People, I have been somewhat rubbish recently. This is because I have exams, and a little brother who misses me (or so he says, when I’m not in London; when I am, he’s quite content to either insult or ignore me, as the mood takes him).

For my lack of presence on the blog, I apologise. I’m now back in Sheffield and supposedly revising. I have an exam this afternoon. Therefore, I’ll be back to my normal voluable self, irritating everybody mightily by messing around with the website.


The important thing is this: we’re considering creating a new, feminist magazine for the students’ union.

And we need contributors. Lots of them. We’re going for rampant shameless self-promotion here. If you’re creative in any way whatsoever, even if it is merely an impressive vocabulary of well-thought-out epithets, come along! (Especially people whose talent is in insults; I need some new ones!)

Can you write? Read? Proof-read? Draw? Paint? Knit? … I’m not entirely sure how we’d fit the last one in, but seriously, tell us about it anyway!

Can you design us a new logo for our lamentably neglected leaflets?

Can you design us a new leaflet, full stop?!


You get the drift, I’m sure.

If you can’t turn up to tonight’s meeting (which, as far as I know, is still in the University Arms, 7:30pm), feel free to leave your shameless self-promotion in comments or in an email to us.

Happy creating, everybody!

In a strange coincidence, this news is brought to you by Dr. Allan Pacey from the University of Sheffield.


It is hardly surprising that men can and do have fertility problems. It’s something that ought to be a corollary of Sod’s Law: if one thing has any form of input into another thing, there is potential for the first thing to be broken, causing problems with the second.

Only in a society which has a long history of believing that only women could be infertile, which pathologises the female body, which venerates the male, the masculine and the phallic, and links those things with virility, strength and power, could we even be seeing such a nonsensical item of non-news.

If a woman is automatically worth less in our society because of the genitalia she posesses, so too is a man worth more by virtue of the genitalia he posesses. And when we have a set-up that means that men are over-represented in the sciences, where such research should be carried out, and when the tacit support of the patriarchal status quo is the default for reporting, why on earth would research into male inadequacy ever be carried out?

Dr. Pacey, that research would be valuable, if only to try to even the score a little with all of those studies that show women as lacking.

What about Teh Menz, indeed?

When I find the scrap of paper that has our updated forthcoming events, one of the things that will be posted up will be some collaborative work that we’ll be doing with the Sheffield University PGRN in May.

With that in mind, I’ve added a link to their portion of the University website to the sidebar.


In other news, posts may be thin on the ground for a week or so, as I have not as yet learned how to manipulate time, and therefore only have so many hours in my day. On that theme, apologies for the lack of Weekend News-Surfing this week. If we’re lucky, I may manage one this weekend.

Today was the refreshers’ fair at the University of Sheffield, and Sheffield Fems were duly present, in the form of myself and Alex. Not next to the Labour Party, this time, but sandwiched between the Disney Society and the Dance, Trance and Electronica Society. Who had a sound system to rival that of the people ostensibly in control of all music in the room. Perhaps now is the time to mention that I am most at home in grotty metal bars. Three hours of being deafened by the antithesis of my musical taste (such as it is) has sent me a little crazy, I think.


Still, that minor inconvenience was balanced out by my attempts at getting people to play bingo with me. Good times.

As it is practically mandatory in some online social circles, I created yet another anti-feminist bingo card. It’s a blend of those that have come before – I used my entire collection to help me – so my thanks go to anybody who’s ever created one! I did remove the more internet-troll style comments, though, replacing them with things that you tend to hear in real life. If I include this hybrid card over at A Second Thought with the others, it will bring the total up to 23!

It did seem to help, actually. It’s always good to have something to talk about, and I remember one woman in particular who not only seemed fairly enthusiastic about what we do, but was also practically spitting blood remembering all of the times she’d heard “all blonde women are stupid”. At least I can reasonably claim to have an effect on people!


In other news, we’ve got a lot of good things lined up for the next month or so. We’re starting to plan some larger events than we normally manage, so it’s especially worthwhile at the moment to keep an eye on our upcoming events.

And, because I’m [vain/ proud of my work] *delete as applicable*, I leave you with my lovely hybrid bingo card:


femsbingo

Yes, the semi-regular news-surfing is back, which will of course mean more spam for me from surfing websites. Joys.

First off, there are a couple of things for which I have no sympathy;

The number of British students at UK universities has fallen for the first time in recent history” and “A boys’ club in Bristol has changed its name after the council threatened to withdraw funding if the club did not show girls were also welcome.

Since I have my crystal ball, I can forsee trouble ahead in the guise of being labeled as either a stroppy student, or a strident, man-hating bitch, or both.  Strangely enough, I am neither of those things.

I’m very grateful that I have the chance to get myself a degree. I really am. I just would have been more grateful if, for example, the student loan I get was guaranteed to cover my accomodation costs, or if it was not assumed that, since my parents earn X amount each year, they would of course be happy to subsidise my adult life, and my sister’s adult life, whilst also paying their mortgage and bringing up my seven year old brother. I’ve never believed that getting 50% of “young adults” into higher education was a good idea, and it seems even less so now –  because who, in these “credit crunch” days, wants to saddle themselves with £20,000 of debt before they’ve even found themselves a proper job?

As for the boy’s club, I find my levels of sympathy greatly reduced by the quotes from the club’s leader. Anybody that says things like “it’s this PC bureaucracy gone mad” has automatically lost any respect I might have for them. Or indeed things like “The boys’ club – formerly the lads’ club – has always been a major service, primarily for boys of course.” Which leaves me wondering who else the club served. Perhaps it’s that old nonsense about “man embracing woman” that means that when they say “boys”, they actually mean “all non-adult people”?

As it happens, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with the council’s criteria, which says that “if you want funding, you have to show that you are meeting the needs of all young people”. And given that the club remains boys-only on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, I’m really not too concerned that boys will suddenly start feeling excluded.


In other news, women can harm themselves in new and exciting ways whilst pregnant, by drinking too much water. Interestingly, this article is written without the usual headless pregnant torso photo which is usually a given, so I’ll give the BBC a bonus point for that. On the other hand, it is yet more conflicting advice about what pregnant women should and shouldn’t do. I have to say, however, that I was greatly amused by the final quote: “the key thing is for the woman to listen to what her own body is telling her“. Well, who’d’a thunk it? Letting women decide for themselves? Surely not!

Moving on, before my sarcasm gets the better of me, and the last story of interest is that women are transforming Welsh politics. Why? Because there’s a 47:53 ratio of women: men. Apparently, “political debates were more consensual than adversarial as a result and had ‘non-traditional’ topics on the agenda such as domestic violence.

Happy times. Interestingly enough, we touched on these kinds of topics back in October last year, when we had two members of the Green Party with us. Of course, back then, what was said was that “the structures of the council are very traditional and adversarial which often puts people off”. It’s a catch-22 situation really; the adversarial format of meetings appears to deter women, which means that there is an uneven gender ratio with more men than women, which makes it more likely that the structure will be adversarial, which deters women….

If that cycle could be broken – as it hopefully has been in Wales – we could be looking at a much better governed country. At the very least, we could aim for “a consensual political style, an inclusive politics, and working arrangements which recognise the caring responsibilities of those working within it.” I can but hope.

News from the meeting:

We’re still looking into changing the venue of meetings, to somewhere with disabled access. The University Arts Tower was suggested, as it should be free to book on the lecture theatres and there shouldn’t be any problems with needing to sign people in either. However it might isolate the group from non-student members. We are also going to look into the Quaker Meeting house in the city centre which would be a much more accesible venue for everyone, not just students. If anybody has any other suggestions, send us a postcard to the normal address!
We also talked about changing the structure of the meetings slightly so we meet downstairs in the bar of University Arms for a social drink first, so that everyone gets to know each other and it is welcoming to new members. This will partly be dependent on whether we change venues or not as well, of course.

There might be a conference/ day workshop at the University soon on Feminism in Sheffield soon. More details to follow if it takes place.

Finally, Sunday is the Sheffield University women’s party. Some of us will probably be there with some Sheffield Fems flyers and things, so if you’re a female Sheffield student, we might see you there.
From the discussion – Women and War – some things to think about were:

  • Some history/ information about Women’s Internation League for Peace and Freedom, which is one of the oldest peace groups, formed in 1915, 2 members have won the Nobel Peace Prize and they have offices at the U.N but also opperate on a local level around the world.
  • Women and children now make up the majority of victims of war, as war is no longer resigned to the battlefields
  • Women in the military- do they play a more supportive role than an active one? The military is still a male/ patriarchical system, will the presence of women change this?  How can women change such a regimented system?
  • In Palestine, the conflict there has resulted in a change in the status of women (a slight improvement, but groups like Hamas would like to reverse this)
  • Is joining the army a gendered issue? How does the supression of the individual effect women? And what about the squaddie culture – does it put women off? Do you have to go along with all these things to succeed in the military?
  • Apparently there has been a big increase in the number women joining the army, and there are good childcare facilities and maternity leave and little sexual harassment- is this the result of law changes or the presence of women? Is there are culture of silence (and would it be harder to speak out against sexual harassment in the miliarty then in a normal job?)

We also made some plans for an event to tie in with Reclaim the Night on 22nd November:
We are going to be in the city centre during the day (we talked about going to West Street in the evening but it was decided that no one would pay any attention as it’s a Saturday night!), with flyers and placards  about domestic violence statistics. We going to try and contact the local press etc. to get some publicity as well.
Next week, Tuesday 18th we’re going to be making the placards and sorting out flyers… come along, bring pens, card etc etc! This was going to be a social meeting, so we will probably go on to another pub afterwards as well.

News from the meeting:

We need to keep an eye on the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill as it goes to the report stage in the House of Commons.

Certain MPs are likely to try to tack on more anti-abortion amendments. Now is a very good time to be emailing and writing to MPs – every letter counts. The Abortion Rights website has a model letter available to download.
At the same time, it is worth contacting MPs regarding the issue of legalising abortion in Northern Ireland. It is currently not legal to have an abortion in Northern Ireland, and soon the power to decide on this matter will be devolved to the NI assembly. Since it is very unlikely that they would ever legalise abortion, now really is the time to make a fuss.

The Family Planning Association has more information, and a link on their website to a petition on the Downing Street website that everybody can sign.

We are thinking about making Abortion Rights our next charity to fundraise for, but this will be formally decided soon.

Discussing the Playboy campaign:

The issue for the moment is the prevalance of Playboy branded merchandise available for young children; specifically, stationary and bedlinen.
This is available most prominently in two large chains in the UK, WH Smiths and Argos.
Our campaign will therfore be focussing on these two stores, although for obvious reasons details will not be posted here as yet. For further information, to submit any ideas for the campaign or to get involved, please contact us. The Bin The Bunny website also has some useful links and information.

Other issues:

As ever, we are looking to develop better links with other feminist groups. If you’re part of one, or know of any that might be interested, drop us a line at the usual address!

An RAF poster has been brought to our attention that specifically mentions equality whilst simultaneously saying that regiments are open only to men. It sounds like a wonderful example of double-think, and we’d like to check this out.

Freshers’ Week at the University of Sheffield has come and gone, and there have been a startling number of posters advertising club nights that feature pornstars, schoolgirls, semi-naked women and other such lovely images! Yet another thing to keep an eye on and try and try and think of a good course of action for.