Meanwhile, in Uganda, Human Rights Watch are campaigning for the parliament to pass legislation which would outlaw marital rape and give girls and women greater equality.

The Domestic Relations Bill is seen as the first step in helping Uganda’s women, 40 per cent of which have been the victim of domestic violence. Human Rights Watch reports that many women are raped by their partners, putting them at risk of HIV.

In one horrific case, “Hadija Namaganda (a pseudonym) told Human Rights Watch that she tested positive for HIV in 1994. For years, her husband, who was HIV-positive, had routinely forced her to have unprotected sex with him and beat her viciously. He once attacked her so violently that he bit off half of her left ear. When he lay dying of AIDS and was too weak to beat her anymore, he ordered his younger brother to beat her for him.”

Unbelievably, Uganda’s president, Yoweri Museveni, has delayed the bill because it was “not urgently needed”. The bill has already languished for a decade, as politicians argue over whether it is possible for rape to occur within marriage.

A women’s rights activist in Bahrain faces trial this weekend, and the possibility of 15 years in jail, for publically criticising family judges.

Ghada Jamsheer leads the Women’s Petition Committee, which campaigns for reform of Bahrain’s family law. She has been accused of three seperate counts of criticising family judges, and a criminal charge from the ex-husband of a divorced woman she helped.

Reuters reports that Human Rights Watch has urged the Bahraini government to drop the charges, calling the multiple lawsuits a “blatent attempt to silence her and undermine the reform efforts she spearheads”.

The courts, which deal with family cases such as divorce, marriage, custody and inheritance, follow no fixed statute, only the judge’s interpretation of Islamic jurisprudence.

Human Rights Watch say Ms Jamsheer has been targeted after reporting dozens of incidents of judges mishandling cases.

“Women Who Have Abortions Again and Again”

by Lynne Miles // 31 May 2005, 3:59 pm

If I may, I’d like to take a moment to refer you to a fascinating blog entry (and ensuing discussion) over at Volsunga.

It centres around a “shock, horror” article in the ‘Daily Hate’ about the increasing number of women having abortions for “lifestyle reasons”. Gets a strategic early dig in at career driven bitches and wheels in Anne Atkins (one of my least favourite social commentators) for the prosecution.

It’s a pretty horrifying article all round, and I urge you all to read it. But I’m not sure I could express my distaste any more succinctly than Ms B, so I probably won’t try.

Fiction gender gap persists

by Jess McCabe // , 12:07 pm

A new report has revealed that men know that women are writing important books, but don’t want to read them, the Observer reports.

The report, which marks the 10th anniversary of the Orange prize for fiction, which is only open to women writers, found that “fiction by women remains ‘special interest’, while fiction by men still sets the standard for quality, narrative and style.”

The report revealed that men were still less likely to have read a novel by a woman than by a man. In contrast, women read books by both genders.

The report found that: “Pressed for a preference, many men also found it much more difficult to ‘like’ or ‘admire’ a novel authored by a woman – for them ‘great’ writing was male writing (oh – apart from Jane Austen, of course).

“No wonder, then, that each year when the winner of the Orange Prize is announced a chorus of disappointment goes up from ‘mainstream’ critics: how could such an undistinguished book have won?”

Never Get On A Bus in Calcutta

by Lynne Miles // , 11:28 am

A new move by the Indian state of West Bengal to employ women as bus conductors (only the second state to have done so) has been a resounding success (scroll down!). Although only 33 of over 1,600 conductors are women, their more professional and polite attitude to work has resulted in such positive feedback from passengers that the Calcutta State Transport Corporation are considering employing only female bus conductors in future.

Being almost entirely ignorant of gender issues in the Indian workplace I\x92m not sure whether this idea is forward thinking in a "women can excel in the workplace" way, or slightly more regressive in a "women are best at doing jobs where they have to be pretty and subservient" way. I\x92d be really interested to hear more from people who actually know what they\x92re talking about here!

Noted towards the bottom of the article, and perhaps of more pressing human concern, is the observation that public bus drivers in Calcutta regularly break the speed limit, and that many are addicted to drugs and alcohol. So if you do find yourself needing to get from A to B in Calcutta, consider walking.

Actually, I prefer mine warm

by Catherine Redfern // 29 May 2005, 5:06 pm

There are some new Fosters billboard ads out at the moment showing people trying to keep their lager (sorry guys, but it’s not beer) cold by holding their pint underneath something which casts a shadow. One shows a bride and groom, the groom with what I can only describe as a smug laddy expression, holding his pint under the bride’s veil, she shooting daggers at him with her eyes. Nice.

But that’s par for the course. I noticed another ad recently from the same series; what was very unusual was that the pint holder was a woman. What was interesting was that she was holding her pint underneath the chest of a extremely “well endowed” tall woman wearing a very tight fitting dress.

We practically never see women drinking beer in adverts: in fact in many they are explicitly excluded. For a prime example see Young’s frankly pathetic “It’s a Ram’s World” campaign (click on “advertising” at the top to see the ads, which probably set back CAMRA’s laudable but slightly misguided   attempts to attract women to real ale by several decades).

Is it cynical of me to wonder why the only time an ad shows a woman drinking beer or lager, she just happens to be doing so in a way that would probably be seen as rather sexist if it were a man?

On 17 May, we reported on a Guardian article that highlighted the pay gap between weekly earnings (i.e the fact that women’s median income is 53% of the median income for men).

I would like to draw attention to the gap of 14.4% between women and men’s hourly earnings because it seems to me this comparison may be a more relevant figure for highlighting gender disparity. The statistics quoted in the Guardian piece include all working men and women and it is that low because lots of women work part-time.

Like Madeline Bunting, I believe society needs to change the current work ethic and develop a culture that allows people (regardless of gender) to demand greater flexibility. More employers need to recognise the value of work life balance, if we are to achieve this goal. This is a huge task and any major change will be slow but I genuinely think we would see greater productivity, as our time would be valued by the hour rather than how much of our lives had been given up for the sake of our jobs. Part of my argument is that there would be less resentment from employees and a real desire in the majority of those involved to make this system as rewarding as possible for everyone (i.e employers have much to gain from challenging the overwork culture that we currently take for granted).

I also believe there would be positive results for both sexes. Men would be freer to have lives outside work and be more involved in the home environment and employers would no longer be able to punish women (as a gender overall) because of our previous greater tendency towards such a way of life. Women in heterosexual partnerships would no longer be expected to be the main child-carers or “have it all” (i.e “do it all”) because the sharing of responsibility would be made easier for everyone. Partners used to manage on one full-time wage so why shouldn’t it now be possible to manage on two part-time ones?

Sordid Japanese men make sex-ed comic a best-seller

by Jess McCabe // 27 May 2005, 9:56 am

Grown men have made a best-seller out of a realistic sex-education manga comic book aimed at elementary school girls in Japan, Mainichi Daily News reports.

Men, generally in their 30s, obsessed with manga depicting young girls’ sexuality are called Otaku in Japan.

The article quotes one writer as saying: “Moe is a word the otaku use to describe the thrill people get when they see pretty, two-dimensional girls, mostly in media such as anime or manga. ‘Moetan,’ a collection of English vocabulary words aimed at helping kids prepare for entrance exams (with the main character being a little girl getting ready to try and enter junior high school), sold 150,000 copies, so the otaku market knows no bounds.”

Hopefully some young girls will also end up reading the book as well, though, as the manga itself has been lauded for its realistic portrayal of emerging sexuality.

The Pill may permanantly damage sex drive

by Jess McCabe // , 9:22 am

The contraceptive pill may permanantly damage women’s sex drives, new research has revealed.

It has long been known that taking the Pill led to a loss of libido, but it was thought this was a temporary effect that wore off once you quit.

Dr Goldstein, an author of the report, said: "There\x92s the possibility [the Pill] is imprinting a woman for the rest of her life."

The Times reports: “A research team at the University of Boston, Massachusetts, studied 125 young women attending a sexual dysfunction clinic. Sixty two were taking oral contraceptives, forty had previously taken them and twenty-three had never been on the Pill. The team measured levels of a substance called sex hormone binding globulin \x97 which inhibits testosterone and blocks its effects \x97 every three months for a year and found that it was seven times higher in users of the Pill.

Levels declined in women who had stopped, but remained three to four times higher than those with no history of using oral contraceptives.”

Mexico murders finally to be investigated

by Jess McCabe // , 8:25 am

The Mexican government has finally taken action to investigate the notorious Juarez murders. The murders were first discovered in 1993, when bodies were found in the desert and by the roadside. The city has seen 350 women killed, and families accuse local police of failing to properly investigate the crimes.

Many of the women were poor workers and mothers, employed in the industrial city, just south of the Texas border. Some may have been sexually motivated.

But a highly critical Amnesty report has finally embarrassed the government into action. The attorney general’s office is reported to have set up a unit of 30 people to investigate the murders.

Buffy academics descend on Yorkshire

by Jess McCabe // 26 May 2005, 2:18 pm

Buffy experts are set to flock to Huddersfield University in Yorkshire, to attend a three-day conference on how the show could be used as a teaching aid, Yorkshire Today reports.

Anyone who fancies attending the conference, which is already attracting academics from around the world, might want to bone up on some of the critical works already dedicated to the show. There is even an online journal, Slayage, dedicated to studying Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

I can also recommend Sex and the Slayer: a gender studies primer for the Buffy fan.

Teenage pregnancy is in the news again. Just as the furore started to die down over these sisters, aged 12, 14 and 16, who all gave birth within a couple of years of each other, the new children and families minister, Beverly Hughes, has warned that the Government will not meet its target of halving teenage pregnancies by 2010 if parents do not help.

She has called for parents to talk openly with their children about sex, as more and more evidence has piled up showing that sex education and discussion with parents is the best way to get teenagers to defer their first sexual experiences, and use contraception.

It seems parents do understand that discussing sex with their kids is important – in 2001, a whopping 85% said they thought there would be fewer teenage pregnancies if parents talked more openly with their children about sex, relationships and contraception.

But in 2003, another survey found that half of young people said they received little or no information on these issues from their parents.

Meanwhile, the latest sex education gimmick involves using TV plot lines to teach kids about relationships.

Worryingly, one of the examples quoted in the BBC involves a false rape claim story on Grange Hill. Surely sex eduation lessons should not be re-inforcing the myth that the vast majority of rape claims are false.

PhDiva not one for female solidarity

by Lynne Miles // 25 May 2005, 2:28 pm

Dorothy King, self-titled PhDiva ("we wear Manolo Blahniks but we also have doctorates") is angry about academic women who "whinge about life\x92s challenges rather than getting up and doing something about them". Indeed, she thinks that those women "should learn that supporting other women, rather than abusing men, is more likely to further her cause".

In an article in today\x92s Education Guardian, Dorothy makes the case for "beautiful and brilliant" women such as herself and her friends getting out there and fighting for whatever it is they believe in, (as opposed to simply writing about it). The argument centres around a comparison between one female academic\x92s article criticising the lack of female comment writers on the LA Times, and Dorothy\x92s friend (and fellow PhDiva) Dr Jennifer Smith who is an academic and, apparently, ace networker, trying to raise a million dollars to vaccinate African girls against HPV. Which is, quite clearly, a fantastic thing to do.

Underneath it all, I think Ms King is trying to encourage women to get out there and do something, to use their brains to change the world for the better, and that\x92s laudable. But the tone of the article is, at best, divisive and, at worst, catty. Most annoyingly, she believes that the reason there are less female political comment writers is nothing to do with the editorial process, and everything to do with the fact that "women do not publicly express strong opinions as willingly as men" \x96 and never questions why that might be. Lack of role models, perhaps? Or maybe it\x92s just because when they do, other women vilify them for being whingeing harpies and berate them for not schmoozing on yachts with Ms King and her PhDivas?

Pitcairn men’s sex abuse appeal rejected

by Jess McCabe // 24 May 2005, 10:27 am

Six men found guilty of a series of sex attacks over a 40 year period, from the Pacific island of Pitcairn, today had their appeal rejected.

The tiny island only has a population of 47 and has been under British juristiction since 1838. Which makes the men’s defence argument that they were not aware they were subject to UK law even more ridiculous.

The men, including the island’s mayor Steve Christian, are indeed arguing that their convictions should be overturned because they did not know raping underage girls was illegal.

However, they remain free until the Privy Court in the UK can hear their appeal. The defence will argue again that Pitcairn has never been under British control and therefore our legal system does not apply.

Women quoted less in the media

by Jess McCabe // 23 May 2005, 9:37 pm

Women are cited far less frequently than men in news stories, a report out today reveals.

The study, by the Project for Excellence in Journalism, surveyed nearly 17,000 news reports from all types of media excluding radio, magazines and local TV stations. It found that women were quoted in 33% of news stories, while men were quoted in 76% of stories.

Once more, reporters were more than three times as likely to cite two or more men within a news story as to cite a comparable number of women


The study, as reported in is about America, but speaking from personal experience I’m sure the same is true here in the UK.

While power (political, economic, social) resides disproportionately in one section of society, it is only to be expected that this will be reflected in news coverage.

And then there are journalists, who bring their own set of assumptions to the table.

Tom Rosenstiel, director of the think tank which carried out the study, said:”These numbers are really striking. I didn’t expect that women would have made as little progress as these numbers seem to suggest in terms of becoming sources and being references in the news.”

100 most beautiful women not sexy enough?!

by Jess McCabe // , 3:59 pm

The Times today published a truely unpleasant column, ripe with sexism, by Richard Morrison. (Thanks to Londonist for pointing this one out).

Morrison comes across as a randy old man, as he salivates over “so much female leg, tit, tum and butt” on the London Underground, “that it\x92s damn difficult for a chap to keep his mind on his su doku”.

Once more, the excuse for all this is for Morrison to claim that Harpers & Queen’s list of the 100 most beautiful women must have been compiled “by women for women” because some of the women don’t adhere to his own personal concept of sex appeal.

If the list wasn’t made up by women, then it must have been made by gay men. Or, as Morrison puts it, “interior decorators, hairdressers and Judy Garland devotees”.

In his own words: “I must say that the list has its peculiar aspects. For instance, I am second to none in my gratitude for Virginia Woolf\x92s novels; I find them much more effective than Mogadon. But to hail that beaky Bloomsbury visage as one of the surpassing beauties of the pre-First World War era (along with four grim Russian grand-duchesses) is a dreadful slur on Edwardian women \x97who were a vivacious, bedhopping bunch by all accounts. As for the decisions to anoint Barbra Streisand and Vanessa Redgrave as two of the 25 most luscious birds of the 1960s and 1970s, or that histrionic Greek diva Maria Callas as one of the top totties of the 1950s \x97 these are surely acts of eccentricity bordering on the certifiably loony.”

As it happens, the list is actually pretty much your staple conventional beauty-a-thon, making Morrison’s comments even more a) ridiculous and b) offensive, as he wants to narrow down what is already a very narrow set of arbitrary standards to his own view of women – “leg, tit, tum and butt”.

Meanwhile, Londonist also points out there is a brilliant Frida Kahlo exhibition on at the Tate Modern at the moment, an icon of the 20th century. Lover to Diego Rivera and possibly Trotsky, some of her most famous paintings were self portraits that display her own unconventional beauty.

Suffrage, equal pay and feminist celebrities

by Jess McCabe // 22 May 2005, 10:11 pm

Women in Kuwait have finally won the vote – although not in time for the upcoming election, unfortunately. The Guardian has some very interesting excerpts from the world’s media on the issue.

In Jordan, the American first lady made one of her first forays into public speaking, taking the opportunity to promote for women’s rights – both political and economic – in the Middle East. The sentiment behind the speech was good, but the audience could only muster a “polite, although unenthusiastic, response”.

Meanwhile, the French government has launched a new attempt to close the gender gap – reakoned to be 25% between women and men in full time work – setting a five year deadline for equal pay. The Guardian reports that critics of the new bill say it is toothless – it represents yet another attempt to get employers to close the gender pay gap themselves.

Interesting side note – apparently Chirac once said his ideal woman “served the men at table, never sat down with them, and never spoke”. Not a feminist then.

But if you’re wondering who is, then this is the place to look. Emily Wilson sparked contraversy – again – in her Guardian column, by naming the, frankly pretty repugnant, Julie Burchill as one of the most interesting feminists alive today. Readers wrote in with their own suggestions from the obvious – Julie Bindel, to the less obvious – Baroness Brenda Hale, the first woman to become a Law Lord.

Metro Petty Criticism Corner

by Catherine Redfern // , 3:53 pm

(With apologies to Bitch Magazine‘s “Jane Petty Criticism Corner”).

Ooh, the Metro. Given away free every weekday to stressed out commuters, owned by the Daily Mail / Evening Standard – there’s always some subtle but annoying gender stereotype being perpetuated in its pages.

On Friday I spotted a story about the Vegetarian Society’s attempt to “sex up” the image of vegetarians by producing a “gastro-porn” / “arty short film” showing vegetables being stroked suggestively in “a steam filled kitchen” (the details are at Rude Food if anyone is really interested).

Describing the film (predictably, the article almost filling Page 3 in the paper), the Metro explained: “At the climax white rice shoots into the air and and an asparagus wilts, juice dripping from its head… One of the most erotic shots is a woman’s hand sensually running up and down the length of a banana.” So far, so predictable. The writer continues: “But the naughtiest scene has got to be a man’s finger gently rubbing a pea that has been left in the top of it’s pod. You really have to see it to understand.”

So… asparagus money shots and a woman caressing a banana are “erotic” but a man rubbing a pea is shockingly “naughty”? Oh, please. Talk about double standards. Into the recycling bin with you!

More petty criticism to come, no doubt.

Fighter pilots and bus drivers break new ground

by Jess McCabe // 19 May 2005, 5:22 pm

In Pakistan, the first cohort of women fighter pilots are on course to take to the skies, according to the BBC.

This is the first time women have been able to train as aerospace engineers and fighter pilots, although only 10 have signed on to the flying programme.

In a very traditional, Muslim society it is encouraging to see women taking on these roles traditionally filled by men. Women and men are still kept seperate for large chunks of the training programme, particularly those involving vigerous physical activity, but both genders are reportedly being treated equally.

Meanwhile, in the UK, I noticed the other day an ad encouraging women to take up jobs driving London buses. Apparently only 6% of bus drivers are women, and I can substantiate that by saying my own sightings of female bus drivers have been few and far between.

Sure, it’s not as glamerous as some jobs might be (flying a jet engine?), but at a time when occupational segregation is one of the reasons women are still paid less than men, as they don’t apply for the higher-paying jobs traditionally done by men, it’s got to be a good thing.

Men’s income nearly twice that of women’s

by Jess McCabe // 17 May 2005, 10:31 pm

The gender pay gap is alive and kicking.

The Guardian reports today that men enjoy an income of almost doubt that of their female counterparts, although their incomes are growing at only half the rate of women’s.

The figures, from the Department of Trade and Industry’s Women and Equality Unit, show:

The median weekly income for women was £161 in 2003-04, 53% of men’s median weekly income of £303.

But women’s median weekly income has gone up 31% between 1996-97 and 2003-04, while men’s income has only gone up 13%.

Things are a bit better for younger women, with those in aged 25 to 29 earning £249. Best case senario, this could mean that younger women are finding it easier to succeed at work as society changes to become more egalitarian.

Also, women with children saw the biggest boost to their median incomes over the period the statistics refer to, at 50%. However, 67% of the average family’s total income came from the man, and only 32% came from the woman. In 21% of families, the woman brought in more than 50% of the family income.

So, what do all these statistics mean? Perhaps that efforts to close the gender pay gap are having some effect, but the situation is still horribly unequal.


by Lynne Miles // , 9:51 pm

It has been brought to my attention that I misquoted some statistics in this piece on millionaire females back in April. I stated that a piece of cebr research (reported in The Telegraph) found that in 20 years’ time more women than men would be millionaires.

In fact I confused two separate findings of the report; that in 20 years’ time women would hold 60% of all personal wealth, and that currently two age groups of UK millionaires are more likely to be female than male (18-44 and 65+). This was a genuine error. I nevertheless stand by my wider point that, whilst a handful of women excel, the reality is different for the majority. Apologies for any confusion caused.

Nifty bit of alliteration there, eh?

The Queen\x92s Speech made at the state opening of parliament includes a number of bills aimed at families and finance.

The Parental Rights Bill would extend statutory paid maternity leave from six to nine months for mothers and, innovatively, allow mothers the right to transfer some of the leave to fathers. This is a massive step forward for equal parenting, as it offers real choices to families in how they choose to split the responsibility of caring for infants. The current right to two weeks\x92 statutory paid paternity leave was also passed under the Labour government.

Also proposed today was the Childcare Bill, which would place a new duty on Local Authorities to provide affordable and flexible childcare for under-14s.

Swimwear that flatters your face

by Lynne Miles // , 12:27 pm

Bible-belt America is crying out for products such as these. WholesomeWear are a new clothing company, specialising in \x91a modest line of clothing for "whenever"\x92.

Fortunately for all those water babies out there, this fledgling company have decided to launch their range in swimwear, where "the need for modesty [\x85] is greatest and the supply is almost non-existent".

The modest swimmer can now relax, safe in the knowledge that she can disport herself sea-or-poolside in swimwear which "highlights the face rather than the body". She (note no such modesty-protecting male swimwear) may choose from such desirable items as the Culotte Swimmer, the Skirted Swimmer and (for the fuller figure) the Slimming Swimmer.

If one could be bothered, one could be quite disgusted at the myriad insulting implications \x96 that the female body is to be ashamed of, that if women don\x92t cover themselves men can\x92t be expected to contain their raging hormones, that women are, once again, the gatekeepers of male sexuality \x85

Fortunately for the lazier feminist commentators amongst us, these products mock themselves. Go see. This page ought to have been created by the Landover Baptist Church.

School system is failing our young men …

by Lynne Miles // , 11:27 am

… and the rest of the system is failing our young women.

This is my pet peeve. Some of you may have heard me talk about this at great length before. For those who have, please bear with me whilst I vent.

The exam season is upon us, results season approaches, and last weekend I read the first of those perennial stories about how girls continue to out-perform boys at school, and how the system must be addressed to make doubly sure that boys are allowed to fulfil their potential. Rest assured: more will follow over the summer. They always do.

I should state up front that I don’t think it’s a particularly good thing for young boys to underperform. I think everyone should be encouraged to maximise their potential and (without being an education specialist), I think it’s fair to say that the principle of treating children as individuals and helping them to be the best that they can be should be encouraged at all times.

And here’s the “but”.

I am so unutterably sick of this annual lament, this hand-wringing, this subtext of “look what feminism has done now”. It’s not that the issue doesn’t merit attention by the appropriate professionals; it’s more that the amount of attention it receives is so disproportionate to the problems women face in education and in moving on to the workforce.

Here are the facts: girls do better than boys in school. They have done for several years, in a manner which traverses class and location. This much was reported in last Sunday’s Observer.

Here are some more facts: More girls than boys are accepted to university. More women than men gain first degrees. More of those are top quality degrees.

And yet, despite their demonstrably higher academic achievement, women fall out of the academic field rapidly after graduation, where men flourish. An equal number of women and men go on to achieve higher level degrees, and more men do PhDs.

The world of work treats these high achieving women no better. Despite their better exam results, and despite the fact that more female graduates than male enter the workforce, women are less likely to be managers than hold any other occupation. More women work in (typically) low paid, part time work. Women earn less than men at every skill level – the average full time pay gap is 18%.

So why do we persist in considering female achievement purely through a male lens? Not “isn’t it great that girls do well at school; how can we ensure those achievements are locked in for the rest of their lives?”, but “look how awful it is for boys that girls outperform them; how can we fix this?”

We mustn’t fail any of our children in education, boys or girls. Nobody would consider that a positive thing. But the subtext to all of this is “feminism has gone too far”. The reality is that until women’s achievements in school allow them to gain the positions they deserve in life outside academia, feminism has not gone far enough.

Police hold event to highlight hate crime in London

by Jess McCabe // 16 May 2005, 4:48 pm

Londoners: the Southwark Police Hate Crime Unit is hosting an event in Elephant & Castle meant to improve relations between lesbian and gay locals and the police.

It is taking place at the Elephant & Castle shopping centre (yes, the pink ugly one they want to tear down and turn into the new Covent Garden), between 11am and 4pm this Wednesday.

The event will “promote awareness of hate crimes and attempt to ensure lesbian and gay people feel safer”. It also marks the 10th anniversary of the Southwark Anti Homophobic Forum.

Elephant & Castle is literally just down the road from the Feminist Library if you feel like dropping by. Visits are by appointment only at the moment, though, so make sure you call ahead. The Library is currently looking for volunteers for all types of activities, from cataloguing, contributing to the newsletter and helping out during opening hours to membership of the management committee.

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