While Ireland may no longer be such a harsh place for unmarried pregnant women, the stigma persists

Agnes always assumed that her mother would be supportive if she got pregnant, but just as she was working up the courage to break the news, her father was diagnosed with terminal cancer. Now there is so much stress at home that she knows there will never be a good time to drop the bombshell and so she refuses even to think about it.

Eileen sometimes wishes that people would stop talking about the mother and babies scandal because she is in a black hole and the constant handwringing and recrimination on the radio is making her feel overwhelmed.

Her recently laid-off husband has stopped opening the bills, her teenage son has stopped asking if he can go to college, and she can’t face the prospect of another baby at 42.

Every so often, Ireland is transfixed by revelations and reminders of the mothers and babies so cruelly treated by a society with no place for women who got pregnant outside marriage.

But amid all the tut-tutting, hundreds of Irish women continue to hide pregnancies. “Concealed pregnancy has not gone away: it just has another face,” according to Sylvia Murphy Tighe, a former midwife and public health nurse who has been told stories similar to those of Agnes and Eileen.

On The Irish Times.

How Germany fought human trafficking by empowering sex workers

Whether you think such sexual transactions are a good thing or a bad thing, the fact remains that criminalization makes things more expensive. And price drives pimps to find new ways to satisfy demand. Prices matter for trafficking because it costs a lot to kidnap someone and hold them against their will.

Legalising sex work and protecting workers seems to be a solid argument. It does nothing to diminish the buying of a woman’s body for cash, and all of the patriarchal misogynistic trappings that go along with that, but it might protect women. As such, it becomes a battle between principles and practicality.

On the last day of my recent trip to Germany, I’d wanted to check out Deutschland’s brothels. The focus of my writing on sex work has been U.S.-centric thus far. So I wanted to speak to someone participating in sex work in a country where it’s legal. I was running out of time and euros, but it just so happened that the quickest route to my hotel after drinks with locals included an area known for its ladies of the night.

As we walked down a hookah-bar-lined street, the sex workers looked more empowered than any I’ve seen stateside. Tall and healthy-looking, with thick hair and thin waists, beautiful corsets shaping hourglasses, they certainly didn’t look oppressed—except perhaps by four-inch platform Lucite heels. (Those oppress any wearer.)

On our walk I learned that Germany’s decision to legalize prostitution not only helped sex workers, but actually decreased the number of human trafficking victims in the country. But on our stroll, one of my companions told me that German feminists are trying to recriminalize sex work. This is a mistake, she argued. Legalization has improved sex workers’ lives.

Turns out, she was right. According to the data, violence against sex workers is down, while sex workers’ quality of life is up. And after testing began, post-legalization, researchers discovered no difference in sexually transmitted infection rates between sex workers and the general population.

Opponents claim legalizing prostitution has actually increased human trafficking in the country. But the data don’t support that claim. In fact, they show the opposite. From 2001, the year the law legalizing sex work in Germany was passed, to 2011, cases of sex-based human trafficking shrank by 10 percent.

On The Freeman, Foundation for Economic Education.

#Twitterpurge is revenge porn: We need laws to stop the non-consensual posting of naked pictures.

Over the weekend, under the hashtag #twitterpurge, users took to Twitter to “expose” the nude photos they had of other people, with or without consent. The so-called purge primarily targeted girls and women. In other words, it was revenge porn.

As an attorney who helps clients remove revenge porn from the Internet, I recently got a call from a mother whose daughter had been contacted by a reporter for an interview. The 22-year-old learned from the reporter that four nude selfies of her had been featured on a site specifically for this kind of thing for nearly eight months and accumulated over 30,000 views. They had been posted with her full name, the name of the town where she lived, and with links to her Facebook and Twitter accounts. Above all of this information was a screed calling her a “cunt” and a “whore” and a “sick, suicidal bitch.”

That’s typical revenge porn; it’s bullying. “Porn” is a misnomer since it draws the focal point to the wrong spot, at least from the victim’s point of view. Victims have lost jobs, dropped out of school, moved, changed their names, attempted suicide, and more, after having their photos posted without consent. The nonconsensual exposition of privately taken or acquired images of a person, particularly nude images, coupled with assaultive language amounts to deeply damaging abuse.

On #Twitterpurge is revenge porn: We need laws to stop the non-consensual posting of naked pictures. (slate)

Critiquing the #WomenAgainstFeminism tag doesn’t require insulting the appearance & intelligence of the women posting on it. It doesn’t require replicating misogynistic language or insults. It requires an evidence-based answer – such as those pointing out the battle for women’s suffrage, rape laws, equal pay acts, maternity rights, reproductive freedoms and the ability to have your own bank account. It is feminism that one these rights for women. Feminism didn’t achieve any of these goals by being obnoxious to other women.

Feminists should understand that systemic misogyny within the capitalist-patriarchy makes it very difficult for women to see the reality of our oppression. Even naming male violence as an oppression results in women being belittled, abused and harassed online and off. Our education system is designed to teach children to pass exams – not to question authority. Our media is owned and dominated by white men who have a vested interest in preventing women from accessing knowledge.

This isn’t to say that the women who started this tag aren’t causing harm to other women. Of course they are but we don’t need to replicate patriarchal patterns of silencing against women who are blinded by their privilege or too afraid to speak out. This is the true demonstration of the power of the capitalist-patriarchy: using women to silence and control other women. We can challenge these women with kindness or with anger. but we do not need to engage in abusive language.

An anti-brand, non-brand not-for-profit that tried to monetise anti-capitalism. With what could be mistaken for Orwellian doublespeak but with the purest of ideals, Charlotte Raven’s Feminist Times wanted to save women from advertising and in doing so ensured its own downfall. After 12 months of being run as an online alternative to the glossies – with no advertising or big-brand partnerships and while paying its contributors (unlike many others) – Feminist Times was yesterday put on ice. The problem is that today’s mainstream feminists are no longer suspicious of advertising; in fact we are in an era where feminism is becoming advertising.

I was the Editor of Feminist Times for its last seven months. I’m too young to have been a libber or a Marxist feminist before the wall came down, and yet I’m pretty old-fashioned in my capitalist scepticism. I just don’t trust big business. I have this instinctual feeling that big business is bad for women. It undervalues us, sells ruthlessly to us and takes no prisoners in the name of profit or progress. Yet I am a massive hypocrite, because while I can spend hours watching disturbing Youtube videos of industrialised farming practices there’s nothing I love more after a couple of pints than a Big Mac. It’s like some knowing joke – yes I know I’m being bad, but because I know, that makes it all right. Doesn’t feel so right the next morning.

More on the closure of the (current incarnation) of Feminist Times.

Deborah Coughlin: Feminist Times can be proud of what it did in promoting a brand-free feminism, The Independent.

Rest of image here (gender-focus).

Rest of image here (gender-focus).

And I couldn’t help but think, how long have young women been doing sexual things for free drinks — or even lame swag? Wet T-shirt contests. Mud wrestling. The entire “Girls Gone Wild” franchise. Mardi Gras. It’s practically built into college culture, the attempt to get women to compromise themselves — and I say “compromise” because that is what is eroticized, rather than the idea of a woman’s authentic, enthusiastic expression of her sexuality — whether it’s for a string of plastic beads or a “Girls Gone Wild” trucker hat.

But there’s a big difference between wet T-shirt contests and two dozen blow jobs. There’s long been a thrill in getting “good” girls to go “bad,” but thanks in part to the mainstreaming of hardcore porn and Spring Break raunch, pouring water on your boobs is no longer that provocative. A boob flash is passé, even quaint. Now, perhaps, it takes 24 blow jobs. OK, that’s hyperbole — but the bar for titillation and trespass has been raised.

The Truth About Sexploitative Party Games – alternet.

Today in terrifying: How Scientologists Are Sneaking Their Way into Schools to Spread Their Propaganda

Not sure which scares me the most: Scientologists or flesh-eating snake-rat-mice-spiders.

By its own estimate, Foundation for a Drug Free World, an education non-profit, has visited at least 20 percent of New York City’s schools, public and private. That’s over 14,000 children, it says, mainly in disadvantaged schools in outer boroughs. Drug Free World has won accolades from the City Council and the state Senate and been featured by over a dozen local publications, including the Daily News.

But in two recent presentations witnessed by a City Limits reporter, the organization—which is connected to the Church of Scientology—presented information on the dangers of drug abuse that had little basis in fact and could be traced to the works of Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard.

On Alternet.

Starving British children are looking for food in rubbish bins

British children are sifting through bins left outside houses in search of scraps of food because they are starving, it has been revealed.

But Tories and their supporters in rich London won’t have to look at them – because they are in Labour-held Stoke-on-Trent.

The Stoke Sentinel reported that “Youngsters have been searching through bins in the Hollings Street and Brocksford Street area of Fenton before eating any leftovers.”

It said, “Dozens of hungry families are referred to Fenton’s food bank for help every week.”

What’s really sad about this story is that some of the people interviewed seemed to think the problem was with the mess left behind by these children – youngsters who are, remember, so hungry that they are rooting through rubbish for stale leftovers.

One said: “It’s horrible to see… Some days on the school run we have had to actually cross over the road because there’s so much rubbish on the pavement because of this. Luckily I keep my bins to one side so we haven’t been too badly affected.”

On Vox Political.

Jesus H.

Why Being a Muslim Woman Makes Me a Better Feminist

Really important piece below on being Muslim, wearing a hijab and being a feminist, and how Muslim women’s experiences are often very misunderstood by western feminism.

For many, it seems that the words “Islam” and “feminism” cannot coexist. As Ramadan, the month of Islamic fasting, gets under way, questions about how Muslim women “cope” with their religion often re-emerge. The challenge many of these women now face is explaining how being a Muslim does not mean they cannot also be feminists.

Despite understanding that millions of people from all walks of life follow Islamic tradition, we still assume that Islam is one singular entity. It is important to remember that there are many different Islams just like there are many different Christian, Buddhist, or Hindu traditions. That is why some Muslims are fasting this month and some are not, and why some women wear a niqab (face veil) and some don’t.

The hijab, or head covering, remains another popular point of contention. It’s remarkable that a headscarf, which actually symbolizes a very powerful feminist message, has been linked to patriarchal oppression in the Western world. I wore the hijab for many years, and no, I was not forced to do so. In fact, my decision to wear it was probably my very first conscious step towards becoming a feminist.

There are two messages the hijab is meant to convey, the first of which is very simple: the hijab is a physical representation of the woman’s faith. She is wearing it to identify herself as a Muslim woman. The second message the hijab symbolizes is that a woman’s body is her business. How she dresses and what she looks like is a personal choice and has nothing to do with anyone else. By wearing a hijab, a woman is saying that she is a Muslim, and that her physical being does not belong to anyone but herself.

Of course, that is to assume she has worn it willingly. Some women are indeed forced to wear a hijab, but to judge all Muslims based on that minority is unjust and irrational.

Dear MRAs: No, Feminists Don’t Want to Make You Our Man Slaves

feminspire:

Not once did I say feminism isn’t for everybody. In fact, I expressly said that patriarchy hurts all of us. What Mr. James (and others) seem to not understand is that the aim of feminism is to secure political social equality for all genders. Last time I checked, it was men who had almost complete social and political freedom. I remember very clearly that men just made the decision to regulate women’s healthcare decisions when it comes to birth control and safe access to abortion services. Don’t forget the fact that men make more money than women in almost every industry, that men still dominate politics, and when a woman runs for office, more attention is given to her wardrobe than her policies. Oh, also remember that women are repeatedly called sluts and shamed across the media when they are assaulted or raped. Feminism is for everybody, as long as this “everybody”is working towards equal rights.

Seven studies on mansplaining. Conclusion: it definitely exists

Below are summaries of studies into the idea of “mansplaining”, which describes the act of a man speaking to a woman with the assumption that she knows less than he does about the topic being discussed on the basis of her gender. 1

1. Women get interrupted more than men. Both men and women interrupt women more often than they interrupt men, according to a paper published earlier this year in the Journal of Language and Social Psychology. In that study, two researchers at George Washington University reported on an experiment where they put 20 women and 20 men in pairs, then recorded and transcribed their conversations. The result: Over the course of each three-minute conversation, women interrupted men just once, on average, but interrupted other women 2.8 times. Men interrupted their male conversation partner twice, on average, and interrupted the woman 2.6 times.

2. Men interrupt women to assert power. Not all interruptions are the same, of course—sometimes we interrupt people to be encouraging about what they’re saying. But a 1998 meta-analysis of 43 studies by two researchers at the University of California at Santa Cruz from 1998 found that men were more likely to interrupt women with the intent to assert dominance in the conversation, meaning men were interrupting to take over the conversation floor.  In mixed groups rather than a one-on-one conversation, men interrupted even more frequently.

Rest: Bitch Media.

ThinkProgress.

Because you should never look less than perfect, even after just giving birth. #GodBlessPatriarchy

Because you should never look less than perfect, even after just giving birth. #GodBlessPatriarchy

We need to address the ubiquity of violence against women on our televisions and, at the very least, question the way it is being used to create a drama that then ignores its effects on women (or, indeed, reduces them to a driver for a larger, male-dominated story) and is irresponsible about the impact of dramatised violence on attitudes towards women.

Responsible television and story-telling would not use violence as a plot point and would centre any story that does have violence around women’s experience and that violence that they have suffered. Instead, we’re bombarded by portrayals that ask us to accept that this is a woman’s lot, that it allows men to be MEN, and that we, as women, should really be enjoying watching it.