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The Diplomatic Disaster of Trump’s Relations with China

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By Amy Callaghan

The relationship between the US and China is one of the most significant relationships of the 21st century. China’s role as an international power and its place as a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council means that it is a vital and powerful ally to the US internationally.

US concerns about the rising power of China in East Asia, and Chinese concerns about the tendency of the US to interfere and impede on affairs which China considered purely domestic, have been the main reason for tensions between the two countries in the past.

Since the end of the Cold War, a delicate diplomacy has emerged between China and the US, hinging on a core set of values and established rules of interaction between the two. Both countries are incredibly reliant on each other both from an international diplomacy point of view as well as in terms of economics and trade, and this is why the election of Donald Trump as president of the US has caused such concerns over the future of the US-Chinese relationship.

One of the most crucial aspects of the relationship is adherence to the ‘One China’ policy. Put into simple terms, the ‘One China’ policy means that the US only recognises the People’s Republic of China, governed in Beijing, rather than the Republic of China, governed from Taipei in Taiwan.

In the past, issues between the US and China which have nearly led to open conflict have centred on perceived breaking of this principle – for example, the 1996 Taiwan Strait Crisis nearly resulted in use of military force by the US and China against each other. This crisis was caused by a state visit from the newly elected president of Taiwan to the US, which appeared to China to be a direct threat to the One-China principle. From this perspective, then, it is clear why then president-elect Trump’s phone call to the president of Taiwan in December 2016 caused tensions between the US and China, with experts from the White House rushing to assure the Chinese government in Beijing that the US intended to adhere to the One-China policy.

Evan Medeiros, the Asia director at the White House national security council, told the Financial Times: “The Chinese leadership will see this as a highly provocative action of historic proportions. Regardless if it was deliberate or accidental, this phone call will fundamentally change China’s perceptions of Trump’s strategic intentions for the negative. With this kind of move, Trump is setting a foundation of enduring mistrust and strategic competition for US-China relations.”

Diplomatic blunders such as these are why the presidency of Donald Trump could throw established international relationships into chaos.

Domestically, of course, Trump’s presidency has been anything but peaceful and stable – he has demonstrated a distinct lack of understanding of the judicial system among other things, as well as enacting essentially unconstitutional policies such as the Muslim ban. However, it will be these international diplomatic blunders which cause Trump – and the US as a whole – the greatest issues in maintaining their status as a power with unrivalled global influence. In recent days, Trump has committed to maintaining the One-China policy in a phone call to Xi Jinping, the president of China, yet the fear and uncertainty about Trump’s intentions caused by his initial blunder and stance on the issue is now a part of the Chinese perspective on the US for the foreseeable future.

It is unclear, as with so many issues arising from Trump’s presidency, how this situation will play out over the next four years. Maintaining a stable and cooperative relationship with China was one of the priorities of the Obama administration, as its importance as an ally of the US was given the value and significance it deserved.

However, with his customary tough talk and his ambitions to ‘Make America Great Again’, Trump could completely throw off the balance of the international stage, and nothing is a clearer indicator of this than his interactions with China up to this point. Threatening the stability of America’s relationship with China would have disastrous repercussions globally, from an economic perspective as well as a threat to keeping the peace between the two countries.

Clothes, Clothes, Clothes, Music, Music, Music, Boys, Boys, Boys – A Review of Viv Albertine’s autobiography

Author:
Viv-Albertine

By Amy Callaghan

Clothes, Clothes, Clothes, Music, Music, Music, Boys, Boys, Boys. According to Viv Albertine, guitarist of revolutionary all-girl punk band the Slits, this was a phrase expressed frequently to her by her mother during her childhood and adolescence, ‘Clothes, clothes, clothes, music, music, music, boys, boys, boys – that’s all you ever think about!’. On the surface, that’s what her autobiography appears to be about as well – Albertine’s memories and anecdotes are anchored in the clothes, music, and boys influencing her at the time. Yet her book is more than a whirlwind tale of the legendary punk scene, told through aesthetics only – it is an open and thought-provoking appraisal of Albertine’s entire life.

Albertine’s autobiography is, as punk fans would hope, an insight into what it was like on the inside of the punk scene in the 1960s and 70s, as well as what it was like to be a woman in such a world. However, this is not, in my opinion, the main reason why this book stands out as a radical piece of feminist literature. Rather, it is Albertine’s brutally honest assessment of her whole life, pieced together in an occasionally jarring order, which is the most striking and revelatory aspect of this book. From her childhood, raised by a single mother in North London, and her maintaining issues with her father until his death in 2009, to her battle with cancer, her desperation for a baby and her struggle to conceive, her time as a Hastings housewife, and how the deterioration of her marriage coincided with her increasing desperation to make music again, Albertine holds nothing back, and it is this (at times borderline alarming) determination to be completely truthful about her experiences as a woman throughout every stage of her life which makes this such an inspiring work.

Albertine’s completely frank writing is at times almost unnerving. She doesn’t care if the reader is made uncomfortable by what she has to say or how she says it – the entire book is like a declaration of ‘well, these are my experiences, I lived through this, and I’m certainly not going to sugar-coat it’. It doesn’t, however, read as intentionally playing on shock value. Above all, it is honest. It’s refreshing to hear directly from a woman on often taboo subjects such as menstruation, masturbation, crabs – Albertine refuses to fall into the cultural trap of preserving the modesty of a woman’s body, and writes about these experiences in the same reflective and honest way in which she confronts everything else. It is brilliant and defiant in its rationality.

She writes openly about an abortion she had in 1978 and about how she did not regret it until 20 years later, and has not stopped regretting it since. Still, however, she is emphatic in her support for the right for a woman to choose whether or not to have an abortion. This section of the book takes on a new significance when she writes, many chapters later, of her difficulties in conceiving, the babies she lost through miscarriages, the amount of money and effort poured into IVF, and her eventual success and joy in becoming a mother. Albertine’s writing here is emotive and powerful, and the reader cannot help but feel strongly for her life – for someone unfamiliar with Albertine’s personal life, one could almost begin to root for her as one does for a character in a fictional novel, were it not for her occasional italicised retrospective remarks from her current perspective.

Of course, Albertine’s experiences as a woman in the 1970s punk scene is a substantial section of the book, and incredibly revelatory in itself. The Slits were a defining band in post-punk, and a massive step forward for representation of women in punk as well as in the music industry as a whole. When she writes of the complete lack of representation of any women doing what she wanted to do in music – Albertine couldn’t see any female punk guitarists so firmly believed for a long time that her only access to that world was through the men she associated with – it hammers home the lack of representation women still face in the 21st century. The fact that a girl with no musical training was determined enough to pick up a guitar and play, particularly in such a trailblazing band as the Slits, is nothing short of inspiring.

In an interview with Paper magazine 6 months after the book’s UK release, Albertine expressed her surprise that anyone was inspired by the book. ‘I wanted to show the flipside of someone who looks like they’ve got their life together and what is really underneath it all, so I wrote all the downsides, and yet people found it very inspiring.’ she said. Yet it is difficult to see how Albertine’s book couldn’t be inspiring. Albertine’s experiences, while at points completely distinctive to her era and generation, will hold familiarity with women across every generation, and her publication of this honest confrontation and assessment of her life is an incredibly brave decision.

Clothes, Clothes, Clothes, Music, Music, Music, Boys, Boys, Boys was recommended to me as a feminist and music lover. But I would recommend it to anyone, regardless of their interest in music. Even if you’ve never heard of the Slits, never been into punk or any kind of subversive culture, there will be something in Albertine’s book that will resonate with you and your own experiences. And even if there isn’t – her life is bloody interesting enough to have you hooked regardless.

We Deserve #SREnow

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Powered by Girl is a girl-driven activist movement. Many of our team are young women living all over the UK. As a group who have been directly affected by the UK government’s inaction on Sex and Relationships Education, we’re here to speak out. We’re victims of a sexist, derogatory and dangerous culture of sex. As young women, we feel it’s vital that gender-based violence and information about consent is made available to every child and every teenager. That’s why we support the End Violence Against Women and Everyday Sexism Project’s petition for ‪#‎SREnow‬. Here are just some of our reasons:

Healthy relationships develop through understanding – not only about healthcare, but also about mental care. There is too much ignorance surrounding issues of consent and sexual orientation, and the best way to tackle this is by education. This is why we must support the campaign to make SRE statutory in UK schools – so everyone can enjoy happy and safe relationships – Issy, 20

Sex and relationships can be one of the most exciting things about growing up. Unfortunately it can also be one of the most dangerous. Young people need to be educated not just in safe sex, but on safe relationships, in order to equip this most vulnerable group in society to deal with these issues – information for everyone, no matter their sexuality – Amy, 16

At a time when children and young people are bombarded relentlessly by so many confusing and potentially dangerous messages about sex and relationships, comprehensive and in-depth SRE is vital. Biology does not suffice- exploring relationships and sexuality are often key aspects of adolescence and young adulthood- however, as we hear more and more of these experiences being negative ones, tackling the relevant issues through education is of paramount importance. By introducing SRE as compulsory, we can build fantastic foundations for not just adolescence, but for a lifetime of happy and healthy relationships – Cora, 16

It is vital that young people across the UK receive a decent SRE covering all key areas. Merely focusing on STIs, as was my one term of sex ed, is not sufficient. Consent should be central to SRE however schools are not required to teach it. When it comes to consent there are no ‘blurred lines’ and that needs to be clear. A 17 year old should not be learning about consent through discussion online before being taught about it in SRE or PSHE. Statutory SRE should teach responsibility and respect for people of all genders and sexual orientations and provide a safe environment to do so. We need to improve SRE and we need to do it now – Chloe, 18

With every minute that passes, roughly one incident of domestic abuse is reported to the police. That’s 60 incidents per hour; 1440 per day. Over a year, this amounts to around 525600 incidents- and those are the reported ones. It’s believed that far far more cases of domestic abuse go unreported. These are really shocking figures, yet they’re rarely talked about. School sex education lessons- even those titled ‘sex and relationships’- choose to focus on the biology of reproduction and ways of preventing pregnancy and/or infections. Whilst not saying these issues aren’t important, there is far more to ‘sex and relationships’ than this. There is little or no education delivered around consent, or sexuality, or happy and safe relationships. Young men and women are let down by this; they’re lead to believe that there is no choice but to go along with unacceptable behaviour, lead to believe that it’s not okay to be different or to speak up. This leads to so many problems further down the line that could be reduced with some basic education. If nothing else, the message could be delivered that it is okay to talk about these things. We no longer live in an age where we can pretend this isn’t happening, and transfer the problems to someone else. We need to act, to lay down the correct building blocks in the formation of happy, healthy adults, engaging in happy, healthy relationships. Legislation around this would be a hugely important step – Becky, 17

You can get involved by Tweeting using the hashtag #SREnow, and signing the petition here :)

SREnowpetition

Girls Matter.

Author:

By Amy Callaghan

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Today marks the launch of an exciting new project from Girlguiding, the UK’s leading charity for girls and young women. The project is called Girls Matter, and it details the changes girls and young women would like to see in the future. We’re releasing it in the run up to the 2015 General Election, in order to encourage political parties to listen, and pledge to make these changes happen in the next parliamentary term.

As a member of Advocate, a panel of Girlguiding members aged 14-25 from all over the UK, I’ve been really involved in the project. It’s been the most amazing experience and opportunity, especially knowing how important this project could prove to be.

I mean, it is a politically (and historically) significant project. It’s the first time girls in guiding have made a direct call to politicians. Girlguiding has asked members aged 7-25 what they care about most and think needs to change. There have been consultations, workshops, and sessions about the projects with Brownies aged 7-9, Guides aged 10-14 and members of The Senior Section aged 14-25 across the country. As an Advocate, I’ve been right at the heart of what we’ve found out. I’ve had my say on what I think are the most important issues affecting girls today. And we’ve devised eight calls for change that we ask the government to listen to and commit to act on.

These calls are:

  1. Listen to girls and young women, take them seriously and make sure their voices count.
  2. Demand that schools take a zero-tolerance approach to sexual bullying and harassment.
  3. Call on all schools to teach body confidence and gender equality.
  4. Make girls’ rights a priority in the UK’s approach to international development.
  5. Stop children’s exposure to harmful sexualised content in mainstream media.
  6. Empower girls and young women to speak out and to be heard on the impact of media sexism and stereotyping.
  7. Modernise Sex and Relationships Education so all young people can make informed decisions and stay safe.
  8. Guarantee that women will be equally represented in Parliament

This is so important. These eight calls represent exactly what girls and young women want from a government. They want action on these things. They want something to be done. They’re saying – we’re saying – ‘This is what’s wrong. This is what we want you to do to make it better.’ Girlguiding research reveals that over half of girls aged 11-21 feel that politicians don’t listen to their views enough. But isn’t that exactly what a government is for? To listen to its people? To make sure their voices are heard and recognised?

Having been so involved with the project, I know how important these issues are. I mean, obviously I am a young woman myself so I know how important the issues are to me, and to the rest of the Advocate panel. But the response from our members on these issues was absolutely overwhelming – these are the issues they care about, that affect their lives. I’ve had a Brownie getting more and more frustrated as she told me how awful it was that someone might feel bad about their appearance because of the way women look in magazines. 87% of girls aged 11-21 feel that they are judged more on looks than ability. No wonder they feel such enormous pressure to live up to the images of women presented in the media! I’ve heard girls as young as 8 saying that lots of people think girls don’t matter as much as boys. That’s right; an 8 year old has already realised that girls are treated differently from boys. Something is clearly wrong with this. And Girls Matter seeks to recognise and change this.

One of the most important calls for me is the last, the one asking that women be equally represented in Parliament. I mean, for goodness’ sake, is it really too much to ask that there be a number of women in Parliament proportionate to the number of women in the population? Seems pretty sensible to me. That way, women’s views will hopefully get represented more equally.

It is so hugely important that politicians realise the significance of this. We need them to pledge to act in order to affect the change girls are asking for. Come on, guys. It’s your responsibility now to show that you’re listening to us and taking us seriously. It’s time for you to do something about it. It’s time to act.

Find out more about Girls Matter and take the online pledge here.

Read blog posts from Girlguiding members about why they think these calls are important here.

Male “Guardians” in Saudi Arabia

Author:

 

By Amy Callaghanurl

There are issues with women’s rights everywhere. These issues include, but are certainly not limited to; the ever-present wage gap, the continued effect of sexism encountered by women in their day to day lives, and, of course, the fact that in Saudi Arabia women still need the permission of their male guardian to do pretty much anything.

It’s a fact that women’s rights in places like Saudi Arabia are horrific. We hear shocking news stories all the time, most often about the driving ban, which is perhaps the most well known issue in the UK and US. But the human rights issue goes far beyond that. The guardian system means that  women are assigned a male ‘guardian’- usually their father, brother or husband – and this ‘guardian’ basically has total control over the woman’s life. Women can’t study, work, travel, even go to the doctor without the permission of their guardian. Good grief. It all sounds a bit Victorian, doesn’t it?

My question, though, is about the cultural restraints on women. Sure, there is legislation in place regarding the guardian system, and the driving ban, and we know Saudi Arabia is not hesitant to punish harshly for breaches. But does a cultural aspect play into it at all? Even if the legislation was slackened, would women feel comfortable making the most of new freedoms?

The answer, according to the wife of a Saudi journalist, is no.

In June, in one of my classes at school, I got the opportunity to listen to a Saudi man – a journalist. He worked for a magazine – talking about issues in Saudi Arabia. At first glance, he seemed reasonably progressive. He spoke about how he wished women’s rights were more like how they are in the UK, where he apparently spends a lot of time. Yet scratch the surface and his answers to certain questions seemed slightly evasive and indirect. And one of the things he said which surprised me most was about his wife.

He seems like a nice husband, don’t get me wrong. His wife travels with him to the UK, and when in the UK seems to enjoy all the freedoms of a UK woman, like being allowed to drive, for example. Yet her husband told us that she had said, despite being perfectly happy to drive in the UK, that she wouldn’t drive in Saudi Arabia even if it was legal – and even if, 5 years after it became legal, it was a widely accepted practice.

Hmmm. That just doesn’t fly with me. I’m sure, of course, that there are women who wouldn’t feel comfortable, initially, driving. But after it became commonly accepted, I’m pretty sure women would gladly be driving about, enjoying their new (and overdue) freedom. In addition, the prolific campaign Women2Drive which asks that the ban on women driving be lifted (started by Manal al-Sharif, a Saudi woman and activist) has garnered a lot of public support, not only overseas but, more tellingly, in the Saudi community, with many women driving cars in towns in Saudi Arabia in protest of the ban. So clearly, Saudi women do want to drive.

Another statistic reflecting the relative progressiveness of women in Saudi Arabia is the fact that 60% of university graduates in Saudi Arabia are Saudi women. That’s right, 60%. Saudi women make up the majority of graduates – showing a keen thirst for learning and knowledge, and the gaining of skills – yet they only constitute 18.6% of the nation’s workforce (as of 2011). What happens between graduating and a career? Where do all the intelligent, capable, eager Saudi women go? The most likely answer is, their male guardian won’t let them work – they’ve had their chance to go and study, and now they should be satisfied with staying in the home where they belong.

Yet even the fact that they want to study shows that Saudi women want to progress. They don’t want to stay locked in the same rights-restricting jam. Give them the freedom to do these things themselves – no male permission needed – and they will. And the country will be better for it.

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