Was 2017 a good year for feminism?

It’s a New Year everyone, in case that has passed you by. Happy 2018!

Is there any way of arriving in a brand new year without feeling the need to reflect upon the year just gone? If there is I’m not sure how you do it. But I’m not sure it’s such a bad thing anyway. It’s important to look backwards sometimes, to see how far you’ve come.

So with that in mind I thought I would take a little time to reflect upon the impact of 2017 on feminism. I know it was a big year for me – it was the year I woke up and started to find my passion for fighting against all the inequality that is ingrained in our daily lives and I discovered some of the incredible women out there blazing a fierce trail for us on a daily basis (Caitlin Moran, Sali Hughes, Sophie Walker to name just a few). Amazing, brilliant and inspiring women who demonstrate how to take no shit but to do so with grace, humour and intelligence. And sometimes sublime sarcasm. I love them all! I know twitter can be a double edged sword but I’m grateful it has brought the voices of these women into my life. Also, no biggie, but I started this blog. So yay for 2017!

As for the bigger picture, 2017 has had some killer punches to throw our way. Seriously. I mean, it started with Trump’s inauguration – a man who dismissed his own admission of sexual assault as ‘locker room banter’. Er….. well, there are no words really for that one. I think perhaps no words are needed. Suffice to say that 2017 started on a bit of a downer. But, and this is a little controversial, maybe we should be grateful for the awful spectacle that has been Trump’s presidency. Yes, really – hear me out.

His inauguration ceremony was (sorry Trump) vastly outnumbered by the amount of people who then turned out for the Women’s March the very next day, which was the largest single day protest in US history. How amazing is that? What an awesome response. Sometimes the enemy just needs a face in order to make people see who they’re fighting against.

And if Donald Trump wasn’t enough of an incentive for you to get off the sofa and fight, then 2017 also provided us with the poster boy of sexual assault, Harvey Weinstein. And what an incredible, watershed moment that has turned out to be! It’s mind blowing. The outpouring of horror stories not just regarding his alleged behaviour but then other big players in Hollywood and the momentum that gathered to eventually start shaking the ground in Westminster itself… I can’t even comprehend how important this was. Who could have ever imagined it? It has been so important, so shocking and frankly absolutely fucking fantastic to suddenly have this topic on everyone’s minds, being discussed in every workplace and in every home and to begin to hope that perhaps – just perhaps – the next generation might walk into workplaces where this behaviour is no longer accepted or acceptable by those in power. It could be a moment of real change – it really could – and that is the goal. I don’t have the words to express how happy this makes me. Women have found their voices.

The #metoo movement, born out of the Weinstein scandal, gave women a collective voice, possibly for the first time ever. The strength and solidarity that has resulted has been so necessary and so important that it can’t be overstated. I still haven’t found a woman who doesn’t have a #metoo story. Just saying.

And now, as we start a new year with 2018 (the centenary of women getting the vote, just FYI), a follow up movement to #metoo is being launched as #TimesUp, where some of the most powerful women in Hollywood have set up a fund currently amounting to around $13million to support and help those women experiencing harassment and assault in their work places. Basically using their power to help those women who have no power and no voice. God, it makes me want to cry thinking about it. This is what the world should look like people!

So yeah, I think 2017 was a good year for feminism. A lot of things got brought into the light that needed to be seen.

Here’s hoping that 2018 kicks ass just as much. The fight isn’t over – it’s just beginning.

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Being a role model for working mums?

Oh god, the endless dilemmas and self judgement of being a working mother.

It was our Christmas work party on Friday. It had been an insanely busy week (again) and I knew I was going to have to go home and work afterwards so I was in a bit of a low mood. Add to the fact that I hadn’t seen my little girl properly all week because I had needed to stay late every night for work, and you can see why I wasn’t fully in the Christmas spirit.

But I tried to rally. I like the people I work with and it’s always entertaining to see them drunk (I wasn’t drinking due to the aforementioned work requirement). It can also be very enlightening – I’ve had some real home truths thrown at me in the course of Christmas parties of yore, but this year was particular interesting. It turned out that the constant theme was to be, ‘Oh you’re such a role model for working mums”. “You’re an ‘Alpha Mum'” someone said to me.

What does that even mean, ‘Alpha Mum’? I’m not even going to start trying to work that one out, but I got the general message. I have a daughter. I still work full time doing a demanding job. I’m am therefore a ‘role model’ in that I’m proving that this be done.

Hmmm. Yeah. I have conflicting feelings about this one to say the least. On the one hand, I do find it hard and stressful and challenging trying to juggle all the aspects of my life. And in weeks like I’ve just had where I’ve barely seen my child, frankly it sucks. So it’s nice to have that struggle recognised, I won’t lie. But on the other hand – I honestly never set out to be any kind of role model and I’m really not sure I want to be.

The reasons for why I work full time are many but in essence there are two key factors – one, right now we need the money. A cut in my pay cheque would make a significant impact on our lives right now (i.e our house extension wouldn’t get a roof). And two, I have this thing in my head that says I’m SUPPOSED to continue ‘do it all’ and if I reduced my hours at work, then this would somehow be an admission of failure. It would be weak.

This is, of course, complete bollocks.

And that’s my issue. I don’t actually think that what I’m trying to do, which is keep it all hanging together whilst relying on the support network of people I have behind the scenes to stop it all falling apart, is really something to aspire to. What I actually think is that work places should be striving to become more flexible so that they are accommodating the working parents, rather than the working parents desperately trying to accommodate the rigid working structure.

And I have a feeling that by being perceived as a role model for ‘making it work’ what I’m actually doing is encouraging the narrative that this is the way it should be. You can go off, throw a tiny human hand grenade into your life which will blow everything to pieces so you never recognise yourself again (in a mostly good way, obvs) and yet you will still come back to work and carry on like it never happened.

Yeah, thanks but no. I don’t think that’s the way it should be at all. And yet, here I am. Apparently a role model for exactly this! Dammit! What am I supposed to do with this info? Not much I suppose. Carry on the way I am for now. Keep talking about how important it was for me to be able to shift my hours so I could see my daughter (I pushed my day back by a whole 15 minutes so I could catch an earlier train. Not exactly ground breaking I know, but I’m still grateful to my employer for agreeing) and also work towards being in a position when perhaps I can have some influence in the conversations that happen about how to support and encourage working parents.

Oh, and cut myself some fucking slack. Your life has to work for you at the end of the day, not the other way round. And it is not a weakness or failure to do what you have to do to make that happen. It is a huge show of strength. Trust me – I’m working towards getting to that place.

No doubt when I manage, I’ll be a role model for that too!

Feminist book love: “Feminist Fight Club” – Jessica Bennett

Feminist Fight Club: I stumbled across this book in the strangest of ways really. I found it through its Instagram account. Yes, a book that has its own Instagram account. It’s a strange new world we live in folks. Seems it’s a smart idea because several weeks later when I was browsing in a bookshop, the front cover caught my eye. And, because I am clearly easily brainwashed by social media, I bought it.

Having not really processed exactly what I had just done (which was to basically confirm every marketer’s wet dreams) I had no idea what to expect from the book I just bought. But I’m so so glad that buy it I did. Because it’s brilliant.

My concern had been that it was going to be some sort of fluffy, silly book filled with cartoons about how rubbish men are – let’s all drink wine and bitch about them etc etc. But that’s not it at all. It is a lovely, honest shout out and support message to all women who may have struggled or are currently struggling in the workplace and it identifies and throws light on some of the (sometimes sub-conscious) actions which men can engage in, which are undermining the women they work with. And believe me, some of the characters that the author, Jessica Bennett, depicts are so familiar it’s scary.

The book also identifies some of the insecurities and acts of self-sabotage that women can engage in during the course of their careers and how you might address these. It’s is beautifully written, never takes itself too seriously and yet every point it makes is backed up by serious data, so there’s nothing frivolous about it at all. It’s just fun. With an edge. Just how I like it!

Personally I think it should be fundamental reading for any woman who may want to work anywhere, ever. Because if you have ever come across any of the issues that it highlights, this book provides you with practical advice on how you might address those problems. And if you haven’t, then lucky you, but we should all still be aware of what goes on around us and what other women may be struggling with so that we can be each other’s strength and support to help in the fight against such issues.

Feminist fight club for the win I say!

(You can buy from Amazon.co.uk here)

The ‘Donald Trump’ effect

Ok, deep breath, I’m going there. Let’s talk about Donald fucking Trump.

I’ve resisted talking about him so far because, to be perfectly honest, for a feminist blog he feels like low hanging fruit as subject matter. Got nothing to say? Talk about Trump – job done.

But by not having mentioned him on this platform so far, I’m starting to feel he is conspicuous by his absence. After all, this blog is all about the issues that we face as feminists in today’s world. And he’s a big fucking issue. No doubt about that.

So here we go. Who knows where to start? It’s all too upsetting to contemplate. The man seems almost untouchable. He runs an antagonistic, illogical, hate driven campaign. And he wins. He dismisses his recorded admission of sexual assault/sexual harassment of women as ‘locker room banter’ and Teresa May holds hands with him and offers a state visit. He effectively seeks to brand all muslims as terrorists and implements hugely racist policies and 10 Downing Street shrugs, says the state visit invitation still stands and *silently* prays that the US will still agree to a trade deal with the UK because, you know, Brexit. (Don’t get me started on that one…).

And now, for the crappy cherry on top of the shitty cake, he has retweeted videos posted by Britain First. Which is almost beyond comprehension. Let me repeat, the President of the United States has retweeted and effectively endorsed a dangerous hate group. As Brendan Cox (Jo Cox’s widow) tweeted, he may as well have retweeted something from the KKK.

And the man still stands! How is this possible?? Is he really holding the same position that was so recently held by Barak Obama. It doesn’t seem real.

Donald Trump represents (for so many many reasons) a huge danger to our society and not least for what I will probably now forever call, the ‘Donald Trump’ effect. Which is, that regardless of what behaviour we encounter that initially seems utterly abhorrent and completely unacceptable, we seem to collectively get used to the status quo very very quickly. Dangerously quickly. And I can’t think of anyone in modern history who has taken advantage of this fact more successfully than Donald Trump.

Think about it for a second. When he first sought to effectively ban muslims from entering the US, there were huge protests. Both here and in the US. And yes, that policy was legally quashed. However, if he was successful in reinstating it via another means now, do you think there would be the same level of public outrage? Or would there instead be a quieter, more resigned and upset acceptance that this is simply what this awful man was always going to do? It’s Trump, after all. It’s just what he does. I’m inclined to think the latter I’m afraid. And despite Hollywood stars and powerful men in all industries falling beneath the mighty wheels of #metoo, the most powerful man in America simply dismisses his accusers as liars and marches on, unscathed.

He just keeps insisting on setting the bar lower and lower and every time his behaviour sinks to a new low, the previous, marginally less repulsive behaviour, seems to almost become accepted simply by virtue of being ‘not quite as awful’.

And that’s a dangerous cycle. And one we must remain aware of. We should never simply accept the status quo without question or challenge. After all, the status quo originated somewhere. We should not lose perspective on anything that Donald Trump does simply because we are judging him by the standards he set. Judge him by the standards of his predecessors in the role and you will never lose sight of how truly awful this dangerous, hate filled, emotionally unstable man is.

And, to bring it back to the point of this blog, we should never lose sight of what we are fighting for as feminists in this day and age. Simply because the status quo is that men hold more power than women, this does not make it right. And if you were ever unsure how important this fight currently is, look towards the most powerful leader in the free world and ask yourself how he got there? Think about who voted for him. And ask yourself whether you really want the world to be run by men like him in the future?

Feminism – are we winning?

I know haven’t posted here for a little while – sorry about that. It hasn’t been because there hasn’t been anything to write about on the feminism front – there’s always something to write about – but life simply got a little too much there for a minute. Work was totally crazy, I wasn’t seeing my daughter much at all (because work was crazy) and everything felt out of balance. I was just about hanging on by a thread. Surviving, not living, if you want to get deep about it. It’s times like this when I really feel how completely bloody ridiculous it is when people talk about ‘Having It All’. If Having It All means simply having a job and a family (like, you know, men have had for decades?) then yeah, sure, I have it all. But a) is that really something that is so extraordinary in this day and age? and b) there is a hell of a lot of sacrifice involved in Having It All as far as I can tell, so I’m not quite sure what the ‘All’ actually is? Anyway, enough moaning. My point was simply that I took a much much needed break and spent some time hanging out with my kiddo, which was awesome. And I gave myself permission to sit in bed and watch a lot of box sets while she napped. Bliss.Specifically the show I watched was Mad Men. Yeah I know, I know – I’m late to the party on this one but I don’t get a lot of TV time so cut me some slack. Anyway, as I’m sure you already know, it is an excellent show and I’m throughly enjoying it. What I’m not enjoying so much (although I can’t look away) is the rampant, blatant and frankly shocking level of sexism that was apparently prevalent in 1960s America. Now Mad Men is not a documentary by any means but I’ve read enough of the reviews now to be satisfied that they are not wildly off the mark with how they are presenting sexism on the show. It’s quite unbelievable. Yes, women are in the workplace and yes, if they fight like hell they might rise above the level of secretary, but they are never ever treated as equal. Not even close. They are second class citizens and nearly every interaction between the characters reinforces that fact. I’ve no reason to believe that things were any better in the UK at the time and it made me think: We’ve come a long long way in a relatively short time. Now, before you start, you really do not have to tell me that we still have a long way to go. And that attitudes like those portrayed on Mad Men were never ok. I’m not making apologies for anyone on the basis that ‘it was a different time’. Human decency is human decency, regardless of what era you are in. But still. In the constant uphill battle that the fight for equality can feel like, I think sometimes you need to look back and see what has been achieved. I’m slowly coming to terms with the fact that significant success in equality for women is unlikely to be achieved in my lifetime. Progress is slooooooooooow. But it is still progress. And we have to believe that with every new generation positive change will happen and we will get there in the end. Eventually.

#OutofOffice

So I had another post all lined up for today but, if nothing else, I like to be topical so I’m going to talk about Equal Pay instead. 

Today formally marks Equal Pay Day.  A dubious holiday at best.  There’s no day off for it or anything.  Although there should be.  In fact, for women in the work place, it should mark the end of their working year. Because Equal Pay Day marks the point at which women will effectively work for nothing for the remainder of the year compared to men, due to the pay gap in this country. 

I’ve written about the salary pay gap before (see here) and how massively unfair it is that women still get paid less than men for the same job.   And, indeed, paid less altogether overall. 

Now, being the newly addicted twitterer that I am (tweeter? twit-head?) there has, unsurprisingly, been a load of people (mostly, but not all, men) calling this out as nonsense.  It’s not an equality issue, I’m reliably informed.  It’s a choice.  Yes, yes – listen to me for a sec, won’t you?  Women are choosing to be paid less than men.  That’s the problem here.  They choose lower paid jobs with shorter hours.  Equality was actually an issue that was resolved YEARS ago.  There’s laws and everything now, don’t you know?  Silly feminists.  Back in your box. 

Errrr….

I don’t have the time or energy here to go into everything that’s wrong with this statement.  But suffice to say, I’m giving that sentiment a severely raised cynical eyebrow from over here.  Women choose to be paid less?  They want that?  Ok, suuuuure they do.  Uh huh. (*back away slowly from the insane person*)

What I think might actually be happening here is that women are forced into lower paid jobs with reduced hours because the system in this country places the burden of childcare, and care in general, upon their shoulders and, if they and their partner choose to have children, even if they want/have to go back to work, the cost of childcare is so prohibitively expensive (the most expensive in the world!) that they simply can’t afford to go back to work full time.  And if they did, then chances are they would still get paid less than men for doing the same job (see the BBC and ITV as shining examples of that bullshit).  So it makes more financial sense in a struggling family for the man to work full time and the woman to cut her hours to reduce the crippling cost of childcare.  

Now, I appreciate that this a very basic overview of the problem.  It’s obviously a lot more nuanced than that, with a number of factors coming into play.  But in short, the end result remains the same.  Women of the UK.  Collectively we work for free for the remainder of the year.  Let us rejoice.  

Or, instead you might want to join the campaign of the Women’s Equality Party to switch on your Out of Office.  Suggested wording is below.  

In the interests of full disclosure, I should say that I won’t be doing this.  Simply because I have a boss who I think would not be best pleased and frankly I need my job to, you know, cover the crippling cost of childcare and pay my mortgage.  

So if you can’t join in this time, it’s ok.  No judgement from over here.  But maybe start a conversation about this with someone.  Let it light a fire in you to fight this situation in any way you can.  Because fight we must people.  The gender pay gap is getting worse, not better (based on actual proper data by people who know what they’re talking about – I.e. not twitter).

“SUBJECT LINE: Out of Office. For the rest of the year. 

Not really, I’m just making a point.
Today is effectively the last day women in the UK are paid to work. Because of the gender pay gap the average woman is working for free until the end of the year.  
So, if women aren’t getting paid, why should they work?
That’s why I’ve switched on my Out Of Office.
This is to raise awareness of the pay gap, which on average is 18.4% and for some women it’s even worse.
If like me, and the Women’s Equality Party, you think it’s time something changed, you can join in by copying this message and switching on your Out of Office too.
This Equal Pay Day, it’s time to get rid of the pay gap.
#OutOfOffice @WEP_UK”

Is being militant a good thing? 

So further to my last post about labels (see here), what do you think about trying this label on for size?: 

“Militant”. 

I only ask because this is a label that has recently been applied to me and I have some mixed feelings about this, to say the least.  

To give you some context, I have been known, on occasion, to witter on about some feminist topic or other with people I know from work.  And it’s resulted in some really interesting debates.  In particular with one person who, interestingly, labels himself as a ‘modern, liberal man’.  

Now this label was actually something that I was initially prepared to accept at face value.  If you ask him if he believes in feminism and female equality (yeah, yeah, I know – I must be a barrel of laughs to work with) he will vehemently agree that he does.  

However, the fact that I regularly end up in (good-humoured) disagreements with this gentleman about various feminists topics might suggest to you that, when you drill down into it a bit, he’s perhaps not as liberal as he might like to believe he is.  He has some quite traditional views about some things and he quickly got himself into some hot water in the office when he refused my offer of my seat (he was standing, I was sitting) on the basis that I was a woman and women are weaker.   Given that he was in a room where the women considerably outnumbered the men at the time, he probably could have chosen a better audience for that one!  

Anyway, that’s all background to the fact that he recently light-heartedly queried how any poor bloke could win with me when I was always so ‘militant’.  Ouch.  

Firstly, can I ask – does ‘militant’ get applied to anybody other than feminists?  The two seem to go hand in hand.  And not in a good way.  “Feminist” = just about tolerable.  “Militant feminist” = abomination to be avoided at all costs.   So I don’t think it’s a compliment… 

However, glass half full and all that, at least it means I’m talking about the issues.  I mean, you can’t be labelled militant if you’re just sat in the corner keeping all your fabulous feminist thoughts to yourself, can you?  So it’s a start. 

But I do think there is a cautionary tale here that’s worth noting.  I truly truly believe in the importance of speaking out about feminism and the need for equality.   Spread the message by all means.  You must.  But be careful how that message comes across.  Being slapped with the label ‘militant’ so quickly has been a really important lesson for me to learn.   Because it’s a way for people to write you off.  

“Oh don’t listen to her.  She’s always going on about this stuff.  She’s totally militant about it.”  It’s dismissive and it gives people a reason not to listen.  And then you’ve lost the fight and you may as well shout into the abyss for all the good it’s going to do.  

No. The message needs to be got across but it also needs to be non-aggressive.  Assertive yes, aggressive no.  It’s not about attacking people’s belief systems – it has to be about teaching.  In a positive way. So that people WANT to listen and change. 

So that is what I, as a recently diagnosed ‘Militant Feminist’ am trying to learn to do.  I’ll let you know how I get on!  I don’t know if ‘Passive Feminist’ is really a label that works for me either, but presumably there’s a label somewhere in the middle that will fit just right…  

I’m the Goldilocks of feminism!