Tag Archives: feminism

Feminist has a T

I am cisgender.

Cisgender is a word retroformatted from transgender, which in turn was coined in 1965 from two Latin words. Cisgender is first recorded in print in 1994.

Cisgender means that you still identify as the gender by which you were identified when you were born. Suppose that you were identified as a girl when you were born: then if you identify as a woman today, you are cisgender: if you identify as a man today, you are transgender.
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Filed under LGBT Equality

What would your name have been?

My given name is the seventh most popular for girls in the 1960s. In classes through primary and secondary school, there were never less than two other girls with the same name, and one term there were five.

Stephen - from Us&ThemIf I had been a boy, the seventh most popular name for boys in the 1960s was Stephen. (Curiously enough, throughout primary school there were always at least two Stephens in the class – varying spellings – and in adulthood, though I know only a few women with the same given name as me, every other man seems to be called Steve.
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Filed under Unanswerable Questions, Women


“In my next Friday prayers, I will make a sermon against FGM to let people know the harms that is associated to it. That will be my duty,” said Imam Ayuba Jaiteh of Tujereng village.

He further promised: “Also in other social gatherings, such as naming ceremonies, I will talk against FGM.”

According to the Home Office, up to 24,000 girls under the age of 15 may be at risk of female genital mutilation. Since March 2004, it has not only been illegal to mutilate a little girl’s genitals in the UK (the first law against FGM in Britain was passed in the 1980s) it is also illegal to take a girl out of the UK to mutilate her genitals in another country. Anyone who does so can in principle be prosecuted and jailed for up to 14 years.

But there have been no prosecutions in the UK. Not because girls have not been mutilated, but because – according to Newsnight’s report last night – no effort has been made to prevent it:

[Isabelle Gillette-Faye, a French campaigner against FGM] walks me over to the Eurostar platform to tell me the story of two little girls who were about to board the train headed for St. Pancras to be mutilated in the UK.

“It was a Friday. We heard just in time. They had tickets for the Saturday.

“A family member tipped us off. We told the police and they were stopped from making the journey.”

The parents were cautioned. Had they gone ahead with the mutilations and been found out, they would have been imprisoned for up to 13 years.

“We simply will not tolerate this practice,” Isabelle explains.

Does she think many French children have been cut in the UK?

“Yes, because you do not care,” she says.

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Filed under Human Rights, Justice, Racism, Women

Ms is the word

Ms Rosie Campbell has put forward a petition to remove “Miss” from official documents (as the French have removed Mademoiselle). While the Daily Mail and other aggressive tabloiders would doubtless claim this means women “can’t” use Miss, there would of course be nothing to prevent a woman from doing so if she chose: but there is no reason why an official document or form should provide three options for women’s marital status – “Married, Single, and Mind Your Own Business” when all that’s needed is one, just as men have.

I would love to see David “Calm down dear” Cameron forced to engage in a debate on Ms.

Meantime, there’s this for guerrilla action:

When women of my generation (I’m 59) introduce themselves as Mrs or Miss, it sounds quaint to me. As for the unfilled field on the computer screen, why don’t we all opt for Lady or Baroness. It will screw up the statistics something rotten.

It would also make us all look like we were the denizens of a Gothic romance. We’d have really nice houses.

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Filed under Epetitions, Women


There are a set of moral, ethical, and medical issues around abortion.

[Also about use of Care Quality Commission staff for a politician’s personal prejudices. More of that in the update below.]

The Telegraph does not appear to be interested in any of them, in its latest US-style article about “abortion clinics”.

First and most importantly: Is the person who is having the abortion being coerced in any way? It would be immoral and inethical for a doctor to perform an abortion on anyone unless she wants to have her pregnancy terminated.
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Filed under Healthcare, Women


My car was stolen, but I didn’t report it to the police. I know who the thief is. We’ve gone out for dinner more than once: I see him every day at work. Last time I went out for the evening with him, I felt I was over the limit and I let him drive my car. This time, when I gave him my keys, he got into the car without me, locked the doors, and just drove off. He abandoned it, tank empty, miles away. The police eventually contacted me and I had to pay a fine for illegal parking and the towing costs, and then the car had to go to the garage for repairs. But what’s the point of telling the police the car was stolen? I’d let the man drive the car before, I know him socially, I was drunk both times when I let him drive me home and the time he just drove off without me. No one would believe me, would they? It’s a really gorgeous car, anyone would say I shouldn’t drive it where people might see it and want to drive it themselves. And I didn’t exactly say “No” when he got in and drove off without me. He might not have known I didn’t want him to do that – maybe I didn’t give clear enough signals. So really, it’s my faultit wasn’t theft at all. I did get the car back, eventually.

Yeah, that makes sense.

If I’m talking about rape.

10% of car thefts turn out to be false reports. 2-8% of reported rapes turn out to be false reports. Yet if you google on “car theft” you don’t find pages and pages of sites of people warning of the risk of false car theft reports – of how predatory car owners will lie that their car was stolen when they had totally given their consent and just wanted to get revenge on the car driver – of how easily a false accusation of car theft can ruin a car driver’s life.
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Filed under Justice, Scottish Culture, Women

Human Rights: Abortion and gay marriage

I got into an argument on a Catholic blog recently about same-sex marriage, and – in passing, but with vehemence – also got into an argument about being pro-choice.

The two are on the face of it only peripherally related – both equality/human-rights issues – but of course are very directly related in one respect: they challenge a man’s right to own his woman.

Equal marriage, where both spouses have identical obligations, rights, and responsibilities towards and for and about each other, is a fundamental redefinition of traditional marriage. In traditional marriage, the woman’s father gave her in marriage to her husband: a financially-independent widow might give herself in marriage, but once married, a woman’s rights were subsumed into her husband’s rights.

Equal marriage is a victory of the feminist revolution, but it leads directly to the idea that given husband and wife are now legally equal and identical, why is there a ban on same-sex couples marrying? Of course this next step can only happen in a country with a strong LGBT equality movement, but it is a simple next step. Nothing about a same-sex couple marrying can affect a mixed-sex married couple.

The wild claim that same-sex marriage leads to polygamy is a product of the American Christian Right’s script, and is provably false even in North America where it originated and where there are small Mormon communities of men who marry each other’s daughters and exile the “surplus” boys, the sons who can’t be allowed to marry inside the polygamous community at all. Polygamy as traditional Mormonism would have it is a profoundly sexist marriage: a man has rights and privileges over his wives that they do not have. It is the reverse of equal marriage. It is a profoundly patriarchal concept: only the chief men of the community, and their heirs, get to marry. A recent attempt in Canada to claim that it was discriminatory to deny legal marriage to polygamous men and their wives, failed precisely because those opposed could show in court how damaging polygamous marriage can be: and how it would directly affect couples married already. No such evidence can or ever has been shown for same-sex marriage: the Catholic Church’s campaign against same-sex marriage in Scotland relies, as many another campaign, on the lies put out by an anti-gay hate group in the US.

Traditional marriage is already legally at an end in Scotland. No husband has rights over his wife that she does not already have over him. Even the old traditional signal that a woman must become part of her husband’s family and change her surname to his, is fading away: no one need change their surname on marriage, but it is as easy for a man to change his surname to his wife’s as the reverse, as easy for a mixed-sex or a same-sex couple to mutually change their names.

Denial of legal abortion to a woman who is pregnant and needs to terminate does not seem to connect to that: it’s a simple public health issue and a simple human rights issue.

With regard to public health, it is much more damaging (and more expensive for the NHS) if a woman who wants to have an abortion is forced either to wait until she can find the money to pay for it, or to have it done illegally on the cheap and use the health service to clean up after her. (There is something of a postcode lottery in Scotland as in the rest of the UK as to whether a woman who needs an abortion can get it easily and quickly on the NHS: but the vast majority of abortions done are on the NHS, if sometimes with unnecessary delays.)

Throughout Ireland, abortion is banned: the government of Ireland and the assembly at Stormont claim that Ireland is a Catholic country and abortion is unacceptable. The net result of this is what you might expect: Ireland exports almost all its abortions to the UK. Women in Northern Ireland, though they pay for healthcare on the NHS via their taxes like anyone else, must not only travel to mainland UK to get one, they must pay for it privately when they get there. The Catholic Church can make abortion illegal in Ireland, but they cannot stop women from getting abortions, they can only make it difficult and expensive for a woman to do so. In countries where abortion is illegal but there is no convenient pro-choice country to provide abortions for women living under a prolife regime, the net result is even nastier: women die of illegal abortions.

Not that the Catholic Church is the only prolife campaign organisation: the Christian Right in the US is mostly Protestant, and has ensured soldiers in the US military who need abortions must request leave to travel back to the US and pay for the abortion privately: they are not allowed to get an abortion at the nearest US military base, nor are they allowed to have their abortion paid for by the US military healthcare system. Nor, if they wish to continue their military career, can they put “pregnant, need an abortion” as their reason for requesting leave. This applies to soldiers who have been made pregnant by rape, married soldiers, soldiers who have an affair… all are simply denied this basic healthcare and the US military will not even take note of how many soldiers have been denied.

WIth regard to simple human rights: no woman should be forced against her will through pregnancy and child birth: no woman should have her body used against her will to make a baby. All women, therefore, should have as a basic human right, once pregnant, to decide whether to terminate or to continue the pregnancy. It’s her pregnancy: it’s her body: it’s her decision.

This upsets the patriarchal ideal of male ownership of women’s bodies. Prolifers will argue that a girl’s father ought to make the decision for her: that the “baby’s father” should have the legal right to decide whether or not the woman will have the baby: that above all the woman must not have the right to decide what’s best for her. Even the UK system of two doctors signing off a woman’s abortion is a product of this thinking: while most abortions in the UK are effectively abortion on demand, as is right, in law a woman has to convince two doctors that she or her family will suffer if she doesn’t get an abortion.

Just as anti-marriage campaigners bring up the false spectre of polygamy, so will prolifers bring up the false cuddly claim that they’re only concerned about the fetuses – that they want to prevent women having safe legal abortions because they regard a fertilised egg as exactly the same as a baby, and a woman having an abortion (and the doctor performing it) is exactly the same as a woman hiring an assassin to kill her child. This is a fantastic lie, told and elaborated on as a justification for hurting women who have abortions. We can tell it’s a lie because prolifers are vastly unconcerned with preventing abortions. The most effective means of preventing abortions is to ensure that every time a mixed-sex couple have heterosexual intercourse, unless they actually intend to conceive, the man uses a condom and the woman is either on the Pill or using a barrier method herself. If prolifers were really truly into preventing abortions, if the Catholic Church really regarded ending a fetus’s life as a sin worthy of excommunication, then the Catholic Church would be right out there promoting condoms and the Pill. (As indeed many lay Catholics already have.)

Denial of legal abortion is about denying women autonomy and equality. Denial of same-sex marriage is about denying that marriage is a relationship of equals. It’s not really surprising that the people who oppose the freedom of same-sex couples to marry are generally also the same people who oppose the freedom of women to decide how many children to have, and when.


Filed under LGBT Equality, Women