Thursday, 19 October 2017

A Diwali Poem

The clear blue sky,
The scent of flowers,
The colours of Rangoli,
And the sound of crackers.

The gifts and sweets from dear ones,
And the getting of their love,
The light of the candles below,
And the dazzling fireworks up above.

Lighting lamps at our homes,
Making the less fortunate smile,
Putting on new apparels,
Show our friends some style.

Paying respects to the gods,
And decorating for them the thali,
This is what the occasion is all about,
This is the spirit of Diwali

Wednesday, 18 October 2017

#metoo groped at a business meeting

It has been more than a week since the news of the sexual harassment carried out by the Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein broke. The scale of his evil acts has become apparent subsequently with more and more victims coming forward with their accounts.

On 15 October the actress Alyssa Milano tweeted asking women who had been victims of sexual crimes to tweet her using the hashtag #metoo. The request has spawned a movement in itself with #metoo being actively used for a number of days now. 

Sexual harassment is endemic and even a quick read of the #metoo twitter stream shows just how widespread it is not only in the countries that it takes place but in the spaces in women's lives in which these acts of harassment and rape take place.

Women are vulnerable everywhere in the spaces that they inhabit on a daily basis for the normal functioning of life.

It's taken me a week to write this blog post because I could not decide which incident of sexual harassment to blog about. This revelation has shocked even me and I was there each time! Are we mere playthings for men in the way that a cat toys with a mouse?

The concept of 'choice' associated with the women's movement is as far way as possible from the choice that I have had in trying to decide which attack to write about. 

Should it be the time when I knelt on the floor to pick something up that I had dropped only for a male work colleague to quip, "while you are down there"?  There was the time during a windy day when I held my skirt down while running to get onto a bus only for the bus driver to tell me that I ought to have let my skirt blow up to make his day.

I have chosen to write about the time I was groped at a work meeting because it is an example of the indiscriminate and sick opportunistic nature of male sexism.

I was co-chairing a round table meeting some years ago quite close to Christmas.  I left the room during break time to get something and as I re-entered the room one of the attendees came up behind me and wished me 'Merry Christmas' with a grope. He picked his moment because the meeting was due to restart any second. He had compromised me not only with the use of his hand but with his timing too. As it happens I did report him to my boss who wanted to take action but I did not want a confrontation and chose not to take it further.  A marker of his behaviour was sufficient for the moment in case it happened again.

The details of incidents of sexual harassment are quite often secondary to the context within which it occurs and by this I mean that men have gone unchallenged for far too long over their stronghold of a power base which demeans women. Male privilege is a dangerous anomaly.


Wednesday, 11 October 2017

Fight racism because girls come in different skin tones

The Benetton ad below which features children of different races reflects the changing cultural context of the world that they are growing up in. On 'International Day of the Girl' the importance of sending girls encouraging messages to look upwards in terms of life and career choices should have equal footing with eradicating the structural inequalities that pull them downwards. Racism is one such inequality. 
Donald Trump's slights and outbursts against immigrants and the rise of the far-right political groups in the Western world is sufficient evidence of how racism is quite often implemented in a top down fashion. Racism becomes embedded in the structures of governance. In other words, racism becomes rife and a way of life.

A young Indian girl or Latina girl at school, as an example, may be living in an ethnically dominated area which receives less funding and attention from the Government's education policies. As a result, the girl's life chances are immediately several paces behind the dominant race of whichever country she lives in.

Racism skews the level playing field.

Racism is a soul destroying experience for an adult, let enough a child (girls or boys). The salience of race in childhood requires upholding the type of attention that has not been accorded to date.

Tuesday, 10 October 2017

Who has the European Central Bank’s listening ear?

Private financial corporations occupy most of the seats on the advisory groups that provide advice and expertise to the European Central Bank (ECB).
A report titled, ‘Open doors for forces of finance’, by CorporateEurope Observatory has discovered that Corporations such as BNP Paribas and Deutsche Bank have frontline positions when it comes to having the ECB’s ears, thus raising the red flag on the power of vested interests to shape and influence the bank’s policies.

There are 22 advisory groups which form part of the ECB’s decision making process. There are 517 representative seats across the 22 groups and 508 seats have been allocated to representatives of private financial institutions. The representatives come from 144 different entities: corporations, companies, associations and trade associations. These entities advise the ECB on matters such as bond purchases, banking and technical regulation among others.
Given the strategic importance of the ECB and its’ remit to manage monetary policy it is worrying, to say the least, that such large numbers of what can be called ‘lobbyists’ are so close to the centre of decision making. The concern is that they are able to provide enough of a critical mass to garner strong enough clout to push self-interested agendas and ensure that their private interests are adequately considered by the ECB.
The EU’s transparency and, by extension the ECB’s, has often been called into question by both Eurosceptics and Euro reformers such as DiEM25.
Given that the ECB has responsibility for the euro and the administration of the Eurozone’s monetary policy and is one of the three entities that makes up the ‘Troika’, responsible for imposing harsh neoliberal austerity policies on countries like Greece and Ireland, questions are quite reasonably being asked on how the ECB is making policy.
The Corporate Europe Observatory also rightly questions why other interest groups in society such as civil society or academic expertise are not members of the advisory groups.
This lack of transparency is something that dogs the Brexit debate. While the Brexiters use it as a convenient justification for an exit it is those who support the European project but are concerned about the EU's seeming reluctance to respond to these accusations who will need assuring.
At the next council and general election the Lib Dems will have the unenviable task of trying to square support for remaining in the EU while acknowledging that it has many shortfalls.
A shorter version of this article has been published on DiEm25.

Saturday, 7 October 2017

Why I took my daughter to a protest of Playboy

My daughter, Maelo Manning, protesting outside the new Playboy club in 2011
When the Playboy club reopened in London in 2011 I was adamant that my daughter and I would be there together with other feminists to register our protest. What good is it being a feminist mother if I can't point to what is the antithesis of feminism? Playboy fulfils the criteria and I know what I am talking about because I was once an admirer of the empire.

When I was growing up in Asian in the 1970s and early 1980s there were two very rich Western men who were constantly in the news. One was Aristotle Onassis and the other was Hugh Hefner. Back then while the Tiger economies were still classed as 'third world countries' Asian people lived under the misapprehension that the streets in the West were paved with gold, Not literally, of course.

Onassis and Hefner were the epitome of this gold dream and it is easy to understand why given their trappings of mansions and yachts and an endless stream of beautiful women partying with them.  

Hefner, for some reason, had an edge and was even more of a household name and an icon of the supposed 'self-made man' in a continent where, ironically, Playboy was banned. There was a good under the counter trade though in very old copies of the magazine.

Fast forward and I realised the falseness of it all when I read Gloria Steinem's account of her time working undercover as a Playboy bunny. The whole empire was built on the backs of women exploited as 'bunnies'. There was nothing liberating about dressing up in a sort of swimsuit with a bunny tail attached to it. Tosh, pure tosh.

Hefner knew how to play the game by appearing to support the women's liberation movement. He funded birth control campaigns and said that: "I was a feminist before there was such a thing as feminism". Being a feminist involves far more than taking responsibility for your reproductive rights. It also involves the non-exploitation of women. There are numerous stories of the Playboy bunnies being kept virtually as prisoners in the Playboy mansion. Hefner set unreasonable rules for them to live by and, in this way, ensured that he had them captive emotionally too.

My primary motive for taking my daughter to the protest that day was to show her that misogyny sometimes comes dressed up in luxury, at an expensive address and with a lot of Razzmatazz. It doesn't always at first glance look crass and ugly but scratch the surface and you will see a certain amount of cheap brass instead.