Bystander intervention

A cartoon titled 'Bystander intervention is a superpower', with a stick figure who is saying: 'Excuse me, but I heard what you said just now, and that is really not OK. You can't treat people like that.

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“Good” corporate beauty messages, and their limitations

A spoof cosmetics add: a tub of skin cream with a label that says "No beauty product, ever." The ad text reads: "You're amazing! Buy our moisturising skin cream. Or don't. Either way, we just think you're so awesome!"

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.

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CareConfidential transcripts (upcoming)

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.


Million Women Rise in London this Saturday 9 March

(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.

From the Million Women Rise website:

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.

Million Women Rise official website

Million Women Rise donations page


Incompetence meets deception: the Information Standard and CareConfidential

(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:

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Some CareConfidential updates

There’s some good news: CareConfidential has removed quite a lot of the frightening and medically-inaccurate information from their website! In particular all references to the made-up condition “post-abortion trauma” have disappeared, which I think is really just great – for people who aren’t savvy that’s a bit less misinformation out there to trip up on.

We’re still very concerned about CareConfidential’s (mis)use of the Information Standard certification mark on their website. This certification only applies to materiels such as pamphlets or videos, not to counselling; but this isn’t mentioned anywhere on the website, creating a false impression that their counselling services are accredited by the Department for Health. (There’s also an earlier post about CareConfidential and the Information Standard).

FAC believes strongly that anyone who is considering using a counselling service has a right to accurate information about that service in order to make an informed decision.

We’ve been struggling to work out how to best move forward with the Information Standard issue. A Freedom of Information request did not bring any results, and the Information Standard website is broken and has been for months: it takes several minutes to load, if it loads at all, and you have to wait again for every. new. page. or. link. that you click.

Eventually after much persistence we worked out how to go forward with a complaint against CareConfidential, by posting into a form on the Information Standard website. I’m posting the complaint here as well, to have a record of it.

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“Identity Politics” and “The Left”: a brief rant

“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

Discuss.