Starving British children are looking for food in rubbish bins [#quickhit: link]

British children are sifting through bins left outside houses in search of scraps of food because they are starving, it has been revealed.

But Tories and their supporters in rich London won’t have to look at them – because they are in Labour-held Stoke-on-Trent.

The Stoke Sentinel reported that “Youngsters have been searching through bins in the Hollings Street and Brocksford Street area of Fenton before eating any leftovers.”

It said, “Dozens of hungry families are referred to Fenton’s food bank for help every week.”

What’s really sad about this story is that some of the people interviewed seemed to think the problem was with the mess left behind by these children – youngsters who are, remember, so hungry that they are rooting through rubbish for stale leftovers.

One said: “It’s horrible to see… Some days on the school run we have had to actually cross over the road because there’s so much rubbish on the pavement because of this. Luckily I keep my bins to one side so we haven’t been too badly affected.”

On Vox Political.

Jesus H.

Parliament is sexist, masculine and out of date, say British women

Follow-up poll about who is surprised reveals less striking results.

On the Observer: Outdated, ruthless, rich and male: that is women’s overwhelming and damning view of Westminster, according to a survey by the parenting website Mumsnet.

In a questionnaire that brings home just how disenchanted many female voters are with the current parliament, nine out of 10 of Mumsnet’s members, who are 97% female, say they believe the political culture there to be sexist, while two-thirds believe success in politics is all down to what school or university you went to and the “old boys’ network”.

“It’s quite stark,” said Mumsnet founder Justine Roberts. “Of course I would say, yes, we know a lot of this, but the clarity of these results, the overwhelming strength of feeling, are quite remarkable.”

When asked which characteristics would be advantageous in politics, 94% of respondents said ambition, 92% cited social connections, 86% said ruthlessness, 84% said being well-off, and 78% said being male.

Rest on The Observer.

We need more women in politics

Feminist Times: Following the West Midlands Feminist Times panel and Q&A event “Do we need more women in politics“, we are publishing the speeches of some of the panelists. First we hear from Ruth Jones OBE.

Do we need more women in politics? The answer of course is yes! I would like to think that this is obvious if only on the basis of equality, but even if we had an equal number of men and women in politics this would still not be representative of the population. The 2011 census showed a population of 56.1 million in England and Wales. 27.6 million were male and 28.5 female. This equates to almost a million more women than men in England and Wales and yet these women are overwhelmingly represented by men in politics. The majority are represented by the minority. A UN report of women in global politics launched as part of International Women’s Day 2014 showed that the UK had 650 MPs with 147 (22.6%) being women. This ranks us 65th of 189 countries.

It has been suggested that women do not get involved in politics. I beg to differ. The reality is that few women are elected but many are political and this has always been the case. Take my subject for instance (Gender Based Violence). Women lobbied for over two hundred years to get successive governments to take gender based violence (GBV) seriously. This gradually resulted in changes to legislation, the implementation of policy and more recently to funding for services. Women are political. So why aren’t there more women in politics and why don’t more women vote?

More women are not in politics due to a number of issues that include the structure in which politics operates which is patriarchal in nature and is a public sphere. Political life is structured around unsociable, long hours that don’t make it easy for women with caring responsibilities in a society in which women don’t ‘have it all’ but have to ‘do it all’. Political women also need to feel confident in having a voice. Historian Mary Beard has highlighted how women’s voices have been silenced and/or ridiculed. Recent comments aimed at women by politicians include the patronising ‘sit down dear’ (David Cameron, 2011), the idea that “there is a danger this feminism thing is getting a bit ludicrous” (Douglas Hurd, 2014). Women in politics have to be thick skinned and determined.

When women do get into politics, they have historically been given what is commonly termed ‘soft portfolios’ based on ‘women’s issues’. While I believe (and evidence shows) that such issues would not be addressed without women MPs, I also argue that issues termed ‘women’s issues’ such as GBV are everyone’s issues and every issue is a women’s issue. By separating ‘women’s issues’ we are colluding with discrimination. It is not ‘women’s issues’ that are missing from politics but women’s perspectives on a multitude of issues.

Rest: Feminist Times.

End Sexual Violence in Conflict: An interview with Women for Women International

The recent sexual violence in conflict summit has brought about a welcome and renewed discussion of this issue. Below, Jude Wanga speaks to Carron Mann, Women for Women International UK‘s Policy Director, for Feminist Times.

This week’s End Sexual Violence in Conflict Summit has had a huge focus on conflicts since Bosnia in 1992. There have been numerous events focusing on Rwanda, Congo, Kosovo, the Balkan War and Afghanistan. Many of these nations are recovering from a major conflict and are in the process of adjusting to peacetime, whereas Congo is, though technically in peacetime, still in the grip of conflict. I wanted to explore the similarities that these conflicts had, but also the differences. Why do some of these areas get more coverage, awareness and support than others- and did the international community prioritise some conflict nations over others? The conflict in DRC is the deadliest conflict since World War Two. But casualty estimates are often conservative, and sexual violence figures that are under reported.

All conflicts are, obviously, different. Their origins are different,  and the obstacles to resolution are different, too. However, the exclusion of women from resolution and community stands in the way of community peace-building. This situation is built on gender inequality before the conflict – patriarchy is a worldwide problem, before, during and after war.

I spoke to Carron Mann, Women for Women International UK‘s Policy Director about these areas.

Rest: Feminist Times.

One third of Britons ‘admit being racially prejudiced’ [#quickhit: image]

One third of Britons 'admit being racially prejudiced'

One third of Britons ‘admit being racially prejudiced’

So the percentage of people who admit to being “somewhat” racist hasn’t changed hugely in 30 years (but that’s a fascinating finding in itself – so much for multiculturalism, etc.). Still, though, if you’re looking for quick explanations, 30% goes some way to explaining UKIP’s recent sweeps in the elections.

From the BBC:

Nearly a third of people in Britain admit being racially prejudiced, research has suggested. Social research organisation NatCen said the proportion had increased since the start of the century, returning to the level of 30 years ago. Its British Social Attitudes survey found 30% of more than 2,000 people polled described themselves as either “very” or “a little” race prejudiced.

NatCen chief executive Penny Young said the findings were “troubling”. The survey revealed that prejudice had risen since an all-time low of 25% of people in 2001. It also found wide variations currently across the country: 16% of people in inner London admitted to prejudice but the figure was 35% in the West Midlands. Older men in manual jobs were the most likely to say they were prejudiced, but the group recording the biggest rise was educated male professionals. Levels of racial prejudice increased with age, at 25% for 17- to 34-year-olds compared with 36% for over-55s. Education had an impact with 19% of those with a degree and 38% of those with no qualifications reporting racial prejudice. [Rest.]

“That a secret fraternity is a breeding ground for rape culture is worrisome…

That a secret fraternity is a breeding ground for rape culture is worrisome, but that it’s happening right in our nation’s capital makes that even harder to stomach. According to Erin Gloria Ryan’s research, one of the men in this email chain now works for a “prominent congressman.” Judging by how much rape culture permeates the political scene in the U.S., with influential politicians saying things like, “Rape is kinda like the weather. If it’s inevitable, just relax and enjoy it,” or that certain forms of sexual assault should be legal, it’s no surprise many women still feel like DC will never stop being an old boys club. Of course not all men (or fraternities) promote rape, but it’s troubling to see so many that do.

Leaked Emails From American University Frat Reveal Prevalence of Rape Culture in U.S. Capital, PolicyMic

What is the prison industrial complex?

The Prison Industrial Complex (PIC) is a term used to describe the overlapping interests of government and industry that use surveillance, policing and imprisonment as solutions to economic, social and political problems.

The Prison Industrial Complex is not just prisons themselves, it is a mutually reinforcing web of relationships, between and not limited to, for example, prisons, the probation service, the police, the courts, all the companies that profit from transporting, feeding and exploiting prisoners.

On downsizingcriminaljustice (which is a blog you should follow, if you’re interested in that sort of thing, by the way).

Sunday feminist roundup (13th April 2014)

And here’s what else I’ve been reading this week.

- The Government has a women problem – and its down to the feminist men to fix it (the guardian)

- Fox News Hails Doctor Who Said Gay Rights Lead to Child Molestation (mother jones). Sweet Lord.

- How the Cult of Internet Openness Enables Misogyny (mother jones)

- Equality for women isn’t an optional extra (observer)

- What Needs to be Done to End Corrective Rape by @not_alone_uk (aroomofourown)

- Vintage homophobia: Tips for when you meet a lesbian from 1988 (feministing). Can’t actually figure out if this is for realz or not.

- Stop telling survivors they must report to the police (feministing)

- Rape is only ever enjoyed by rapists (content note for rape) (everydayvictimblaming)

- The art of embellishing the histrionics of Pistorius (everydayvictimblaming)

- Good Intentions Don’t Make Sexism OK (lipmag)

- Feminism is not an extreme term, says Penny Wong (guardian)

- What would you do if you needed an abortion in a country where it’s outlawed? (feministe)

- Defining “Real” Feminism: A response to Natasha Devon (elegantgatheringofwhitesnows)

- The Hypocrisy of the Male Gaze (dietofbrokenbiscuits)

- Legal abortions – a case of women’s human rights (thefword)

A lack of mothers in the cabinet is bad for everyone – not just lefty feminists

In the tumultuous few days after Maria Miller had delivered her grudging apology to the House of Commons and before she realised she had no option but to resign as culture secretary, a number of people opined that Cameron was hanging on to her “because she was a woman”. Nonsense. He may have been hanging on to her because he was a man who was painfully aware that he did not have many women in his cabinet. But that’s quite a different point, in an important way.

“Because she is a woman” implies that it’s easy for women to get on in politics, simply by virtue of their gender. Such an idea is backed up neither by the entire history of parliamentary politics in Britain, which has been shaped by men, for men, nor by the current gender balance in the Commons, which stands at nearly four to one (in favour of men, in case you were wondering). Under these historical and contemporary circumstances, women can only succeed in parliamentary politics if men agree that it is important for them to be allowed to. Saying that Cameron supported Miller “because she was a woman” is a destructive way of acknowledging that Cameron realises that this is the case.

On The Guardian.

The working classes don’t want to be ‘hard-working families’

Do any of us really identify ourselves as members of “hard-working families”? As a rhetorical label used by Labour politicians, it is not winning votes, as critics have pointed out. In a country where 70% of us still identify as working class, most people would agree with Len McCluskey that “ordinary, working class” is a better description of the majority of voters.

“Hard-working families” implies we’re only entitled to citizenship (or, as the Tories would have it, the odd game of bingo) if we can prove we’re working our fingers to the bone. But no one can work all the time: if you’re a pensioner, a single parent, sick, or there is no work to be had, then you’re in trouble. And most of us know this, because we’re related to them. Sit my extended family around a table and you’d have white- and blue-collar workers, the sick, the old, people in council housing, and families with two cars and a nice house but large debts to pay for them. This is replicated all over Britain. There is no static “underclass” and neither is there a robust middle class: instead, there are a lot of people who have to work for a living and, because of that fact, choose to identify as working class.

There’s another reason why the appeal to “hard-working families” is an empty abstraction. Most people don’t see hard work as a virtue. They identify as working class because they have to work, not because they want to. Two recurring conversations within my family and among the people I spoke to for my book The People are what they’d do if they won the lottery, and how they can afford to spend less time at work and more with those they love. This is a sensible attitude. Hard work causes stress, poor health and early death. And hard work has never solved poverty. We work longer hours now than we’ve done for 50 years, yet the gap between the rich and poor has never been wider.

On the Guardian.

Habiba Sarabi: ‘To be in Afghan politics as a woman is a risky task’

politics - old woman votes in Afghan election (democracy)

Picture from twitter: pajhwok

As the only woman on a credible ticket in Afghanistan’s presidential elections next month, Habiba Sarabi is courting the ire of the world’s most dangerous extremists. But she has become so used to death threats that she is almost blasé about her personal safety.

“Of course, to be in politics as a woman is a risky task,” she says, calmly. “But we have to take the risk, otherwise we cannot achieve our goal. We cannot expect that everything can be soft or everything can be clear on our way.”

The threats have become part of her existence since she was minister for women in Hamid Karzai’s government, and later as the country’s first female provincial governor. Standing as the second vice-president for Mr Karzai’s favoured candidate, Zalmai Rassoul, is hardly running for the top job. But her presence on one of the leading presidential campaigns is a source of anger to the Taliban, who have pledged to do everything in their power to disrupt the elections on 5 April. It is not just being a woman in politics that makes Dr Sarabi a target but the fact that she is Hazara – an ethnic group that has historically been downtrodden in Afghan society.

On The Independent.

Britain is going backwards on violence against women

On the Guardian:

[...]

Women who have been abused, who have lived in a refuge, often have to leave with nothing,” says the charity’s chief executive Naomi Ridley. They are already demoralised and lack self-esteem; their abusive partner may tell them they will have no financial security if they leave. Women who have children particularly fear walking out and ending up in a home with no amenities. On average, it takes seven attempts for a woman to leave an abusive relationship, and financial worry is one reason it can be so difficult. But, through the support scheme, Ridley’s charity can give women independence. One woman with two children fled an abusive relationship and, after getting in touch, was given bedding, a cooker and a fridge so that she could provide meals for her family.

Next year, this £347m local welfare assistance fund will be scrapped. If councils wish to maintain these services, it will have to come out of their core grants – but given the continuing cuts to local authorities, the money will simply not be there. And if you think it is just the left in uproar, think again – even many of the government’s own supporters are appalled. The Conservative head of the Local Government Association, Sir Merrick Cockell, has said that the fund provides “crucial support to people facing personal crises in their lives, from help paying the rent to putting food on the table”, describing the move as “extremely disappointing”. Conservative-run West Sussex county council calls it a “cut too far”. But the government is counting on the victims being too silent – or ignored – for anybody to notice.

The scale of domestic violence in this country is frightening. The national charity Women’s Aid estimates that 1.2 million women experienced it last year, and that one in four women will suffer it in their lifetime. Up to two women are killed by a current or ex-partner each week, and though most incidents are not reported, police receive a domestic violence-related phone call every 30 seconds. Violence against women is a pandemic, and needs to be treated as such. But the impending scrapping of the local welfare assistance fund comes on top of other attacks on women facing domestic violence. [Rest.]

hillary

Over the past six years, America’s conversation about race has shifted in response to the election of President Obama. Meanwhile, national conversations about sexism, which sprung up most recently during Hillary Clinton’s 2008 presidential campaign, have sometimes taken a backseat. But with poll after poll showing that Clinton would be a strong frontrunner for the 2016 presidential race, critics and media analysts alike are already struggling to cover the former secretary of state without falling into sexist tropes.

Just this week, the Chicago Sun-Times‘ new political website Early & Often ran a profile on her ”many facial expressions,” many of them intended to be comical or absurd; it’s hard to imagine a male politician getting the same treatment. [Rest.]

via rhrealitycheck.

“You may not agree with a woman, but to criticize her appearance…

You may not agree with a woman, but to criticize her appearance — as opposed to her ideas or actions — isn’t doing anyone any favors, least of all you. Insulting a woman’s looks when they have nothing to do with the issue at hand implies a lack of comprehension on your part, an inability to engage in high-level thinking. You may think she’s ugly, but everyone else thinks you’re an idiot.

- Hillary Clinton (via prevarila)

YES, WE DO STILL NEED INTERNATIONAL WOMEN’S DAY [#thinkyblog]

Over on the quickhits earlier, I posted this link. It was to a piece in the Indy today, entitled, “To those who can’t see the point of International Women’s Day: you are the very reason it exists”. Well ain’t that the truth.

I did my usual quickhitting and tweeting on Saturday – International Women’s Day – but I didn’t bother with the day itself so much or with its coverage. It’s not that I don’t support International Women’s Day (there’s very little women’s anything that I don’t support) but this year, it weighed heavily on me that we still need it. There was the usual backlash on twitter from all the detractors. When is International Men’s Day, they asked. Richard Herring handled that much better than I ever could. I, of course, would have responded that every single day is International Men’s Day because this is a patriarchy and that is how it works.

Yesterday, also over on the quickhits, I posted the main findings from a report on violence against women in the EU. The report interviewed 42,000 women across the EU about “their experiences of physical, sexual and psychological violence, including incidents of intimate partner violence (‘domestic violence’)”. That’s a good sample size by anyone’s measure so there shouldn’t be any doubt about the findings. Here are some of them:

  • One in three women (33%) has experienced physical and/or sexual violence since she was 15 years old. Out of all women who have a (current or previous) partner, 22% have experienced physical and/or sexual violence by a partner since the age of 15.
  • Of those women who indicate they have been victims of sexual violence by a non-partner, almost one in 10 indicates that more than one perpetrator was involved in the incident when describing the details of the most serious incident of sexual violence they have experienced.
  • Whereas in most cases violence by a previous partner occurred during the relationship, one in six women (16%) who has been victimised by a previous partner experienced violence after the relationship had broken up.

There are many more on the link and in the report’s PDF. It is not until you see the starkness of the statistics, written neatly in a paragraph, that you realise and understand just how much violence women experience. One in three women and girls. I’ll say that again: ONE IN THREE WOMEN AND GIRLS.

So why do we still need International Women’s Day? We need it because of violence against women, because a young student I know was belittled and humiliated by her campus welfare support team for reporting on women’s issues, because another young student I know was called a “feminist bitch” and threatened when she stood up for women and girls at her college, because I get a taxi home after dark instead of walking even if it’s still early, because of rape culture on campus, because of everyday victim-blaming, because of everyday sexism, because violence against women is up for bets, because the default position is to question the victim’s story, because of street harassment, because of our reproductive rights, because there are “blurred lines“, because of lad culture, because of Page 3, because of the impact of porn, because of these statistics, because of these statistics, because of these statistics, and because of these women.

And why I am so weighed down by it? Because it really should be better by now.

Porque Yo Decido: Spain’s war on abortion is not about morality – it’s about austerity

photo 466343451_zps6dfd333e.jpg

Porque Yo Decido. Because I decide. That was the title of a manifesto handed to the Spanish government on 1 February on behalf of the millions of men and women across the country who oppose the conservative People’s Party’s push to ban abortion. “Because it’s my choice,” reads the manifesto. “I am free, and I live in a democracy, I demand from the government, any government, that it make laws that promote moral autonomy, preserve freedom of conscience, and guarantee plurality and diversity.”

In late December, the People’s Party (PP) government, led by Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, approved a bill that will make abortion illegal in all but the most extreme medical circumstances and in cases of rape. “That was when the explosion of resistance happened,” says feminist activist Cristina Lestegas Perez. “Since then, there have been hundreds of street protests, debates, demonstrations, parades, conferences, seminars, exhibitions and performances all over the Spanish states and overseas.”

Under the Franco regime, abortion was illegal in Spain. In 1985, laws were passed permitting termination of pregnancy in very limited cases, but so many Spanish women were travelling to Britain to have abortions that dedicated flights had to be chartered. In 2010, the law was finally liberalised by the then socialist government to permit abortion up to the fourteenth week of pregnancy. [Rest.]

Photo: A placard reading “A mother by choice” at a pro-choice protest in Spain. Getty

Porque Yo Decido: Spain’s war on abortion is not about morality – it’s about austerity

“The dusty old argument that female sexuality is a subversive force…

The dusty old argument that female sexuality is a subversive force that needs to be strictly controlled isn’t as dead as we thought. The mainstream conservative movement is bringing it out of hibernation, and this time with a twist: now they’re arguing that women need to have their rights taken from them for their own good.

- Amanda Marcotte, Female Sexuality Still Terrifying to Conservative Lawmakers