activism


A talk about porn culture organised by Editorial Intelligence raised some interesting questions about how we engage with the issue of not only pornography but also an increasingly sexualised culture.
Susie Orbach touched on issues she raises in her new book Bodies which identifies how women’s relationship with their bodies is changing: we increasingly view our bodies as a mirror of how we view ourselves so that the body has become the measure of our worth.
Articles, interviews and reviews about Bodies are here.
Natasha Walter in her new book Living Dolls: The Return of Sexism also looks at how culture has become hyper-sexualised and how the language of empowerment has been hijacked.
Articles and book reviews here.

Photo credit: fireballk2588 through a Creative Commons licence.

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Photo courtesy of Todd Huffman through a Creative Commons License

Reading coverage of Halle Berry being honoured at the Hollywood Reporter’s Women in Entertainment Breakfast I came across another article about a clothing business in Afghanistan called Kandahar Treasure.
In an article about Halle Berry’s charity work she explains how she was mentored by guidance counselor, Yvonne Sims. Reading about Rangina Hamidi who set up a business as a means of creating economic opportunity for Afghan women, reinforced the idea that mentoring can have a lasting impact on a person’s life.
Rangina Hamidi employs 200 women who make embroidered goods that are sold in Kandahar, to the Afghan government and at the Santa Fe Folk Art Market. An Afghan-American who left her home in the US to return to Kandahar, Rangina Hamidi worked initially with a nonprofit group but found that too much of her time was spent writing proposals and briefs to get grant money to run the charity.

On the day Amnesty International and women’s organisations lobbied MPs for increased protection for all women facing violence in the UK, I re-read Janice Turner’s recent article on the silence of feminists in the face of casual sexism. Wondering where feminism went wrong Turner writes that of the half dozen twenty-somethings she met in a bid to find out only one identified themselves as a feminist and the rest didn’t identify with it at all:

The only feminist they can think of is Julie Bindel, the radical lesbian writer. Feminism means no fun or make-up, anger and hating men. It is a broken brand, not needed now. As one put it: “All the battles are won.”

Why is it, Turner asks, “that while America has a tradition of feminist writers and thinkers, including Naomi Wolf and Katie Roiphe, there are no young women “questioning the orthodoxy here”?

In a later article Turner sets out to rally feminists and stir up resistance to the “pornification” of culture. It’s time to challenge casual sexism she writes, inviting readers to send in examples of sexism.
The response to her first article she says was “thank God, someone is saying this — I thought I was alone”.

Blogger on the Cast Iron Balcony argues it isn’t a case of feminists being silent, although she acknowledges those voices are rarely heard in the mainstream. She also criticises Turner for showing “a lack of knowledge or disregard of just what has been going on in the online world for the last decade” and picks up on the fact that feminists are often criticised for being silent on a variety of issues: “I’ve had it up to here with the “feminists have been silent about…” trope that springs up everywhere in the media both on line and off”.

So to an article by Clive James I recently re-read criticising feminists for their silence on the subject of so-called honour killings. He writes about Pamela Bone, an Australian journalist whose 2005 article in the Melbourne Age attacked Western feminists for failing to speak up against abuses in the Western world.

Reading around this issue, as with many others, it’s clear there are many vibrant feminist writers online.
If you are looking for authoritative voices speaking out in the mainstream media in the UK however, “silence” is what you’re likely to get.

Whether that’s important depends on how much weight you give to the mainstream. If you think it’s important that feminism is “heard” in the media then some of the questions Janice Turner raises about the pressures to keep quiet are important ones – but is it as much about deafness as about silence?

I went to the Convention on Modern Liberty at the Institute of Education in London yesterday.
I first went to the Blogger’s Summit that the chair Sunny Hundal of Liberal Conspiracy has written about here.
Interesting observation from Heather Brooke of Your Right to Know that whereas in the US electronic data and information is readily available, those in power in the UK regard information as something that “belongs to them” and not the people.
Ben Goldacre whose run-in with LBC is described below described amusingly how new media tools could be used for “chaotic, puerile disseminated investigative journalism”.
It was an event that brought together people across the whole political spectrum.. and covered a wide range of subjects as one of its organisers Henry Porter outlines here and here.
Peter Oborne’s comments about the media-political class inspired me to read his book The Triumph of the Political Class and so far its analysis of a political elite that exists for its own advancement is very persuasive – and goes some way to explain the apparent disconnect between the governing class and the people, no matter what political party they are in.
There was also some discussion about the impact that an economic slump will have on liberty and questions raised about the role the mainstream media would play if discontent leads to civil unrest.
Another book, Shafted, published later this month to mark the anniversary of the beginning of the miners’ strike examines some of the pitfalls journalists fell in.
What are the lessons to be learnt from the likes of Nicholas Jones who contributes to the book? What role will “chaotic, puerile disseminated investigative journalism” play? How important was yesterday’s convention as a step towards the fulfillment of what Sunday’s Observer editorial says is the obligation of every citizen – “vigilance and resistance” to the restriction of “freedoms” and “conceptions of the moral autonomy of the individual to act without impediment by the state”?