Just finished reading an interview in the Sunday Herald with Nicola Sturgeon. She leads the Yes Scotland campaign for independence, as well as being deputy leader of the Scottish National Party and a big part of her job is utilizing social media to connect with voters. Apparently she receives a lot of abuse, up to and including death threats, while doing so, particularly via Twitter. I just find this unbelievable. Most importantly, I find it pretty disgusting that people use the internet as a shield to hide behind while they spread their vicious hate – it’s cowardly, irritating and just plain childish. The internet has such great potential for spreading knowledge, and ‘love’ (forgive me for my hippie moment), it seems such a terrible shame to waste that opportunity by using the incredible resource that we’re lucky to have to try and hurt others. Don’t people have better things to do with their time? But it also occurred to me, if you do insist on using your Twitter account or any form of online communication to make someone else’s day just a little bit more miserable, why not target your anger at someone who might actually deserve it? Send an angry email to the companies who try and keep homosexuality out of video games, or those who run adverts discriminating against women. Tweet a racist football player. Not a politician who is trying to do her job, and in her view at least, try and make Scotland into a better place. Considering all the benefits that her party have brought to Scotland, I’m thinking that perhaps she’s not doing such a bad job, and even for those who clearly disagree, can it really be argued that her work has been so terrible she deserve to die for it? There are much worthier candidates of the anger channeled towards her. I am in no way encouraging anyone to go and abuse others over the internet, or in any other way for that matter, but if you do insist on wasting your time in this way, why not actually do it in a way that might make a difference, or pick a target a little more deserving? You’ll still be a bit of a git if you ask me, but at least you’ll be a git with a decent cause.
“If ‘pro’ is the opposite of ‘con’ what is the opposite of ‘progress’?”
We had our first debate last night. And when I got onto the stage, I met this very spirited fellow who claimed to be Mitt Romney. But it couldn’t have been Mitt Romney—because the real Mitt Romney has been running around the country for the last year promising $5 trillion in tax cuts that favor the wealthy. The fellow on stage last night said he didn’t know anything about that.
The real Mitt Romney said we don’t need any more teachers in our classrooms. But the fellow on stage last night, he loves teachers—can’t get enough of them. The Mitt Romney we all know invested in companies that were called “pioneers” of outsourcing jobs to other countries. But the guy on stage last night, he said that he doesn’t even know that there are such laws that encourage outsourcing—he’s never heard of them. Never heard of them. Never heard of tax breaks for companies that ship jobs overseas. He said that if it’s true, he must need a new accountant.
Now, we know for sure it was not the real Mitt Romney, because he seems to be doing just fine with his current accountant. So you see, the man on stage last night, he does not want to be held accountable for the real Mitt Romney’s decisions and what he’s been saying for the last year. And that’s because he knows full well that we don’t want what he’s been selling for the last year. So Governor Romney may dance around his positions, but if you want to be President, you owe the American people the truth.
President Obama in Denver, CO today (source)
A truly brave woman. Its examples like these, this level of commitment, bravery and professionalism that people should aspire to, at least in my opinion. This soldier is an inspiration, and a woman whose name should be remembered.
To get into the UN Commission on the Status of Women, you have to get past several ranks of large armed men. In the foyer, you can buy UN women-themed hats and tote bags, and pick up glossy pamphlets about this year’s International Women’s Day, but what you can’t pick up is the slightest sense of urgency. In the 101 years since the first International Women’s Day, all the passionate politics seems to have been leached out of the women’s movement.
International Women’s Day began as a day of rebellion and outlandish demands – Equal pay! Votes for women! Reproductive rights! – but 101 years later, judging by the invitations in my email inbox, it seems to be more about jazzy corporate lunches, poetry competitions and praising our valued sponsors. At the UN, in a session on body image and the media, delegates (who are meeting this week) applauded politely as a promotional anti-airbrushing video by Dove cosmetics was shown. Cabinet Minister Lynne Featherstone gave a speech in which she condemned the “distorted image of beauty” offered by cosmetics advertisers, and lauded the efforts Dove has apparently made to change this while selling body lotion at £7.49 a tube.
The British delegates present failed entirely to mention that Featherstone is part of a government responsible for putting more women out of work than at any point since records began. Lynne Featherstone and Dove cosmetics claim to be on the side of “real” women, but one suspects that the single mothers whose benefits are about to be cut and the domestic violence victims whose refuges are being closed may not find that prospect terribly comforting.
A huge cultural change is taking place all over the world right now. Over the past year, from the Arab Spring uprisings to the global anti-corporate occupations, young people and workers have realised that they were flogged a false dream of prosperity in return for quiet obedience, exhausting, precarious jobs and perpetual debt – most of it shouldered by women, whose low-status, low-paid and unpaid work has driven the expansion of exploitative markets across the world. Equality, like prosperity, was supposed to trickle down, but not a lot can trickle down through a glass ceiling.
Women, like everyone else, have been duped. We have been persuaded over the past 50 years to settle for a bland, neoliberal vision of what liberation should mean. Life may have become a little easier in that time for white women who can afford to hire a nanny, but the rest of us have settled for a cheap, knock-off version of gender revolution. Instead of equality at work and in the home, we settled for “choice”, “flexibility” and an exciting array of badly paid part-time work to fit around childcare and chores. Instead of sexual liberation and reproductive freedom, we settled for mitigated rights to abortion and contraception that are constantly under attack, and a deeply misogynist culture that shames us if we’re not sexually attractive, dismisses us if we are, and blames us if we are raped or assaulted, as one in five of us will be in our lifetime.
Feminism, however, has not been a sustained part of this mood of popular indignation. Not yet. One year ago in Tahrir Square, women marching on International Women’s Day were sexually and physically assaulted by some of the same men they had stood side by side with during the overthrow of Hosni Mubarak. Meanwhile, with women and girls bearing the brunt of the financial crisis across the world, the biggest discussions of women’s role in the Occupy movement have focused on how to protect them from rapes that have occurred in the protest camps. This week, though, we’ve seen the first inklings of a women’s fightback that is a little less delicate and demure.
What would a radical women’s fightback look like? It might look a little bit like hundreds of women and men linking arms on the steps of the Capitol building in the US state of Virginia, where lawmakers are attempting to force women seeking abortions to submit to trans-vaginal ultrasounds – being penetrated with a medical rod – before they can have the procedure.
Last week, riot police in full armour were dispatched to drag the Occupy Virginia protesters to jail as they demanded an end to this insulting attack on women’s right to choose. Female protesters are currently being processed by Virginia courts on charges of trespass.
What would a daring feminist cultural shift look like? It might look like two young mothers in a Moscow jail, arrested for flash-mobbing churches with short skirts, guitars and an agenda against corruption and institutional sexism. The members of the punk-rock girl band “Pussy Riot” are currently on hunger strike, after being imprisoned for singing rude songs about Vladimir Putin in public. They face jail-time of up to seven years. It seems that as soon as women stop asking politely for the change we want to see, the crackdowns come quick and hard.
Politeness is a habit that what’s left of the women’s movement needs to grow out of. Most women grow up learning, directly or indirectly, how to be polite, how to defer, how to be good employees, mothers and wives, how to shop sensibly and get a great bikini body. We are taught to stay off the streets, because it’s dangerous after dark. Politeness, however, has bought even the luckiest of us little more than terminal exhaustion, a great shoe collection, and the right to be raped by the state if we need an abortion. If we want real equality, we’re going to have to fight for it.
Like the suffragettes and socialists who called the first International Women’s Day over a century ago, women who believe in a better world are going to have to start thinking in deeds, not words. With women under attack financially, socially and sexually across the developed and developing world, with assaults on jobs, welfare, childcare, contraception and the right to choose, the time for polite conversation is over. It’s time for anger. It’s time for daring, direct action, big demands, big dreams. The men who still run the world from boardrooms and government offices have become too used to not being afraid of what women will do if we are attacked, used and exploited. We must make them afraid.
Deeds, not words. Fewer business lunches, more throwing punches. Of course, there will be consequences. Those large armed men aren’t just there for decoration, and the suffragettes who had their breasts twisted and their bones broken in prison 101 years ago knew that full well. But they also knew what we must now begin to remember – that the consequences of staying quiet and ladylike are always far more serious.
Within the last few days, here in Scotland, Dennis Roberston, a member of the Scottish Parliament gave an emotional and moving speech to raise awareness for eating disorders. Last year, the MSP’s daughter died at the age of 19 due to anorexia, and so this important issue is especially close to Roberston’s heart. Particularly pertinent as it is both Eating Disorder Awareness week, and the anniversary of his daughter’s death, Robertson called on the government to encourage GPs to be more aware of eating disorders, and to develop ways in which to diagnose and treat these mental health problems. He also promoted National UK-based charity Beat which tries to raise the profile of eating disorders and support victims, and their loved ones.
It is shocking how many young girls and boys suffer from anorexia. People forget that mental health problems have serious repercussions for the victims, and everyone surrounding them. Raising awareness is crucial, as the earlier these illness are caught and treated, the more chance the sufferer has to recover. Body acceptance is one of the most important lessons that a child can be taught, and we all have a responsibility to teach it.
This example – Dennis Roberston’s determination to prevent more teenage girls suffering from the same fate as his daughter – displays why I feel that Scotland should be an independent country. With full powers, access to our own resources, and the ability to make every decision ourselves, the Scottish Parliament will be better positioned to tackle the problems it sees as high-priority.
I’d have loved to post the video of Dennis Robertson speaking in the parliament, but unfortunately the BBC does not allow such things. Therefore, it can be found here – http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-scotland-politics-17125606.
I hope everyone can take the time to watch it, or even promote Eating Disorder Week in some way. This is such a crucial issue, and the more attention brought to it, the better.