Monday, 26 December 2011

The Prayers of a Christian Feminist Mum

I became an Anglican eight years ago and have seen marvellous shifts in my life and outlook as a result of having faith. My daughter was 4 years old then and enjoyed the introduction to Sunday School and being part of the children's procession which followed the serving clergy out at the end of each service. It has been an absolute pleasure to have watched her faith grow over the last 8 years and to listen to her defending her faith against other young people who call her a 'geek' for going to church.

I originally come from a part of the world where Christians are persecuted for their faith and I never cease to feel deeply grateful for the freedom I have in Britain to worship freely and to have my daughter openly proclaim her faith. The privilleges we have must make us all the more acutely aware of the persecutions that others suffer. I specifically refer to the bombings in Nigeria that took place yesterady (25/12/11). Children were caught up in it and at the time of writing this I am unable to find out whether any died. The thought of those children waking up early in eager anticipation of Christmas day stretching ahead of them and then being subjected to such horror is heart wrenching.

Globalisation was meant to, apart from other things, spread the message of tolerance and international acceptance of each other. This includes religious tolerance. If anything, extremists who fear the spread of a Western style of democracy are holding fast to their beliefs by inflicting terror as a weapon to do so. China is clamping down on Churches. The value of sharing is never purely based on economics or the monetary system. If that were to be so then international cooperation need not extend beyond trade agreements and tariffs. Now, that would be foolish wouldn't it?

Please pray for the tolerance of Christianity in 2012.

Sunday, 25 December 2011

A Christmas Feminist Joke

What would have happened if it had been 3 wise women instead of 3 wise men? The women would have asked for directions, arrived on time, helped deliver the baby, cleaned the stables, cooked a casserole and brought peace on earth.

Merry Christmas to Feminist Women Everywhere.


Tuesday, 13 December 2011

Directions on How to Conduct Family Life

The following is an extract from a book written in 1698 by Sir George Wheeler who was educated at Oxford University and became an author. The rules of conduct set out below come from his book titled:
'The Protestant Monastery: Or, Christian Oeconomicks. Containing Directions for the Religious Conduct of a Family'.

Men should have power over their wives
Good wives should be patient, loving, sweet, kind and obedient
Men should look after their wives
Men should never hit their wives
Men should take advice from their wives
Men are stronger and wiser than women
Men should respect their wives
Wives should obey their husbands

Have contemporary marriages moved away from this model for a happy marriage? Your immediate instinct would be to say 'yes', I suspect, but do consider the rise in domestic violence, the recent spate of family killings by men and the favourable way policy makers view marriage with a sub-text of keeping traditional roles going.

Wednesday, 23 November 2011

Violence of Gifford Attracts Sympathy for Disabled?

This blog post has been inspired by an article in the Sunday Times of 20 November by Dominic Lawson titled 'Only a Gunman Brings Respect to the Disabled'. This title is a reference to Gabrielle Giffords, the Arizona congresswoman who was shot earlier this year. I read the article with double interest because Dominic Lawson knows what he is talking about as he has a son with Down's Syndrome.

Gabrielle Gifford was shot through the head and was not expected to die but she has pulled through. Diane Sawyer, the very well known host at ABC, interviewed Gabrielle about her ordeal. It was the reaction by the public and the media to the interview that shows the alarming two-tier prejudice that exists against people born disabled.

Gabrielle is seen as a winner, someone who is being heroic in struggling to overcome her disability. People in everyday life who become disabled either through an accident or illness are often seen as brave too in coping with the change in their lives. But, nobody says the same of those who were born with a disability.

The two-tier prejudice comes from the fact that this group has to deal with a prejudicial concept of them being disabled and unable; and an expectation from them to do far more than they can physically or mentally possibly do.

Hate crime is on the rise. There are things we don't all witness like the disabled people who are insulted on public transport for being in the way or not moving fast enough when entering or exiting. Then there are the public spectacles of celebrities, Ricky Gervais, who used the word 'mong' to describle people with Down's Syndrome.

When the blogger, Nicola Clark, criticised Ricky Gervais for this she received a barrage of insults instead of support. What sort of society do we have where people think that the use of offensive language, especially to describe those who are vulnerable, is a sign of humour? Nicola Clark was asked to 'chill out' and to leave free speech alone. I thought our forefathers fought the ideals of free speech on the understanding that it was to be used to increase the wellbeing of all.

Dominic Lawson said: '...hope that the public can now extend their engagement with Gabrielle Gifford into an appreciation of the humanity of those who have been born disabled'.

Wednesday, 16 November 2011

Mary Wollstonecraft Was Right About Mothers

The image of Mary Wollstonecraft was today beamed onto the Houses of Parliament in London to publicise efforts to erect a statute to her memory. I was thrilled that a feminist had been given the honour of having her memory showcased on one of our most popular British landmarks.

That makes Mary officially a part of our British History, thereby a recognition that feminism has been woven into our fabric of the past. It lends more meaning to the feminist term 'her story'.

I pay homage to Mary because her view of mothers being important because they educate children is a tenet that is central to my mothering. Mothers have so much that they can teach and pass on to their children but society disempowers mothers by marginalising the work of mothering. That which does not produce a profit is disregarded.

Monday, 14 November 2011

Gloria Steinem says 'We Need To Get Much Angrier'

Contrasting Pictures Of Anger and Serenity

My first thought when I read that line was that Gloria Steinem can afford to get angry. She is famous and well respected. She can get away with it. The rest of us have to negotiate and advocate for our women's rights. In other words in the typical female way of apologising before demanding.

As an Asian woman, a further complication, I was taught that it was unladylike to be angry or, indeed, exhibit any other emotion other than demure obedience. Anger? That was the reserved right of the men we disobeyed or unruly children.

So how we do up the ante on demanding equality? Will anger work? On second thoughts, I think collective anger which manifests itself through activism will work. The women in Tahrir Square were angry. The women in Liberia who campaigned for years for peace were angry. The feminists who burned their bras were angry. Anger, therefore, does work.

Let's all get angry.


Sunday, 13 November 2011

Blaming Women for Guns

It never ceases to amaze me just how much is blamed on women or done in our name when we do not want nor need whatever deed we are being burdened with. Gloria Steinem says that women are both the victims and the false excuse for keeping guns (because men use the excuse of protecting women as a reason for having a gun).
So women are both recipients and contributors to violence. I have a sense of deja vu. Hasn't that train of thought been used before to justify rape and violence against women?

Thursday, 10 November 2011

Is the internet safe for women?

Facebook has finally taken down the page on rape but not before a number of men had a field day indulging in their evil fantasies. Social Networking is the domain of misogny now, taking the reach of misogy to new levels. By leaving the page up for as long as Facebook did the company 'normalised' violence against women. How safe are women on the internet then?

A woman was raped because her ex-boyfriend posted details of her online falsely alleging that she had a fantasy of being violated. Quite often I see comments left on women's sites too that threaten rape. Cyber rape is a growing phenomenon.

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

Feminist Mother-a solitary existence?

This blog post of mine has been inspired by a similar one written by bluemilk called 'Break-the-isolation-join-the-list' and my experience of speaking at the recent MIRCI (Motherhood Initiative for Research and Community Involvement) conference in Toronto.

I am quite used to speaking in public but when I got up to speak at MIRCI I was nervous as anything because I felt as if I was about to reveal a stream of inner consciousness and thought. In my normal day to day life I don't get the opportunity to discuss the ideologies and practical experiences of being a feminist mother.

Mothering in the public sphere seems to be about discussing a list of things 'to do' with one's child. Mothering in the private domestic setting is about 'doing things' with one's children. The deficit lies in discussing how a mother's personal experiences of feminism can shape a child's cognitivie, psychological and emotional development.

I am on a mission to rectify the situation and will be speaking at Occupy St.Paul's, London, UK on November 12 at 11am on Feminist Mothering. Specifically, I am hoping to start a UK Mother Outlaws group (originated by MIRCI) and am hoping that enough interest will be generated at Occupy St.Paul's to get the ball rolling.

Tuesday, 8 November 2011

The Dimensions of Mixed Race Mothering

Mothering a mixed race child (Asian + White) is a journey of self-discovery for me as much as it is for my 12 year old daughter. When I first became a mother I imagined that mothering was more a practical act than a cerebral one.
Granted, in the initial stages mothering does consist of changing nappies, burping etc but I underestimated the politics of race and how it would take hold so early on. At mother-baby get togethers mothers would congregate along race lines based on their own race. There were no huddled groups for mothers of mixed race babies.
Did it matter? I didn't think so then because I just joined the group with friendly faces. However, as time has gone on I do realise that race has an important dimension in mothering. Asian mothers now consist a large minority group globally and what precedes us is a racial stereotype of Asian mothers i.e docile and only interested in the domestic sphere.
Stereotypes often have a factual basis and while the picture I paint is still true of many Asian mothers there is a force emerging which wants to challenge the patriarchal notions of motherhood. These mothers realise that the straitjacket of gender inequality within the home has devastating consequences for their daughter i.e domestic violence, patriarchal bullying, and want to fight back. The family structure must not be used to reinforce daughters as second class citizens.


Wednesday, 14 September 2011

Hating People with Disabilities Breaks Society

Is society broken? I pondered on this question today when I helped a man who was using a zimmer frame. His shoe lace was undone and I was afraid that he would trip himself up. I asked him if he wanted me to tie the lace and he did. We were in a supermarket and people had to walk around us in the aisle. Some found this inconvenient and made it known.

If society cannot stop for a minute or two to make allowances for those who need a bit more time to get through life then, frankly, something is wrong. The inability to incorporate the differences in the physical or mental conditions of those who live in our midst is a failing of modern society. This failing stems partly from the false economy of placing paramount importance on beauty and body size and holding it up as the benchmark for bodily perfection.

However, the main failing of society is down to plain discriminatory attitudes. There's no beating about the bush with this.

Tuesday, 16 August 2011

Are you an ambitious mother?

There is no straitjacket of identity for what an ambitious mother looks like. We come in all shapes, sizes, colours, nationalities, race and cultures. Wanting the best for our children is the unifying thread. I am not just talking about educational attainment though I consider it to be extremely important.

Ambition pervades every part of mothering. We want our children to have social skills, good manners, morals, virtues, a good circle of friends and the list goes on. Is this you?

I am looking to create an online community of ambitious mothers who are willing to share experiences, philosophies and advice. Do tell me who you are and I will list your blog on my blogroll. The reason I am doing this is because I cannot find mothers who are willing to add the word 'ambitious' to their mothering. The stigma in a patriarchal society of being an ambitious woman seems to have extended its negative self into mothering too.

Shake the shackles off and leave a comment.


Tuesday, 9 August 2011

What do disabled people need in the workplace?

There is no doubt that something or lots of things are needed to facilitate the entry of disabled person into the workplace. This is because having a disability does not rob a person of having aspiration, aims and the ambition to work for their living. The link between welfare and disability is not a universal application to all persons with disabilities.

The Chief Executive of Radar, a charity for disabled persons, Liz Sayce says that at the current rate of progress it would take until 2070 for the employment rate for disabled people to catch up with the rate for non-disabled people. About 53% of disabled people are unemployed or working below their potential. So what is needed to speed up the process of employment?

Liz Sayce says that individualised support, mentoring and role models are key to success. I notice that debates about equality and fair access revolve around the concept of poverty which involves an assumption that everybody is non-disabled. A change in such assumptions is needed before progress can be made.


Wednesday, 27 July 2011

Why do paedophiles have more rights than disabled children?

'Why do paedohiles have more rights than our kids?' was the question raised in an Australian case where a man who allegedly abused children under the age of 14 had the charges against him dropped because of the difficulty of obtaining evidence from the children in question.

Children with disabilities are at greater risk from abuse for various reasons: they have less contact with the outside world; some cannot speak or understand what is happening to them; and a myriad of people may have intimate contact with them when it comes to personal care. There are many more reasons than this but all have one purpose - to demonstrate how vulnerable children with disabilities are and how much more the bar ought to be raised when it comes to protecting them.

The wellbeing of any and all children ought to be of the highest standard which incorporates the elements of state concern and assistance, a society that accepts everyone as equals and a unified system of working among multi agencies that deal with children's issues. Many parents of children with disabilities find it extremely hard to understand the system and how to engage with the multiple layers of care on offer.

According to a Unicef report in 2005, children with physical, sensory, intellectual or mental health disability are among the most stigmatized and marginalized of all the world's children. This says it all doesn't it?

Friday, 22 July 2011

Famine and disability

The scenes of people in the Horn of Africa having to walk for miles to the nearest UN camp seems to suggest a survival of the fittest, if that word can be used at all for millions of people who are weak from a lack of food. Mothers are having to decide which of their children to save during the trek and are leaving behind the weakest ones who are unlikely to survive.
I have been wondering about how people with mobility impairments are coping with having to walk all those miles in stifling heat. Does anyone have any information on this? From my reading of general material on the subject there is a suggestion that women with mobility impairments are often the worst hit.
Disability is an issue that is being embraced in development objectives. The Australian government has recognised it as such in the giving of foreign aid. The Millennium Development Goals (MDG) has also recognised disability as a development objective and states that 10% of people with disabilities count towards the world's population but account for 20% of global poverty. That is a hugely disproportionate figure by any account.
Part of the fightback must come from helping to mainstream disability as part of society and it is a responsibility borne by everybody, not just charities and organisations. The Disability Hate Crime campaign is seeking to change attitudes towards people with disabilities. The vulnerable are not there to be targets of malicious actions. Changing attitudes starts with every single human being.

Wednesday, 13 July 2011

The Domestication of Motherhood

'The Domestication of Motherhood' is the title of a chapter in Adrienne Rich's book, 'Of Woman Born'. As the summer school holidays approach the relevance of the title becomes more apt for some mothers. There's been a plethora of articles on how mothers are stressed and are dreading the prospect of having their children around for weeks on end.

Much of motherhood is about cooking and cleaning; making sure the children do their homework; ferrying the children to their classes; and ensuring that their quality of life is satisfactory overall. It is hard work. Somewhere in between all this mothers are also expected to experience the joy of motherhood while suffering from exhaustion.

Domestic life is still ruled by a patriarchal society. According to Adrienne Rich, man relates to a woman as a mother in a practical mode. I interpret this as meaning that man expects woman to look after the home because he sees domesticity as being part of the domain of motherhood. Domesticity isn't seen as being serious work either eventhough it forms a part of motherhood. A mother is only doing what comes naturally to her so society doesn't see domestic work as being important.

It really is a vicious cycle but I see women all around me who manage to combine the domestication of motherhood while still retaining their female independence and managing to look after their children well. It's called multi-tasking; a phrase which men hate. Nevertheless, it is only when the 'The Domestication of Motherhood' becomes an outdated phrase that women can claim true autonomy in the domestic arena.

Friday, 8 July 2011

Where is the protection for the disabled?

This blog post is dedicated to all the vulnerable people like Michael Gilbert who were targetted and, even, killed because of their disability.

Michael Gilbert, 26, was killed by a family of criminals who kept him enslaved for 10 years. They partly lived off his income benefit and, for entertainment, beat him regularly. He tried to run away a few times but these despicable people found him and dragged him back. Finally, they killed him. A review into poor Michael's life has concluded that he was let down by the authorities who were meant to have been looking after him.

A newspaper today has published a picture of Michael as a baby and he looks a happy little thing. I love children and the photo particularly has moved me to write this blog. How can society fail any human being who is disabled and who cannot look after themselves? Is this a case of the 'excessive indivualism' that has become a catchword for the failure of society to act collectively against what is wrong and immoral?

Katharine Quarmby, author of 'Scapegoat: Why We Are Failing Disabled People?'', says that '...disabled people are routinely robbed, tortured and...killed by so-called friends or those considered to be proxy families'. She calls for three reviews: 1. serious case reviews for all deaths of vulnerable adults; 2. a clear directive on the legality of information sharing (to make sharing of information between various organisations easier); and 3. police must be involved in serious safeguarding referrals.

If this is what it takes to protect the disabled then I hope the authorities are listening. Please do leave a comment below or of someone you know who has suffered. I have a vested interest in the protection of the vulnerable in society because I am a Director of The Powerhouse Trust which is a charity for women with learning difficulties and disablities.


Tuesday, 5 July 2011

Is being a mother of a starving child a political situation?

For days now I have been watching with dismay the scenes of mothers carrying and dragging their starving and dehydrated children into camps being run by international charities such as CAFOD and Doctors Without Borders in Africa. The Horn of Africa (the most eastern part of the African continent) has not had any rain for two years resulting in a severe food shortage. The extra burden of rising food prices has made eating out of the question for millions in the area.

Why in this modern day are we watching scenes of babies crying in pain and dying in front of TV camera lenses? Why are we watching helpless mothers watch their children die of starvation? All they need is food, water and medical supplies. The solution is as simple as that yet it seems as if much of the globe has been covered with a sticker which states 'nil by mouth'.

Starvation in modern day is a political issue. We can't keep blaming the weather anymore. If globalisation can result in multinational corporations setting up bases across the world; people migrating to seek their fortunes elsewhere; and the financial systems able to work around the clock to accommodate different time zones then why not a strategy to eradicate starvation?

It is partly because of corrupt political regimes that siphon money away from the poor and disenfranchised. It is also because of tribal infighting between tribes in Africa who each think they are superior to the other. It is also because of Science not being embraced fast enough to introduce solutions such as GM modified foods. It is also because the world has become used to Africa being a poor relation and forgets to feed it.

Mothers of starving and dying children are caught up in a political nightmare. It is only by the accident of birth that you or I aren't one of those poor women. Thus, we owe it to them to raise awareness.


Marriage as a tool of child abuse

While our daughters in the West play at dressing up to look like a bride or a Princess bride young girls in the Global South are being forced to get married. The practice of child brides involves girls as young as 12 being forced by their poverty stricken families to get married. Sometimes an early marriage occurs because rape is a common incident in the village where the girl lives and a raped female carries a stigma which attaches itself to her family too.

One less mouth to feed is most commonly the incentive for these girls to be given away by their parents. These girls have to give up their childhood and often have to move far away from their families and are left to fend for themselves. Their husbands are often much older and view these girls as slaves to the household. The practice generated publicity when a 10 year old girl asked for a divorce in Yemen from her husband who was in his 30s. A book was written about this incident, 'I am Nujood, Age 10 and Divorced'.

Contrast the notion we have in the West of marriage being a union of choice and happiness with the abject misery these girls have to experience. While our daughters dream of wedding gowns and expensive rings these girls dream of playing with their friends and going to school.

Wednesday, 29 June 2011

The social construct of disabled women

In the last few weeks I have attended the protest against the opening of the Playboy club and joined the Slut Walk in London. The absence of disabled women at the Playboy protest and the small numbers of disabled women on the Slut Walk made me question whether this new wave of feminism is not being inclusive enough.

At the both protests mentioned feminists were disputing the social construct of women which bears the narrative of being submissive, 'suitably' attired so as not to attract the wrong type of male attention and, yet, to keep looking attractive at all times. In a patriarchal system disabled women seem to have to fight a double headed prejudice: (a) They have to fight the outrageous prejudices that non disabled women push back against and; (b) perversely, to be recognised as sexual beings who are capable of having autonomy over their sexuality.

The sexuality of the 21st century is epitomised by celebrity culture which aims for body perfection. This has no bearing on real life for ALL women everywhere. The subtext of the new wave of feminism must be inclusive because the issues that matter to disabled women affect non-disabled women too such as domestic violence, parenting, poverty etc. If schisms of women are marginalised or left behind then feminism fails to deliver the core message of empowering ALL women.

Tuesday, 7 June 2011

Angry Bunnies Protest London's Playboy Club Opening (PHOTOS)

The child in the Easter Bunny costume is my 11 year old daughter. We strongly object to the merchandis­e sold to children by the Playboy Empire. It comes as no surprise that Hugh Heffner sees his empire as liberating women given that it has made him billions. Vested interests in any matter always contains a strong element of justificat­ion which goes against those seeking to disprove it.
Read the Article at HuffingtonPost

Monday, 30 May 2011

Behind the Mask Of Masculinity by GAB

This is a feature I wrote and which was selected for publication for the series 'Behind the Mask of Masculinity' hosted by Gender Across Borders at

The orthodoxy of masculinity was encapsulated by Thomas Hobbes, the British philosopher, who wrote of it in his famous political book called ‘Leviathan’. Within his work, he coined the phrase the ‘natural state of man’. According to Hobbes the natural state of man is one of war and strife. By this he means that man is naturally competitive and gives in to a primeval instinct to conquer and rule in a manner that is devoid of consideration for others. Domination, aggression and bullying are the words that come to my mind in interpreting the ‘natural state of man’.

It may seem far too general to define masculinity in these terms because we all know men who don’t fit description. Yet, it describes the contemporary world of boardroom politics, dictatorships and autocratic states which are dominated by men. Viewed in this pervasive context masculinity comes across as being a negative trait.

Hobbes himself alludes to this negativity in his mitigating theory against the ‘natural state of man.’ He says that a ‘covenant’ needs to be established to prevent against man becoming solitary, poor and brutish. The covenant must stop man from falling back into his natural state. Hobbes views this as a social contract, with its central tenet designed to ensure that man takes into consideration the good of others. Hobbes says that the Covenant stops the ‘war of every man against every man’. This is an overt call, as I see it, to withdraw from the natural state.This then begs the question as to whether masculinity has evolved to become a social construction? In present day masculinity has retained the age old trait of physicality but has picked up an emotional dimension too. A man with muscles and a flat board stomach is a visual display of masculinity. A man who writes poetry and cries openly over sad films is seen as being in touch with his feminine side but will be viewed by many as still being masculine. A man who never cries and is always in charge of himself is also seen as being masculine. James Bond as played by Daniel Craig, the ultimate show of masculinity, came close to crying when his beloved drowned herself.

With so many variations on masculinity I think it is logical to assume that it has, indeed, become a subjective social construction. Dictators, ruthless male CEOs and despots like the African rulers aren’t viewed as being masculine anymore. What is missing with these men is an ability to distribute consideration for others – the Hobbes ‘Covenant’.

My theory is that the ‘natural state of man’ has evolved to become more socially acceptable and that those who refuse to buy in to the ‘Covenant’ are the miscreants of our world. The global social ills of rape, wars, drug and alcohol abuse, sport hooliganism, child abuse and domestic violence are mainly perpetrated by men. The fight back against this has come from feminism, the gay movement and the considerations of social justice which demand a need to think of others.

The ‘natural state of man’ is the number one enemy of women. Yet, many women aid and abet this state for example wives of dictators and women who enjoy the wealth created by their ruthless businessman husbands. It may have been an ideology that created a male ideal of masculinity but now it is reviled and rightly so.

Any form of masculinity that rejects women in its power structures is facing a backlash. We see this with the demonstrations in the Arab world where women are leading the way. The women who continue to support the traditional state are vilified. This modern narrative is rewriting the participatory principles of masculinity- ‘if you are not with us women we don’t want you’. Only with a greater amount of cohesion between the genders can a truly acceptable philosophy of masculinity be unmasked.

About the author
Jane Chelliah lives in London, UK where she works for the public sector as a senior policy manager. She read law and philosophy, which serve her on the two national committees she sits on and an Age Diversity Group which she chairs. Her interests include gender politics, social justice issues and blogging on motherhood and feminist issues.

Thursday, 26 May 2011

Dominique Strauss-Kahn is guilty?

The title is not a question on whether he is guilty of the crimes which he has been charged with. The presumption of innocent until proven guilty and all that. Rather, the title heading is a question on whether DSK is guilty of the age old crime of seeing his gender as justification enough to prey on women.

In other words I am talking about the conducive culture of alpha maleness which contains, as an important tenet, the 'right' to let loose one's sexual predilection towards the weaker sex because , allegedly, men just cannot control themselves. My theory is, sadly, greatly substantiated by the plethora of words that have been written in support of DSK. Not many have spared a thought for the maid, the victim in all this.

Readers, it is still a man's world and the politics of rape still weigh heavily against the female victim. The process of justice may have moved away from asking rape victims what they were wearing that night but the attitudes of some factions of society (witness the French women who have come out in support of DSK) stand against the victim. In fact, the whole of the woman's movement has been caught up in the self-denying net of DSK's supporters. Blame has been thrown at the IMF itself for funding feminism which in turn, apparently, breeds promiscuity.

DSK is French and the French have famously always held themselves up as models of propiety on preserving privacy, especially the privacy of the ruling elite. Note, this notion of privacy is solely attached to the sexual exploits of their rulers and manifests itself by omission - not being reported about in the media. There is another word for this type of selective privacy and it is called silence. Silence is a powerful and dangerous weapon when used to cover up immoral or illegal activity. 'Silence' is what is said by perpetrators to the children they are abusing so that the abuser can get away with his/her actions. You see, silence is a blanket of oppression which covers a multitude of sins.

The French establishment has wrongly maintained a silence over DSK's actions for many years. When the journalist Tristane Banon accused DSK of attacking her she was ignored. She said, 'We fought on the ground...I kicked him, he opened my bra, tried to open my jeans.' When she appeared on a talk show the host, Thierry Ardisson, made a reference to 14 other women who had suffered similarly at DSK's hands. It is reported that even President Nicolas Sarkozy had spoken of DSK's predatory nature. Yet, the culture of complacency continued at the expense of female safety.

The New York chambermaid victim whose identity we do not know has been accused of baiting DSK. The conspiracy theorists speak of this women being a 'honey trap'. There are holes in this theory. Honeytraps involve two consenting adults with one having an ulterior motive of espionage. The process of Honeytrapping does not involve violence and illegal wrongdoing as has been alleged against DSK nor a criminal trial that will attract global attention. Honeytrappers are willing women and slip away quietly with whatever evidence they have acquired.

Another conspiracy theory questions whether DSK would have thrown away his career for a moment of sexual gratification. Well, because of the culture which tolerated his behaviour and which, perhaps, even egged him on DSK would not have had cause to think that his behaviour would result in his resignation from the IMF. The French notion of 'cherchez la femme' reprimands the woman for complaining.

The victim has also been tarred with the brush which, rightly, tars women who 'kiss and tell' for money. The latter brigade are responsible for some of the anti-women tirade which accompanies serious crimes committed against women. Sexual victims of rich, famous and powerful men must not be confused with women who sleep willingly with rich, famous and powerful men for monetary gain. The former need protecting. The latter do not unless they are under age.

For as long as privacy is used as a shield, for as long as women remain the underdog and for as long as bad male behaviour is tolerated purely for gender purposes then the rape debate will weigh against the victim in cases such as this.


Monday, 16 May 2011

Indian women, divorce and the ring of the mobile phone in Punjab

The scale of patriarchal ideological domination never fails to astound me but this reached new heights when I read about a communique delivered by the Punjab State Commission for Women, India, advising newly married women on their code of conduct. Ms Gurdev Kaur Sangha, the Commissioner, said that new wives 'should focus on their domestic life instead of having long conversations on mobile phones'.

We now have discovered the Holy Grail of Marriage thanks to Ms Sangha, the answer that we have all been waiting for to the question of 'what makes for a happy marriage?'. Apparently the Commission discovered that 40% of women who sought divorce did so on the grounds that their husbands and in-laws did not like them spending time talking on the mobile phone. The husbands were suspicious of whom their wives were talking to and concluded that the listener on the other end was an ex-boyfriend. Ms Sangha has defended her advice on the grounds that it was designed to avoid suspicion arising between new couples as they adjusted to their new life together. Sangha said that a large number of complaints from wives who had suffered domestic violence, sexual abuse and harassment were due to the large amounts of time they had spent on their mobile phones.

In fact, evidence had shown that most new brides were talking to their mothers and discussing the difficulties of married life (any wonder!). The Commissioner, not to be outdone, has told women to stop complaining and to stop talking to their respective mothers and concentrate more on the family they are in. The report further adds that newly wed brides ought to 'make small adjustments and quit long conversations for at least two years to win over the husband and the family'.

Indian women have long suffered from gender oppression which permeates all levels of the Indian social structure. The middle class are just as guilty of the working classes of demanding subordination from daughters and daughter-in-laws alike. What makes this communique shocking are the following two reasons:
1. An official body set up to look after the social interests of women has taken the side of the unjust and unreasonable patriarchal attitudes of the society it operates in rather than attempting to change attitudes; and
2. The Commission believes that domestic violence, sexual abuse and harrassment are actually the fault of the women concerned. There's no recognition of the severity of these offences nor that these are criminal offences. Instead, the Commission views these offences as moral acts and bestows the husbands with an implied authority to carry on doing these things whenever a wife is seen as behaving out of turn.

Amnesty International reports that more than 7,000 women in India will be murdered by their in-laws and families. Rape is the fastest growing crime in India against women. Are mobile phones to blame for all this too?

Sunday, 8 May 2011

Be subjective-Happy Mother's Day

I am a Motherhood Activist and spoke at an international conference (see previous blog) about the subjectivity of Motherhood. The traits of a good mother are always named as: being a good nurturer, being always there for your child, being supportive, endlessly patient, being loving all the time, always putting your child first over everything else and providing an environment of constant activity and fun.

The world we live in puts so much pressure on Mothers: mothers who don't work are expected to be constantly sacrificial towards the needs of their children because if mothers don't work then they must have all the time in the world to tend to their children; and mothers who do work must suffer the guilt of being away from the family home and never be bold enough to proclaim that work is an important part of her life.

With such an onslaught of prescriptive information and advice on motherhood I think a push back is needed to stop us going mad. Shake off the shackles of strait jacketed mothering. Be subjective in your approach to mothering but without faltering from the paramount role of giving love and providing a level of parental control that sets boundaries for your children. Weave your own motherhood story out of this and throw away the 'how to' books on what you should and shouldn't be doing.

Happy Mother's Day.

Friday, 6 May 2011

Al Qaeda's Abuse of Women

Osama Bin Laden is dead but I fear that Al Qaeda's mistreatment of women will still continue. Evidence in the past week seems to suggest that Al Qaeda will carry on the legacy of death and destruction despite the leader's death because history has shown that such malevolent acts became a trade mark of the organisation practising it for as long as the organisation continues to exist. The abuse of women was long part of the subversive culture of the organisation.

In 2007 it was discovered in Iraq that Al Qaeda had been using rape as a weapon of terror against those women who had been deemed to have transgressed their 'laws' or, purely, for the pleasure of executing an act of violence. Members would break into houses and gang rape women and then take the women back to an Al Qaeda cell to be gang raped by the others. Often young girls were kidnapped because there was a high chance that these girls were virgins.

Quite ludicrously, to put it mildly, women's basic freedoms were curtailed to the extent that a ban was imposed on them buying cucumbers because of a cucumber's resemblance to being a phallic symbol. More seriously, women haven't been allowed to work, be educated and move around freely in society. Al Qaeda is rightly seen as an enemy of the west but many acts of cruelty are conducted against Muslim women too as this shows.

I hope that the abuse of women by Al Qaeda will form a part of Western considerations when dealing with those countries or organisations who are sympathetic to Al Qaeda's aims. Women's rights is an international issue and a global approach is needed to address women's plight in the face of religious fundamentalism

Thursday, 28 April 2011

UK Mother stabs her 3 Children -why do mothers kill?

A mother poses with her three children, presenting a picture of happiness, but last year she killed them brutally. Today she was sentenced to jail for 18 years. I call myself a Mother Activist but I am still more shocked at a mother killing her children then a father doing the same.
Yet, according to the American Anthropological Association, more than 200 women kill their children in the United States each year. Three to five children a day are killed by their parents. Homicide is one of the leading causes of death of children under age four.

Why then does society, I include myself here,treat such incidents as if it were such a rare occurence? I attribute this foolish naivety to the unrealistic motherhood model of self-sacrificing mothers who are expected to divest themselves of any shortcomings when it comes to their children. These mothers aren't expected to have any human quirks such as personality disorders, low self-esteem or to suffer from depression. It is as if women who are mothers have split personalities: the mother side is one of perfection in every sense and the other 'normal' side is only allowed to reveal itself when the children aren't around.

When society learns to twin these two personalities mothers will,finally, be recognised as human beings who are multi-dimensional. Mothers do not have to be denied for the advancement of children. On the contrary, violence is probably a by-product of the subversion of motherhood. I am not excusing this mother's actions but am seeking to point out that mothers who kill may not have gone on to do so if there was a recognition of the struggles endured by mothers. To chip away at the outmoded notion of motherhood isn't to reduce it but rather to strengthen it. The construction of a new model of motherhood will, consequently, benefit those children who are at risk in their homes.

Tuesday, 19 April 2011

Is Kate Middleton Cinderella?

This piece was carried as a front page feature by
On the 29th of April 2011 Cinderella will marry her Prince. The British Royal Family will receive the sort of press coverage that we haven’t seen since Princess Diana’s funeral. The role of Cinderella in this modern fairy tale will be played by Kate Middleton and the Prince is William.

Cinderella, as we all know, was young, beautiful and a sacrificial female who waited for the right man, a Prince no less, to come along and rescue her. Fast forward to contemporary times and we have Kate. She is a living example of one of the first fairy tales that little girls are introduced to and, alas is proof that such dreams can come true for a few. The Disney magic of Cinderella with the magic of mice turning into soldiers, swishy gowns with stars on them and high heels isn’t just stuff made of empty wishful dreams and therein lies the trouble with fairytales.

They do nothing for feminism but trot out the same old tale of a woman waiting to be given a new lease of life by a man, whether he is a real Prince or not, in the form of a wedding ring. The debate on whether Kate has set back the feminist agenda is a much discussed one among women everywhere, especially in Britain. Not a week goes by without a media article on this issue and discussion centres around the fact that Kate seem to have done nothing with her life between leaving university and getting married save for a short spell at a fashion house.

I don’t think anyone is questioning her decision to get married but rather the fact that she seemed to have slipped into the lifestyle of an age gone where women didn’t do too much for fear of being seen as being too clever and overshadowing the man who marries her. Her period of languish is being seen as a fantasy fuelled period – ‘One day my Prince will come’. Prince William did not actually propose to Kate till a few months ago so many of her years have been spent languishing, for want of a better word. Hence the nickname given to Kate by the British media – ‘Waity Katey’

The romantic among you may say that she is doing all this for love. Does love have to be so sacrificial and in high doses even before one gets married? Marriage does involve an element of sacrifice for the better good of the union but if she has done this much so far what will be the expectations of the Royal Family from her? This family does not encourage independent and innovative thinking women.

What I find quite sad is the fact that her parents have been quite complicit in all this. As a Modern Mom I would have been quite despondent if this was my daughter’s life being played out. I want my daughter to realise the power of her selfhood and this means reaping the benefits of her good education to enter the workforce where she will challenge herself in many ways. My daughter is a person in her own right and must never wait for a man to validate her. The 20s are a defining era in a woman’s life. It’s not only about entering the workforce but about learning a whole new set of life skills. It’s when women have earning power and the financial means to travel and explore new avenues in life. It is the first taste of proper adulthood when you have to make decisions yourself and be accountable for them.

The current economic global perspective is marshalling a greater than ever social move towards personal effort and economic autonomy independent of welfare issues. Given this it is absolutely crucial for a woman to be able to demonstrate free will and make wise choices that will not only sustain her in the current but for the future as well.

Little girls must be taught that the story of Cinderella can be rewritten to show that this fairy tale figure could have fought back by being assertive and strong willed. She may have still married her Prince but the marriage would not have been a life saving device. It would have been a union of two people in love who were willing to accommodate the needs of the other. More marriages fail than succeed and it would be wrong for mothers to pass on the fairy tale message unfiltered.

Saturday, 16 April 2011

Are you a 'Helicopter Parent'?

A 'Helicopter Parent' is a term used to refer to parents who adopt a parenting approach that has them hovering over their children's lives almost in an interfering manner regardless of whether the child needs them or not in any particular situation. It has also been referred to as 'overparenting' because these parents seek to smooth their children's lives out for them without giving the child an opportunity to work out a solution for themself.

This approach is most commonly seen in educational institutions where parents barge in to see teachers or university lecturers to demand that their child be given a better grade or mark because that is what he/she deserves, according to the parent's observation.

Helicopter parenting is made easier by modern gadgetry so distance is no barrier to calling your child up to check on what they are doing. Parents have been known to call their child's mobile to wake her/him up in the morning. Sarah Briggs, Confessions of a Helicopter Parent, calls this the 'world's longest umbilical chord'.

Such a parenting approach goes against my theory of mothering which advocates teaching your child the skills of autonomy of thought and action so that he/she will have a framework from which to draw upon when making important decisions. Also, the decision to leave the child to get on must be age appropriate too. I would not entrust my 11 year old with the decision on how her savings ought to be invested. However, I do seek her opinions on her choice of subjects and how best to tackle her homework because this is an age appropriate life skill to be learning.

Sunday, 20 March 2011

MIRCI in Lisbon - a round up

I can't believe how time has flown since MIRCI and CRIA held a joint conference on 'Mothering and Motherhood in the 21st Century: Research and Activism' in Lison, Portugal on 18 and 19 February 2011. I can't believe how time has flown since MIRCI and CRIA held a joint conference on 'Mothering and Motherhood in the 21st Century: Research and Activism' in Lison, Portugal on 18 and 19 February 2011.

The conference explored how scholars and activists challenge normative motherhood and develop new experiences, practices, identities, meanings, activisms, ideologies and policies for empowered mothering. In the context of this I learnt about how women from around the world are making inroads with their brand of feminist mothering which is making incremental changes globally.

Dr Andrea O'Reilly,, MIRCI, opened the session with an analysis of what the 21st century motherhood movement looks like ahead of her book which is due out this year on the same subject. The shape shifting scenario, she said, alludes precise definition. Dr O'Reilly spoke of a diffused motherhood movement which champions rights in areas such as pre-school and social security. In other words, women in all spheres of life are acting as champions. She contrasted this with the male model of leadership which holds central power. The female model, instead, is dispersed but nonetheless strong and effective and uses new media technology to spread the message Twitter, email, bloggin and Facebook.

My participation at the conference certainly backed up Dr O'Reilly's theory that the movement is diffused. I sat in on events in which women spoke about:
a) 'A New Generation of Mothers Reshaping Their Communities, one email at a time' by Ann Wallace, USA, on how her activism centres on who she was as a mother and how silence wasn't an option for her.
b) 'Searching Feminist Perspective To Mothers' Substance Use Problem' by Ritva Natkin, Finland, who spoke about how there is a problem in fairly describing and naming the different problems that mothers experience. As an example, 'addicted' could mean poor, tired, depressed or traumatized. She said the media is guilty of categorising and stimatizing women's problems by their careless use of language.
c)'Motherhood, Radicals and Cold War Politics in the Voice of Women, Canada' by Marie Hammond-Callaghan who used the life history of Barbara Roberts, a Canadian peace historian, to demonstrate that maternalism may have been used to embolden mothers in their fight back against injustice.
d)'Learning to Mother Ourselves:Nurturing the Self Through Improvised Role Enactment' by Arlene Vadum, USA, who spoke about the need for women to try an experimental approach to life by learning to look after themselves as a person. I think most mothers would identify with this need.
The above is a microcosm of the women and subjects presented at Lisbon.

My talk was titled 'Chocolate & Contemplative Discussion on Ambition in Your Mothering'. I handed out a box of chocolates as a metaphor: you don't know what style of mothering you will adopt till you become a mother yourself. Mothering is a subjective persona.

Many thanks to MIRCI and CRIA for this wonderful conference which showed attendees the layers of mothering that goes on around the world and the diversity within it.

Sunday, 6 February 2011

MIRCI Portugal 2011

After months of looking forward to this conference I can't believe that it is almost upon us. I will be speaking on the second day of the conference (19/2) in the morning on a subject that defines me as a mother. I firmly believe that ambition in mothering is crucial to both empowering yourself as a mother and in empowering your child to take his/her place in the world. Mothers are raising the next generation of adults in an increasingly 'squeezed' world economy where scarcity is the name of the game. Whether it's jobs, a place at a good educational establishment, health rights or work friendly environments mothers face challenges everywhere. Our advocacy on our children's behalf is as crucial a role as our nurturing one of feeding, loving and clothing our children. The social construction of motherhood is evolving as it pushes back against traditional patriarchical structures and, also, in response to global challenges. Motherhood has become a site for political and social activism and being empowered is the engine of drive for this new model.
I look forward to meeting other like minded mothers in Portugal.