Monthly Archives: December 2010

Rape myth busting campaign from the WAG

Last week the Welsh Assembly  Government [WAG] launched a campaign to tackle attitudes towards rape.

This comes after some a study by the havens last month revealed some shocking statistics:

  • A third (34%) of people in the UK believe that a woman is partially or totally responsible for being raped if she has behaved in a flirtatious manner
  • More than a quarter (26%) of people think a woman was partially or totally responsible for being raped if she was wearing sexy or revealing clothing
  • Around one in 12 people (8%) believe a woman is totally responsible for being raped if she has many sexual partners
  • Nearly a third of people (30%) say a woman was partially or totally responsible for being raped if she was drunk


The campaign is focused on stopping blaming victims of rape, and asks the key question

Is it possible that a woman who drinks, dances and flirts, ALL in a short skirt, is doing it for her own enjoyment?

The following video highlights how some men feel they have ‘earned’ sex if they do certain things.

The campaign focuses on trying to dispel myths that the way a woman dresses, behaves or drinks means she is “asking for it.”  The campaign goals are to:

  • Challenge the endemic culture of victim blame.
  • Stop blaming the victim for rape and sexual assault committed against her.
  • Stop handing the rapist – the assailant – excuses that serve to make his behaviour more socially acceptable.

The bottom line of the campaign:

Rape is a crime in every sense of the word- emotional, physical, psychological and legal; the most intimate violation imaginable. No woman is ever ‘asking for it’.




The trivialisation of rape

The term rape is increasingly being used  out of the normal context on an everyday basis.

‘Fraping’, [Facebook raping] is just one example of how modern culture has trivialised a devastating and traumatic event that is a reality for thousands of women.

In 2009/2010 almost 14,000 women in the UK reported being raped to the police.

Online trader Etsy is following this trend by producing the following card, designed by ‘Youstupidbitch’:

The tag line on the card;

Get creeped on, get raped? Know someone that has? Then this card is for them

If this is tasteless and crass, what is it when you liken someone putting an unwanted comment on facebook to being sexually assaulted?

Completely different or a little bit the same?

Tell me what you think.

First it was glass ceilings, now women are falling off glass cliffs

Recent research from Yale University, entitled Hard Won and Easily Lost has shown that glass ceilings are not the only thing women in professional careers have to worry about.

The American study shows that when women do jobs that are traditionally done by men, they are more likely to be seen as “unlikeable” and “incompetent.”

When they make mistakes, they are more likely to lose their jobs than men in the same position.

Dr Victoria Brescoll, who co-authored the report said:

“There is an effect called the glass cliff. You don’t really know, when you’re a woman in a high status leadership role, how long you’re going to hang on to it. You might fall off at any point.”

She said the findings of the study highlighted the fragility and vulnerability of women in top positions.

The findings are probably not surprising, but somewhat depressing nonetheless.

Cardiff Woman Gives Life to African Mothers

Angela Gorman

Last month Cardiff based charity, Life for African Mothers was chosen by the staff of the Welsh Assembly Government’s [WAG] as charity of the year.

The charity, which was initially called Hope for Grace Kodindo, was founded in 2005, after local neo-natal nurse Angela Gorman decided to tackle the appalling rates of maternal mortality in Sub-Saharan Africa.

She was first inspired to set up the charity after watching a Panorama documentary, Dead Mum’s Don’t Cry, which followed obstetrician, Dr Grace Kodindo in her work  in the Hôpital Général de Référence in N’Djamena, Chad.

In Chad, where one in eight pregnancies ends in the death of the mother,  there is an expression “a pregnant woman has one foot in the grave”

Listen to what she had to say about watching the programme:

The charity’s strategy is simple; to supply drugs to combat the biggest maternal killers in Sub-Saharan Africa; eclampsia and post-partum haemorrhaging.

These two conditions are responsible for almost half of the deaths of pregnant women in Africa, but can be prevented by drugs which cost less than a chocolate bar.

Mesoprostol, which costs just 15p a tablet, is used to treat eclampsia, which kills 14% of pregnant women if Africa, while post-partum haemorrhaging, responsible for about a quarter of the deaths, is treated by a 55p dose of magnesium sulphate.

World Health Organisation statistics 2005

The programme, which initially began in Chad, has now been expanded to Nigeria, Somaliland, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Uganda and most recently, Rwanda.

Gorman estimates the charity has saved at least 13, 000 lives since it began work in 2005, and believes in the last 15 months 9,000 women have been saved across the seven countries in which it operates.

Dr Grace Kodindo

In May 2008 Dr Kodindo was able to tell the European Parliament that as a result of the charity’s work, rates of deaths from eclampsia in Chad’s biggest maternity hospital were reduced from 14% to 2.3%, while neonatal mortality was reduced from 23% to 7.3%.

This success is due in part to the limited scope of Life for African Mothers, and the strong links Gorman sets up with the hospitals she supplies. This ensures medication gets to the women who need it and supplies are maintained.

The programme is not the only South Wales charity to be involved in Africa.  In 2006, as part of the WAG’s initiative to achieve the UNs Millennium Development Goals [MDG], Rhodri Morgan, then First Minister of Wales gave funding for Wales for Africa, a group of over 20 health organisations which provide aid in Africa.

Life for African Mothers is particularly focused on achieving MDG number 5, maternal health, but as Gorman points out:

“By tackling maternal mortality you can improve the first four goals as well; women create about 70% of the wealth in these countries, which means if we can keep more women alive we can help reduce poverty.

“Keeping mothers alive also means children are more likely to go to school, and child health will improve, so the second and fourth goals can be reached as well.”

Gorman has established links with other charities in the Wales for Africa group, such as PONT, which led Life for African Mothers to expand into Uganda, and the Swansea Gambia Link [SGL].

Last month she addressed a group of medical students involved in the SGL, and hopes as a result the charity may be able to make future links in Gambia.

One of the students she talked to, Ed Soans said:

“Her [Gorman’s] story is quite inspirational.  She is using very simple resources and ideas, and is applying them in effective ways.

“The drugs are really cheap, but very effective”

The charity has been funded through a combination of small donations from individuals, fund raising events [including a Cycle to Africa last month] and larger sums given by organisations.

In 2008 Good Gifts gave a grant of £29,000, which has helped  to send medications to Africa, as well as trained NHS workers.

In October OXFAM invited Gorman on a trip to Sierra Leone with a group of Cardiff health care workers, including Peter Lindsay, consultant obstetrician and gynecologist at Llandough Hospital, Penarth.

A decade of civil war has destroyed any health care system that was previously in place. Dr Lindsay told me about the difficulties of providing health care in a post-war country:

According to the World Health Organisation, Sierra Leone is the most dangerous place in the world to give birth, with one in every seven pregnancies ending in the death of the mother.

However, there is evidence the charity’s work is making inroads.  In 2007 the Princess Christian Hospital in Freetown delivered 1,500 women, 143 [or almost 10%] of whom died.  From June to September 2010 this was reduced to 3% as 100 women out of the 3,600 who were delivered had fatal complications.

There is clearly much work to be done, but slowly things may be improving.

Tips for a Happy Marriage

Christmas is a time for family, but we all know that even in the happiest of families there can be tensions over the festive period.  In 1913 Blanche Ebbutt published some handy hints for husbands and wives to try and ensure matrimonial bliss.

Here are some of the don’t for wives:

  • Don’t forget to wish your husband good-morning when he sets off to the office. He will feel the lack of your good-bye kiss all day.
  • Don’t let your husband wear a violet tie with grass-green socks.  If he is unhappily devoid of colour sense, he must be forcibly restrained.
  • Don’t despise the domestic potato. There are a hundred appetising ways of cooking it, but unless you take it firmly in hand, it will arrive at table with the consistency of half-melted ice-mushy without, stony within. The boiled potato is the rock on which many a happy home barque has foundered.
  • Don’t bother your husband with a stream of senseless chatter if you can see he is fatigued. Help him to the titbits at dinner; modulate your voice; don’t remark on his silence. If you have any cheery little annecdote to relate, tell it with quiet humour, and by-and-by he will respond. But if you tackle him in the wrong way, the two of you will spend a miserable evening.
  • Don’t talk to your husband about anything of a worrying nature until he has finished his evening meal.
  • Don’t be satisfied to let your husband work overtime to earn money for frocks for you. Manage with fewer frocks.
  • Don’t think it beneath you to put your husband’s slippers ready for him. On a cold evening, especially, it makes all the difference to his comfort if the soles are warmed through.
  • Don’t let him have to search the house for you. Listen for his latch-key and meet him on the threshold.
  • Don’t check your husband’s high spirits. Let him sing at the top of his voice in the bathroom, or whistle out of tune on the stairs, and be thankful for a cheerful man about the house.
  • Don’t nag your husband. If he won’t carry out your wishes for love of you, he certainly won’t because you nag him.

And for the men…

  • Don’t fidget. some husbands are never still for a moment. they walk in and out of rooms like the wandering Jew; they play with the salt at dinner; they draw lines on the tablecloth with a fork; they tap the table with their fingers and the floor with their feet; they creak their slippers and drop the coal tongs on to the tiled hearth. In fact, they keep their wives in a state of tension, and the poor creatures would need nerves of iron to enable them to stand the strain.
  • Don’t sharpen pencils all over the house as you walk about. Try a hearth or a waste-paper basket, or a newspaper. It does not improve either carpets or the servants’ temper to find scraps of pencil-sharpenings all over the floors.
  • Don’t hang about the house all day if your occupation does not take you abroad. Spend regular hours in your study or ‘den’ or go out and play golf; but don’t inflict your company on your wife during every minute of every day. She is fond of you, but she wants to be free sometimes. And she has business to do, even if you haven’t.
  • Don’t keep her is cotton-wool. She isn’t wax – she is a woman.
  • Don’t ‘nag’ your wife. If she has burnt a cake or forgotten to sew on a button, she doesn’t want to be told of it over and over again.
  • Don’t take the attitude that wives, like children, should be seen and not heard. No doubt you are a very clever fellow, and it is an education for her to listen to you, but she may also have some views worth mentioning.
  • Don’t grumble day after day at your wife’s untidiness if you happen to be a methodical man. It will be much easier, and will save friction, if you quietly put away the things she leaves lying about, her untidiness may be a constitutional defect, and, if so, no amount of grumbling will cure it.
  • Don’t say anything to your children that may tend in any way to lower their estimation of their mother don’t insist on having gorgonzola or other strong-smelling cheese on the table or sideboard twice a day when you know the odour makes your wife feel ill. After all, it is a small thing to forgo in comparison with your wife’s comfort.
  • Don’t forget to use a reasonable amount of caution should your hobby be one that may be dangerous. Your wife doesn’t want you to be ‘funky’ but she has the right to expect you not to take undue risk in your motor-car, bicycle or flying-machine.

Remember and marital bliss will be yours!

Why are Women’s Magazines All the Same?

Women’s magazines are generally obsessed with the things they think most women are interested in; fashion, diets, men and sex.

Of course many women are interested in these things, but are they really the only things they want to read about?  Especially when most of the content isn’t even that original.

It seems every month readers of magazine such as Glamour [the biggest selling magazine in the UK] and Cosmopolitan are given the same menu of sex tips and beauty shortcuts.

It seems there is no market for women’s magazines which are not full of shiny, beautiful [and airbrushed] people who we can aspire to be like.

The French market is very similar, but in 2009 Grégory Lassus-Debat launched Causette [or “chat”],  a magazine where the women are not airbrushed, have cellulite and are interested in things such as politics.

Lassus-Debut was denied a loan because the bank thought such a magazine had no market and no future.

However, sales last month had reached 25,000 for this year, about the same as She or Easy Living in the UK.  Not a huge market, but a sustainable one.

Lassus-Debat told The Times

“I didn’t do any market studies, but I instinctively felt that there would be a demand for a magazine without Kate Moss and diets in it,”

According to Lassus-Debat the magaizine is not feminist per se , but

“A magazine that is interested in women’s lives, in their struggles and in the defence of their rights,”

The last issue included stories about the women’s lobby in the European Union, non-violent resistance on the West Bank and the decline of the  le Mouvement de Libération des Femmes [The women’s liberation movement].

Not your typical women’s magazine fodder.

I argued last week that women’s magazines in the UK reinforce stereotypes rather than challenge them.  Chausette does the opposite.

And if there is a market in France, why not in the UK as well?

Breastfeeding at Work – Yes or No?


Picture by Christy Scherrer

Last week Health Secretary Andrew Lansley urged companies to provide breastfeeding facilities for new mothers.

Companies will be urged to allow nursing mothers to be able to take flexible breaks, provide fridges to keep expressed milk in and allow women to go home during the working day to feed their babies.

The proposals have been met with considerable criticism, from people who believe nursing mothers should be at home looking after their babies full time, to those who see the move as likely to cause even more discrimination against women in the work place.

Critics of giving new mothers extra protection in the workplace often use words such as “lifestyle choice” and talk about the “unfairness” of allowing working mothers more flexibility than other members of the workforce.

It seems an increasingly more accepted view that reproduction is a choice, and if a woman decides to make that choice she should pay for it accordingly.

This seems short-sighted.

True, women have more control over their reproductive systems than they have ever had before, but it is still in the interest of society that women have babies.  It is also in the interest of society that well-educated, successful and professional women can return to work.

Given that women are advised to breastfeed for 6 months, and they are entitled to only £100 a week after the first six weeks of maternity leave, it may simply not be feasible for a working mother to remain at home until she weans her child.

And given that it seems fairly well accepted that breastfeeding is good for babies, it makes sense to allow nursing mothers more flexibility.

Camilla Cavendish, of The Times writes:

“If you ask most mothers, you’ll find that the reason that we stop breastfeeding is not a lack of private rooms. It’s the whole painful fandango. It’s wanting not to be milk-soaked and bovine in front of the boss, adjusting breast pads and ruining shirts.”

If this really is the reason many women stop breastfeeding, to avoid the shame of lactating in front of your boss, what does it say about how breastfeeding is perceived in our society?

The issue of breastfeeding shows how far women, and particularly mothers, are from achieving equality in the work place.

Increasingly it seems that women are only equal to men if they act like men, and men certainly do not breastfeed.

Tell me what you think: