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Come and join: Bring Back Our Girls

In our next meeting, Wednesday 14th, we’ll be making signs and taking pictures to post online in support of the campaign to find the Chibok schoolgirls kidnapped by the terrorist group Boco Haram.

By keeping up international pressure, Nigeria’s president Goodluck Jonathan will be held accountable and forced to keep his promise that he will find the missing girls. There’s a Change.org petition that has already provoked an international response here.

Please join us; we’ll be meeting in York’s Bakery Cafe at 6:30pm. We’ll bring paper and pens for the signs, all you need to do is be there and have your photo taken. Nigerian activists have asked people to wear red in solidarity with Nigerian mothers who wore red on public marches, so if you have anything red please bring it along.

Wednesday 30th meeting summary

Upon hearing the news that Cafe Blend has closed down – a tragedy for so many reasons – we were suddenly left without a home for our meetings. This time we tried York’s Bakery Cafe, which had a pleasant atmosphere and was pretty casual about letting us hang out for a while after the official closing time.

As well as general discussion on feminism, and how we each got interested and involved in it, we talked about possible actions (pictures of the action sheet to come) and considered meeting up with other local groups, and joining in with national campaigns. We also started taking notes on a new sheet about issues, but as time was running short we only got as far as Page 3 and Unilad/laddism. The aim of gathering feminist issues will be to identify one that we as a group can take action on, as a starting point to planning a campaign.

The Fems’ book group has been going strong for around 2 years, and like our regular meetings it is open to all self-defining women (even if you haven’t read the book). We usually meet on the third Saturday of the month, check the Facebook group for details.

And here’s what we’ll be reading:

May – A Room of One’s Own, Virginia Woolf
June – Lean In, Sheryl Sandberg
July – Looking for Alaska (Young Adult), John Green
August – The Myth of the Money Tree, Collette Dowling
September – The Undertaking, Audrey McGee
October – Cinderella Ate My Daughter, Peggy Orenstein
November – The Second Sex (1 or 2 chapters) or The Woman Destroyed, Simone de Beauvoir

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Wednesday the 2nd’s meeting was a little different to the usual. To tie in with Anti Street Harassment week we held an extended meeting with a craftivist theme. The image above is an example of the kind of felt brooches we were working on, marked out ready to be stitched with the words “End Street Harassment”. Being DIY gives you the benefit of being able to choose whatever slogan you like, so we had a suffragette style “Deeds not Words” and an anti-page 3 “Boobs are Not News”.

Harassment is a huge problem for women though it’s often not seen that way by men (if they admit to seeing it at all). We have no idea what our harassers intentions are, so even if they feel like they aren’t doing anything particularly bad we can’t tell the difference between a bloke with a big mouth and a potential rapist. It’s never OK to make someone feel unsafe, and the more we can spread this message the better!

An open letter from Birmingham Fems

This letter was sent to the Birmingham Mail and Post on 26/5/13. In lieu of them publishing, we have decided to post our letter here for public viewing.

An open letter from Birmingham Fems

26th May 2013

We would like to voice our concern over the feature on 12th May about a ”gentlemen’s” club in Birmingham, which will be holding a Ladies’ Night. In raising these concerns, we do not wish to devalue the choices made by the women working at or attending this event, and others like it around the country. However, we would like to express an alternative view on the event and on the phenomenon of lap dancing clubs aimed and marketing at women.
We take particular issue with the marketing of the ‘Chica Bonita’ event which is being sold as ‘female empowerment’, coinciding with Birmingham Pride. We feel this is a cynical appropriation of the values at the heart of the Pride movement and at the heart of feminist calls for gender equality.

Rather than challenging inequality or celebrating female sexuality, ‘Chica Bonita’ simply strengthens the idea that women are, and should aspire to be, nothing more than mute objects. This event is, in our view, an attempt to encourage women to buy into the sex industry as customers in addition to being involved as workers, thereby increasing the revenue for club owners and further embedding lap dancing as a legitimate form of entertainment for all. Strip clubs work on the basis that women are valued only for their bodies, and typically, only if their bodies conform to certain standards of beauty. This is a sad message to send to young men and women of all sexualities, trying negotiate their way into adulthood. It also damages strides made to ensure women’s voices, views and contributions to society are as valued as men’s. This is not empowerment; this is the clever use of misleading language to obscure the ferocious hunger for growth that the sex industry possesses.

Events like this also embed society’s over-emphasis on sexuality in the gay community, so that women at these events are objectified and stereotyped twice, firstly as women and secondly as gay women. The name of the event itself also further serves to support racial stereotyping of women of colour as hyper-sexualised and therefore creates an additional level of objectification.

This event has been touted as a providing a relaxing and welcoming environment for women who do not want to be “surrounded by loud music and loud people”. However, the marketing presents a ‘gentleman’s club’ model, which we can not see as positive for women as it mirrors the sexist, dehumanising nature of traditional strip clubs. In response to ‘Chica Bonita’ achieving female empowerment, we ask the question: ‘should ‘female empowerment’ rest upon the objectification and oppression of women?’ We think not.

Birmingham Fems

This letter is supported by Women’s Networking Hub, and was created by a collaborative group of members.

(via Amnesty International)

 

We would like to take this opportunity to publicly support Malala Yousafzai and her family.  Donations have been made via our Paypal and a bouquet of flowers from Birmingham Fems was sent to Queen Elizabeth hospital giving a message of support and solidarity.

Malala and her family are in our thoughts and we hope that Malala grows stronger daily in her recovery.  We are pleased to know that QE hospital have publicly stated that Malala is in a stable condition.

There are reports that Malala remains a target for those who have persecuted her and attempted to take her life.  We hope that Malala and her family can feel safe in the community of Birmingham, knowing that they are so publicly supported by women’s groups across the city.

 

We’ll be supporting Birmingham Against The Cuts’ march and rally this Sunday as the Conservative Party start their annual conference in Birmingham.

Have a look at how Birmingham Fems welcomed the Tories last time they came to town here.*

For updates on the wheres and whens of this year’s much bigger (!) demonstration organised by the fantastic Birmingham Against The Cuts, please click here.

 

 

*Oh now I’ve got myself all in a tizz about how dismissive and down right insulting Birmingham and Post and Maureen Messant were respectively (not that we care about her opinion) last time the Tories came to town.  Hope you’ve got your specs on Maureen, we’re coming!

We were lucky to be asked to partake in and review a twitter debate on the changes to the definition of domestic violence in the Criminal Law of England and Wales.  Social Work/Social Care & Media “is a knowledge community of practice that brings Social Work and Social Care practitioners, organisations, academics, researchers, students, policy makers, users of service and other allied professionals, stakeholders or enthusiasts and interested parties together, to discuss issues, innovations, opportunities, dilemmas and challenges as well as relevant developments in relation to Social Work and/or Social Care.”

The debate took place via twitter-ers following the hashtag #swscmedia and including the hashtag in each tweet.

View full article »

School’s Out For Sexism

JOIN us on Thursday 4th August at Sunflower Lounge on Smallbrooke Queensway in Birmingham for the fundraiser of the year!  Local music (lots), art to buy, the comedy stylings of Barbara Nice, a raffle, and cake!  All for just £3.50 (donations appreciated for cakes and also you will need to purchase raffle tickets!!)

Select the picture for a bigger image of the poster.

UK Feminista Summer School coming to Birmingham!  Birmingham Feminists are excited that UK Feminista have chosen to have their summer school in Birmingham. The event is on 13 and 14 August.  It’s over a weekend so most of us can make at least part of it. It’s free to register and attend which is also brilliant.

Feminista are expecting over 400 budding activists to converge on the University venue. All are welcome. We’ve had a sneak preview of the line up and it looks amazing.  The Summer School will feature talks and workshops by:

 

  • Mozn Hassan (Nasra for Feminist Studies, Egypt)
  • Nesrine Malik (the Guardian)
  • Hannah Pool (UK Feminista)
  • Emma & Abi Moore (Pink Stinks)
  • Rosalind Miles
  • Shahida Choudry (Women’s Networking Hub)
  • Cath Elliot (Too Much to Say For Myself)
  • Estelle Hart (NUS Women’s Campaign)
  • Louise Jenkins (Eaves)
  • Tamsin Omond (Climate Rush)
  • Kat Banyard (UK Feminista)
  • Anna Bird (Fawcett Society)
  • Chitra Nagarajan (GAPS & Black Feminists)
  • Matt McCormack Evans (Anti Porn Men Project)
  • Kate Nustedt (Women for Women International)
  • Adam Ramsay (People and Planet)

  • Darinka Aleksic (Abortion Rights)

… and we are doing a session on everyday activism!

More details about the event are available at
http://www.ukfeminista.org.uk/events/all-events/3-ukfeminista-event/398-summer-school-2011.html

Finally, sadly, although the event is free, we are still raising funds to support it. If you can help, even just a tiny bit, please do. You can come to our fundraiser on the 4 August at the Sunflower Lounge (more details to follow). Or, you can click the button at the top right of this page and donate your preferred amount to PayPal. Once you are in paypal, there is an option to add a note, use this if you want your money to only be used for the UK Feminista Summer School 2011. We will use your cash for security costs, hire of audio-visual equipment and rooms, publicity and similar essential costs.

(Post: HA)