Where are women now? asks Observer Review

// 7 December 2008

A good portion of today’s Observer Review was dedicated to the status of women in our society 80 years since women won the right to vote.

I’m quoted (very briefly!) in Rachel Cooke’s overview. She has some interesting things to say – not all of which I agree with, although mostly it’s a matter of emphasis. I’m not sure it’s possible to be surprised about misogyny and continuing sexism, when you read and write about it every day. I mean, just yesterday the Observer’s sister newspaper reported the names of seven teenage boys who gang raped a 14-year-old girl.

Anyway, it’s an interesting read, but I also recommend the Observer’s set of interviews on “What’s it like to be young, female and living in Britain?”

The women they interview include Yeukai Taruvinga – who ran a workshop at the Feminism in London conference earlier this year which really opened my eyes (even further) about just how terrible the whole asylum system is, and how the problems with it are gendered. She spoke about her own experiences, and it’s the kind of story that people really do need to hear so it’s great to see her profiled in the Observer.

Rania Khan – a Tower Hamlets councillor who also spoke at the Feminism in London conference(!) – was among those profiled too, along with Suswati Basu – who’s really involved in the London Feminist Network, and also helps organise Reclaim the Night.

And, probably the most interesting to read was this interview with Lynne Segal, Sheila Rowbottom, Fay Weldon and Susie Orbach, where they talk about how things have changed since the first National Women’s Liberation Conference in 1970. It reflect how their views and politics have changed, and also haven’t changed, as much as how things have changed for women in general in the last 38 years.

Photo by me, shared via Flickr

Comments From You

Heather Powell // Posted 8 December 2008 at 1:20 pm

As a woman actively involved in the Women’s Liberation Movement, I deeply regret that we never took up the cause of mothers who were losing their children through adoption, all the more so since this was one of those areas in which women were also significantly responsible for this abuse, ever since British female social workers followed the example of their US counterparts to exploit vulnerable mothers to further their own careers. It was for this purpose that adoption was first developed, and appalling practices such as secrecy were introduced – not to help the mothers and babies concerned. Looking back to the period when most babies were adopted, when the WLM was also developing and most active, it is clear that history is being actively re-written, for example, claims that women ‘gave away’ or at best ‘relinquished’ their babies because of the overwhelming stigma of illegitimacy simply fail to stand up on examination, in reality the vast majority of children born outside marriage throughout the 1950s-70s were kept and raised by their natural mothers. All that these women who lost their children had in common was their extreme vulnerability at the time of their babies’ births. But adoption was a taboo subject for feminists – except where arguing for their ‘right’ to adopt -falling between the campaign for abortion and that for financial support for single mothers. It was too threatening, too complex, being always political – we know that adoption practice was routinely coercive, abusive and often illegal, and totally against the principles with which adoption legislation was first introduced – but given tacit support for its role in social engineering. It has also been permanently and often terribly damaging to the women who experienced it, despite which many of these women feel compelled to reveal the truth and to fight for recognition and recompense, despite highly organised and richly financed opposition – including Bush and the Neo Cons in America – who have stated their desire that the problem created by these women – mothers, feminist campaigners – be resolved “through natural wastage.” At the moment they apper to be winning, with honourable exceptions the British media has shown itself to be too frightened to take up the issues raised by these women, colluding instead with acceptable misrepresentations, perhaps because they are pointing to of one of the greatest abuses of people in this country in the last century, and denial is so much more comfortable, but it will be a tragedy if our cowardice allows this appalling abuse of womens’ rights to be written out of our history.

Rachael Paterson // Posted 8 December 2008 at 4:14 pm

I’m afraid I have been put off The Observer in recent years by the inclusion of their utterly patronising (hair, clothes and make-up, anyone?) Observer Women magazine (I believe it is even published monthly!). But I might take a look at this.

Have Your say

To comment, you must be registered with The F-Word. Not a member? Register. Already a member? Use the sign in button below

Sign in to the F-Word

Further Reading

Has The F-Word whet your appetite? Check out our Resources section, for listings of feminist blogs, campaigns, feminist networks in the UK, mailing lists, international and national websites and charities of interest.

Write for us!

Got something to say? Something to review? News to discuss? Well we want to hear from you! Click here for more info

  • The F-Word on Twitter
  • The F-Word on Facebook
  • Our XML Feeds