Hooray for Zoe Williams …

by Lynne Miles // 4 October 2005, 1:36 pm

… once again saying what I wanted to say much better than I ever would have! This piece, in today’s Guardian, picks up on the ‘babies do better with mum’ story, and is worth a read.

Harriet Miers nominated for US Supreme Court

by Lynne Miles // 3 October 2005, 2:39 pm

This morning, President Bush announced his second Supreme Court nomination. He has nominated Harriet Miers to replace Sandra Day O’Connor, who stepped down from the Supreme Court last July.

Originally, as we reported back in July, President Bush nominated John Roberts to take over her place, prompting widespread surprise that he had not elected the female or minority ethnic candidate predicted. However, the death of Chief Justice William Rehnquist last month meant that John Roberts was confirmed to replace him as Chief Justice, leaving a continuing vacancy on the Court.

The Supreme Court has ultimate power in the USA to rule on the consitutionality or otherwise of key legal decisions, the most controversial of which is often abortion.

Just a few weeks ago, John Roberts has said that he would be “unlikely” to overturn previous court rulings that give women the right to abortion, nor to let his Catholic faith influence his judicial decisions.

Ms Miers has never yet served as a judge in the US, although she has been one of Bush’s closest advisors, so she has no judicial record to indicate her opinion on controversial issues such as abortion or euthanasia. If confirmed, Miers will be one of two women currently serving on the Supreme Court, and only the third woman in history.

Babies do best with Mum?

by Lynne Miles // , 1:53 pm

A study covered on the front page of the Observer yesterday reports that babies do best in developmental terms when they are cared for by stay at home mothers. The sample compared mummy-love with grandparental care, childminding and daycare. The headline? “Official: babies do best with mother“.

Glaring in its omission was any research into the relative merits of care provided by stay-at-home fathers, although the Observer did manage to point out that Penelope Leach, one of the authors of the report, stressed the results may be indicative not of the supremacy of parental (a term The Observer uses interchangably with maternal) care but of the poor resourcing of daycare centres in this country. Ms Leach “insisted that her findings should not be interpreted as a demand that mothers stay at home but […] as a demand for ‘developmentally appropriate, high quality childcare'”. Needless to say these disclaimers only made it onto page 2.

South African women more likely to be HIV positive

by Jess McCabe // 1 October 2005, 10:52 pm

Young South African women are three times more likely to be infected with HIV than men in the same age group, a new study has revealed.

The Feminist Majority Foundation reports on the study, which involved anonymously testing 12,000 South Africans for HIV, the precursor to AIDS.

Of those aged between 15 and 24, 15.5 per cent of women tested positive, compared to only 4.8 per cent of men.

Factors that ramped up the risk of infection include: a larger number of sexual partners, older sexual partners and inconsistent condom use.

Both young women and men who had participated in an AIDS-prevention programme, which emphasises frank communication about sex and responsible sexual behaviour, were less likely than their peers to be HIV positive.

Portugal to vote on abortion

by Jess McCabe // , 10:37 pm

The people of Portugal are to vote on whether to legalise abortion, the Feminist Majority Foundation reports.

Its parliament has voted to hold a referendum, which if successful would see Portuguese women able to legally access abortions during the first 10 weeks of pregnancy. Currently abortion is banned unless the mother’s health or life is in danger, or she has been raped.

Portugal remains one of the few European countries where abortion is illegal.

According to Conservative mayor, Gabor Mitynan, it’s a “yes,” but the condition attached is that you must have “perfect” legs.

Mitynan, who runs a wealthy district of Budapest in Hungary, reckons only female City Hall staff with “pretty legs” should be allowed to wear short skirts. He also wants the city to legislate on stocking thickness, depending on the time of year. The men, meanwhile, would have to swelter in blazers all year round.

The mind boggles at how it would be decided whether a person’s legs were good enough. Would Mitynan be personally designing the barometer of “prettiness”? Personally, I think the workers should all band together (regardless of gender or the state of their legs, according to Mitynan) and stage a mini-skirted protest.

I originally found this story on Netscape and feministing. The last I heard about the issue was that Mitynan’s proposals were to be discussed this month but unlikely to be passed by the city assembly because most of Budapest’s 23 districts are Liberal or Socialist. Since then, nothing has been reported. Does anyone out there have a link that sheds any light on the subsequent discussion?

Abortion rights for young women

by Jess McCabe // 28 September 2005, 2:22 pm

Why is the growing movement to restrict access to abortion for minors a bad idea? Because even girls in liberal, accepting, happy families, sometimes don’t want to tell them they’re pregnant, says MANIFESTA co-author Jennifer Baumgardner on AlterNet.

DV review – correction

by Lynne Miles // 21 September 2005, 9:24 am

A helpful reader has pointed out that – far from the review mentioned below being the first of its kind in the UK – there have been over 70 such reviews in the last 3 to 4 years, and even a few by the West Berkshire DV forum.

Apologies for the error – in my defence, it’s the BBC’s error too

Thanks for the info, Davina!

Football, Child Abuse and the law

by Louise Livesey // 20 September 2005, 2:44 pm

Prompted by this:

“Kate Coleman, the Premiership’s head of child protection, said she was unable to give the names of the clubs or individuals involved in the two ongoing investigations, but suggested that the incidents did not involve criminal behaviour.

‘It can’t be defined as child abuse unless somebody has been convicted. I would prefer to use the term “bad practice”. In all the cases that have been resolved, there was no conviction,’ she said.” (Quoted from the Observer article, Sunday 18th September).

Football has long been a source of concern for those of us working with issues of child and woman abuse. Poor practice regarding checking of those working with young people, an atmosphere of unchecked negative masculinity, and a whole series of sexual violence scandals. And now the Child Protection spokesperson for the Premiership claims it isn’t child abuse unless there is a conviction.

I suppose we shouldn’t be surprised. It isn’t rape unless there is a conviction, it isn’t a crime unless there is conviction… they are perspectives we are used to hearing about sexual violence. But for a Child Protection Spokesperson to say this? In an atmosphere where alleged group rape of young (under the age of consent) women is not unusual (and is indeed seen as a perk of the “job”), where clubs will offer pay-offs to prevent cases coming to court, where the word of a child is against that of an internation or national level player or coach.

What fitness for the job does a child protection spokesperson have if their measure of wrongdoing is whether it results in a conviction? In a society where only 5% of rape allegations of adult women end in conviction and where best estimates say that 60% of child abuse is never reported? Is conviction an adequate measure of wrongdoing? Of course not. But the Premiership will apparently not class something as child abuse unless there is a conviction.

Football offers young men a career where they are surrounded by “yes men”, where there is little comeback for bad behaviour (in fact where it is expected in some cases), where masculinity is lauded without boundaries and where the club will protect them and will re-employ them even if they are convicted of a criminal offence. Football offers young men “groupies” of young women who are awed by the media presence, by the money these men earn, by the cache of being a footballers girlfriend. Many liaisons are consensual. Some are not. Some blend between the two where a consensual liaison becomes coerced or forced. Football offers a way for some men to get unfettered access to talented, unprotected and trusting children, just as other sports, such as swimming, have already had to face. Football needs to face facts – its child protection procedures are sadly lacking and its record in demanding accountability from its players for their behaviour, whether sexual violence or other criminal acts, is lacking. Football needs to start taking responsibility.

I have a vision, a dream, that every time a player, players or coach or other members of a Football Club’s staff are implicated or accused of child abuse or sexual violence against women that next match day, early in the morning women will head over there and tie white ribbons to the fence. Imagine fans turning up and finding their club covered with white ribbons shaming them into acknowledging that footballs recent history of sexual violence will not be tolerated. I have a vision which I know will not happen, and if it does it may not have an impact. After all football doesn’t make it money from women, it is concerned with the concerns of men who make up the majority of those who support and spend money supporting them.

Reclaim the Night 2005 – spread the word

by Catherine Redfern // 19 September 2005, 10:38 pm

“Calling all women and girls to march together in protest at the rising number of reported rapes in the UK compared to the falling conviction rate and the fact that women still cannot live their lives without the fear of male violence. Last year there were over 40,000 reported rapes, yet currently our conviction rate is at its lowest ever, just 5.6%. We know that 1 in 3 women will be sexually assaulted and that 1 in 4 women are living with domestic violence. Every week 2 women are killed by a violent male partner in this country.”

At 6pm on 25th November 2005 there will be a massive Reclaim the Night march in London to protest against violence against women. More details are on the London Feminist Network website, where you can also see some pics of last year’s march. This year’s promises to be much, much bigger.

The march is women-only but a rally held afterwards at 8pm will welcomes all.

Speakers include:

Al Garthwaite, organiser of first Reclaim The Night marches in England

NUS Women’s Campaign (TBC)

Finn Mackay, Chair: London Feminist Network

Isabel Eden, The Lilith Project

This year’s Reclaim The Night march is supported by the following organisations:

Women’s Aid Federation of England

NUS Women’s Campaign

The Lilith Project

Greater London Domestic Violence Project

Truth About Rape

Campaign To End Rape

Object

Vera Media

Womankind Worldwide

Scary Little Girls Productions

London Radical Cheerleaders

Fem Conferences

Domestic Violence Responses

Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom

GALOP

Feminist Archive North

Justice For Women

Emma Humphreys Memorial Prize Trust

Islington Women’s Aid

The F Word

White Ribbon Campaign UK

Bush Telegraph

Be There! More details here

Date set for Domestic Violence Review

by Lynne Miles // , 4:34 pm

A date has been set for a review into the case of how a man was able to shoot dead his estranged wife and son whilst he was banned from going near them.

Alan Pemberton shot dead his wife Julia and their son William, before turning the gun on himself. Mrs Pemberton was known to be a victim of domestic violence and, despite a 999-call in which she announced herself to have “about one minute before I die” there was a delay of several hours before policemen arrived on the scene.

The review is commissioned by the West Berkshire Safer Communities Partnership, and will be conducted by the former chief of social services, commencing on the 1st October. As well as considering this case, the review will draw on other high profile murder cases, such as that of Clare Burnal, shot dead in Harvey Nichols last week by a man who had pleaded guilty to harassing her only a fortnight before.

The review is believed to be the first of its kind commissioned in the UK, and will aim to understand what the high risk signs are in cases like these and to inform all appropriate agencies of what these signs are. Thames Valley Police said “A risk assessment process will help officers to identify which victims are high risk and need to be prioritised”.

Classic Quote

by Lynne Miles // 15 September 2005, 12:03 pm

I wanted to quickly share this little gem from Rev. Pat Robertson, courtesy of popbitch:

“This is the second time in a row that God has invoked a disaster shortly before lesbian Ellen Degeneres hosted the Emmy Awards […] Is it any surprise that the Almighty chose to strike at Miss Degeneres’ hometown? […] God already allows one awards show to promote the homosexual agenda. But clearly He will not tolerate such sinful behavior to spread beyond the Tonys.”

Rev. Robertson has recently been criticized for saying he thought the US special forces should assassinate the Venezuelan President, Hugo Ch\xE1vez.

Some of you may remember Pat\x92s other classic quote \x96 adorning feminist fridges everywhere:

“Feminism is a socialist, anti-family, political movement that encourages women to leave their husbands, kill their children, practice witchcraft, destroy capitalism and become lesbians.”

Southern Baptist Rev. Robertson, then Senator Robertson, ran for the Republican nomination against Bush Snr in 1998. 3 million people volunteered for his campaign. Find out more about the man in his own words here. What a loser.

Objections to Cosmetic Surgery

by Catherine Redfern // 14 September 2005, 10:01 pm

The Guardian had a depressing article today entitled: Most British women now expect to have cosmetic surgery in their lifetime. How did the ultimate feminist taboo become just another lifestyle choice?.

Decca Aitkenhead looks at the media’s involvement in promoting and creating a market for the increasingly extreme procedures, but the article ends on a dismal note, writing: “I asked everybody I interviewed whether they could suggest anything that might slow or reverse surgery’s growth. …Feminists are too wary of sounding disloyal or unpragmatic to mount a coherent objection.”

Which is odd, because Sheila Jeffreys has just released a fascinating new book called “Beauty and Misogyny: Harmful Cultural Practices in the West” which includes a chapter all about the normalisation of cosmetic surgery. There’s also the classic “The Beauty Myth” by Naomi Wolf, which also covers cosmetic surgery. Also recommended is “Body Outlaws: Young Women Write About Body Image and Identity” edited by Ophira Edut (whose website Adios Barbie also addresses the issue), and “Unbearable Weight: Feminism, Western Culture and the Body” by Susan Bordo. Some more ideas of feminists writing about this issue are here. You could also check out About Face who report on an interesting anti cosmetic surgery action.

As reported in Jeffreys’ book, one of the growth areas of cosmetic surgery is a the trend for labiaplasty (altering the appearance of the labia); a procedure becoming more popular due to the prevalence of airbrushed or altered porn. Whilst googling for cosmetic surgery and feminism I came across the intriguing “international labia blogathon“. The site was set up after the founder, who contributes to teen advice site, “noticed the abundance of posts made by girls complaining and worrying and wondering about the size, shape and colour of their labia. she felt a positive counterpoint to that negativity and labia non-loving was direly needed.”

So: feminists are objecting, actually: check out this post on the labia blogathon as a prime example. Admittedly most of the examples I’ve given are from outside the UK. But British feminists write about the issue too, on their blogs or in their zines.

But I agree more should be done. But what? How do you fight an entire culture, an ideology that is so ingrained? I don’t have any answers, but I do think that giving girls access to feminist books and magazines and teaching them media awareness at school might be a good start.

Setting up a feminist group

by Catherine Redfern // , 9:37 pm

Mind the Gap, a group blog and real-life group based in Cardiff, have a really interesting post on the trials and tribulations of setting up a feminist group, covering issues such as whether the group should be affiliated to a University, how to attract members, and how to define the purpose and aims of the group.

I was especially interested in the comments on the difficulties and problems in ensuring the group is inclusive to all feminists – something that is of great concern to me on this website and in the London based feminist networking group London Third Wave, which I was involved with setting up (along with many other people).

I heartily recommend the post to anyone thinking of setting up a similar group, and would add the following suggestions / comments:

1. Right at the beginning, explicitly agree whether your group will include men or whether it will be women only, because different people have different assumptions about a feminist group which may not be the same as yours. It sounds strange to put this first, but it’ll save a lot of time and arguments later on. Trust me on this!

2. Also at the start, decide what the aim of your group is and be clear about it. Is it going to be a discussion group, a social group offering friendship and support, or an active campaigning group, or a mixture of both?

3. As the writer on Mind the Gap said, be clear about whether the group will be open to all feminist views or only certain ones. It’s likely that some people will join the group and then leave because they were expecting a certain kind of feminism to the one they found. If you clearly state the group is diverse (or not as the case may be) then hopefully this misunderstanding won’t arise.

4. The internet is a useful tool but the benefits come from meeting in real life. Internet groups can be as useful as a modern day consciousness raising group, but feminism has to be about more than t’internet, especially if the group is based in a particular local area.

5. For internet discussions it’s often useful to agree some principles by which the members must abide. It sounds silly but sometimes some ground rules can help if arguments get out of hand.

I’d be interested to hear any other suggestions and will share them if I can.

Garbage bags used as substitute condoms in Uganda

by Jess McCabe // 10 September 2005, 8:34 pm

Garbage bags are being used as substitute condoms in Uganda, because the government is restricting access to prophylactics, The Feminist Majority Foundation reports.

The Center for Health and Gender Equity has called attention to the shortage, which began in October 2004 and co-incides with a renewed emphasis on abstinence in government sex-ed initiatives. Uganda had been feted for its HIV/AIDS prevention drive, which led to falling infection rates in a continent otherwise ravaged by the disease.

But the success of the programme was down to its combination of a call for abstinance and fidelity with an emphasis on condom use (Abstain, Be Faithful, Use Condoms).

Young girls and women are thought to be particularly at risk from catching HIV in the country.

Stephen Lewis, the United Nations special envoy on AIDS in Africa, told the BBC: “The government of Uganda appears to be under the influence of the American policy through the presidential initiative emphasizing abstinence far and away over condoms.”

Crossdressing talks in London

by Jess McCabe // , 12:00 pm

The Fashion & Textile Museum in Bermondsey is putting on a series of panel discussions on crossdressing this month. Still to come:

14 September: Crossdressing in Non-European Cultures:

Crossdressing is not a European phenomenon, but exists throughout the world. This evening will focus in particular on the Hijra of Pakistan and India, the traditional and colourful transvestites and transsexuals of Asia.

21 September: Female to Male Crossdressing:

Alison Bancroft is back for this evening discussion, which will look at the long and often unrecognised history of women dressing in “men\x92s clothing”. Alison will look at the reasons for such crossdressing, focussing on well-known personalities from the past to the present day. Case studies will include Pope Joan, Anne Bonney and Mary Read, Marlene Dietrich and Madonna.

28 September: Grayson Perry Explores Contemporary British Crossdressing:

Turner-Prize winning artist and well-known crossdresser Grayson Perry will host an evening that will explore modern day crossdressing in Britain, and concludes the series.

Tickets cost £7 each, or £5 for concessions, and start at 6:30pm. More info on the FTM website. Also, “crossdressing is encouraged for the talks!”

Girls On Film

by Barbara Felix // 8 September 2005, 5:01 pm

The Independent Heroines Film Festival stops in Manchester (at the Cornerhouse) on 15th September, where for £3, including drinks, you’ll be able to see two hours of films, introduced by the organisers, Lisa Brook and Lady Lucy.

The original Independent Heroines took place as part of Ladyfest Bristol 2003, and the 2005 festival took place in Bristol in February. According to the Cornerhouse, “the festival includes inspirational figures past and present from the world of politics, music, art, radical cheerleading, skateboarding, and B movies.”

Films included in the Manchester date include: The Gossip, Cheer Up!, Schla-la-las video, Amazing Graves, girl skate workshop video, A Woman’s Place, ILC and Don’t Do Tricks. Refreshments will be provided.

Independent Heroines is showing in Manchester as part of (prologue) New Feminism/New Europe, which features a huge number of international figures, including Chicks On Speed. The event has been running since 29th July, and concludes on the 18th September.

Also, Independent Heroines is on tour, so if you didn’t get to Bristol in February, and can’t get to Manchester in September, it’s bound to turn up in your neck of the woods at some point.

Ageism more common than sexism

by Lynne Miles // 7 September 2005, 3:08 pm

A report recently commissioned and published by Age Concern shows that ageism, rather than sexism or racism is the most frequently experienced prejudice.

29% of people interviewed reported experience of prejudice or unfair treatment within the last year related to age (both young and old), where 24% of people experienced sexism, and 19% racism.

From what I can tell this is not adjusted for the number of people who are old, female, ethnic minority etc, so I’m not sure what the value of those figures is. It strikes me that ageism is likely to be more widely experienced just by virtue of being an ‘equal opportunities’ prejudice – everyone has an ‘age’ to be discriminated against. Not everyone is gay or black or disabled or …

The report goes some way towards answering this, saying “if that was the case, we would expect the experience of ageism to be reported as less frequent or significant among minority groups. [I not sure this is necessarily true – LM] However, the findings show that […] ageism further compounds the inequality felt by other groups”.

I certainly don’t want to seem as though I’m trying to tear this report down. It’s very interesting, and it’s great to get people talking and thinking about what prejudices exist in society and why. I’m a bit wary of the slight tone of “those other prejudices aren’t nearly as important everyone thinks”, but I suppose that’s inevitable in what must essentially be a lobbying document for a worthwhile and important charity. And we might even be guilty of the same type of thing in the feminist community sometimes – it’s easy to do when you’re trying to get your individual point across, and it’s impossible to do anything without a measure of bias.

Just one interesting point struck me – I would have guessed that women were far more likely to experience, and report experiencing, discrimination based on gender. But the report says that 24% of all people reported sex discrimination. You would think then, that broadly 50% of women reported it (as they must make up half any representative survey sample) – but the report also says women are AS likely to suffer ageism as sexism. For these two points to both be true would mean either i) women make up 100% of reported ageism victims (and you’d think if they did Age Concern might have pointed it out), or ii) men make up 50% of all reported sexism victims. One to ponder ….

Miscellenea

by Catherine Redfern // 5 September 2005, 9:31 pm

Okay, there’s no point pretending any of the following is connected, it’s just a load of stuff I saw recently that I think’s interesting. So here goes!

First off, the BBC has apologised after 200 complaints were received about a TV show called “Bring Your Husband to Heel”. This delightful programme featured dog trainer Annie Clayton “using traditional dog-training techniques to improve husbands’ behaviour”. Truth be told, I didn’t watch the show as the title alone is enough to make me want to hurl a brick at the TV.

The Guardian report on this said: “The show, based around the premise that men share 85% of their DNA with dogs, uses hidden cameras to film the men, who think they are taking part in a documentary about relationship roles.”

The BBC said: “Bring Your Husband to Heel plays on the longstanding stereotype of wives nagging husbands about their failings and attempts to explore in a humorous way whether it is possible to find solutions to the stalemate using a different and unique method of instruction. The nature of the programme was clearly signposted.”

Ah. I get it. It’s ironic. How hilarious!

You see how that feels guys? Maybe now I’ll stop getting emails from anti-feminist blokes instructing me to get a sense of humour.

Elsewhere on the Guardian there’s an interesting interview with Ashely Jenson who played Maggie in Ricky Gervais’s post-Office followup, Extras. I’m glad someone else noticed how refreshing it is to see a well-written female character who can be best friends with a bloke, and be as silly as many male sitcom characters are as opposed to being cast as the “nag” or the boring woman who is “always right about everything”.

Interviewer Alice Wignall writes: “The friendship between Maggie and Andy is also hugely refreshing. In most shows where the central relationship is between a man and a woman, the romantic friction would have begun before the first ad break, even if destined never to be consummated. But Andy and Maggie, despite hanging out constantly, generate less sexual tension than an episode of Songs of Praise.”

Another good example of this is Fran from Black Books, played by Tamsin Greig (on a side note, the show’s website has some downloadable book jackets which should come in handy if you wanna read all those feminist books you keep meaning to read but feel slightly odd doing on the tube/bus: Cunt, Bitch, The Male Body, Whores and Other Feminists, Taking Charge of Your Fertility, Pornography, The Wise Wound, and so on and so on and so on!).

And finally, it you want an example of how low some U.S. anti-choice campaigners will go, check out Ms Musing’s post on how “Columbia Christians for Life” have explained the Hurrican Katrina tragedy. Apparently, satellite pictures of Hurricane Katrina “like a 6-week unborn human child… God’s message: REPENT AMERICA!”

Lovely.

Poll shows women more hostile to abortions than men

by Lynne Miles // 30 August 2005, 5:05 pm

A survey conducted by well-respected online pollsters YouGov has found that only 27% of UK adults (and only 19% of women) believe that the current legal limit for abortion – 24 weeks \x96 is appropriate. 30% of people (and 35% of women) feel that 20 weeks is the more appropriate limit, whilst 6% of respondents (equal proportions of men and women) thought abortion should not be legal at all.

A staggering number of people \x96 79% of all adults and 84% of women \x96 thought either "some but not many" or "many" women "do not protect themselves adequately against unwanted pregnancies and instead use abortion as a form of birth control".

Roughly half of those questioned thought the current arrangements for getting a termination were "broadly satisfactory", with a further 30% (once again, more women than men) saying it is too easy to get an abortion in Britain today.

US withdraws funding from abstinance programme

by Jess McCabe // 28 August 2005, 7:04 pm

Common sense and common knowledge have finally won out over abstinance programmes in the United States – or at least one programme, the ‘Silver Ring Thing’, as the Feminist Majority Foundation reports.

The Silver Ring Thing is a religious organisation which gets teenagers to pledge not to have sex, wearing a, yep you guessed it, silver ring to display their abstinance. This is one of the causes that the US administration has been supporting with hefty grants in a bid to end teenage sex and thus, so the argument goes, teen pregnancies and STDs.

Except, it doesn’t work. Study after study has shown that the only thing to get kids to wait to have sex, and to use protection when they do, is good old Sex Ed.

Unfortunately, that’s not why the Silver Ring Thing has lost its funding. Instead, the plug was pulled on it because it was using government funding to promote religion. Which means its unlikely that the money will be ploughed back into something that, say, actually works and isn’t a front for scary Christian fundamentalists to indoctrinate kids.

For more on this phenomenom, check out Ms Magazine’s undercover investigation into a conference on how to teach abstinance:

“Your body is a wrapped lollipop.

“When you have sex with a man, he unwraps your lollipop and sucks on it.

“It may feel great at the time, but, unfortunately, when he\x92s done with you, all you have left for your next partner is a poorly wrapped, saliva-fouled sucker.

“These words were actually uttered by Darren Washington, an abstinence educator, at the Eighth Annual Abstinence Clearinghouse Conference, an informational three-day trade show for abstinence educators, anti-abortion pregnancy care centers and medical professionals.”

Guerilla fighters in the north east of India have long been known to kidnap tribal women from remote areas. But in a new twist on this practice, the National Liberation Front of Tripura are now known to be forcing them to make porn films the BBC reports.

The practice has come to light after former guerillas told police that they had witnessed “scores” of films being produced in this way. The DVDs are polished to high standards by willing local video production companies, and then dubbed into multiple languages suggesting they are being distributed across borders.

The owner of one video production company is quoted by the BBC as saying: “We know the insurgents are behind these films. When we process their raw stock, we can see boys standing around with automatic rifles and revolvers pulling in girls but we are supposed to cut all that out and just concentrate on the sex.”

Even when the local “community” step in to halt this practice, the women themselves bear the brunt. The BBC reports: “In the state of Manipur, some girls who acted in porn films were shot in the legs, as were the producers.”

Men smarter than women?!

by Jess McCabe // 27 August 2005, 11:46 am

It takes a certain type of person to dedicate their career to proving one gender is brainier than the other. And, following on from headlines claiming ‘It’s official, men are smarter than women’, now we know exactly what type of person that is.

It turns out that Professor Richard Lynn of Ulster University, one of the scientists behind this claim – published in the British Journal of Psychology – has also done studies trying to ‘prove’ that white people are more intelligent than black people, and even that lighter-skinned black people are cleverer than those with darker skin, The Guardian reveals.

Now, Professor Lynn’s study is based on notoriously biased IQ tests. According to him there are more men than women with very high scores. There are, the study claims, 5.5 men for every woman with a score of 155. And there are two men for every one woman with an IQ of 125, the level supposedly needed for a first class degree.

Which reveals just how shaky the ground is that IQ test scores actually equate to intelligence – at university, indeed, up until PhD level, women vastly outperform men.

But the real question here is why are these – rather pointless and suspiciously motivated – studies being done in the first place? I think Professor Lynn’s own research background answers that question rather aptly.

Women’s rights in China, India

by Jess McCabe // 23 August 2005, 10:12 pm

China is revisiting its 13 year old legislation on gender equality, it emerged today.

While this can only be a good thing in a country which still lacks legal protection against domestic abuse, the wording of this announcement is a little off. Gu Xiulian, a senior Chinese legislator and president of China’s main women’s rights group the All-China Women’s Federation, said that the move towards equal rights was justified by women’s contribution to the modernisation programme.

Silly me for thinking equal rights had something to do with people being inherantly, well, equal.

In India, women have gained equal rights of inheritance. At the same time, feminist texts are being translated into English for the first time.

Meanwhile, in the United States the debate continues over the contraversial appointment of men to key feminist or women’s rights positions, as the oldest shelter in New England advertises for an executive director.

Transition House has already hired a man to fill the post in the short term, and is conducting a “gender-neutral” search for someone to take the role on permanantly.

As well as bringing up the longstanding, contentious issue of the role of men in the women’s movement, this has triggered fresh concerns because of the sensitivity of the post as it goes against the stated aim of the organisation to provide a safe, man-free place for women and children who have experienced violence.

Voyeurism and misuse of office

by Barbara Felix // , 5:49 pm

Four security workers employed by Sefton council have appeared in court on charges of voyeurism and misconduct of office, following allegations that they manipulated security cameras to spy on a woman in her own home.

One man has pleaded guilty to the charge of voyeurism and will be sentenced later, the other three are denying counts of voyeurism and misconduct of public office. The case has been adjourned, and trial will commence on December 5th.

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