Archive for the ‘opinion’ Category

This is an excerpt from a fellow bloggar, Harriet Thacker, a freelance Journo from Brighton. Her blog is generally on “a little bit of feminism and a little bit of other stuff” and today she has written up about a festival which seems to be growing year on year (look out for it next year) at the Southbank. Although admittedly I found out about this too late (I will certainly look out for it next year) I found Harriets article so interesting -on the issues about how the current funding cuts are hitting women hardest, and how it is more important than ever that the hard fought for gains women have made over the years are not savaged by the patriarchal ideology and reforms of the current coalition government.

Harriet says…

“Is it any surprise that these cuts have gone through so smoothly with only 21 of the 119 government ministers being women? Of the 113,000 local government workers who faced redundancy 73% were women; 77% of NHS workers set to lose their jobs are women and of the 710,000 public employees cut 65% were women. Not only are there the staggering job losses that have led to female unemployment being at a 25-year high, but women now also face cuts to legal aid.”

International Women’s Day was celebrated across the country this week, but as female unemployment in the UK reaches a 25-year high solidarity amongst women is more important than ever.

International Women’s Day has been recognised for over a hundred years and was proposed to honour women’s advancement while also serving as a reminder of the continued vigilance and action required to gain and maintain women’s equality.

Women in the UK are now facing the fact that for the first time in living memory their freedoms are in reverse. With cuts to child benefit, legal aid and job losses in the public sector women are losing out in a huge way.

In London this weekend the Southbank Centre is hosting the Women of the World Festival 2012. Jude Kelly, Artistic Director of Southbank Centre, said: “’Throughout history, many women’s achievements have gone unnoticed or unsung. I created WOW – Women of the World Festival to celebrate the formidable power of women to make change happen, to remind us of our history, to draw attention to injustice, to enjoy each other’s company and to encourage men to add their support as we set out to achieve a fairer world. I was overwhelmed by the positive response to WOW in 2011 and am excited to build on this success with another great festival at Southbank Centre in 2012.” (For more of the festival see Harriets blog, it sounds awesome!)

Harriet goes onto say…

Despite promising to be “the most family-friendly government ever” the cuts are tailored to a model of a male breadwinner and a dependent female carer. Is it any surprise that these cuts have gone through so smoothly with only 21 of the 119 government ministers being women? Of the 113,000 local government workers who faced redundancy 73% were women; 77% of NHS workers set to lose their jobs are women and of the 710,000 public employees cut 65% were women. Not only are there the staggering job losses that have led to female unemployment being at a 25-year high, but women now also face cuts to legal aid. As qualifying rules tighten, half the women suffering domestic violence will lose legal aid. Wives facing divorce could stand to lose legal aid rendering them powerless to fight for custody of their children and sharing assets while husbands may afford lawyers.

Ghanimi says: “[The cuts] are inequitable, devastating and wholly unnecessary. Inequitable because women, the poorest and most vulnerable will suffer most. They are devastating because cuts to health, legal aid and welfare, for example, will leave the most vulnerable without the help and support they absolutely depend upon. They are unnecessary because there are alternatives such as a redistribution of wealth. Every year, for example, tax avoidance and evasion starves the British economy of an estimated £95 billion, probably more. It’s immoral for billionaires to pay less tax than people on ordinary incomes and yet this is routinely the case and positively encouraged. It’s no surprise then that the richest 1% have seen their income doubled since the 1970s in contrast to the rest of us. The Government is cutting tax inspectors, which says much about their priority on tax avoidance. Also, the rhetoric that the cuts being necessary to pay off the deficit seems increasingly absurd. Our deficit is actually increasing, not falling. The cuts are depressing our economy and the impact will be felt for a very long time.”

International Women’s Day this year has been more important than ever to draw women together and to raise awareness of what is actually happening to women in the current climate. The International Women’s Day website itself acknowledges the dangers of apathy: “The new millennium has witnessed a significant change and attitudinal shift in both women’s and society’s thoughts about women’s equality and emancipation. Many from a younger generation feel that ‘all the battles have been won for women’ while many feminists from the 1970s know only too well the longevity and ingrained complexity of patriarchy.”

It is up to women to be the change we want to see in the world, to stand up against the reversal of our freedoms and not let apathy take those rights away from us.

To get involved with Brighton & Hove Women Against the Cuts visit www.bhwac.wordpress.com or on Twitter @BrightonHoveWAC
For the rest of her insightful article about Britain for todays woman, click for her blog here


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women in herstory month is in March every year

Well, the other day myself and a few of the gals from GWV went to an event on at Portcullis House, one of the parliament buildings, to hear a group of very inspiring women speaking on the issues of women in history – or rather, herstory. (A pre-launch event to kick off proceedings in March 2011)

Annoyingly, all my notes I wrote for this blog didn’t save so I can’t really pass on any of the fabulous quotes I heard from the women speaking. However, I can pass on a few thoughts of my own from the evening. I was finding myself more and more fired up as I heard over and over about the way women have been written out, forgotten, rewritten or purposely omitted from our history books. The incredible women of science, of the humanities, of business…

While I was sitting there, I started thinking about women drug users, the women who, over the years had taken copious amounts of drugs, trailblazed their way thru doors of perception to deliver amazing works of art and science, only to have either themselves, their drug use, or their contributions omitted from history. Think about it – how many men do we know of who took drugs and created something useful, who are remembered in history – along with the knowledge about their partaking of Substances; Burroughs, Byron, Coleridge, Freud, Wilberforce, the list is huge! We admire their courageous flouting of respectability, their conquests as leading men of their day, their inventions/creations etc. We remember them as the whole package ( tho admittedly occasionally their drug use is played down if they are held up or painted as a ‘leader amongst men’, like philanthropist William Wilberforce.

Yet for women who used substances readily, so strong is the need to keep women on some kind of glass pedestal

Invisible Women?

as good girl, good mother, fragile and delicate, we kick her off it if she ‘betrays’ these homely values, becoming the temptress or fallen woman who lures men (and even worse, other women) to their ghastly fates in druggies squalor.

Very few women are celebrated for the way, when using drugs, they broke societal taboos, pushed through boundaries, and pushed through those doors of perception adding to their creative process. It is rarely if ever recognised as anything more than a women being influenced to take drugs by another usually male person , or she is a failing mother, a sick or mentally ill woman, vulnerable or perverse, a prostitute or slag.

Women’s drug use has become racialised, sexualised, pathologised, and criminalised. When women take a prescribed drug they are being compliant, when it is illegal they are viewed as morally bankrupt. Even if we are talking about the very same drug – for example, an opiate. If she self medicates with an opiate while pregnant she is mentally ill, dangerous, immoral. If she takes the opiate on prescription from a Dr when pregnant, she is maternal and responsible and compliant.

We have some amazing women activists in the drug using community and I’m left wondering if we really appreciate or acknowledge them very well. For women’s history month in March I will write about a few of these amazing women, its like one woman said the other nite, its not enough to occasionally rise women up to be remembered, women need to be consistently written into history, regularly remembered for their contributions, and streamlined  into the historical documents for our historians and society to remember.

Lets address the gap!

It is interesting to note that temperance – puritanism around sobriety and the views that alcohol is the corrupter of man -did not emerge until the 1800s and was readily embraced and espoused by women themselves.  Yet before that it was only women of good standing that had access to morphine which was enjoyed (in a very ladylike manner) in regular morphine ‘tea parties’. The temperance movement had collided with our views about women – and race, sexuality, mental health and the law have all conspired over the years to keep the woman who uses drugs viewed as either – or : The weak and vulnerable  OR the fallen, the temptress.

Men do not carry these labels around in the same way, and their ‘labeling’ does not act as barriers or obstacles in their every day lives in the same ways as such labels do for women. A fascinating discussion and one that could go on for some time. I intend to write about some of these women for Womens History Month in March. Any views or ideas, please do comment!

I believe it is in fact a syndrome, that it doesn’t suit us to look at women as drug users, and that in itself has meant that some extraordinary women – or parts of their lives –  are being airbrushed or rewritten –  from our history books .

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