Guest panel: Has 2014 been a good year for women?
The last 12 months have been a mixed bag for women: whilst politicians and celebrities came out in droves to declare themselves feminists, government cuts, online sexual harassment and the persistent pay gap showed that we are still a long way from equality.
Here, four bloggers and activists consider how much progress has been made, and what they'd like to see in 2015. How do you think feminism has fared this year?
First up, Louse Pennington – who blogs of at My Elegant Gathering of White Snows – argues that many of 2014's ‘feminist victories’ have been about making the movement more palatable for men
My Elegant Gathering of White Snow
Posted on: Mon 29-Dec-14 11:54:19
(21 comments )
In September, the UN hosted a conference on gender equality and kicked off the #HeforShe campaign with a speech from Emma Watson. Hailed as a win for women everywhere, Watson’s speech was the same old "feminists must be nice to men because they have sad feelings" discourse that cushions the status quo – the kind that allows the UN to host a conference on gender equality without inviting any women. The reason #HeforShe was so successful was because it was safe - it failed to challenge any structural power. Instead, it begged men to recognise women as human by hitting the button that said ‘I agree’, something my cat can manage by plunking her arse on the keyboard. What my cat couldn't do this year, however, was afford the must-have feminist fashion accessory of 2014: the Fawcett Society and Elle ‘this is what a feminist looks like’ t-shirt. But, at £45, who could? Certainly not the women who made them.
The reason #HeforShe was so successful was because it was safe - it failed to challenge any structural power.
We also saw William Hague host a global conference to end sexual violence in war whilst his government slashed services to support victims in the UK. Threats of sexual violence and death continued unabated for any woman who dared to have an opinion, and female celebrities became victims of sexual assault en masse when a group of men hacked into their private iCloud accounts and released intimate photos of them. The inevitable consequence was that even larger numbers of men deliberately searched out these images, and online mass sexual violence became ‘totes awesome’. Women were, of course, labelled hysterical for calling it sexual assault.
Yes, we may have seen party leaders staring awkwardly into the middle distance whilst wearing some overpriced t-shirts, but make no mistake: 2014 was not the start of a new feminist movement; it was a full-scale assault on women’s bodily autonomy.
By Louise Pennington
Next, Victoria Smith (a.k.a Glosswitch), writes that moves towards making the division of childcare and domestic labour fairer feel grudging, and have not gone far enough
Posted on: Mon 29-Dec-14 11:54:19
(21 comments )
In 2014 we've seen the first rumblings of fourth-wave feminism fatigue. Karl Lagerfeld reduced feminist protest to a catwalk carnival, the "celebrity feminism" of Emma Watson and Lena Dunham came in for harsh criticism, and Time magazine initially included "feminist" in a list of "words that should be banned". On the surface, it might feel as though it’s time to pack up and go home.
But for those of us who've dared to notice, it’s also been the year in which it’s become clear just how bad things are. Cultural phenomena such as #gamergate and the increasingly open documentation of male violence against women have made it obvious not just how much activism there is, but how much more is needed.
Politicians, mostly male, know that women are people, too, but they'd prefer it if we weren't. Having a baby is still seen by many, not as an essential part of human life, but as 'a thing women do that irritates employers'.
This is the context in which mothers have found ourselves trying not just to be listened to as individuals, but to raise sons and daughters to be neither aggressors nor victims. Of course, it’s hard. For my part, I feel much of the progress we make – in terms of some shared parental leave becoming possible in 2015 and the recognition of unpaid domestic work – is partial and grudging. Politicians, mostly male, know that women are people, too, but they'd prefer it if we weren't. Each step forward for mothers is justified in economic rather than human terms. Having a baby is still seen by many, not as an essential part of human life, but as “a thing women do that irritates employers.” It's difficult to get started on challenging a hyper-masculine culture when you’re meant to be falling over with gratitude at being “allowed” back into a low-paid job.
What I'd really like for 2015 would be greater co-operation between women of all generations, between those who have children and those who do not. We separate ourselves off from one another and wait for “our” issues to be attended to. But if some are sick of feminism, maybe it’s because we just can’t afford to wait any longer.
By Victoria Smith
Next up, the young mothers of Focus E15. They became feminist icons this year after occupying empty social housing, having been evicted from their hostel and told they would be rehoused outside London. Here, they write on how 2014 became the year their voices were heard.
Posted on: Mon 29-Dec-14 11:54:19
(21 comments )
We never anticipated the attention the campaign would get, and in that way, 2014 has been very empowering - we have found that mothers standing together are very strong, and we have inspired other women to act against austerity and the housing crisis in London.
Through talking to people at our regular street stall, we've heard peoples’ stories – we have learnt that cuts and the eviction of the poor is something which is affecting lots of people, not just mums. We also know the situation is getting worse. It only took a £40,000 cut at the E15 Hostel - which is a tiny amount of money to the government, really - for us to be sent eviction notices, and more than half of the cuts in Britain are still yet to happen.
2014 has made us brave, and now we are ready to fight for everybody who is facing austerity, even though our own futures are still uncertain.
2014 has made us brave - our voices have been heard in a way they never were before - and now we are ready to fight for everybody who is facing austerity, even though our own futures are still uncertain. If your 2015 is beginning with insecurity, if you’re going through something similar to us, we would urge you to take action - represent yourself and your communities, because no-one else will. As a mother, your voice can be very powerful, and our voices are much needed in the fight for housing, healthcare and other basic necessities which are rapidly being taken away. We are as determined now as we were at the start of the year, if not more so, and we’re looking forward to the fight 2015 will bring.
By Focus E15
Lastly, Lucy-Anne Holmes - the founder of No More Page 3 - argues that, although we cannot ignore the atrocious acts carried out against women this year, the young people she meets give her hope that 2015 will be better
No More Page 3
Posted on: Mon 29-Dec-14 11:54:19
(21 comments )
We've borne witness to another year of atrocious acts carried out against women and girls across the word: 150 women killed in Iraq for refusing to marry IS fighters, Elliot Roger’s killing spree in America and kidnappings in Nigeria – and that’s just what gets reported.
Here in the UK, a UN envoy found we had a 'boys' club sexist culture', much more so than in other countries. Our media and government, would you believe, didn't respond by saying ‘how can we be better?’ They retaliated with the denial and defensiveness you'd expect from a sexist boys’ club culture.
What we've done over the last few years is build a feminist future, and even if we can't see all the fruits of our labour yet, I think the future is bright.
But there’s been hope, too. It feels as though every day, more and more voices are joining together to speak up about inequality. More and more people – women and men, pop stars and politicians – are standing up and saying, proudly, ‘I'm a feminist’. This has to be a good thing, doesn't it?
And it’s not just words – people are finally asking ‘what more can I do?’ The momentum behind the No More Page 3 campaign has been dizzying this year, and I have been struck by the passion and energy of the young people in the movement. I've long lost count of the emails from teenage girls saying, ‘can you come and speak in my school?’ or ‘how can I help?’
It's these young people who give me confidence and hope that 2015, and the years afterwards, will be better. What we've done over the last few years is build a feminist future, and even if we can’t see all the fruits of our labour yet, I think the future is bright.
NMP3’s Christmas single, Now's the time, is still available to download.
By Lucy-Anne Holmes
I think the best news of the year are the parental leave changes. If I had this when I went off dh could have kept his job instead he had to leave so I could carry on working.
On a personal level I read on sites such as this that men don't share childcare or housework but I don't think its true of parents in my rl. Polotician men might be like that but most actual dads of my generation are very hands on.
I like the optimism and energy of E15 and Lucy Ann Holmes - the miserable first two posts just make me want to curl up under my duvet and stop bothering. Of course the world is shit for women, of course people don't understand and there will be a backlash - that's why we continue to fight and challenge, in whatever small way we can, day by day.
2014 was a brilliant year - how amazing to see feminism on the map, the first small glimmers of recognition in society - we need to celebrate these successes, else how will we motivate ourselves to keep pushing? Onwards and upwards!
Maybe it's because I'm older but I also see feminism as a slow but steady progress on the whole. We have to face resurgent old challenges as well as new ones, but generally we keep on going.
I think this is a great combination of posts from four brilliant women/groups of women. We need to hear the voices of anger/harsh reality/intelligence/passion/optimism/humour, the whole lot. These are women's voices, they're all so powerful and inspiring and they reflect 2014 well: a mixture of real crap and heartening reasons to look forward with optimism. All the writers here contributed a huge amount to establishing feminism's place in public discourse in 2014, it can't be ignored any more and it's not going away. Total gratitude to all of them.
Stephanie, have I missed something? How do you know who the 4 posts are by?
It tells you at the bottom of each post Wasting: Louise Pennington, Victoria Smith, Focus E15 and Lucy-Ann Holmes.
I agree StephanieDA. Brave women fighting against the tide and daily abuse in many cases. Thank you all.
Reality for many young women 40% rise in self harm because of poverty since 2010. An increase in vulnerable Care Leavers turning up at homeless hostels for support, many will be females. Many children so hungry in London (and other UK towns a cities) they are having to turn to prostitution www.dailymail.co.uk/wires/pa/article-2892330/Child-sex-abuse-town.html . Sexual exploitation of children and young people in UK is on the increase.
Cuts in services and welfare mean that for millions of children (regardless of gender) the future is now bleak and desperate. It's estimated that 5 million + children will be living in poverty by 2020.
Feminism and equality needs to start with a civilised government that respects all people not just wealthy men in grey suits.
Found the posts really interesting and a strange mix of optimism and despondency. I suppose I'm somewhere in the middle -I find it very hard to stomach politicians like ids, Cameron, Clegg, and William Hague putting on a t shirt and declaring themselves feminists when 70% the cuts they have made are directly affecting women, particularly single women with children, from ethnic minorities, fleeing domestic violence, or with disabilities, and that poor women are routinely demonized for the choices they have to make through this so called shirker culture we seem to have accepted as a fact. These are the same politicians that introduced charges for sexual harassment and equalities tribunals. In Scotland, huge cuts are being made in college funding which means that it is more and more difficult for women to go back into education or training after childbirth while politicians seem to think that endemic failures in the provision of childcare can be resolved by playing free hours bingo, and there are reports of people walking 12 miles to get to a food bank (whose usage increased by 400% last year). So no, wearing a t shirt and waving about a hashtag has not convinced me that the political parties in power are feminists or that great strides towards a feminist agenda have taken place . However, in 2014, the very public revulsion against the hideously misogynist acts that have taken place and the rise in of self identifying feminist role models like Malaga, Julia guillard, and (dare I say it) Emma Watson shows me that 2014 was the year that we started to stand together and identify what exactly we have been fighting against. What I hope for 2015 is that feminism doesn't descend into infighting over the semantics of what we call ourselves, that we stay United, and that we take action against the huge injustices against women that are perpetrated every day. That's my tuppence worth anyway.
scallops, it really doesn't show the authors on my phone !
I really enjoyed this Guardian article, did anyone else read it?
baby, I found it quite informative / aligned with my views as well.
This thread isn't exactly bustling though , is it? I'd have expected it to be of interest to more MNers.
It's end of Christmas and I've been feeling anxious; anxious that 2015 is going to be even crapper for ordinary women and their children so I'm glad I've found this site. Something is changing. And I think the women's posts and actions above show that.
In Doncaster I have been trying for a few years now to push the issues of women and children to the forefront of my communities mind. And that is hard as some men don't want women's voices to be heard.
We have had the very brave care uk workers on strike for over ninety days, most of them women, desperate to maintain fair pay and a fair service. Desperate to keep the nhs.
We've had women from the miners strike speaking about their experiences of 84/5.
We've had an 85 year old woman organising freedom rides civil disobedience on our railway to keep train fare free for oap's.
A group of mainly women have got together to defend our abortion clinic from the forty day for lifers who are picketing it.
I work with survivors of domestic violence and abuse. Evidence shows us that life is generally much tougher for women than for men under austerity. Cuts to jobs pay and services means it is harder to leave an abusive relationship. If you don't leave there is a greater chance you could lose your children.
To leave and start again women need decent benefits, decent paid jobs , decent housing , free education , affordable transport, libraries and affordable safe child care provision. All of the above is dwindling, is moving further and further away from our grasp.
I was very pleased to see nigella laws on leave her husband and start again in america. She can rebuild her life. But for most women this escape route is as possible as winning the lottery.
I look at traditional areas for protesting for women like unions and I see them totally letting women down in 2014 so I take heart from e15 women - very much. If we want something we have to do it ourselves.
Please tell me that IDS didn't have the barefaced cheek to have a picture taken with a "This is what a feminist looks like" T shirt on his trolly body? Please. Because if he did, then surely we could have him under the trades descriptions act? He has personally overseen cuts that have disproportionately adversely affected women and children, have caused unbelievable amounts of hardship and suffering to women.
Please tell me it isn't so.....
This has been a tough year for feminism and women. More and more we see women who poke their heads above the parapet to point out that not everything is golden, being shot down with increasingly nasty abuse. The PR manager of NewsInternational who own the S*n newspaper has verbally attacked the women running the no more page 3 campaign on Twitter. C C-P is constantly harassed over every form of social media there is. Women have been hounded off MN by concerted abuse from posters who are still posting on the forum.
The E15 women have been a bright spot in what has looked at times like a bleak picture. So, let's take heart from them and hope that their victory is the start of something wonderful in 2015. Voting wisely in the GE will be very important.
I follow quite a few feminist blogs, including Louise and Victoria, and I have found the year unsettling. From Boko Haram to the terrible stories about Yazidi women being raped and killed, to more local news about the closure of women's refuges.
I think the media have been pretty appalling, from their reporting of cases such as Rotheram and the high-profile celebrity historical sex abuse. The reporting of the Reeva Steenkamp killing and the Ched Evans case, along with the associated comments from the public were also disappointing, but I am taking heart from actions such as those of Focus E15 and Lucy-Anne, also that people are willing to sign in their tens and hundreds of thousands to speak out against sexism.
I'm glad you've raised ched Evans. I live near Sheffield and watching that community publicly debate rape, support for victims and holding public bodies like the football club to account, as for me been magnificent.
I contacted my union in Sheffield and asked if they'd debate putting out a public statement against the club taking him back. They did and they did a statement.
I work with women and it's becoming apparent just how sexist Britain is. It's in an Appauling state with 16 to 25 yr old women being most at risk from domestic abuse.
i think unfortunately that the stark reality is that the cuts have hit women particularly very hard, both in terms of cuts to benefits and services and in cuts to public service jobs where more women were employed and it looks very clear that the next wave of cuts are set to cut even deeper and harder and we have no reason to suppose they won't equally discriminate against women.
on the other hand we get stronger, more pissed off, more aware, less able to sweep it under the carpet... likewise the kind of elitist corruption that rules this nation gets more and more revealed. these things may not directly help our situation but if things are forced to change who knows what crumbs may fall from the table? gosh don't i sound cheery?
we've had UN reports and witnessed the reporter get ripped to shreds in predictably sexist terms, we've seen women's aid and the like slashed, we've seen legal aid trashed, we've seen it announced and stood by that single mothers shall be charged for the privilege of being able to try and get some form of financial suport from absent fathers and the government will also take a cut of that child's support in taxes. we've seen women sanctioned and had benefits taken away for the crime of it being noticed they were pregnant at interview, we've seen the same happen to women who cannot find work that fits with school hours within 12 months of their child starting school in the midst of a recession, we've seen reduced numbers of women in cabinet, we've seen child benefit removed from single women who earn over a certain tax threshold despite the fact the man next door earns but £500 less than her and has free childcare at home in the form of a wife who doesn't work whilst she shells out over 7k a year on childcare or neighbours on the other side who earn nearly twice what she earns between them but no one individual adult in the house crosses that line, need i go on?
are we talking surface gloss in celeb magazines or the lives of real actual women trying to survive and raise children in this nation? if the latter then i think it's fairly clear surely?
It's odd, I was feeling really depressed by all the relentless 'yay, feminism is winning' pieces in the news, so I found these posts actually very comforting. I felt as if I'd slipped into a parallel universe where no-one was noticing that things are not all getting better.
Though, I admit, it was very tempting just to read the title and write 'no'.
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