Nov 27, 2011

Gandhi's Dream

India of My Dreams Mahatma Gandhi 

"I shall work for an India, in which the poorest shall feel that it is their country in whose making they have an effective voice; an India in which there shall be no high class and low class of people; an India in which all communities shall live in perfect harmony. There can be no room in such an India for the curse of untouchability or the curse of the intoxicating drinks and drugs. Women will enjoy the same rights as men. Since we shall be at peace with all the rest of the world, neither exploiting, nor being exploited, we should have the smallest army imaginable. This is the India of my dreams."

The reality:

India has a huge growing divide between rich and poor: economic growth is 8.1% and is projected to rise as high as 10% next year and The collective wealth of India's 311 billionaires jumped 71% in the last year YET the “average” income in some states is considerably below the national rural poverty line of $650 a year... 
According to a UN Development Report, inequality in India has grown faster in the last 15 years than in the last 50 years.
The 'untouchables' still very much exist even thought it is a taboo subject, people from the lowest caste in the system will be rejected and will find it hard to improve their socio-economic conditions.
There are 50 million women missing (eliminated) in India through practices like female feticide, infanticide, intentional starvation of girls, and dowry related murders.
There are ongoing and worsening tensions between the different religions in India, particularly between Hindus and Muslims.
The Indian Army is the world's largest standing volunteer army.

This is India's reality.

I would like to point out that even though this blog post has put a negative spin on India's situation India also has so much to offer including exciting business opportunities so watch this space.. a more positive post shall follow.


Nov 13, 2011

Boris Snubs London's Feminists

You could hear it throughout the great hall of Friends House last night, a persistent murmur of where's Boris? Why isn't he here to answer our questions? What's his excuse?

The grand finale of Fem 11, organised by UK Feminista was a question and answer session to the 3 candidates standing for Mayor of London next May. The panel comprised of Ken Livingston (Labour), Brian Paddick, Liberal Democrats, and Natalie Bennett, Chair of Green Party Women (for Jenny Jones) and it was chaired by Samira Ahmed, broadcaster.

We, the 1000 odd feminists (women and men!) wanted to hear from the candidates what they were going to do regarding women's rights in London.
Would funding be continued for Rape Crisis Centres?
Would facilities like Surestart be kept in place?
What would be done to ensure our safety on public transport at night?
Why were more women cyclists dying a year than men and what could be done to provide safer cycling routes?

Some good answers were provided:
Rape Crisis Centres would be core-funded so they would never be subject to bidding for funding and insecurity and the fact they exist would be better communicated to rape victims so that they could be used efficiently. 
Funding for Sure Start would be increased and more services similar to that would be created. 
Brian Paddick would introduce a stop on demand bus service at night so people can get off closer to their homes.
Wider and more noticeable cycle lanes, for them to be situated somewhere on the road which doesn't leave them in harms way (away from left turns) would be built. 

Bringing these 3 candidates together was the feminist cause, a will to demonstrate their passion for women's issues in London. Again, my question is: Where were you Boris, and why don't you care?

A excerpt from Samira's Ahmed blog on Boris' no show: 

"It’s become clear that Johnson is a terrific public performer except in certain situations, which he will always avoid. (Like a feminist conference). While there was plenty of humour and banter at Fem11, Johnson would have been well out of his comfort zone. To be fair the strongly anti-Tory mood among most of the conference participants makes the decision to stay away perfectly logical, and yet it’s hard to think of anyone else in the Tory party, who has the ability to take on such a challenge."


The 'F' Word (Fem 11)

Yesterday I went to my first FEMINIST conference. and it was BRILLIANT.

It started off with a great opening speech by Sandi Toskvig who used humour and illustrations to explain the gender inequity we still face. "Be bold when you declare 'I am a feminist"

There were over 1000 women and men there and the atmosphere was bubbling with passionate people who want to make a difference to the feminist movement.

The first talk:  Abortion Rights: Rebecca Mordan presents, “Reproductive Rights – The Most Important Issue In The World Ever!” 

I am fervently pro-choice. We MUST, absolutely MUST have the right to choose what we do with OUR bodies. Our bodies belong to us, not men, not society and certainly not the governments who criminalise abortions. You may think we have already achieved our goals but there's a fear of regression due to LIFE groups led by women like Nadine Dorries and in N.Ireland which is supposed to be under UK Jurisdiction it is regarded illegal to have an abortion.

FACT: 1 in 3 women have abortions in the UK - that's a quite a significant amount of women who have made perfectly sane decisions and their choice should be respected. 
FACT: 200 women die a DAY due to unsafe abortions. To protect our women is to legalise abortions.

We must keep fighting and putting pressure on the government to at least keep our abortion rights, if not improve them and introduce the 'right to request' like in Spain or Puerto Rico.
We must end the culture of shame that is attached to having an abortion, break the taboos, open up a dialogue and for women not to feel ashamed of making the right choice for them.
"Sexual education is so necessary and important to change taboos on abortion and to provide children with the knowledge to make the right decisions."

The second talk: White Ribbon Campaign: “Why aren’t you doing more?” Engaging Men in Feminism. 

How to engage men in feminism? Such a tough question with no simple answer. I think all men should be feminists, it liberates them as well as us but the majority are scared of the F word and don't want to associate themselves with a women's movement. 
To include men in our movement would work in everyones favour, it would break the gender norms that are so indoctrinated in our society. It would provide space for men to exercise their masculinity in the way they desire. 
Feminism and to live in a feminist society is beneficial to us all - it has a positive impact on social, economic and political spheres.

"Feminism isn't just for women- it's a human rights issue."

Question time debate with Shami Chakrabarti, Director, LibertyBea Campbell, writer & campaignerZoe Williams, the GuardianCarlene Firmin, writerMatt McCormack Evans, Anti-Porn Men Project and chaired by Cllr Rania Khan, Tower Hamlets.
Some of my favourite quotes from QT:

ZW: 'Problem with the current government isn't that they're not women, it's that they're Tories'
BC: 'We need to reach point where no-one is scared of the 'F' word'
BC: 'When Murdoch introduced page 3 in 1970s he opened up the doors to popular sexism, those doors need to close'
CF: 'Don't give up feminist spaces before you've got them'
CF: 'We need to make feminism relevant to all women in all spaces'
RK: 'Pressure on women to be sexual objects has never been greater' 
MME: 'You can't achieve gender equality as long as multi-billion dollar porn industry exists'

It was a fantastic day leaving all of us there with a sense of optimism and excitement. In the words of Kat Banyard: "We're part of a big and a beautiful movement. Together we will find our way to the feminist future we all want"


Dulce et Decoram Est

A poem for Remembrance Sunday 11.11.11
Wilfred Owen 8 October 1917 - March 1918 

Bent double, like old beggars under sacks,
Knock-kneed, coughing like hags, we cursed through sludge,
Till on the haunting flares we turned our backs,
And towards our distant rest began to trudge.
Men marched asleep.  Many had lost their boots,
But limped on, blood-shod.  All went lame, all blind;
Drunk with fatigue; deaf even to the hoots
Of gas-shells dropping softly behind.
Gas!  GAS!  Quick, boys! --  An ecstasy of fumbling
Fitting the clumsy helmets just in time,
But someone still was yelling out and stumbling
And flound'ring like a man in fire or lime. --
Dim through the misty panes and thick green light,
As under a green sea, I saw him drowning.
In all my dreams before my helpless sight
He plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning.
If in some smothering dreams, you too could pace
Behind the wagon that we flung him in,
And watch the white eyes writhing in his face,
His hanging face, like a devil's sick of sin,
If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood
Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs
Bitter as the cud
Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues, --
My friend, you would not tell with such high zest
To children ardent for some desperate glory,
The old Lie:  Dulce et decorum est
Pro patria mori.


Nov 6, 2011

Touch, Look and Check

I may have stolen this blog from my dear friend Peter Thomas' blog but it deserves to be spread round to increase awareness about a cancer that affects millions of women each year.

I have to admit the advert does go against my feminist values. The ad was purely made to satisfy what the media industry believe to be our desire to see ripped men half naked telling us to 'touch ourselves'. I don't find the men particularly attractive to be honest and the *twinkle* in his eye made me want to GAG. 

BUT.... it does raise awareness effectively and will hopefully motivate women to the app on their phones, if they have an app friendly phone, and go to the doctors to get regular checks :)

Don't forget ladies..... TLC.........


Not a virgin? Let me just check.

Back in March when shit hit the fan in the Middle East, particularly in Egypt the military were carrying out secret 'tests'. Women were being 'tested' to prove that they were virgins so that they could say they had not been sexually assaulted. This is based on their misguided thinking that if a woman is a virgin, the sexual assault will affect her much more than it otherwise might.

For women to accuse men of sexually assaulting them during the revolutionary uprising would not stand if they were not virgins. To be believed they had to be pure, untouched and virginal.

The thing is, when you 'test' for virginity by shoving your disgusting, non-medically trained hands up a women's vagina, more often than not, you'll end up breaking the hymen = NOT A VIRGIN. And then you've added to the list of women who are no longer eligible to complain about a sexual assault.

Well, one woman has defied all odds and IS COMPLAINING... to Human Rights Watch. It's extremely brave of her to do so given that the military are still very much in charge of Egypt and she could face worse assaults than a virginity test.. 

However, it gives women hope. That they too will be able to stand and fight for their rights without being tested for something that is so precious to us all.