All posts by bernieritchie

FEMINISM IN POP CULTURE – A YOUNG FEMINIST’S VIEW

Bristol Woman is delighted to publish the second part of the ‘Young Feminist’ series from young blogger, Mollie Semple. Probably, our youngest guest blog contributor to date. In this blog, Mollie tells us her hopes and fears in terms of the evolution and expansion of today’s Third Wave feminism. Definitely worth a read!

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It used to be, in recent years, that there was only a very subtle undertone of feminism in any kind of pop culture most likely due to the fact the ‘Angry Feminist’ was the only stereotype thought of to refer to. And an angry woman just does not sell to the masses.

After the popularity of the full on 90s feminist movement Riot Grrrl, the whereabouts of feminists in the limelight, to me as a young person, appear to have dwindled away.

Only a few years ago I found it hard to find celebrities, songs and films right in the middle of popular culture to resonate with my growing feminist beliefs but now it’s increasingly hard to find an area that isn’t slathered in a new Third Wave feminist tint.

Obviously this feminism has always been around, but there wasn’t the same platform there is now to shout out to the world about one’s beliefs on equality. There wasn’t the same number of actresses questioning the press why it was only them who were asked about their family life or their skincare routine instead of their impressive careers. There was no Emma Watson to appeal to UN delegates on the importance of equality for women. Feminism was a dirty word, but I can see more and more of us embrace it as a powerful one. It is within this explosion onto the Hollywood scene, the music scene, the celebrity scene that one can see, mixed in with the added bonus of the Internet, the power of the media to share a message with the people.

This sudden surge of Third Wave feminism in the Western world, which has been building up, right from the first surge of Riot Grrrl, is completely exhilarating. Twitter is littered with it, Facebook is swimming in it and the celebrities are more and more becoming advocates for it. The Angry Feminist, for most, is now just a ‘Taming of the Shrew’ type exaggeration because a huge number of people are now fitting comfortably into a new “acceptable” egalitarian category. We are of course still angry, because you can’t see the gaps in equality and not become deeply impassioned in a desire for change, but it is now an accepted feature to be commended and not frowned upon.

Staggeringly, huge numbers of female celebrities are no longer afraid to open their mouth and express an important opinion in case of a drop in popularity. There has finally been created a safe space for feminism within pop culture where women and men can properly express their thoughts on it. The obvious inequality in this culture is no longer happily ignored, Third Wave feminism has broken through and started to dominate. Perhaps this is the beginning of the end.

However, I do just have one issue with this mostly brilliant popular movement. I worry that in between Emma Watson’s work for the UN, or frequent call outs on the Hollywood pay gap meant to ripple into the world wide pay gap, or the highlighting of the blatant racism in the film industry, there isn’t just a small element of inactivity with this newfound prestige. I wonder if there is too much focus on Western inequality and a lack of intrigue for the disastrous inequality on the other side of the world. Malala Yousafzai has been voicing her feminist views for her culture all over the world, but I wonder if she reaches the level of pop culture that, say, Ryan Gosling does. Western inequality is not unimportant or negligible in any way, but we mustn’t again fall into the trap of forgetting that the rest of the world exists. I also worry that this popularity might be detrimental to feminism in the way that it could exhaust its meaning without a sufficient achievement.

I am so excited by the fact that celebrities are using their platform to spread the word of feminism, but are they truly aiding us or telling us to actively do something?

Perhaps my criticisms are unfair here, perhaps I should just let feminism with its new fame find its steps and see where it goes. I just don’t want its power to become trivial, and for the feminist stereotype to be cyclical and in a few years time we fall into the unattractive label of the “Angry Feminist” once more. I just don’t want this fantastic opportunity to be squandered and lost in this fast moving pace of the pop culture world.

BIO
Mollie is a 17 year old student in the midst of her A Levels. She’s a passionate blogger at The Fully Intended, and all she really wants to do in life is write. She has been raised by her parents to want nothing more for the world than equality, and so intends to spend a lot of her time making sure her generation gets a little bit closer to just that.

BEING A YOUNG FEMINIST

In this two-part guest blog series from probably Bristol Woman’s youngest guest blogger so far, we are delighted to welcome 17-year old young feminist and avid blogger, Mollie Semple. In this first post, Mollie discusses her own experience of what it feels like to be a young feminist.

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I am, and have always been, an impassioned, opinionated, young feminist. I have no qualms with this, this is very much an integral part of who I am, and yet, for a while, it used to be a very alienating experience. It used to feel as if every one of your peers just wouldn’t open their ears and listen to what you had to say, to what the world was saying, and to what women were saying at the time.

Instead, they’d laugh at you. If you were opinionated enough you’d get a reputation, for which I certainly did. Boys would deliberately rile you up because for them it was amusing, but all you wanted to do was to help them to understand what made you so upset. New terminology was making its rounds as the boys and girls discovered a sexuality they were unable to explore yet. “Gash” was a favourite amongst the lads to refer to their female counterparts as a putrid description of an area they were still to be lucky enough to come close to.

My female peers and I had suddenly become pockets of sexual favours to most of the boys, but we were yet to feel the need to speak so cruelly of them. And to a lot of us, the words started to slide over our heads as we’d numb ourselves to the terms that damaged our worth as human beings just because it was said so frequently. I tried to tell everyone this, but they just said I was silly. I couldn’t understand why even the girls didn’t feel the need to protect themselves as females from a society which sought to undermine them. Why didn’t this make them angry? Why would they not fight back with me? For a while it felt like I would have to do this alone.

And then, as if all of a sudden, I wasn’t the only one who felt so intrinsically linked to this word ‘feminism’. It started to make others feel passionately too. Now I could have heated, one-sided discussions about how desperately the world needed feminism and how great it was to be a young feminist. Now, instead of feeling as if I was shouting at an empty room, others were beginning to shout with me and we were going to teach the world about our newfound club. We were feminists, and we were going to let everybody know about it.

Today, in my first year of 6th form, as a feminist I feel pretty empowered. I have both boys and girls who will defend my arguments vehemently because they understand how important a need there is to educate and to fight for this cause of equality. There is certainly a more positive connotation to the word ‘feminism’ and I think that a part of this is because as we grow older we sadly become more and more aware of the inequalities within our very own society. I think that now a lot of us are looking back on the language we used to use and cringing at how awfully sexist it was. But it wasn’t our fault, we had retrieved those words from the adult world and thrown them around without fully understanding the meaning behind it. Now we can see the meaning, and it is starting to repulse us.

Of course, there are still a few left in our year who are still refusing to accept feminism as a valid or necessary concept in our apparently perfect, middle class society. When I try to approach them in a different way and argue that if not for yourself then fight for the others, they still tend to resist. Fight for the women who are murdered in Honour Killings, for the girls who are not allowed to go to school, but, apparently, that’s different. This does not concern us according to them, and it is only barely worthy of feminism. But don’t worry …. I am working on this.

I think that overall being a young feminist is a positive, exciting thing for me now. I certainly feel deeply entrenched within a worthy cause I won’t ever want to stop fighting for, and what encourages me is that more and more of my peers are beginning to understand and feel that. We are young and passionate, and so I think by nature it’s a pretty powerful thing for us to work towards a freer, more equal world.

Mollie’s bio:

Mollie is a 17 year old student in the midst of her A Levels. She’s a passionate blogger at The Fully Intended, and all she really wants to do in life is write. She has been raised by her parents to want nothing more for the world than equality, and so intends to spend a lot of her time making sure her generation gets a little bit closer to just that.

Gendered teaching in classrooms

… Check out this interactive chart!

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An interactive chart in the US that has started to gain a lot of attention on social media recently has produced some interesting insights of a gendered nature. Male lecturers emerge as brilliant, awesome and knowledgeable while women lecturers are bossy and annoying, beautiful or ugly. By using 14 million teacher reviews from RateMyProfessors.com, Northeastern University history professor Ben Schmidt has created a data visualization that allows its users to explore words used to describe male and female teachers. Simply by just typing any word into the box, the chart rearranges to display how often the word is used and in which subject areas. Many of the results are quite striking in the way they illustrate gendered language and gendered biases which has – no surprise! – caused some robust discussion on social media. Schmidt, who is core faculty member of the NULab for Texts, Maps, and Networks, explained the visualization is going viral is because people have a lot of strong ideas about what words to search for.

“I have a lot more people coming to me with questions about it rather than just looking at it and moving on,” he said. “They spend more time with it as well as pass it along, and that’s been really interesting because it gives them something to contextualize.”

Continue reading Gendered teaching in classrooms

Balanced representation of women in the UK boardroom – will 25% become a reality in 2015?

So, it’s 2015 and the year is beginning to accelerate. Time to give some thought to what was promised for women’s representation in UK boardrooms by 2015. In publishing his review of women on boards in 2011, Lord Davies said this: “FTSE 100 boards should aim for a minimum of 25% female representation by 2015 and we expect that many will achieve a higher figure.
Fast forward to late February 2015 and how are we doing? Well, we can tell from figures published in the Guardian last October that ‘60% of Britain’s top firms have still to reach the government target for female directors’. In Autumn 2014, 61 FTSE 100 companies still hadn’t met the 25% female representation target set by Lord Davies. Given that, it seems unlikely that what Lord Davies had pushed for and advocated in his 2011 statement will bear fruit this year.
We can but hope but the 25% female representation goal across all FTSE 100 boards does not appear to be a particularly robust reality. Nevertheless, the 30% Club – founded and chaired by the dynamic Helena Morrissey, CEO of Newton Investment and mother of nine children – does feel that this could be possible (see quote below). Let’s hope so! That could only be good news all around.

Helena Morrissey, Chair of Newton Investment and Founder/Chair of the 30% Club
Helena Morrissey, Chair of Newton Investment and Founder/Chair of the 30% Club

‘The good news is that the goal set by Lord Davies to have 25% of women directors on FTSE 100 boards by the end of 2015 is within reach. Given the current rate of director turnover and proportion of new appointments going to women, the year end outcome will lie somewhere between Lord Davies’ target and the 30% Club’s slightly more ambitious one’.

Meanwhile, a Harvard Business Review article published just this week ‘Women Directors Change How Boards Work’ – authored by Laura Liswood, Secretary General, Council of Women World Leaders – tells us, crushingly, that the United States ‘seems to have hit a ceiling of about 16% women’ when it comes to the representation of women in the boardroom. This statistic sits glumly alongside the HBR article’s opening remarks.

‘We know that getting more women on teams can boost performance …. And increasing the number of women on a team also increases its collective intelligence’

For some hope and in order to tap a richer vein of reference, Liswood looks to Norway which boasts (since late 2003) a mandatory quota system of 40% on the boards of publicly limited liability companies. Early feedback following this move is now showing the value of having at least three women on a board is important.

Laura Liswood, Secretary General, Council of Women World Leaders, seen here speaking at the World Economic Forum in Davos.
Laura Liswood, Secretary General, Council of Women World Leaders, seen here speaking at the World Economic Forum in Davos.

In her article, Liswood also seeks insights into the Norwegian example from Professor Aaron A Dhir, an associate professor of York University’s Osgoode Hall Law School in the US. His forthcoming 2015 book ‘Challenging Boardroom Homogeneity; Corporate Law, Governance and Diversity looked deeply into the experiences of 23 Norwegian directors, men and women who had appointments both pre- and post-quota. From this work, Dhir then goes on to identify seven consequences of gender-based heterogeneity for boardroom work, board governance, and group dynamics. These are:

– Enhanced dialogue

– Better decision-making, including the value of dissent

– More effective risk mitigation and crisis management

– Better balance between risk-welcoming and risk aversion behaviour

– Higher quality monitoring of and guidance to management

– Positive changes to the boardroom environment and culture

– More orderly and systematic board work

– Positive changes in the behaviour of men

In a final statement on his findings in Norway, Professor Dhir tells us that his findings do indicate that:

‘the forced repopulation of board governance systems along gender lines has disturbed the traditional order of corporate board governance systems, dislocating established hierarchies of power and privilege in key market-based institutions’.

In other words, it can be done, but it’s going to be painful. No surprise there! But we need to bust through the pain barrier to come out the other side and begin to reap the benefits of far more balanced gender representation in today’s leading boardrooms across the world.
Clearly, reaching fair and balanced representation of women in boardrooms is unlilkely to be entirely achievable in 2015 but we need to keep the whole drive and thrust for this vital initiative moving forward. Boardrooms with heavily biased male representation need to become an anachronism in the not too distant future!

When Valentine’s Day becomes Fifty Shades of Abuse ….

Part of the Sophie Merlo series 'Lifting the Veil on Domestic Abuse'
Part of the Sophie Merlo series ‘Lifting the Veil on Domestic Violence’

It’s Valentine’s Day tomorrow …. bring on the flowers, chocolates, bubbly and romantic dates with your partner ….. ! Getting cosy, schmoozy and lovey-dovey with your partner … on the ultimate, most romantic day of the year? Of course! 14th February spells romance with a capital R!

But hold on …….. that’s not strictly the case for the many female victims of domestic violence in the UK for whom Valentine’s Day 2015 spells trouble. These women are deeply worried that Valentine’s Day will bring them a lot more than just roses and chocolates. It’s well known that incidences of domestic abuse rise considerably at this, supposedly romantic, time of the year. Continue reading When Valentine’s Day becomes Fifty Shades of Abuse ….

Celebrity fundraising football match raises thousands of pounds to support the plight of young Oskar ….

Oskar seen here with the extraordinary Ross Simmons!
Oskar seen here with the extraordinary Ross Simmons!

A CELEBRITY football match sponsored by mum and businesswoman has raised thousands of pounds to help fund for surgery so a boy with severe cerebral palsy may walk. Della Hudson, of Hudson Accountants – pictured in this story’s feature pic – sponsored the football kits when ex Bristol City, Rovers and celebrities joined forces to play in aid of six-year-old Oskar Pycroft.

The football legends, mixed with TV chefs and sporting names, took on a team of donators to raise £2,500 towards the cost of a private operation. The celebrity team beat the Rosco Rangers, the donators, with a 6 – 2 score. Mum-of-two Della, 46, said: “We had a great day and were lucky with the weather. “It was lovely to see so many people turn out to support Oskar. His story has really moved me and as a mum, I know I would do whatever I could to help my child.”

The move came after lifelong City supporter Ross Simmons was inspired by Oskar to organise the match.And Ross, 31, who has already personally raised around £2,000 for the cause, said the funds will help a worthy cause.The DJ said: “I’m really grateful to everybody who came to play in the match or support it. I also really appreciate sponsors, such as local firm Hudson Accountants, getting so involved.“Oskar’s such a brave boy and his story has touched so many people. There’s still a long way to go, but the money raised will go towards helping Oskar get the surgery he needs.” Continue reading Celebrity fundraising football match raises thousands of pounds to support the plight of young Oskar ….

Support Bristol mum Della in her fundraising bid to help six year old Oskar walk ….

A mum and businesswoman, Della Hudson, is sponsoring a celebrity football match to help raise funds for surgery so a young boy she knows – Oskar – who has severe cerebral palsy may walk.

Della, 46, will sponsor the football kits (see the natty pink footie kits in the pic above showing Della and the team) when ex Bristol City, Rovers and celebrities join forces to play in aid of six-year-old Oskar Pycroft (featured below).

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The football legends, mixed with TV chefs and sporting names, will take on a team of donators in a bid to raise £50,000 needed for a private operation. Mum-of-two Della, who runs Hudson Accountants, said: Oskar’s story really moved me and I wanted to do something to help.

“This surgery could help Oskar walk and improve his quality of life. As a mum, I know I would do whatever I could to help my child.”

The move comes after lifelong City supporter Ross Simmons (below with Della) was inspired by Oskar to organise the match. And Ross, 31, who has already personally raised £1,500 for the cause, has been delighted with the response.

Della and Ross

The DJ from Emersons Greens said:

“It’s great to see a local firm like Hudson Accountants getting involved in such a fantastic event. It will help raise much-needed funds and awareness to run the event.”

A surgery called Selective dorsal rhizotomy (SDR) is Oskar’s only chance to walk. It would also reduce the pain and spasticity in his legs. It is available on the NHS in Bristol, but consultants have said Oskar doesn’t meet their strict criteria – and going private costs £50,000.

The local celebrities are expected to include TV weatherman Alex Beresford, This Morning chef Dean Edwards, Somerset cricketer Peter Trego, boxer Danny Butler, Bristol rugby player Sean Marsden, Cockneys vs Zombies actor Ashley Thomas and X Factor boyband Overload.

Bristol City fan Della, who has played for ladies’ football teams, added: “I love football but I think it sometimes has a bad name. I think this match will show how it can bring people together in aid of a good cause. “It also promises to be a special day for Oskar and he will be the centre of attention.”

To date, over £30,000 has been raised for Oskar, who also has gastric reflux, asthma, occasional fits and also shows signs of autism.

Della, whose firm sponsored a charity match with Scott Murray’s All-Stars at Manor Farm last summer, hopes to auction the kits after the match and raise more funds for the cause.

And Ross is also taking part in a Zero to Hero boxing match, which involves an intense ten-week programme that culminates in a boxing bout in front of more than 1,000 spectators. It is set to take place at Bath University this summer.

The match will take place at Bristol Manor Farm’s Ground on Sunday, February 8. The kick off will be at 3pm and tickets are £3 on the gate.

For more information, call Ross on 079444 045 49 or email ross_simmons@hotmail.com

To make a donation, visit https://www.justgiving.com/ross-simmons/
All photography by Flynn Guard

Going Digital in 2015! Your story contributions required …. !

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Yes, you heard it right! This year it’s all change at Bristol Woman and exciting times!

After a lot of thought we have decided that the most engaging and contemporary way of getting our Bristol Woman stories and messages out is by going digital. We will still be covering women’s stories and providing updates on key topics relevant to women in Bristol and beyond. The only difference is that we will be putting these online which will mean we can reach our Bristol Woman audience quicker, faster and in a more relevant way. And do to that we need YOU! Send us in your ideas for stories and topics, your own stories, poems, cartoons, photography. Our core areas of topic coverage, as with our earlier printed magazines, will continue to cover Equality, Business & Leadership, Motherhood and general Lifestyle subjects. If you want to contribute or have some ideas – they don’t need to be limited to our core topic areas – just get in touch with Bristol Woman by emailing editor@bristolwoman.org.uk.

In terms of our plans for a print version of Bristol Woman magazine, we have come up with a plan. We are going to produce one bumper issue of Bristol Woman each November (which marks our birthday – November 2015 is our 2nd birthday). This will be launched on the 25th November – the International Day for the Elimination of Violence – which is also the first day of the 16 Days of Activism against Gender Violence international campaign.

You may also have read that we are considering the possibility of a Bristol Woman magazine app. Watch this space for further updates!

In the meantime, PLEASE send us your story ideas and your stories. All ideas and stories welcome. If you are a photographer, film-maker, illustrator or cartoonist, please also get in touch. We would love to talk to you!

Onwards and upwards! Please help us get Bristol Woman to go digital big time in 2015! Your stories and ideas are what we need! Get in touch! And many thanks for being a Bristol Woman supporter. Cezara, Sian and I really appreciate your stories, engagement, support and ideas.

The Bristol Woman team can’t wait to hear from you! Let us have your stories and ideas!

Bernie Ritchie, Editor-in-Chief, Bristol Woman (2015)

Advancing the cause of women at Davos – A quick roundup of WEF 2015

World Economic Forum, Davos, Switzerland - 23 Jan 2015 So …. There may only have a been a staggeringly under-representative 17% of women present at Davos 2015 last week, but they certainly made their presence felt across the four days of the World Economic Forum. Arianna Huffington, President and Editor-in-Chief of news website the Huffington Post proved a veritable tour de force and a prolific tweeter and Facebook poster direct from the Microsoft-HuffPost Café at Davos. When she wasn’t interviewing the likes of Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg at Davos for HuffPost Live, she was hosting and taking part on a variety of panel discussions and attending numerous events and dinners. Many women (and men) were also seen brandishing their newly acquired copy of Huffington’s latest book – Thrive – and espousing the book’s values of sleep and mindfulness.

Continue reading Advancing the cause of women at Davos – A quick roundup of WEF 2015

What does Davos hold for women in 2015? Bristol Woman takes a look!

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Bernie Ritchie, Editor in Chief

It’s that time again! The annual World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos kicks off next week on Wednesday 21st January. The overarching theme for this year’s Forum is ‘The New Global Context’ which takes note of the fact that the world has fundamentally changed. In essence, the WEF attendees will take a collaborative look, in light of this changed global context, at what are the fundamental forces at work – technologically, socially and economically – which require new dimensions for global decision-making and new forms of practical solutions.

Broadly speaking the Forum’s purpose, against a backdrop of a world full of problems and challenges, is to improve the state of the world through the collaborative action of all stakeholders of the world’s civil society. Top of the discussions agenda will be the real risks posed by global conflict (with the world still reeling from the tragic events in Paris last week and the Boko Haram massacre in Nigeria in early January) plus the digital economy, climate change, trusted leadership and also, critically, gender inequality. Continue reading What does Davos hold for women in 2015? Bristol Woman takes a look!