Professional pounder of the patriarchy.

Posts tagged ‘diversity’

What the US election should teach us

You’ll probably be aware by now that Donald Trump is now president elect of the United States. Here in the UK, we found out in the early hours of Wednesday morning and, believe me, it ruined my day.

It seems almost impossible. Days later, I have to remind myself every few minutes that, yes, this is actually happening. The US have managed to elect an unqualified bigot, who stands accused of sexual assault and only picked up politics as a hobby last year. There’s a huge disparity between Trump and the Democrat nominee Hillary Clinton –  Clinton is vastly more qualified, has 30 years of experience in politics and handled her campaign (and ultimate defeat) with dignity and calm. She failed to win over voters in the electoral college – although she did, in fact, win most of the popular vote – and this is largely because people simply don’t trust her. She will forever be linked to Bill Clinton’s scandals; she will always be associated with the disastrous handling of Benghazi. She is overshadowed by a political dynasty and that is extremely difficult to shake off. There’s some staggering sexism to be found in her treatment. Throughout the long, tumultuous campaign, it seemed Trump could get away with just about anything under the guise of “business sense” or “locker room talk”. Clinton couldn’t.

On the one hand, of course, this is wildly unfair, it does Clinton (and powerful women everywhere) a disservice and we must fight it. However, her party and the moderate/centrist movement as a whole should have seen this coming a mile off. It should not have been a surprise. She was not, in far too many ways, an ideal candidate. She should have been everything Trump was not, wrapped up in a progressive, trustworthy package. Instead, the Democrats put forward a candidate that is practically emblematic of corporate America. They lost because of racism, because of misogyny, because of the irresistible potential of a new license to hate under Trump, but also because of a lack of enthusiasm on the part of habitual Democrat voters. They just couldn’t get behind Clinton, so they voted for a third party, they voted for an independent candidate, or they didn’t vote at all.

I understand why the American electorate might have opted for someone different. I see the allure of that. But the truth is: Trump is not different. He is not a politician – something many Trump supporters seemed to revel in, bizarrely – and is therefore unqualified. He is not anti-establishment, which also seemed to draw voters in. If anything, Trump will run the country like a business, moreso than any past president ever has done.

Bigotry and prejudice have been vindicated. People have challenged me about saying this and accused me of being anti-democracy, because Trump was elected democratically. If thinking a vile, prejudiced rapist should be barred from holding any kind of office makes me “anti-democracy”, then fine – I’ll wear the label with pride. Brexit was also chosen in a democratic, public referendum and it too was characterised by propaganda and prejudice. In the wake of Brexit, the rate of hate crimes in the UK increased by 41% and it’s not an overreaction to protect yourself or to fear for your safety now. We should see this as a warning sign that people are being mis-sold extremist politics that actively damage communities under the guise of cheerful populism. In the same way that the right here in the UK can cultivate this blame game (e.g. “the immigrants are taking your jobs”, “scroungers are fiddling benefits”), Trump and the US alt-right can masquerade as annoying internet trolls – which is largely accurate! – but also promote something much more sinister.

Finally, I wanted to conclude by reminding anyone reading this, American or otherwise, that this is not the end. We can mourn, and I don’t blame you – particularly if you are part of a minority group – for mourning and for being very scared indeed.

The main thing we should all take away from this is that we should still fight. We have a responsibility to make our society a better, fairer one. We have a duty to those who came before us and those who will follow us to make equality our priority. However, we also have a right to safety from violence and discrimination. We can expect to see that right abused and taken away if the surge of support for far-right politics continues.

Liberals, progressives and the left have to mobilise. Right now.

Dateline London, 17/09/2016

Just catching up on Dateline London (Owen Jones appeared on it on Saturday), and the panel are having a fascinating discussion about the presidential election, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. The consensus is that Trump, while lacking in ideals and policies, is very good at galvanising and “inspiring” (for want of a better word) his particular demographic. Conversely, Clinton has the ideals and the political gravitas, but she hasn’t managed to garner support in quite the same way.

You can find the episode on BBC iPlayer here, although it’s only available for the next month.

“Women Transform Into Their Idols” – BuzzFeed

I just watched this super cute video from Ladylike, a series by BuzzFeed. In this episode, the team get to dress up as their female role-models. It’s amazing. I loved all their reasons for choosing these women as their role-models, and their choices said a lot about what each Ladylike member finds important in their own identity.

 

5 Spectacular Sportswomen

The Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, kicked off today. In honour of this massive international sporting event, I decided that this article should feature 5 incredible feats of athleticism and endurance… by women. Women were first able to compete in the Summer Olympics in 1900, but, even as recently as 1992, 35 countries were still entering exclusively male competitors. The first time that at least one woman competed for every country was in 2010, a whopping 114 years after the first Olympic Games in 1896.

Lena Jordan

Lena Jordan was a Latvian trapeze artist and aerial performer. In 1897, she became the first person to successfully perform a triple somersault on the flying trapeze. No man beat the record she set until 1909. An article from the Chicago Tribune in 1982 states that “… fewer than 20 trapeze flyers have ever succeeded…” and also that two of the men to ever complete the move died trying to replicate their success, which gives you an idea of how scarily dangerous this move is! Hats off to you, Ms Jordan – you were a braver woman than I!

Gertrude “Trudy” Ederle

In 1926, Gertrude Ederle – born in Manhattan to German immigrant parents – became the first woman to swim the English channel. She was a champion swimmer, Olympic gold medallist and a world record holder in five events. Only five men had successfully swum the English Channel before her attempt. The former record had been 16 hours, 33 minutes (set by Enrique Tiraboschi). She crossed the Channel in 14 hours and 39 minutes. From Trudy herself: “People said women couldn’t swim the Channel, but I proved they could.”

Bonita Norris

Bonita Norris was the youngest British woman to reach the summit of Mt. Everest, at the age of just 22 (until 2012, when 19-year-old Leanna Shuttleworth broke her record). Bonita also successfully climbed to the summit of Mt. Lhotse, the fourth highest mountain in the world. She’s a television presenter and a charity fundraiser too (seriously, what can’t this woman do?!). I was lucky enough to listen to her speak about her experiences at my school, as part of our International Women’s Day celebration (she’s lovely and you should Google her!).

Florence “Flo-Jo” Griffith Joyner

“Flo-Jo” was an American track-and-field athlete. In 1988, she set the world record for the 100m sprint at the U.S. Olympic Trials, astounding everyone watching. She completed the race in just 10.49 seconds, and it’s this achievement that has led to her being considered “the fastest woman of all time”. At the 1988 Summer Olympics in Seoul, she set another world record in the 200m sprint. Well, actually, she set two – she completed it in 21.56 seconds in the semi-final and then beat her own record in the final, finishing in 21.34 seconds. In 1998, she sadly passed away at the age of 38, after an epileptic seizure.

Cheryl Haworth

Ever wanted to meet a woman who can lift the equivalent of two fridges over her head? Well, let me introduce you to Cheryl Haworth, the American weightlifter. During the Summer Olympics in Sydney, in 2000, women’s weightlifting was introduced. It was Cheryl’s time to shine, and she brought home a bronze medal at the age of just 17. She competed in the heaviest class. Her weight made her the subject of media scrutiny, and in an interview with Stumptuous, she stated: “It’s frustrating, because it’s like instead of “Oh, you’re the strongest woman in the history of the US”, it’s like “You’re big but you don’t sit on the couch and do nothing. How does that work?” They just don’t understand that bigger people can be elite athletes.”

 

So there you have it: five fantastic women, of all different shapes and sizes, who set incredible records and achieved amazing things!

If you enjoyed this article, please share it on Facebook/Twitter/Google+!

 

 

#LoveForLeslieJ

Leslie Jones has been forced off Twitter, and the reason for it has made me – and will probably make you – very angry indeed.

As you may be aware, Leslie Jones has recently come to prominence since starring in the new all-female installment of the Ghostbusters franchise. You might recall the backlash after the film was announced, with most people arguing that the film would “ruin” the original for them and that it was a blatant attempt to pander to a more PC audience.

I’ve always supported the “girl Ghostbusters”, because I think the film is undoubtedly a force for good. It showcases the talents of four immensely funny actresses and it has the potential to inspire so many little girls. I love the whole concept of it. My best friend (who has ambitions of becoming a film director) went to see it and utterly adored it, which is saying something because she is incredibly picky about the media she’s willing to watch.

But since the film’s release, the abuse directed at the cast and crew has only intensified, mostly targeted at Leslie. Milo Yiannopoulos – a man notorious for inciting his mob of fans to hurl abuse at those who displease him – kickstarted a seemingly endless wave of trolling and racist harassment. People have photoshopped tweets, ostensibly from Leslie, with anti-Semitic slurs in them, in order to make it appear that she is abusing Yiannopoulos. When she reacted to such misrepresentation, she was condemned as “too sensitive”. It all became too much for Leslie, who has sadly left Twitter – possibly for good. It genuinely upset me; she tweeted that the onslaught of online abuse was a “personal nightmare”. I can’t imagine what it must feel like.

The bigotry directed at her was vile, but it is nothing compared to the surge of love and support that has emerged in its wake. I myself have used the hashtag #LoveForLeslieJ, and you’re welcome to do so as well if you want to show your support. A second hashtag, #BanNero, has also developed as an attempt to have Milo Yiannopoulos permanently banned from Twitter. He’s already had his blue tick, the mark of verification, taken from him, but it’s not enough. Yiannopoulos is a professional troll. That’s what he does, and we as Internet users shouldn’t put up with it.

Yiannopoulos often espouses his belief in a right to “free speech” – in his case, his right to spread bigotry and hatred. However, his actions and those of the people who take their inspiration from him have denied Leslie Jones her platform and her voice. It’s indicative of a growing online trend of attempts to silence women, especially women of colour.

The Guardian have already published an article about these events.

Much love to Leslie, a talented, funny, smart woman. And what’s more: she’s strong too. I have no doubt that she’ll beat the haters.

#WhatIReallyReallyWant

Global Goals have produced this AMAZING video, championing activism around the world for the rights of women and girls. Featuring the iconic “girl power” anthem Wannabe by the Spice Girls, it is promoting a campaign to show the United Nations what we really, really want – equality for women. Using the hashtag #whatireallyreallywant, you can help to provide Global Goals with material to present to the UN. You can find out more here.

“Lefties: Angry Wimmin” – BBC

I just watched the documentary Lefties: Angry Wimmin (BBC, 2006), exploring the world of the revolutionary feminists of the 1970s and 1980s. This episode is from a three-part series about left-wing politics, and it’s a fascinating look at the “boom”, if you like, of radical feminism.

I think it’s important we look back at the work that these women did. Some of it might seem shocking – it certainly shocked me! I knew that some lesbian/separatist feminists advocated for “political lesbianism” and for the excision of men from women’s social circles, but I never realised how many women actually put it into practice. Please consider it in its social and historical context, though; these women were living in a dramatically different society to the one we live in now. Feminists of my generation don’t push for the abolition of heterosexuality because we don’t need to – these ladies paved the way for us and made the statement that desperately needed to be made at the time. At that point in time, we had only just begun describing the unequal social hierarchy as patriarchy, and its looming presence in their lives forced the revolutionary feminists into much more radical activism.

I particularly appreciated the inclusion of Linda Bellos, especially the frank discussion about how mainstream white feminism treated her. That highlighted what third-wave feminists and intersectional feminists have always asserted: that second-wave feminism wasn’t very inclusive. The dismissive attitudes of the white, cis, able-bodied feminists who were interviewed demonstrates just how reluctant they were to address issues of accessibility and discrimination within their own movement. The repercussions of that lack of insight into diversity is something with which we are still dealing today.

I also found it pretty startling that these women – some of whom, like Julie Bindel, are lesbians – seemed to believe that homosexuality is a choice. One could accuse them almost of appropriating and misrepresenting the gay rights movement. I understand why they opted for “political lesbianism”, but really, this kind of rhetoric just played into the hands of homophobes. For years, the LGBTQ+ community has fought to assert that sexualities are not arbitrarily “chosen”.