A Christmas Wrapped In Rape Culture 0

By Jess Hayden

Trigger Warning

Christmas shopping. Love it or loathe it, it’s an activity which most of us will be partaking in this Christmas. The annual dilemma resurfaces – what to buy the sister who’s hard to find gifts for? Will Dad appreciate another pair of socks? Does Mum even like scented candles? Many companies will lure you in with unique gifts for your loved ones, but one website in particular has left me shocked and offended. There’s no easy way to say this, Cafepress.com has a range of Christmas themed presents, designed by members of the public, with “rape” written on them.

My first thought was, who would even buy it? Is there honestly a market for pro-rape merchandise? And then I realised, it’s all a bit of a joke to them. The designers, and the customers, all find this a bit amusing. This isn’t about wearing a T-shirt to offend p
eople – I honestly don’t think anybody would seriously wear one outside the house. Instead I think these are Secret Santa presents, novelty joke gifts which are meant to be amusing.

Well personally, I don’t buy it. I don’t think it is ethically right to trivialise rape to the extent of a “today I feel raped” bumper sticker, as if rape is somehow synonymous with a feeling like “tired,” or even a baby-grow with the word “rape” written on it.

If these T-shirts are so funny and light-hearted that I get told I’m over-reacting for tweeting about how much this has offended me, then we are defending rape-culture. We live in a society where many people will happily declare they just “raped” their friend at FIFA, or could “rape a full English”, yet as soon as a victim says they’ve been raped, you’ll find many of the same people shouting “over-reaction” and “liar”.

rape baby clothes A Christmas Wrapped In Rape CultureI’m not linking these products with an increase in rape, but when in England and Wales a woman is raped every 6 minutes, I think it is far beyond a joke to trivialise such a violent crime. It mocks the victims, encourages shame and is just completely ethically wrong.

Here at Powered by Girl, we decide to stand up for what we think is right and we encourage other young people to do the same. Therefore, we have just launched a petition – asking Cafepress to censor what they sell before selling it. Sounds pretty obvious, but this is something Cafepress are still not doing. I had to send them images of some of the rape-glorifying merchandise for them to delete, and to be fair to them, they did delete the content almost instantly. However, we believe strongly that these products shouldn’t have been on the website in the first place, and Cafepress should censor the products before they appear on their website.

So we ask you to please sign our petition and share it with your friends.

Thank you.

https://www.change.org/p/fred-durham-stop-glorifying-rape-and-violence-abide-by-your-content-usage-policy-by-moderating-content-before-it-goes-live-on-your-site

Self-Care: A PBG Masterpost 0

By Sophia Siman-Bashall

Screen shot 2014 12 09 at 17.25.33 Self Care: A PBG Masterpost

Self-care is a really important thing. It is a necessary part of living a happy and healthy life, and yet it is all too easy to neglect it. It is easier to beat yourself up than big yourself up. It is easier to focus on others than focus on yourself. But this is not sustainable. You have to be your top priority, you have to be kind to yourself. If you really struggle with it, consider this post as permission to love yourself.

Keeping your mental and physical wellness in check doesn’t have to be especially radical. Here are a few suggestions for making day-to-day life better for you:

  • Take social media breaks. This is something that a lot of us find really difficult – it’s a link to our friends, our family, to musicians/comedians/actors/writers etc. For many of us, social media is what makes everyday activism possible. But the constant information can be overwhelming, particularly when a lot of it is negative (as unfortunately, it usually is, due to the sorry state of politics, and the world…). It can be really beneficial to distance yourself from it all sometimes. Whether it’s one day a week, or a week every month, or even just that you only use it when commuting, but not at home or anywhere else! Not only does your brain get a rest, but you’ll probably find yourself with more free time to do things you REALLY want to do…
  • Don’t be working all the time. Again, this can be tough. When there’s so much to get done, for school/college/uni/work, it’s difficult to ignore it. But taking a day off – and I mean entirely – is really beneficial. It clears your mind, and when you go back to what needs doing, you will feel so refreshed, and more prepared to tackle your workload. Think about it: a day with no guilt that you *only* made some notes, or *only* wrote one essay, or *only* sorted out one problem. A day when you don’t even think about work, because it’s simply not on your agenda. Make a day that’s yours, do what you want with it. It’s so freeing.
  • Radiate gratitude. A positive outlook on life is not an easy thing to adopt, but the more you train your brain to it, the more natural it will become. Write at the end of the day, listing what made you smile, and what you’re feeling thankful for – a smile from a stranger, walking in the sunshine, eating a really delicious apple. It is far better to go to sleep thinking of these things than what may not have been so good about your day. You should also try to write what YOU did well, what you are proud of achieving that day. Be grateful to yourself for existing.
  • Eat well. I am not going to prescribe a way to do this, because frankly, that’s irritating, rude, and not helpful. Different things work for different people. Find what works for you. On a general level, fruits and vegetables should feature regularly. As should chocolate.
  • Be active. You don’t have to go for a 10 mile run or a high-intensity workout at the gym. If that’s what floats your boat, by all means, go for it. But for many, it might be something else. Here at PBG, we have runners, horse-riders, swimmers, gym-goers, and people who just like to dance around their room to Beyoncé/Taylor Swift. For me, it’s a combination – although I would always choose to ride, if I could. Again, it’s a question of finding what works for you –you should enjoy it, it should make you feel good, empowered, strong. Don’t force yourself into something that you dread.

For me, these are the basics of self-care. Doing these things help keep me mentally and physically well, for the most part. But looking after yourself is more than this, it’s also about having fun, about knowing how to soothe yourself when you are sad, or scared, or overwhelmed. So as a team, PBG have pooled together our favourite acts of self-care, and we hope you find some of them help you too!

  • Draw. Paint. Do colouring in. It’s calming, it can be an outlet for emotions, and it boosts your self-esteem, because you are producing something.
  • Talk to people. Whether in person or over the phone/video chat, having a conversation with someone who you love and who loves you is always a nice thing. It stops you from being stuck in your own head.
  • Get outside! SUNSHINE! OR AT THE VERY LEAST FRESH AIR! OR EVEN JUST A CHANGE OF SCENE!
  • Write lists! Lists are great, for some unexplicable reason. Write lists of people who inspire you/things that make you smile/things you like about yourself/places you’d like to visit in your lifetime/your favourite positive songs… the possibilities are endless! Look up ‘Listography’ for some pretty unique (often silly and hilarious!) ideas!
  • Run yourself a bubble bath, put in bath bombs/salts or essential oils (lavender is particularly calming). Lie in it and relaaaaaaaaax.
  • Paint your nails. Paint them different colours, make them glittery, try making designs on your fingernails – although be prepared that when attempting intricate designs, it will go wrong, and your fingers will NOT look like those in the pictures on Pinterest…
  • Go for a walk in the park or through city streets, depending on what you feel like. In the dark, city lights can be a really beautiful sight. Equally, walking past the ducks in the pond is a pleasant feeling.
  • Cover your face in make-up (this can be really exciting, as Anna and Alice discussed!)
  • Bake bake bake bake! Baking is fun, and you get a wonderful product out of it! That is, if you can refrain from eating most of the mix before it goes in the oven…
  • Play fast/upbeat/positive/your favourite music and DANCE – it’s not about looking cool, it’s about having fun and feeling free! Bonus points for singing along too, the more off-key the better!
  • Read a great book! Whether it be crime fiction, YA romance, dystopian, a classic, poetry, a biography, or a great feminist book like Laurie Penny’s Unspeakable Things – whatever takes your fancy, whatever will keep you engaged, read it! Reading is a great way to occupy your mind without feeling trapped – quite the opposite, you get to escape into another world!
  • Look back on fond memories – photos, tickets, postcards, messages, they’re all great reminders that when you are feeling low, that feeling will not last forever, and more good things will come your way.
  • Eat something that comforts you – peanut butter, ice-cream, chocolate…
  • Watch a film – a comedy is usually best, tear-jerkers are great, but not when you want to boost your mood!
  • Yoga. Yoga is always a good thing.
  • Write down everything you are feeling – LET IT OUT!

Putting together a ‘toolkit’ for self-care is potentially a big help – have handy a few felt-tips, a colouring book, some delicious recipes, favourite photos, a little bottle of essential oil, brightly-coloured nail polish, a pen and a notebook to write in… know when you need to utilise these things, and pick something at random out of the box, if you can’t make the decision. Look after yourself, it’s the most important thing you will ever do.

 

Sexual Violence in Advertising

By Elli Wilson

Trigger Warning

Another day, another dozen stories about violence against women and girls. Often complete with sensationalised headline and a hyper-sexualised photo of an objectified female body. The forms this violence takes are myriad – sexual harassment, rape, sexual assault, FGM, childhood sexual abuse, ‘honour’ crimes – but it is all rooted in a deep societal misogyny that people are loathe to confront on an individual and an institutional level. For myself, and countless others, these stories are not just statistics or isolated incidents that can be forgotten by turning the page and shrugging off the uncomfortable thoughts that they provoke. This is our lived experience. It’s the guy groping you in a club, or harassing you when you dare to go out and be a woman in public. It’s the boyfriend who doesn’t think no means no, and the pupils at your school who shove their hands down your tights and then laugh.

And then suddenly it’s the advert making a joke of the sexual violence that you have suffered. Whether it is the coffee company using groping to sell their product or the female model surrounded by men in what looks suspiciously like a ‘fashionable’ gang rape, for a survivor of sexual violence, it is repulsive to see it used as a tool to maximise profit. This is capitalist misogyny at its extreme; women’s bodies are used to sell products and so is their abuse. This is what rape culture looks like and it has got to stop.

coffee Sexual Violence in Advertising

 

I Knew Taylor Swift Was Trouble When She Walked In

By Christiana Paradis

It’s never been a secret: I dislike Taylor Swift. Unfortunately, in a world where it appears everyone loves her, I for the most part, keep quiet because it really isn’t worth the fight. However, her latest video, which was brought to my attention by a wonderful friend, has infuriated me to the point where I need to say something. And “haters gonna hate, hate, hate” about that — and quite frankly I don’t care.

Swift I Knew Taylor Swift Was Trouble When She Walked In

Regularly in the media domestic violence, stalking and sexual assault is presented and normalized (Has anyone seen the new Maroon 5 video?). It is seen more as a given and normalcy in our society than an atrocity.

Often when this happens we see a male perpetrator of domestic violence and a female victim. Working in the domestic violence field, very rarely do we talk about female perpetrators and male victims because our statistics don’t support that it happens very often. 85% of domestic violence victims are women (Bureau of Justice Statistics Crime Data Brief, Intimate Partner Violence, 1993-2001, February 2003). But it is important to remember that statistics are only as good as what is reported and quite often, cases of domestic violence against men, when the perpetrator is female, are not reported. The reason for this is simple: gender stereotypes are still very prevalent in our society. Not many men feel comfortable reporting to the police, hospital or domestic violence shelter saying “my significant other hit me,” because to say that is presumed emasculating.

This has to stop. Anyone can be a victim of domestic violence and anyone can be a perpetrator. We need a society where everyone feels safe to report regardless of gender.

The same as domestic violence against women has become normalized in the media, domestic violence against men has become comical. (Remember the social experiment of domestic violence of men versus women in public?) Taylor Swift’s new video for “Blank Space” is no different.

The video begins depicting a very common theme in domestic violence relationships – the honeymoon phase – where everything is wonderful and the person expresses a lot of love early on in the relationship. In this video the victim has found Princess Charming, aka Taylor Swift. However, this relationship quickly turns unhealthy as some domestic violence relationships do when a perpetrator may accuse a victim of cheating with little to no evidence. This is apparent in the video when Taylor sees Sean texting someone else and automatically assumes it is another female. She even expresses this excessive jealousy as she screams (emotional abuse), hits, and pushes (physical abuse) Sean in fury. We then see Taylor throw his cell phone in a fountain, cut up his clothing, and destroy his car — all things that are done to intimidate, threaten, and embarrass the victim. Frequently working in the field of domestic violence, I see cell phones are destroyed because it makes it impossible for the victim to call for help and destroying property in an effort to threaten and terrorize the victim are signs of further emotional abuse.

Taylor’s messed up world and perceptions are evident not only in this video, but in the song lyrics themselves —“boys only love it if it’s torture.” First, this statement is extremely emasculating towards men; similarly to when men call all women girls, in an attempt to infantilize us. This statement emasculates all men into boys and makes a sweeping judgment about what men like and don’t like. Let me clear this up for you, Taylor. NO ONE likes torture. NO ONE likes to be made to feel less of a person by another person, no matter what your gender identify. Maybe I am over rationalizing? You were just trying to make a statement about men liking relationships that are difficult. Guess what? I still don’t buy it. What frustrates me further is that this video came from someone who recently proclaimed to the world that she was a feminist. Perhaps I should explain that feminism is about gender equality. We do not achieve gender equality by emasculating men, but thank you for furthering that stereotype.

We see the cycle begin all over again at the end of the video as a new victim comes to Taylor. I don’t care if you’re Taylor Swift or a person just sitting at home on their computer watching Taylor Swift, we need to stop presenting domestic violence against men as funny or less serious than violence against women. Violence against anyone is not okay.

An Open Letter to Time Magazine

 

Dear Time Magazine,

While I don’t appreciate the fact that the word  feminist is on your word banishment poll, among turnt, obvi and yaaassss, I’m grateful that you’ve since apologized.

I think this entire incident, however, brings up an interesting question, perhaps relating to your original reason for including the word on the poll: is the nuance of the word feminist lost?

You cited annoyance at its overuse, saying that hearing the word would make you “seek out the nearest the pair of chopsticks and thrust them through your own eardrums like straws through plastic lids,” and asking “but when did it become a thing that every celebrity had to state their position on whether this word applies to them, like some politician declaring a party?”

What I don’t understand, however, is what makes this terrible. Politicians declare parties to show that they are a part of those political parties. In your same example, celebrities say they are feminists to show that they are feminists. Why is it annoying to hear people supporting gender equality? Where else should we talk about feminism? Were you saying we shouldn’t?

Perhaps, if the term itself were made “obsolete” by everyone embracing gender equality, these declarations would be unnecessary (and then I would be able to understand if they annoyed some people). But the problem is that it’s not, and we still need feminism. We can stop using the term when there’s no more barring of access to education, or street harassment, or wage gap, widespread violence, or objectification. While banning the word wouldn’t erase its meaning, feminism is still relevant as a term.

time An Open Letter to Time Magazine

What I think originally bothered me the most about this poll is that feminism has just started gaining traction in popular media and culture. This isn’t to say that feminism hasn’t always had influence, or even presence. Rather, less people are declaring that they-don’t-hate-men-therefore-they-aren’t feminists, cringing at the f-word itself, or complaining about how all feminists are overly didactic.

You’re a magazine with an incredible readership and amount of influence, and the inclusion of feminist on that poll curbs its movement and dwindles its importance as an issue. I think it’s great that you’ve apologized —“throwing this label” around isn’t what’s diluting its value, because the spread of the label itself means that more people are accepting the term. If feminism’s should promote one thing, it’s definitely not exclusivity. I hope this brings us one step closer to the equality and justice that you mentioned.

Sincerely,

Emily

Queer Kids

IMG 5205 Queer Kids

I’ve been having a hard time recently – a mix of deadlines and stress, and bad anniversaries all happening in the past few weeks. I tell you this because something that has helped me get through things is the wonderful and inspiring friendships that I have made.

This time last year, when I was dealing with similar if not almost exactly the same things – exams and pressure, and grief and mourning – I was so alone. I was so tied up in myself and in my issues and I also just hadn’t found “my” people yet. Thinking back to last year is really difficult because I had such a difficult time with everything and I tried to pretend I was fine and I piled on yet more pressure. I couldn’t sleep and was having panic attacks regularly and my counselling was not helping. I was stuck on an idea of myself which I could not reach and thus punished myself for it. I punished and punished and punished. It was a cycle of do more, feel bad for not being able to do it, so more anxiety, more stress and repeat. Something really clicked when someone said to me “sleep deprivation is a form of torture.” I tortured myself. I did, and the bruised bags under my eyes have never been so deep. I hurt so badly but I didn’t let up. I kept pushing and pushing and hurting and hurting and rock bottom doesn’t even begin to cover it.

I’ve never been very good at finding people who love and accept me. When I was younger I felt very alienated from my classmates and I don’t think I ever really found a group of people that saw me. (Excluding two wonderful old friends) I think that’s why it’s been so different now – now I know what it’s like to have full open people love me, I realised what I was missing.

Luckily for me, my family helped to support me and various other things happened that helped me get back onto my feet a little last year. But it’s a process, it’s constant recovery, constant motion in one direction or another. I don’t want to slimpify the process, but the friendships that I formed in August and September of this year have been utterly beautiful and they have made me feel seriously loved and understood. Without my new friends I would not be as happy as I am now, and I would not be able to get through these awful things.

One of the things this process is teaching me is that with understanding of yourself comes self-love and with self-love comes a better comprehension of others which makes it so much easier to love them. I am (constantly) working on being kind to myself and this makes it easier to be nice to others. My friendships can be deeper and fuller and more profound because I am more aware of how imperfect we all are, and how crucially, that. Is. okay.

Loving yourself opens you up to love, in both directions.

If you’re looking for friends who help you lift yourself out of the dirt, then I suggest that you:

  • Be honest with yourself and with your friends, even if it makes you scared and vulnerable. Friends that you make when you are vulnerable are strong because you are deep in your wounds with them and that means they are present with you.
  • Find out what you are passionate about and go for it!! Apply for stuff, I found many ace friends through applying to be a Powered By Girl Blogger, but we are also in similar facebook groups for No More Page Three and the like. So do things! The internet is vastly helpful for this, so I would definitely recommend it.
  • Work on feeling your feelings and moving through them in a way that allows you to feel bad/good/sad/etc whenever you like. It’s so much easier to talk to people if you yourself know where you are.
  • Get some therapy, if you can. This is particularly helpful if, like me and the majority of my new friends, you are in Recovery from some thing. Although I understand it’s a privilege to have time and money for therapy and in some cases it can just be terrible because of bigoted and prejudiced therapists, it is also very useful. However, if someone tells you that Queerness is not okay, or that your gender is the one you were assigned and not the one you chose, then leave and don’t go back.
  • Practice self-care – if you are going out and doing things to find people then that’s great! Just make sure to keep some time for yourself, so that you can always keep in touch with what you want, how you feel and enjoy time by yourself. As much as I want to live in a Queer Feminist Commune with all my Queer Kids, we will all need time alone, to recharge. Have fun, masturbate, or read a book, light candles and have a bath, dance to Beyoncé (<3), bake cookies, watch a film, go on adventures, do art, the possibilities are endless.
  • If you are Queer (like many of us at PBG are), or non conforming in anyway, then I would recommend seeking out people who are like you – who have the same sexuality as your or the same world view or the same difficulty with gender (for example if you are Non-Binary). The fact that the majority of my new friends are Queer has helped me accept who I am and also means I feel like I have people to turn to and who immediately accept/understand me rather than constantly having to explain myself.

I hope these suggestions help you all find the beautiful, interesting, exciting and creative people that will love to have you as a friends!

I shall leave you with some lovely, if banal anecdotes:

  • One time when Becky and I met up we wrote our speeches together and then she proceeded to try to take a photo of a squirrel and put her palm flat out as a way of asking to stop a jogger from keeping jogging (it didn’t work).
  • Cora and I went to see First Aid Kit in concert and before hand we covered ourselves in glitter (I had golden eyebrows!!) and talked about how to commemorate bad anniversaries.
  • Becky, Cora, Sophia and I had a sleepover that included an amazing blue ombre cake and Feminist Cards Against Humanity.
  • I went with Becky, Cora, Sophia and Yas to the Houses of Parliament dressed in a tie dyed tablecloth (I tie dyed it myself) because I had slept over. We all agreed I looked fab.
  • Sometimes when I think of them all my heart gets too big and I feel like im in a swimming pool of love and it’s the cheesiest thing but it is the best thing ever too and I want to stay in that pool forever until I wrinkle up like an old prune and they have to drag me out (even then I’d want to go back in).
  • The first time Becky, Sophia, Cora and I met in person, we all started talking about our therapy. We were open with each other about ourselves and that has meant that our friendship is some of the purest I have ever experienced.
  • We went to the Southbank Centre and into the Tunnel of Love and Yas and I took photos in those head hole carboard things. It was silly and fun.
  • On my mirror at the moment I have collected some quotes from my friends to help me get through. One is something that Cora said to me: “You are brilliant and there is no measure for that”, and I’ve also written some wisdom from Sophia which encapsulates this time right now: “Whatever it is, it’s not what it was and that matters. That’s a big deal because it proves that things can and will improve with time”.

Chalk and Cheer for 44 Years

By Jess Hayden

10405254 835515289844986 8615538126622825027 n Chalk and Cheer for 44 Years

Today marks 44 years since The Sun started having a topless woman on Page 3. This means that, for 44 years, The Sun have sexually objectified women to the point where the easiest way for a woman to be in the newspaper is to stand with her breasts out. What does it teach people – of all genders about women, if the biggest photo of a woman in Britains most popular “family” newspaper is a topless one? It teaches that women exist purely to be looked at.

At No More Page 3, we say this is 44 years too many. So, to mark the anniversary, we decided to protest yesterday outside of The Sun HQ near London Bridge. Chalk in hand, we stormed the square and wrote messages on the floor and walls for The Sun workers to read on Monday morning. Loudly, we sang “shove it up your bum old Rupert Murdoch”, to which The Sun’s security sang along. It was a great day, and PBG editor Yas did a great job talking to the police officers and using her charm to let us continue.

After hours of chalking and singing, we retired to the pub only to see cleaners take to the square to try to remove our artwork. We made it as difficult for them as possible. We lay down on our artwork, stomped our feet and sang as loudly as we possibly could. Soon, the cleaners gave up. Our artwork remained there for editor David Dinsmore and co. to read in the morning.

After all, we do strive to be as big of a nuisance as possible. I think we’re succeeding! Help us out by tweeting using #44YearsTooMany and urging everyone you know to sign the petition at change.org/nomorepage3

B2k2UUuCQAAfVUw Chalk and Cheer for 44 Years

My Body My Rights

By Chloe Hutchinson

amnestycampaign My Body My Rights

It should be a woman’s right to choose whether or not to have an abortion. It is a deeply personal decision that she should be able to make irrespective of the opinions of the government or the Church. Unfortunately, this right, which many of us take for granted, is not given in many parts of the world, including to our neighbours across the sea in the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland.

Whilst it is part of the United Kingdom, Northern Ireland has a devolved government that has control over many things, including reproductive rights of its citizens. This means that Northern Ireland is not included in the 1967 Abortion Act meaning that it still follows the laws in the 1861 Offences Against the Person Act – passed in the Victorian era! It is illegal for both women to administer, and for others (like doctors) to supply, drugs with the intent to cause an abortion. Breaking this law – as stated in the 2013 Protection of Life During Pregnancy Act – is punishable by up to 14 years imprisonment.

Even though it is a criminal offence to have, or aid, in an abortion or causing a miscarriage, this law is rarely enforced. In fact in March 2013 the Alliance for Choice published an open letter signed by 100 men and women admitting to obtaining or taking abortion pills which are illegal in the region. None have been arrested. This just shows how outdated this law is and how public opinion (and to some extent government opinion) is behind more progressive reform.

One of the most problematic parts of Irish abortion legislation is the 1983 Constitutional Amendment, which actually takes the law backwards from 1861 rather than forward. It states that the right to life of the unborn child and the mother are to be treated as equal by law. This reduces the woman to no more than a vessel.

Under current legislation, last updated in 2013, abortion is only legal in two cases: 1) when there is a real and substantial risk to the woman’s life through both physical complications and the threat of suicide (but not in cases where the pregnancy was a result of rape or incest) and 2) when she can afford to travel to England where the operation is carried out (and it is in accordance with our laws). In 2012 around 4,000 Irish women travelled to England to have an abortion, 124 of whom were under the age of 18. Furthermore post-abortion care is provided for by the state in Ireland. This is hypocrisy and essentially says that abortion is acceptable if you are rich thus reinforcing the class gap. Women with money travel, women without money have children.

Whilst economic barriers are in place for many of these women, all of them face the cultural and social stigma surrounding abortion. It carries a very heavy stigma and many live in fear of discrimination and exclusion from neighbours, work colleagues, friends and even family that may discover that a woman has had an abortion. Religion is incredibly important in both the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland where 84% and 43% of the population is Catholic. The link between the state and the Church is a key reason for the pro-life policies even when the public are calling for pro-choice.

Just because it is legal to have an abortion does not mean that anyone has to have one. It merely gives the opportunity to women who want to. The decision is incredibly personal and affects the individual more than anyone else, therefore their choice should be the most important factor to take into account. It is the choice of the individual, not of the Church.

In gaining access to an abortion on the grounds that her pregnancy is a real and substantial risk to her life (whatever that actually means), women are forced to share their decision again and again, perhaps with up to 7 GPs and doctors. Obviously this takes time; surely action should be taken as quickly as possible when there is a significant risk to life?

This lack of access to free, safe and legal abortions often forces women to take horrific action into their own hands in desperate attempts to cause a miscarriage. Starvation, throwing themselves down the stairs, coat hangers – just some of the things that are tried.

In 1992 a 14 year old, who had been raped by her neighbour, was prevented from travelling to Britain for an abortion after the family asked if the DNA could be used in the trial against her rapist. In 2012, a miscarrying woman was refused a potentially lifesaving abortion because “Ireland is a Catholic country.”

I think we can agree that these laws are outdated, in fact almost medieval! But what can we do?

  1. Continue to campaign for comprehensive, factually correct sex and relationship education across the whole of the UK, not just for England.
  2. Put pressure on your local MP to bring it up in Westminster – whilst the policy is not made in Westminster their influence can have an outstanding impact, especially as there is a public consultation ongoing at the moment until the 17th January 2015
  3. Educate yourselves and others about current legislation and options available – share information.
  4. Get involved in Amnesty International’s “My Body My Rights” campaign – #MyBodyMyRights
  5. Directly support organisations like the Abortion Support Network through donations or volunteering (if possible).

Authors note:

This blog post was inspired by the phenomenal talk on the “My Body My Rights” campaign at Amnesty International Student Conference at the start of this month. If you would like to get more involved in the campaign then do not hesitate to contact us (c.hutchinson285@gmail.com) I’d be glad to help!

 

 

The Importance of Purple Penguins

 

By Becky “Duck” Dudley

purple penguin hi The Importance of Purple PenguinsRecently, a school in Nebraska hit headlines after it made the decision to stop using gender exclusive language, such as ‘girls and boys’. Instead, they’ve opted to use a ‘classroom name’- a term decided by the teacher and/or class to describe the class as a whole. In this case, they used ‘purple penguins’.

It’s an idea that many have ridiculed – particularly due to the term ‘purple penguins’, which is seen as being weird and/or unnecessary. Ho
wever, speaking as a swimming teacher, I think it’s a great idea, and one I am going to implement in my lessons.

It’s not the first gender-related inclusive teaching strategy I have adopted. I do what I would hope is standard in all lessons, and refuse to let the children in my care use gender as an excuse or insult- there are no cries of ‘you’re only a girl!’ or ‘man up!’ in my lessons, not from me and not from the kids. I am trying my best not even to say ‘good girl’ or ‘good boy’.

A few months ago, I went a step further. In the lesson I was teaching at the time, I chose to split the group into two, to play a team game. We had equal numbers of girls and boys, so the children asked to be split into gendered teams. After a moment’s thought, I said no. It’s a principle I’ve continued with ever since – as far as possible, if we are playing a team game, the teams will have mixed genders.

Why these measures? The ‘obvious’ reason is to provide inclusion for any children who already feel that, for whatever reason, they don’t fit into the binary categories gender presents us with. That is, indeed, one of the main reasons for my choices. It would genuinely break my heart if any one of the children I teach felt the language I used excluded them, or if my language choices were adding to their confusion over their own identity.

However, being gender inclusive does not just benefit those who don’t fit into the binary presented to us by society. It benefits all of the children I teach. For example, having such a separation of genders, as summed up by ‘girls and boys’, enforces the idea of irremovable gender-roles. We have the ‘girls’, with their babies and make up and cooking; then we have the ‘boys’, with their cars, sports and DIY. These roles cannot be separated – girls cannot be strong, boys cannot display emotions. This is really harmful, as it prevents people from being who they are, and pigeon-holes them into an identity based around their genitals.

Moreover, all the children I teach are aged between 4-12. In our society, this is a really important age. This is generally the age range where children are socialised to see and conform to the gender split, going from playing indiscriminately to often (though not always) playing in gender split groups. I don’t see this as being a positive at all. In later life, this early isolation leads to the idea of ‘men are from Mars, women are from Venus’, where men and women are seen almost as two separate species. This causes all sorts of problems due to a perceived lack of understanding and empathy between genders. If there had been less separation earlier on, later life – and later relationships – could be far easier to navigate.

As a result, I feel that the schools in Nebraska have a valid point. More than that, I feel that non-gendered language and teaching strategies should be implemented in each and every teaching instance. It’s not going to happen overnight – there will be trial and error. But as anyone who teaches will know, the act of teaching itself is a learning curve. We learn with our children, and if we want the best for them then we must constantly be adapting.

In addition, adopting such an approach is not going to have a massive effect straightaway. However, in the short-term it will make sure that we are including all students, and in the long term it may well help them in later life. Both of these benefits are far too big not to consider, especially when the path to such outcomes is, really, pretty easy. Join me, Nebraska, and plenty of other individuals as we say: ‘Purple penguins, you’ve worked well today. Let’s have a purple penguin high five.’

 

Why Self-Care Matters in Activism

selfcare Why Self Care Matters in Activism

By Sophia Simon-Bashall

I tend not to think of myself as an activist. I’m involved with movements and do a lot of little things in my daily life to effect change, but I don’t do anything I consider particularly big and spectacular. I’ve never been on a protest, partaken in public speaking, started a petition, or anything along those lines. But lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about this and I’ve come to the conclusion that I am wrong in not identifying as an activist. I am wrong because the little things DO count, they ARE important, and I AM helping to make a difference. I write for Powered by Girl, I sign petitions, I use social media to spread awareness of issues, and I argue with people on a regular basis about why the things they have said and done are problematic. Yet when I think most deeply about it, the most significant thing I do is something that nobody sees the political value of. I look after myself.

Most likely, you’re wondering how on earth that counts as activism. But trust me, self-care is vital. It’s something that I strongly believe everyone can and should partake in. I’m sure most people would agree that it’s important to be good to yourself, but what’s the link with activism, you ask? WELL…

What does the patriarchy rely on? The collective self-loathing of women.

It simply would not do if we all loved ourselves. If we did, we’d do things like take more ‘man’ jobs; positions of power. If we loved ourselves, we’d demand more autonomy, more sexual freedom, more respect for who we are. We would ask to be treated like human beings, and like equals to the men around us. That, obviously, would just be terrible.

Whilst we fight for these things and more, the patriarchy concentrates its efforts at keeping us down in different ways. It does a pretty thorough job of it, too.

The diet industry, the cosmetic industry, the fashion industry – they’re all tools used to remind us of our inferiority, to amplify our every insecurity and make sure we are feeling bad about ourselves, all the time.

If our concentration is on our flabby thighs, we’ll buy the fat binding pills, the weight watchers meals, the slimming world memberships. If we’re focused on superficial ‘flaws’ we will feed the capitalist system and we will have less energy to put into advocating equal opportunities, campaigning for new media guidelines and standing up for ourselves.

The more we hate ourselves, the tighter the constraints on us get. The more we feed the negative voices, the more comfortable those in power become. The less we value ourselves, the easier oppression becomes.

So, if you’re thinking that you “don’t have time” for self-care, think again. Because caring for yourself is exactly what you MUST spend time on. Improving your own life will indirectly improve others, too.

Go on, tuck into that bar of chocolate and defy the manipulative diet industry. Have a good swim, and refute the mythological weakness that is supposedly in your female genes. Sleep in late instead of going to work one day, because you don’t live to please others, you live for yourself. Read a book you’ve been wanting to read, stimulate your mind, and disprove that your intelligence is inferior to a guy’s. Go bare-faced when you’re running late in the morning, because you love the skin that you’re in, and you’ve got places to be and people to see, more important things than looking ‘flawless’. Experiment with make-up, take selfies and bask in the light of your beauty and your abundant energy. Do what makes you feel good, and laugh in the face of the patriarchy.

Self-care also aids the rest of your activism – taking care of your physical and emotional health allows you to give so much more to writing, to campaigning, to educating. You cannot fight for the rights and equality of the masses when you are fighting with yourself. Self-care isn’t selfish, self-care is essential.

In the words of the great Audre Lorde, “caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation and that is an act of political warfare.”