Monday, 31 December 2012

Out with the old, in with the same?

It's THAT day of the year again when one wonders about what can be ditched to begin the new year with a spring in one's step. Out with the old tedious practices and mindsets that have proven to be life sapping leeches. In with a new life enhancing routine that will rocket one to great heights of self-fulfilment.  

Does it ever happen this way? I normally make a list of 10 resolutions but only ever manage to accomplish about half. My intentions disappear at mid-point through the list. This is probably because numbers 6 to 10 contain things that I should give up but don't want to. Willpower versus 'Oh, What the hell I will try next year'. Old habits die hard and I am mistrusting myself even before the clock strikes midnight.

Happy New Year and here's wishing you all the best with your resolutions.

Sunday, 23 December 2012

The world is becoming a smaller place for women

Never have I known violence against women to be as rife and common place as it is now. The arrival of social media is often touted as a reason for the rise in awareness of global problems, citing the speed of the transfer of information as being the reason, rather than there being an actual rise in the crime being perpetrated. So it is with violence against women where the fact that it is a daily occurrence does not make the news so much as the level of violence and number of men involved which warrants the act of violence as being newsworthy.

Rape is the most common form of violence carried out and it is on the rise in Asia (witness the Delhi demonstrations), Africa and in the Middle East. Nothing much seems to have changed in Western countries either. It is a global problem. What unifies all of us as women regardless of our location on the world map is a right to feel secure and safe when going about normal life. I recently visited a country in Asia and was told that women were too afraid to even venture out to the local shops on foot for fear of being robbed or kidnapped. Sadly, the women I spoke to viewed their fear as a domestic situation rather than a social policy one.  

Taken on a continuum of extreme, placing women's fears for their own safety in the domestic arena leads to women then viewing their choice to not venture out as being a freely chosen option. The flip side of assuming that the home is the safest place for a women is the fact that domestic violence is on the rise too.At which point then do the authorities step in and implement safety intervention measures?  Perhaps it is time for women's security to be placed on a global high-ranking agenda like the World Economic Forum's annual meeting at Davos or at a G something or other conference. If women hold up half the sky then we need to be outside the home doing this. 

Saturday, 22 December 2012

Patriarchy is Embedded in Indian Culture

Even though I left Asia 31 years ago to live in Britain I still feel a sudden gush of anger whenever I read or hear about how the Indian patriarchy culture has, yet again, enabled and perpetrated a gross act of violence against a women. I mention the length of time that I have been away from Asia to illustrate the point that time seems to have stood still in terms of gender equality for Asian women. If anything, the audacity and level of violence seems to have risen. Time seems to have enobled the Indian patriarchy system instead.

The trigger for this blog post is the gang rape of a poor woman on a bus in Delhi in the last week. Gang rapes seem to have become commonly committed incidents in India and when I delved further into it I discovered that gang rapes were taking place in institutions and open spaces where the public, whether man or woman, can reasonably expect their safety to be of paramount importance. What is happening here?

When I was growing up I witnessed the seeds of violence against Indian women rapidly being sown. I can pinpoint two reasons for this - women's rights were seen as non-existent and women's issues were seen as belonging to the private domestic sphere. In other words, Indian social culture placed a woman firmly in the home where she was to be subject to the domination of others. Young Indian girls left school at the age of 17 or 18 and were immediately married off before they could 'sully' themselves by having boyfriends. Once married she was deemed to be too 'westernised' if she did not cook, clean and submit herself to the authority of her in-laws. Any husband who dared to take his wife's side in disputes was told to 'behave like a man'. Being 'Westernised' meant that you were letting your family, in-laws, society, community and culture down by not being adhering to the patriarchy of the Indian culture.

After marriage the issues moved on to childbearing. Any mother who produced a girl was second best and her daughter soon followed suit in being second best too. A second best mother and daughter duo were scarred for life. If the daughter was darker skinned than an average Indian she would soon be pushed into third best position.

The Indian movies portrayed scenes of rape in abundance in the absence of being able to show romance through kissing or bedroom scenes. Sex was still part of the cinematic culture but it had to be accompanied by violence to be acceptable viewing. This may be a simplistic explanation but Indian movies did play a role in the causal link between the treatment of women and rape.

Indian patriarchy afflicts both men and women and this is where the danger lies by placing the issues of women firmly in the domestic arena rather than as an important subset of social policy. Boys are being brought up by women who tell them that their masculinity is defined by acquiring a wife who will obey them. Girls are being brought up with unreasonable burdens of expectation laced with the threat of shame and marginalisation should they bring shame to the family. 'Shame' is an umbrella term that covers every aspects of an Indian's woman's life.

The treatment of Indian women is a race to the bottom rather than an upward curve. While the class system exists, while the rich are protected the poor suffer which leads to prejudice being acceptable, while a woman's worth is judged according to who she marries and while her daughters are treated with embarrassment nothing will change.

Wednesday, 19 December 2012

So even Rihanna can't have everything

My bed: Rhianna tweeted this empty shot of her bed, which looks like it is on her private jet

The pop star Rihanna has, sadly, become an icon to millions of wannabe girls around the world who think that a bit of shimmying, fewer clothes and an ability to sing will bring them a life of $$ and glam. Her excessive lifestyle of consumption and glitter acts as a beacon of hope in, what in reality, is a misplaced guiding light that leads them to the rocks.

Witness the tears and dashed dreams on programmes such as X-Factor or 'Britain's Got Talent' and realisation will quickly dawn that only a handfull will actually make it through to an expansive lifestyle of international proportions.

However, not even Rihanna can have everything by the sounds of it. The boyfriend, Chris Brown, who hit her and whom she subsequently got back with has, allegedly, dumped her. Rihanna tweeted the photograph above of an empty bed and the press have interpreted this to mean that she is alone again.  If her loyal female following can learn anything at all that resembles a real life lesson of reality it is that nobody can have anything. Money cannot buy everything.

I can't believe that I have posted something so insubstantial as a blog post on a pop star but the celebrity culture does annoy me greatly for propagating a message that is as useful as a colander in a flood. 

Monday, 17 December 2012

Can 'hysterical' women bring about peace?

I don't think Americans are intrinsically more homicidal than British people. We've had massacres in the past. One, at Dunblane, was very similar to the one in Connecticut today. The thing is, after the Dunblane tragedy the women of Dunblane, backed by the women of the UK, made such a fuss about the possession of guns and were so tenacious in their campaign to have them banned that the government gave in and banned handguns. In fact, when you look back, it becomes apparent that most moves towards a safer society (especially in respect of the safety of children) have come about because of the campaigning of "hysterical" women. It strikes me that the "hysterical" women of the USA should get their act together and change their society. They should start by getting rid of the right to bear arms from the Constitution. The problem is, of course, that in England it was really only men who were opposed to stricter gun controls, whilst in the USA women seem to have a fetish about guns as much as, if not more than, men.

This blog post was written by my favourite Christian blogger who calls him 'Mad Priest', otherwise known as Jonathan Hagger. 

Saturday, 1 December 2012

Are you a working mother facing the 'child ceiling'?

If the life of a working mother could take a form or image I think it would be of a contortionist. We leap through hoops, jump over hurdles, dodge imaginary bullets to juggle work and child and, after all that, bend over backwards to accommodate everything and everyone. If this does not demonstrate some sort of iron clad commitment to your work and career then I don't know what will do to dislodge the 'child ceiling' that exists for working mothers.

A survey has uncovered yet another prejudice/barrier that working mothers face. A company called Business Environment conducted the survey and discovered that one in four female managers would not consider employing a woman with a family or who was of child-bearing age. Male managers held the same attitude too. Taking time off to have a baby or to attend to one's children is seen as unproductive factors. Apparently an inability to work long hours is equated to a lack of commitment to one's job. Long hours, it seems, is being seen as one of the solutions to the country's economic woes. Women with children are viewed as the weakest link in the model of productivity.

This is a shockingly short-term view of the female success factors that could be harnessed in the process of  modernisation of an ailing economy. Women who work are tireless advocates of commitment and hard work. We want the best for our children and realise that our incomes are crucial in enabling us to do this. Never intentionally would most working mothers jeopardise their jobs.

However, it is important to challenge views and to point out that working flexibly or having to take emergency leave to tend to a domestic situation is not the equivalent of taking annual leave to sit in the park. It is the perception of others that distorts the reality of flexible working and part-time. If an economic lens is to be used to sit in judgment on working methods then it ought to be one of the ageing population. With more  and more people living longer a growing workforce will be needed to sustain the situation. Striking mothers off the employment radar is an economic and societal disaster in the making.


Monday, 29 October 2012

How Would Romney Deal With Hurricane Sandy?

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is in charge of dealing with disasters in the USA. Attention has turned to what the presidential candidates would do with FEMA given Obama's belief that the state should provide essential services and Romney's desire to privatize everything. Read the extract below and then ask yourself whether you would trust any private company to put your child's life first before the profit motive. 
Paul Ryan’s budget proposal, which passed the House but not the Senate, envisioned a 41 percent cut next year for the section of the federal government that includes FEMA. In addition, Ryan’s committee specifically pointed out that President Obama has declared a record number of disasters during his term.
Here is that exchange from the June debate between Romney and CNN’s John King:

KING: What else, Governor Romney? You’ve been a chief executive of a state. I was just in Joplin, Mo. I’ve been in Mississippi and Louisiana and Tennessee and other communities dealing with [disaster], whether it’s the tornadoes, the flooding and worse. FEMA is about to run out of money, and there are some people who say, ‘Do it on a case-by-case basis,’ and some people who say, you know, ‘Maybe we’re learning a lesson here that the states should take on more of this role.’ How do you deal with something like that?
ROMNEY: Absolutely. Every time you have an occasion to take something from the federal government and send it back to the states, that’s the right direction. And if you can go even further and send it back to the private sector, that’s even better.  Instead of thinking in the federal budget, what we should cut — we should ask ourselves the opposite question. What should we keep?  We should take all of what we’re doing at the federal level and say, what are the things we’re doing that we don’t have to do? And those
things we’ve got to stop doing, because we’re borrowing $1.6 trillion more this year than we’re taking in. We cannot–
KING: Including disaster relief, though?
ROMNEY: We cannot afford to do those things without jeopardizing the future for our kids. It is simply immoral, in my view, for us to continue to rack up larger and larger debts and pass them on to our kids, knowing full well that we’ll all be dead and gone before it’s paid off. It makes no sense at all.

Wednesday, 17 October 2012

Putting Women In Boxes #bindersfullofwomen

I live in Britain and I set the alarm clock for 2am to watch the second Presidential debate. It was certainly worth hauling myself out of my warm bed during a cold and rainy night to catch Mitt Romney put women in boxes. I am not American and, it goes without saying, I cannot vote in this election but my interest lies in the fact that American social and political trends always make their way across the seas to the UK. 

So can the UK now expect binders full of women to be the new catchphrase for equality rights? I certainly hope not because one of the mindsets feminists have fought against and continue to fight against is the placing of women's issues in situations and locations that suit the patriarchy. Women figure in all layers of life and in all spheres of life. 

While Romney did not and will never grasp this fact he did the next best thing in patriarchy terms. He trumpeted the fact, allegedly false, that he promoted women to positions of high-power. Equality legislation has made it easier for men to play the equality card by hiring women and playing to the 'women on boards' debate while making cuts and demeaning women in other ways. It is easy and lazy chauvinism. 

Amidst all the twitter jokes, slurs and twitpics what is lost is the fact that Romney can only equate female rights to the workplace. Granted that the question was phrased in terms of pay rights but Obama was able to extrapolate his answer to include the role of women as mothers, nurturers and to highlight the difficulties faced in overcoming adversity both at home and in the work place. Obama said:

"And, you know, I was raised by a single mom who had to put herself through school while looking after two kids. And she worked hard every day and made a lot of sacrifices to make sure we got everything we needed. My grandmother, she started off as a secretary in a bank. She never got a college education, even though she was smart as a whip. And she worked her way up to become a vice president of a local bank, but she hit the glass ceiling. She trained people who would end up becoming her bosses during the course of her career...And that's an example of the kind of advocacy that we need, because women are increasingly the breadwinners in the family. This is not just a women's issue, this is a family issue..."

A vote for Romney will be a vote for the decimation of women's rights. You know that saying 'in your backyard'? Ann Romney's daughter-in-laws have spoken about how she taught them to buy nice shoes and not bother their husbands with talk of domestic difficulties when they returned from work. There lurks the nugget of the rollback of women's rights should the Republican candidate win. 


Tuesday, 9 October 2012

Go Julia Go. If only Thatcher had done this.

Contrast this show of female assertiveness with Margaret Thatcher's words that feminism had done nothing for her. 

Monday, 3 September 2012

How About Getting Women Onboard In The First Place?

The concept of  ' Women On Boards' is about as alien a prospect to most ordinary working mothers as is the thought that our social and economic system will recognise having children as a public good (future generation of taxpayers and all that). Feminism may have fought and won the battle for equality in the workplace and though all women benefit from this right enshrined in law something is still missing from the equation.

It is this. Getting to the top of the corporate ladder involves having to manoeuvre around some missing rungs between middle management and top management. To be precise, three missing rungs which represent the three evils of: 1. visibility 2. the idea of personal choice and 3.childcare.

Unless one is a mother with a nanny, an extended family or who has children who are already grown up then visibility is a problem. In our working culture visibility=physical presence in the office all the time unless one is at a very important meeting=dedication to the job=high probability of promotion. Most mothers just cannot
manage high physical visibility all the time. A culture that learns how to recognise keenness and ability in other ways would be far more constructive.

Personal choice is a sling used to throw stones at working mothers who dare to ask for flexible working, time off to care for a sick child or who have to take annual leave at a moment's notice. 'If you cannot give 100% to the job then don't do it' is the popular verbal translation of the academic notion of personal choice. This second evil also has sub-concepts like 'not the employer's problem' and 'why should mothers have more rights?' If spending a day/days looking after a sick child is a right then we should distribute this privilege more widely shouldn't we? Opponents of this second evil are basically using the language of equality with the logic of a dead end road.

Finally, childcare. I speak as the mother of a 13 year old. Yes, you read me right. Why does the culture of Britain only recognise childcare as a formal requirement up until the age of about 11? I still cannot understand this arbitrary intervention that occurs at the start of secondary school whereby children are suddenly grown up enough to make their way on their own without parental presence. I have run the gauntlet of many mothers who think I am mad to be still picking my daughter up from school. There are many reasons for this which aren't relevant here but an appreciation of childcare needs regardless of a child's age would be helpful. For heaven's sake, if Anne-Marie Slaughter felt she had to be there for her teenage son then minion me has a right too.

My favourite Nobel Laureate Amartya Sen describes development as a process of expanding the real freedoms that people enjoy. Expanding the horizons of women on boards to include the diversity of roles that women play would be a start. 

Pics-A very exciting evening at the Paralympics


Saturday, 1 September 2012

Ann Romney Was Mimicking Margaret Thatcher

Given the furore that has arisen over Ann Romney's speech at the Republican Convention this week one could be forgiven for thinking that what she had to say was novel. It was not. Twenty four years ago Margaret Thatcher gave a speech which Ann Romney could have very well used as a template. The similarity does not lie in both women being Conservative (that would be stating the obvious). It lies in the sentiment expressed and the examples used to back these up.

It is a recipe for the implementation of anti-women policies that serve the gender interest of neoliberalism in keeping a woman in the home because, ultimately, this will cut the state's spending costs in areas like healthcare, education and juvenile problems. If women did more than enough in the home then neoliberalism rewards them by likening motherhood to sainthood.

 On May 25 1988 Mrs Thatcher spoke at the Conservative Women's Conference in Central London in which she used the traditional role of the woman in the home to support her neoliberal policies of welfare cuts and a small state.  In the speech she starts off by pandering to Conservative women by playing on their nationalistic sense of pride and by seemingly aligning her experience with theirs to bring about a sense of female kinship.  She said, "Conservative women bring common sense to Government. I can't help reflecting that it's taken a Government headed by a housewife with experience of running a family to balance the books for the first time in twenty years with a little left over for a rainy day".

Ann Romney used the same technique to escalate the love that a woman has for a man into nationalistic sentiment. She spoke of her love for Mitt then turned this into a romantic shared notion of  "...profound love I have...for this country".

Both women then transpose this love into an intense feeling for children which thereby panders to the Conservative female ego and provides justification for the framing of a woman's role as being one that is firmly confined to the home.

Mrs Thatcher spoke of women wishing to be 'lawyers, doctors, engineers, scientists, politicians' but, went on to say that "many women wish to devote themselves mainly to raising a family and running a home. And we have that choice too".

Cleverly, she did not linger on the option of choice too long because she then went on to say that "very few jobs can compare in long-term importance and satisfaction with that of housewife and mother". Choice is an illusion.

Ann Romney does much the same. She spoke about "working mums who love their jobs but would like to work just a little less to spend more time with the kids, but that's out of the question with this economy". Again, choice is an illusion because Conservative women generally tend to be stay at home mums whereas non-Conservative mothers are seen as being selfish working mums. To bridge the link between a Conservative working mother and the picture of a traditional Conservative stay at home mother Ann Romney introduced the concept of choice as being one that is made under duress i.e If Obama had not wrecked the economy good middle-class mothers would be able to stay at home.

Both women used heavy emotional rhetoric in making their case as to why women are needed in the home.  In addition, Ann Romney applied a technique which preys on the 'women go to the bathroom together in order to share secrets' gender specific behaviour.

By telling women that "i've heard your voices...we just can't get ahead" Ann Romney presented a picture of sisterhood that can only get ahead if mums "...have to work a little're the ones who always have to do a little more..." It is a shared burden that is comprised of sacrificial motherhood. The subtext being that if you aren't sacrificing something then you aren't doing your job of being a mother well and, perversely to Republicans, this means that the Obama presidency is working.

"The family is the building block of society...However much welfare the state provides, the family provides more-much more", Mrs Thatcher said. There you have it. The woman at home picks up the pieces left behind by the cuts made to the welfare state but is proud to do so because the Prime Minister has said so. Also, there is the hidden threat of how a welfare state will never satisfy a family's needs, only a mother can. What greater call is there to national pride being the implication.

Both women being Conservative neoliberals are, not surprisingly, prescriptive in their descriptions of the roles that mothers should play. Though this goes against the grain of the incursive state Conservative women will justify the descriptions as being ones that stem from the intrinsic nature of all women.

Ann Romney: "the price at the pump you just can't believe, the grocery bills that just get bigger, all those things that used to be free, like school sports..." A good mother worries all the time and finds life hard but, according to Anne Romney, "and that's fine. We don't want easy". Have you noticed that all these acts are couched in monetary terms? What about other things like praying that it won't rain because you forgot to give your child a waterproof jacket? A true picture of mothering covers concerns and joys that don't carry a price as well as ones that do.

Mrs Thatcher used 'family' interchangeably with 'women'. She said, "For the family is the building block of society. It is a nursery, a school, a hospital, a leisure place, a place of refuge and a place of rest. It is the preparation for the rest of our life. And women run it".  A mother is a childcare expert, teacher, nurse, doctor, hotelier, entertainment manager and a self-help guru. Is it any wonder then that neoliberalism favours Conservative mums? Think of all the money it saves which can then be distributed to the worthy rich rather than to the unworthy poor.

My indignation lies with the use of mothers by politicians as tools of propaganda for an economic system that marginalises us by bestowing us with the so-called virtues of selflessness as a means to a selfish end. It is also a divisive game to play that favours the middle-class mothers who have rich husbands to rely on in the way Ann Romney does and Mrs Thatcher did.


Monday, 27 August 2012

Life Coaching Session at Powerhouse UK

Fancy doing something empowering during the Paralympics? Come and join us at Powerhouse for a life coaching session. Experience the buzz of the games with us.

Are you
1. An open minded person
2. Willing to make a difference in yours and other people's lives
3. You want to be more confident
4. You want to add more vibe to your stereo

Powerhouse, the first UK charity for women with learning disabilities, in collaboration with the Happines Coach Simone Vincenzi, warmly invites you on the 3rd of september from 13.00 to 15.00 to an empowering, funny and interactive afternoon.

You will:
1. See what coaching is and how it can have an impact to create happiness in your day to day life
2, Learn how to instantly develop more confidence in yourself
3. Feel how the power of self love can steer you on a personal journey towards the happiness you deserve

In this highly interactive afternoon you will have a direct experience on how you can change your life and the life of the people around you, while supporting women, sometimes forgotten and discriminated by society.

Children and youth are most welcome and fun is guaranteed!!

Contribution: £8

We are looking forward to see you onboard with our fantastic crew and we wish you an happy, vibrant and and healthy life.

Powerhouse and Simone Vincenzi

Power House: The Powerhouse
St. Luke’s Community Centre
85 Tarling Road, Canning town
London E16 1HN
Phone:  0207 366 6336 /  0207 366 6338

Simone Vincenzi:
Phone: 07912689219


Sunday, 19 August 2012

The Joy and Challenges of Running A Charity for the Disabled

 Every once in a while something comes along which gives one a rare opportunity to celebrate. It may seem as if the celebrations have stopped now that the Olympics is over but I feel that there is more, far more, to come. When the Paralympics begin on 29 August there will be greater reason to applaud because disability will finally be showcased in a favourable light and  presented in terms of ability.

You see, people with disabilities have it harder. They have greater odds to overcome and society does not make it an easy for them. This is why I cannot wait for the games to begin. It is time to present the positive reality after the bad publicity that the disabled have received this year through being portrayed as benefit scroungers during the welfare reform debate.

I have a social investment in raising the profile and awareness of disability issues because I am CEO of a charity called Powerhouse.  It is a charity for women with learning disabilities and was the first of its' kind to be set up in England.  I joined it because I was motivated by wanting 'to give something back'  and specifically wanted to work with  women.  Little did I know or realise how much I would learn from the experience and I have only been with Powerhouse for a year.

The Powerhouse women are courageous and aspirational. The charity is a lifeline for them because it provides a safe space from the so-called mainstream world where disability hate crime is on the rise. Disabled women as a subset group of disabled people suffer the most amount of abuse. They face inferior access to education, employment, health information and public services. They also face a higher risk of sexual and physical abuse. In fact, many women at Powerhouse have stories to tell that range from incidents occurring in everyday situations to crimes being committed against them in their own homes.

As examples, one lady had her hair snipped off while walking on a main street because a bunch of teenagers thought it would be fun to do so. Another was facing a forced marriage by her parents. The police were called in both instances.

What angers me the most is that disabled women are often excluded from the discourse around issues that affect ALL women such as sexual health, domestic violence, education and feminism. The feminist issues of work life balance, fighting the porn industry and discussing whether plastic surgery is part of a modern woman's life is irrelevant to the women of Powerhouse. As a result, the visibility of their existence is diminished.

Charities such as Powerhouse are crucial in terms of advocating for disabled women and injecting their interests into debates so that they are recognised as individuals with individual needs who exist within the larger society. There are 3.2 milion disabled women of working age in the UK. There is much work that needs to be done and the austerity cuts have made this task harder.

In a capitalist society where a return on money given is expected to be a monetary one it is a challenge to prove that capacity building of humans sometimes does need a financial investment but without a return of money profit. We need funds to be able to open the centre for more than 2 days a week as we do at present (Mon and Weds). More than anything else though we need to build at micro level a group of women who feel confident  and positive about their lives and the world that they inhabit.

The Paralympics will be a wonderful showcase of strength and endurance. It will also show the world that disabled people are as diverse and varied as anyone else.

Saturday, 28 July 2012

The Price of Dinner During a US Election

Every four years when the American election takes place I am constantly stunned by the amount of money that is spent on fundraising. So it was when Mitt Romney and Michele Obama came to London this week for a series of fundraising dinners because there is much political capital to be gained from the 250,000 Americans living abroad.

Wealthy Americans living in the capital attended fund raisers where they paid between $2,500 to $50,000 for dinner. Michele Obama is expected to attend similar events and I don't know the price of a plate of nosh at the Democrat dinners but last year Gwyneth Paltrow, the actress, charged £5,000 for a tum fill when she raised funds for the Obama campaign.

At a time when Americans are queueing up at so-called mortgage clinics to plead with banks to view their dire financial situation compassionately and where poverty is at very high levels there is something really repugnant about fund raising dinners which do NOT produce a direct trickle down effect to the ordinary folk.

One could argue, I suppose, that contributing to the candidate you believe will make your life better is THE vested interest but, in reality, a $5 donation left on an automated fundraising phone system just isn't going to buy you the same influence as a $50,000 one is it? Part of the American dream is based on wealth accumulation and the accompanying consumption and, increasingly, Americans seem to live on the premise that if you don't flaunt it you won't get anywhere. Witness the rise of shows like the Kardashians and on Paris Hilton where excessive expenditure seems to have become a badge of nationality.

America has long been a country of some contradiction but the levels are opening up as fast as the ground does during an earthquake with 17 million children going hungry everyday.

Tuesday, 24 July 2012

The 'visibility' of a Working Mother

Flexible working and part-time working are fantastic models of employment which allows mothers to combine their professional and personal lives but if one is hankering after climbing the career ladder then 'visibility' in the workplace becomes a crucial fact that has to be sustained.

So far the debate has only been framed in the context of the invisibility of mothering work done at home. The effort that one puts into caring and nurturing children is devalued because it does not carry a monetary value.

However, the visibility of working mothers in the workplace is an important factor too because if you aren't there to take THAT important meeting or THAT phone call then your commitment is questioned. The constant balancing act of being a professional and a mum doing invisible work that is just as crucial, if not more, than the salaried work is akin to trying to juggle 10 slippery eels with two fingers.

The unpaid face of mothering is devalued at the expense of both working and stay at home mothers. Both sides have a vested interest in working co-operatively to raise the status of mothering.

Friday, 13 July 2012

Is Pamela Anderson Really A Feminist?

Most feminists would probably answer in the negative to the question I have posed but, interestingly, Pamela Anderson considers herself to be one.

The question was asked of her in the context of the nude photo shoots that she did for Playboy. Pammie replied, "Hefner has done so much for women's rights. I am a feminist because I made those choices to appear in the magazine. Also, there are much worse magazines out there."

Her opinion raises three issues:
1. Is posing for a men's magazine liberating because the woman who poses is in charge?
2. Did Hefner did do a lot for women's rights while devaluing women?
3. Is hard core porn the only issue sitting on the bottom line of women's nudity?

There will always be women who think that exposing themselves to men is liberating and who will line up to flaunt their assets for money. These women ignore the flaws in their argument of how what they are actually doing is serving a market driven by lust fuelled men who only want tits and bums. This market of male lust does not make a commodity out of women's autonomy. Being in charge might involve dressing up as a dominatrix but that is as far as it goes. If the women were in charge then why weren't they allowed to dress up in their favourite dress/skirt/trousers? Public nudity does not involve being in charge. It is about making money and that is fine but blurring the boundaries is self-denial.

Hugh Hefner actually has done a lot for women's rights and earlier this year wrote an editorial in Playboy in which he questioned Rick Santorum's promise to withdraw funding for birth control. He also chastised Mitt Romney for threatening to overturn Roe v Wade. I believe he is sincere in his thoughts but this is a man who surrounds himself with women dressed as bunnies who, no doubt, think they are in charge. Double standards will not win the war of equality for women.

Lastly, Pammie justifies her actions by referring to 'worse' magazines and, thereby, exonerates herself for not going down the hardcore path. To me, she seems to come across as someone who is rather unsure as time goes on about the merits of posing nude but still needs to justify it given her Playboy shoot.

Is Pamela Anderson a feminist? I actually do admire her for thinking that she is one even if I have my doubts. The concept of feminism has become quite objective in recent times and personal dimensions are often excluded. I, for one, am always carping about how feminist mothering is left out of the anti-porn, abortion rights and anti-cosmetic surgery debate. For Muslim feminists who wear veils their gripe is that they can still be feminists and cover their hair/faces.

Posing for men's magazines cannot count as a feminist stand but I think the rest of us feminists can take something from Pammie's confident self-assertion.

Monday, 2 July 2012

I HAVEN'T Read 'Fifty Shades of Grey'

Not a day goes by without a newspaper or magazine carrying an article about 'Fifty Shades of Grey'. For the amount of publicity this book has received I have only seen one woman reading it but, apparently, women are reading it off their Kindles for fear of being rumbled over reading porn.

It feels as if I must be the only woman who hasn't read it though I am familiar with the protagonists names, thanks to the endless reviews, and feel that I almost know what Anastasia and Christian get up to in the 'Red Room'.

I haven't read it because I have misgivings about sexual pleasure being derived through the act of being a submissive sexual plaything. Also, the fact that the book has been called 'Mummy Porn' is rather disturbing because of the vagueness of the implications of the label. Is there porn specially reserved for Mummies or does the label imply that mothers are sexually repressed creatures who have to rely on furtive reading to satisfy a sexual need? Does the book fit in with feminist mothering? Can anyone answer this question?

The only feminist thought on the book that I have come across is from a male journalist (Dan Jones) writing for the London Evening Standard who says that the feminist agenda of having a work life balance will go unrealised "so long as the popular fantasy of 10 million smart and literate women worldwide is the tale of a girl who likes being spanked with a paddle by a big rich bloke'. Ouch!


Monday, 18 June 2012

Why Do Women Play These Jealous Games?

In the political corridors of French politics the 1980s film 'Les Liaisons Dangereuses' of envy and hatred is being played out through an age old story of female jealousy.

The current partner of the French President, Valerie Trierweiler, put a well heeled boot into the President's ex-partner's political chances. Francois Hollande, the President, has four children by Segolene Royale, a very politically able and astute woman. When Segolene stood for the post of speaker of the National Assembly Valerie tweeted her support for the rival candidate, a man. Subsequently he won the election despite Segolene being in the running initially. Apparently, this form of French female jealousy is actually a variation of the overwhelming love and lust that the woman feels towards the slighted man.

French women need to explain this to the rest of the world because the President's children aren't speaking to Valerie anymore which leaves for a very discordant household during a time when Francois Hollande is trying to turn the economic debate away from austerity. There are more important things, in other words, than petty stereotypical female envy which uses one upmanship to play cruel games. Once the euphoria of victory has worn off the fall-out debris from one's actions will resemble a road of broken glass that the victor will have to walk on.
When will women ever learn?

Thursday, 14 June 2012

Complaining is now a 'Bitch Session'

I may live in Britain where politicians are derided and castigated for much to do with their policies but the political markers of the American politicians seem to be notches against women. The party Communications Director of the Arizona Republican Party, Shane Wikfors, has used the expression 'bitch session' to describe a criticism made against the branch party by a donor.

The donor, Kathy Petsas, told the Arizona Republic that 'extremists' in the Republican party headquarters '...are apparently running amok'. A controversial but intriguing view, perhaps, but isn't politics about making your views known in public given that there is such a concept as transparency? Also, if she is a donor then one would have thought that she had the right, especially, to question the behavioural traits of the party she was giving money to. Obviously not because her remark was labelled a 'bitch session'.

Contrary to what the rest of the world thinks about the liberty of America it obviously does not include free speech. A criteria which, obviously, is more stringently applied if the person doing the complaining is a woman otherwise why else would the term 'bitch session' be used? If a man had said the same what equivalent contemporary term do you think would have been used - 'cage fight'? There isn't an equivalent because the use of the term 'bitch session' is a derogatory female specific term of insult. The fact that a woman complains is enough to invoke the insult. The legitimacy of her concerns are lost in the mists of her gender.

Frankly, I think Shane Wikfors was also suffering from a double dose of a dent to his male ego. He blames others, praises himself and uses the utilitarian argument of a greater good (the election). These are typical traits of a wounded male ego.

This is what he said on his blog.

'Many people will vouch for the fact that I make an effort to get along with everyone in this party. I don’t use the word “RINO.” I give my fellow Republicans the benefit of the doubt and I go out of my way to work with everyone. But my toleration of the backbiters is running out. Fellow Republicans, we have elections to win this fall. We have an election to win tomorrow and if you don’t put your egos aside and get in the trenches, we’re going to lose. It’s as simple as that. And I’ll be one of the first to put the blame you because if you’re not going to be part of the solution, then you are the problem.'

Tuesday, 29 May 2012

Did You Have A Caesarean Section?

I had a Caesarean Section 12 years ago and apart from suffering acute pain for weeks on end after my daughter's birth it never occurred to me that I had inadvertently contributed to a fall in the economy. Natural birth, it seems, is a driver of economic growth. Forget stimulus packages, bank bailouts, manufacturing and industrial policies or tax credits as engines of growth.

Economists take note - vaginal deliveries are the new game.

This is the wisdom of the Turkish Prime Minister, Tayyip Erdogan, who has caused an uproar by venting his rage against Caesarean births, calling them an "operation" to limit population growth because women who opted for the procedure could not have more than two children. Caesarean births were also a "secret" plot designed to stall Turkey's economic growth.

I don’t know if Turkey has a falling population rate the way China does but the PM sees a strong connection between a high birth rate and a growing economy. He wants Turkey to be among the world's top 10 economies by 2023 when the Turkish Republic turns 100-years-old. He wants families to have at least three children but this figure seems to be a moving goal post. On a visit to Kazakhstan he changed his mind and told the country's prime minister that Kazakhs should be having five children.

The true plot lies in the use of women’s reproductive rights as a weapon of patriarchal control. I have noticed a creep of anti-Caesarean rhetoric which seems to subtly suggest that it (a C-Section) gives a woman more control over the birth process and therefore is not to be tolerated.


Sunday, 20 May 2012

Social Networking vs Sex

"People are coming home and getting on their computers instead of having sex with their partners. I see couples break up over this stuff."

This is a quote by Cameron Yarbrough who is a relationship counselling expert in San Francisco. What I want to know is whether he has factored children into the equation of an offline lifestyle. Even without social networking how many couples would come home and get into bed to....have sex? A few, I suppose, who are in the early stages of a relationship where reality is as far off as putting a cat on the moon. The rest of us who make up the majority? I rest my case.

Monday, 7 May 2012

Do You Have A Mother Hinterland?

Mumsnet, a website for mothers in the UK, has launched the Mumsnet Academy to teach women new skills. The reason for this is because the founder of Mumsnet, Justine Roberts who has four children herself, was appalled when her husband suggested to her that she had no 'hinterland', meaning that she was not preparing herself for a life beyond when her children would not need her so much. With time Justine says that she has come to realise the wisdom of his words.

Work and kids are not enough, she says, and women need to learn more skills. I have looked at the Academy's website and am impressed by the courses on offer. There is a cookery bias which feeds into the stereotype of mothering but the concept of mothers looking after themselves is to be welcomed.

I recognised the 'mother hinterland' some years ago and my CV is now crammed full of various things that I do. I often have to wake up extra early to get through my list but something hit me when I read the rational behind Mumsnet Academy. If you extend the concept of 'mother hinterland' to the logical end it is about preparing yourself for the day when your child/children leave home. It is about equipping yourself to assume a new identity when your mothering is not needed 24/7. Then it struck me, that not even an overflowing CV could ever prepare me or compensate me for the moment when that happens. I will simply hate not having that little voice constantly call out 'Mummy'.

Friday, 4 May 2012

Why Feminists Should Support Chen Guangcheng

What if you were expecting your second child but the state authorities forced you to have an abortion against your will? The concept of violent state interference against a woman's maternal choice is abhorrent to those living in countries where individual liberty encompasses a right to bear life. Yet, forced abortions, are happening on a wide scale in China under the country's 'One Child' policy and this is where the story of Chen Guangcheng comes in.

Chen is a blind lawyer who has been making the news ever since 2005 when he exposed the forced abortion practices that were taking place in a Chinese city called Linyi, situated in the province of Shandong. He launched a class action against the state authorities in Linyi. The Chinese government is relentless and ruthless in its' pursuit of those who dare to question its' authority and, consequently, Chen was jailed for four years in 2006 and has been under house arrest since 2010.

Chen, his wife and child have been under police guard 24 hours a day. Chen and his wife have frequently been beaten up by the enforcement agents whom the Western media refer to as 'thugs'. Two weeks ago Chen managed to escape in a 10 second window when there was change over of guard duty. He went to the US Embassy for protection and then subsequently left of his 'own will'. Yesterday, he issued a statement asking that he be allowed to leave China with his wife and child immediately. Chen has also spoken to US Congress who were debating his case. He says that he is very scared and that his rights and safety can never be assured in China.

Chen deserves the support of feminists everywhere for his bold and brave stance against forced abortions because it weaves the pro-choice and pro-life debate by being both anti-choice and anti-life all at once.

The 'One Child' policy was implemented by China in 1978 and is scheduled to run till 2015. The title of the policy literally tells you what it is about-that every family is only allowed to have one child. It is a policy that masks a murderous multitude of sins when unpacked and analysed according to the concepts of human liberty and individual rights. It is a twin evil because not only does it deprive a woman of fulfilling her biological destiny if she chooses to do so BUT it also encourages sex selection through which Gendercide is practised.

Gendercide is the practice of aborting baby girls and happens mainly in Asian countries where a premium is placed on males and a metaphorical curse is placed on females for being the weaker sex. Through state intervention which forces families to have one child, backward social and cultural practices drive families to opt for boys. Women who are pregnant for the first time opt for a sex identification scan and make a 'choice' (sometimes forced upon them by their family)thereafter. Gendercide is a whole evil in itself against the female population.

Testimonials of women who have suffered from having to undergo forced abortions in China can be found in Chen's report as carried by ''. Here is an extract:
February 19, 2005. Where: Xiajiagou Village, Liangqiu Town, Linyi County
Source: Teng Biao, recorded August 20, 2005

Zhongxia Fang is a villager from Xiagou Village, Liangqiu Town, Fei City, Linyi
County. The first time I [Teng Biao] met her was in Duozhuang, Mengyin County,when
four people from Fei City came to report. More than twenty people guarded the village
where Chen Guangcheng lived. We [Teng Biao and another lawyer] walked through the
footpaths between fields and crossed Meng River to escape their monitor and assembled
in Fei County.

Zhongxia told us her story briefly. She had repeated it many times:
“The Family Planning Officials inserted an intrauterine device in me after I
gave birth to two daughters. I worked in another city since then and didn’t go to
the Family Planning Office for the pregnancy check. But I was pregnant
accidently again. The Family Planning Officials said I was in violation of the
“Population and Family Planning Law of the Peoples Republic of China” and
looked for me all around. On the lunar calendar November 9, 2004, they had a
conversation with my mother and asked her to pay a deposit of 1,000 Yuan
[$157]. My mother hid after that.

“Two months later, they found my mother-in-law. They seized her and smashed
her belongings. She was seized and released altogether three times. They did the
same to my third elder brother’s wife. On February 19, 2005, they seized my
elder sister’s husband (Yongjun Hu, from Beiyan Village, west of Liangqiu
Town). He was detained in the town Family Planning Office for a whole week
and beaten twenty-seven times. Later they seized my nephew (Qiang Li, 27
years old), his wife and his child Ranran (one year old). My nephew was beaten
fourteen times. His toenail was trod down by a Family Planning Official’s
leather shoes. After that they seized my uncle’s wife (Shaoxiang Zhu, from the
same village as I) and my husband’s younger sister (she comes from another

“They seized all my relatives they could find. On March, 2005, they seized my
younger sister Zhongyan Fang (pregnant with her first child for three months).
Seven or eight Family Planning Officials pushed her into a car and detained her
for a whole day. They set her free after she paid 1,000 Yuan. My younger
sister’s mother-in-law was also seized for a whole week. They didn’t give her
anything to eat or drink. She was released after she paid 1,500 as so-called
“tuition fee” [a fee for the cost of detention].

“My younger sister’s father-in-law was detained when he went there to send
food to his wife. He was beaten by six or seven people in the Family Planning
office. He ran out after one day’s detention. Then my husband’s nephew, my
third aunt and her husband (Kaifeng Liu) as well as her granddaughter (not even
four years old), my fourth aunt (Deying Xue), my uncle’s wife were all seized.
My uncle’s wife was beaten in the car with rubber sticks all the way to the
Family Planning Office. They stamped on her with leather shoes. She lost
consciousness several times. Her kidney was so injured that she couldn’t do any
manual work until now (proven by the medical record prescribed by expert from
people’s hospital of Fei county). They also seized my fifth elder brother’s
wife’s younger sister (Xuelan Guo) and my third elder brother’s wife’s younger
sister (Yufeng Chai).

My third aunt’s husband phoned me: “If you don’t come back, your aunt will
be beaten to death.” I was forced to go back on 31st, March. I was already
pregnant for seven months at that time and was forced to inject an oxytocic
drug. My baby was aborted one day later. I had ligation at 9:00 in the morning
of April 13, 2005. They let my aunt go after that.

This is why Chen deserves the support of feminists everywhere.

Friday, 20 April 2012

The Mummy Tag Game

There is a Mummy Tag game being played on blogs. I have been tagged in a blogging meme by jenmum and asked to answer her questions. In turn, I have to carry on the chain by doing the following:

The rules:
1. Post the rules.
2. Answer the questions.
3. Create 5 new questions. (I have changed the number from 11 to 5)
4. Tag 5 people with the post.
5. Let them know you tagged them.

The following are questions which have been given to me to answer.
1. Do you consider yourself a yummy mummy?
I really hate these ridiculous labels which do not reflect the reality of a busy mum's life.

2. Why did you start blogging? And do you still do it for the same reason?
I started blogging to disseminate the message of feminist mothering and have stayed true to this reason.

3. What’s your biggest vice?
Eating too much curry.

4. What is your claim to fame?
I know Brian Paddick and Siobhan Benita. Both are standing in the London mayoral race.

5. What do you miss most about your pre-kids days?
To be honest, nothing.

6. Where in the world would you live if you had the choice?

7. How many tattoos do you have?
Lol. At my age? None.

8. What time did you get up this morning?
9am because my daughter is on school holidays and I am on annual leave. It's a luxury to wake up this late.

9. What was the last film you saw at the cinema?
'Woman in Black'- a real scary ghost movie it was.

10. What did you want to be when you were little?
A lawyer and I did study law.

11. How many times did you fail your driver’s test?
Sigh! Never learnt to drive.

I have now got to tag some fellow bloggers. Here are some of those I enjoy reading.
1. Bicultural Mom
2. Lick the Fridge
3. Lulastic and the Hippyshake
4. Reluctant Mom
5. Jenmum

No one is under an obligation to continue the chain and this is just being done for fun but I would like to know their answers to my questions which are:

1. What is your hobby?
2. Who is your inspiration in life?
3. If you could change one thing in your life what would it be?
4. What is your favourite parent moment?
5. When did you last read a book and what was it?

Happy Tagging.

Thursday, 19 April 2012

Come on Asma-think of the suffering children


The Commercialisation of a Woman's Body Knows No Bounds

Since becoming a mother I have acquired this tendency towards cognitive empathy which is the ability to to put yourself into someone else's situation and imagine their thoughts and feelings. This surfaced again, actually it does almost on a daily basis, when I read about the poverty stricken women in India who are renting out their wombs to make money to keep their families going.

The commercialisation of a woman's body and babies knows no bounds but the heartache and suffering that goes with it carries no price. In fact, it is not even priceless because it is not costed into the pricing model for surrogacy.

Surrogacy firms in India run a service whereby poor Indian women from slums are recruited to be baby carriers to supply married couples, singles and unmarried couples who want to be parents.

This is how the service works. A man's sperm is sent to the US where women from the Ukraine or South America are on standby to donate eggs. The embryos are then flown to India because poor Indian women provide the cheapest wombs to rent. The Indian women are then kept in hostels run by the surrogacy clinics/agencies where they are looked after. To many poverty stricken mothers this is the first time that they would have had the simple comforts of a proper roof over their heads and decent food. This is what gets me as well. In a country where maternal care is poor private providers are able to exploit a deficit.

The clinics justify recruiting poor women because they can sell the business idea to them easily and 'educate the women and their families in a clean slate'. Such an imperialistic attitude belies any consideration for the baby carriers.

The concept of choice, as with so many women's issues, is illusory because their husbands earn about £130 ($110) or so a month and the clinic pays about 20 times more. That amount will keep a poor Indian family going for years. However, the women suffer public shame and stigma from carrying somebody else's baby. The Centre for Social Research in New Delhi reports that a high proportion of women are shunned by their families when they return. The report also found that many women had been forced into becoming surrogates by their husbands and were deeply unhappy with the situation. The clinic says that it is careful to not recruit any women who have been forced against their will but the evidence proves otherwise.

Providing babies in this way to service a global need for maternal provision is a caricature of the biological ability of women to reproduce. Firstly, the Indian women are no more than commodities because they may have no say in whether to become a surrogate or not, they are powerless to decide whom they would like to carry a baby for and their emotional wellbeing is immaterial to the economic process of childbearing. The politics of race is part of the equation too because, apparently, most requests are for white babies so the brown baby carrier is a vessel much like the way brown boxes are discarded when the contents are taken out.

Tuesday, 17 April 2012

Is cooking an act of feminist mothering?

I am always struck at the dichotomy between the way feminism is practised in the developed countries and in non developed countries. What we in the former countries consider to be sometimes a pain in the neck chore is, instead, considered an 'Essentialism' of mothering for mothers in the latter countries. Cooking and sanitation are two examples but for the purposes of this blog post I will concentrate on cooking.

Save the Children has released a report called 'A Life Free From Hunger' which starkly lays out the statistics for hungry children. Nearly half a billion children's lives will be affected by malnutrition over the next 15 years if world leaders don't act to tackle hunger. Millions of lives, however according to the report, can be saved through teaching mothers about nutrition.

There is an army of volunteer health workers in Afghanistan who conduct cookery classes. Not for them the expensive Cordon Bleu classes that we in developed countries pay for nor the Nigella Lawson type cookery books which we get as presents. For the Afghan mums their cookery lessons consist of each mother bringing a nutritious ingredient such as carrots, rice, potatoes, egg, oil or salt which the health worker then combines together to produce a shared pot of healthy living meals. In this way, mums are learning how to stave off malnutrition.

The simplicity of this moves me because it demonstrates the purity of feminist mothering which is about doing the best for your child under all circumstances. While mothers in Afghanistan may have no notion of feminist mothering given the extreme patriarchal conditions they live under they still undertake the chores that mothers in developed countries do which begs the question is cooking an Essentialism of mothering?


Saturday, 7 April 2012

CNN Contributor Erick Erickson: ‘I Kind Of Like The Idea That Women Aren’t Members Of The Masters’

CNN Contributor Erick Erickson: ‘I Kind Of Like The Idea That Women Aren’t Members Of The Masters’: pCNN contributor and conservative blogger Erick Erickson said he liked the idea of excluding women from The Masters golf tournament, saying, “I don’t want to be hanging out at some women’s event!” The Augusta National Golf Club, which hosts the tournament, has never admitted a woman as a member in its history, but its discriminatory [...]/p

Friday, 6 April 2012

Good Friday Passiontide Central London

The first person Jesus spoke to after his resurrection was a woman, Mary Magdalene.

Monday, 2 April 2012

Adrienne Rich-A Tribute

"My children cause me the most exquisite suffering of which I have any experience. It is the suffering of ambivalence: the murderous alternation between bitter resentment and raw-edged nerves, and blissful gratification and tenderness."

It is a sentence which blows open the myth of the Madonna Motherhood and exposes the emotional strife that afflicts mothers everywhere on a day to day basis. It is the opening sentence in Adrienne's book called 'Of Woman Born' and immediately powerfully encapsulates the experience of the dual sense of mothering. Adrian wrote the book in 1976 and put into words and set in context the patriarchy of motherhood.

She energised mums everywhere who felt it was a betrayal of their status as mothers to feel cross and downtrodden who, even now, are made to feel that it is their fault for feeling that way. Adrienne broke the unspoken of secret of motherhood by terming it as a patriarchal institution.

"...I try to distinguish between two meanings of motherhood, one superimposed on the other; the potential relationship of any woman to her powers of reproduction and to children; and the institution, which aims at ensuring that that potential-and all women-shall remain under male control."

No matter how many times I read this book I always find something that still stings me because of the potent relevance to contemporary times. sadly. In the chapter titled: 'The Domestication of Motherhood', Adrienne talks about how the mother-child relationship is the essential human relationship and, yet, violence is done to this fundamental human unit because the mother remains an object of 'mistrust, suspicion, misogyny..."

The mothers caught up in wars, the Arab Spring and in everyday gender violence will identify with this. However, women in safer countries will still recognise the patriarchal domination of motherhood as laid bare in the book. Has nothing changed? A little but not enough.

This blog post is a tribute to the woman who practically invented feminist mothering. Adrienne Rich died on 27 March 2012 from rheumatoid arthritis.

Tuesday, 20 March 2012

A Celebration of Mothering

This post was originally published on the Huffpost UK site for Mother's Day 2012.

I feel blessed to be a mother. I love being a mother. These all seem obvious things to say don't they on Mother's Day but consider, instead, how today is celebrated as a tribute to the institution of motherhood? Much in the same the way Easter and Christmas are observed, Mother's Day is about pink advertisements displaying flowers, chocolates and wine. Almost as a ritual the mother will be served breakfast in bed and taken out to lunch but the drawbridge is pulled up when it comes to talking about the joyful lived experience of being a mother, or 'mothering' as I call it.

In fact, it has become more commonplace to deride being a mother. Every so often a woman will make headlines for talking about how boring being with her children makes her. Close to the summer school holidays watch out, yet again, for mothers filling column inches talking about the dread of having their children at home for six weeks and how difficult and, again, boring it will be.

The cool culture that afflicts children under the age of 17 has been extrapolated and is now evident among mothers. Much in the same way that these children don't want to be seen with their mothers because it is uncool, it has likewise become uncool to say that mothering is fun. It has not helped recently that motherhood, as the institution, is always portrayed as a struggle through being defined as casualties of the austerity cuts and a lack of structural support such as childcare.

Accurate though these portrayals are and much as they are needed to spur on an improved diversity in understanding the struggles of mothers there is still an omission. It is an omission that consists of a failure to place a value on the wonder of having a child. The big deal is that, as a result, there is a lack of moral development and understanding of the enduring joy that transcends the difficulties of mothering.

The public debate on motherhood places a monetary value on it in terms of childcare costs and lost wages. However, the intangibles of mothering, love and care, are confined to the private sphere of domestic life. The public face of motherhood is one of financial sacrifice and hardship and the private face of mothering is one of sacrificial love. Yes, mothers do make sacrifices and put their children's needs first but to equate this with being an equivalent of a 'sacrificial lamb' is misguided.

Mothering is a personal bond and is practised subjectively but I do firmly believe that the unifying thread among caring mothers is one of enduring joyful love and devotion to their children. Happy Mothering Sunday.

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Wednesday, 14 March 2012

The Brick Wall Lifestyle of Tamil Women in Sri Lanka

Tamil women in the north and east of Sri Lanka live a bleak life in which they are severely constrained by the dual evils of the aftermath of the civil war, fought between the Government and the Tamil Tigers, and by a serious and crucial lack of capacity building efforts to help them cope and rebuild their lives.

The plight of these women are set out in a report titled. 'Sri Lanka: Women's Insecurity in the North and East', published by the International Crisis Group on 20 December 2011. The report states that these women are powerless in the face of economic depravity, suffer from sexual abuse and are marginalised because their needs are not recognised at multiple levels.

Sri Lanka is a patriarchal society and many women are disadvantaged from having lost their husbands in the war. Their employment opportunities are limited and many cannot even afford to pay for food for their families. The catalogue of degradation makes for harrowing reading. Women have been forced into prostitution or coercive sexual relationship. Some have been trafficked. Such is the fear of sexual violation that females are too scared to go to school/college or seek employment.

Highly significantly the report states that: ' the government willing and able to hold accountable those responsible for alleged crimes? To date it has failed to demonstrate that it is.'