Dove kicked up a flurry of controversy in the feminist blogosphere recently with their advertising campaign, which showed that women tend to judge themselves less attractive, than a stranger would judge them. Some women appreciated this message, while others (myself included) reacted more cynically.
The hidden damage caused by the dominant beauty standard is huge. Many women suffer from eating disorders, and some even die. Even those of us who appear to get off scott-free still have to put energy into overcoming toxic beauty ideals, and this is energy that we don’t get to put into other things.
But as Imran Siddiquee showed in her excellent article Women are not their own worst beauty critics, the toxic and hateful beauty standard was not created by you or me, and it does not arise from ordinary women’s lived day-to-day experiences. The beauty ideals that harm so many of us are manufactured by (male-dominated) corporations and delivered in a non-stop onslaught by the (male-dominated) media – an onslaught that Dove is of course part of.
I’ve noticed that at a few FAC events we’ve got talking about women’s history. At the Women’s Work fundraising event at least three of the performances drew on feminist history. I’d thought I’d share some relevant interesting things I’ve come across recently.
Secondly, the British Library has recently put online lots and lots of interviews with second-wave feminists, along with other resources like biographies and an interactive timeline. Set aside lots of time to look through properly. (There are also links to various other oral history projects on activism around the UK and the world.)
I also really love this segment on Women’s Hour about birth control pioneers with Dr Clare Debenham and Rebecca Findlay. This is my particular area of interest, and I’m glad to see Dr Debenham’s research getting a wider audience.
And something local – Shape East has put together a “Walking with Women” tour to celebrate women’s history in Cambridge. It can be done as a self-guided tour, or booked as a guided tour from £10 per person.
There are also plenty of offline resources in Cambridge – the Cambridge Women’s Resources Centre has a collection of the zine Spare Rib, as well as various books on women’s history and feminist politics. The Cambridge Central Library is free to join and has some good books on women’s history, for example Alison Oram’s wonderful “Her husband was a woman!”, and the archives have various materials on women’s organisations.
I know history can sometimes seem like something you have to study in an academic context to understand, but that’s really not the case. History is for everyone.
In late 2012 some FAC “mystery shoppers” attended counselling sessions provided by CareConfidential, in order to find out whether the counselling provided was ethical and unbiased. The sessions were secretly recorded and typed up, and we are currently in the process of going through the transcripts and making sure that any information that could identify any individual person has been removed. Once that process is complete, we’ll post the transcripts here for all to see.
Would you skip barefoot over 20ft of hot coals to raise money for our local rape crisis centre?
CRCC has helped so many women in our region- maybe you or maybe someone you know has been listened to and believed. We need funds to increase our helpline opening hours and launch a new email support service.
If you would like to do a daring, fear conquering challenge and raise money for the centre at the same time this is one for you…
We invite you to take part in our first ever
Thursday 11th April from 5.30pm Scotsdales Garden Centre
An unmissable opportunity to conquer your fearsand walk barefoot across 20ft of burning embers unharmed!
On the night of the firewalk, participants will undergo a two hour training session which will prepare them for the challenge of taking their first step onto embers burning at around 1200 degrees fahrenheit!
Dare you walk across burning coals?
To guarantee your place in this spectacular event, simply register by visiting www.everyclick.com/crccfirewalk. Registration is just £25 and we ask you to raise a minimum sponsorship of £125. Once you’ve registered we’ll send you a fundraising pack full of ideas and sponsorship forms to get you started – and you’ll get a t-shirt to wear on the night!
For more info, please email email@example.com
Last week I spoke to students at Hills Road Sixth form college about feminism, taking ‘the equal right to sexual pleasure’ as my topic. Here’s the blog post I’ve written for Gender and Education about it:
(Trigger warning for discussion of violence against women)
Million Women Rise is a march and rally which takes place anually in London (not to be confused with Billion Women Rise, which is a completely different thing). MWR was founded in 2007 by Sabrina Qureshi, a campaigner and former womens’ sector advocacy worker. The event’s organisers are grassroots campaigners, without corporate endorsements or ties to large charities or NGOs.
This year we have already seen the rape of millions of women throughout the world and we are only in February. We have heard the German authorities apologies to a teenage girl for sending her to a brothel to get work… The Gang Rape and murder of a 17 year old girl in South Africa and the protest from our sisters in South Africa… Many of you have been at the ongoing protests supporting the voices of women of India after the gang rape in India of a young woman who is now dead… We have witnessed the Irish government commit murder of a woman who was denied her human rights to an abortion…Women in Egypt have spoken out against state sponsored Violence Against Women…
And we will not ignore the ongoing rape and genocide of our sisters and children across the world from Easten Congo to Iraq, Iran, Egypt, Palestine, Ivory Coast, Mali, Pakistan, Bangladesh, London, Bradford, Bolivia, Brazil, fromTamil women to Wales, East Europe, western Europe to the Americas to name a few.
Male violence against women is pandemic, it is organised and systematic, ENOUGH is ENOUGH!
This year’s event will take place on Saturday 9th March, meeting at 12pm Oxford Street (Outside Selfridges). Oxford Street and Regent Street will be closed as women march through the West End, ending with a rally at Trafalgar Square.
The one concern I have about this event is that the website makes no mention of whether trans women are welcome to take part, and the slogan “One Woman, One Body, One Song, One Love” sounds like it could exclude trans women. I hope that in future years the organisers will make it clear that all self-defining women are invited to come together for this important event, to rally against the misogynistic violence which hurts us all.
(UPDATE: it says in this post that the Information Standard website doesn’t load. In fact it seems to work in some browsers but not others – it worked for me in Opera but not in Firefox.)
Regular readers of this blog will know that some members of Feminist Action Cambridge are involved in a campaign to prevent pro-life charity CareConfidential from using deception to lure members of the public to their “pregnancy counselling” services.
CareConfidential offers “pregnancy counselling” over the phone and via Internet chat. They also offer free in-person counselling through a network of over 100 affiliated crisis pregnancy centres (CPCs), which are mostly run by church groups. CareConfidential itself began as a programme of the far-right Christian Action Research and Education (CARE) which opposes abortion and gay marriage, and promote “gay cure therapy”; these people hold extreme views which are not shared by the majority of the UK public, including UK Christians. They have been repeatedly been caught giving out medically incorrect information and providing biased counselling which seems designed to frighten people who use their service out of considering an abortion (see for instance The Guardian: Abortion pregnancy counselling found wanting).
CareConfidential goes to great lengths to disguise their origins. There is nothing on their website or in any of their pamphlets to suggest that they are anti-abortion, and their website gives every appearance of offering a high-quality, evidence-based service which respects the right of clients to make an informed choice. One of the ways they make themselves appear credible is through their use of the Information Standard mark on their website: