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The real-life heroes of Misbehaviour inspired my feminism | Julie Bindel

Fri, 03/13/2020 - 22:00

Activists are increasingly operating in the online space but this film is a timely reminder of the power of public protest

When I first encountered feminism, in 1979, aged 17, there was one story I heard about over and over from the activists I was hanging out with: the direct action that disrupted the 1970 Miss World competition, in front of a live audience of 100 million TV viewers worldwide, 20 million of them in Britain. Several women had dressed up and bought tickets to the televised event at the Royal Albert Hall in London and, at the height of proceedings, threw flour bombs and shook loud rattles, leading to the programme being taken off air and sending the host, the US comedian Bob Hope, scuttling backstage. The massive success of that action taught me that huge change can come from women being inventive and brave.

At a screening of the film Misbehaviour, based on that protest, I was honoured to sit next to a couple of elderly women who had taken part in the protest. I thanked them for setting an example of proper feminism for future generations, and they told me they have been heartened by what looks like a resurgence of public feminist protest.

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Swedish midwives who oppose abortion fail in rights case

Fri, 03/13/2020 - 05:51

Women argued that being denied employment breached their rights to freedom of religion and conscience

Two nurses denied midwife jobs as midwives for refusing to carry out abortions have lost their legal bid to take Sweden to a top European court for violating their religious beliefs.

Ellinor Grimmark and Linda Steen had told the European court of human rights (ECHR) that being denied employment due to their beliefs against abortion was an illegal breach of their rights to freedom of religion and conscience.

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Universities traumatise student student sexual misconduct survivors by mishandling cases | Anna Bull and Tiffany Page

Thu, 03/12/2020 - 21:00

It’s time for universities to overhaul their sexual misconduct complaints processes to protect their students

Sexual harassment complaints processes in universities are a feminist issue. Our research has shown that these processes systematically place (mainly female) survivors of sexual misconduct at a disadvantage compared to those (mainly men) accused of sexual misconduct.

Why? Because in staff-student sexual misconduct complaints, students are silenced. They have no right to see evidence submitted against them, to attend a hearing into their complaint, to know the full outcome or to appeal it. Universities have even been known to reach confidential settlements with staff members without the student having any input.

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Trans or cis, women are stronger united | Letters

Thu, 03/12/2020 - 07:58
Laura Mauro writes in support of Zoe Williams’ piece calling for solidarity, and Angela Price agrees that feminism is an inclusive movement that should fight for the rights of all minorities

I am writing to commend Zoe Williams for her thoughtful column (Why we need feminist solidarity more than ever, G2, 11 March).

The trans “debate” – a term I use loosely, as I don’t believe trans people’s rights should be up for debate – has focused largely on the voices of those decrying the right of trans women to be considered at all. As a cisgender woman, I am unequivocally supportive of the view that empowering trans women in no way disenfranchises or endangers cis women, and that in fact we are stronger united. The enemy is misogyny; our trans sisters are our allies in this fight, and history bears out their role in both this and in the equally important fight for LGBT+ liberation.

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Vicky Randall obituary

Thu, 03/12/2020 - 07:37

My friend and colleague Vicky Randall, who has died of cancer aged 74, was a pioneering professor of gender and developing world politics, based at the University of Essex. She was gentle and self-effacing but fiercely intelligent and brave, and possessed deeply held values, which she expressed in both her life and work.

Vicky was born in London and moved at the age of five to Birmingham, where she was educated at King Edward VI high school for girls. Her father, Charles Madge, was the first professor of sociology at Birmingham University and co-founder of Mass Observation, which recorded the experiences of ordinary Britons. Vicky’s mother was Inez Pearn, who wrote several novels under the pen name Elizabeth Lake.

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‘When you go to the police, you think everything will be OK’: the woman fighting for victims of crime

Thu, 03/12/2020 - 00:00

Claire Waxman is London’s first commissioner for victims. She explains how her own experience of taking her stalker to court inspired her to help other survivors

Claire Waxman is drinking tea from a white mug bearing the slogan: “I’m not bossy, I just have better ideas.” It was a present from her daughter, she explains, rather than her colleagues, but for the record, London’s first commissioner for victims certainly is brimming with ideas.

Having published the London Rape Review last summer, a study of more than 500 rape cases exploring why prosecution rates are so low, Waxman is about to launch a crucial piece of research on one controversial aspect of the process: the requirement for rape complainants to hand over their mobile phones for police examination. Reading text messages that may shed light on any relationship with the accused is one thing, says Waxman, but she is concerned that the practice is leading to far broader digital fishing expeditions that drag out investigations and lead to victims dropping out. Victims, she believes, are being treated more like suspects.

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Internet 'is not working for women and girls', says Berners-Lee

Wed, 03/11/2020 - 14:01

Inventor of world wide web calls for urgent action to make cyberspace safer for women and girls

Women and girls face a “growing crisis” of online harms, with sexual harassment, threatening messages and discrimination making the web an unsafe place to be, Sir Tim Berners-Lee has warned.

The inventor of the world wide web said the “dangerous trend” in online abuse was forcing women out of jobs, causing girls to skip school, damaging relationships and silencing female opinions, prompting him to conclude that “the web is not working for women and girls”.

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Rishi Sunak confirms tampon tax will be scrapped

Wed, 03/11/2020 - 09:51

Women’s sanitary products will be zero-rated for VAT after end of Brexit transition period

The chancellor confirmed in his budget that the government is to scrap the controversial tampon tax and abolish VAT on all women’s sanitary products from 2021.

Tampons and other women’s sanitary products currently attract 5% VAT.This will be dropped when the transition period for Britain departure from the EU ends on 31 December.

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Quotas alone can’t fix diversity – it’s time to go further

Wed, 03/11/2020 - 07:55

Having minority staff and having minority staff who are empowered to speak up are two very different things

Many of the International Women’s Month panel discussions I have sat on turn to the topic of quotas. I always defend them. I reject the criticism that quotas somehow usurp “meritocracy” because meritocracy does not exist (it is no coincidence that the Oxbridge-educated children of other journalists, for example, just happen to “deserve” so many journalism jobs).

That said, I do have my reservations. Quotas are often offered as a panacea to all diversity-workplace woes. In my experience, institutions that establish quotas are usually far too busy congratulating themselves for their surface-level changes to worry about the finer details, such as retention rates or the roles into which they are recruiting minority staff. The kinds of problems that are caused by homogeny in the workplace are not immediately fixed simply by having more women and minorities “in the room”.

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Klimt through a feminist lens: Emma Talbot wins Max Mara art prize

Wed, 03/11/2020 - 03:44

Artist of ‘radiant drawings’ and epic sculptures wins for her project to overturn negative view of older women expressed by famous 1905 painting

Her work is known for confronting the modern world’s most pressing issues from the environment and gender to the way we communicate. Now, Emma Talbot has been announced as the winner of the Max Mara art prize for women, for a proposal to reimagine the work of Gustav Klimt for the 21st century.

Born in Stourbridge and based in London, Talbot’s work in drawing, painting and sculpture has often combined the personal and political. Her proposal was based on Klimt’s 1905 painting The Three Ages of Woman, in which a naked elderly woman stands in apparent shame next to two younger generations. She intends to animate the figure of the older woman as someone with agency, who overcomes a series of trials similar to The Twelve Labours of Hercules. The work intends to counter prevalent negative attitudes to ageing and the representations of women.

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Body of work: why Billie Eilish is right to stand her ground against shaming

Tue, 03/10/2020 - 08:29

Billie Eilish has done everything right in her career so far, but that’s not enough for a celebrity industry fixated on sex

Billie Eilish has given the music industry everything it could possibly want. An authentic new voice that appeals to teenagers and their parents. A debut album that has sold more than 2m copies in the US alone. A decisive stylistic evolution from the preceding decade’s dominant pop mode. A clean sweep of the four key categories at the Grammys. A copper-bottomed streaming success model. A James Bond theme that rejuvenates a tired franchise and extends her commercial and creative clout.

Until she offers up her prime commodity as a young female pop star, it will never be enough.

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The Guardian view on Mexico’s women’s strike: let the machistas tremble | Editorial

Tue, 03/10/2020 - 08:29
The cause of femicide and abuse is not just violent individuals, but the laws and societies that foster and allow their actions

Tens of thousands of women, perhaps many more, disappeared in Mexico on Monday. They vanished from the streets, from cafes, from shops and factories and offices. Their absence was a manifestation of their fury, a demonstration of how impoverished the country would be without them, and a symbolic representation of the women who are for ever missing from the country, having been murdered because they are women.

The homicide rate has risen sharply in recent years: more than 10 women a day are being killed. Two particularly horrific crimes have galvanised action. The first was the murder of 25-year-old Ingrid Escamilla last month, and the publication of pictures of her mutilated body by local media. The second, days later, was the abduction, torture and murder of a seven-year-old girl, Fátima Cecilia Aldrighett Antón.

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Blue plaque equality is still a long way off | Letters

Tue, 03/10/2020 - 07:58
Susan Croft calls for recognition for Githa Sowerby, Margaret Wynne Nevinson and Evelyn Sharp, while Richard Webb wonders why Barbara Hepworth’s plaque should be in London

While pleasing to read that English Heritage plans to unveil six new plaques to women in 2020 (Artists and spies boost women in blue plaque citations, 5 March), it is tempting to say both: “About time!” and “What about all the plaques they’ve turned down?”

Citing but two: in 2019 English Heritage refused to support a plaque to the playwright Githa Sowerby (1876-1970) on her Kensington home despite the overwhelming recognition of her brilliant 1912 play Rutherford and Son, a classic that has now been produced numerous times all over the country from Salisbury to Newcastle upon Tyne since it was first rediscovered in 1980, including twice by the National Theatre, most recently on the main Lyttleton stage. In its day it was translated and produced in French, German, Dutch, Czech, Italian, Russian and Swedish and Sowerby was the only woman included in Emma Goldman’s The Social Significance of Modern Drama (1914) alongside Ibsen, Strindberg, Chekhov, Shaw and others. Meanwhile Sowerby’s other plays are gaining increasing recognition with recent productions of The Stepmother at the Orange Tree, at Salisbury and in Canada.

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Feminist solidarity empowers everyone. The movement must be trans-inclusive | Zoe Williams

Tue, 03/10/2020 - 07:07

Taking the side of the oppressed has long been feminism’s raison d’etre. Amid an explosion of misogyny in public life, compassion and unity are more important than ever

I have written nothing on trans issues for seven years. A now-familiar row had broken out in the feminist movement back then, and I assumed that feminism would soon re-orient itself away from which body parts define a woman and whether or not the word “womxn” signified an assault on our sense of selves, and towards what I thought was obviously the more fundamental question of the movement: who has it worse? Feminism, in my life’s experience of it, takes the side of the oppressed. That is our raison d’etre.

So, anyway, I had seen this wonderful talk by Helen Belcher, who described the three ways in which trans people are portrayed and undermined, in the media and beyond. “The first is that they’re fraudulent. They’re not really who they say they are. We’d better humour them in their delusion. The second is trans as undeserving deviant. The third is trans as comedy.” Since then, this has intensified, with other, even more hostile, elements added: trans people as predators, the trans movement as deliberately poisoning the young. The savage mischief has seeped out of it. There is not much of the “We’d better humour them” any more.

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'If I shed the layers, I am a slut': Billie Eilish addresses body image criticism

Tue, 03/10/2020 - 01:22

The 18-year-old confronted societal ‘assumptions about people based on their size’ on the first night of her world tour

Billie Eilish has addressed the commentary she has faced for choosing not to show her body, in a video interlude shown on the first night of her world tour.

In the clip, the 18-year-old Grammy winner is seen removing her top and lowering herself into black water as she confronts the opposing responses to her trademark loose attire.

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Are laboratory-grown diamonds the more ethical choice to say 'I do'?

Mon, 03/09/2020 - 23:00

In addition to cost savings and supposed environmental benefits, lab-grown diamonds have the same chemical and physical properties as mined diamonds

Alexander Weindling has a fading, black-and-white framed photograph on the desk of his New York City office. It’s of his grandfather, wearing a hat and suit, posing more than a century ago with some of the workers of a diamond mine he oversaw in what was then known as the Belgian Congo.

The mining of diamonds in Africa led to a human rights disaster from colonial times onwards and Weindling, a third-generation diamond and jewelry merchant, uses the incongruity of this photo in the white minimalism of his Tribeca office as a mental spur. That era of diamond mining was “so devastatingly ugly Isis will start looking like good guys,” says Weindling. “It was dreadful. It was criminal. It was unforgivable.”

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I wish everyone raw strength, however they identify | Suzanne Moore

Mon, 03/09/2020 - 21:00

The truth that I take to be self-evident because of the experiences I’ve had is my story. It won’t necessarily be yours

Blood. Unwanted blood. That was the first sign I had that I was a woman.

For me, it was just a period. My mother referred to it as “the curse”. I didn’t put the tampon in properly, so it hurt. Tracking periods never seemed easy: I was too busy; it was always a faff. Thank God that bit of me has gone now. I became something else a while back. My oestrogen levels dropped. What so often defines gender no long defines me and now I wonder if it ever did. My insides don’t match my outsides, that’s for sure.

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'We'll disappear': Thousands of Mexican women strike to protest femicide

Mon, 03/09/2020 - 08:58

Day Without Women protesters aim to shine a light on government inaction as more than ten women are murdered every day

As rush-hour began on Monday morning, there were no ticket-sellers in Mexico City subway stations.

Nor were there female tellers at many of the banks. Nail salons, massage parlors, and hairdressers closed. And in cities across the country, far fewer women were on the streets than on an ordinary day.

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‘It’s so toxic’: why we’re addicted to mean online gossip about women

Sun, 03/08/2020 - 22:45

I used to spend a lot of time reading snarky online comments about other women’s lives – until I decided to put an end to it for my sanity

It’s 3am and I’m on Reddit. I’m reading a thread of comments that number in the thousands, scrolling through missive after missive, unpopular opinions, all. I’m reading about the women on this season for The Bachelor. Some commenters rip apart their fashion choices, others discuss the contestants’ faces, debating endlessly about whether this woman had fillers, that woman had Botox. I’m breastfeeding my baby (it’s the only reason I’m up this late) and while she eats, I’m feeding myself a steady stream of second-hand bile, anger and jealousy.

For months, this is how I entertained myself. In the dark, by the light of my phone, I watched as mobs of anonymous users picked at various women, dissecting their choices and their appearances, all under the guise of enlightened “snark”. They tended to alight on certain types of women, people who were outwardly successful and rather privileged. Affluent, white, blond female writers or influencers, such as Caroline Calloway, Kathleen Hale or (once, way back when) Emily Gould. Writers who were a little snarky themselves, unapologetically critical, sometimes cruel.

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We won’t eradicate FGM if we keep misunderstanding its history | Sada Mire

Sun, 03/08/2020 - 22:00
Despite a century of campaigning the practice persists. But in my work as an archaeologist, I’ve learned how we can end it

This year marks a hundred years of official campaigning against female genital mutilation, a movement which began with an international conference in Egypt in 1920. Yet the practice is still going strong: according to Unicef, 200 million women alive today are affected by it and it is still practised in almost 30 African countries. After so much campaigning, we have to ask: why is FGM not eradicated?

Over the last century there have been numerous global resolutions, and FGM is now acknowledged internationally as a human rights violation. It has been criminalised in several western nations, including the UK, and in 19 African countries, FGM carries some sort of penalty. Media campaigns have helped, including the Guardian’s. And grassroots organisations in the west, in Africa and in other affected countries are fighting the practice incessantly.

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