped our economy as well as providing fulfilment for women. Both men and women who are from generations younger than Ms Phillips’s baby boomers, take women’s participation in the world of work as a given. I doubt they would want women to stay at home tied to the kitchen sink as Ms Phillips hints at another point in her article, even if they could afford it. Interestingly Melanie Phillips herself earns a decent crust, presumably unencumbered by outdated notions of a woman’s place.

Now that women go to work and may take part in our society more or less on a par with men, we are finding that there is a downside – female crime is going up. This is obviously not desirable and we must all work to reduce crime. The Daily Mail blaming modern feminism does nothing to help.