Did you ever think you'd witness Anne Robinson (yes, the presenter from The Weakest Link) watching hardcore pornography? Nope, me neither - but that's just one of the many interesting things you'll find in this week's round-up of links from around the web. We'd love to know what you think (about Anne Robinson watching porn or any of the other articles!) so please do leave your comments below or share your own interesting links with us.
As usual, linking does not automatically mean agreement/endorsement from The F-Word and some links may be triggering.
15 Feminist Artists Respond To The Censorship Of Women's Bodies Online (Huffington Post)
Hillary Clinton's Empowerment (Jacobin)
From the article: "Hillary Clinton isn't a champion of women's rights. She's the embodiment of corporate feminism."
You can read Amelia Handy's recent F-Word review of the BBC documentary Hillary Clinton: The Power of Women HERE.
VIDEO: Why I asked Anne Robinson to watch porn with me (The Guardian)
From the article: "Seventy-year-old journalist and TV presenter Anne Robinson has never watched porn before. Young feminist Grace Campbell, 20, grew up online, where hardcore porn is instantly available. Is that why Grace and her peers are dealing with unrealistic sexual expectations? She asked Robinson to have a look at what's out there to see if her problems are unique to the internet age."
For Homeless Women, Periods Really Are That Dreaded Time Of The Month (Huffington Post)
UKIP uses women's rights as a trojan horse to attack minorities (The Conversation)
From the article: "Has UKIP finally received the message that it needs to work harder to win the women's vote? Well, maybe. But women, beware. A closer look at each policy reveals that all is not quite as it might seem."
From the article: "The publication of Jon Ronson's So You've Been Publicly Shamed is the culmination of a recent trend: people of means and privilege engaged in well-remunerated shallow handwringing about "public shaming," particularly through social media."
Why We Need Riot Grrrl (Geek & Sundry)
From the article: "I was first introduced to Kathleen Hanna via Rock Band. Rebel Girl by Bikini Kill was my go-to song long before I knew anything about feminism or the riot grrrl movement. I hate to admit it, but prior to college I assumed feminism was about hating men and I generally avoided it."
From the article: "There's a long-standing debate in feminism about sexual empowerment: How do we know when someone is being sexually liberated versus being sexually objectified, since they sometimes can look similar from the outside? Well, the answer is simpler than you think ..."
George Galloway's comments on forced marriage are a dangerous abuse of power (The Guardian CiF)
From the article: "George Galloway has played politics with the experience of survivors of forced marriage. At a public hustings event in his Bradford West constituency, he questioned whether Naz Shah, the Labour candidate, is a survivor of a forced marriage. Shah has spoken openly about her experiences, which included being emotionally blackmailed by her mother and the abusive nature of the marriage."
Faye White: Hall of Famer (The Set Pieces)
From the article: "There are some legendary England captains in the National Football Museum's Hall of Fame: Bobby Moore, Bryan Robson, David Beckham, Tony Adams, Alan Shearer to name but five. This year they're joined by another - Faye White"
The author of this piece, Carrie Dunn, has previously written for The F-Word. You can read more of her work HERE.
'They,' the Singular Pronoun, Gets Popular (The Wall Street Journal)
From the article: "Could English find its own equivalent to Swedish "hen"? Dozens of gender-neutral pronouns have been put forth over the years, including "thon," "xe" and "ze," but all have failed to catch fire."
Ten Reasons to Decriminalize Sex Work (Open Society Foundations)
From the article: "Misogyny, sexism and chauvinism are still entrenched and ignored (often by women, too) in everyday life. But as ravers proud of dance music's decades-old sense of freedom and equality, we should all be embarrassed by the low standards we've come to expect - and ashamed of the disgusting behavior we're turning a blind eye to."
The picture depicts a scene on a vibrant yellow background. In the foreground is a couple (a man and woman) in black and white, clinging to each other. Their expressions convey shock and concern. To their left is a woman in red and black. She is reaching her hands up to the sky and is stood with her legs wide apart, feet almost leaving the ground, in a pose that seems to suggest power and freedom. Behind her is a house coloured in red, with one green stripe across the bottom. She is surrounded by two circles with spokes - one red and one black. They further serve to give the impression of the power and energy emanating from her.
The Conservatives launched their manifesto yesterday. One policy stood out. If they win the election, the party pledges to give parents 30 hours of free childcare. It seems like a great woman friendly policy enabling them to work and have affordable childcare. However, as I have worked at a nursery and understand how the funding scheme works, I disagree.
Currently parents can receive 15 hours of free childcare. The government pays a certain amount per child per hour according to the region and type of child care setting. A private nursery gets around £3.80 per child per hour and a childminder gets approximately £7.00 per child per hour. From next year, childminders will have this amount cut and will receive a similar amount to nurseries.
This funding does not adequately cover the costs of childcare providers and it has not kept place with inflation. To keep in business some nurseries force parents to pay extra for sessions, use the fees for younger children to subsidise the care of older children, or cut corners on resources and play equipment. By not paying childcare providers adequately for the services they provide, the government are giving something away that they do not fully own.
A few years ago the amount of funded hours increased from 12.5 hours to 15. Some nurseries tried to opt out of the funding scheme or decided to close because they were unable to meet running costs. If the amount of funded hours is increased to 30, more nurseries may go out of business making it harder for parents to find a nursery.
The major overheads of any childcare setting are the staff. Ratios between careers and children, especially in the younger age groups, have to be maintained. The overwhelming majority of people who work with very young children are women and many of them are on pay which is barely above the minimum wage. If funded hours increase, wages could be cut so that nurseries remain open. Employers may decrease the amount they invest in further training and qualifications. If nurseries close, the women working in them will have to find alternative employment.
Good, safe childcare costs money, regardless of who pays for it. 30 hours of free childcare would help many parents with these costs. But the Conservatives must fund these free hours properly or risk making the situation worse.
Image shows colourful building blocks in a variety of colours and shapes. Photo taken by Steven Depolo on Flickr, used under a Creative Commons License.
This is a guest post by Freya Pascall. Freya works in political monitoring and research having previously been found in both the House of Commons and central Government. Follow her @freyapascall
Parliament has dissolved and the election campaign has begun in earnest. With this week's publication of the major parties' manifestos, how much can we truly expect the promises therein to be kept?
Coalitions and compromises seem all but inevitable given current polling, so it seems apt to take a look back at 2010's manifesto crop to see what was pledged and what was actually achieved by the Coalition partners. All manifesto commitments will affect women in one way or another, but I'll be looking at some of those with particular implications for women.
As one might expect, the Conservative Manifesto wasn't dripping in feminist action points, but the party did make a number of promises. The Liberal Democrat manifesto pledged to do much more. However, as the experienced older brother of the Coalition, perhaps the Conservatives knew better than to make specific promises and instead remained vague in order that they could be seen to over-deliver.
Policy: Equal pay audits and addressing 'the gap'
Five years ago the gender pay gap was 10.1%, and in November 2014 the ONS reported that it had fallen to 9.4%. In absolute terms the gender pay gap has shrunk, but nowhere near enough to shut me up.
Pay audits did not materialise in a strong enough form until the LibDems pushed them through as an amendment to the Small Business, Enterprise and Employment Bill, which just passed before the dissolution of Parliament. As a result of this it should become mandatory for companies employing over 250 employees to publish average pay for men and women in the same role in the next 12 months.
Policy: Flexible working and parental leave
From just this month (5th April) parental leave can now be shared, following the successful passage of the Children and Families Act through Parliament in the 2013/14 session.
That's not all. Under this Government, all employees who have worked for the same employer for at least 26 weeks have gained the right to request flexible working. How often this request will be granted is not clear and one might expect that certain industries will be much more reticent to embrace such changes. However, the establishment of a statutory right is an important step.
Policy: Body image and regulating airbrushing in adverts
Sadly it never made it to the Coalition Agreement, but the specific LibDem commitment to addressing body image was impressive. There is still no regulation of airbrushing in the UK; the Advertising Standards Agency can only ban 'misleading' adverts. However, it's not as if there has been no action in this area over the last five years. LibDem Minister Jo Swinson has led on the Government's body confidence campaign, which has helped to raise awareness, particularly encouraging more discussion of the subject in schools.
Policy: Promoting gender equality on company boards
In terms of the implementation of this policy, the FTSE100 now all have at least one woman on their board, with Business Secretary Vince Cable instantly announcing a target to work to the FTSE250 replicating this as soon as it was achieved in Autumn 2014. It's not equal representation in senior management for women across the country, but it marks some progress from the dire starting point and will start to change company culture from the top.
Policy: Promoting the rights of women internationally
Achieved? To some extent...
As Foreign Secretary for a long stretch of this Government, Conservative William Hague held the promotion of the rights of women and girls internationally as a personal priority. Despite the sarcastic comments about his motivations being influenced by getting to hang out with Angelina Jolie, he has done more to bring a number of issues, particularly violence against women, to the fore than many of his predecessors. It's hard to place a value in terms of achievement in this area, but it is a manifesto promise that has not been relegated to the backbenches.
This is no exhaustive evaluation of 2010's promises, but it does demonstrate how the smorgasbord of pledges might actually translate to the real world. The vaguer Conservative manifesto pledges may have been more extensively achieved. Yet, though they did not achieve everything they set out to, the more ambitious commitments of the LibDems pushed the agenda forward. As the parties set out their stalls over the next few days, perhaps it's wiser not to ask exactly what they are pledging but where their ambition lies.
The photo is by Eric Hossinger and shows the Houses of Parliament at dusk reflected on the River Thames.
When early hominids first began to walk on their hind legs, they found themselves in a permanent state of sexual display. Other people found this sight variously arousing, intimidating or comical and thus, these pioneering upright hominids headed for the nearest fig tree. Since then, all human cultures have wrestled with the boundaries of modesty with wildly varying outcomes. The penis remains a very rare sight in modern Western culture, while the streets of Roman Pompeii are festooned with sculpted penises, the Tudors wore codpieces to draw attention to their cods and many tribesmen of New Guinea wear large and elaborate koteka to similar visual effect.
While the Archaic Greeks rarely depicted fully-dressed men and never depicted naked mortal women, representation of bodies in modern Britain is almost the reverse. Naked female flesh is far more common in the images around us. Formal dress exposes men's hands, necks and heads, but allows (arguably obliges) women to expose much more. When there's talk of nudity in film and television shows, it's almost certainly about the bottoms, thighs and breasts of young, slim, able-bodied, cisgender, predominantly white women.
Then there's nipples. There are parts of the world where women go about their daily business bare-breasted and there are great swathes of Europe where breasts cause little anxiety, where bare nipples feature on TV soap adverts in the middle of the day and women sunbathe topless in public spaces.
Yet in the UK, we have a perverse situation where it is very easy to see most of a woman's breasts in a showbiz magazine or newspaper, on a billboard, in a music video or in the queue outside a nightclub, but naked female nipples are reserved for pornography and Page 3. Since the inception of the Free The Nipple campaign, newspapers have delighted in posting pictures of attractive bare-breasted young women with tiny black squares or strips across their areolae, yet public breast-feeding remains a subject of perennial controversy and a television presenter wearing a sheer top makes headlines as a "wardrobe malfunction".
It is completely unclear whether women's breasts are inherently more sexual or sexually arousing than men's. We just can't know. In this particular culture, men are conditioned to fixate on breasts, while virtuous women aren't supposed to be particularly interested in men's bodies. Yet quite obviously, men's chests are potentially very sexual. Their nipples are made of the same materials, contain as many nerves and react to stimulation in a similar way. Meanwhile, it's no accident that last week, the BBC News contrived an article about scything simply in order to use a photograph of the naked torso of the actor Aiden Turner, being made-up for a scene in Poldark. In our culture's rare and thus iconic depictions of straight female lust, men's nipples are prominent; various Levis ads, Diet Pepsi ads, D'Arcy emerging from the pond and so forth.
Yet because they are not seen as primarily sexual, naked male nipples are most often found in contexts designed to appeal to men; on sportsmen and action-movie heroes. Although women's magazines often feature very nearly naked women (with bikini bodies), nipples are only an aesthetic problem to be solved; are your nipples visible through clothing? Perhaps they don't stick out quite enough?
Which brings us around to why all this matters. Ideas of modesty and beauty are used throughout the world to control women and in the West, these ideas pull women in two directions: women who cover up too much are frumpy, prudish or, in the case of some cultural dress, oppressed, while women who reveal too much (or simply have the wrong kinds of bodies) are inappropriate, offensive or disgusting. We need less of both these things; we need to create a culture where women's bodies are not seen always as sexual objects. Treating nipples as problematic because of the gender of their owner is ridiculous - as Parker Malloy describes, a trans woman can find that the way her nipples are regarded change radically through the very simple process of breast growth.
However, context is everything. Last year, I learned what those first early hominids may have felt like when their friends stood up, as my Twitter stream briefly became a deluge of naked pictures of people I vaguely knew as part of a spontaneous campaign to desexualise nudity. It was arousing, intimidating and comical, but mostly very uncomfortable. The human body is one of the most interesting and beautiful aesthetic subjects, but the image of someone's naked body is much like explicit information about their sexual exploits - there's nothing offensive about a naked body or a sexually explicit story, but to share those things with someone without warning or any chance to withdraw is a minor act of sexual aggression.
Thus, if we are to change our culture, we must proceed with caution. The sight of conventionally attractive young women flashing unsuspecting strangers, in public or on social media, only reinforces the current discomforting status of our nipples.
[Image is a photograph of a brass bolt fixed through a brass nut and washer. The photograph can be found on Pixabay and is in the public domain.]
It's time again for another weekly round-up and open thread. There are plenty of fascinating articles to read from the past week which we have linked to below. Personal highlights for me include Paris Lees' write-up on Louis Theroux's Transgender Kids documentary and Gemma Correll's amazing feminist cartoons which were showcased in The Independent last week.
As usual, linking does not automatically mean agreement/endorsement from The F-Word and some links may be triggering.
From the article: "There is something really wrong with David Cameron. I would say that about any parent of a disabled child who would go out of their way to make the lives of other disabled children worse."
From the article: "What's the big deal if a feminine boy or a masculine girl changes their social gender? What is so wrong about supporting them to transition socially, or to delay puberty with blockers?"
This woman is fighting the patriarchy with fantastic feminist cartoons (The Independent)
White guilt won't fix America's race problem. Only justice and equality will (The Guardian CiF)
From the article: "Guilt, of any racial variety, never achieved much anyhow (even if it did, there are therapists for that). It won't close the pay gap, the unemployment gap, the wealth gap or the discrepancy between black and white incarceration. It won't bring back Walter Scott, Trayvon Martin or Brandon Moore."
Please don't let Nigel Farage be the only one who stands up to the tampon tax (Left Foot Forward)
Pregnancy, Obesity, And The Lies We Tell (Ravishly)
This is a response piece to this New York Times article - 'Pregnant, Obese ... and in Danger'.
Sorry Dove, empowerment isn't a personal care product (The Guardian CiF)
From the article: "This isn't the first time that Dove has tried to flog its products through social-media-friendly pseudo-science. Indeed, it has conducted a number of similar, and wildly successful, experiments over the last few years, and has pretty much perfected a formula of calculated social experiment + statistics + sad background music + earnest message about beauty ideals."
"I am one of those foreigners": living with HIV in the UK (Open Democracy)
From the article: "HIV is easily treatable with pills. But there are no pills for stigma. Stigma grows on the ignorance behind the statement by UKIP's leader Nigel Farage. There is no substance behind his words."
Rowan Atkinson makes more sense than Woman's Hour (UnCommon Sense)
From the article: "Reading the transcript of the Womans's Hour programme broadcast on BBC Radio on the 9th of March I couldn't help but be reminded of Rowan Atkinson's TV advert for Barclaycard ..."
This is a another response piece to the BBC Woman's Hour discussion outlined on UnCommon Sense above.
Shared Parental Leave - a victory for men's rights! (Girl on the Net)
From the article: "Why aren't men's rights organisations celebrating the Shared Parental Leave rules? I suspect it's because Shared Parental Leave smacks of the F-word."
From the article: "Dear Channel 4, I am writing to you with the hope that you will stop ruining my life. While your obsession with my ethnicity is flattering, it has become somewhat apparent to me that you might have gotten the wrong end of the stick."
Circumcise your 4-year-old or go to jail (Philly Voice)
From the article: "Heather Hironimus is one brave woman ... she stands firmly against the court-ordered genital cutting of her 4-year-old son. Yes, you read the sentence correctly. Last month, Palm Beach County Circuit Judge Jeffrey Dana Gillen ordered Hironimus to sign consent forms and hand over her son for elective surgery - or go to jail. And yes, this is America."
Mediocre Failures (Disappointed Idealist)
This is a response piece to the news that the government plans to make children who fail their SATs re-sit their exams.
Sex, Gender, and Sexuality: The TransAdvocate interviews Catharine A. MacKinnon (The TransAdvocate)
The photo is by Cath Redfern and is used under creative commons license. It depicts a needlework image of a woman with purple hair. She is wearing a green hat and purple scarf and is holding a placard with a red 'Venus symbol' on it.