Tuesday, 31 May 2011

Scotland's City Councils are Clearly in a Competition for 'Feminist Fail'.

Last week, it was Edinburgh; this week Glasgow's city council is behaving as if they had never met a feminist, let alone employed one! In a letter to the parents of children at a local secondary school, GCC stated that children's shouldn't wear short skirts or tight trousers as it might attract paedophiles. Yes, you read that correctly - it's children's clothing that makes the vulnerable to paedophiles. Does this sound familiar?

Well, fortunately, the Chief Exec at the Scottish Parent Teacher Council had the sense to point out that this was very unhelpful advice as it blamed children for the activities of paedophiles. And, even more interestingly, directly compared this to discussions of adult women's dress and their 'responsibility' for rape.

Time for the local councils to send their peeps on some rape awareness/ gender sensitivity training, me thinks.

Thursday, 19 May 2011


Edinburgh's Reclaim the Night Walk has been rescheduled by the council - get this - because it might be dangerous for the marchers!! The march, which is designed to reclaim the streets as safe spaces for women, will walk through an area full of pubs, during the Champions League football final, and the council is worried that the marchers will be in danger from drunken fans.

Instead of making the streets safe for the marchers, the council has asked the march to move their route and time. The organisers have rescheduled an hour earlier, but are refusing to change the route.

What would I have given to have been at that meeting! 'Er, we need you to defeat your own political aims and move the march, because, well, the streets aren't safe for women.' It would be be funny, if it wasn't so terrifyingly sad!

Sunday, 8 May 2011

Jobs for Labour? Some Random Election Thoughts

So, if you have been watching, Scotland had an election at the end of last week, which saw dramatic changes to Scotland's political map. Traditionally, a Labour heartland, many long-held seats were lost to the SNP, raising questions about what happened and why? We might wonder whether Labour policies over the last decade, which promoted higher education, employment, house-purchasing, and other middle-class ideals in their own electoral areas, may have back-fired as a new (and in the current recession, now rather tenuous) middle-class's horizons changed. Can we say that the legacy of the death of the coal and steel industry (the heartbreak over which, no doubt, helped sustain Labour votes over the last few decades) is now finished in Scotland? Are Labour's traditional voters feeling the pinch of jobs losses, cuts in university places and in the public services, that will see them slide once more down the social mobility ladder, and buying into the blame placed on them by the Tories and LibDems? The questions are numerous?

Perhaps, less surprisingly, is the massive losses sustained by the LibDems- losses that even their own party recognises came from a coalition with a party that their supporters hated? I hate to say, I told you so- but I did, in a letter to them after they made this decision. The complete lack of regard, or awareness, of their party's new-won supporters values is quite breathtaking. Do we think we'll get through four more years at Westminster? Do we want to?

The new Scottish parliament has a historic majority for the SNP, but more disappointingly, the number of women sitting in it is still only 34%. Up 0.8% from 2007, but down from the all time high of 39.5% in 2003. Even more concerningly, the losses of several Labour seats held by women saw a reduction in female seats at the constituency level; we only got to 34% because Labour has gender balanced lists and they made it up at the regional level.

As the SNP stood together after their wins in Glasgow, Nicola Sturgeon, the only woman among them, commented that the SNP is more gender balanced than this- I am a wee bit sceptical (the list of 2011 MSPs' names are not yet compiled in one place, or I'd have counted!!), given that only 1/3 of their constituency candidates were women and their lists were not gender balanced (in fact heavily male)- but the very fact she noticed is why Nicola should be First Minister!!

Sunday, 1 May 2011

Women's History in the Public Arena.

This is a response to a post by Female Science Professor on the way female academics are presented in public.

Recently, I was interviewed for radio on the topic of my research, as were a number of other academics. The focus of the radio was on my topic of expertise - let's call it the history of women in chocolate-making in fab country in x period. The other people interviewed weren't really experts in the field, but did have some overlapping interests. So, one female academic was interested in women in fab country in another context, while another male academic was interested in fab country in x period, but knew nowt about women (and if fact is slightly notorious for this). The reason for interviewing a range of academics appears mainly to be because listening to one person talk for 30 mins is a dry approach for public radio, and of course, when you dilute history for the general public, a good general knowledge of the field is all that is really needed - so I am not criticising this decision by the radio crew.

However, when the show was broadcast, the various interviews were edited together, so that different voices spoke at different points, interspersed with some readings of historical sources. And it went it bit like this Male Academic gave the legal context in speech form (ie no interviewer) (something, btw, which I am a leading expert on and which he is not); I give nice anecdotes about women in chocolate-making in conversation with female interviewer- lots of pleasant conversation and jokes; Male Academic gave more legal context in speech form; female academic gives nice anecdotes about women in fab country more broadly in conversation with female interviewer; Male Academic summarises the implications of this for women, etc etc. And, the overwhelming impression was that the ladies do the fun stuff with the pretty anecdotes, but the men do the serious business of history- providing the FACTS to back up the fun stories. The effect was really striking, as this was the only male voice on the entire show, and it was used in such a different way from the women's voices.

The interesting thing is that the production team was entirely female and, moreover, the underlying drive of the show was broadly 'feminist'- in that it was women's history created by women who held a belief in the importance of both broadcasting women's history and reflecting on the significance of women's past experiences for the present.