Sometimes, you read an article, and it seems to make sense. And then you read another one, and your mind has a *crash* moment. Which is to say that, although both articles seem, on the face of it, to be fairly reasonable, they just don’t work when you read them both at once. If you’re really lucky, you find one article that contradicts itself, or is otherwise badly thought-out, thereby saving you the bother of reading two. Pregnancy advice is, of course, a prime example of this kind of odd double-think, but there are other things that will work just as well. For instance:


Stories about being gay. Apparently, it’s now fine to be gay in the NHS. It wasn’t before, because of people being worried about HIV and paedophilia. But not lesbians. Presumably, lesbians don’t really exist. Why didn’t I think of that? More to the point, why doesn’t anybody worry about all of those heterosexual women working in paediatrics? You know, because gay men like sex with men and therefore want to molest children; straight women like sex with men and therefore….. No?

On the other hand, it’s not at all fine to be gay in Welsh schools. This time, the article uses amazing things called acronyms, which means that they can explain the meaning of the new Welsh charity, LGBT Excellence Centre Wales, and then go back to just using “gay”. It’s a whole one letter shorter, and of course they have to be concise when they write these articles.


Stories about rape. The first, which is better than most because the woman isn’t treated like a liar and the man is actually convicted, contains the quote that the woman waived her right to anonymity to say that “the police system is better than it was years ago and that there are people who can help you.”

I’m sure that will be a huge relief to this woman in Scotland. She was arrested and held in cells overnight after she “struggled to cope in the witness box”. But of course, she’s only an alleged rape victim, which actually makes her nothing more than a witness. So that’s ok then.


And lastly, because Conservatives annoy me, I’d like to point out that it was the Tories that commisioned this survey. I’d also like to point out that for people supposedly concerned about the “awful story of mothers being turned away from hospital at a hugely emotional time”, they’re pretty bloody quick to vote to get the mothers there. The F-Word listed the voting patterns of MPs on the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act back in May last year, and 135 out of the 164 Conservatives present voted against the 24-week limit on abortions, in favour of a shorter time limit (22 weeks). By my reckoning, and given that there was an 85% turnout, that means that at least 71% of the Conservatives would make it more difficult for women to have abortions. Which is the kind of thing that would tend to increase the number of pregnancies. They didn’t win that vote, but they tried. So I’m irritated, although unsurprised, at their hypocrisy now.

Having said that, I’m impressed that they managed to get the pregnant woman’s head into the picture. Well done there. Of course, she’s got her hand over her eyes in an incredibly melodromatic I’M UPSET! kind of a way, but you can’t have everything.

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This from the BBC:

“To help get boys reading we need a boys’ bookshelf in every secondary school library in the country, containing positive, modern, relevant role models for working class boys.” – Alan Johnson, Education Secretary

Seriously.

Well, I know my school was a girls’ school, and I’m biased, but you know what?

I think boys can have their own, special bookshelves when they put an LGBTQ section in too. Until then, they’ll just have to lump it, the poor things.

And when I think that virtually every computer game I’ve come across is made to be played from a male perspective, when I remember the stories that said that J.K. Rowling used her initials because publishers said that no boy would read anything written by a woman*, when I remember how male was – is – the default in just about everything – newspapers, history textbooks, cartoons… – I don’t think the problem here is with boys being under-represented. Perhaps, just perhaps, we should be looking at the culture we’re living in, that teaches boys not to develop their attention span, not to sit quietly and read, but to expect to see themselves represented everywhere, immediately, to the exclusion of all others. And to immediately switch off, if the book they are given is obviously written by a woman. Perhaps that, and the assumption that “boys” means “white, able-bodied, straight boys”, is what we should be working to change. Because I can’t think of a single disabled boy that I’ve found in all the years I’ve been reading fiction, and the number of gay  or ethinic-minority boys was pretty damned limited, too.


*Links here and here to articles mentioning the intent of the publishers, and a quote here from J K Rowling herself.

Just a quick one this time – I’m entertaining family for the weekend, so have less time to get irate about the foolish and shockingly outrageous things I find online.

And shockingly outrageous it definitely is, because the anti-choice campaigners are getting involved. Reported in the Guardian:

“Rawnie Chapman-Kitchin, 15, was aghast when her teacher compared abortion to Nazism”


Whatever happened to the good old days, when I thought that abortion was something I could rely on to be available if I needed it, when I thought that it could never be taken away from me?

I pity the young women in these lessons, that’s for sure.


Onwards, before I get too upset, and I find myself somewhere in the BBC’s education pages, looking with incredulity at the “news” that stereotypes can become a self-fulfilling prophesy:

“Professor Heidi Mirza argues that race-based statistics feed into racial stereotypes which can themselves become “self-fulfilling prophecies”. “

As she says,

“For example, people say: ‘Blacks are good at sport; Chinese are good at maths and make good food; Indians have good business sense’.”

This can mean teachers have certain expectations about pupils based on their ethnic group, she argues.

What can I say?



On one of the walls in my student union, there’s a group of four people – two young men, two young women – involved in different sports. Is it surprising that the one black person (a man) is pictured playing basketball?

That picture is relatively innocuous, although possibly not as thought out as I would have liked. But those kinds of stereotypes are everywhere – and some of them, as suggested in that article, can and do hurt.


Back to the Guardian for the last one for tonight, because I’m starting to feel in need of something fragile to break, and in the education section is a story of discrimination by a private school.

Unfortunately, this is not discrimination in the normal way that private schools do so well – that is, financial discrimination – but instead, discrimination of a somewhat nastier style:

“The school made the 13-year-old boy, who suffers from a connective tissue disorder, stand still in detentions lasting up to 40 minutes, rendering him unable to walk afterwards.”

Right now, I don’t feel I can analyse this is a coherent or non-expletive-filled way, so I’m just going to let the story stand on its own. For the moment at least, I have no words.

Just Quickly

Reclaim The Night is on in London on November 22nd. We’re looking at having at least a few of the Sheffield Fems go down together, and of course, anybody who wants to come along is more than welcome. It’s been a great evening in the past, not only because of the exhilaration involved in scaring the Met police, but also because the speakers who appear after the march are always interesting.


Sexism and Education

Due to a little confusion in the ranks, no one person had prepared any one thing to talk about. However, we soldiered on regardless, and had a more general discussion instead, which was nice.

A few points we talked about follow (condensed for the sake of brevity):

  • Do teachers favour male students?
  • Is it harder for girls/women to talk once the boys/ men start conversations?
  • The gender of lectures/ teachers might contribute to the way in which any discussion develops
  • Germaine Greer has spoken of always taken the first question/ comment from women when she speaks, since she believes that this encourages a more even rate of participation between the genders
  • Feminism often isn’t taught, and especially is not taught explicity, unless a teacher can ‘slip’ it in
  • It sometimes seems that Feminism isn’t considered a real topic
  • It can be a real effort to be the one always talking about gender/ feminist issues

We were fortunate to be able to talk to Jillian Creasy and Kathy Aston from the Sheffield Green Party (see their national site here) about the way the party works and what its policies are. Jillian is a councilor and Kathy a member of the local party.

As you might expect, from the name, the reputation or just a quick look around their websites, the Green Party is very much for women’s rights – and equality in general.
They have an equalities officer elected within the the national party, and women’s committees in the party include:

Women By Name – a strictly women-only group

Green Women – a group that allows men to participate in discussions, although they cannot vote on issues.

However, it is mostly men at the national conference, mostly men speaking and only one woman as an executive.
There is also an issue over the number of women participating at a local level. It was suggested that one of the reasons for this may be that women are more likely to be involved in active capaigning instead of the day-to-day business of the party, particularly as it is an electoral party and as such is contrained by the same rules as all political parties. A general impression of political parties being governed mainly by old, white, straight men may contribute to women staying away from this aspect of the party.
We also discussed how much of a role childcare might be playing in putting women off being more active, as the meetings of the local party are in the evening, meaning that some women may be constrained by the need for someone to look after their children. Evidently, this would also be a constraining factor for single-parenting men.

The city council currently has about 1/3 female members, but there are also many other unrepresented groups, because the average age is about 60. The council allowance is only around £10,000 P/A and it is very time-consuming work which can prevent anybody on a lower income, or with a less flexible work environment, from standing as councilors. And the structures of the council are very traditional and adverserial with often puts people off.

The is concern that the Liberal Democrats are going to try to remove the equality department from the council soon. We intend to keep an eye on the situation and try and get involved to help save it if needs be. It has been billed as a spending cut, but seems counter-intuitive considering that in order to consider equality issues without the help of a specific department, the onus would then be on the council to provide every individual manager with suitable training.

In November there is a one day conference of the Green Women group in Huddersfield that is open to others, there will be discussions, training and work shops.

We also talked briefly about some of the Green Party’s policies, such as those towards prostitution and sex education. Their stance on sex education in particular feeds into equality issues; in their own words:

“The Green Party would… Ensure all schools provide sex education including on the diversity of sexualities and gender identities and create supportive environments for LGBT staff and students.”

Clearly, the Green Party are far from being a one-issue party, and seem to be actively trying to constantly improve.

A huge thanks to Jillian and Kathy for coming to talk to us, it was incredibly interesting and informative. We hope to see you both soon!