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.
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:
Great to see so many people at an energetic Reclaim the Night last night. There were three fabulous speakers and a performance poet, with several hundred of us hanging on every word in a candlelit Kings College chapel.
I wrote a statement for The Cambridge Student in advance of the demo (to be quoted as ‘a member of FAC’ not on behalf of the group, as discussed in the meeting last week), so I thought I’d share it with you, as it sums up quite nicely what Reclaim the Night is about for me:
I’m thrilled that the CUSU Women’s Campaign are continuing the hugely important tradition of Reclaim the Night marches. This march is a rare space for the voices of women who have been silenced by sexual violence to be heard. Marching together in a group of women also means that, for once, we can respond to the street harassment that most women experience frequently. For once, we can actually respond to harassers without fear of escalation of violence, as we’re surrounded by other women who are in solidarity with us. And we can shout about our truth – that rape is common, and victims are silenced. Read the rest of this entry »
A big thanks to all who came to tonights review meeting, which was very successful. Minutes from the meeting, the outcome of votes and decisions passed are forthcoming. A second Review-Continued meeting will be organised shortly to cover the rest of the points [3-5] from the circulating agenda.
Watch this space…
The following letters can be downloaded and sent to MPs and the local cabinet minister for health and wellbeing about the activities of Care Confidential’s bogus pregnancy ‘advice’ centres. Please feel free to adapt the letters, and to use them for other areas where Care Confidential centres have been set up. Read the rest of this entry »
Reclaim the Night is happening on 28th January, organised by CUSU Women’s Campaign.
Info from the Facebook event -
Women have the right to live free from fear. Women have the right to walk free from fear. We want to claim this right. So join us on 28th January to demand an end to street harrassment and violence against women. We will be meeting at 8pm at the lamppost in the centre of Parker’s Piece and marching down Regent’s Street, through the market and ending up and King’s College Chapel where a candlelit vigil and a speaker event will happen.
The route is wheelchair accessible.The march from Parker’s piece is open to all self-defining women and children.
There will be a solidarity demo outside Great St. Mary’s from 8pm for allies.If anyone wants to come just for the vigil in King’s Chapel that is completely fine! It is open to everyone and will begin around 8.45pm.Please join us to demand safer streets!
Contact email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions.
“Identity politics” is a disparaging term used by people on “The Left” to talk about all forms of oppression that do not directly and specifically affect heterosexual white men. It includes struggles against all the forms and manifestations of racism, homophobia, transphobia, ableism, fat hatred, sexism, misogyny, and many others besides.
We frequently hear the complaint that “Identity Politics” is destroying the unity of “The Left”. But that unity never existed, except in the imaginations of those who struggle against class-based oppression while simultaneously ignoring, minimizing, or outright denying the existence of every other form of oppression.
Whenever I hear
Identity politics are destroying the unity of The Left.
I mentally translate it to
Why can’t everyone just do what I want? You brown people and women and queers are ruining everything with your pesky demands that I act like your lives and experiences actually matter. Waaaaaaaaaaaaah. (Throws toys out of crib.)
And most of the time, that seems to fit.
See for example:
Privilege Politics is Reformism
Independent Working Class Association: Multiculturalism & identity politics – the reactionary consequences and how they can be challenged
New Statesman: The problem with privilege-checking
Fact Sheet: Feminist Action Cambridge exposes Care Confidential’s Crisis Pregnancy Centres in CambridgeshirePosted: 14 December 2012
See also today’s Press Release
Last year, pro-choice group Education for Choice found that pregnancy counselling centres run by Care Confidential were giving false information to women seeking advice on abortion. (The Guardian, 2 August 2011). Care Confidential, who were one of the groups trying to get government contracts last year to run counselling for women seeking abortion, have around 150 of these pregnancy counselling centres around the country, including three in Cambridgeshire. While Care Confidential have said that they have revised their practises following last year’s revelations, Feminist Action Cambridge were concerned about the presence of ‘crisis pregnancy centres’ in Cambridge, Ely and Newmarket. We wanted to find out for ourselves whether they really were offering unbiased, impartial counselling.
Feminist Action Cambridge sent ‘mystery shoppers’ pretending to be in the early stages of an unplanned pregnancy into each of the three crisis pregnancy centres and audio recorded the counselling sessions. All three centres alerted the women to a made-up medical condition called ‘post abortion syndrome’. At Newmarket Pregnancy Support Centre the mystery shopper was told:
‘post-abortion syndrome [...] you’ve got feelings of loss and anger [...] A lot of people do get pregnant again very quickly, want to replace it. [...] a feeling of distance from existing children, inability to maintain a normal routine, [...] In severe cases it can lead to self-harm’.
Here’s the press release which went out today. Please share and quote:
Women seeking abortions in Cambridge are being given false information about risks and pressured to continue pregnancies, Feminist Action Cambridge has revealed.
Audio-recordings from Feminist Action Cambridge members presenting with unplanned pregnancies reveal the staff of clinics in Newmarket, Ely and Cambridge referring to a made-up medical condition and using emotional manipulation to discourage abortions.
Staff at all three centres referred to a condition which they called ‘post-abortion syndrome’, which the Royal College of Gynaecologists and Obstetricians have confirmed is not a medically recognised condition*.
The centres were also found to be emphasising the risks of abortion while minimising the health risks of pregnancy, childbirth and post-natal depression.
Staff used emotionally manipulative techniques, including showing images of the stages of development of the foetus (in order to increase the guilt women might feel at having an abortion), telling one client that her mother may be upset ‘at losing a grandchild’ and another that ‘the clock is ticking’ because of her age.
They also used delaying tactics to get women to spend a few weeks considering their decision.
Despite anti-abortion lobby group Care Confidential being exposed last year as misinforming and misleading women who approached them for advice about pregnancy and abortion, they continue to claim on their website that they provide ‘unbiased pregnancy and abortion counselling’, all the while giving women false medical advice and using emotional manipulation tactics to scare them into not having abortions. They gave the women pamphlets from US Christian group Focus on the Family who are opposed to abortion under any circumstances*.
“Women who seek help in this matter have a very serious decision to make and they cannot make that decision without medically accurate information,” Cambridgeshire MP Julian Huppert said.
“And organisations providing that information have a duty to make it crystal clear if they have a particular religious or anti-abortion stance.”
A spokesperson from Feminist Action Cambridge said “The anti-abortion lobby in the UK has become more vocal and more militant recently. But we now know that they are using much subtler techniques too. They are targeting women when they are most vulnerable and lying to them about a medical condition that does not exist. These centres should give proper impartial advice or be closed down.”
Local feminists are holding a rally on Saturday 15th December at 12 noon at the corner of New Square and Jesus Terrace (right next to the Grafton Centre) to inform local women and protest against local anti-abortion centres.
For more information, email email@example.com
*See link for the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists’ statement that there is no link between abortion and mental health risks: http://www.rcog.org.uk/what-we-do/campaigning-and-opinions/briefings-and-qas-/human-fertilisation-and-embryology-bill/abor-0
*Focus on the Family are a US Christian group who are opposed to abortion under any circumstances. We believe that the links with this group show that US anti-abortion tactics are travelling to the UK: http://www.focusonthefamily.com/socialissues/social-issues/abortion/our-position.aspx
For further information please see Channel Five’s expose of crisis pregnancy centres last year:
The centres referred to are
- The Haven Cambridge, Citylife House, Sturton Street, Cambridge, CB1 2QF
- Ely Pregnancy Crisis Centre, Lighthouse Centre, 13 Lynn Road, Ely, CB7 4EG
- Newmarket Pregnancy Support Centre, Unit 11, Studlands Park Avenue, Newmarket, CB8 7AU