Monday round-up…!

// 6 April 2009

A report by prison inspectors has highlighted the situation for black and ethnic minority women behind bars:

However, there is, as yet, no diversity strategy and no guidance on the commissioning of services for minority groups such as women and minority ethnic offenders, let alone minority ethnic women offenders. There is no reference at all to the specific needs of women in the NOMS Race Review, published in December 2008 to chart progress over the last five years against the findings of the Commission for Racial Equality’s inquiry and the Prison Inspectorate’s thematic review of race in prisons. Black and minority ethnic women are therefore further marginalised by the prison system; they could almost be described as ‘forgotten minorities’.

It includes some statistics such as:

  • On 30 June 2007, 29% of women in prison were from a black and minority ethnic

    background (compared with 26% of the male population and 26% of the total population in

    the UK).

  • Of the British national population, 81% were white and 19% black and minority ethnic.
  • On the same date, 25% of the women’s prison population were foreign nationals, with the

    largest proportion from Nigeria and Jamaica (33% of the foreign national population).

The report also notes a rise in the number of foreign nationals in prison for “fraud”:

“This typically involves women who have sought entry to the UK, often for asylum, using forged passports obtained through traffickers.”

Although less BME women than white women in prison self-harm, the report specifically states:

Research has highlighted that self-harm and suicide within the black and minority ethnic women’s population should be viewed in the context of experiences of racism, sexism, class inequalities, patriarchy, gender-based violence and immigration issues

A video of Taliban fighters flogging a young woman in Pakistan ‘for’ leaving the house with a man who was not her husband has been causing outrage and worry:

Reached by phone, Taliban spokesman Muslim Khan claimed responsibility for the flogging. “She came out of her house with another guy who was not her husband, so we must punish her. There are boundaries you cannot cross,” he said. He defended the Taliban’s right to thrash women shoppers who were inappropriately dressed, saying it was permitted under Islamic law.

Obviously, Wilkinson Sword sell razors, so it’s no surprise that they’ll stoop to pretty much any tactics to sell the idea that shaving as much as possible is essential. But still, a ‘comedy’ ad about the shameful and dangerous consequences of skimping on leg-shaving takes the biscuit.

As Cara says:

1. It’s women’s responsibility to the world to adhere to feminine beauty standards.

2. There is nothing that grosses out a guy more than the realization that women are not naturally hairless. This is because all men are a) stupid and b) shallow pigs. Really, they can’t help it, and it is not their fault.

3. Accordingly, note that the bus catastrophe is not the fault of the man, even though the woman repeatedly pushed his hand away from her leg and he was therefore engaging in non-consensual sexual behavior, however comparatively “mild.” It is the fault of the woman for not constantly being prepared for men to force themselves on them. Obviously.

The same company put out this ad, complete with sexism and racist stereotypes:

(via Feministing)

Women are drinking more whisky, reports the Guardian. Here’s an interesting quote:

Neil Macdonald, brand director of Glenlivet, added: “In February, at the annual Whisky Live event in London, we noted an increase in the number of women at the Glenlivet stand, a real mix of connoisseurs and new whisky drinkers. Many of these ladies had travelled specifically for Whisky Live and were very knowledgeable about scotch.

“Mistakes have been made in the past when marketing to women by offering purely cosmetic or ‘lighter’ drinks. Today we find that female consumers are often the most demanding – looking for product integrity and substance.”

Humaira Saeed, editor of the zine Race Revolt interviewed.

TheFourthVine reports that her nephew’s school censored his science project because he did a survey which found out not everyone identifies as male or female:

(This really has been a learning experience, and not just for Z, either. At my younger nephew’s birthday party, Z was wandering around showing off his survey, and many of the older kids asked why he had included an “other” option for gender. Now, okay, you have to understand – Z is the kind of kid who, if you tell him you don’t want to be called a boy or a girl, he will just kind of accept it. So you are other? Fine. People are mysterious anyway, and obviously this is just another layer of mysteriousness to them. He doesn’t need to understand it to be okay with it.

Most of the other kids, though, found this concept fascinating and absolutely bewildering – obviously everyone is either a boy or a girl! Obviously! – and wanted to ask many many questions. Which was the point when my sister turned to me and said, “They’re your friends. You explain it.” You have not lived until you’ve tried to explain being genderqueer to a group of suburban elementary school students hyped up on cake and candy and penguins.)

So tomorrow my sister has to write an irritated letter to the principal, emphasizing that she wants Z’s project – which also apparently was the only one to get graded twice, or possibly not graded at all; the story isn’t clear – back, and she wants it considered for the district competition like all the other projects. And also that it’s sad that the school missed the opportunity to show some genderqueer student or sibling or parent that, hey, you can have a different gender identification and still be considered and counted and included.

Lesbilicious interviews three lesbian parents on the impact of the changes to the fertility laws.

abyss2hope posts about some research which examines research claiming high levels of false reporting of rape, and demolishes it.

Racialicious reviews the TV adaptation of The No 1 Ladies Detective Agency.

David Cameron wants to pull the UK out of the Social Chapter of the EU. The bit of the EU which grants people in the UK the right to four weeks paid holiday and protections against workplace discrimination and parental leave:

Sign the petition here.

Brigitte Fell was assaulted by her partner in New South Wales, after police officers outed her as being a trans woman during an interview with him, in an attempt to goad him. He was under suspicion of theft and assault:

Jacobson told the hearing he was in custody at the police station when the constables told him he had been “rooting a bloke”.

He then went and attacked Fell. See Bird of Paradox for more.

Finally, a bit of good news: same-sex marriage has been legalised in Sweden and Iowa.

Comments From You

Charlotte Cooper // Posted 7 April 2009 at 12:31 am

Even though I haven’t written it on The Femilist, because generally it’s just links to information, I think it’s important to notice the HMIP report shows how much prison is made in the mold of treating white men.

It made me think that what we really need is a comprehensive study that works to fill in these huge gaps, and really learn to use the system properly catering to the rehabilitation of white women, BME women and BME men who I think are likely to be outsiders to current programmes inside, as it were.

The huge distances that some women are placed from their families is also disturbing, I think 800 women interviewed were 100+ from their families. The report pointed to the fact that the closure of 3 women’s prisons to be re-roled into male prisons may account for this.

At some point are we actually going to realise how to utilize the prison system as a rehabilitation scheme or are we just going to keep running it into the ground?

Jennifer Drew // Posted 7 April 2009 at 11:29 am

It has been reported reason why men initiated physical violence against this Pakistani woman was to punish her for refusing to marry a much older male Taliban leader. But of course it is far more ‘acceptable’ to claim this woman had flouted Taliban laws than publicly state a woman dared to challenge mens’ belief in their right to buy/force women into sexual/property contracts.

Imagine if the Wilkinson Sword advertisements showed a man sitting on the bus and he had not shaved his body hair. Or imagine the outrage and claims of racism and men-hating if second advertisement featured white and non-white men singing about ‘mowing their lawns, because bushes are in constant need of grooming and tidying up.’ Would it be widely perceived as ‘just harmless fun?’

But when it is women of differing ethnicities and race then it is just ‘humour’ because as these advertisements show women and their bodies are for men’s sexual pleasure and it is women’s responsibility to ensure their bodies meet ‘male sexual approval.’ Do women’s bodies belong to women – not according to these advertisements.

Ellie // Posted 7 April 2009 at 2:40 pm

Christ I can’t believe that WIlkinsons Sword add. It made me feel really creeped out when the woman firmly tells the man to not touch her leg and he does it anyway.

mary // Posted 7 April 2009 at 3:20 pm

On 30 June 2007, 29% of women in prison were from a black and minority ethnic background (compared with 26% of the male population and 26% of the total population in the UK)

Can someone explain that last figure to me? It can’t mean that 26% of the general population are in prison, or that 26% of the general population are BME – so what is it?!

Jess McCabe // Posted 7 April 2009 at 3:25 pm

@mary I think it means 26% of the prison population. Because the whole of the report is about the prison population, I think it’s just assumed throughout that’s what statistics refer to.

Mary // Posted 7 April 2009 at 3:40 pm

Oh I see! Yes – I guess that means that women comprise a sufficiently small part of the prison that the higher proportion of BME women to BME men doesn’t actually affect the overall figure. I just couldn’t work out what it was comparing to.

Thank you!

Jess McCabe // Posted 7 April 2009 at 3:54 pm

Jennifer, isn’t it much of a muchness – can’t see there’s much difference between assaulting a woman because she left the house with a man other than her husband, versus refusing to marry a Taliban leader?

Sam // Posted 7 April 2009 at 4:30 pm

Charlotte, after seeing your comment I read the report. I wonder if you’d mind explaining a little how the report shows that prisons are made for treating white men?

Systematic abuse pervades the prison system, and while this only increases as offenders come from increasingly oppressed groups, and therefore conditions are worse for BME women than they are for white women and men, it seems a stretch to say that prisons are “made in the mold” of the group who happens to be the least persecuted.

Amy2 // Posted 7 April 2009 at 4:45 pm

I was having an argument with my dad about how women are meant to be hairy. He said ‘ugh imagine women with hairy armits though!’ I just said, ugh, dad, all women have hairy armits! Then I had a feminist rant and he concluded, ‘yeah but I suppose it’s not my fault, I’ve been brought up that way.’ So if men/ ads know this, don’t makes the views ADVERTISING women should be hairless. That’s not being ‘brought up that way’, it’s advocating the patriarchy, something entirely different.

Charlotte Cooper // Posted 7 April 2009 at 11:16 pm


I think my point is best explained in the drug abuse section, regarding treatment programmes.

“The distinct patterns of drug use by different ethnic groups within the women’s population suggests that provision and commissioning of services should reflect the needs of the population and not concentrate principally on heroin abuse, the main drug of choice for white British nationals.”

“In a study specifically looking at the delivery of prison drug services for black and minority ethnic prisoners (Fountain et al, 2004), area drug coordinators reported that only three (2.25%) out of 133 establishments had drug services that targeted black and minority ethnic prisoners.”

When looking at these problems the report draws a selection of possible barriers, all from male prisoners.

The study reiterates on several points that conclusions it draws are from results drawn from male prisoners.

And again with mental health

“Research has highlighted that most mental health assessment tools were developed

with the needs of white men in mind and are unsuitable for assessing the needs of women (Ramsay et al, 2001) or people from black and minority ethnic groups (Department of Health, 2005).”

I think it is fair to say the system is built on research that supports a male, mainly white male experience of the prison and this has created a narrow range of support which does not properly aid white women, BME women and BME men.

I hope that has clarified my point.

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