‘We come in peace, but we mean business’

Photo credit: The Denver Post. | Women March in Barcelona, 2018.

As we start the new year, I want to take a look back at 2017 as one that marks a moment of change in the systemic sexism and a shift of our cultural consciousness surrounding sexual assault. 2017 will be remembered as the year that Donald Trump, a man accused of multiple accounts of assault and recorded describing his behavior towards women using degrading and vulgar language, was elected as 45th president of the United States of America; yet, it will also be the year that hundreds of thousands of women and men took to the streets to protest against his inauguration across the globe in the Women’s March in January. Furthermore, throughout the year the world watched as a watershed of powerful perpetrators were exposed and held accountable for their threatening, and in many cases, illegal behavior. The list of high profile men who have been exposed have held positions spanning across a diverse number of industries, proving how widespread and seemingly universal this problem of bullying and sexism is and how ingrained it is in our society.

The significance of The Time’s ‘Person of the Year’ being awarded to the ‘Silence Breakers’, the women and men who have spoken out against those who used their positions of power to intimidate and abuse, is so incredible as it has provided a platform through which they can share their story. In addition, the success of the #MeToo campaign that hit social media platforms by storm is another indicator that victims of such behavior do not have to fear the same scrutiny and prejudice that they have done in the past. The campaign, which was started by Tarana Burke almost a decade ago, epitomizes the importance of a shared experience of victims in order to overcome the inequality that they face.

The Circle focused on #WidenYourCircle as their campaign this January, to stress what women can achieve when they come together and how women benefit from being part of a network of support. This solidarity amongst women and their fellow feminists is an integral part of the process of changing attitudes towards victims of sexual assault and creating an environment in which they are able to come forward and confront their abusers without fear or stigma.

Although this open discussion of previously taboo subjects and the ‘revolution of refusal’, as The Times has coined it, is a huge step for many of the women and men who have suffered from such horrific abuses, we must now focus on how this reckoning can be further used to change perceptions and address the underlying problem of abuse. These were not isolated incidents. Women and men face intimidation and sexual assault on a daily basis and to the extent that if it were reported in the same manner as, say, gun violence, the media would be describing it as an epidemic of such. So why has it taken this long for large organisations and media outlets to speak out? Much of the reporting focused on the financial implications for the men who were accused of bullying, assault and, in some cases, of rape. Public figures are still skeptical about the validity of a woman’s testimony of abuse if she is under the influence of alcohol and huge corporations are still spending millions to cover up and play down incidents of sexual harassment in the workplace. Women everywhere, who are not in the same privileged position as many of those who came forward with their testimony are unable to stand up to those in a position of power as they are stuck in a system of inequality and, if the #MeToo campaign has succeeded in demonstrating anything, it is that women are under threat. Rape Crisis UK reports some shocking statistics concerning sexual violence towards women including 1 in 5 women aged 16 – 59 has experienced some form of sexual violence since the age of 16 and only around 15% of those who experience sexual violence choose to report to the police.

In a TIME/SurveyMonkey online poll of American adults conducted on November 28-30, 82% of respondents said women are more likely to speak out about harassment since the Weinstein allegations. Meanwhile, 85% say they believe the women making allegations of sexual harassment. This is an encouraging statistic but if we are to make the events of the last year meaningful for the marginalized in a larger sense and as part of a process of changing the environments in which this form of abuse is possible as opposed to penalizing those at fault on an individual basis, then we must use the momentum of 2017 to continue supporting victims and refusing to accept this behavior of intimidation. In everyday terms, this means that we need to accept that the people responsible can be found amongst our friends and colleagues; understanding that harassment and assault is not restricted to rich and famous men who seem very far from our own lives but something we may need to stand up to within our own circles. Barbara Kingsolver put it succinctly in a recent Guardian article; ‘Let’s be clear: no woman asks to live in a rape culture: we all want it over, yesterday.’

The Circle supports a number of projects that benefit women who have suffered from sexual violence, including the Nonceba Women’s Shelter in Cape Town and Chai Day, an initiative started by The Asian Circle that aims to raise awareness and funds to support survivors of gender-based violence. Look out for our upcoming projects this year to see how you can get involved in making 2018 an even greater step towards equality.

 

 

 

 

Written by @AnnaRenfrew. Anna is a student at The University of Edinburgh and a volunteer at The Circle.


Widen Your Circle: with The Circle Member Efe

“Her story has encouraged people like me to know that you’re not alone in this situation, and that’s what The Circle is all about”

Efe is a Biomedical Scientist and a member of The Circle. In her Widen Your Circle vlog, Efe explains why she is a member and tells us about one fellow member that has inspired her to continue working towards gender equality.

#WidenYourCircle

The Circle members are women from all walks of life who come together to support some of the most marginalised women and girls across the globe.

Click here to become a member of The Circle and Widen Your Circle.


Widen Your Circle: with The Circle Member Lianne

“They say that there is power in numbers and I think this is particularly true for us as women”

The second vlog in the Widen Your Circle campaign is by Lianne, a member of The Circle that is based in Taiwan.

Lianne is Co-Founder of the ethical fashion company Enchanted Rebels and a member of The Circle since 2017. Despite living on another continent, she is a very engaged member, and is supporting our Living Wage project remotely.

In the Widen Your Circle campaign, our members are taking over our blog, to tell us why they want to be part of The Circle and what they are doing to support women around the world.

Become a member to support women and girls around the world and Widen Your Circle.


Widen Your Circle: with Susan and Adrienne

“To actually sit down for the first time ever and have a conversation about domestic violence and about sex trafficking… we’re connecting at a very different level”

This month, our members are taking over our blog, to tell you why they want to be part of The Circle and what they are doing to support women around the world.

The first vlog is by Susan Ferner and Adrienne Furrie, two new members who live in Alberta, Canada. Over the past few months, they have been organising small, informal meetings with their friends, relatives and neighbours, to talk about some of the issues that affect women in their community and globally.

Become a member to support women and girls around the world and Widen Your Circle.


Feminist Calendar: January and February 2018

11 January — Xenofeminism: A Politics for Alienation (London)

Hosted by the Centre for Gender Studies at SOAS, speakers Diann Bauer and Helen Hester will speak about their work on the critical school of Xenofeminism. Xenofeminism (XF) is a “gender abolitionist, anti-naturalist, technomaterialist form of posthumanism, initiated by the working group Laboria Cuboniks. It is a project aiming to infect a wide range of fields, operating on the assumption that any meaningful change will happen at a range of scales and across a range of disciplines”.

13 January — LSFF 2018: Radical Softness: Barbara Hammer and Chick Strand (London)

“My life changed through touching another woman whose body was similar to my own. My sense of touch became my connection to the screen. I wanted the screen to be felt by the audience in their own bodies.” — Barbara Hammer, “The Screen as the Body”, Mousse Magazine.

A combined screening of Chick Strand and Barbara Hammer, exploring the idea of ‘radical softness’ — the power in being both abrasively feminine and openly vulnerable, subverting emotion from weakness to strength through a radically soft camera and Hammer and Strand’s specifically haptic modes of filmmaking.

Accompanied by Skype Q&A with Hammer in conversation with Club des Femmes’ Selina Robertson.

14 January — Manchester Women’s Equality Party meeting (Manchester)

The next Manchester WE branch meeting will be held as usual at The Pankhurst Centre, 60-62 Nelson Street, Manchester M13 9WP from 2-4pm.

Go along to share ideas about possible local campaigns, such as their campaign to make abortion free, safe and legal in every part of the UK.

18 January — Utter: Raise Your Voice Glasgow (Glasgow)

Taking place at the Glasgow Women’s Library, this singing group brings together women of all ages and abilities to celebrate womanhood through the power of our collective voice.

“Each session uses music and movement to explore a particular aspect of our personality. Build your confidence as you experience the joy of making music.”

No auditions, no need to read music, and no singing experience necessary.

Raise Your Voice takes place every fortnight and you can drop by on weeks that you are available!

17 January — Women in Diplomacy (London)

Angela Kane will be talking about her experience in diplomacy and will reflect upon challenges and opportunities for women pursuing careers in diplomacy.

Ms Kane served as the United Nations High Representative for Disarmament Affairs until mid-2015, where she provided strategy, vision and thought leadership for the United Nations on its multilateral disarmament and non-proliferation agendas. She was responsible for planning, negotiating and conducting the ground-breaking investigation of alleged chemical weapons used in Syria in 2013, which resulted in Syria’s destruction of its chemical stocks. Previously, Ms Kane served as the Under-Secretary-General for Management, heading the largest and most complex UN department, with responsibility for the global financial and budgetary management of the UN (2008-2012). Ms Kane also served as UN Assistant Secretary-General for Political Affairs, focusing on the prevention and resolution of conflicts in all regions except Africa.

23 January — Women’s Rights Writing and Campaigning Meeting (Cambridge)

Join & help make a difference for women and girls in the UK and worldwide. At this meeting Amnesty International Cambridge City Group will write letters and solidarity cards, but also discuss and plan campaigning actions for example stalls or talks on subjects such as abortion rights and sexual harassment.

They will be writing letters on behalf of Teodora del Carmen Vásquez in El Salvador, who was sentenced to thirty years in prison for aggravated homicide in 2008 after suffering a stillbirth. She was presumed guilty of having an abortion rather than the potential victim of pregnancy complications. Teodora’s trial was flawed and lacking in due process.

They will also be campaigning for women’s human rights lawyer Azza Soliman. At the regional Amnesty conference on women’s rights in Cambridge, in February 2016, Azza Soliman gave the keynote speech, detailing her work and the rights’ abuses that women were failing. She is now facing 15 years in prison and the Egyptian authorities have also banned her from travelling and frozen her assets.

1 February — Feminist Book Club: Sister Outsider (Manchester)

If you’re looking to expand your knowledge of feminist literature, engage in discussions considering the usefulness of feminist criticism or just meet some like-minded people, then head down to Morley Cheek’s with your book in hand! Anyone is welcome to join in the discussion and new attendees are always welcome!

1 February — Our Red Aunt: Exhibition Launch (Glasgow)

Fiona Jack presents a collection of new works responding to the work and life of her Grand Aunt, prominent Scottish activist and suffragette Helen Crawfurd (née Jack).

In the Glasgow Women’s Library’s first solo exhibition by an international artist, Fiona Jack introduces a new series of works made in response to her Grand Aunt, suffragette Helen Crawfurd, which will be exhibited at the library less than a mile from where Crawfurd campaigned on Glasgow Green in the early 1900s. Over the past year, Fiona has studied Helen’s unrelenting crusade against injustice and, with friends and collaborators, she has made a series of books, banners, sculptures and ceramics that respond to Helen Crawfurd’s legacy and the relevance of her critical perspectives today.

The exhibition will continue until Saturday 17th March if you can’t make the opening!

5 February — Light Up the Night (London)

As part of Sexual Abuse and Sexual Violence Awareness Week, Light Up the Night will be meeting on the Millenium Bridge as a sign of solidarity with survivors of sexual abuse and sexual violence. In light of the incredible 2017 that witnessed what has been called a cultural shift in attitudes towards the issue, this is a great way to show your support and continue fighting these crimes in the new year.

6 February — The Oxford Circle Author Talk, with Sarah Morris

Sue Lloyd-Roberts was a multi award-winning BBC journalist who wrote The War on Women: And the Brave Ones Who Fight Back. She died of cancer before completing the book, the content of which was finalised by her daughter Sarah.

In The War on Women, Sue brings to life many stories she had come across working as a journalist over all the world of women who have suffered, witnessed and combated oppression, discrimination and violence such as female genital mutilation, honour killings in the UK and forced marriage. She fought with them and for them until the very end.

Sarah will be speaking about The War on Women and the challenges of finalising it ready for publication, and is very happy to answer questions about it.

All profits from this event will go towards The Oxford Circle, a network of members of The Circle that are based in Oxfordshire.

9 February — Powerful Women: A Hidden History, at the National Gallery (London)

“Did you know that of the 2,300 paintings on display at the National Gallery, only eleven are by women? Did you know that only around five per cent of the works in major permanent collections worldwide is by women artists? Did you know that on average less than five per cent of the artists in permanent collection’s modern art sections are women, but 85% of the nudes are female? Can you name the female heroes and seductresses of the old testament? Do you know their stories? Have you ever heard of a Maenad? Medusa? Madame Pompidour? Saint Catherine?”

London Drawing Group is addressing this imbalance: “POWERFUL WOMEN: a Hidden History invites you to step inside London’s Iconic National Gallery with a celebration of powerful female figures throughout history; from Grecian Goddesses to the wonderfully vicious Old Testament heroines, stories of Saints and Martyrs, Witches, Monsters and the too-long-forgotten female artists of the National Gallery”.

Let resident LDG tutor Luisa-Maria MacCormack guide you through the gallery and spend the afternoon practicing drawing exercises that are designed to help you understand and engage with these paintings and stories in new and creative ways.

19 February — The Guilty Feminist at Royal Albert Hall (London)

Ever felt like you should be better at feminism?

Join comedian Deborah Frances-White and a guest host for her comedy podcast, recorded in front of a live audience. Each episode Deborah and her guests discuss topics “all 21st century feminists agree on” while confessing their insecurities, hypocrisies and fears that underlie their lofty principles.

20 February — TEDxUniversityofEdinburgh Conference ‘Empowerment’ (Edinburgh)

TEDxUniversityofEdinburgh is back in 2018 with its yearly flagship conference. The aim of TEDxUoE is to bring together bright minds to give talks that are idea-focused and on a wide range of subjects, to foster learning, inspiration and wonder — and provoke conversations that matter.

Given the abundance of daunting news from many parts of the world we receive these days, it seems easy to fall trap to a sense of helplessness. TEDxUoE says it wants to fight this feeling of discouragement and that’s why this year the theme of the conference is “Empowerment”.

In this full-day conference, locally-sourced speakers will navigate diverse topics and explain why we can be hopeful about the future we share, and they will spread their ideas to empower us in our everyday personal life. Talks will cover various fields of knowledge from multilingualism to video games, from eating habits to breakthrough scientific discoveries achieved at Edinburgh University.

21 February — Celebrating the Marie Colvin Journalists Network (London)

Marie Colvin’s friends created the Marie Colvin Journalists Network with The Circle in 2015, as a tribute to her life and her contribution to journalism. The MCJN is a network of female journalists working in conflict zones in the Middle East and North Africa. It is a platform where younger or more isolated journalists can access mentoring from more experienced journalists, counselling, online resources and workshops, and access to a community where they can share experiences and seek advice in both English and Arabic.

On the 6th anniversary of Marie’s killing in Syria, The Marie Colvin Circle, along with her friends and colleagues, will celebrate her life and legacy and will raise funds to support the MCJN.

24 February — Germaine Greer: Women for Life on Earth (Manchester)

Sympathetic Development has invited Greer, who is regarded as one of the major voices of the second-wave feminist movement, to talk about the “inevitability of ecofeminism”.

When Welsh women turned up at the RAF base at Greenham Common in 1981, they were carrying a banner that read “Women for Life on Earth”. Theirs was direct action, born of gut reaction, virtually innocent of theoretical framework.

Feminists can be found wherever the planet and our fellow earthlings are in trouble. They shepherd stranded cetaceans back into deeper water, stand in front of lorries carrying live animals to slaughter, lash themselves to conveyor belts in protest against the logging of old-growth forests, march and lobby against the threat of fracking. The action they cannot be moved to take on their own behalf, they take on behalf of the planet. If the planet is to survive and human beings continue to inhabit it, this female energy must be unleashed.

28 February — Women In Tech Conference (Edinburgh)

Organised by Edinburgh University Women in STEM, the aim of this conference is to help breach the gender gap by creating a support network and introducing the software engineers of tomorrow to the role models of today. You will have the opportunity to participate in workshops led by inspiring women while learning new skills and connecting with like-minded people. This event will allow intermingling with professionals and peers as well as receiving career advice from successful women in the tech industry.