Thursday, 11 October 2012

Too much doubt; I am Reggie Clemons.

Ever since I was about fourteen and learned that there were these amazing things called 'human rights' that I get to enjoy every day and some people don't, I've been a passionate supporter of the work of Amnesty International. Mostly however, my human rights interest was limited to signing petitions online, reading about when they were violated and occasionally sneaking in a cheeky blog post (cue exhibits a and b). However now I've entered the life of a student' and whilst I was being mobbed by too many clubs at once at the societies fayre I spotted the Amnesty International stand and joined the world of protests and petitioning.



Today we were protesting about a man in Missouri, USA called Reggie Clemons who was sentenced to death in 1991, personally I find this a strange concept; he's been on death row for longer than I've been alive which is surreal. The next few months could also determine whether or not he lives or dies, death is something that's been hanging over his head constantly for the past twenty years, a thought which is somewhat unnerving. Yet, whilst I am personally against the death penalty, this protest was about several key issues from when he was prosecuted. 

The biggest issue was that there was never any confirmed physical evidence to connect him to the crime, which I think speaks for itself.

When Clemons arrived in court for the first time, witnesses confirm that his face was swollen. He claims that he 'confessed' to rape after being beaten up by police, his face was in such a bad way that the judge sent him to the emergency room. Surely police thuggery shouldn't be acceptable in modern America? Clemons claims he felt like he was going to be battered to death by them and it's widely accepted that when you're being beaten up, you'll say anything.



Clemons' legal representation was pretty abismal, to the point that his lawyer was later suspended from practicing, his co-counsel had a full time job in a different state at the time she was supposed to be represented Clemons. A lawyer hired by his mother before the trial later commented that their predecessors had not done the necessary preparation beforehand.When he was first arrested (despite it being on the charge of double murder) his mother was even dissuaded from seeking legal advice by the police leaving him vulnerable at the very start of his case. 



The USA is infamous for the impact race has on the outcome of a court case, for example, although they only make up twelve percent of the general population, they make up forty two percent of those on death row. There have also been suggestions that black people were 'dis proportionally dismissed during jury selection', leading to a jury which was racially unrepresentative of the considerable black population in St Louis. 

Finally, there have been allegations of a'stacked' jury. Amnesty International said: 'In 2002, a U.S. District Court judge ruled that Clemons’ death sentence should not stand because six prospective jurors had been improperly excluded  at jury selection.'

In all honesty? This isn't about ending the death penalty. Nor is it about Reggie Clemons being released, or even about whether or not he did it.it. The fact is that he has not had a fair trial, his human rights have been ignored and he's been treated by the justice system in a primitive manner that we all had America had grown out of. On that level, surely it's only right for him to have a retrial before he's punished. It seems ridiculous to me that someone could be executed on such tenuous grounds; if he's guilty of the heinous crime of rape and murder then let him have the appropriate punishment, but certainty is recquired before such a conclusion is reached and justice should be served all round.

for more information I found this fact sheet gave some pretty good background as well as this basic about page. YOU can get involved too by checking out the Amnesty International petition.

Tuesday, 9 October 2012

9K? No way

Now, I know I've prattled on about the rise in tuition fees before and hey, it cheekily shot up a few months before I was set to start university myself so I think it I had every right to be annoyed and start escapades like this:

photo courtesy of the immensely talented Catherine Bialley

Anyhow, I have since started at the University of Sheffield and have been reading my own body weight in philosophy books (see if you can guess what I'm studying) and I absolutely love everything about it. I've wanted to go to university ever since I was knee high and I freely admit (how am I such a nerd?) that I loved every stage of my education. In particular A levels got me interested in philosophy and history at a level I'd never even thought about previously and I relished the challenge that they presented.

I've barely been at Sheffield but already, I've loved everything. I've loved the social aspect, I've made new friends (I know right, who'd have seen that one coming!), I've started climbing again and I've got involved with the love of my life/Amnesty International (more on this coming very soon). And, of course, the academic side is incredible. I absolutely love my course and the excuse to read about philosophy all the time and find out more about something which truly fascinates me is pretty much a dream come true. I even managed to throw in a couple of additional history modules so I get to learn about Europe from the Romans until today and our library not only has more books than I could even imagine to be possible in one place, but it also has showers.

So the idea of the trebling of fees (cheers once again for that one Cleggy <3) putting off potential students makes me really sad. The idea of so many talented people (young and old) put off attending university and the opportunities it brings because of the immense amount of debt it also brings is really a tragedy for us as a nation and such a waste of potential. Of course many people will go on to establish successful careers for themselves and will prosper without ever even entertaining the idea of attending university which is fair play and, some people were seeing university as a way of dossing about for another three years before starting out in the real world. But what about the people who were put off from even inquiring further?

University applications dropped by around 15, 000 this year, as fees were raised which scared the average person after being put forward by a man who had the finest education money could buy (here's looking at you Cameron). Thankfully, the NUS have not stopped fighting for educational equality, hence Demo 2012 a nation wide protest aimed at making the voices of students heard and forcing the government to listen.

Educate, Employ, Empower

You can find out more about the campaign on their official website here and check out the movement of #demo2012 on twitter.


Tuesday, 21 August 2012

Snow Leopards, female empowerment and clean water aka why can't I be you?

This summer, I was lucky enough to spend a large part of my ridiculously long (although still completely appreciated I can assure you!) abroad. I've been trekking through LaDakh, the mountainy bit of India, slap bang on the boarder with Tibet, Kashmir and Pakistan with the Girl Guides, it was the greatest thing I've ever participated in. I really didn't think I could fall in love with a country until India in India was a thing that happened, I knew it was somewhere I wanted to sped my forever in as soon as I stepped off the plane in Delhi airport, and it's given me fuel for a whole load of blog posts in the future, so stay tuned for that!

Our guide on the trip was one of those people, you know the sort. Who've done everything, they've achieved so much and just generally done so many good things you end up questioning your motives and everything you've ever done pales into nothing in comparison. I mean, once I got a double figures on a Facebook status versus him rescuing baby snow leopards trapped under buildings, there's no contesting who wins really... What makes matters worse is he was also the loveliest person ever, so you couldn't even hate him for it.

Anyway, I stole Khenraub Phutshog for a few minutes whilst we were all helping build a playground in Thiskey to quiz him about snow leopards, tourism and empowering local women.

me and the man himself, Leh, La Dakh


How long have you been doing your work for the environment?

I began to think about it ten/fifteen years ago.

Why do you think it's important to protect the snow leopard?

The snow leopard is at the top of the food chain; so it's important to protect them for LaDakh's ecological system. Control the snow leopard population and you continue the balance. This is why it's important.

And on a more personal level, why do you do it?

A big reason? They've never attacked a person!

Can you tell me about some of your projects?

In the more remote areas, the aim of walking there is heavily linked to the fact that younger generations migrate to the cities, first for their education and later on for their livelihoods. The cities are expanding and the villages are dying. 
So sustainable development is so important.
Eco tourism is important so that the people in the villages can get an income.

You're also involved in a number of restoration projects; what's the main purpose of this?
(He's helped restore a large amount of ancient Buddhist monuments)

The main idea behind the restoration project is that: people come to see the landscapes and the monuments. This saves their heritage and is interesting to many people.

As well as this, you're involved in the selling of something which is locally referred to as 'women's products' which empowers local women in ways that they weren't before. Please can you explain some more about that?

In the villages we get the women involved in empowering groups called 'self help' groups which help to give them some more independence. 
These include teaching the women handicrafts and skills such as knitting souvenirs  like the local wildlife (snow leopards, lynx, blue sheep) which can be sod to tourists, as well as items of clothing such as gloves and socks.
Otherwise, the women [who mostly work in agriculture during the summer] have nothing to do in the winter, so this makes use of their free time.
The products are then sold in community shops and tea shops, giving the women a cash income that otherwise would not be an option for them.


The Women's Groups also produced a variety of (incredibly delicious!) snacks which are sold in local tea shops.


What other issues are caused by tourism in the area, and how do you try and combat this?

Garbage is a real issue. There are many trekkers in the summer who bring stuff with them. So, afterwards, when they have all gone home, we collect it. A big issue is plastic bottles as they take up a lot of space very quickly, so transporting them out again is a real issue. The rubbish is then separated but, as there is no way of recycling garbage in Leh, it needs to be taken tight down before it can be properly disposed of. It's a real problem.

What is the main message you would give to tourists visiting LaDakh?

Tourists coming to La Dakh is very good for the economy, but they need to care about he impact of leaving their garbage in the campsite or village on the environment. You should try and take it home with you.


He's also involved in a local initiative that aims to provide free, clear drinking water from points such as this to minimize the waste made from  plastic bottles and the subsequent pollution.
pretty fancy eh?


Thank-you very much  Khenraub! :)

Friday, 17 August 2012

#FreePussyRiot

For all you fans of free speech out there, today has been a pretty rubbish day. Following months of being held without an actual conviction, three members of the Russian punk band 'Pussy Riot'  have been sentenced to two years in prison for the truly heinous crime of holding an anti-Putin protest concert. A ridiculously disproportionate punishment that, you'd surely think wouldn't happen anywhere in the world in 2012 and has lead to worldwide outcry. Blogs have been full of furious posts demanding the release of the band, Madonna and Paul McCartney have complained loudly about the oppression of artistic freedom and Anthony Keidis of the Red Hot Chili Peppers has been wearing his home made Pussy Riot t shirt to perform.

Of course, the real reason they've been shoved in a cell is because now they can't hold more concerts and if they're not holding concerts they're not making us think about how generally rubbish Putin is. Now, I'm not recommending some sort of violent revolution but, I'm pretty certain this was the kind of leadership that lead to the Tsar being overthrown. This suggests it's not a leadership style that's highly recommended...

Russia for a long time has been under scrutiny for multiple and consistent human rights abuses. Those involved in peaceful protests are regularly detained, high control over broadcasting and mass media and corruption in the law are all huge problems. And, like all long running issues it's gone off the radar a bit until Pussy Riot thrust it back under the spotlight in typical punk style.You'll all probably know that I'm not too big a fan of Cameron, but at least I know that I can blog saying that and I don't have to worry about being arrested for it.

What's happened is just so ridiculous, three locked up Draconian style and three in hiding from the authorities and for what? A concert.

For more information, you can read Amnesty International's Annual Report 2012 on the human rights situation in Russia here and an interview with the three members of Pussy Riot in hiding here.

Tuesday, 19 June 2012

The real losers of Euro 2012

As I type, it feels as if all eyes are firmly on the England football team as the hope to either draw or win with Ukraine so that they can qualify from group D (I think I've got that one right...?). Football, in my humble opinion, really brings everyone together, it's quite sweet really that we remain so optimistic. Every time there is an England game it feels as if the whole of the nation is sat there with their fingers crossed, full of hope that we have a chance of getting through. This faith in eleven men charging around after a ball is really lovely, I mean, how many people get that much belief in them after decades of not really winning much?

The old Eastern bloc rarely gets our attention, I mean, so we're all up for Euro 2012, but how often do we usually pay attention to things that happen over there? Last night, BBC4 forced viewers to pay attention to life in Ukraine in an exceptionally well made, if often disturbing documentary highlighting issues in their care system. 'Ukraine's Forgotten Children' shows the horrific treatment of children signed over to a state which fails to adequately support them. There are around 88,000 children who have been abandoned by their parents to institutions where malnourishment, abuse and general inadequate support is commonplace and every orphanage has a graveyard attached.

Even worse, is that this horrendous treatment of children is not limited to the Ukraine. Following the fall of Nicolae Ceausescu, the last brutal leader of Communist Romania the plight of tens of thousands of institutionalized children shocked the world. The outlaw of abortion and birth control led to many families giving birth to children they simply could not support, they then entrusted them to a state system which was totally unequipped to care for them. Over crowding, lack of medical equipment, too few, poorly trained staff and primitive methods of dealing with special needs children are shocking and it is not surprise that their de-institutionalization is a condition that must be met before Romania is allowed to join the EU.


Although not fast enough, there is a decline in the number of children trapped in the Romanian care system, yet according to UNICEF, the amount of institutionalized children in Ukraine has doubled in the past decade. This is in the country which has splashed out nine billion pounds on improving infrastructure in preparation for co hosting Euro 2012, but this was spent in the major cities and thus putting those already at the bottom in an even worst position.

It's at times graphic and uncomfortable to watch, but I would definitely recommend that in between the all important football matches, everyone has a glance at this.

Sunday, 27 May 2012

Eurovision, more than a song contest?

I like to think I'm funky, hip or at the very least, a little fresh. Therefore, it is logical to conclude that I hate Eurovision, all that it stands for and definitely do not watch it every year with subtitles so I can really understand what each country is trying to tell me.

But oh God, it is so good! Think about it, where would we be without ABBA? Or what cheesy party playlist is complete without Bucks Fizz 'Making your mind up' or musical birthday card without Cliff's 'Congratulations'. Furthermore, whilst politically explicit lyrics are actually banned from the contest, its history can almost be read as a politics history of Europe and international relations. Eurovision played a key role in the cultural battles of the Cold War as the western countries showed the Eastern Bloc how much better their music was, those who lived near the wall risked their jobs to watch the song contest in secret despite the poor quality of reception (as Russia attempted to block signal from Western television channels). If you're prepared to risk so much for something, surely it's justified by its importance? Arguably, Eurovision is important, it brings the whole of Europe together, it made everyone think about the children being killed in the Bosnia in 1993 and when it was held in Ireland in 1994 Riverdance was invented (seriously, who doesn't wish they could move their feet like that?).

This year it seemed like everyone was talking about the Russia's Grannys even more than they lusted over Germanys Lenas legs in 2010. Naturally England tried their best but didn't quite make the grade (here's looking at you Engelbert Humperdinck) and it was back to the Grannys. But there was something far more important going on behind the scenes of Eurovision 2012 that was easily forgotten masked by sequins and smoke machines.

Azerbaijan, it turns out, still thinks that 'prisoners of conscience' is an actual thing that can be justified and arrest people who protest against a government whose authorities intimidate, blackmail and attack journalists who reported the evictions whole neigbourhoods in order for the Eurovision stadium to be built at all.  Its press is classed as 'not free' and even it's internet access is only 'partially free' and it is yet to hold an election which can be described as wholly free and fair.

State-authorized violence, illegal evictions and political prisoners have, in my opinion, no place in the modern Europe. Morally, I felt like I was obliged to boycott the Eurovision song contest this year and for the first time, we did not all sit as a family and dance to Europop. It was an incredibly sad day I can assure you and I hope to never go without Eurovision again, but I think it's on a par with the sporting boycott of South Africa during the apartheid. Surely, by accepting Azerbaijan and letting it partake in such events and even letting it host them, but ignoring their human rights record, we're saying it's OK?

I don't think it's OK at all, do you?

If you agree with me and think we should stand up for what is right you can make your voice heard here.

Friday, 25 May 2012

NO MEANS NO

Lately, as I'm sure you've all noticed, the weather has been glorious! Now I love a bit of sunshine, even if it has only arrived right in the middle of my exams (when the park is beckoning it makes it so much harder to learn key words, gah!) and, of course, a blue sky is the best excuse to crack out the shorts.

Unfortunately, shorts often equal one of my pet peeves: women and girls being judged on what they look like. Even more unfortunate is the fact that a lot of women are blamed for what they wear in the event of sexual assault; we live in a society where women are taught not to get raped as opposed to the perpetrator being told not to rape. This makes me sad not just because I am a super sassy feminist , but generally as a woman. I want to be able to wear whatever I want, and only worry about whether it looks decent on me, not that I might become a rape victim on my way home.

This is why I am such a fan of Slutwalk, an alternative form of protest march where women dress in their most revealing outfits, a reaction to the advice given to women by Constable Micheal Sanguinetti in Toronto that they should 'avoid dressing like sluts' in order to avoid assault. Since then there have been marches by women of all backgrounds across the world who want to reinforce the message that no means no. There was a Slutwalk march last year in Bristol that unfortunately I was unable to attend, but one of my favorite bloggers Mel Reeve (most commonly known as the the lovey lady with miles of sass who runs lobandwidth) did and she let me quiz her so we could all find out a little more about Slutwalk and what it means to be a feminist in the 21st Century.

Mel (left) at Slutwalk, 


How did you first hear about Slutwalk and what made you want to get involved?

I think it was on tumblr. Most of the blogs I follow are either feminist ones, or run by feminists, so when the whole thing in America began I saw a lot of photographs of the American Slutwalks and some really interesting posts. I wanted to get involved because I think it’s really important that rape and sexual assault victims are not treated as though it’s their fault, the statistics around convictions for these crimes are appalling, and the general legal attitude seems to be just as awful. We have a huge problem with rape culture in our society, it’s perfectly acceptable to be told not to wear something for your own safety and that makes me mostly so angry I can hardly speak, but also very sad because often it comes from ignorance. I also feel the Slutwalks challenge the way sexually active women are perceived, which is often very negatively. The Slutwalks have also done a lot about how consent is not discussed enough; it’s very important to make people realise that when someone says no, or indicates that they do not want this, it means no, regardless of the situation. 





What do you think Slutwalk represents?


The belief that how you dress should not be used against you, and the importance of consent.
You participated in the Slutwalk march in Bristol last year, what did you make of the experience?It was a really amazing and affirming day. To be in the company of likeminded people who are confident and proud of their beliefs is a great feeling, and whilst there were slightly less people than I had expected (partly due to the weather I think), it still felt great to express a belief so publicly. If I ever feel a bit down about how feminism is perceived etc, it’s great to remember that I walked down a main road in Bristol shouting “yes means yes and no means no” with friends and total strangers, who all felt the same way.






Slutwalk is an American concept, but do you think its message is something that's appropriate for girls and women across the globe?


Absolutely, I think the problems the UK and America has had with rape convictions are widespread, and the great thing about living in a world where the Internet is so widely available, is that almost anyone could see a photo from a Slutwalk, or read about it. I like to think that any young woman would find that inspiring and it might help them to feel more in control of themselves. I know that finding the Slutwalks (and feminism in general) helped me with a lot of issues that I think most young women are likely to go through.





 
You write about feminism in your blog Really Cool Women and women who are inspirational not just for looking conventionally pretty. How important would you say feminism is for young women today, do you think what it means to be a feminist has changed, would you even use that term to describe your views?


Firstly, I would say that yes, I am absolutely, 100% a feminist. People seem to be scared of that term and that saddens me. It means that you want equality, simple as that, and whilst there’s a whole load of other things important to being a feminist, that is at the root of them all. I guess feminism has changed, I’m no expert on its history by any means, but as the more obvious fights have been mostly successful, we have to approach things differently. The issues feminism is needed for now are subtler, and I know that many people think there isn’t even a need for it, which is clearly not true if you look at things even purely from a statistical point of view, and it becomes even more obvious if you speak to women about their experiences. Feminism is exactly what young women need, what young men need, and what people of any gender identification need - even though it can be hard to realise the reality of the world we live in. Also I should emphasise that reallycoolwomen aims to redress the balance of an industry that seems to place far too much weight on things like appearance, but that’s not to say that women should feel ashamed of, or unable to be, attractive and successful. I think that’s something that often happens when people try to behave fairly, they go to the other end of the scale and I feel that no one should be professionally criticised for their appearance, positively or negatively.






And finally, who would you say is the woman who most inspires you and why?


That’s a tough one, I’m going to cheat and choose a few. I think Caitlin Moran is hugely inspiring, her book ‘How To Be A Woman’ has made feminism accessible, fun and something that more people are interested in. I think she’s helped create a whole new generation and ‘type’ of feminist and I really admire her. But I’ve also got to mention Louise Brealey (she summed things up pretty neatly when she said: “I think Page 3, Nuts and Zoo are bullshit. I don’t wax my pubic hair off. I don’t think working in a titty bar getting fivers shoved up your bum is empowering. And I’m bored of pictures of women in their smalls on buses with fuck-me mouths.”), and I also find Tavi Gevinson really inspiring, she’s probably the coolest person ever.



Thank-you very much Mel! xoxox


For more information about Slutwalk I would definitely recommend you check out their UK website
I would highly recommend you all track Mel using the internet on her TwitterTumblr and Blogspot and of course Really Cool Women.
Mel also has a wonderful radio show every Thursday from 8-9 p.m. which is well worth a listen!

Wednesday, 23 May 2012

Chippenham's 5 minutes of flame.

Often, whenever something vaguely exciting happens in England, it is in London. As a small-town girl I don't really mind watching things happen in the city whose streets are paved with gold, but with the amount that happens there it sometimes feels like I'm watching something happen in another country. In fact, the last semi notable thing that happened where I live was the Queen's Golden Jubilee Tour where she, get this, got off the train at Chippenham train station and drove through. It was, without a doubt, probably the most exciting thing that has ever happened here; we all got the morning off school having made flags the day before and the streets were packed as people desperately tried to get a glimpse of the Queen. As she drove by in a car. And waved a little bit.

Put simply: when it comes to exciting things in England which aren't in London, not a lot really happens.

But 2012 is the exception as London hosts the Olympics. I'm not really a sporting person myself, to be brutally honest I have no interest in the Olympics (although I do quite like the winter games) but even I waved a flag this morning as I hoisted myself out of bed in order to see the torch parade down my street. I don't really understand a lot of things about the Olympics, for instance, why is McDonalds a sponsor? Hardly endorsing a healthy lifestyle really is it...? I don't even understand the rules of most of the events although I tend to gloss over that, which makes you wonder what could possibly prompt me bounding into my parents room, fully dressed at ten past seven (don't even muster this much energy on a normal school day!) to make sure they didn't miss any of the action.

It could have been the glorious sunshine, but I think it may have more to do with the sense of community I got today as I stood with townspeople of all ages watching some extra ordinary people run with the torch. It was a celebration of achievement on both a local and national level by all kinds of people cheering and whooping at once that, in an age where people talk more on Facebook chat and BBM than face-to-face, was actually quite nice.

If you're in England, are you going to see the torch or interested in the Olympics? What about those who aren't England based, does London 2012 mean anything to you?


Also, I know generally I don't have photos up here, but I think my patriotism today is expressed clearly in that photo (although I only have one chin usually).

Wednesday, 28 March 2012

Democracy's OK, but Slavery's a really good idea? Uhm...

Fingers crossed, next year I will be studying philosophy at The University of Sheffield! I have a conditional offer  which I may just about scrape, the place is lovely and I have always wanted to live up North/far away from Chippenham. What I like the most however, is the course which seems to focus mostly on ancient Philosophy.

It was reading a book by the Ancient Greek Philosopher Plato (think old, beardy Greek man) that  first got me interested in Philosophy and now I read as much as I can on the subject. Well, if I'm going to be spending nine grand (cheers Cleggy!) I may as well make sure that it's something I'm absolutely, definitely interested in. What I think I like the best about old, beardy Greek men is the way they don't rely on a God to prove their point, as a probable atheist this is very important to me.

BUT recently, I read a book by Aristotle (currently top of my ancient Greek leader board) and was a bit horrified by the chapter on slavery, apparently some of us are 'born slaves' and unnerved by the whole 'women are inferior' concept. Now, obviously these were written centuries ago, when slavery was commonplace and women just sat in the corner not doing much, so to them it was all OK. But is it really OK? Does this take away from their other points, which are more socially acceptable, such as how democracy is vital for citizen satisfaction?

This is one of my main problems with the Bible. I mean, I can agree with some bits of Plato, other bits of Aristotle and maybe throw in some Socrates, but I am never pledging to live my life by the messages they convey. Yet the Bible? The parts which forbid tattoos, eating pork and women speaking in a Church all seem a bit strange and I think I can say that most Christians today disregard them. Some people are more keen on the parts banning contraception and that gay is all round bad. And most agree that it is important to 'love thy neighbour' and to generally be nice.

But where do you draw the line between what should be followed and what's just ridiculous? Can the ancient Greeks still be considered worthy of study despite their dated views of women?

Monday, 26 March 2012

The F word.

Feminism is normally associated with angry, bra-less women with shaven heads and hairy armpits. The stereotype of a man-hating feminist is hardly flattering and is usually not considered something to be proud of.

It is for that reason that I've always been a bit dubious about full on announcing 'Yes I'm a feminist' and apart from the Doc Martens, I don't think I really fit the stereotype. I mean, I dye my hair blonde and wear lipstick, i have a boyfriend, surely that can't be me? These are all reasons that have been put to me when I let slip that I believe in equality for women and quite frankly, having to break down that I can dye my hair or dress however I want and still believe this is quite infuriating. Yet, as a woman, I honestly think that my feminist tag is the one that is the most important and I shouldn't be embarrassed about admitting to it.

So, what does feminism mean to me? Obvious as it sounds, to me it concerns equality for women. I know a lot of people think that women are equal, but look at the controversy currently surrounding female bishops? Most people define themselves as religious and whilst i have a lot of respect for Catholics they blame women for all sin. Ever. A little harsh? Or the impossibly high standards set for women, I often feel as if society has given me two options: to be a mother or to be a career woman AND mother. Oh and I have to be attractive at all times, have a perfect shape and make body hair a thing of the past.

It's been 84 years since Emmeline Pankhurst threw herself under the King's horses but I don't think the battle's been won yet and the feminist movement is still generally considered to be just as obscene. Why do you think this is? Do you think this is a fair view?

For further information I would highly recommend this website.
I have also written about the role of feminism in the world generally here and here.

Friday, 23 March 2012

What sort of world do you want to live in?

A conversation with some people the other day about feminism lead to a tangent on female circumcision. Now, I know that there are many awful, horrible things going on in the world, but I truly think that this is one of the most vile and completely unacceptable things ever. Yet there are, apparently some people who consider this to be a cultural issue which has nothing to do with the likes of you and I.

Now, as we all know, I am incredibly vocal. So I have been complaining about this quite a lot following this, but, it has also got me thinking. What is the line between wrong and cultural difference? Is there ever a line or should we just let every country get on with their own thing? Well, that could have worked once, but nowadays there is such a mix of culture everywhere you go, and if something's right for one culture but not their foreign neighbor, well, it could get messy. But surely we're going backwards if we decide that the UK's laws should take presidence over the views of every body else. So, I would like to make myself clear, I am in no way advocating that Britain should reign supreme, I think we should relish how diverse our world is and in many cases we should look to how different cultures and countries deal with certain things and take advice. I mean, Norway is regularly listed as the happiest country in the world, so I'm all for us looking other there to see how we can cheer ourselves up.

But, can we really live with ourselves if we've become a race who just ignores problems if they're not in front of us? Or if they're not predominate in our country, does that mean we should just let bad things happen? Female genital mutilation isn't like male circumcision, this is the partial, or more commonly the complete, removal of external female sex organs. A lack of knowledge leads many people to believe that female sex organs are dirty and need to be removed for the child's own safety, many men from these places refuse to marry a woman unless she has undergone this process and folklore aggravates these beliefs, for instance that if a newborn touches the clitoris during childbirth it will die. I want to live in a world where myths like this don't exist and where women don't feel ashamed. I want to live in a world where the happiness and safety of everyone is of concern to everybody who lives in it irregardless of where they live. Procedures like this are completely unnecessary in 21st century society and the subsequent pain and death of them is surely unnecessary too? We have so much knowledge which could be used to empower these women so that they realise this is in no way a necessary procedure.

At least 2000 young girls from the UK will potentially be victims of genital mutilation this summer, is that still too far away?

Monday, 19 March 2012

So Girl Guides can paint their nails? We can do far more than that Mitchell!

I'm not sure how many of you read The Guardian, I do and I think it's absolutely brilliant! However I read this article by David Mitchell slating the Girl guiding movement and that was in no way brilliant at all. I thought it was such a terrible misrepresentation of a movement which does all it can to empower girls and women across the world and all the fantastic opportunities it has offered to thousands of young women like myself.


'Dear Mr Mitchell, 

As I read your article regarding the GirlGuiding movement, I must admit I was incredibly disappointed with your wildly inaccurate ideas about what Girl Guiding is all about and with what we do.

I'm now seventeen years old and first joined the Guiding movement aged seven as a Brownie. So, surely, after a decade of exposure to something which you describe as so dire and terrible, my life should revolve around buying industrial sized vats of blusher and catering for my many children. Particularly as (shock horror) I am still involved with the movement and to make matters worse I have been helping in a Rainbow Unit for nearly six years so I'm brain-washing little girls across the country to put their hair and shoes above everything else.
Except I'm not and Girlguiding is not like that at all.
When I was fourteen I went to Germany with Guides, there was, I must admit, a fair bit of shopping. But the majority of the trip was in no way urban as we spent it on a jamboree camping with other scouts and guides from across the world.
And now, this summer I am going to go to the Ladakh region of India where we will be climbing and helping build a school. A wonderful, once in a lifetime opportunity which I have due to my involvement with the guide rock climbing club. Yes, we might have perfectly painted nails, but we're not afraid to chip them and we've had those Rainbows up the wall as well thank-you very much. I also spent most of my Christmas holiday getting to grips with an ice axe and crampons in 70 mph winds, our hair was definitely ruined and none of us minded.
Can you get more out of doors than that?
So, whilst it's probably obvious that I have my knots badge, I think you should probably know that I am also a proud owner of a 'Glamorama Go-4-It'...

Thank-you for taking the time to read my e-mail
India Nunan

P.S. For more information about our Stok Kangri expedition, feel free to check out our blog: http://community.cotswoldoutdoor.com/users/scottthescot/groups/wiltshire-north-guides-mountaineering-stok-kangri-expedition-2012/900/'

Monday, 30 January 2012

I was born on the 31st March 1994.

Just to clarify: this isn't some sort of advanced birthday present request list, although all donations are welcome.

Exactly a week after I was born 800,000 Rwandans were murdered by their neighbors and 'friends' in just under 100 days. There is something incredibly unnerving about knowing that just as I was being a boring, yet weirdly cute newborn, hundreds of thousands of people I would never meet or know were about die. If you think about it like that, then it makes you wonder why I find it weird, let alone upsetting. I never met these people, and Rwanda would scarcely be on my radar today if this hadn't happened.

But what happened was so horrible, so incomprehensible. That one day people were hacking their neighbors and friends to pieces and for what? Some minor 'racial' difference that, in retrospect, was made up to begin with. When you look at Rwanda's history, and their escape from the slave trade (it's a hilly country, and invaders are usually lazy) it's easy to think of it as a lucky country. Paul Kagame, their current president, despite his faults, is rarely considered to be in the same category of other, corrupt African leaders like Mugabe.

The film 'Hotel Rwanda' is an incredibly well-made film showing the horrific events through the eyes of luxury hotel manager Paul Rusesabagina, who managed to save the lives of 1,268 terrified people despite their country descending into hell around them. It inspired me to get into human rights campaigning and, despite not being a movie buff by any stretch, I would definitely recommend you all watch it!

I've just finished his autobiography, and whilst I'm not a fan of the Daily Mail, their command of 'Read this book. It will humble and inspire you' definitely seems appropriate. I genuinely think that it is the most well-written and eloquent life stories I have ever read; even when he describes freaking out (which admittedly rarely seemed to happen) he still seemed calm and many times I was literally left gaping at his quick-thinking and the lifesaving impact that the offer of a drink to a crazed machete-wielding lieutenant could have.

Trials are still ongoing and justice is yet to be achieved for Rwanda. Clinton describes it as his biggest regret, Kofi Annan took passive to a whole new level and there are thousands of Rwandan teens who would be my age but hatred forbade them from celebrating with me. There's a lot we can learn from Rusesasabagina: compassion, morality and staying sane when everyone else has gone mental, but most importantly, simple as it sounds doing the right thing.

Tuesday, 17 January 2012

Who even has £80 million spare anyway?

In these tough economic times, I think everyone has had to make some sort of sacrifice. We've all had cutbacks and with the prospects of further cuts in almost every in sector it seems that there's no sign of stopping. It's safe to say really, that everyone's a bit short of money at the moment.

So what would be more sensible than to propose a new yacht for the Royal family to sleep on when they're abroad? An eighty million pound yacht. Rather than using government project is set to be funded by public donations and companies, with two Canadian businessmen being the first to offer 10 million. Although, it would also serve as a training facility for young people as oppose to merely being a floating holiday home, but does that really justify such a huge cost?

Don't get me wrong, I think the Royal family's great! Whilst I still remain slightly bitter, nothing unified the country more than William and Kate getting married last April and the Queen's got to be up there with red post boxes and afternoon tea when people think of 'British' things. Undoubtedly, her upcoming Silver Jubilee will be a great cause of celebration for people across the UK and I'm sure there'll be street parties all over the place. But 80 million pounds? That's a lot of money. I can't even imagine that sort of money!

But I can imagine what it could do, how it could help. For example: a polio vaccination costs around 20-40 pounds, so that would be about 2 million vaccinations; 2 million children saved. Or 1, 231 wells created in the developing world, helping a lot of communities to survive and ultimately, to thrive.

Admittedly, whilst these are all undeniably worthwhile projects, none of them would really help Britain, and  the in case of such an British celebration, maybe I should be thinking about how the money could help our island. There are plenty of charities working hard to preserve our heritage so that we can all use and learn about it such as the National Trust. Or how about developing an educational resource available for everyone in the country to learn more about the history and impact of the monarchy? Or developing more green space to be enjoyed by entire communities? So many trees are cut down every day in the UK, think about how many trees could be planted with so money, as well as the obvious environmental benefits.

When you think about all of the other things which could be achieved, does 80 million pounds really seem OK for a boat which barely anyone will ever use?

Monday, 16 January 2012

Is the Holocaust a hoax? No. Now shut up.

As anyone who reads this blog has probably realised by now, I enjoy a moan and that there are certain things which I absolutely can not stand. This ranges from badly behaved, screaming toddlers to pet owners who thinks it's cute when their dog chases me across the park (this occurs surprisingly frequently...) but most of all? People who think their small-mindedness and ignorance is impressive.

Now, I hate to generalise such people, or simplify what they stand for, there is a wide variety of different subjects in which they showcase their bizarre outlook on the world. The internet has served as an excellent method of showcasing these, and I'm all for freedom of speech and questioning the views handed to us on a plate as they are the ones which are normally the most incorrect. However, those who deny the Holocaust whilst hiding behind out of context quotes and who are screaming so hard that they have no evidence they are blind to what is right in front of them? I think they must have sunk the lowest.

The particular collection of 'articles' (although I would urge you to discard any academic connotations which this would imply) which I am cross at today can be found here. There is an abundance of quotes I could pick apart from this web page, so I'm going to give you some of my favorites to marvel at, such as: Roughly the equivalent of ten football fields should be packed full of gassed bodies to present as evidence, yet not one body has ever been discovered. Well, if I was that bent on destroying a human race presumably there would be a lot of hate there. Would you bother burying someone you hated that much? Or would you cremate them and dump the ashes which is far quicker and more efficient? I'd go for the latter too. I think I win this round.


Next? If Christians can accept as historical fact the Holocaust, despite all the powerful evidence that it is a hoax, what does that say about their ability to evaluate evidence? How about the fact that they base their entire belief system on a series of books: The Bible and The Gospel. Neither of which have any 'reputable' evidence, or even in some cases a clear author, now, I have a lot of respects for the faith held by Christians, but there is a distinct lack of clinical evidence or paper work to prove a lot of key things which can be proved for the Holocaust. You don't need to 'believe' in the Holocaust to look at the paperwork and legislation which has been signed and counter-signed by leading Nazis. On grounds of looking for the evidence which you're demanding, there is far more on the Holocaust side.


Not just are these people clearly wrong, they're plain insensitive. There's a comparison of Auschwitz to Disneyland. Even if you don't believe in the gas chambers, surely you can accept the many thousands who died of malnutrition and disease? Is it really acceptable to compare a place that grim to the happy, happy home of Minnie, Mickey and friends?


At the bottom of the page is a 'fun feature' - '66 Questions on the Holocaust'. Users of the website with a desire to know the answers are encouraged to send a stamped addressed envelope to their address and they'll post you a reply and whilst I just used Google to answer number 38 ('What is Typhus, I'm sure we all agree, the million dollar question) I am going to write a letter asking them to answer two for me: What evidence exists that six million Jews were not killed by the Nazis? . I can assure you that my letter will contain some evidence of my own indicating that they were indeed killed and if you want to co-sign it? You are of course more than welcome! :)

Thursday, 5 January 2012

People don't take me seriously? Well, you are Louise Mensch...

David Cameron did it, Boris Johnson did it and now it seems that Louise Mensch has jumped on the band wagon. Now, I'm not saying I think women can't be taken seriously if they look great and my she does look good, but anyone who claims to 'hero worship' and that to be his wife is 'the greatest honour' their husband is hardly going to impress me. Yes, I am of course referring to GQ's latest leather skirt clad cover star...

Don't get me wrong, I'm pleased that she puts such a great emphasis on veteran's welfare, I think that's really important. More needs to be done for those who've worked to protect us and risked their lives for us, they get pretty much forgotten about and I think that's appalling. So, as you can imagine, I was reading an article about her thinking 'maybe I've misjudged her', maybe it would be good if she went from backbench to a bit closer to the front row! 

 I follow her on Twitter and she manages to make some excellent points in under 140 characters, However in the interview, the number was upped considerably and she went on to say how she'd rather have one of her books made into a movie than become a cabinet minister. I'm not sure if anyone else is familiar with the Oxford graduate's books, but they include 'Career Girls' which to this day I'm still confused about how it came into the hands of my school library (albeit in the 14 and over section) as the plot concerns two women at the top of their game. Except they only got there by having sex. A lot of sex... Which is described very graphically, at least for the first 150 pages, which is where, I'm afraid to say I gave up in favour of something a little less 'word porny'. It also makes me question her dedication to politics, I'm no Cameron fan, but at least he's dedicated to his job, I know he won't just get up and leave as soon as something more glamorous comes his way.

I just wish she could take her career a bit more seriously and stop bringing up her appearance, she's mentioned Theresa May's kitten heels more than May herself! How are women supposed to be breaking this glass ceiling if she's making a deal about how gorgeous she is (she is beautiful) and how nobody takes her seriously for it. If she carried on regardless then maybe we'd stop this fixation with her face and listen to her ideas...


Monday, 2 January 2012

PIP - Pretty Insensitive People

So, let me get this straight, 50,000 women in the United Kingdom may be getting their silicone boobs removed. But, then again, they may not. There's no increased risk of cancer from the implants. Well, that's a relief, that's probably the most potentially traumatic result of getting them done.

Except it's not really is it, I mean, imagine you're one of the women with PIP  breast implants. You've been conned, because in one of the most intimate parts of you, you've been pumped full of gel that was really intended for a mattress. This isn't just a waste of money, it's a betrayal, you now have something ridiculously inappropriate inside you. Plus, a massively increased chance of rupture. Seriously, what if you were just out and about and then you basically popped? That would freak me out, I think that would unnerve most people in all honesty...

It should also be taken into account as to exactly WHY women get this kind of surgery. In the majority of cases it's due to low self-esteem; not looking in the mirror and seeing a spot style insecurity, we're thinking persistent, confidence destroying self-loathing. Imagine catching your reflection in a shop window and wanting throw up you repulse yourself so much. Imagine getting jibes since secondary school mocking your lack of chest from your bustier friends, it won't be long before your own thoughts start to echo those. Few things can be more damaging than that little voice inside your head and now, these women were getting on track to loving their bodies.

But, more disturbing than that, at least 3,000 of these women had these implants put in as part of reconstructive surgery after breast cancer. This is supposed to be their road to recovery, they had to cope with one of the most definitive symbols of femininity taken away from them and now they have bits of mattress inside them which could pop at any time? That doesn't sound fair to me.

Who else thinks that the government should be popping these out before it all blows up?