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'I’ve tried to raise my daughter with feminist values but I’m struggling with her clothes. What do I say?' | Leading questions

Thu, 12/03/2020 - 06:30

The cold truth is there’s nothing your daughter can wear to keep her safe, writes advice columnist Eleanor Gordon-Smith. So give her the message the rest of the world won’t

I’ve tried to raise my daughter with feminist values but I’m struggling with the clothes she wants to wear. She and her friends all like very tight, very short shorts. It’s great that they’re comfortable enough to wear this kind of clothing (I certainly wasn’t at her age) but I’m concerned it will attract attention she isn’t ready for. She’s 13 and her body has changed fast this year.

When we’re out together I see the looks men have started giving her. She doesn’t seem to notice and while I have tried pointing this out to her, she usually rolls her eyes as if my concern is hypocritical and not for her wellbeing. I know if I try to enforce rules it will make her want to break them. Is there a way for me to make her understand that while women should be allowed to wear whatever they want, at this age she isn’t a woman yet, even though she’s starting to look like one?

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As predicted, women are suffering because of the two-child benefits limit | Polly Toynbee

Thu, 12/03/2020 - 05:15

Many pregnant women are choosing termination ahead of a third child, to ward off family poverty

Mothers-of-two finding themselves pregnant again are having terminations , even though they wanted a third child, for fear of impoverishing their family because of the two-child benefit limit. This was entirely predictable.

In these hard times, families unexpectedly crash-landing on to universal credit are discovering the full brutality of Britain’s benefits system, the meanest among comparable European countries. Stripping a third child of any support smacks of China’s former one-child policy, which forced abortions on women pregnant with a second.

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Two-child benefit cap influencing women's decisions on abortion, says BPAS

Wed, 12/02/2020 - 14:01

Charity says policy was important factor in many deciding to terminate pregnancies during the pandemic

The controversial “two-child limit” restricting the amount that larger families can receive in social security benefits was a key factor in many women’s decisions to terminate their pregnancy during the pandemic, according to a leading abortion charity.

The British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS) said over half of the women it surveyed who had an abortion during the pandemic, and who were aware of the two-child limit and likely to be affected by it, said the policy was “important in their decision-making around whether or not to continue the pregnancy.”

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The Guardian view on Poland’s Catholics: losing faith in their church | Editorial

Wed, 12/02/2020 - 08:39

Zealous clerical backing for the government’s culture wars is alienating a growing number of the faithful

During the five years in which the Law and Justice (PiS) party has governed in Poland, the lines between politics and religion have become, to put it mildly, blurred. In a sermon last week, for example, the archbishop of Kraków, Marek Jędraszewski, offered episcopal backing for the government’s refusal to sign off on the European Union’s Covid recovery fund.

By linking the fund to a controversial “rule of law” clause, Archbishop Jędraszewski said, Brussels was seeking to impose a “neo-Marxist vision of a new order that rejects God’s kingdom”. The clause, he claimed, was a Trojan horse that would be used to impose abortion on demand, gender “ideology” in schools and other assorted liberal heresies. Bishops and prelates have also lined up alongside the government during its culture wars over Muslim refugees and LGBTQ+ rights. As clerics and ministers operate in authoritarian symbiosis, Poland has at times resembled a theocracy in the heart of the EU.

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Female trafficking survivors in UK forced into unsafe housing, report finds

Wed, 12/02/2020 - 06:28

Large proportion of victims not placed in specialist safe housing, leaving them vulnerable to further exploitation, says charity

Female trafficking survivors in the UK who have the legal right to be placed in safe housing are being forced to live in “inappropriate and insecure” accommodation where they risk being re-trafficked and exploited, according to a new report.

Anti-trafficking charity Hibiscus Initiatives says that 98% of modern slavery victims referred to it in the past two years were not given specialist safe housing as is their right under UK law, but were instead housed in unsafe asylum accommodation.

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Without Ethel Smyth and classical music's forgotten women, we only tell half the story

Wed, 12/02/2020 - 03:24

Expanding the classical canon brings us incredible music and extraordinary stories, not least that of Ethel Smyth, whose compositions and pioneering energy filled England in the interwar years

In 1934, all of musical England gathered to celebrate the 75th birthday of one the country’s most famous composers – Dame Ethel Smyth. During a festival spanning several months, audiences crowded into the Queen’s Hall, London, to hear her symphonic cantata The Prison, or settled in at home to listen to the BBC broadcasts of her work. At the festival’s final concert in the Royal Albert Hall, the composer sat beside Queen Mary to watch Sir Thomas Beecham conduct her Mass. By this point, Smyth was nearly completely deaf, and could barely hear a note of her own music. But she could understand the uproarious applause that surrounded her when the concert ended, acknowledging the lifetime she had given to music.

After her death in 1944, Smyth spent several decades out of the limelight, but she is now coming back on to concert programmes and recording schedules. The CD release that blew me away this year was Chandos’s world premiere recording of The Prison, delivering stellar performances from Dashon Burton, Sarah Brailey, James Blachly and the Experiential Orchestra and Chorus. And Smyth is not alone in enjoying a resurgence of interest. Thanks to decades of work by campaigners, performers, and musicologists, diversity is now firmly on musicians’ agendas. There’s still a lot of work to be done, but it feels as if we might be reaching a turning point. The BBC and Classic FM have been running programmes about composers of colour, publishers are turning their attention to figures currently absent from their catalogues, and both #MeToo and Black Lives Matter have led to institutions being held to account on their commitments to gender and racial equality.

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Reframe how we talk about miscarriage | Letter

Mon, 11/30/2020 - 07:09

Jean Simons on the Duchess of Sussex’s experience and how we can start a conversation about grief or loss

The Duchess of Sussex deserves every sympathy for revealing her experience of miscarriage, but I remain doubtful that her expressed desire to “normalise conversations around miscarriage” will be easily achieved, given the apparent and continuing “pervasive taboos” around the subject, described by Zeynep Gurtin (Miscarriage is still taboo – which is why Meghan’s words are so powerful, 26 November).

Meghan’s advice to approach anyone suffering grief or loss, rather than ignoring them, and to open an opportunity for them to speak about their experience, is spot-on. But the “three little words” that she advises, “Are you OK?” (Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, reveals she had a miscarriage, 25 November), play into our reluctance to open up about feelings, provoking the response, “Yes, I’m fine”. Reframing those three words into the more open “How are you?” may give a grieving person the sense that you really do want to know, and the confidence to reply honestly.
Jean Simons
Lewisham, London

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What working from home has taught me about my partner and myself | Emma Beddington

Mon, 11/30/2020 - 06:57

Even after 26 years together, Covid life has thrown up surprises – he spends 95% of his days on speakerphone, I need 10 snack meals a day

How has Covid affected our intimate lives? I’m not talking about sex – my family have suffered enough – but has the unrelenting closeness of this year opened or closed up faultlines in our relationships?

It’s complicated. I am, for instance, writing this on the sofa and not at my desk in the bedroom, because my husband is having a siesta with the dog. As an intolerant and prickly cohabitee, I have mixed feelings about this: it’s irritating (I want the desk), a relief (an hour of silence) and delightful (I love this newfound canine-human closeness).

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Period politics is stuck in the past

Sat, 11/28/2020 - 22:45

Scotland’s move to provide free sanitary products is a great step forward, but elsewhere attitudes have not changed since the 80s

Inconvenience is all part of being a woman. As a message to girls still at school, still alive with the energy and optimism to change the world, it’s not the most inspiring take, is it? And yet, in the week that Scotland became the first country in the world to provide free period products – excellent if belated news, more on that in a moment – the vice-principal at an Oxford school sent an email to all of Year 12 last week that took the conversation about periods back to somewhere around 1985.

To her sixth form, Jackie Watson wrote: “Any female student asking to be sent home ‘ill’ or phoning in ‘ill’ who has a period will not find this is a suitable excuse. Learning to deal with monthly inconvenience is all part of being a woman, I’m afraid … unfortunately taking that time off is not how society works.”

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Urgent change needed to stem femicides, says new domestic abuse tsar

Sat, 11/28/2020 - 20:30

The commissioner for England and Wales attacks ‘postcode’ lottery on response to killing of women

The first commissioner for domestic abuse for England and Wales, who will have significant powers once the domestic abuse bill becomes law early next year, has committed to working closely with the campaign to tackle femicide – the killing of women at the hands of men.

At a virtual event last Thursday, attended by more than 600 people, Nicole Jacobs expressed her “sheer frustration” at the “postcode lottery” and lack of a co-ordinated response on the part of agencies to tackle the killing of women. “We all have such an urgency for change” she said.

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Miscarriage is still taboo – which is why Meghan's words are so powerful | Zeynep Gurtin

Thu, 11/26/2020 - 04:44

The mixed reaction to her speaking up proves that there’s a long way to go before women feel comfortable sharing their pain

Yesterday, the Duchess of Sussex became the latest public figure to reveal her membership of a secret club that no one wants to join. In a piece that was rapidly read around the world, Meghan described the July morning on which she suffered the miscarriage of her second pregnancy and the “almost unbearable grief” she and her husband have experienced. “I knew,” she writes, “as I clutched my firstborn child, that I was losing my second.” It is an arresting image, unusual in its representation of the two opposing truths about reproduction – nurturing new life on the one hand, loss and death on the other – in such close proximity to each other.

Although miscarriages are surprisingly common – experienced by approximately one in four women – there continue to be pervasive taboos around the subject. This is partly because around 85% of miscarriages occur within the first trimester, before most women publicly announce their pregnancies. This leaves many, like Meghan, mourning the loss of a much-wanted baby that no one even knew about. The infertility activist Katy Lindemann has called the early months “a sort of Schrödinger’s pregnancy”, when women are expected to hedge their bets and accept miscarriages without a fuss. She points out that the 12-week rule imposes an unnecessary and harmful secrecy around pregnancy loss, leaving women to cope alone just when they most need support and community.

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Saudi women's rights activist's trial moved to terrorism court

Wed, 11/25/2020 - 08:58

Loujain al-Hathloul looked weak and unwell after 900 days in jail, said her family

Saudi Arabia has moved the trial of activist Loujain al-Hathloul to a special court that handles terrorism cases, a move condemned by human rights campaigners as a heavy-handed attempt to muzzle dissent.

Hathloul has been in jail without trial for over 900 days now, and her family said she looked weak and unwell at a rare court appearance on Wednesday, her body shaking and her voice faint.

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'Shadow pandemic' of violence against women to be tackled with $25m UN fund

Wed, 11/25/2020 - 04:10

At least 30% will go to the women-led grassroots organisations that have been ‘critical’ through Covid pandemic

The UN is to spend $25m (£19m) from its emergency fund to address what has been called the “shadow pandemic” of gender-based violence against women displaced by wars and disasters.

The money will be divided between the UN population fund (UNFPA) and UN Women, and at least 30% of it must be given to women-led local organisations that prevent violence and help survivors access medical and legal help, family planning, mental health services and counselling.

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Welsh commissioner offers funding to help staff leave abusive relationships

Tue, 11/24/2020 - 14:01

Pioneering scheme will provide grants or loans to help pay for relocation or essential supplies

People who work for a Welsh commissioner will be eligible for financial support to leave an abusive relationship, in a pioneering scheme designed to break down a key barrier that stops domestic abuse survivors escaping.

The Welsh future generations commissioner, Sophie Howe, has launched a policy, believed to be the first in Wales and possibly in the UK, giving staff suffering domestic abuse access to a grant or loan.

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I'm in my 40s, please stop asking me why I don't have children | Janet Sewell

Sun, 11/22/2020 - 06:30

Probing questions about my decision not to have kids exact an emotional toll. Happiness comes in many forms

At my mother’s funeral I was holding my 11-month-old nephew when a family friend asked: “When are you going to have children?” He’s the kindest man but the question felt like a sledgehammer blow.

It’s a question I get a lot and I am sick of answering it. You feel like you have to divulge details of your personal life to satisfy someone else’s curiosity. I have worked hard to not care what other people think of me but some people assume that I still live like a 20-year-old when I’m in my 40s.

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Criminalise public sexual harassment in UK, charities say

Sun, 11/22/2020 - 05:55

A fifth of girls and women aged between 14 and 21 experienced street harassment during spring lockdown, poll finds

Girls’ rights groups are calling for public sexual harassment to be criminalised in the UK after research suggested more than half of young women and girls were harassed on the street during the summer.

A fifth (19%) of young women and girls aged between 14 and 21 experienced being catcalled, followed, groped, flashed or upskirted during the spring lockdown, according to polling by children’s charity Plan International and campaign group Our Streets Now.

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New equalities commissioner attacked ‘modern feminism’ and #MeToo

Sat, 11/21/2020 - 22:00

Jessica Butcher claimed ‘victimhood narrative’ disempowered women, and disputed reasons for gender pay gap

One of the government’s newly appointed equality commissioners said that modern feminism disempowers women and blamed the MeToo movement for ruining men’s reputations without due process, the Observer can reveal.

Jessica Butcher, a successful digital entrepreneur, was last week appointed as one of four new commissioners at the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) by Liz Truss, the minister for women and equalities.

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Biden's likely pick to lead the Pentagon isn't a win for feminism | Arwa Mahdawi

Sat, 11/21/2020 - 04:00

Michèle Flournoy might become the first woman in charge of the Pentagon, but it seems unlikely she’ll do anything to actually change US foreign policy for the better

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African governments failing girls on equality, report finds

Fri, 11/20/2020 - 21:30

Girls are made to marry too young, excluded from healthcare and are sexually exploited, says African Child Policy Forum

Girls in Africa are being “condemned to a lifetime of discrimination and inequality” due to government failures, according to new data.

Ranking 52 countries in the continent according to how “girl-friendly” they are, a report published on Friday by advocacy group African Child Policy Forum (ACPF) found they were routinely denied education; made to marry too young; endured sexual, physical and emotional abuse at home, work and school; were excluded from healthcare; and were unable to own or inherit property.

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Respect and value girls – they can transform Africa's security and prosperity | Graça Machel

Fri, 11/20/2020 - 21:30

Investment in girls brings socioeconomic benefits, but too many countries lack the political will to bring about equality of opportunity

By 2050, Africa will be home to around half a billion girls and young women. If respected and treated as equals, they have the potential to transform the continent’s security and prosperity. This matters because every penny invested in girls’ education, healthcare and social protection benefits society many times over, while failure to invest in girls results in monumental socioeconomic losses.

Child marriage alone has resulted in human capital and revenue losses equivalent to three times the entire flow of international aid into the continent. As a mother and grandmother, it weighs heavily on me to see millions of girls robbed of their futures and the potential of our continent diminished.

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