This weekend was UK Feminista’s annual conference. This is not the first time that I have spent a weekend away at a UK Feminista event: in the summer I attended Summer School in Birmingham (www.glasgowfeministnetwork.org.uk/blog/summer-school-take-two/) and I hoped that the conference would be more of the same.
Held in central London the proceedings started with UK Feminista’s founder Kat Banyard giving a rallying opening speech about feminism today, which included urging us to support local occupy movements. Also giving opening remarks was Sandi Toksvig, who followed proudly declaring that she was a feminist by doing a very funny turn on the invisibility of women throughout history and literature. My only small complaint, which I think was shared amongst other conference goers, was the emphasis on pop science to explain the biological differences between women and men. Although sometimes amusing the hints of biological reductivism and old school gender stereotyping sat uncomfortably with a conference full of feminists.
I attended the morning workshop on body image by Endangered. This was a great (and completely packed workshop) on their new campaign ‘Ditch the Dieting’. The workshop was short on campaign details but huge on participation in the form of an audience ‘speak out’ about their own experiences of body image especially in relation to dieting. Most of these stories were similar; some were funny but others were shocking and upsetting, including testimonies from women suffering eating disorders. Most women seemed to feel damaged by the diet industry and the constant negative messages about weight and their looks. It was moving to see what was a slow workshop to begin with become a harmony of outrage at the diet industry and media. The important message from this session was that the negativity we all seemed to have internalised about our bodies is harmful, hateful and needs to be ignored. As a representative from Endangered said this wasn’t some flimsy issue about girl’s magazines this is a serious concern that harms women. Endangered has some great videos and resources on their website and I urge you to have a look: http://www.endangeredspecieswomen.org.uk/
After lunch (of Krispy Kremes – making full use of being in London!) I attended White Ribbon’s session on engaging men in feminism. This was an interesting session although it was short on input from the White Ribbon representative and focused more on (much too large) discussion groups. White Ribbon has an annual day of Activism on the 25th of November. For more information see their website: http://www.whiteribboncampaign.co.uk/
The most overwhelming thing about UK Feminista’s conference, as with their Summer School, is the opportunity to meet so many other feminists. Sometime being a feminist can be isolating as I regularly come into contact with people who subscribe to negative myths and stereotypes. However, this conference has a feeling of a safe space where everyone broadly thinks along similar lines. Liberty’s director Shami Chakrabarti used this bravely during the panel session by being willing to air her doubts and unanswered questions to push the boundaries of agreement in the room.
The panel session was followed by a London Mayoral hustings (with the notably absence of Boris). As a Scot on my 4th visit to London, who is still confused by where the tube goes never mind the transport policies behind it, I didn’t think I would be too interested in this session. However I stuck around for the big names of Ken, Brian and the impeccable chair Samira Ahmed and found it quite interesting to see political big hitters questioned on important feminist issues. Another interesting experience for me was adventures on twitter (ScotFeminista). I’m a total Twitter novice but it’s fantastically addictive. It was great to see when a comment particularly hit home by the number of re-tweets. For instance ‘The problem with the government isn’t that they’re not women, it’s that they’re Tories” (damn straight Zoe Williams).
UK Feminista’s conference was less practically minded than Summer School which left me with a fantastic tool kit of ideas to take back to Glasgow. Nonetheless, having open and important feminist discussions with 1000 similarly minded women is always worth the train ride!
This is a concise and interesting video about the way women are portrayed in the media, and how characters are frequently scripted as extreme, ridiculous, over-the-top… in order to paint feminism as an unnecessary and absurd movement. This was posted on our Facebook page, too – I found it really interesting, and I hope you all do too!
Tropes vs. Women: The Straw Feminists
Here’s a link to an interesting blog post about the Guardian and its recent decision to ignore the statistics for rape conviction rates, in favour of publishing a more positive – though utterly misleading – statistic which lumps statistics for all ‘sexual offenses’ together.
This means that the Guardian will publish the rate conviction rate at a still-paltry 13%, rather than then actual 6.5% at which it stands.
A draft resolution passed by the Council of Europe equal opportunities committee could see doctors and midwives banned from telling pregnant women the sex of their unborn baby. As this resolution would cover the 47 member states, it would be applied to the NHS here in Britain. The idea behind this resolution is that it would stop ‘selective abortions’ based on gender.
The first question to this is whether gender-based abortion an issue in Europe, as it is in other countries, where aborting girls is commonplace and boys are much more desired and valued? I don’t have statistics for European abortion rates, but I wouldn’t have thought that it was anywhere near as prevalent here as it is in other parts of the world.
Another question raised is this: will not finding out the sex of your baby before birth acutally make any difference to people’s gender-focused prejudices, or would it instead lead to an increase in infant mortality as girl babies are killed shortly after birth, by parents who were hoping she were a boy? Wouldn’t it be better to try to change the attitudes of people, and fight to make sure that girl babies were valued as much as boys, so that pregnant women could know the sex of their unborn child without it making a difference as to much the child was wanted? The problem is not with individual mothers and what they do with the information they are given, but rather with the societies surrounding them which ingrain the idea that boy babies are more worthy than girls.
This resolution threatens to be nothing more than another limit on the reproductive rights of women (already currently under attack in Britain, thanks to Dorries and her proposals). Why should a doctor or nurse (or, more accurately, a committee in the European Union) be allowed to withhold information about a woman’s pregnancy?
This kind of resolution is short-sighted and does nothing to challenge the embedded social problems and gender-stereotypes that are the real issue in gender-based abortions: the problem is not that the expectant mother is allowed to know she is having a girl, but rather that having a girl should be seen as a problem or a burden. In any society where a boy baby is preferred to a girl, waiting until the moment of birth to find out the sex is not going to change any feeling of disappointment or burden associated with having a girl.
What do you think? Is withholding the sex of the baby until birth a good idea – will it make a difference to how people in male-focused societies view their new-born daughters, and is this a resolution we need in Europe? Please feel free to comment below, we’d love to know your thoughts.
I really love our new website. Sometimes I just come on over to have a look at it! Anyway, I made it so that’s why I love it, but I hope everyone else loves it too – we’ve tried to keep it user friendly and well set-out, and we’ve hopefully got all the info needed on it. I think we’ll be setting up a gallery on it, and eventually a forum when we’ve got enough web traffic coming our way.
Speaking of web traffic, we need to get up as high as possible on the Google search listings, so when people search for ,eventually the first link they see will be to the website. From my understanding, the best way to do this is to get a lot of traffic coming here and have other people linking to us. So, if you have a spare ten seconds online at any point (you can do this as much as you like) come onto the website – OR, anytime you do a Google search, search for the website too, and slowly but surely we should start seeing our ratings come up.
On the subject of the website, we’d like to take a wee minute to give a huge thanks to Jamie McHale who was our web-advisor guru and helped out in every step of building the website. He answered a hundred questions, pointed us in the right direction and fixed our (my) mistakes. I’ve yet to receive an invoice for his help, but he does actually do this professionally so if you need any help with your own website, he comes very highly recommended! You can find him at www.telaco.com as well as on Facebook and Twitter. The website might never have come to fruition without his help, and it is very much appreciated!
So there you go sistas… keep checking our blog and Twitter (or you can do both at the same time on the website!) and we’ll keep you in the loop about all our events, meetings and campaigns.
I thought I’d try and get a few more blog posts up and running seeing as it’s been a while since anything was published, so I thought I’d stick up a few shorter posts linking into other things you might have heard about.
Number 1 on the list for today is the news that the US TV show Girls Gone Wild is planning its first UK tour and will be aired on Sky. If you’re unfamiliar with the concept of the show, this is it in a nutshell: a camera crew go round clubs and bars and, in exchange for free GGW t-shirts, caps, nipple tassels and 30 seconds of dubious glory, they persuade women to flash, dance, strip, kiss each other, and fake sex acts. From what I understand, GGW is huge in the US and women need little persuasion to showcase their skills for the cameras.
If you think you can stomach it, you can see an average clip here
There is a campaign running to stop the UK tour from being allowed – if you follow this link
you can download a standard letter and send it onto your MPs
, Councils, Sky TV and anyone else you think is appropriate. Hopefully it’s not too late to stop this women-hating trash ‘entertainment’ from being giving air time in the UK.
Spread the word!