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/'