Feminist play re-tells Ramayana

by Jess McCabe // 14 August 2005, 12:15 am

Hema Ramakrishna has published a feminist re-telling of the Ramayana, the Times of India reports.

The play, Sanctuary, is in English, but unfortunately I haven’t been able to track down anyone selling it online.

Rama is an avatar, or incarnation, of Vishnu, who was meant to demonstrate the perfect life on Earth. But Ramakrishna’s re-telling of the ancient story seems to revolve around debunking this figure, calling attention to his treatment of women.

The president (and military ruler) of Pakistan, Pervez Musharraf, is not generally known for his commitment to human rights, let alone women’s rights.

So it will be, perhaps, little surprise to anyone that although he reserved a third of all council seats for women from 2001, Musharraf has done little to back this up with protection for female candidates and councillors. In fact, four women councillors have died since 2001, as Declan Walsh reports for the Guardian, interviewing one of the women who is standing in the next set of council elections in the conservative Frontier province.

As well as risking life and limb, 27 year old candidate Shad Begum’s husband’s name and profession will be listed on the ballot.

And if she does win her seat, she shouldn’t hope for much influence:

“Musharraf’s reforms have brought hope for change to women such as Shad. But in reality, electoral success brings little power. Her four-year term as an area councillor was a Pashtun parody of democracy, she admits.

“During the monthly three-hour meetings, the seven female and 34 male councillors sat in separate rooms, joined only by a door that was permanently locked. The men discussed budgets, water problems and town planning; the women drank tea, chatted, and read the minutes of the previous meeting.”

Fat Isn’t Phat

by Barbara Felix // 10 August 2005, 4:27 pm

Sixties style pop band, The Magic Numbers, reputedly walked out of their debut appearance on ‘Top Of The Pops’ after a presenter referred to them as ‘Fat’

Guest presenter Richard Bacon is reported to have introduced the band by saying “What do you get when you put two brothers and sisters in a band? A big fat melting pot of talent.”

The Magic Numbers were unimpressed by his remarks, and issued the following statement through their website. “Due to derogatory, unfunny remarks made during the guest presenter’s introduction to our performance, we felt we had to make a stand and leave,” they added “It was an important day for us and should have been special. We didn’t take this decision lightly but we stand by it.”

The band were replaced on the show by Goldfrapp.

More ‘Stupidity Myth’ news

by Catherine Redfern // 8 August 2005, 10:59 pm

Whilst I’m on the subject of prevailing theories about men, if you heard anything about the University of Sheffield study, which, as The Mirror puts it, proves that “men’s brains simply aren’t designed to listen to women’s voices“, you must read this post from feminist blogger Pandagon. (Feministing also comments on this here.) Pandagon writes:

“In the past, male dominance was asserted as a natural fact because women were considered stupid, lustful, and generally inferior. Now in an effort to obtain female tolerance for lousy behavior, the official line is that men have to be indulged because their bodies make them mean, lustful, and incapable of interacting with their partners. I can’t imagine that men are going to tolerate being told that they are stupid, mean, shallow assholes by nature much longer.”

Hungry for more feminist crtiques of the male “stupidity myth[*]”? Check out One Good Thing’s hilarious post on a recent issue of Oprah’s magazine O which claimed to “forever change the way you look at men.”

As the post explains, one of the lovely comments in the mag about men included the statement: “A male human being is closer to a male chimpanzee than he is to a female human being.” Blogger flea writes:

Actual verbatim quote, page 326, by Russell Banks. A man. A man wrote that, and everybody gets their panties in a twist over Andrea Dworkin? Fifty bucks says you’ll never see this pull quote added to any anti-feminist lists that float around the internet full of statements from feminists “proving” their hatred of men.

Any bloke who’s feeling full of righteous feminist fury should check out XY Online immediately.

[*I think F Word writer Holly Combe coined this phrase. Credit where credit’s due.]

Damned if you do, damned if you don’t

by Catherine Redfern // , 10:18 pm

Gendergeek has an excellent post on recent research on the prevalence of date rape drugs, which found that there were fewer doing the rounds than were originally thought.

The research has sparked comments about women’s “responsiblity” when it comes to somehow preventing being raped in the first place. If women were not drugged, the thinking goes, then that must mean that it’s their fault if they got raped. As Gendergeek’s Emma comments,

“[inherent to this assumption is] that women are responsible for controlling and limiting male violence. It also says quite unpleasant things about men. Implicit in it is the idea that at all times women should be prepared to physically fend off rapacious attacks from the large number of men who will exploit the physical vulnerabilities of any woman who strays across their path.”

In the Guardian, Decca Aitkenhead said:

“If we say that anything less than vigilance is culpably irresponsible in a woman, this means we think all men are rapists. When militant feminists made this suggestion, it was taken as proof of their lunacy. Now, apparently, it is taken for granted. Girls are expected to understand that if they wind up in the pub car park, tights round their ankles and peeing on their high heels, the average man passing by cannot be expected to pass up the chance… Why isn’t everyone asking what kind of man is it who would see her lying there and want to have a go?”

Note that, yet again, it’s the feminists who are questioning the prevailing (yes, man-hating) theory that the average man is naturally predisposed to rape. A theory, incidentally, that so-called men’s rights activists propound relentlessly.

Aitkenhead echos a similarly enlightening comment in the comments in an old post on Avoiding Rape and “Common Sense” at Alas, A Blog. “Neko” writes:

“We can\x92t win. If I exercise caution by not going into an elevator with a man I don\x92t know, by not inviting my date up for coffee at the end of the night, by not allowing a guy to get me a drink (ah, the wonder of date rape drugs), I\x92m a man hater who thinks all men are rapists. If I didn\x92t do these things and something happened, I\x92d be asking for it because I didn\x92t exercise "common sense."

What she said. Anyway – read the Gendergeek post for more on this.

Nick Ferrari Gets Precious About Marriage

by Holly Combe // 7 August 2005, 10:54 pm

Tags: , ,

Liberal views don’t seem to be very fashionable right now. The backlash against so-called “political correctness” continues to give self-righteous shock-jocks a much-needed window of credibility and yet it seems there are some issues where even the most vehement rebels against progress start fudging their words…

LBC radio host Nick Ferrari was on the Heaven and Earth show today, being his usual PC-bashing self. However, when the matter of same-sex marriage came up, he became somewhat more careful, saying that “of course” same-sex partners should have certain legal rights as couples but that he had difficulty with the idea of calling such a commitment a marriage. He then added, somewhat cryptically, “I don’t know why.”

Benedictine monk and Thought of the Day star, Dom Antony Sutch took a similar view, while Coronation Street actor, Shobna Gulati and athlete Dame Tanni Grey-Thompson were more progressive.

It has recently been reported that much of the female brain is deactivated by orgasm. Dr Gert Holstege from the University of Groningen in the Netherlands studied 13 women and 11 men and found that the only element of a woman’s brain activated during the orgasm itself was the part chiefly associated with movement. The parts of the brain connected to emotion (the factor those pop-bio-determinists are so quick to say is more important for women than it is for men) were switched off. The results for male orgasms were inconclusive but thought to be similar.

Holstege has chosen to draw particular attention to the deactivation of the “fear centre” in the brain, saying that this is perhaps the most important factor in having an orgasm:

When you are fearful or have a very high level of anxiety, then it’s hard to have sex because during sex you really have to give yourself and let go.

It has been suggested this need to “let go” could be connected to the aphrodisiac effect of alcohol and Holstege continues:

Alcohol brings down the fear level… Everyone knows if you give alcohol to a woman it makes things easier.

Excuse me? Easier for who? The emphasis on women’s “fear” and the giving of alcohol to make things “easier” as things “everyone” automatically knows sounds pretty creepy to me. It’s as if Holstege thinks sex is not really for women at all and that we’ll only do it if we can be made to forget our fear. And what, exactly, does he think we have to be afraid of during what should surely be mutually agreed anyway? (Not only do Holstege’s words seem incredibly old-fashioned and one-sided but they also seem to stray uncomfortably close to the borders of non-consensual sex.) It also sounds like he views women’s orgasms as mere facilitators for some higher plan and, though he doesn’t say it explicitly, he does rather imply that having sex with a woman is an automatically predatory act.

As is so often the case, it seems to be the interpretation of results and the discussions surrounding them that are the real problem here.

Scarlet too Rude for Newsagents

by Holly Combe // 2 August 2005, 11:07 pm

Tags: , ,

I’m pissed off. The only newsagent in my area to ever stock the women’s sex magazine Scarlet has now permanently taken it off the shelves due to complaints from customers. I’ve been told by the manager that the problem was the explicit nature of the headlines on the cover of the July issue. (I’m unable to comment on this issue at all because, again, I never got to see it.) When I pointed to all the copies of Nuts and Zoo still accessible, she sympathetically admitted that people are used to seeing that stuff and therefore seem to tolerate it more. She then added that there are plans for it to be moved to the top shelf and I said, yes, I have friends who are campaigning for that and I don’t agree with them because I think what they’re doing is counterproductive.

I know Scarlet isn’t perfect but it’s a damn sight lot better than many of the other choices we have available on the local non-specialist newsagent’s shelf. In my view, the shocking double standards on obscenity that were demonstrated to me today just go to prove that we seriously need this mag out there doing its thing. They also show what a dangerous route we go down if we pander to censorship. Guess who suffers in the long run? Clue: it’s not Nuts readers. They just have to reach up to the top shelf.

Men valued more highly in the caring professions

by Lynne Miles // 28 July 2005, 5:41 pm

Researchers have found that men who pursue careers in the caring professions (nursing, teaching and other so-called ‘women’s jobs’) get more respect than women in the same professions. A study recently published by Brunel University, reported in The Guardian, found that women’s contributions to the caring professions were devalued as being ‘natural’ for them, whereas the ’emotional labour’ performed by men is a more unexpected asset.

Interestingly, the same study found that men in the caring professions worried about how their job was perceived in the outside world \x96 some of them even doctor (pun intended) their job titles to make them sound more \x91manly\x92. Dr Simpson of Brunel University says “If we want to encourage man into caring occupations we need to understand some of the difficulties and challenges they face in being seen to be a man in a female role. It’s not easy for them.”

I dare say it isn\x92t. And that\x92s no good for the men individually or for our society which needs the best and most able people to make a positive choice to work in the caring professions that we will all, at some point, benefit from. It behoves us to remember that gender stereotyping negatively impacts on men\x92s lives as well as women\x92s. In fact, it\x92s just another example of how feminists need to be reminding people loud and clear that to break down societal expectation of how people should act, or what they are, on the basis of their sex – arguably feminism\x92s most fundamental aim \x96 will be of benefit to men, and society at large, if we can make it happen.

Man to chair women’s studies department

by Jess McCabe // 26 July 2005, 8:48 pm

Is it appropriate for a man to chair an women’s studies department? The University of Washingston thinks so, because they’ve just appointed David G Allen to exactly that role.

As Inside Higher Ed reports, the move has received a mixed reaction – not least from Allen himself, who considered passing up the promotion.

When he found out he was being considered for the job, he emailed facalty members and graduate students to petition their views on whether he should keep his name in the running. The response was positive enough to pursuade him to go ahead.

And why not? Although this obviously is a counter-intuitive move – in the cut throat, male dominated world of higher education, at least female scholars should expect to be able to win the job of head of women’s studies.

But on the other hand, men can be feminists too. That’s an important message, and a male appointment might break through the – whatever it might be – that means women’s studies students are generally women.

I wonder if we should even be questioning this. But then, as Allen said: “When we have a level playing field, then it will become a non-issue.”

Nancy J. Kenney, an associate professor of women\x92s studies at Washington said: "I think David is a wonderful person and can be a really good administrator. At the same time, I am disappointed that there are no women who are seen as qualified to move into this position. Why not? Where are they?"

Dove "Real Women" ads hit U.S.

by Catherine Redfern // 23 July 2005, 12:07 pm

The Dove “Campaign for Real Beauty” adverts, which have been over here since April 2004 and again more recently have started to incite debate in the U.S. Msmusings has a good summary of the reaction.

When the ads were first released, members of London Third Wave Feminists (L3W) chatted about them online. Some of the discussion, containing many differing opinions, was summarised on the L3W website.

Iraqi women’s rights under threat

by Jess McCabe // 21 July 2005, 9:57 pm

Iraqi women could see their rights stripped away from them by their newly democratically elected government, Ms reports.

Plans to revise the Iraqi constitution would see the stipulation that women hold 25% of seats in the national assembly scrapped, and family law – which governs key areas such as marriage, divorce and inheritance – given over to the jurisdiction of religious courts.

The proposals would mean family law cases would be heard by the local religious sect, and would mean those women in communities that were resistant to egalitarian reform were even more vulnerable.

Women would also only have equal rights in so far as this conformed to sharia law.

So-called “family values” have come to be the byword of social conservatives concerned with pulling back free-ranging social change and returning us to a time when women were women and men were men. And they were married to each other.

In fact, this philosophy seems to be receeding in this country, with even the Conservative party stepping back somewhat from its disasterous ‘back to basics’ campaigns of the past. Instead, this Christmas will see the first civil unions for gay and lesbian couples. Yesterday, Canada became the latest country to legalise gay marriage.

But in many ways this is still a European phenomenon . In the States, (from this side of the Atlantic) there appears to be a cultural war raging, which the right wing crowd may well be winning. Meanwhile, much of the developing world is struggling to combat poverty and disease in a climate of social conservatism that threatens to restrict access to crucial tools – such as a condoms.

So a book which reveals that the ‘traditional’ nuclear family is a relatively recent development in the history of marriage is still potentially powerful. Alternet has interviewed Stephanie Coontz about her contribution to the debate, Marriage, A History: From Obedience to Intimacy, or How Love Conquered Marriage.

She argues that marriage is undergoing, has undergone, a step-change of the magnitude of the industrial revolution, as women and men come to expect more from of their relationships.

The interview ranges from the short history of the love-marriage and how those with strong “family values” are more likely to divorce to how an increasingly egalitarian culture is making marriages that work, work better.

‘Wife fattening farm’ force feeds Mauritanian girls

by Jess McCabe // 20 July 2005, 3:10 pm

Although in the West we are used to one standard of beauty – thin, mostly white – this has not yet spread world-wide. However, as this BBC reports reveals, that does not mean the rest of the world is any more enlightened.

In Mauritania, women have traditionally been seen as more attractive if they were fat, even obese. This is so well-established, that girls as young as seven are still being sent to ‘wife fattening farms’, where they are force fed until they weigh anywhere between 60 and 100 kg.

One woman who runs such a farm told the BBC: “Of course they cry – they scream. We grab them and we force them to eat. If they cry a lot we leave them sometimes for a day or two and then we come back to start again. They get used to it in the end.”

As Western ideas of beauty take hold, this practice has fallen out of favour, so that ‘only’ one in 10 girls are put through this ordeal.

Although some say that this is being replaced by a more “natural” look, one 19 year old man’s comments reveal that this is still defined by men – not be women: “We’re fed up of fat women here. Always fat women! Now we want thin women.”

George Bush has announced that John Roberts is his nomination for Supreme Court Justice, to replace Sandra Day O\x92Connor, who recently announced her retirement.

There has been huge concern among feminists over this nomination (we’ve written about it here and here) \x96 as Dubya himself pointed out, nominating a judge is "one of the most consequential decisions a president takes", as the Supreme Court are the ultimate arbiters of what is legal according to the US Constitution. The American legal system (as far as my sketchy legal knowledge allows me to understand) is based on case law, which means that what is legal in America is basically all about what other judges have decided about its constitutionality (is that a word?) in the past. This is different to the UK where Parliament passes legislation to determine what is and is not legal.

Hence, to take the most obvious example, the right to abortion in the USA was deemed constitutional, and therefore legal, by the Supreme Court in the infamous 1973 Roe vs Wade case.

An appointment to the Supreme Court lasts for life, and Supreme Court justices tend to out-stay individual presidents by some margin (the current membership has been unchanged in 11 years). Depending on retirements and deaths, a president may get to nominate several justices or none at all \x96 it\x92s all about luck of the draw. This is George W. Bush\x92s first nomination \x96 Clinton and Bush Snr both got to nominate two, Regan nominated four (including a Chief Justice), whilst poor old Jimmy Carter didn\x92t get to pick any.

It\x92s well documented that the right to abortion is increasingly under threat in the USA. In 1992, Sandra Day O\x92Connor voted to uphold the right to abortion, a vote which passed the Supreme Court with a margin of two. An anti-abortion replacement for O\x92Connor could, then, be extremely bad news for American women. Several other members of the Supreme Court are old and in ill health, notably Chief Justice William Rehnquist and, if there are other replacements in coming months or years, the face of American law may start to look very different indeed.

But back to John Roberts. Of course, nominating doesn\x92t necessarily mean he\x92s in \x96 Senate have to approve the nomination, and political wrangling will abound. But, if he were to be approved, what of this John Roberts?

Apparently he hasn\x92t left enough of a paper trail to know much about what he thinks. Many were expecting Bush to bow to pressure to appoint a woman, or an ethnic minority which he has not done. Mr Roberts is described as "a conservative but not an outspoken ideologue". On what the Guardian refers to as "the vexed question of abortion" his position is unclear. He has argued an anti-abortion stance in the past but, so he says, merely on the instructions of a client. When quizzed on his opinion, he refers to Roe vs Wade as "the settled law of the land" and said "there\x92s nothing in my personal views that would prevent me from fully and faithfully applying that precedent".

We\x92ll be watching this space.

It’s not feminism

by Catherine Redfern // 19 July 2005, 10:54 pm

Confusing article in the Guardian today entitled “Women getting rich faster than men“. It claims that “women are becoming increasingly more wealthy than men” and “it is estimated that by 2025, women will own 60% of the nation’s personal wealth”.

I’m not an economist so I’m going to leave aside the validity of those conclusions, which seem to be at odds with what most organisations such as the Fawcett Society and the Women and Equality Unit are saying about women and money.

What will really make feminists cringe about this article was the resort to sweeping sexist generalisations by various businesswomen to explain these developments. Veronica Lim said “men will be money-driven initially. But for most women it is their passion for a challenge which drives them – they are more practical.” Nighat Awan said: “women are natural multi-taskers who are used to hard work.” Jacqueline Gold said that “we are better at doing business than men… we work hard, are not agressive – but level-headed. We listen and take advice.” The article concludes with her explanation that “women are more sensible than men”.

Ugh. It’s infuriating that people feel the need to ascribe certain generic human characteristics to one gender or the other to explain success or failure. In this case, the not so subtle implication is that men as a class are naturally lazy, less sensible, less practical, less driven, less passionate, and just generally not as good as women are.

I’m with Andrea Dworkin (may she rest) who spoke out against this kind of complete drivel in her superb essay Biological Superiority: The World’s Most Dangerous and Deadly Idea.

Islamic feminists key to anti-terrorism

by Catherine Redfern // , 10:18 pm

Further to Louise’s post below about the London bombings, on Friday last week Johann Hari took an interesting perspective on this in The Independent, in a comment piece called “The best way to undermine the jihadists is to trigger a rebellion of Muslim women“.

In it, he argues that the key to stopping terrorism is to undermine the ideology behind it, and he explains: “one of the central tenets of this ideology is the inherent inferiority and weakness of women.”

He goes on: “The best way to undermine the confidence and beliefs of jihadists is to trigger a rebellion of Muslim women, their mothers and sisters and daughters. Where Muslim women are free to fight back against jihadists, they are already showing incredible tenacity and intellectual force. … Muslim women are offering the most effective critiques of Islamism.”

“The jihadists themselves know that Islamic feminism is the greatest threat to their future – that’s why, in Iraq, the “resistance” has been systematically hunting down and killing the leaders of Muslim women’s rights organisations. No ideology can survive on terrorising half the population indefinitely. When it comes, the Islamic Reformation will be drenched in oestrogen.”

But, he cautions that the process of undermining an ideology “is a glacially slow, slow fight.” Unfortunately, we feminists can testify to that, being in the Third Wave of feminist activism and still with unfinished business. Nevertheless, if you think about how much dramatic change there has been within living memory due to Western feminism, perhaps there is reason to be hopeful that similar progress can be made in the Islamic world.

Spectre of Renewed Racism?

by Louise Livesey // , 8:27 am

After the London Bombings on 7th July Muslim Women’s groups are concerned about the possible impact on the women they represent. The BNP capitalised on the bombings within days of them happening, using the image of the Tavistock Square bus on a flyer for a local council election in Becontree (see here and here). Nick Griffin of the BNP justified it by claiming it wasn’t about racial hatred but that New Labour had caused the bombings to happen through their foreign policy. Whatever our feelings on involvement in Iraq I doubt anyone can fail to see through Griffin and the BNPs opportunistic rhetoric. Now Muslim women’s groups are saying they are wary of other consequences of the bombings.

Network group Women Living Under Muslim Laws issued a statement, furthering their statement immediately after the bombing which condemned them, stating they are concerned about women bearing the brunt of a backlash in which Muslims are all branded as potential terrorists thus making Muslim women vulnerable to both branding “as part of extremist groups; at the same time, they will remain the target of fundamentalist forces within their own communities”. WLUML go on to say that the potential impact on women’s rights within Muslim communities, especially migrant communities in the UK was already visible. Warnings by community representatives that women wearing headscarves should avoid unnecessary journeys reinforces a paternalistic attitude which will curtail women’s rights within the community. So the souble threat of non-Muslim perception and traditionalist Muslim community attitudes will place the most vulnerable women in an even more tenuous situation. (You can read more the the WLUML statement here)

So surely the questions becomes how can we, as feminists, support other women at risk of a public backlast and a community backlash? A friend of mine told me how they had almost intervened when an American visitor began to berate a muslim they saw on the street for being a terrorist. “I almost went down and told them that the muslim was a doctor whilst he was just an idiot” reported said friend. I think we have to stop almost doing things and start doing them. It is inevitable we will see more racist incidents targetting Muslim and asian populations (particularly with an ex-Metropolitan Police Chief calling for more random stop-and-searches of the asian community) – after all as I remember we had appalling violence against German tourists following the England football defeat in 1996 including one Swiss tourist beaten to death “by mistake”. So lets start standing up to the bullies and the racists and showing we disapprove of their actions as much as we condemn the bombings.

US women skip treatment because of cost

by Jess McCabe // 13 July 2005, 10:21 pm

In the US, 27 per cent of women say they are have skipped doctors visits or delayed treatment, because they are afraid they cannot afford to pay, AJC reports (found via Lilith news round up).

Women are also failing to talk to their doctors about issues such as diet, exercise, HIV/AIDS and sexual history, which could prevent problems later on in life.

Careers advice failing Welsh girls

by Jess McCabe // , 3:40 pm

Girls in Wales are losing out on better-paid careers, because schools are channelling them into jobs traditionally dominated by women, the Equal Opportunities Commission said today.

A BBC report today reveals that Wales is worse than the rest of the UK when it comes to occupational segregation.

Three quarters of Welsh women work in low paid jobs that conform to gender expectations – such as cleaning, caring, catering and admin.

The EOC is calling for all school children to be given the option of work experience in non-traditional jobs for their gender.

Neil Wooding, EOC Commissioner for Wales, said: “Our research shows young people are unable to make genuine career choices and employers are unable to take best advantage of the talent available.”

The Beeb quotes Julia Zeal, a 32 year old Welsh woman who is now retraining as a plumber: “When I left school, going into construction wasn’t an option. I think probably it was something I would have liked to have done. A lot stems from careers teachers, they’re the people who need to get their act together and give better advice about what the options are.”

Woman to command first shuttle launch since Columbia

by Jess McCabe // 12 July 2005, 3:14 pm

The first space shuttle to launch since the Columbia exploded in February 2003 will be commanded by a woman, Women’s E-News reports.

Eileen Collins already has a number of firsts under her belt – she was NASA’s first female pilot in 1995 and its first shuttle commander in 1999.

But the gender gap is closing across NASA – 22% of its executives are women.

This is in stark contrast to its previous record – in 1962, NASA pulled its female astronauts out of the running for space flight, deciding that they could pose a ‘distraction’ to male astronauts and space might ‘drain’ their femininity. This led to the USSR beating the US to put the first woman in space.

In fact, women’s bodies have been found to be better suited to space flight than men.

If the shuttle launch goes off without a hitch, the crew will test new safety equipment, deliver supplies to the International Space Station, take three spacewalks and try twists, flips and flight maneuvers not yet attempted outside Earth’s atmosphere.

Late abortion survey

by Jess McCabe // , 9:07 am

Most women who have abortions between 19 and 24 weeks into pregnancy do so because they only realise they are pregnant late on, Marie Stropes International reveals today.

In a survey of more than 100 women who had undergone terminations close to the legal limit of 24 weeks, most had not realised they were pregnant until just before they sought an abortion.

Only 2% of abortions are carried out after 20 weeks in the UK. Anti-abortion campaigners have called for the legal limit of 24 weeks to be reduced, because medical advances have resulted in some premature babies surviving at 22 or 23 weeks. This was supported by Tory leader Michael Howard.

Some late detections of pregnancy were down to women using the mini-pill.

But some women terminated their pregnancy late after their relationships deteriorated – one woman was beaten with a baseball bat by her partner when he discovered she was pregnant.

Read more here.

Woman refused contraception

by Catherine Redfern // 11 July 2005, 9:53 pm

F Word reader Helen has alerted us to a shocking news item from early July. The BBC reports that in February, a Cardiff couple whose contraception failed went to buy emergency contraception from their local Asda store. The on-duty pharmacist refused to sell it to them, because of “high morals”.

Most women are probably not aware that The Royal Pharmaceutical Society’s Code of Ethics and Standards states that pharmacists can refuse to sell or dispense drugs because of their religious beliefs or personal convictions. However, they must not condemn or criticise a patient and they must advise a patient of alternative sources for the service. It appears that in some cases, even this is not happening.

The woman obtained emergency contraception from a different pharmacy the following morning, but it failed. She is now pregnant.

This is not even the first time this has happened. In 2004 at an Asda pharmacy in Stockport, a mother of four was denied access to the contraception. She said; "I understand the need for respect for employees and their religion, but when I visit a supposedly reputable store such as Asda, I do not expect to have staff impose their moral ethics on me or the choice of my purchases.”

I’ve read about this happening frequently in the U.S., where women’s right to reproductive choice hangs by a thread, but was blissfully unaware that it happened here too.

Helen writes: “Odd that we never hear of pharmacists inflicting their self-appointed morality on NHS patients by refusing to sell antibiotics for sexually transmitted diseases, or medications derived from embryo research, or the necessary drugs for people who’ve had organ transplants (which some religious denominations object to), or condoms to men. It’s only women’s contraception which is targeted as supposedly unacceptable.”

She continues: “Individual pharmacists are allowed, by the pharmacists self-regulation code, to refuse to dispense pills on the grounds of their personal beliefs but this doesn’t mean that pharmacies with NHS privileges should be allowed to fail to serve all NHS patients (which means all of us all of the time). I believe we should write to our MPs and the relevant government departments insisting that NHS privileges must be removed from any pharmacy which fails to serve all NHS patients with NHS approved pills.”

Abortion Rights is one orgaisation campaigning on a specific area of reproductive choice, but if anyone knows of any organisations campaigning on this issue, please contact us.

Cambridge Shorts

by Jess McCabe // , 3:59 pm

Are you in Cambridge this weekend? If so, you may want to check out Birds Eye View’s series of shorts being screened on Saturday as part of the Cambridge Film Festival.

More info here, but highlights include a samurai short by a British woman, a comedy about a sperm bank and an experimental documentary using a mix of live action footage and animation.

Historical buzz

by Jess McCabe // 10 July 2005, 10:06 pm

Did you know that the small electric motor was invented to power a vibrator? Or that it was the fifth electrical appliance to be sold for use in the home – after the sewing machine but before the electric iron? How about that in 1917, more Americans owned vibrators than toasters?

This article in Slate is packed full of interesting factoids about the history of the vibrator, from its origin as a treatment for ‘hysteria’, to its promotion as a safe-sex aid during the height of panic over HIV/AIDS in the 1980s, in the US. (Found via BoingBoing)

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