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MumsnetGuestBlogs (MNHQ) Tue 31-Dec-13 12:40:32

Was 2013 a good year for women?

The actions of women have made waves across the political and cultural landscape in 2013; from the United Nations creating Malala Day in honour of Pakastani teenager Malala Yousafzai, to the Oxford English Dictionary introducing the word 'twerk' thanks to Miley Cyrus.

In this guest blog, comedian and actress Sara Pascoe explores whether 2013 has been a good year for women - and, unsurprisingly, finds mixed results.

What do you reckon to Sara's analysis? Who have been your heroines of 2013? What still needs to be done? Once you've finished reading, please do join in the discussion on the Talk thread below.

Sara Pascoe

Writer, comedian and actress

Posted on: Tue 31-Dec-13 12:40:32


Lead photo

Was 2013 a good year for women?

As always, there have been many round-ups of the year. A bit of near nostalgia to reflect upon. A neat summary of twelve months deftly assembled so that we know where the world is right now. And the formula is familiar: young famous person is ridiculous, catastrophic natural disaster, distant war, old famous person is ridiculous, someone dies, someone else dies, even worse natural disaster, funny internet clip. The World can be so unoriginal.

But this year I noticed that lots of papers and journalists were reporting that 2013 was “a good year for women”. And they put a picture of Miley Cyrus next to it because she is both a woman AND 2013. And because you’re not allowed to publish words anymore without accompanying them with bared female flesh. HOW ELSE WILL THE READER KNOW WHO TO JUDGE?

So was 2013 Good? For women?

The word ‘good’ is itself subjective. And I suspect that I, like any individual, could reach a personal conclusion about whether it had been good for me, and then project that onto the rest of my gender. That is the human way isn't it? Let me give you some examples; if I was personally affected by the number of austerity cuts that are so damaging to mothers and carers then I would tell you this was a bad year - one in which women’s non-employed input into society continues to go unrecognised and where the vulnerable are not being correctly protected. If, on the other hand, I had successfully pressed for equal pay in my workplace, I would tell you it was a great year; where notions of women being less-able or less hardworking employees than men were evolving, and that I finally felt correctly valued. <Insert photo of Miley Cyrus>

If I was one of the 130,000 people campaigning to remove page 3 from The Sun newspaper, I might feel positive at this huge collection of like minds, at the amount of press and support we’d had, and I would feel optimistic that the way women’s bodies are daily displayed as titillation was changing. Good year. If I was a topless model who felt feminists were attacking me and my work choices, bad. If I loved the Lily Allen song ‘Hard out Here’ parodying the ubiquitous nudity and objectification of women in the music industry, I’d be telling you it was a good year. If I noticed that the slow-mo close ups on wiggling behinds were all of young black women while Allen stayed fully dressed during her video, I might feel that hypocrisy was apparent, that it was a bad year for women. Because even a statement song about how music videos portray women can’t exist without that same sexualisation - or nobody would play it. <Insert photo of Miley Cyrus> I would worry about the message inherent that it is only white women's objectification that is unacceptable. If I was a young black woman myself, I might feel angry with the middle class white women I saw discussing this in the media, and feel unrepresented - that feminism had no place for me.

This year I noticed that lots of papers and journalists were reporting that 2013 was “a good year for women”. And they put a picture of Miley Cyrus next to it because you're not allowed to publish words anymore without accompanying them with bared female flesh. HOW ELSE WILL THE READER KNOW WHO TO JUDGE?

This year I saw female genital mutilation being discussed in newspapers and online. I watched documentaries that described not only the physical reality of the practice, but also how girls born in Britain can be taken abroad and return ‘cut’. And even about women who might be conducting the practice in this country. I could feel that all this discussion is a good thing. That the fear of ‘different cultures’ has led us to be ignorant to abuse of human rights and a hatred of female sexuality for too long. Or I might note that the year ends with still no convictions for this crime. That despite all this attention, parents are harming or permitting this harm on their daughters, with little fear of repercussion. Not good.

Margaret Thatcher dies, and loads of people talk about what a strong and brilliant woman she was, good year. Or Margaret Thatcher dies, and everyone keeps going on and on about how she was a woman, like she was defined by her gender rather than her politics. Nelson Mandela dies, people don’t go on and on and on about how he was a man.

In 2013, 504 of the 650 MPs were male. Bad year. This is the same male-dominated parliament which decides the laws which affect women. Like Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt confirming he would favour a reduction in the time a woman can have an abortion from 24 to 12 weeks. Good or bad for women depends on your personal views and experiences of abortion - but gosh, I find it difficult to even hypothetically imagine a situation where it is positive that a woman’s option of whether to continue with a pregnancy is decided by Jeremy Hunt. <Insert photo of Miley Cyrus - and maybe the readers won't notice I couldn't equivocate on that one>

The second place law is made in the UK is in courts, with judges’ rulings becoming precedents for later cases. 2013 saw face veils banned in courts, and then later permitted. You may be a Muslim woman who feels that your personal choice of religious attire has been respected - good year. You may be a woman who feels that religious attire in general is a form of female suppression - bad year. You may not know what to think or feel on this issue. Or about whether young pop stars should keep their clothes on, whether Femen are practicing reclamation by getting their boobs out, or whether Blurred Lines should have been banned from radio play.

With its thousands of grey areas, it feels like 2013 contained more discussion than ever about women. About how the media portrays and affects us. About the crimes against us that go unpunished. About the abuse that TV presenters and reality TV contestants face based on their appearance. About the cuts to services that take care of vulnerable women. And so if 2013 was the year of debate, 2014 must be the year we begin to do something about it. And then that would be an objectively good year for women.

By Sara Pascoe

Twitter: @sarapascoe

IsabellaBird Tue 31-Dec-13 22:08:11

Well I thoroughly enjoyed myself

hazchem Wed 01-Jan-14 08:13:05

It was a shit year for Australian women.
We now have less female representation in cabinet then ever before and the Office for Women now sits under the remit of one of the most misogynistic men of all times, our Prime Minister.
For a brief few days where lesbian women had the same rights as there hetero counter parts in terms of marriage but the Government overruled that.
New law have been introduced which seek to place the fetus with more rights then a women who is pregnant.
Oh and pay raises to childcare workers ( who are predominately female) have been removed.
The "treatment" of asylum seekers have gone from terrible to horrific, particularly for women and children, to the point where several Doctors have said that practicing in the conditions contravenes their oath
Yeah it's been pretty shit for Australian women.

ninja Wed 01-Jan-14 09:38:57

Another interesting campaign has been the 'let toys be toys not girls and boys'. They have had some noticeable successes but in this day and age should they have to be there.

I was brought up in the '70s and for me at least we wore dungarees and played with gender neutral yours - Lego, tonka trucks ... 'Girls' toys are so passive compared to 'boys' ones and if we are ever going to address the gender imbalance in science/engineering/maths subjects we need to start right at the beginning.

So yes, 2013 has made some progress there, but actually for girls/women there's still a long way to go.

CaptChaosGlitteryBaubles Wed 01-Jan-14 13:31:57

2013 was also a pretty shit year for women in most of the USA, with contraception not being included in a stupid number of Obamacare plans and male led State legislatures doing all they can to circumvent Wade Vs Roe and make it nigh on impossible for women to access legal abortion clinics.

It was also a pretty shit year for women on the Twittersphere and elsewhere in the social media world, where women who poked their heads above the parapet were threatened in the most disgusting ways by a shocking number of men. A tiny number of these men are to be prosecuted, but I have little doubt that they will just get a slapped wrist.

Women and children are still affected every day by men's violence, nothing seems to change, and funding is removed from shelters making it even harder for women and men to leave terrifying abusive situations.

hazchem Wed 01-Jan-14 21:24:33

I feel like 2013 has shown me that being a Feminist is maybe more important now then it has ever been because so much has been won previously and it is now being stolen quietly.

NumptyNameChange Thu 02-Jan-14 13:02:07

tory boys swaggered around and slashed benefits that disproportionately effected women, legal aid was slashed, women's aid and others lost funding leaving women trapped in violent homes, public services were further shrunk hitting women hardest both as service users and employees, the government pushed ahead with plans to make women pay for the privilege of trying to get child support from absent fathers who refuse to cooperate, single mothers had their housing benefit slashed by ten percent for not being able to find work that fitted with childcare and school hours whilst single men living next door continued scratching their arses and play WOW without penalty, etc.

no, by any objective, material analysis 2013 was not a good year for women.

NumptyNameChange Thu 02-Jan-14 13:09:31

maybe one way it was good for women was in making it highly fucking obvious the contempt those boys in power have for us. maybe that means more women waking up to the stark realities of inequality. or maybe it just means being too knackered and skint to care anymore.

2013 actually probably lessened my feminism's priority status in some ways because it was such a war on the underprivileged and non elite that my allegiances of socio economic status sort of trumped my allegiances of gender itms.

it was also a good year for dividing and ruling in that sense both along racial and economic lines. easy to understand black women being pissed off with middle class white women but less understood why working class (and below) women might end up pissed off with black women who made it about colour and wrote white feminists off as racist because they were privileged without acknowledging class and the realities of working class single women also having their intersectionality at play and being unfairly lumped in with the privileged by middle class educated black women who were all about race and not looking at their own privilege.

2013 might be the year that i got disillusioned with feminism as a WHOLE being ignorant of socio economic reality and playing race games instead.

NumptyNameChange Thu 02-Jan-14 13:11:58

or short hand what a load of bollocks and whatever mental masturbation you indulge in some of us will still be out here trying to raise kids and work and survive the narcissistic hellish stick wielding powerful men trying to break us whilst middle class feminists of all races argue about their relative privileges.

hazchem Fri 03-Jan-14 00:49:19

I do worry we will left it some post modernist anal gazing if we aren't careful rather then doing shit that matters.
For example in Australia I'd like single parent payment reintroduced for those with children over the age of 8. While it effect some men it mainly effects women but more importantly it effects poor women most.
Oh and I'd like Australia to close down off shore processing centers and mainland detention centers and place asylum seekers in the community with access to proper medical attention and appeals process. In the UK I'd like to see asylum seekers given the right to work and end fast track from countries where there are high rates of abuse against gay/lesbians.

Sparrowp Fri 03-Jan-14 23:57:05

Worst. Year. Ever.

GoggotsandNanas Sun 05-Jan-14 23:08:46

OP regarding "If I was a young black woman myself, I might feel angry with the middle class white women I saw discussing this in the media, and feel unrepresented - that feminism had no place for me. "

Have you seen ?

OddlyActive Fri 10-Jan-14 10:34:33

I found this after googling 'photo of Miley Cyrus'. I'm feeling duped. Bad start to New Year...

I think 2013 was probably a bad year for the majority, male or female, and a good one for the minority, male or female. That's been the general trend for quite a while now, which is why I read blogs instead of newspapers.

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