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The rape clause: thoughts on Tory women in politics

Author:
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By Isla Whateley

Content note: discussion of rape and the law around rape

As a woman in politics, you are a minority. In both Westminster (UK) and Holyrood (Scotland) parliaments, about a third of elected politicians are women. Both the UK Prime Minister and the Scottish First Minister are women, however, and some may say this is an ‘achievement’ for women and feminism. But this is not necessarily the case.

The Conservative government, led by Theresa May (the second ever woman Prime Minister), has just put forward changes to child tax credits. Child tax credits are part of the welfare system in the UK; a benefit that low-income working parents get. As a child in a low-income, lone parent family, I benefitted hugely from the tax credits that we received. They were introduced by the Labour government that were in power for 13 years, 1997 to 2010, for almost all of my childhood. Although I was an only child, there was no cap for the amount of tax credits you received based on the number of children you had. My mum and I have a lot to thank Labour for and we wouldn’t have been able to get by without it.

Fast forward to now. Theresa May and the Conservatives have put a cap on child tax credits to two children – the ‘family cap’. Sounds unfair, right? It gets worse. If you have more than two children, sorry, no welfare for you. Unless one of these children is a result of a rape. You are forced to disclose this if you want to receive this welfare.

First of all, this completely undermines and ignores the extreme trauma rape causes. Rape is a violent crime, and many survivors suffer from mental illnesses such PTSD, depression and anxiety as a result. The legal system is rigged against women and survivors – hence, rape is ridiculously under-reported and under-convicted. Imagine undergoing all of that, and then being forced to disclose this highly sensitive, traumatic information in order to put food on the table for your children. It is clear that no survivors, sexual assault charities or women’s organisations were consulted in the formulation of this clause. At best, it is anti-feminist and undermines survivor’s autonomy . At worst, it will result in death.

On April 25th, in the Scottish Parliament, there was a debate on this issue. Kezia Dugdale, leader of the Scottish Labour Party, read out a letter from a rape victim and attacked Ruth Davidson, leader of the Scottish Conservatives, for being the only Scottish party leader to not have condemned the clause. Davidson, like May, is a prominent Tory and a woman. Neither of them seem to care about this.

So how did a government led by a woman let this go through? Sadly, being a woman does not equal being a feminist. This goes for politicians too. The Tories have actively pursued an austerity agenda since being in government, in order to combat the deficit, and there is extensive evidence that austerity disproportionately affects marginalised groups. This most definitely includes women – who are most likely to be affected by the rape clause.

For me, feminism is intersectional and must represent all women – especially if they are single parents, rape survivors, or low-income. It is one thing having Conservative men promote the rape clause, but a completely different issue when Ruth Davidson refuses to comment. Her silence and inaction says so much more than words could – that she doesn’t care. She doesn’t care enough to fight against this horrific injustice. In Scotland, we can’t do anything to stop it apart from lobby the Westminster government. Ruth Davidson is my local MSP, and I can say for sure that she represents survivors of sexual assault in this constituency. Her silence is abhorrent and very telling of the nature of many women Conservatives in the public eye.

Thankfully, many other Scottish politicians and activists are taking a stand. Two protests have taken place already – one in Glasgow, on Thursday 13th April, and one in Edinburgh on Thursday 20th April. At both, prominent campaigners and politicians spoke against the clauses, and hundreds of people turned up to show their support. There is a petition that can be signed here to bring further awareness to the issue, if you are a UK citizen. It is also important to vote against the Tories in the upcoming snap General Election – they are actively damaging to women and our rights. Register to vote here by 22nd May 2017!

Your college decision doesn’t define you

Author:
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By Stephanie Wang

Decisions are hard, I know. Soup or salad? Cake or ice cream? Cookie or brownie?

Really, even making decisions on something as easy as what to eat can be difficult, much less where you’re going to spend the next four years. For the other high school seniors, uncommitted, terrified about the choice you’ve just had to make, I know it’s scary taking the plunge.

Perhaps you were rejected from your dream school, or, debatably worse, accepted to your dream school but unable to afford it. Perhaps you think you know where you want to go, but you’re worried about this and that, and what if everyone there hates you there and you have no friends and you fail all y–

Relax. It’s all going to be okay.

As someone uncommitted just a few days ago, I can undoubtedly relate, especially when it seems every one of your options is good and holy crap, how does someone just step on a college campus and know that it’s a perfect fit? How can someone possibly stomach a binding Early Decision, knowing where they want to be as early as November? If you’re like me, you’re probably thinking something along the lines of, “What’s the secret? How do I know where I’m meant to go?”

First and foremost, please remember that college is not the end destination; college is not where you should be peaking. No matter what college you choose, more times than not, your happiness and success at a college is a result of self-determination. A result of you, standing up and resolving, “I will be happy and successful.”

Perhaps, most importantly, remember that college is a personal decision, a decision that can’t be decided by your parents, friends, or for that matter, absolute strangers that think they know your best interest. It’s you that’s going to college – not your Aunt Sally or your mom. It’s you, and you better be invested in your own education.

Go to the school you think you’ll be the successful at; not the school with the highest ranking or the school that everyone wants you to go. For me, personally, that was Vanderbilt University, but I sure know that much of my family and friends, including my mom and dad, wanted me to go to MIT or UChicago instead. I’m sure many of you reading this are thinking the same.

But for me, it boiled down to a couple things: for one, flexibility. It’s at Vanderbilt where I would have the most flexibility and the opportunity to explore as many of my interests as I would like, particularly since there’s no limit to the amount of AP credit I can use. As someone excessively indecisive, Vanderbilt made the most sense for me to attend. Instead of being pigeon-holed in a humanities-centered or a STEM-centered school, I’ll be attending a good school with both humanities and STEM. And, like many other of my peers, it also boiled down to money. Perhaps my biggest concern was regarding where I would fit in socially, but it only makes sense that I can find my group anywhere – in a school with over 6,000 undergraduates, it only makes sense you’ll find your crowd.

To conclude, the answer to “What’s the secret?” is that there simply isn’t one. Forget US News rankings or arbitrary assignments of “prestige.” There isn’t a “wrong choice” or a school that will set you up for failure – it’s what you do at the school that makes the difference.

I argue that there isn’t a school that’s a perfect fit for any student; realistically speaking, there will always be something about the college that you don’t like. Think about your college decision in the scope of trade-offs and opportunity costs: about what school requires you to sacrifice the least and grants you the most opportunities, not just now, but further down the line. Write your thoughts down, considering the pros and cons based on you, not what someone else thinks. Don’t think about how you’re “letting someone down” if you choose this school over another school; keep in mind only your own happiness and future.

I wish all you seniors the best of luck, not just in college, but in life. College isn’t the end destination; it’s the beginning of a new adventure, and I hope it’s one filled with happiness and success. For you juniors beginning to embark on this college journey, I wish you only the best (and also, please remember that a college decision does not define you).

She podcasts

Author:
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By Sophia Simon-Bashall

Podcasting is on the rise – it’s become a very popular medium over the past year or two. It’s a great format because you can listen on the go, unlike YouTube videos, and it’s versatile. A podcast can feel like a news report, an academic lecture, an intimate conversation between friends, and anything in between. That’s why I love them so much, there’s something for any mood – although, the intimate conversations are definitely my favourites.

There are so many podcasts on iTunes, it can be overwhelming and impossible to know where to start! Here at PBG, we like to minimise overwhelm and so are at the rescue. The following are a few of my personal favourite shows, all of which are so different from each other.

Some of these you may have heard of, some you won’t have. And I can guarantee that at least one of them will be for you, regardless of whether you’re an avid podcast listener already or new to this world.

Magic Lessons

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This is Elizabeth Gilbert’s podcast. Yes, ELIZABETH GILBERT. It’s an extension of her book, Big Magic, and it is genius. Of course. It’s currently on hiatus, but there’s plenty of episodes already available to get you started. Plus, each episode deserves at least two listens – there are some that I’ve played 5 times, and each time I discover something new.

Melanin Millenials
Imrie and Satia are hilarious. This was the first podcast that I got into which felt like a radio show, and not ~just~ a conversation between friends. I look forward to the different segments each week, especially ‘Clash of the Clashbacks’. If you want to know what that is (it’s as fun as it sounds), you’ll have to tune in! They recently recorded a live episode, which I got to attend, and talked about being entirely unprepared for university. It was comforting, as well as entertaining, to say the least.

Let It Out
This podcast saved me. When I first went to university, I felt incredibly isolated. When I dropped out, I felt that just as acutely. During that time, I listened to this show whenever possible. It felt like I was part of something, part of these conversations with Katie and her guest/s, and kept me out of my own head. Without a doubt, it’s my favourite podcast, and I love it more and more all the time. It’s the most intimate, and listening in feels like a giant hug.

XX, Will Travel
XX is a travel podcast made by and for women! Too often, the outdoors is viewed as “the boy’s” realm. Over the past few years, narratives of women in the wild have increased, but this has predominantly been about white women. I love that this show is different. One of the two hosts is Latinx, and they feature a diverse range of guests. That, and they share really cool resources and tips.

Food Psych

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Fellow PBG-er, Fee, introduced me to Food Psych, and I couldn’t be more grateful. Host Christy Harrison is a registered dietician/nutritionist, but ~plot twist~ she doesn’t spout BS about food and weight! This podcast has been instrumental for me in gaining understanding of the Health At Every Size movement, and has introduced me to so many cool people doing body positive work.

Call Your Girlfriend
Yes, this is named after the Robyn song. It’s a podcast created by two long-distance best friends, and they talk about everything. It’s kind of like if you were actually calling your BFF and catching up, and just happened to record it. And they often call in other cool people, including badass babe Virgie Tovar, who is a fat activist and – quite simply – a hero.

Witch, Please
I solemnly swear that Witch, Please is the best and worst thing to ever happen to me. It is the best because all I ever want to do is immerse myself in the world of Harry Potter, and this gives me the space for that. It is the worst because it has ruined the cocoon. I can no longer watch my ultimate comfort films without screaming at the screen every five minutes. And not just because dementors really, REALLY give me the creeps. The Chamber of Secrets has truly been opened. You have been warned.

the hurricane pod

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I started the hurricane pod because I needed a way to connect with other people – I was not in education, and my family had just moved to an unfamiliar place. I also really wanted to talk about mental illness in an honest manner – I was tired of the ‘success’ narratives of celebrities overcoming their mental health problems. These stories are important to hear, but they’re not always relatable when you’re in the midst of it. Plus, for many of us, ~recovered~ is not a state we will ever reach, and that is okay. The hurricane pod is about living through the storms of our brains, accepting that it’s messy, and managing the best that we can. I’m immensely proud of each and every episode, but those with my fellow PBG-ers Pip and Anna-Marie are my favourites to listen back to.

This Creative Life
Sara Zarr – author of How to Save a Life and Story of a Girl – hosts this podcast, and she speaks with other YA authors about the creative process. I’m obsessed with it, because I love hearing people’s thoughts on creativity, and I love YA. My favourite episode is with Nina LaCour, obviously. Nina LaCour makes my favourite everything.

And a few more fantastic shows, if you’re ready to dive in deep (I may or may not be subscribed to 50+ podcasts…)

Sooo Many White Guys

The Business of Soul Searching

Doing Good

The Notable Woman

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The Girl Gang Conversations

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My Disorder

Author:
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A poem by Rousseau Duclos

Content Note: depression, EDNOS, eating disorders, mental illness, self-hatred

My disorder is just that, it’s a disorder,
a realm of chaos and confusion and hatred,
of a mind that can’t quite grasp why but can’t stop either.
My disorder is not a teenage girl with tiny thighs
and a flat stomach, with a bright, clear smile and shining eyes too,
and pale, smooth skin that glistens in the daylight.
My disorder is not a little girl with frail bones and a miniscule waist,
one that excuses herself after every meal but who returns to the table with
breath that smells like peppermints,
or who eats celery and lettuce for dinner, seemingly immune to desire.
My disorder is not your girlfriend, who never lets a single morsel pass through her lips,
but whose stomach is always gurgle-free, or the girl with perfect grades
and shiny, long blonde hair that rests down her back,
a whispered “You could save me.”
My disorder is not a speedy recovery, only one relapse and it’s not even gruesome,
with a handsome man at her side and love in the air and, Wow, wasn’t that so easy?
or midnight sex with hands running over her body, which
is still rail-thin even though she can’t stop saying how much she’s recovered.
My disorder is not love or perfection or anything remotely pleasant,
because that is a lie, perfection doesn’t exist,
and no human can survive on celery and lettuce alone.
My disorder is tears and crying and therapy sessions and hospitalizations,
desperate for help
and also consumed with the belief that nothing is wrong.
My disorder is worried parents and family meals,
just to make sure that you’re actually eating, and then bathroom doors
locked from the outside because the sound of vomiting was heard once too often.
My disorder is not beauty; it is death,
with stringy hair that crumbles in your fingertips,
yellowing teeth, and an overwhelming desire to die, or maybe
to just stop feeling everything for a moment.
My disorder is just a form of prolonged suicide,
because, without end, that’s the inevitable outcome,
an emaciated corpse that was apparently never skinny enough, even in her grave.
My disorder is not just teenage white girls, with money and friends;
it’s people in every single walk of life, of all races, all ages, all genders,
every single social stance imaginable, people with jobs or in school,
with so much potential for growth but who are forced to decay.
My disorder is never just a new weight-loss program,
and that exercise isn’t about getting healthy or being fit,
it’s about making yourself so small you disappear completely.
My disorder is, “Oh, wow, you’ve lost a lot of weight, but it looks great!”
and me clenching my teeth, because can’t you tell that for the past four weeks,
my mind has only daydreamed about the icing on your lips and the slice of bread in your hands
My disorder isn’t health, and will never be health,
it’s “fruit has too many carbs” and eating no vitamins whatsoever,
because what about the bloating?
My disorder is self-hatred, and it isn’t a choice,
it’s never been a choice, because who would chose that?
And it will never make sense.
My disorder is all of the evil and cruelty,
inflicted upon myself, and it isn’t logical,
because it’s a mental illness, brought on by a chemical imbalance in my brain.
My disorder is all the distrust I’ve ever seen in my mother’s eyes,
but it isn’t me, because I am a human being, worthy of every possibility,
and it is only my disorder that deserves to die.
My recovery is a lot of hard work, therapy sessions and a new cocktail of medications,
and sometimes it feels like it’ll never be over,
and maybe it won’t, but in the meantime, I can spend my nights thinking about a day
when I can let you run your hands over my body and not want to shrink away,
when I can run and dance because I love it and it makes me feel good, not to burn calories,
when I can finally love myself and, in turn, eventually love you too,
when I can look back without fear and see all my growth and be amazed at the pure beauty of me,
when I can raise a child and teach them to love themselves and love others too,
when I finally am free.
So, that day is not here yet, and so far the road to strength seems long and winding,
but that doesn’t matter, not now, not ever,
because I’ve come to the realization that
you deserve only the best in life,
I deserve only the best in life,
only the most love and compassion and everything you thought was cheesy as a child.
I’m going to fight to make this life the best one imaginable.

 

The poison of neoliberalism

Author:
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By Kaylen Forsyth

Perhaps the greatest tragedy of modern politics is its anonymity. It is through this anonymity that those with power are able to manipulate and exploit those without. If people are generally unaware of the poison dominating society, how can they then overcome it?

I’m talking predominantly about neoliberalism. Neoliberalism is everywhere and has been for at least the last thirty years, prominent since the governments of Thatcher and Reagan.

For those who’ve never come across the term Neoliberalism before, it is a political theory running on the idea that governments should not interfere with free markets.
It is beyond destructive. The basic principle behind it is the dehumanisation of individuals. Society is seen as a breeding ground for competition: we are all nothing more than competitors inside a political system.

Essentially, Neoliberalism pushes the idea that wealth will trickle down from the rich to the poor, generating a false belief that “everybody gets what they deserve”. This drivel is fed to us constantly. However, it can be easily disproved.

The amount of money people make is strongly determined by what their parents earn. In the U.S., children tend to earn an extra $0.33 for each dollar that their parents earn. Yet Neoliberalism still results in the rich convincing themselves they earned their wealth fairly without stopping to check their privilege. Meanwhile, the lesser privileged classes find ways to blame themselves for their poverty. Neoliberalism has given birth to an age of competition and blame that seems inescapable.

The effect this ideology has on women, especially, is overlooked- though it definitely shouldn’t be.

The policies involved in Neoliberalism have transferred the wealth of poorer nations to Western nations. Former colonies were made to rely on loans from ex-colonial powers. These loans included harmful conditions, one of the most harmful being cuts to public services.

Export Processing Zones (EPZs) are free trade zones set up by governments to encourage export. These led to multinational companies using cheap labour, mainly women, to produce tax-free goods. What followed was a large increase in poverty, inequality and disability. With women pressured into low-wage jobs and limited public services to help them afterward, these kinds of negative results are inevitable. Women become nothing more than cheap employment for corporations who exploit them guiltlessly.

As well as creating clear gendered labour inequalities, Neoliberalism spreads dangerous values. These ideas often lead to people viewing each other as simple chances to profit. The human aspect that should be the basis of society is lost. Relationships wither soon after opportunities are drained.

Neoliberalist attitudes have led to this twisted consensus that people are to be valued on what they can give. Nothing else seems to matter. Thus, an enormous gender bias arises. Because of age-old stereotypes, women are reduced to what they can domestically provide. Their burden increases evermore. All the while Neoliberalism doesn’t provide any assistance because it believes that individuals should look after themselves – and if they aren’t coping it’s their own fault.

More than just the effects of its policies though, the very language of its philosophy oppresses women. The “market” does not support us. Instead, it perpetuates pre-existing inequalities such as race and gender imbalances. Those with higher income play more influential roles in this “market”. Due to the fact that women and people of colour are already at a disadvantage in terms of unequal pay, the “market” is intrinsically biased.

It’s almost as if Neoliberalism works to discourage those who are already discouraged by society.

This toxic system is maintaining an unhealthy status quo. The gap between different classes of women is widening at a terrifying speed; living standards between women in developing countries and those in developed are starkly different. All of this has come about because of the predominance of Neoliberalism and it is incredibly important people can identify and understand exactly what this system enables. It is the only way to begin overcoming it.

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