Tuesday, January 1, 2013

It's a New Year in Gilead

Happy New Year everybody! I had a brilliant night last night involving roast lamb, three episodes of Homeland, and then going with my boyfriend up to Trafalgar Square to watch the fireworks. We were entertained at the fireworks by a man with a loudspeaker and an “alternative New Year’s message”, telling us to “keep your eyes on the bright lights and loud noises, don’t stop to think about what you are really doing here and who you really are.” His firework commentary was not exactly the official commentary: “there goes your child benefits, there’s another hospital closed…”

It got me thinking though. 2012 was an incredible year for me, especially as it involved buying a flat, moving in with my boyfriend, and adopting our lovely little kitten, Oscar. But let’s be honest, it’s been a rubbish year for people, especially women, across the globe – ending on the horrific story of the Indian woman who was brutally raped and murdered (but let’s remember that this is not just an “Indian problem” – perhaps there will be a blog post on that later!)

This great article by Laura Bates of the everyday sexism project (www.everydaysexism.com) outlines 2012 – the year in sexism -> http://www.newstatesman.com/lifestyle/lifestyle/2012/12/2012-year-sexism
Her list encompasses the dangerous obsession over female celebrities’ weight, to the joky rape culture that pervades our society. But one instance of sexism per month is nowhere near enough to fully show what women have had to put up with this year. Rape culture is not just found on the pages of the unilad website, but in our courtrooms and from the mouths of our politicians. George Galloway, discussing Julian Assange, stated that he was simply guilty of “bad sexual etiquette” for having sex with a sleeping woman. In December, a judge described a rape victim as having “let herself down badly. She consumed far too much alcohol and took drugs”. The war on women continues in the economic sphere, with the main force of austerity being felt by women – Yvette Cooper in December said that “women are being hit three times harder than men, by a Cabinet with three times more men than women”. There have been real-terms cuts to child benefit, maternity allowance, women’s services such as the Sure Start children’s centres, and to public sector pay – 70% of the public sector are women. With 2013 being the year when the true force of the austerity measures will be felt, this is not shaping up to be a great year for women.

But – is it all doom and gloom? I would argue not. Increasingly the term “feminist” is being seen as something to be proud of. There are growing backlashes against women in the public eye who do not identify as feminists. There are great campaigns afoot in the UK such as the previously mentioned everydaysexism campaign, cataloguing the relentless onslaught of sexism that British women deal with on a daily basis. There is the No More Page 3 campaign, attempting to end the practice of putting a topless woman on page 3 of a national daily newspaper. There is the Women’s Room UK – a database of women with expertise and experience so that never again will a radio presenter have to ask his all-male guests to imagine they are women in a discussion on breast cancer. And combatting the evidence that young girls are no longer interested in feminism is the Twitter Youth Feminist Army (#tyfa) – a group of young girls new to feminism ranging in age from 9 to 28 (I think). I’m very proud to be a member of the latter and am really looking forward to being more involved in the New Year. It is about raising awareness and increasing our own knowledge, about meeting others that share our thoughts, values, and worries about the world we are growing up into. Only by coming together and continuing to fight, in the smallest of ways, in the most important of ways, can we even attempt to make a difference. My hope for 2013 is that it will see the birth of more grassroots campaigns like those I have mentioned. That we will talk and shout about violence against women until it cannot be ignored anymore. That (unlike the handmaids) we will not just sit back and let it happen to us.

Happy New Year!

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