Tag Archives: Women

Feminism is too important to be left to women

We can talk about quotas to stop women beating their heads against a glass ceiling in industry and politics, but that sounds like privilege when others are keeping their heads above water are told by such women to paddle faster. The sisterhood is not equal in the struggle for equality. The inequality of society cuts through gender increasingly.

After the fanfare at the launch of the Women’s Equality Party, it’s time to get real about inequality and social justice. That is the challenge facing the new political party if it wants to be taken seriously. Having joined, this for me has to be more than signalling a political identity. I want something different on the political agenda, because the main parties fail to address them.

No matter how hard some of the middle class try, the real issues of those lower down the pecking order slip under the radar. To illustrate: the co founder of the Women’s Equality Party, Catherine Mayer, stressed the importance of increasing the cost of processed food to be as expensive as fresh food. So the poor have to spend more to eat like the affluent middle class. There was no mention of the proposed reduction in tax credits that would decrease poorer family incomes for groceries.

Andrew Marr blinked in bemusement at her, on his show last weekend. Too much of a gentleman to ask how increasing the cost of food for the poor will help, at a time when more people go to food banks? The income inequality that reduces health outcomes between classes was being side stepped by the moral hazard of relatively poorer people buying cheap unhealthy food. Consumed not out of price incentive, but budget necessity.

[See update below for Catherine Mayer expanding her views via twitter]

Thank goodness for that bastion of the patriarchy, the House of Lords, halting working tax credit cuts which would have hit the poor, and especially women, hard. The Commons quickly stopped an outbreak of common sense by keeping the vagina tax on tampons. One contrarian female commentator compared the menstrual cycle to the tax on male shaving products saying it should remain. Frankly, any product that helps with bleeding should not be considered a luxury item for tax purposes.

If the WE Party are serious about feminism, then it has to be about the women who do not have high profiles or media careers. If oppression is how comedy panel shows treat you, then you might just need a broader grass roots base, keeping it real regarding the patriarchy.

In the WE policy document, was a bit on full time care givers. Not just ending the stigma of them being classed as “economically inactive” while they save the tax payer millions each year. It recognised the sexism directed at male care givers in society.
Not mentioned was putting pressure to improve the lot of full time caregivers living on Carer’s Allowance and income support of £106 per week. If we care about social justice we need more than words, and quotas. We need money not just principles.

Feminism is for everyone. It cannot just be an organised outrage social media mob to scream at Milo’s tweets. Feminism matters because of economic power – one the leader of the WE Party mentioned in her speech when comparing how much income men have in aggregate compared to women.

You will not achieve equality by a co founder suggesting a sugar tax hitting the poor. Raise your game, and raise people out of poverty – you want to eat better when you can afford it. The same way Diane Abbott felt about better schooling for her child when she had the income. This may be a man’s world, but money makes the world go round that much better.

It is early days yet for the party, but hopefully I am not alone in signing up. Feminism cannot be left to women. It is too important. It needs us all to join in.

WE can do better. Real equality requires nothing less than helping the weakest and most vulnerable in society. Do that, we will have a sweeter and healthier nation.

UPDATE 22:25

Article written by John Sargeant on Homo economicus’ Weblog

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Filed under British Politics, British Society

Iran’s War On Women


An Iranian-British woman who took part in a demonstration in Tehran against a ban on women attending some men’s sporting events was jailed for a year for spreading anti-state propaganda, Iranian media said.

Ghoncheh Ghavami, 25, was arrested on June 20 outside the city’s Azadi Stadium, where she and others were demanding that women be allowed in to watch a volleyball match between Iran and Italy. [Source]

Since the 1979 Revolution women watching sports with men has been deemed un-islamic, therefore illegal. This includes not just stadiums, but in cafés and cinemas. The recent World Cup they qualified for was no exception.

Iran also made it into the World League of Vollyball. In celebration of that, the prohibition for mixed crowds was relaxed in 2013. But then Tehran this year enforced the law – to protect women from male lewdness naturally.


In Iran women are responsible for the anti-social behaviour of men. A country where a woman had better not defend herself against a rapist. Killing him in self defence, the result is you will be slut shamed and finally hanged, after a travesty of a trial.

As Reyhaneh Jabbari said before being hanged to her mother:

The world allowed me to live for 19 years. That ominous night I should have been killed. My body would have been dumped in some corner of the city, and after a few days, the police would have taken you to the coroner’s office to identify my body and there you would also learn that I had been raped as well. The murderer would have never been found since we don’t have their wealth and their power. Then you would have continued your life suffering and ashamed, and a few years later you would have died of this suffering and that would have been that.

Acid attacks on women deemed not to be dressed brought about a change in the law recently. That of protecting citizens making public social judgments on how others dressed.

This is the theocracy of the Islamic Republic of Iran, who we are being told we can rationally negotiate with regarding nuclear development.

As they stand on the brink of a nuclear age, the treatment of women is very much in the dark ages. It is nothing less than a war on women.

Women are standing up against the regime. Paying the price as they do. Yet when the tipping point comes, when thousands publicly protest, one can only hope it signals a day closer to a new revolution that will make these past decades a nightmare to wake up from.

Article written by John Sargeant on Homo economicus’ Weblog

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Filed under politics, Religion, secular, World

Canada: York University Gender Segregation Allows No Group Work

Professor Grayson has my every sympathy and support in denying a request from a student to be excused from group work so that he would not mix with female students, on non specified religious grounds. Both Islamic and Judaic scholars found no cause for this to be upheld:

The Judaic scholar found no problem
with an Orthodox Jew attending a co-ed group session. One of the
Islamic scholars, in turn, declared simply, “unless he is asked to
be physical with a female student, which I assume he isn’t, there
is absolutely no justification for not interacting with females in
public space.” [National Post]

Safe assumption that sociologists do not get physical with each other as part of university group work. The student concerned expressed their reasoning for choosing to do the course online:

“One of the main reasons that I have chosen
internet courses to complete my BA is due to my firm religious
beliefs, and part of that is the intermingling between men and
women,” he wrote, adding “it will not be possible for me to meet in
public with a group of women (the majority of my group) to complete
some of these tasks.” [ibidem]

When the student realised how indefatigable Professor Grayson was that allowing such dispensation would be a betrayal of women on the course, he withdrew his request and attended. However, despite his department and students on the course backing Grayson, the Dean ordered acquiescence on grounds that female students would be unaffected by the non presence of the
religious student.

Last night in twitter talking about the story – which actually happened earlier in the Autumn but has only just broken in the media – my concern was that dispensation from group work was given to online students that lived too far away. As such it could be considered a non compulsory requirement for all students taking the online course. The issue becomes whether such a request can be turned down based on minority religious grounds when other reasons would be considered valid for accommodation.

There is the rub for me as a secularist because I can deplore the reasoning of the student regarding women, calling it out for what it is. A request for special treatment of misogynistic attitudes on the fringes of religious faith in a secular  institution that regards men and women as equal. Yet the Dean has a point that the online course already made dispensations and so could accommodate a request (the reason immaterial) not to attend group work – and that a secular institution does not make a judgment on validity of religious claims. Which despite not knowing the religion of the student the Professor tried to by checking with religious scholars.

The Dean loses the argument finally by saying, well just do not tell female students about this so they do not get upset that we as a university consider valid sexist attitudes towards being in the company of women. The legal grounds in Canada are unclear whether the denial by the professor can be justified. Clearly a procedure needs to be in place at York University and I hope the student body is involved in setting. Though I get the feeling that procedure is the Dean deciding.

Hence this story going public, and the professor involving students and the department. It is a battle at a University which now is involved in the war of where claims of religious freedom should be trumped by gender equality as a civic virtue and human right. A secular institution needs to be loud and clear. The Dean needs to back down. My face saving suggestion would be a voluntary opt in or out of group work for online courses with no need to specify a
reason or make a core requirement to do group work to complete the
online course. [See first comment why no opt out if you attend University]

We cannot allow gender equality to be undermined by fringe sexist thinking – some accommodations are a surrender to what needs defending in society.

Article written by John Sargeant on Homo economicus’ Weblog

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Filed under Culture, Philosophy, politics, Religion, secular

Pope Francis Is Not The Person of The Year


It seems you can get away with saying homosexuals should not be judged for being gay, while stating secular governments that try to allow gay couples to adopt are allowing child abuse, and in league with the devil. That (only) having gay sex is wrong, while actively campaigning to prevent equal marriage being law. That life is sacred, while preventing the widespread availability of contraceptives means people end up dying of sexually transmitted diseases. Denying abortions in life threatening situations to women – let alone the audacity that the church should tell women to listen when it will not even empower women to speak with authority in the clergy. Check your privilege, that you dare to lecture on family values with the thousands of children abused under your auspices.

A picture paints a thousand words. So photos of Pope Francis kissing disfigured people, kissing prisoner’s feet, make him a harder target. Leaks that he goes out at night to help the homeless anonymously, make him so much softer compared to his predecessor. Even some of my fellow atheists, wooed that he says we can do good and should join with the faithful to find world peace, are in awe of a man that Time called Person of the Year 2013.

Pope Francis is hailed as a reformer – but disfellowships a priest who was pro women being ordained in the church and gay marriage should dispel this notion. Atheists may be able to do good, as if we took seriously those who say we cannot, but without that sprinkle of water and accepting of the church we are still dammed. No good shall save us for rejecting the Vatican.

Pope Francis has made himself, rather than the Vatican and the Catholic Church, the story. We do not have to question his sincerity, the source of his influence in the media age, which makes him not just the ultimate public relations man and salesman, but the right man at the right time for the papacy. He inspires, he says the right words, and it is lapped up by people who would look up to other mammals for motivation to be good, rather than think for themselves that maybe what is actually being promoted by the Vatican is killing and harming millions.

Regarding asking atheists to join in the pursuit of peace with the religious – as if we were all too busy watching Christopher Hitchens on youtube to play a part – an answer comes from fifth grader Zachary Golob-Drake:

The world’s major religions all have messages about coexisting. But oftentimes people have found a way to bend that rule; sometimes people even use religion as an excuse to take each other’s lives. The three major religions on the earth include the Eastern religions, Islam, and Christianity. About one billion people live by the Eastern religions; about 1.4 billion are Muslim; and about 2.3 billion are Christians. Religious differences have always sparked conflict, even leading to warfare and mass murder. [Source]

Zachary was very nearly denied the prize his speech was awarded because it was contentious to suggest that religion fails to live up to the rhetoric of peace, but seems more concerned with telling people how to live – and to hell with the suffering that ensues.

Hence the meme I created in response to the Pope’s invitation to join him in finding peace:


The issues are too serious, and the suffering too widespread, to bury the hatchet because someone says nice things, posing piously while it is business as usual as people die because of the doctrines of the Vatican. For the sake of humanity, leave the world free from your doctrines to reach the best medical decisions, women to make their own choices and the voice to speak out, and for consenting adults to be able to practise safer sex.

Then I assure you, the world will be more peaceful.

Article written by John Sargeant on Homo economicus’ Weblog

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Filed under atheism, Religion, World

Video: Sunny Hundal on 60 Million Indian Women Missing

Sunny at the TED Amsterdam Women Conference

Sunny at the TED Amsterdam Women Conference

Hundal explains why there are 60 million less women in India, a unique gender differential in the world.

In Sunny Hundal’s 15 minute TED talk, the gender difference between Indian men and women is explained by economic status. Men are financial assets, women financial liabilities – graphically shown by 8,000 dowry related deaths of women in a year – and that is just the official figures.

Education is not enough, nor urbanisation, to stem the tide of what Sunny describes as a genocide against women from gender selected abortion and infanticide through to dowry deaths. Financial independence will truly empower women. Having jobs, starting their own companies – no longer seen as a burden on family’s resources.

So whilst empowering women is the most effective way to end oppression, education is a means not an end in this. Jobs, well paying careers, which give independence to women are the way forward. We do not just need the right economic conditions but a cultural shift in attitudes which have been dominant for centuries.

As Sunny concludes in an article he wrote on this:

But the problem in India goes to the heart of cultural practices that have been around for centuries. Culture doesn’t just determine a country’s laws and how well they are implemented, it also discourages or encourages violence against women. Practices such as paying dowry for brides, shunning divorced women, passing on inheritances only to men, not putting girls through schools – are all part of the problem. As families get richer, there is more pressure to pay out bigger dowries for girls and they have more money to afford an abortion.

According to one estimate, by 2020 India will have an extra 28 million men of marriageable age. The social impact of such an imbalance is unprecedented in history, and India barely has a police force and judicial system that can cope with the current problem.

Unless the country recognises the gravity of the problem and does more to protect half the population, the social impact will be felt in every aspect of Indian society for decades.

Article written by John Sargeant on Homo economicus’ Weblog

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Filed under Culture, Economics, World