Feminist Friday: A Strong Woman

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What does a strong woman mean to you? Does your mind instantly go to physical strength such as the lovely woman above? Does it make you think of a steely and determined businesswoman? Or maybe something closer to home? And does this idea of ‘strength’ help or hinder us?

In the past few years, I’ve been told that I’m ‘strong’, emotionally. That I can hold shit together when it all goes wrong. The thing is, I don’t think I have a choice because I’m a woman I get on with it. When I was growing up, I saw my Mum as the glue that held everything together. Dad would do 12-hour shift work, so I spent a lot of time watching as my Mum organised, cleaned, sorted birthdays, got me and my sister through tough times. She just kept going and I thought, as a woman that what you did.

In literature and film, we have ‘strong’ women who can fight and survive in a physical manner. Many, are irritated that a strong woman must be considered physically strong. Take, for example, Hermione Granger, we are told how brilliant she is, how smart, however, I never saw Hermione described as ‘strong’ because she was using her mind, rather than her physical strength. On the other hand, Katniss Everdeen is often described as having strength because of her physical capabilities and the fact she can fight.

It strikes me that these ‘strong women’, often have to prove themselves, in a way that is reminiscent of men, at least in a traditional sense. While I love women showing their bodies are powerful, there are so many other ways a woman can be strong. Women in the face of adversity, women who have changed the world (like those in Goodnight Stories For Rebel Girls ).

On another Harry Potter note though, think of the strongest woman in the series that you know. Mrs Molly Weasley is easiest the most kick-ass woman who has unwavering strength throughout every book and film. She is a strong woman, she’s a mother and housewife. I’d love to see more of the strength in everyday women portrayed.

What does a strong woman mean to you? Let me know in the comments below!

 

Feminist Friday: Westminster

Last week we saw a scandal in Westminster, one that unfortunately wasn’t at all surprising. UK Defence Secretary resigned amid allegations of sexual assault, following this an avalanche of accusations from all parties in UK politics. While Downing Street called the accusations ‘deeply concerning’, leader of the opposition Jeremy Corbyn addressed the ‘warped and degrading culture’. No one outwardly said, we have a problem and it’s been swept under the rug.

In the past year, sexual assault has been in the media particularly in the face of powerful figures. With the recent Hollywood conversation more and women and men are coming forward to share their stories about the abuse they had to deal with. In light of this, I believe that ultimately, we’re going to see more and more people coming forward because this isn’t an anomaly.

Recently, comedian Jo Brand hit the nail on the head as the only woman on the panel of Have I Got News For You when she said;

 “If I could only say that as the only representative of the female gender here today, I know it’s not high level but it doesn’t have to be high level for women to feel under siege in somewhere like the House of Commons. And actually for women, if you’re constantly being harassed even in a small way, that builds up and that wears you down,”

And that is exactly what needs to be said. If, in the place that our laws are made and passed a woman feels unsafe, what hope is there for the rest of the country? Personally, I’m grateful for these women that are reporting and standing up to powerful people because it makes people recognise a problem that has, I’m sure, been happening for years.

I’m hoping that this is the start of change. That the voices that are speaking out and finally starting to be heard can break down the protection of those in power, in regards to sexual violence and assault.

As always, I want to hear from you and your thoughts! Let me know in the comments below!

Feminist Friday with… Jess Wade

As a part of my Feminist Friday series, I’ve been asking lovely bloggers and writers to write about Feminism and what it means to them. Today, the wonderful Jess from makingphysicsfun speaks about Inferior by Angela Saini, women and science. So, over to Jess. 

Did you, like me, read the Google memo this summer and role your eyes? Or perhaps look up the new Nikon D850, and be confronted with an ad campaign that consisted of a wall of 28 men. Maybe you picked up the Time’s Education Supplement (Sept 2017) to read boys were “better at physics” because they pee in urinals? Or waited for the announcement of the 2017 House of Commons Science & Tech Select Committee with naïve optimism, thinking it might continue the women-dominated glory 2015 – 17, to find out it was (you guessed it!) … all men. Every single time I get tired of talking about the need for more women in science – well, physics and engineering specifically – a new scandal makes part of me think I have to try again. But the rest of me is thinking – maybe they are right? Maybe women really are crap at photography. Maybe I am worse at physics than the boys in my group because of how I go to the toilet? Maybe women are bad at technology because we don’t have enough testosterone? I don’t say this out loud much, I wouldn’t want to let the side down!… but these miserable thoughts echo around my head every time I have to stand on stage.

And then, I was asked by Physics World to review a copy of Inferior by Angela Saini. Angela Saini is an Oxford-trained engineer who has had a phenomenal career in popular science writing and journalism. In 2009 she was named the European Science Journalist of the Year by the Euroscience Foundation and three years later won the Association of British Science Writers’ award for best news story. That year she became Knight Science Journalism Fellow at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. In 2015 she won the American Association for the Advancement of Science’s Kavli Science Journalism gold award for a BBC documentary into bogus universities.

When Saini was investigating the science of the menopause for a Guardian article, she discovered that there is very little scientific literature explaining the biological mechanisms that caused it. She realised that everyone takes it for granted that research will be fair and unbiased; that experiments will be ethical and that the results will be reproducible. But what if the people who wrote the rules of science were biased themselves? Saini’s ground-breaking second book, “Inferior”, uncovers how science has gotten plenty of women wrong, often due to the biases of the people and processes involved in research. An advocate for equality and honesty within scientific discourse, Inferior does not set out to prove that men are sexist scientists- it highlights stories where assumptions, poorly designed experiments and hasty press releases have failed 51 % of the population. She is a phenomenal journalist determinedly persistent in untangling the evidence from both sides to present pure fact – her bibliography is 29 pages long with 306 distinct articles and books covering the gamut of evolutionary psychology to anthropology. Inferior has it all: from understanding bluebirds to babies, shouting at dodgy f-MRI studies and picking apart the lazy stereotypes that prevent women entering science and technology careers. Reading Inferior has given me my voice back… and I am going to short very loudly.

You can catch Angela Saini on her UK university tour or at a local event. You can buy Inferior here.

Angela has written a comprehensive response to the now infamous Google memo, which you can read here.

 

Bio: Jess is a postdoctoral research associate in the Department of Physics and Centre for Plastic Electronics at Imperial College London, creating chiral molecular structures as the active layer for electronic devices. Jess has been involved in projects to support gender inclusion in science, as well as encouraging more young people to study science and engineering. She won the Institute of Physics (IOP) Early Career Communicator Prize (2015), “I’m a Scientist, Get Me Out of Here!” (2015), the IOP Jocelyn Bell Burnell Award (2016), the IOM3’s ‘Robert Perrin Award’ (2017) and the Imperial College Dame Julia Higgins Certificate (2017). She sits on the committees of the IOP’s Women in Physics Group, Communicators Group and London & South East Branch. She is also on the council of the Women’s Engineering Society (WES) and Women in Science & Engineering (WISE) Young Women’s Board.

If you’d like to write for Feminist Friday please get in contact, I’d love to hear from you! Email chloefmetzger@gmail.com. 

Standing with victims of assault

This week the news has been focused on the allegations against Hollywood bigshot Harvey Weinstein, with scores of women coming forward to state that he has sexually assaulted, or in some cases, raped them. While the sheer amount of women coming forward is shocking, what was more so was the reaction of people around the world shaming the victims.

There was a variety of reasons why these women were set upon, claims that they had ‘waited too long’, that they were ‘asking for it’ or wanting attention. Some questioned whether these women were telling the truth. There was something missing, however, the trauma these women will have gone through and the outrage at Weinstein.

The fact that, yet again, women speaking out have come under fire when they have faced assault, to me, shows why we need feminism still in modern society. Rather than believe that these women have encountered a sexual predator. Their stories match up again and again. A young actress invited to a meeting about their career by a powerful man at a hotel, lead to his room where he attempted to get sexual favours or assaulted them.

With names such as Angelina Jolie, Kate Beckinsale, Cara Delevigne and Gwyneth Paltrow all speaking about their own encounters we should be celebrating them for speaking out. Assault is incredibly difficult for a person to overcome and as these women speak out, and many more as the days pass, we shouldn’t be shaming them.

Unfortunately, we may never know the extent of this. This was a blatant act of using power to cause fear in young women. Knowing he was an incredibly successful figure, Weinstein, appeared to see himself as untouchable and able to treat these young women as he liked. At the time of writing, he is not working and has checked into a rehab centre. I’m hoping that in the coming weeks a police investigation will take things further.

If this case highlighted anything at all it’s that we need to think about the way we treat victims when they speak out. Instead of instantly questioning and trying to guess if they are guilty or not or if they ‘just want attention’. To imagine what they have gone through and the courage it must take to go to the police. We need to stand with victims of assault, and not to forget men can be victims too, and show them that they can speak out without fear or judgement.

Feminist Friday With… That Marketing Punk

Tonight I’m so pleased to share my first interview with a guy who calls himself a feminist (see, I told you they exist)! Gareth, a blogger and father, is a great guy on Twitter so I asked him a few questions about what Feminism means to him, enjoy! 

Hi there!

 I guess I should introduce myself… I’m not really good at starting these guest post things… My name’s Gareth, the guy behind That Marketing Punk. I’m a first time Dad to a wonderful (if incredibly energetic) daughter, who has classified himself as a feminist for a very long time. So, when Chloe said that she would be interested to get my thoughts about feminism as a guy, it seemed like a great idea.

So, shall we get on with it?

What does the word Feminism mean to you?

 Ok, so we know that feminism has a different meaning to almost everyone. But for me, it is about absolute equality, both in life, work and home. To me, as a Dad to an amazing daughter, feminism is about my daughter being able to have the life that she wants to do.

In terms of work life, there shouldn’t be a glass ceiling anywhere, for anyone. No matter your sex or gender, you should be able to do whatever job you want to do.

 In terms of home life, there shouldn’t be any preconceived notions about who plays what role. In fact, I believe that there shouldn’t be any predefined roles in the first place… Terms like “housewife” are, to me, outdated – they put women into a role that has already been decided for them.

 Instead of being classified by these roles, both men and women should share everything equally… From raising the kids to smaller things like looking after the house, no one sex or gender should be told that it is their “role” to do those things.

When did you decide you identified as a feminist?

Honestly, I think it was when I was a teenager… Maybe 15? You see, I’d grown up in a single parent household, and my Mum had worked really hard to get our life sorted out. And she’d done really well! I had a very comfortable life. But, it was never easy for her. She had changed jobs almost every year for a while, simply because her thoughts and ideas were being brushed aside for those that men had come up with. There were even times when her suggestions were ignored, but then if they were repeated by a man, they were accepted.

My Mum could have been far more successful at her career if she were a man, and that really hit me hard… Especially since, even at that time, I knew I wanted a daughter when I was older. I thought about it, and what it would mean for my future daughter (if I had one) to grow up in a world like that. And I knew how unfair it was…

This was then further compounded by the way girls at school, and those who identified as girls were treated by the male teachers. Some were gazed at as if they were just there to be attractive decorations, whilst others were overlooked constantly when the teachers would ask questions of the class.

Whilst I hope that it wasn’t the case, to my teenage mind it seemed like they were deliberately being pushed aside so that the boys could get the better education. The female teachers did none of this, however… Just a select few of the male teachers (who are no longer teaching at that school, I might add).

Final thoughts?

 I guess my final thoughts are that there’s still a long way to go, simply because the world isn’t equal yet. But the problem is, inequality has become so ingrained in society now.

I honestly don’t know what else we can do, without somehow hitting a magical reset button. The only light I can see is that, as the younger generations grow up in a world where we are fighting for equality, they are starting to fight too. So when they grow into adulthood and inherit what we leave behind, hopefully, the future will be a far better place for everyone.

 So, for now, I guess my answer is to keep fighting for equality and teaching our children about it. That way, with patience and time, maybe we’ll be able to finally have an equal world.

Thank you so much, Gareth, for this brilliant post. If you’d like to be a part of Feminist Fridays please contact me on chloefmetzger@gmail.com I’d love to hear from you! 

Feminist Friday: 10 Things You Can Still Do & Still Be A Feminist

There are so many crazy theories about things you can and can’t do when you’re a feminist. So, here are 10 things that you can still do and be a Feminist.

Be feminine

You think afternoon tea is the best way to spend an afternoon but also feel equality is important and want to talk about it? You’re still a Feminist.

Be angry!

You’re mad, you’re so fucking mad with the state of the world and that you are treated differently. You’re still a Feminist.

Want to have children

You want to have children, you’d love them and feel you’d be a good parent. You might even want to be a stay at home parent. You’re still a Feminist.

Choose to shave

You, personally, prefer the feel and look of shaved underarms and legs. You’re still a Feminist.

Dress in whichever way you want!

You like to wear clothes you’re happy in, even though it might conform to society or be ‘in fashion’ on the other hand you might not and that’s fine too. You’re still a Feminist.

Like being ‘sexy’

Want to take some pictures of yourself? Want to dress up in lacy underware? Go for it. You’re still a Feminist.

Enjoy beauty

Make up makes you feel good and creative? You like to transform your features? You’re still a Feminist

Take your husband to be’s name

You like the tradition, prefer his name or would like to have family name. You’re still a Feminist.

Enjoy the company of men!

You get on with guys, you like to hang out with them. You’re still a Feminist.

Have your own views and opinions.

You are still a Feminist.

What would you add to the list? Let me know in the comments below!

Feminist Friday With… Lou Sarabadzic

For tonight’s Feminist Friday guest post Lou Sarabadzic, a blogger and all around awesome lady, speaks about growing up as a Feminist.

I realised I was a feminist as a child. I must have been 11 or 12, tops. I obviously didn’t know what it meant. I only started wondering about it because almost as soon as I voiced a clear opinion (or heard another girl/woman voice an opinion), however trivial – a terrified grown-up would ask me the question: ‘But you’re not a feminist, right?’ Has there not been such an offended, derisive and reproachful tone in their question, I probably wouldn’t have given it much thought. But people (friends, family, strangers, virtually everyone) sounded so offended that I MIGHT be a feminist, that I MIGHT want to like or defend another woman, that I thought: wait… what does that actually mean?

I asked people. Many people. Mostly grown-ups and teenagers. I read magazines aimed at women. Then I took a dictionary. And the difference between people’s definition and the dictionary’s one was so unbelievably big I wondered if I got the spelling right… I was being told by pretty much everyone that feminists were extreme, violent, aggressive, old-fashioned, ugly and unlovable. And in the dictionary, it just said that it was just a case of defending women’s rights, because for so long, they hadn’t been the same as the men’s (still are not, but it didn’t say…).

My feminism is deeply rooted in anger, and there’s no way I’ll hide that, or try to sugar-coat it. I’m so angry at everything the world sends our way. I’m outraged everyday by what is normalised. I hate that this oppression is everywhere I go, in whatever situation. I hate even more that I am expected to apologise for not liking it, sometimes even asked to be thankful for it. It still pains me to realise each time that I am the one who needs to explain myself for feeling outraged by unequal treatment and obvious violence. Surely, you can’t ignore the shit women have to experience all over the world every freaking day, can you?

I’m in the position of an extremely privileged feminist. I’m white, middle-class, I went to University. I was able to spend years working on rhetoric, studying gender and language/literature to be ready to discuss relevant topics. So many women are not lucky enough to make that choice. In addition, so many women face even more prejudice and experience the most disgusting discrimination because they don’t conform in one way or another: not white enough, not Western enough, not wealthy enough, not straight enough, not sexualised enough, not Cis enough, not female enough…

 I’m convinced as a feminist that intersectionality should be an absolute priority: we need to hear and empower people, not make decisions in their names and patronise them. There are many ways to support intersectionality. As a bookworm, reading is my way of spreading thoughts and ideas: I post excerpts of books I read on Twitter and Facebook. Many of these books are openly feminist. It’s essential that many are from under-represented writers: ethnic minorities, LGBTQIA*, disabled authors… When people say: ‘how could I encourage intersectionality myself? I’m not in power, nor a manager or a journalist, you know!’, I say: well, as privileged human beings we both are, I know a simple, free option: go to the library and borrow books to hear voices we don’t usually hear. Read blogs, articles, I don’t know. Whatever you want to do: read, listen, share.

I strongly believe that feminism is necessary to both individual and collective survival. And we’re not done fighting. So I guess, as Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie puts it, we should all be feminists.

Thank you so much, Lou, for this brilliant post. If you’d like to be a part of Feminist Fridays please contact me on chloefmetzger@gmail.com I’d love to hear from you!