When Will It Be A Good Time To Be A Woman? When Women Are Not Held Responsible For The Actions Of Sexually Deviant Men By Kelly Grehan

Today, 11th October, marks the ‘International Day Of The Girl’.

The day aims to highlight and address the needs and challenges that girls face , while promoting girls’ empowerment and the fulfilment of their human rights.

100 years after some women gained the right to vote and at a time when girls persistently outperform boys at school, some may ask do we in the West still need to mark this day?

The answer to that is simply yes. And here is why…

Last week whilst mocking the testimony Dr Christine Blasey Ford gave against Brett Kavanaugh, the US President Donald Trump said ” It’s a very scary time for young men in America”. He then gave his concerns for young men in America being falsely accused of sexual assault. The President was then asked if he had a message for young women, to which he replied ” Young women are doing great”…

Sadly, Trump’s lack of respect for women is well documented: during the 2016 election campaign, at least 15 women accused Trump of misbehaviour. Ranging from sexual harassment and sexual assault to lewd behaviour around women.

They came forward in the wake of a 2005 ‘ Access Hollywood’ tapes that was released in October 2016, in which he was caught saying ” When you’re a star, they let you do it. You can do anything… Grab them by the pussy. You can do anything”.

The fact a man who bragged about sexually assaulting women was subsequently elected says that this remains a dangerous time to be a woman.

Coincidentally, last week, a lot of attention was given to some American research into the answers that men and women gave when asked about the precautionary safety measures they take before going out.

Here is a summary of what men and women said;

 I, like many others I expect, discussed this with men I know. They were sceptical that women really took these precautions. Yet women’s conversations were awash with how accurate the list was. And so I realised that a gulf exists between the way that women live their lives and the way that men perceive how women live.

From childhood, girls are taught to think ahead, and prepare, lest they be a victim to a male predator in some way or another. For example the following rules are often taught:

To go to the toilet in pairs;

To never walk down an alley;

To keep curtains closed when home alone at night;

To not let a drink leave your sight;

And a whole host of other things that we just don’t teach our sons.

We know, as women, that should we become victims; we will be quizzed as to whether we took appropriate precautions. Presumably to determine whether or not we are ‘ the right sort of victim.’ Don’t believe me? Look at how female victims are defamed by the press or in court:

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2018/oct/08/husband-murdered-media-melanie-clark-domestic-violence-deaths?CMP=fb_cif

https://www.theguardian.com/society/2017/jun/17/we-didnt-recognise-that-he-was-dangerous-our-father-killed-our-mother-and-sister

https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/crime/rape-sexual-history-assault-cross-examine-trial-court-voices4victims-plaid-cymru-mp-liz-savile-a7570286.html

Let us not forget the most significant rule we bestow on our daughters: to always think about how their clothing impacts everyone else.

Every week the tabloid newspapers and magazines treat us to their ‘analysis’ of what various celebrities have worn. Women are expected to ‘cover up’ in various buildings around the world and are constantly told they their top is ‘too low/ high’ or their skirt is ‘too short/ long’ etc.

We also know that any time a women is a victim of any sexual assault she can expect some sort of judgement about what she wore and what ‘messages it sent’.

Men, gladly, don’t experience the everyday harassment that women can expect wherever they go. And by this I mean:

  • The cat- calls;

  • The men who come and sit next to women on trains and ask personal questions;

  • The men who shout things like “state of that” when a woman walks past;

  • The men who think that it is ok to comment on waitresses bra straps;

  • The men who think it is ok to talk over women when making points during meetings;

  • The men who like to reduce women in high places , where they may be the only woman there, as ” the bird”.

All these are REAL examples I got from a group of friends in a brief conversation this week.  I don’t think it crosses decent men’s minds that this goes on. But it does go on.  It is the backdrop to the lives women live.

A significant, but not unusual example of this occurred last month when Ariana Grande (25)  was given the honour of singing at the funeral of Aretha Franklin.

The occasion was somewhat overshadowed when Bishop Charles Ellis III (60), who was officiating the ceremony decided to take the opportunity to grope Ariana.

 Later he apologised for his behaviour saying :

It would never be my intention to touch any woman’s breast … I don’t know, I guess I put my arm around her. Maybe I crossed the border, maybe I was too friendly or familiar but, again, I apologise.  I hug all the female and male artists.  Everybody that was up, I shook their hands and hugged them. That’s what we are all about in the church. We are all about love.”

And so he returned to his job with no consequences at all. As #RespectAriana began trending, the usual cries of “why did she not say anything” and “why was she wearing a short dress to a funeral” started too.

Later that same week, Maureen Lipman was given space in several newspapers to drone on about how women dress, saying:

 All this bondage clothing – dressed a bit like a prostitute would have dressed.  But if you speak to a real feminist, they’ll say, ‘It’s my body.’ Young female pop stars today, for example, are saying: ‘It’s my body, and I’m empowered to show it to you.’ But then: ‘Don’t touch it, don’t come near it, don’t flirt with it.’ And that is a bit of a shame because flirting is some of the best fun you’ve ever had in your life.’’

Lipman then went on to defend Roman Polanski and Woody Allen!

Now, have you ever read an article where elderly male actors feel the need to refer to the dress choices of young male artists?  

In fact have you ever read an article anywhere where anyone points out the failings of a man’s choice of outfit?  

Then there is Lipman’s use of the words ‘real feminist.’  

What do we suppose she means by that?  

I’m a feminist and I could not care less what anyone else is wearing, whether it be a burka or a bikini.  

It seems that the patriarchy now wants to decide what being a ‘real feminist’ constitutes too.

This week Penguin books reacted angrily when their pop-up shop in a branch of Top Shop was cancelled just before the shop opened, with the display already set up.  

Any guesses what the book was about?  

It is a collection called Feminists Don’t Wear Pink, and Other Lieslaunched in support of the charity ‘Girl Up.’  

Can we even guess why Phillip Green decided this was not a good fit for his brand?  

No, I can’t think either.

But, as every girl knows, dressing conservatively does not mean that moronic men will leave you alone.

In fact, one in three girls in the U.K. has been sexually harassed in public while wearing a school uniform, and two thirds of girls have said they have experienced unwanted sexual attention in public.

The figures come from a report by children’s charity Plan International UK; which said that many girls feel that street harassment “is all part of growing up”. The saddest thing is that with our culture being the way it is, it is difficult to argue that their perception is wrong.

The truth is misogyny continues to run through our culture.  As women, we adjust our lifestyles to fit with the expectations and restrictions placed upon us.  

We need to take decent men with us on our fight to smash the patriarchy.    

 

Trans Women Are Real Women. Deny This If You Must, But Not In My Name. By Kelly Grehan

I’ve always been drawn to the statement by American mythologist Joseph Campbell that “the privilege of a lifetime is being who you are.”

Being yourself strikes me as the true route to happiness and something that we should all want for each other and to try to help others to achieve.

But others clearly disagree.  

In recent months there have been increasing reports that ‘radical feminists’ oppose trans women using women’s spaces, standing on all women shortlists and joining women’s groups.

As a feminist, this situation has left me fuming.  For me, being a feminist is about allowing all people to be who they want to be, to show kindness to all and to oppose all oppression.

I just cannot understand the motivation of those trying to stop trans women (and men) from being who they want to be.

One argument I have heard is that, having been raised as male , trans women have benefitted from male privilege and therefore cannot understand the experiences of cis women.  I find this a bizarre argument. I would guess being stuck in a body you despise all day every day pretty much cancels out any advantage you might have accessed as a male.

From what I have seen trans women suffer the absolute opposite of privilege at every stage of their life.

It is not on the same scale of course, but I have been shocked at the online abuse I have received every time I have tweeted support of trans rights.  Of course, as unpleasant as this was, I simply turned the device off and walked away.

I cannot imagine what it is like to face this abuse every day and have no means of escape.

Abuse against the trans community remains rife.

Two in five trans people have experienced a hate crime or incident because of their gender identity in the last 12 months.

A study by equality campaigning charity Stonewall, last year revealed that amongst school pupils who identified as trans 9% had received death threats at school while 84% say they have self-harmed and 45% have tried to take their own lives.

Then there is the argument about who should use what toilet.

Frankly I envy people who have so little to worry about that this consumes their time.  I put this question to them, are they equally concerned that male and female disabled people are expected to share the same toilets?

It’s sad to say, but history tells us we should not be surprised by transphobia.  

People have always been afraid of things outside their own experience and rather than seeking further understanding the default position of many people seems to be to try to drive people of difference away.

We have seen this time and time again, whether the differences concern race, sexuality or even differences in choices like music or dress.

Despite great efforts to see it maligned, feminism is just as needed now as in the past – there are battles still to fight –  America have a misogynist president; we have yet to achieve equal pay; despite the ‘me too’ movement women continue to suffer sexual harassment; legislation concerning pregnancy, maternity and childcare continue to be inadequate.

So why would any feminist concern themselves with trying to exclude an already marginalised group?  It makes no sense to me.

And you know what defines everyone in the trans community?

They have had the courage, against all social convention, knowing the abuse and exclusion that is likely to follow, to stand up and be who they really are.

I’d say that’s the definition of courage. Such people are an asset, not a threat to the ideals of feminsim.

Feminism is not about telling other people who they are or who they can be.

At its core it is about aiding people to be themselves.

Experiencing feelings of transphobia?

Want to exclude others?

Then there is nothing I can do to stop you.

But please do not do it in the name of feminism!

Inspiration Follows Inspiration By Kelly Grehan

I was 11 when my Primary School teacher said something that has never left me.

Talking about the suffrage movement she said “I hope none of you, but especially the girls, ever forget what others gave up so you would have the right to vote.”

This was the beginning of a love affair with the suffragettes and feminism for me.  

So I have been surprised that some of my fellow pupils from that class in 1990 have gone on to be apolitical and others opposed to feminism.

My experience has always been that to mention women and equality is to be met with a accusations of men bashing and to point out the subjectification of women in the media is to be accused of jealousy.

So, despite being a very vocal person I had not always fought as hard as I could on women’s issues.

Over the last six months, however,  I feel as if I have found my voice as a feminist.

This has coincided with a few things: firstly Kent’s new Labour MP Rosie Duffield has been instrumental in raising the profile of Kent’s Labour women, and very quickly we have formed a network, or what could be called a ‘sisterhood.’

It sounds corny, but it’s true, I feel supported by my Labour sisters, that we are all routing for each other.

I have also started blogging (https://theavengeruk.com/) and increasingly write about my lived experiences and those of my friends, and so by default these are often experiences that could be deemed women’s issues.

This has brought me into contact with a whole new network of women.

I have got involved with 50:50 Parliament, having met the founder Frances, at an event and it has brought back memories of all the reasons I became enchanted by the suffragettes 28 years ago.

Following on from this, myself and my friend Kate this week ran  Women’s Event at Dartford Labour, the first in our time as party members.

I spoke with one veteran member of the party who said her heart leapt with joy’ when she saw the invite because at last the issue is gaining attention.

Armed with the stories about the disparity between men and women at every level of government in the UK we made the case for 50:50 representation.

With our new network of Labour Party women we were able to find four amazingly motivational speakers, who represented the diversity of women in terms of backgrounds (the videos can be found here (https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCKTFQzBXXEWXQwebXL76jNQ).

Hearing them led to other members telling their stories.

These stories are about lived experiences, and of course, women’s lived experiences are different to those of men, and both need representing.  

What the event confirmed is this:

Hearing women tell their stories inspires other women to tell their stories.

When woman speak up it inspires other women to speak up and so it stands to reason that more women standing will lead to even more women standing for election.

For me this is just the beginning of speaking out for 50:50 Parliament and I cannot wait to see where else it takes me and to all the fabulous women I will meet on the way.

A Review Of The ‘Inspiring Kent Labour Women Event’- 10th March 2018 By Kelly Grehan

Spurred on by International Women’s Day on Thursday a group of us from Dartford CLP headed down to Canterbury for this event.

Since becoming Kent’s only Labour MP last June, Rosie Duffield has become the pride of the Labour Party movement throughout Kent, with all of us feeling that she is ‘our Rosie’ .

The fact she worked in ‘ordinary, but important’ jobs such as a Teaching Assistant and for charities and juggled this with being a single mother has certainly been inspiring for the rank and file female Labour members.

Ive written before about how in my experience women often play down their skills and experiences and do not realise the value they could add to their communities as councillors https://theavengeruk.com/2018/02/28/a-womans-place-is-on-the-ballot-by-kelly-grehan/ ; so it was interesting to hear Rosie say that not so long ago she felt that standing as an MP was not a realistic option for her and that talking to a fabulous woman called Frances Scott from 50:50 Parliament had made the difference in her outlook.

Frances explained that she launched the 50:50 Parliament campaign which campaigns for gender equality at Westminster with the aim to inspire, encourage and support women in being elected to Westminster and is asking Parliament and all the political parties to work on solutions.

It is very exciting to know that this is exactly what encouraged Rosie.

Women are 51% of the population so it is indefensible that women make up just 32% of our MPs.

Frances spoke about how men can represent women (and vice versa) but are more likely to do a good job when there are women around.

All people use their experiences to understand the world, so it is no surprise that issues which primarily concerning women such as maternity, childcare, the wage gap and domestic abuse have not been priority issues within a male dominated parliament.

Men and women have different experiences – it is not that one is superior to the other – they are just different and all people benefit from those different experiences being valued.

Laura Cashman is Programme Director for Politics and International Relations at Canterbury Christ Church University. She made the point that woman and men vote in the same proportions – yet the false narrative that ‘women are not interested in politics’ persists.

The idea that women cannot be good mothers and good politicians is a myth. Just look at the New Zealand Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern who is currently pregnant, and closer to home, in France last year; Senator Larissa Walters addressed the chamber whilst breastfeeding her baby.

Yet woman are sidelined in arguments, for example in the Brexit debate only 16% of media appearances to discuss the issue were women!

Given a choice of seminars I opted (after some deliberation it must be said) for Confidence In Campaigning; led by an inspiring woman called Fiona Crawford.

Like many Labour party activists Fiona came to prominence after feeling compelled to campaign on issues she felt strongly about such as racism and the ‘Save Broadstairs High Street’ campaign. This spurred her on to other campaigning.

Other women told of their campaigning experiences, with the message being that campaigning is so varied that there is something everyone can excel at – whether it be door knocking, designing leaflets, making displays and numerous other things.

Hearing women talk with passion about their champion of various causes was so motivating, and a reminder of how much woman have to offer.

What I am increasingly learning is that ‘inspired women’ inspire other women.

As women, we need to get better at telling others what we have achieved and what we value about them.

#AskHerToStand was a campaign championed by 50:50 Parliament.

The power of the movement was bought home to me speaking to one of the members of my group, Sarah Crook, attending her first political event.

Sarah commented “50 : 50 really struck a chord with me. It has seriously made me think about standing. I cannot believe in 2018 it’s still a 2:1 ratio of men to women in Parliament. Frances was so impassioned – she made me want to campaign for the movement”

I ask all women (and men) to join https://5050parliament.co.uk/ and ask friends to think about standing for parliament, council and all other public offices.

Together we can make a difference.

Kelly Grehan is a member of Dartford Labour Party and co founder and writer for The Avenger.

100 Years On From Winning The Right For Women To Vote But How Far Have We Actually Progressed? By Kelly Grehan

Next week marks 100 years since some women in Britain were granted the vote – it seems to be forgotten that, despite all men over 21 years of age being able to vote after the Representation of People Act, only women over 30 who occupied a house were deemed fit to vote.

It was another 10 years before equal suffrage was to be achieved. At this time the destiny of a woman was very clear – get married and raise a family.

Campaigners like Millicent Fawcett and Elizabeth Garret Anderson had carried out and pursued a peaceful struggle to open professions like medicine to women. Yet still, only the privileged few, whose fathers or husbands were enlightened enough to permit it, got a foot on the ladder of opportunity.

Today almost all jobs are open to women, and yet we have yet to get an even gender representation in Parliament or standard equal pay.  

But there is one industry where process towards equality has been particularly slow: sport.

Male played sports continue to dominate the TV schedules and news headlines. Women who have beaten the odds and the system, such as Assistant Referee Sian Massey-Ellis are subject to scrutiny on their appearance which would never be imparted on their male counterparts.

In fact, after Sky Sports pundits Andy Grey and Richard Keys were embroiled in a row over their sexist comments on her; The sun saw fit to print a front cover of Sian dancing in a vest top and denim skirt with the headline ‘Get ‘Em Off.’

Further to this, some sports – boxing and motorcar racing in particular –  have not only continued to be overwhelmingly male dominated, but have continued to use women in roles that I can only describe as ‘accessories.’

This week it seems, those responsible for the Formula 1 brand openly recognised its use of ‘grid girls’.

They deemed it out of date and not conducive to the image they wish to portray.  In a Press Release Sean Bratches, Managing Director, Commercial Operations at Formula 1 said:

“Over the last year we have looked at a number of areas which we felt needed updating so as to be more in tune with our vision for this great sport.  While the practice of employing grid girls has been a staple of Formula 1 Grands Prix for decades, we feel this custom does not resonate with our brand values and clearly is at odds with modern day societal norms. We don’t believe the practice is appropriate or relevant to Formula 1 and its fans, old and new, across the world.”

Formula 1 should be congratulated for their change in policy here and let us not forget this was a commercial decision, taken to protect commercial interests.

Clearly F1 decided that girls doing nothing more than looking pretty and having champagne poured on them was not a good image.

This has, perhaps predictably, not prevented  the coverage that has followed; accusing them of ‘cowering to political correctness’  and that ‘jealous, ugly feminists’ have ‘banned’ women from jobs they loved.

Objectification of women is endemic in our society.  Just look at the recent events at the Presidents Club.  People claim the women concerned enjoy their work, choose it etc. No doubt this is true, but ‘work’ of this type contributes to a society in which women’s role is seen as being for the pleasure of men in a world where they are portraying that the nearest women can get to the top or be a success is by fawning all over the men who actually win something.

Then there is the vilifying of feminism and the repeated use of the word ‘feminist’ as a derogatory term.

A brief browse through this weeks tabloids or twitter attached to the hashtag #gridgirl gives no doubt about the vitriol aimed at women who dare to praise the F1 decision.

Women who call themselves ‘feminists’ can expect to be called ‘jealous,’ ‘ugly,’ ‘prudes,’ and such like as a matter of course.

So 100 years after women won the vote it seems the idea that ‘women should know their place’ still persists.

We still have a long way to go for gender equality.

The Fight for Equality is Everyone’s Fight By Nathen Amin

By Nathan Amin

We appear to be living in a peculiar period here in the UK where a bitter divide has opened between opposing sections of the populace over a topic that should, in truth, be a unifying force – equality.

What one person proclaims should be a natural right for all is often vociferously condemned by another as a threat to their culture’s established way of life. It is a bizarre time indeed, and this is one ideological conflict I am not quite sure I understand. Surely, the battle for equality is a battle ALL of us should be fighting, regardless of our genealogical background, which we have no control over incidentally, or political outlook.

I can’t be the only person exasperated by witnessing protests by those seeking to establish equal rights for minority sections of the British public; reduced to nothing more than violent clashes between the right and left. Both sides often degraded by the other with unhelpful monikers such as fascist and Anti-FA, Nazi and snowflake, and so on.

How the hell a term like ‘liberal’, incidentally, became an insult, I’ll never know, and truth be told, I’ll never comprehend how anyone can protest against equality in the first place.

Let me expand a little bit. Whether we appreciate the fact or not, and it appears that many in modern-day Britain are wilfully preferring to remain ignorant, we are all affected by issues surrounding gender, health, sexuality, race, religion or creed. The fight for equality for those who are dreadfully affected by prejudice on a daily basis is a fight we should all be partaking in, as a united society, and not one that divides us into separate battalions headed for an inevitable clash every time our divergent paths cross, literally and figuratively. And yet, here we are.

Now, admittedly, I may be in an unusual place where I am affected by the fight for equality on several fronts, courtesy of my immediate family unit. I am affected on racial and religious grounds because of my own mixed-race ethnicity, my non-white father being a Muslim. I am affected on grounds of disability and mental health because of conditions which affect my sister and wife, whilst I also strive for equality based on sexual orientation because another sibling is LGBT. Naturally, some of these relations are women in the workplace, which opens up another front on which I want to see them receive parity they wholeheartedly deserve. It is absolutely in my interest that those people get every inch of support needed to, at the very least, ensure they are receiving equality in and out of the workplace.

If support is lacking in their life, if the women aren’t being paid fairly for a job a man does, or if a gay woman is discriminated against on account of her sexuality, or whether another family member gets overlooked for a role based on their colour, then you best believe that affects my own life. So I am a supporter of gay marriage, rights for migrants, support for mental health services, and yes, I am a male advocate of feminism.

Not everyone is in my situation, however, so I want to speak directly to those who openly criticise folk for espousing the desire to see equality given in all areas of life. I’m speaking to those who post bitter, obscenity-laden, diatribes online decrying another ‘lefty’ attempt to destroy our ‘native’ culture by pushing for gay marriage, defending immigration, giving too much credence to mental health issues, or even supposedly pandering to other faiths such as Judaism and Islam to the detriment of ‘our Christian way of life’. How dare those women call for equal pay in work!

Well, have you guys ever considered the fact that any fight for equality might just be a fight you will someday appreciate, and even be grateful for?

Allow me to be a bit blunt, hereon in. The majority of those who loudly decry ‘pandering’ to minorities, whether based on racial grounds, on sexual orientation, or any other basis, are largely drawn from a straight, white British-born male demographic. Not all, of course, as some within that background are as left and inclusive as the next person, but it’s not incorrect to suggest that the make-up of most EDL, Britain First or other Far-Right or conservative movements tend to be from those drawn from such a background. It is these counter-activists who claim to stand up for their endangered culture, to be the defenders of perverse notions such as embracing multi-culturalism or freedom of sexuality. And you can, on one hand, understand why. After all, those men, you know the types, often snarling with indignation whether in person or on the internet, don’t care about being foreign, gay or a woman, and who often implore those with mental health issues to simply ‘suck it up’. They’re white, British, straight, male. This, it seems, is not their fight, and they don’t see why concessions should be made.

And yet, I can’t help but wonder. In time, these men will have wives, they will have daughters and sons, and they will perhaps even have a brood of grandchildren.

Have they never considered the fact that equality in the workplace between men and womencould mean the difference between their wives being paid the same amount of money to do a job another man does? 

Or the fact that one of their children, or grandchildren, may be homosexual and want to marry, or perhaps are even straight but have wed into a family of an immigrant background with different faith. Perhaps they will have a child who suffers from mental illness that prohibits them from leading a full and active lifestyle. Maybe even THEY will suffer from a depressive episode in their life. Having a ‘stiff upper lip’ won’t fend off the ravages of depression, regardless of their boasts of ‘manning up’. The very ideas these, I hesitate to call them men, persons stand against are the very things that could, one day, be imperative in protecting their own families. And that’s, after all, what it means to be a man, surely – to protect your loved ones, and ensure they have every opportunity to become the very best versions of themselves?

Would these people be satisfied to learn their child didn’t get that job because they were a lesbian, or their wife couldn’t get that promotion because she was a woman?

No-one in their right mind in today’s British society should sincerely consider equality to be a negative thing. 

Freeing everyone of any shackles, mentally, physically, legally, will only benefit everyone. I want the best for my family and friends, be they white, brown, male, female, straight, gay, disabled or otherwise. I want everyone to be free to reach whatever goal they have set for themselves, and not to be barred by their race, gender, sexuality or health. That’s not a bad thing to stand for.

Equality affects us all. Let me repeat that, Equality affects us ALL.

**

Nathen Amin grew up in the heart of Carmarthenshire, West Wales, and is the author of non-fiction books Tudor Wales (2014), York Pubs (2016) and House of Beaufort (2017), an Amazon #1 Bestseller for Wars of the Roses. He is currently working on his fourth book, Pretenders to the Tudor Crown, for release in 2019. He has also featured discussing the Tudors on BBC radio and television, as well as in print and online media across the UK. He has a degree in Business and Journalism and now lives in York, where he works as a Technical Writer.