Feminism

Error message

  • Deprecated function: The each() function is deprecated. This message will be suppressed on further calls in _menu_load_objects() (line 579 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/menu.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Deprecated function: implode(): Passing glue string after array is deprecated. Swap the parameters in drupal_get_feeds() (line 394 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).

Pestminster and the Shaming of Democracy

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 29/04/2022 - 9:00pm in

With reports that 56 MPs are facing allegations of sexual misconduct, Rachel Morris analyses how a Bullingdon Club mentality has seeped into the corridors of power

GET THE CURRENT EDITION OF BYLINE TIMES NOW

In 1994, Conservative MP Stephen Milligan was found dead in his home, naked aside from stockings and suspenders, with orange segments in his mouth. Many other scandals of the early 1990s stood in stark contrast to the then Prime Minister John Major’s ‘Back to Basics’ political campaigning.

Affairs, homes for votes, cash for questions: Westminster has always been scandalous; its members prone to the same deadly sins as everyone else – though with greater access to opportunities. The rank hypocrisy of parliamentarians behaving in this manner while passing laws preventing everyone else from doing the same has always been offensive.

But what has happened in Parliament recently is of a different order. As the Government passes increasingly authoritarian laws, the behaviour of its members sinks ever lower.

While the misdeeds of the past mostly harmed those directly involved, current standards of behaviour harm the country and democracy itself. The Commons is not only a moral cesspit but a hostile work environment, especially for women. There are not enough column inches to list all offences by MPs against decency and, in some cases, the breaking of laws written in that very chamber.

Last July, the Commons Standards Committee found that five Conservative MPs had breached the Code of Conduct by attempting to improperly influence judicial proceedings in the trial of former Tory MP Charlie Elphicke, via letters on headed House of Commons notepaper. Elphicke lost his seat and was imprisoned for the sexual assault of two members of his staff. His Dover constituency went to his wife Natalie, one of the five MPs in question.

In December, drug detection wipes found cocaine traces in 11 of 12 parliamentary bathrooms, including one next to the Prime Minister’s office, all accessible only by those with parliamentary passes. This while Boris Johnson cosplayed as a policeman as part of his ‘war on drugs’. Although the Speaker of the Commons referred this matter to police, nothing more has been reported on it.

And this April alone, there have been a series of new scandals:

MP David Warburton was pictured with lines of cocaine, and was alleged to have sexually assaulted staffers who could not complain directly to their tax-funded HR representative as she is also Warburton’s wife. Warburton received an undeclared £150,000 loan from Russian ‘financial advisor’ Roman Joukovski, to whom Warburton gave parliamentary access. He used his parliamentary email to organise meetings for Joukovski. Weeks on, there is no word of a police investigation, nor a by-election. Warburton had the Conservative whip withdrawn.

Imran Ahmad Khan MP was found guilty of molesting a teenage boy. It emerged that he gave a statement under caution in May 2020 yet was allowed to advise the Government on child sexual exploitation and grooming gangs later that year. Tory MP Crispin Blunt offered a passionate defence of Khan, before withdrawing it. Khan's victim contacted the Conservative Party press office to inform it of his abuse in 2019. Khan had the Conservative whip withdrawn.

56 MPs face allegations of sexual misconduct, including three serving Cabinet members and two Labour shadow ministers. These include sexually inappropriate comments and more serious incidents, including one MP said to have bribed a staff member for sexual favours. This is equivalent to 8-9% of Parliament's 650 MPs.

Deputy Labour Leader Angela Rayner suffered a scurrilous attack by the Mail on Sunday, briefed by someone in the Government, accusing her of using underhand sexual distractions at Prime Minister’s Questions. Speaker of the House of Commons, Lindsay Hoyle, described the article as “demeaning” and “offensive” and ordered the newspaper’s editor to attend Parliament for discussion. David Dillon refused to do so.

An unidentified Conservative MP was said to have watched pornography on his phone while the House of Commons was in session. At the meeting where this was revealed, female Conservative MPs also reported such incidents as a whip calling, “come on, girls!” as he ushered them to vote, and an MP wearing a skirt being asked, “what do you do for your day job?”

The Bullingdon Mentality

Perhaps none of this is surprising when Parliament has long been nicknamed ‘Pestminster’. An eponymous scandal in 2018 saw a flood of #MeToo sexual harassment accusations. Aside from Charlie Elphicke’s jailing, at least four ministers lost their jobs.

A culture of endemic bullying and harassment in Westminster was confirmed by three independent inquiries, finding a systematic problem buttressed by complaints processes relying on other parliamentarians to apply discipline. Party machinery was known to sit on complaints.

An independent complaints and grievance scheme, training, and helplines were introduced. But, in 2020, when an unnamed Conservative MP was arrested on allegations of rape, violent sexual assault, and coercive control of an aide, union representatives found that action taken “went nowhere near addressing our concerns”.

The Westminster Old Boy’s Club still has a bustling membership. It creates and oversees laws that aim to achieve safe, fair workplaces, amid its own hostile work environment. Commons employees, such as aides and researchers, are represented by trade unions, but if they work in MPs’ offices, their first port of call for complaints is still often the MP.

MPs are not employees of the House – they are paid by the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority, which states: “Obviously there are things MPs are not allowed to do and standards by which they should abide – there is a Code of Conduct and the behaviour of Members is monitored by the Commissioner for Standards.”

As is often the case in British politics, these rules are advisory and they ultimately lie for their enforcement with the Prime Minister – a man who, when running for Parliament in 2005, said, “voting Tory will cause your wife to have bigger breasts”.

Research finds that sexist and condescending language impacts gender-based achievement and parity in workplaces, affecting whether women remain in their jobs, aim for leadership roles, or are seen as competent. A known culture of harassment in a workplace will put women off from entering it.

Moreover, the police force which investigates more serious allegations emerging from Parliament itself has an endemic culture of racism and misogyny.

The Pleasure Palace stands in stark contrast to the simple pleasures denied many citizens who can no longer afford them. On the day that news broke about the Conservative MP watching porn in the seat of power, the Trussell Trust announced that its food banks gave out 2.1 million food parcels in the past year – 830,000 to children.

On the same day, the Police, Crime and Sentencing Bill went forward for Royal Assent, containing provisions to criminalise the way of life of Gypsies and Travellers and making noisy protests unlawful. The Elections Bill too, introducing voter suppression measures and ending the independence of the Electoral Commission. And the Nationality and Borders Bill, undermining international refugee protection laws and exposing vulnerable people to suffering and danger.

We have become a rogue state. The soul of our democracy has become the Bullingdon Club – the Oxford University society famed for its debauchery. As with ‘Partygate’, there seems to be different rules for the Government and the governed.

Criminology's ‘broken windows theory’ suggests that visible signs of antisocial behaviour, disorder and crime lead to an environment encouraging more serious crime and disorder. If a neighbourhood behaved akin to the Commons, particularly the Tory cul-de-sac, the police would set up a task force.

In 1994, as the then News of the World editor Piers Morgan said: “It strikes me that probably every Tory MP is up to some sexual shenanigans, but we can hardly get them all fired or there will be nobody left to run the country.”

Calling abuse and harassment “shenanigans” demonstrates a lack of seriousness. The suggested solution to widespread degeneracy of firing everyone and starting over is hardly practical. But, 28 years later, it’s beginning to sound reasonable to overhaul every aspect of the way Westminster operates.

ShareEmailTwitterFacebook

SIGN-UP TO EMAIL UPDATES

OUR JOURNALISM RELIES ON YOU

Byline Times is funded by its subscribers. Receive our monthly print edition and help to support fearless, independent journalism.

SUBSCRIBE TO THE PRINT EDITION OF BYLINE TIMES FROM AS LITTLE AS £3.50 A MONTH

BECOME A PATRON OF BYLINE TV

SUBSCRIBE TO BYLINE TIMES & GET THIS MONTH’S DIGITAL EDITION IMMEDIATELY

How Boris Johnson has Spread and Benefitted From Deeply Sexist Attitudes in Politics

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 29/04/2022 - 8:57pm in

The Prime Minister has pushed sexist tropes about women – while being given a free pass by those parts of the press which also trade in them, reports Adam Bienkov

GET THE CURRENT EDITION OF BYLINE TIMES NOW

“There can be absolutely no place” for misogyny in politics, Boris Johnson told the House of Commons earlier this week, following the publication of a sexist story about Labour's Deputy Leader Angela Rayner.

He later described the claims, which had been briefed by Conservative MPs to the Mail on Sunday, as “the most appalling load of sexist, misogynist tripe”.

However, the Prime Minister's sudden opposition to misogyny in politics will surprise anyone who has closely followed his career.

In fact, far from opposing sexism in politics, Johnson has been one of its chief proponents.

As both a politician and a journalist, the Prime Minister has a long record of deeply sexist comments and actions.

'Hot Totty'

In 1996, Boris Johnson wrote a bizarre article for the Telegraph in which he reviewed the quality of "the hot totty" he had observed at the Labour Party Conference.

"The unanimous opinion is that what has been called the 'Tottymeter' reading is higher than at any Labour Party Conference in living memory," he told his readers. "Time and again the 'Tottymeter' has gone off as a young woman delegate mounts the rostrum."

He suggested that such "totty" was attracted to the Labour Party because of the "fickleness" of their sex.

"The real reason why Blackpool is buzzing with glamorous women is surely that they scent victory," he wrote. "It is not the great smell of Brut that makes John Prescott attractive. It is the whiff of power. With the fickleness of their sex, they are following the polls."

Johnson also brought his admiration for "hot totty" into his own workplace, once writing for the Telegraph about the time he pinned a calendar of naked women to his desk, despite complaints from female colleagues. He boasted that the calendar "caused something of a stir” due to the fact that the pictures “made women feel embarrassed".

Johnson’s other writing often betrayed a deeply sexist view of women, according to his biographer Sonia Purnell.

In her book, Just Boris, she notes that throughout his writing women were "portrayed as rather feeble 'blubbing blondes' or 'collapsing with emotion".

His writing was often deeply sexualised. As his other biographer Andrew Gimson noted: “Boris’s writing is suffused with sexual imagery. He sees sex almost everywhere."

This is particularly notable in his GQ columns, in which he reviewed his favourite "babe magnet" cars.

As Purnell notes: "The reviews relied on words such as 'filly', 'chicks' and 'flapping kimonos' and were garnished with plenty of 'gearstick' gags... There is talk of blonde drivers 'waggling their rumps,' his own superior horsepower 'taking them from behind,' aided by tantalising thoughts of the imaginary 'ample bosoms' of the female sat nav voice.

"On driving a Ferrari F340, he wrote: 'it was as though the whole county of Hampshire was lying back and opening her well-bred legs to be ravished by the Italian stallion'."

Such attitudes spilled over into his political career.

In 2005, while campaigning to become the Conservative MP for Henley, he told voters that "voting Tory will cause your wife to have bigger breasts".

And in 2012, while hosting the London Olympics as Mayor, Johnson told his readers of the "magnificent" experience of watching "semi-naked women playing beach volleyball... glistening like wet otters".

When hosting the World Islamic Forum in London, he suggested that women in Malaysia only went to university "to find men to marry".

Johnson was Accused of Assaulting Women

These attitudes towards women allegedly sometimes spilled out into his own behaviour.

In 2019, The Sunday Times journalist Charlotte Edwardes alleged that Boris Johnson once groped her and another woman during a lunch hosted by the Spectator magazine, of which he was then editor.

Johnson’s spokesman dismissed the claims. However, his former colleague and friend Toby Young defended Johnson’s alleged actions, saying that “at the Spectator, in those raucous days, people complained if Boris didn't put his hand on their knee".

Indeed, Johnson has previously been open about such behaviour. In a farewell piece in the Spectator marking his exit as editor, Johnson offered the following advice to his successor: "Once the fire is going well, you may find your eyes drifting to the lovely striped chesterfield across the room. Is it the right size, you wonder, for a snooze... You come round in a panic, to find a lustrous pair of black eyes staring down at you. Relax. It's only Kimberly [Quinn, who was then the Spectator's publisher] with some helpful suggestions for boosting circulation."

He advised his successor to "just pat her on the bottom and send her on her way".

Johnson Talks to Women 'Like They're Idiots'

The Prime Minister's claimed outrage over the Rayner story has not been believed by everyone who knows the Prime Minister.

One of his former close colleagues told Byline Times that they were unconvinced by Downing Street's denials about the story.

"I'm convinced that the Rayner story will have come from him, or his allies," they said. "It just sounds exactly like the sort of thing he would say."

Downing Street has strongly denied this. However, the Mail on Sunday's central claim, that Johnson was distracted by Rayner's legs in the chamber, is not surprising to some of his former colleagues.

In a piece written last year, Johnson's former chief advisor Dominic Cummings wrote that "as one woman who knows Boris extremely well and has worked very closely with him said to me last year, ‘he can’t take women seriously, he can’t help staring at tits and talking like we’re idiots’".

This attitude was noticed by female members of the London Assembly while he was Mayor.

In 2012, a cross-party group of female politicians wrote a letter to Johnson accusing him of being "disrespectful and patronising" towards them in the chamber. In his reply, Johnson dismissed the claims, saying that "I have not been more robust towards female rather than male assembly members and I do not believe I have been remotely sexist".

However, such allegations have continued to dog him. Despite appointing a handful of women, like Priti Patel and Liz Truss to senior positions in his Government, his Cabinet still remains overwhelmingly filled by men.

One of his last remaining senior female advisors, Munira Mirza, walked out of the Government last year. His former press secretary Allegra Stratton also stood down, with Johnson saying that he was furious about footage of her joking about lockdown-breaking parties in Downing Street.

Allies of his predecessor Theresa May suggest that she also remains unhappy with Johnson's treatment of her. When a story about May wearing leather trousers was splashed across newspaper front pages in 2016, Johnson joined in with the barbs against his leader, joking that “our wonderful PM actually wears lederhosen”.

The former Conservative Home Secretary Amber Rudd later said there had been a "whiff of sexism" about how May had been ousted by Johnson's supporters.

Labour Party Deputy Leader Angela Rayner. Photo: PjrNews/Alamy Sexist Media Attitudes Give Johnson A Pass

Whatever the source of the Angela Rayner story, it is undoubtedly the case that Johnson has been treated very differently by the press than if he were a woman.

Imagine for a moment that another prominent politician, who happened to be a woman, was found to have had multiple affairs with other men while married.

Imagine that this same politician secretly had children with these other men, and then refused to ever publicly state how many children she had.

Imagine also that the identity of one of these children was later uncovered in a court case, due to lawyers arguing that revealing it was important to highlighting their "reckless" behaviour.

Imagine that one of these men was also found to have benefited from public money provided to them following the start of their relationship with that woman.

Imagine again that, after all of this became public knowledge, this female politician then left her husband, who was ill at the time, for a man who was 24 years her junior.

It is impossible to imagine that these stories would have then been shaken off by certain newspapers which then championed her to become leader of their party, and prime minister.

Now compare this scenario to how Angela Rayner has been treated for the crime of being a working class woman who occasionally wears a skirt.

Because the truth is that Boris Johnson is not only a purveyor of deeply sexist attitudes in politics – he is also one of the leading beneficiaries of them too.

ShareEmailTwitterFacebook

SIGN-UP TO EMAIL UPDATES

OUR JOURNALISM RELIES ON YOU

Byline Times is funded by its subscribers. Receive our monthly print edition and help to support fearless, independent journalism.

SUBSCRIBE TO THE PRINT EDITION OF BYLINE TIMES FROM AS LITTLE AS £3.50 A MONTH

BECOME A PATRON OF BYLINE TV

SUBSCRIBE TO BYLINE TIMES & GET THIS MONTH’S DIGITAL EDITION IMMEDIATELY

“It’s Not So Easy to Break Us, Despite Everything”

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 07/04/2022 - 5:52am in


We knew that the transcripts of our hearings would be broadcast. Even though no one listens to you in the courtroom, you can address invisible listeners who will read about it later in the media. And so to demonstrate the full absurdity of the Russian courts we set up what we called a “word auction”: we invited our readers to contribute words, any words, along with a monetary donation. We then went ahead and wove them into our speeches—we put the speeches together using the words people sent in. So the speeches ended up pretty absurdist, but we managed to express some of our ideas at the same time. I remember that there were a lot of really wacky and exotic animals, so we would say, like, “we’ve been sitting under house arrest for a long time now, we aren’t able to admire these wonderful animals.” Someone sent in the phrase “bee extinction,” so my colleague Volodya [Vladimir Metyolkin] gave a whole speech about the problem of bees going extinct due to climate change, and how in our country journalists are just as important as bees, and their extinction is just as dangerous for the environment as the bees.

Not a Labor of Love

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 15/03/2022 - 1:00am in

t was argued that domestic work doesn’t produce any social wealth, is a backward activity, and that it isn’t really part of the capitalist organization of work and, therefore, women who are mostly involved with this kind of work do not have the power to change society....

Read More

Reading Your bell hooks

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 17/02/2022 - 7:32am in

Tags 

Feminism, Politics

bell hooks was blessed, and I believe that she transitioned to the land of milk and honey knowing how important her work was for so many people’s lives. Reading bell hooks is an action and a step towards personal and social transformation. ...

Read More

Art on Her Mind

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 15/02/2022 - 7:00am in

Tags 

art, Feminism

bell hooks’s contributions to feminist thought and race politics are widely known, as are her rigorous theoretical works and academic scholarship. While I have read and learned much from her art and political criticism, what has moved me most recently are hooks’s personal reflections on the quotidian spaces of Black life and culture....

Read More

‘Keep Watch Over Us’ – A Plea from the Women Abandoned in Afghanistan

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 27/01/2022 - 1:41am in

‘Keep Watch Over Us’A Plea from the Women Abandoned in Afghanistan

Meet eight Afghan women still fighting for their rights in face of Taliban repression. Interviews and photos by Angelo Calianno

ShareEmailTwitterFacebook

Six months have passed since the Taliban returned to power in Afghanistan. When news broke in August 2021 that “God’s students” were returning to Kabul, women were the first people to run to the airport with a suitcase in their hands. The memory and terror of the regime of 20 years ago, of the people who imposed the burqa and stoned women in stadiums, was very alive in everyone’s mind. 

In that chaotic flight to the airport, about 125 thousand people were evacuated. But thousands failed to catch those planes. The Taliban, out of necessity, has since allowed some women to return to certain jobs such as women’s and pediatric wards in hospitals, or elementary schools. 

But what happens to those women who cannot get out of Afghanistan: those women who were the only economic support for families and who can no longer work: those women who live with the fear of leaving the house alone:  teachers, students, lawyers, women who worked in the media, sports and politics; where are they now and what do they do? 

These are some of their stories.

Photo: Angelo Calianno

Arzo

Arzo. Photo: Angelo Calianno

Arzo is 24 years old and disabled, having lost a leg as a child to polio. She is now a physiotherapist at the International Red Cross, where she deals with the rehabilitation of women and children who have lost a limb due to a bomb, illness, or a violent attack. 

Arzo was also a promising wheelchair basketball player and a member of the Afghan team who starred in the Asian Games. Fortunately, Arzo still manages to work, as the Red Cross is an international institute –  but being a woman, she is no longer allowed to play basketball. The Taliban consider some activities, such as sports, as exclusively male prerogatives and see the “invasion” of these fields by women as a threat. Some Taliban Groups even believe that a woman can get pregnant simply by playing sport.

“When the Taliban arrived, I ran to the airport but I couldn’t catch the plane,” Arzo told me. “I stayed there for two days, waiting and in all that chaos, I lost my bag which contained many precious memories. I am very afraid for my future, I had dreams, hopes, but now I cannot think of anything. I only think about the restrictions that have been imposed on us and I wonder if it will ever change.”

Farahnaz, Sakina & Atifa

Farahnaz (centre) with her mother Sakina (right) and her sister Atifa (left).  Photo: Angelo Calianno

Farahnaz is a student who was three years old when she lost the use of her legs. The Taliban fired rockets near her home during an attack, knocking down a wall that fell on her legs. Farahnaz and her family are Hazaras, the ethnic group most targeted by the Taliban, especially because they are of the Shiite faith. 

Before August, most of the attacks by the Taliban targeted the Hazara neighbourhood, their mosques and Shiite schools. Today, with their return to power, the small amounts of aid organised and distributed by the Taliban, are withheld from Hazaras. 

Farahnaz and his mother are trying to get out of Afghanistan. They are in contact with NGOs, associations and friends abroad, but they are two people among millions of others who are trying to escape Afghanistan. 

“I would like to get out of Afghanistan,” Farahnaz’s mother says, “and take my daughter to the West where she does not risk her life as a woman and Hazara. I wish I could let her live in a place where women are treated as human beings, where she can have a future with study and work.”

Naweeda, Nadira & Noorsama

(Left to right) Naweeda, Nadira and Noorsama. Photo: Angelo Calianno

Naweeda, Nadira and Noorsama are three defence lawyers. To be interviewed, they met me secretly in a place far from their homes because of the risk that neighbours could report them to the Taliban authorities for speaking to a journalist. 

“We are no longer allowed to work,” says Noorsama. “After the arrival of the Taliban I had to go back to court to take some documents of cases that are still open, but they prevented me. They threatened and chased me away, telling me that I was no longer allowed access. Later, they agreed that I could enter only to get the documents, but I had to wear the burqa and be accompanied by a man. I am responsible for the upkeep of a daughter and my brothers; since I was prevented from working, I had to sell the valuables I had, but even that money is almost over.”

“The Taliban make diplomatic speeches, but we know that they have not changed,” says Nadira. “We see it from how they behave with us, without respect, as if we were not human beings. Slowly, what they were 20 years ago is returning.” 

All three lawyers make an explicit appeal to feminists in the West. “We follow the feminist movements in the West a lot,” they say. “To those women we would like to say that we are there too, that the movement should include women from all over the world today more than ever. There is often talk about ‘us’ but until now, we have not had any practical support, we continue not to work, to have no rights, and no one can tell us if things will ever change”.

Mahbouba

Mahbouba. Photo: Angelo Calianno

Mahbouba Seraj is considered the leader in the struggle for women’s rights in Afghanistan. She fled with her family when the Russians arrived in the country in the 70s. She decided to return here in 2003 after the first Taliban regime collapsed to help women.

“When I heard that international forces were leaving Afghanistan, it was a slap in the face for me,” Mahbouba says.  “In one day, we went back 20 years. The Taliban, however, are only a symptom of a  society that is still strongly male-dominated. 

“I run a shelter for women who are victims of violence. Domestic violence against women in Afghanistan is not yet considered a crime. At the moment, unfortunately, when the priorities are food, with people dying of hunger, and with the total lack of work and money, the struggle for women’s rights has taken a back seat. 

“I believe that one of the concrete ways to help us is not to turn off the spotlight on this country. The Taliban will not be able to do what they did 20 years ago as long as the eyes of the world are watching. I was very sorry to see so many women running away from here, but I can’t blame them –  it was so frightening. In August people ran in the street like headless chickens. 

“Afghan women who are abroad, however, continue to fight for the rights of the women who have remained here. I am sure that the next Afghan revolution will start again with Women.”

The Taliban will not be able to do what they did 20 years ago as long as the eyes of the world are watching.

Mahbouba Seraj

ShareEmailTwitterFacebook

SIGN-UP TO EMAIL UPDATES

OUR JOURNALISM RELIES ON YOU

Byline Times is funded by its subscribers. Receive our monthly print edition and help to support fearless, independent journalism.

SUBSCRIBE TO THE PRINT EDITION OF BYLINE TIMES FROM AS LITTLE AS £3.50 A MONTH

BECOME A PATRON OF BYLINE TV

SUBSCRIBE TO BYLINE TIMES & GET THIS MONTH’S DIGITAL EDITION IMMEDIATELY

The post ‘Keep Watch Over Us’ – A Plea from the Women Abandoned in Afghanistan appeared first on Byline Times.

Friday, 7 April 2017 - 6:18pm

Published by Matthew Davidson on Fri, 07/04/2017 - 6:19pm in

What the…? I'm sorry, I didn't realise that we adjusted the clock by an hour and a century when daylight saving ended.

Roll up ladies! It's not a beauty contest, and certainly not an intelligence test! If you think for a moment that we would besmirch and demean the venerable title of "showgirl" in such a way, you are sorely mistaken. Rather if you can, in an emancipated and empowered way, sport a lovely frock, and giggle and simper with poise, a bright future awaits you.

Imagine spending years hanging onto the arm of some bloke in a sharp suit, childbearing, and finally a lucrative divorce settlement; all this can be yours! But hurry, because frankly you're not getting any younger and - this being Coffs Harbour - do you really want to be serving coffee or scanning barcodes for the rest of your life?

Yulia Maleta, Advocating an Ecofeminist Sociopolitical Economic Model

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 07/04/2016 - 7:28pm in

Yulia Maleta (University of Sydney), 'Advocating an Ecofeminist Sociopolitical Economic Model'

This is the fourth seminar in the Semester 1 series of 2016 organised by the Department of Political Economy at the University of Sydney.

Date and Location:

21 April 2016, Darlington Centre Boardroom, 4:00pm – 5.30pm

All welcome!

2016 - Maleta

Scandalous Blaming of the Poor: UK austerity politics

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 23/03/2016 - 6:19am in

ScandalAs outlined in this series of blogs, Scandalous Economics is a collection of essays that explores “how scandals – and scandalous uses of and/or neglect of gender – have helped narrate the Global Financial Crisis (GFC) into political oblivion”, as Aida Hozić and Jacqui True outline in their introduction. Principally, there is the scandalous neglect of feminist insights on inequality in all major books on the crisis – whether by Mark Blyth, Daniel Drezner or Thomas Piketty.

Johnna Montgomerie and I argue that this is a critical missed-opportunity to challenge the root causes of the crisis: the very structure of finance-led growth that intensifies along established inequalities of gender, class, race, ethnicity and/or sexuality.  Scandalous Economics is a corrective to the scandalous neglects in the GFC scholarship that brings together scholars whose work retells the story of the causes and consequences of the crisis paying particular attention to its gendered and racialised nature.

Our contribution in the volume highlights how historical memories of austerity as ‘difficult but necessary’ are evoked to rebuild silences around the deeply unequal process through which austerity is made possible. Key silences resonate around how ‘the household’ sector (more so than ‘private’ sector) has borne the majority of costs for bailing out the banks as well as absorbing most spending cuts to public services. Indeed, why the bank bailout policies were not a scandal perplexed even the then Governor of the Bank of England, Mervyn King, in his testimony before MPs in 2011:

The price of this financial crisis is being borne by people who absolutely did not cause it…Now is the period when the cost is being paid, I’m surprised that the degree of public anger has not been greater than it has.

Feminist political economy provides the only relevant set of conceptual tools to understand how public welfare for corporations is justified and yet public welfare to households vilified.  The non-scandal of public subsidies to the Financial Services Sector is in effect the ‘strategic forgetting’ in the political economy of welfare reform in Austerity Britain. This reform program in the UK has been designed and justified using the discourse of scandal and unsustainable costs to taxpayers. Our contribution challenges such forgetting by looking at how poor women with children were made targets of scandal in post-crisis Britain, depicted as burdens to the public finances. These women became objects and subjects of reform to fix ‘Broken Britain’ in the process. Austerity is a new form of ‘governance by lifestyle’ that has put a sharp focus on ‘families’ as subject/objects of reform. This is pivotal to the gendering of the process of welfare reform. We demonstrate the significance of these reforms showing how they evidence a fundamental shift in the role of social policy from addressing the causes of poverty to managing (or governing) the effects of poverty.

‘Governing by Lifestyle’ allows policy-making to design new ways of governing using crass stereotypes rather than actual evidence.  In practice, this means policy makers are able to cast their bureaucratic gaze on the lifestyles of ‘private’ households. The ‘strivers’, the ‘skivers’, the ‘Troubled Families’ are not actually in receipt of substantial amounts of public money but they are at the forefront of the State-led moral reform initiatives. Bankers, by contrast, are in receipt of trillions in public subsidies and tax-payer guarantees; however, ‘Banker Bashing’ is strictly forbidden by policy makers because criticising professionals for their ‘coke and whores’ lifestyle is supposedly an anathema to rational, liberal policy making. However, the post-crash UK economy has seen a worrying shift in which a state-led (or the party political elite) initiative to morally reform the life choices of the underclass is causing harm to wider society. Indeed, this political norm took a dangerous turn with the rhetoric of ‘Broken Britain’ (although the rhetoric has now changed, the practices remain the same) seeking to legitimise the Austerity narrative through actual social policy. As a result, the ‘skivers’ and ‘generations of workless’ that actually do not exist in any empirically observable reality must now be found, identified and reformed with minimal democratic oversight and even less evidence of the rationale for such reforms.

Austerity in Great Britain shapes government and media discourses about the poor as being a burden on tight public finances, justifying cuts to welfare and design of new interventions targeted at disciplining the poor.  These policies and cuts demonstrate how scandalous economics can be a classic bait and switch so infamous in the mortgage finance market before the 2008 crash; while it is the City of London and the failure of austerity-led growth that actually cause high public debt levels it is “troubled families” and the like, that require government intervention in order to bring public finances into the black. State policies here displace the real causes of financial crisis and obfuscate structural inequalities. They remake “society” by casting economic problems, which could be addressed through economic policy, as social problems, individual problems, and problems of troubled families, which to the anathema of Hayekian neoliberals can be addressed through social (engineering) policy.

Pages