Monday, 14 September 2009

Climate Rush

The delightfully eccentric Climate Rush will be travelling to Bristol on Sunday 20th September and staying there for Monday. They are travelling from Heathrow to Totnes by horse and cart, dressed as suffragettes and spreading the word about climate change and celebrating the best practice that they find.

Whilst in Bristol they will be holding a picnic on College Green at 1pm (until 3-ish) on Monday 21st and as they say:
"Bring food, drink, family and music to our anti-airport expansion picnic protest – to be held on College Green. We'll be holding forums on the grass with Friends of the Earth to discuss BIA issues and celebrate the city council's formal objection to it!"

Wednesday, 9 September 2009

Feminist conference

Feminist Theory & Activism in Global Perspective 26 Sept London – free

To celebrate 30 years, Feminist Review is organising a conference to address theory and activism:
  • Why is feminism still globally resonant?
  • How are theory and practice regionally and disciplinarily located?
  • How do we integrate feminism in our own work?
  • What does global feminist dialogue look like?
  • How is transnational feminist theory being produced?
Saturday 26th September 2009 from 9.30 to 18.30
Brunei Gallery Lecture Theatre, SOAS, Russell Square, London
Attendance is free, but RSVP to

Tuesday, 8 September 2009

Feminism as an intellectual tradition

The first feminist was of course Lilith, who refused to lie underneath Adam. Apart from these mythical origins, the first stirrings of feminist thought appear in the Middle Ages with a treatise by Christine de Pizan cautiously arguing that women are just as good as men; and in the fourteenth century, women could practise trades (such as brewing) and learn Latin and so on. Unfortunately the Reformation was bad news for women, as many of our freedoms were taken away. But in the seventeenth century, a huge band of women marched on Parliament demanding the vote (sadly I think I don't have the book that described this any more, and can't find anything about it on the web).

In the eighteenth century we have Mary Wollstonecraft and A Vindication of the Rights of Women (1792), in which she argues that both men and women should be treated as rational beings and imagines a social order founded on reason. And of course her daughter arguably founded science fiction with her Gothic novel, Frankenstein. Wollstonecraft was one of many women writers in the 18th century (not all of whom were feminists, however).

In the 19th and early 20th century, there was the first wave of feminism, primarily concerned with women's legal rights. Two important legal landmarks here: the Married Women's Property Acts of 1870 which said that a woman's wages were her own; and 1882, which said that a woman's property remained her own after marriage; and the granting of women's right to vote.

The second wave
refers to a period of feminist activity which began during the early 1960s and lasted throughout the late 1970s. Whereas first-wave feminism focused mainly on overturning legal (de jure) obstacles to equality (i.e. voting rights, property rights), second-wave feminism successfully addressed a wide range of issues, including unofficial (de facto) inequalities, official legal inequalities, sexuality, family, the workplace, and, perhaps most controversially, reproductive rights. (Wikipedia)
Critics of second-wave feminism point out that it merely inverted sexist gender stereotypes and was essentialist in its view of gender. Some feminists claimed that women were naturally nurturing and men were naturally aggressive, but whereas patriarchy valued male aggression, second-wave feminism valued female nurturing.

Third-wave feminism points out that gender is a performance and the importance of biological sex is socially constructed. This wave is influenced by postmodernism, postcolonialism and queer theory. Critics have complained that it lacks a single issue to focus on, but so did the second wave. It has also been suggested that the third wave is more sensitive to women in other social contexts (different classes and countries), whereas the second wave was unintentionally colonialist in its universalising tendencies.

Another way of characterising the different strands of feminism is to divide it into subtypes:
Amazon · Anarchist · Atheist · Black · Chicana · Christian · Cultural · Cyber · Difference · Eco · Equity · Equality · Fat · Gender · Global · Goddess · Individualist · Islamic · Jewish · Lesbian · Liberal · Lipstick · Marxist · Material · New · Postcolonial · Postmodern · Pro-life · Proto · Radical · Separatist · Sex-positive · Socialist · Standpoint · Theology · Third world · Trans · Womanism

(Oh dear, now I am going to have to read all of these articles to work out what type of feminist I would be classified as. Isn't there a Facebook quiz for this sort of thing? I did one the other day which worked out what kind of anarchist you were - I was a post-structuralist anarchist. Aha, found a quiz on Quizilla, Which Western feminist icon are you, and I came up as Judith Butler (no surprises there, but I hope I write more comprehensibly than she does). And SelectSmart has a What type of feminist are you quiz, which classifies me as a liberal feminist.)

Wednesday, 2 September 2009

The underpinnings of feminism

Heresy Corner critiques an article by one Melissa McEwan.

Misogyny, Up Close and Personal, by Melissa McEwan, in The Guardian.

She complains that when she makes a feminist statement, intellectual men like to argue the toss with her about it, which makes her cry because they don't understand her trauma. Well, surprise, feminism is an intellectual tradition and a set of propositions about the underlying causes of social phenomena: so it's open to debate.

Yes, her lived experience has clearly been traumatic, and I am sorry she has had a rough ride. But one person's life experience does not make a sociological treatise - it's anecdotal evidence. Her experience is not the same as mine - most men I know are very supportive of my feminist views; and I have not experienced nonconsensual frottage on public transport. I have not been raped. I have experienced sexual harassment and verbal abuse, but it is increasingly rare.

I can't abide the sort of essentialism that assumes that women are all-nurturing earth-mother types and men are all abstract intellectuals, or inherently violent, and never the twain shall meet. It's like something out of GK Chesterton (who said something along these lines).

I can back up my particular variety of feminism with intellectual arguments, and moreover, would expect to do so if challenged. If feminism is a worthwhile discourse, we must be able to back it up with sound intellectual arguments and real sociological and ethnographic evidence.

Alan Turing petition

The Bluestocking has already identified Alan Turing as one of our heroes. Now it's time for ardent bluestockings to put our money where our mouths are, and sign up to the petition for a public apology to recognise that he was hounded to his untimely death by a bigoted establishment.

The details from the petition's creator state:
Alan Turing was the greatest computer scientist ever born in Britain. He laid the foundations of computing, helped break the Nazi Enigma code and told us how to tell whether a machine could think.

He was also gay. He was prosecuted for being gay, chemically castrated as a 'cure', and took his own life, aged 41.

The British Government should apologize to Alan Turing for his treatment and recognize that his work created much of the world we live in and saved us from Nazi Germany. And an apology would recognize the tragic consequences of prejudice that ended this man's life and career.
I have long been an admirer of Mr Turing and urge you to sign this petition without delay.

Sixth Sense

Pranav Mistry has developed absolutely amazingly awesome wearable technology, called the Sixth Sense. It's a device that can project data onto stuff you are looking at; like Amazon ratings of books you are browsing in a bookshop, or whether the toilet-roll in the supermarket is environmentally sound. Go and watch the video, it's quite mind-boggling really (and no brain implants are required - yet). More information is available at his website.

A commenter on the TED site points out that you could use it in museums to learn more about the artefacts. It could have scary applications, like seeing data about people (though it would be an interesting ice-breaker at parties). But that is the case with all new technology.

The aspect of this that beats being able to browse the web from your mobile phone is that it selects the information you need instead of you having to searchfor it; so it knows you're looking at a book or a newspaper and reacts accordingly. How? How does it know?

Anyway, in short, I want one of those.