Another round-up

// 17 July 2009

Tesco has failed to improve pay and conditions for South African women producing fruit for the company, four years after ActionAid began its campaign on this issue:

Jenny Ricks, ActionAid Campaigner said: “Tesco has increased its ethical checks in response to campaigning pressure from ActionAid. This is a good step forward, but it has not yet translated into real improvements in women’s lives. Tesco promised to ensure workers are paid a living wage. Now it’s time for them to deliver. The next step is to set up a pilot project to bring pay and conditions up to acceptable standards on an initial group of farms.”

The charity is reminding Tesco’s board of the promises it made to farmworker Gertruida Baartman, who has twice come to the company’s AGM to ask the board directly why her pay and conditions are so poor.

South African workers like Gertruida are struggling to feed and clothe their children on poverty wages. Campaigners are calling for a living wage to be paid.

The supermarket chain, which made £3 billion profit last year, is currently facing accusations about union-busting at its US subsidiary Fresh and Easy, and about the pay and conditions of foreign agency workers at its meat and poultry suppliers in the UK. The annual general meeting (Friday 3 July) will provide an opportunity for concerned shareholders to raise questions about the treatment of workers at Tesco’s subsidiaries and suppliers.

The campaign is calling for women workers to receive only an extra 5p per kilo of apples – they suggest signing up to their campaign – you can download a postcard from their site, attach 5p to it, and take it to your local branch of Tesco or post it to HQ.

A Jamaican lesbian is being threatened with deportation by the Home Office, who claim her sexuality is a “ruse”, reports Pink News, on the basis that she’s had relationships with men before:

Anisa de Jong, executive director of the UK Lesbian and Gay Immigration Group, told “[We do] not comment on individual cases, and therefore we can not make any statement about whether what is reported about this case is factually correct or not.

“Our general response to the news report is that sexuality is not fixed and it is not uncommon for lesbian (or bisexual) women to have had sexual relationships with men in the past.

“This in itself does not reduce the risk they run in their country of origin where someone who is known to have had same-sex sexual relationships is likely to be perceived of – and treated – as a lesbian.

Meanwhile, in the US, Obama has said “severe” domestic violence and sexual abuse will be grounds for asylum, reversing the policy of the Bush administration. See Pickled Politics for more.

A group of artists are planning an exhibition and talk in Wimbledon, to raise money for women in conflict.

HarperCollins is launching a women of substance award, to raise the profile of female role models:

Have you recently met a woman of substance? Is she determined, honest and selfless? Does she have plenty of integrity and inspire others? Now the time has come for you to put pen to paper – or even go online – and tell us as the search is on to find Britain ’s real women of substance.

A Woman of Substance Awards have been launched to coincide with the 30th anniversary of Barbara Taylor Bradford’s debut book, A Woman of Substance, first published in 1979. The book is one of the top 10 bestselling novels of all time with more than 31 million copies sold in over 40 languages and in 90 countries.

If you’re lucky enough to have a pension or any other sort of investment, would you consider calling for the fund manager to vote in favour of gender equality at shareholder meetings? Suzie at Echidne says:

When I worked for a newspaper owned by Media General, employees got stock as part of retirement plans. Some of us would add a note each year to our proxy, arguing to put a woman on the board. I don’t know if that helped, but it’s better than doing nothing.

This is the kind of “shareholder activism” I sometimes report on for my day job, by the way, and it’s quite common – for other issues.

augh.gifCat and Girl on librarian stereotypes.

Wendi Muse discusses beauty regiments and pressure, particularly on women, to be perfect, in Brazil, over at Racialicious (also see the comments for discussion of how this affects butch women):

But that beauty certainly does not come without a heavy price, one on which one’s social acceptance and class mobility can depend far more so than elsewhere.

AfterEllen profiles photographer Catherine Opie – head on over for lots of quotes and photos.

Pam’s House Blend highlights a rare positive example of US TV portraying trans youth.

Melissa writes an open letter to the English-speaking world on gendered language in talking to/about children:

Our insistence on reducing children to these incomplete and hopelessly retrograde definitions of sex and gender does them no favors. And, besides that, it’s about as sophisticated as believing girls really are made of sugar and spice and everything nice and boys of snakes and snails and puppy dogs’ tails. Surely, we’re cleverer than that.

Don Davis, guest blogging at the Bilerico Project, posts about Gladys Bentley, who was a famous drag king in the 1920s-30s in Harlem.

Lesbians feel under less pressure to have a ‘perfect body’ than straight and bisexual women, according to new research, but levels of actual body confidence were the same, reports Lesbilicious.

Feminist Philosophers is taking a poll – have you heard someone say that women or girls just can’t hack it in activities which require abstract reasoning – such as maths, physics, logic, philosophy, chess…

An NHS midwife, Denis Walsh, has claimed that labour pain is good for women. The Skeptical OB takes this down, and relates it to the long history of sexist claims that women’s pain is less important, less worthy of relief.

Aparna Singh at Ultra Violet considers the Tory’s insistence that divorce is too easy in the Indian context.

I’m often a bit hard on the Tories, but have to tip my proverbial hat today to Edward McMillan-Scott MEP who has got himself expelled from the voting block in the European Parliament set up by the Conservatives and a number of extremely hard-right MEPs, after he put himself up for a post of vice-president of the Parliament, in protest. He had the whip withdrawn because the party had decided officially to put forward Michal Kaminski, a Polish Law and Justice Party MEP, a party which stands accused of homophobia, racism and antisemitism, among other things. Well done to McMillan-Scott for taking a stand.

Bitch Magazine’s blog has a new series, where they ask noted feminist thinkers to review a book which has rocked their world – Julia Serano highlights Daring to Be Bad, about radical feminism in the US in the 60s and 70s. Jennifer Baumgardner highlights a book on women who surrendered their children for adoption in the decades before abortion was legalised in the US.

Fuck Politeness catches an Australian newspaper photoshopping a rape victim’s scars to make them look worse.

Muslimah Media Watch thoroughly reviews the pluses and minuses of a Woman’s Hour programme on Sarkozy’s call to ban the burqa.

Over in the US, the Sonia Sotomayor hearings continue with unabashed racism and sexism. stuff white people do highlights a great article which pin-points how this whole mess demonstrates the widespread assumption that white men are ‘neutral’:

White men often simply don’t see how they’re fooling themselves this way. In many cases, and probably most, it’s not that white men are pretending to be more objective and neutral and so on than say, a black civil rights leader, or a Latina Supreme Court nominee. They just assume that they are, without even consciously thinking they are. And yet, to assume that women and people of color are subjective, biased, and so on is, nevertheless, to assume and imply the opposite about oneself.

Comments From You

Saranga // Posted 17 July 2009 at 1:21 pm

Re the women of substance bit, great idea, but why does one of the criteria have to be ‘selfless’? What’s so great about never thinking of yourself and never putting yourself first? For that way leads to low self esteem and unhappiness.

hmc // Posted 17 July 2009 at 1:32 pm

Exactly what I was about to say, Saranga. To be a woman ‘of substance’ you have to be selfless? This may be my too theoretical side coming over but…self-less? Surely not a good thing.

Jane // Posted 17 July 2009 at 2:42 pm

I’ll be interested in the comments about Denis Walsh’s proposition that pain in labour is a ‘rite of passage’ and helps mothers to ‘bond’. Mainly because it appears to be a bit of a bone of contention among women. Those who have had natural childbirth will ofen eulogise on how good it was not to rely on drugs, and some (and NO – I don’t mean all by any means) may regard other women who for whatever reason (perhaps a 26 hour labour, or the shock of realising that the pain is real and no amount of breathing and regarding the pain as ‘sensation’ or ‘waves’ will make it lessen) had pain relief with surprise or patronising sympathy. (‘Oh what a shame you felt you had to have pain relief’) etc etc.

The fact is that trying to guilt mothers out of epidurals is a desire to save money. Secondly, how dare he suggest that women who’ve had a c-section or epidural are less likely to ‘bond’ (we’ve heard that old bollocks before). Thirdly, I’ve had an epidural for my first child and I wasn’t ‘hooked up to a machine’. I had a mobile epidural which meant I could walk around. For my second child the bloody thing didn’t work so I had to have a drug free birth. And I knew I was safe and the midwife was fab and I’d still have taken a bullet frankly, after ten hours. But it was amazing how many people said afterwards ‘oh well DONE’ as though I’d come through some sort of Birthing Test.

I went to see Robin Williams once and he did this whole routine about how ‘men like to feel they’re part of the birthing experience. Unless you’ve pushed a golfing umbrella up your arse, opened it and pushed it out again, you have No Idea.’

Shea // Posted 17 July 2009 at 9:34 pm

The comments of Denis Walsh are ridiculous. It wasn’t too long ago (50 years) that doctors were saying women shouldn’t have anaesthesia at all during childbirth because it was women’s “punishment from God” (yes really!). It makes me very sad and very angry that a male doctor would make these comments on a type of pain he has never and will never experience. Pain is a subjective experience and only the woman in question can know how bad her pain is. The idea of pain relief affecting bonding with the baby is complete crap. It is an archaic notion designed to guilt trip women into being more masochistic.

But I have noticed this prevalent attitude to women and pain relief before. It is very very common to under medicate women for pain or to deny it all together- particularly in geriatric medicine. One of the worse cases I every came across was an elderly lady with advanced osteosarcoma who had had no pain relief whatsoever (she should have been on morphine) because she wasn’t felt to need it by her doctor. Frankly most people wouldn’t let an animal suffer like that. It still upsets me now.

Why should we expect women to be stoical in the face of pain and suffering where we wouldn’t for a man.

Jessica B // Posted 21 July 2009 at 7:24 pm

Period pain is also dismissed in the same manner.

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