Wednesday, 22 August 2012

Follow up post on feminism...

Last Friday I wrote a post about how I thought feminism was becoming mainstream. Julian Assange, George Galloway, Todd Akin and others all combined to convince me it really wasn't, or else it's job was far from over. 

As you probably will not have been able to miss (much as you'd probably like to), Akin and Galloway have seen fit to share with us their rather inventive interpretations of likelihood of pregnancy under "legitimate" rape  and how if you've consented to er... entering "the sex game" as Gorgeous George so temptingly puts it then you automatically have consented to everything else your partner has in mind.....

Both, of course have been elected and are in office. I rather removes my faith in the democratic process tho, hopefully, at least in the case of Akin, he may not receive his hoped for Senate seat - though he's still ahead in the polls. 

But, as the age old issue, apparently, of what rape actually is poured over again on twitter, and as the exemplary project Everyday Sexism continues it's laudable project of explaining just how much sexism is endemic, Louise Mensch calls for legislation.

You know, I've never ever thought of a policy response before. As, I suppose, the liberal in me revolts about freedom of speech. But how about the women's freedom of speech? And freedom of movement and assocation (or not) ? 

When it comes to the issue of street harrassment, the thing is we've all had it.  I'm alarmed at just how much there is out there, as all my female friends report similar....

When we say street harrassment we mean  people deciding the best way to compliment us is to shout obscene, vaguely or overtly threatening, or salacious "compliments" at us in the street. 

This can be in the form of awkward "You're dead gorgeous" comments or outright crudely  sexual "invitations". The thing is if you ignore either or say no thanks to the common follow-up of the offer of a date,  you regularly get more abuse.

When did we all, collectively, decide this was acceptable? Has it got worse since the rise of internet pornography or was it always thus? Personally, I think the latter, remembering even gettting all this unwelcome attention as a 17 year old.

Having talked it over with a few friends, it's clear we change our behaviour in the following ways: 

- avoid being alone with certain men
- warn each other about being alone with same
- try not to go out without a male companion
- avoid certain places - this includes pub gardens in the middle of the day btw!
- stop smiling in the street and other situations as it's seen as a come on... 

What the hell is going on?  Why on earth are women's freedoms being curtailed ? What can we do about this?  Clearly,  the parents of these mendidn't do a good enough job. And society itself with it's worship of the perfect female form is possibly enhancing these people's sense of entitlement.

For anyone who's concerned about possibly crossing a line: 

First of all, if you are concerned you're probably not crossing it - the sweetest guys can sometimes get all wrapped up in what they are saying and where they might be going wrong, and they are the ones most unlikely to be causing the issue.

However if it helps I can confidently say I have never dated anyone who's hit on me in the street. Anyone with an ounce of sense knows if you want to ask a girl out, it's best to talk to her in a normal way -  "Hi, How are you?" is OK, really. Sense if your approach is welcome and if it isn't, quit! Compliments are OK but can we try perhaps, not doing them in public, where they more than likely embarrass the recipient. Anyway - why so keen to compliment a woman in public? Something about THAT is creepy, and more about trying to embarrass or humilate a woman than please her.  

However street harrasers are probably not likely to be reading this blog, just needed to write down what I've been dying to for the last couple of days on twitter, as it takes more than 140 characters.

I don't want to rescind my previous post, as over the last few days I've noticed a lot of my male followers engage and disprove a lot of the bobbins that is being talked about on twitter, and to a certain extent I think that's increasing, and is very welcome. 

But also the fight is clearly not won. I'm glad to count more men amongst our allies, but we have to continue to fight. 

Friday, 17 August 2012

On Feminists and Men, and Feminist Men....

Over the last year which has included Caitlin Moran’s rise and rise and her incredible book "How to Be a Woman", the incredible performance of our female athletes in the Olympics,  and today the demise Sexy A-Levels  and their cracking analysis of why they have to close, it is clear that feminism has become ‘mainstream’.

What’s more, recent conversations I’ve been having with male friends and other men who actually care about women being visible in the media has made me realise that there are men that understand this whole feminism thing and they are actually around us.

This, coupled with my experiences this year seems to suggest that there is a feminist zeitgeist going on (What are we now? Third Wave? Fourth? Are ‘waves’ patriarchal anyway?) and this time men seem to not just be engaged, but are active and vocal about it.

I've noticed "smash the patriarchy" has been picked up by men - including the men behind Sexy A-levels, who as I mentioned earlier have packed up shop, with one of their primary reasons being how their irony was getting misused and misconstrued:
“…but at the heart of this one-joke website is the tiniest, most serious core of fundamental truth. This weird boner that Fleet Street has for soft female flesh is not OK”
Wow. Someone said it. As a woman, you get used to being objectified / criticised (sometimes by the same person!) and although I've never really bought into that,  I have to subsume my own identity into it, it does become part and parcel of everyday life and experience for many contemporary women. So it’s quite refreshing to hear men be open and honest about being feminists.

I think the likes of Moran, the female Olympians and the Sexy A-Level guys are paving the way for our generation, and hopefully the one after it. As a woman in 2012, I’m incredibly thankful for that.

Wednesday, 15 August 2012

Manchester is more bang for your buck....

Dan Hodges likes Manchester but not as much as London 

This is a riposte to Stuart Maconie's piece about why Manchester's better than London.

Meanwhile Manchester still outstrips London as the UK's most "live-able" (horrible word) city

Anyway, Dan's piece misses something that Manchester has over London: value for money.

Manchester's just better value for money. It's got what London's got, and Dan probably has a point that there is MORE in London - but I've attended Schubert concerts, seen Brian Cox wax lyrical about the Solar System three times (once on the radio) - both of these at the BBC in Salford, Dan. I've seen the Mystery Jets, currently  one of the best bands in Britain, live - here in Manchester. In fact most bands that play London play Manchester as well - however this year I saw The Stone Roses, probably the best concert I've ever been to.  And they didn't play London, you know.

In addition, for the young urban professional in the Northern Quarter, or the slightly older vegetarian hippie Chorlton dweller, it's a lot easier to buy houses. I was having this conversation with someone last night, about how much we'd have to earn to live in London, and how it would cut into our "disposable" income - read how long we're going to have to save to buy a house, and also, how hard it would be to buy a house if we ever did get the money together. A point, interestingly, that both Maconie and Hodges miss.

And, and, and...... Manchester's recaltricant son Steven Morrissey exclaimed how he's been given the keys to Tel Aviv but Manchester City Council refuse to honour him - again another great idea from Manchester Lib Dems, for a Music Hall of Fame was not taken up by the Manchester Labour that Dan Hodges praises in his article.

Plus - for the discerning dinner, a rather amusing restaurant review from @NewsManc here:

We dine in offices you know. Take that London!

Wednesday, 8 August 2012

Nick Clegg in Manchester - Key 103 Q&A

Yesterday evening I attended a Q&A with Nick Clegg, and a meet and greet with party members before hand.

The meet and greet was interesting and Nick was specifically articulate with our little group - and also knew a lot about Manchester and Stockport Lib Dems which was nice to hear.

The most interesting part was the Q&A with the general public, and a few of us that had spilled over from the meet and greet.

There were several different topics of conversation, but initially I was quite scared Nick was going to get a mauling at the hands of this public which, if you listen to the media, hates him!

Now I know I'm biased, although I do try and call it when I see it, and those close to me will know I can be critical of anything I don't see the sense or value in  - but I thought Nick was awesome.

He dealt with questions on the riots (very sensibly), on cuts to policing and PCSOs, on fees, on Legal Aid, on the 0.7% GNP target for development aid and when it would be brought into legislation. Nothing on Lords Reform but that's to be expected. 

I did see some questions on what we stand for, and thought we could be doing more to use the word liberal, and liberal values. For instance Nick spoke about decentralisation of both decision making (i.e. giving the Pupil Premium to schools for THEM to choose where best to spend it) - a key liberal value and in line with localisation - this has Lib Dems all over it. We need to be doing more of this, putting more into leaflets and saying it more on the doorstep. 

There were also some on differentiation. And I think that is quite key - we have our own values and beliefs and I think we should tie that to our policies more.

A great session, and Nick did so well at winning the room over, great to watch. More please!

Monday, 6 August 2012

Don't Menschn the kids....

The MP for Corby, Louise Mensch has resigned this morning to spend more time with her family and children. 

Without getting into whether I personally believe her or not, I'd like to think about why we never ever believe a man who says the same thing - it's always - "What's he done?" and speculation about why he's had to resign. 

Whereas we accept this one at face value and plunge straight into articles about how it's hard for women to balance kids and career. While not disputing that, (the brief time I've tried anything even slightly similar had me flat out with exhaustion), I'd like to argue what her actions have done for the cause of women in Parliament, or indeed men who want to have some family life in between the politics

Take for example Clegg, who's on record saying that he has to balance family life (school run particularly)  with his political career. Having the briefest insight into his diary, I don't know how he does it. 

Contemplate for a moment whether we'd believe him if he was to resign tomorrow. I doubt it. 

As Chad Noble (@chadnoble ) put it, yes she has gone on record talking about the pressures of family life on a woman in Parliament. And so has Clegg about his pressures as a father of young children in Parliament. 

Would we believe him for one second if he resigned to spend more time with his kids? I'd say no. I hope he doesn't by the way, but I doubt very much if the narrative would be as believed as Mensch's has been.

Sunday, 5 August 2012

Love and Marriage in the time of Liberalism

A brief hiatus on the blog, but this post required a bit more research than normal, amongst other factors. But I don't believe in not finishing what you've started so here goes (hopefully I'll publish before Murray gets back on in the mixed doubles - edit: well nearly)

Recently I read this

"The combination of love and marriage is a phenomenon of a very recent history, and it's a volatile mix". In times past it was love and adultery that went together "like a horse and carriage". Marriages were arranged, wives were bought or traded. Such marriages were typically passionless, but stable... "

Marriage used to be an exchange of property - it was a way of tracing the lineage so as to pass property down to rightful heirs. Of course this in itself created a problem - as love was basically outside marriage (with a mistress or affair partner if you had one) then illegitimate children could cause a bit of an upset, as technically they could lay claim to your estate, yet, would have quite a lot of power if it came to exposing the fact that adultery had been committed.

".... The first change in this pattern came about in the sixteenth century when European scholars rediscovered the literature of ancient Greece, which described a democratic system in which the individual had rights, a radical concept in a world in which the individual hadn't even existed except as part of the collective. Still, the spillover into the arena of marriage was slight until the late eighteenth century..... The rights of the individual came to include the right to marry the person of one's own choice"

As Harville Hendrix* goes onto say, we haven't evolved as fast as the state of marriage has to actually deal with the consequences of falling in love and communication with each other - but that's probably a whole other post.

So, to move forward through evolution of love - thanks to Andy Connell (@andyconnell on twitter)** ;) I was informed that the practice of "Courtly Love" came about in France.

As described on wikipedia 

"Courtly love was a medieval European conception of nobly and chivalrously expressing love and admiration"

and elsewhere

The knight's love for the lady inspires him to do great deeds, in order to be worthy of her love or to win her favor. Thus "courtly love" was originally construed as an ennobling force whether or not it was consummated, and even whether or not the lady knew about the knight's love or loved him in return.

This is interesting as it shows that, even tho it wasn't always practiced between husband and wife, that there was the need for human beings to connect in such a way, and also to work for something greater than themselves. As the second link shows, courtly love may have come about as a way for second and third sons to find some way of expressing their desires without threatening social stability.

What is really interesting is that both the working for another's happiness (love) and also having the individual choice to choose who that other may be, could be competing interests, I suppose that's why it's such a mystery.

Anyway, back to individual rights - or liberalism. The rise of (especially French) liberal thought in the 1800s led to the change in thought about whether individuals deserved rights (liberals thought yes) and therefore the extension was why can't a marriage be a love match and people choose their own partners. Of course now there is more breakdown of marriage because in essence some people are poor decision makers - but I think it can be argued that choosing your own partner is progress

Which brings me on rather neatly to the concept of equal marriage. It's a natural extension of our wish to live lives that, as long as we don't harm others, we can do whatever we want to - be that fall in love, have a relationship with, or marry someone of either gender or sex.

So, you aren't at the Reading Festival (like me) and are in Manchester on the 25th August, give the Manchester Lib Dems a support at Manchester Pride :)

 *in Harville Hendrix's rather good book 
** who a little bit of research by you enterprising people should reveal has an interesting musical history himself...