The first in a series of events exploring Womanhood in the UK, Woman Up! Carlisle took place on the 20th September at Tullie House Carlisle and was host to a programme of exceptional speakers exploring everything from Porn to Politics. Here is a round up of the day.
What does Page 3 say about women in the UK today?
Next was Angela Towers from the No More Page 3 campaign, Angela discussed the impact of page 3 on Women in the UK and used examples of experiences the campaign had received from Women and girls alike. She paid homage to the fact Clare Short had received similar stories over 20 years ago when she proposed her bill, including letters from 12 women who had had page 3 mentioned to them while they were being raped. She concluded that although these examples were anecdotal there is increasing research, including the governments own commissioned research, to demonstrate the link between the consumption of objectifying imagery and acceptance of violence against women and girls. She spoke again that in spite of the evidence of harm, and numerous organisations dealing with violence against women and girls being unanimous in their thinking, no legislation exists outlawing the practice of Page 3 in our tabloids.
Women as Objects in the Media and Beyond
Roz CEO of Object! Spoke in length about the rise of porn culture and drew attention to the links between many seemingly innocuous products and the porn industry. She lamented that many of the tabloid ‘newspapers’ on sale today are actually no more than propaganda for the corporate interests of the companies which produce them.
The F word in education
Next up was ‘The F word in education’ a panel discussion between local college lecturer Darren Horne and Yas Necati campaigner for No More Page Three and compulsory Sex Education in schools. Darren also runs the campaign Man vs The Media and gave a powerful speech about the many ways in which he sees himself, as a white heterosexual man, represented by the media, quoting ‘I love the media, I’m Indiana Jones, I’m Iron Man, I’m Han Solo’, and the methods he uses to try to counteract and challenge these powerful media messages in his teaching. Yas concluded that one of the most problematic things about the current system of sex education in schools is the lack of ‘R’ in SRE. We have gay marriage and yet gay relationships do not exist as far as sex education is concerned.
Women in Politics
After lunch was the Woman a lot of us had been waiting for, leader of the Green party Natalie Bennett. As always her words were rousing and she spoke of the many amazing Women within her party working to make the UK a fairer and more just society. When asked by a member of the crowd how real change can be made she answered simply, ‘Say the unsayable, and have good allies’. Something which the Green party do, every day.
Women and ‘The Cuts’
We were then joined by Ronagh Craddock para-legal from Ben Hoare Bell LLP, legal aid solicitors. Ronagh spoke about the enactment of the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012, or LASPO, which happened in by stealth, despite the 5,000-plus consultation responses opposing it and the Government’s own equality impact assessment demonstrating that women would be disproportionately impacted for the worse. This act has meant that for the first time in its 60 year history, Legal Aid has been removed from those seeking redress in debt cases, housing (unless facing homelessness or serious ill health due to disrepair), education, most immigration cases, and all private family law. Ronagh outlined that with the enforcement of this act the government have been found to be non-compliant with the Convention for the elimination of discrimination against women (CEDAW) particularly with regard to access to justice, equality in the family, and the right to a fair trial. Not only have these cuts made it impossible to access justice for many, but crucially for the most vulnerable. The MOJ stated that legal aid will still exist for “genuine victims” (apparently there are non genuine victims of abuse, who knew? ), however it doesn’t. In their thousands, NGOs, individuals, frontline DV professionals, lawyers and academics warned the Government that what they were demanding from people by way of evidence of abuse would leave victims unable to obtain legal assistance. In a debate in the lords on 28 March, Baroness Scotland urged a rethink, saying, “It will be too late to say we are sorry when people are killed because they can’t get help.”. Ronagh concluded that the fight against this act is on-going.
Who Says I’m Too Old?
Carol Robson, LGBTQ Equality and Diversity Consultant spoke about the visibility of the older generation in society. She discussed the many ways in which the older generation are stripped of their identity including their sexuality and quoted a conversation she’d recently had with a care worker, who said of one of her clients “She’s 81 how can she be a lesbian?”. Carol also spoke in length about the many ways in which the elderly are upholding the UK economy with unpaid caring roles and cited some of the statistics from the recent Women Deserve Better Unison report which can be accessed here. Something which tied in nicely with some of the points made by Natalie Benett regarding the cuts to the welfare state which are falling disproportionately on the poor, disabled and elderly. She ended with a poetry reading.
Ownership of the Female Body, Rape Culture.
Carolyne Higgins-James, law and criminology lecturer took us through a beginners guide to Rape culture and it’s effects on the justice system. She spoke of the ‘real’ rape template and took us through a brief analysis of the conviction and attrition rates in the UK. She concluded that although the laws we have in the UK are very good, we rely on people to implement them, who are invariable affected by the many messages we consume and the inherent bias that we carry with us every day. She supported many of the points made by earlier speakers on media objectification and the very real impact it has on our lived experiences, particularly our access to justice something which we now know has been hugely hindered by the cuts to legal aid as outlined by Ronagh.
Ownership of the Female Body, Sex Work
Laura Lee, activist and campaigner for sex-workers’ rights was up front in her mission to myth bust when it came to her profession, she spoke frankly about what she does and the many ways it is misrepresented within the media and by other feminist groups. It led to an engaging Q and A and a particularly striking moment between herself and Roz from Object!. The day culminated with Tapas and drinks in the bar and a screening of Miss Representation. It was an incredibly powerful day, and we look forward to the next one… details to follow.