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yasthatannoyingfeminist

Chalk and Cheer for 44 Years

Author:

By Jess Hayden

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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

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My Body My Rights

Author:

By Chloe Hutchinson

amnestycampaign

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.

 

 

The Importance of Purple Penguins

Author:

 

By Becky “Duck” Dudley

purple-penguin-hiRecently, 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

Author:

selfcare

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.”

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