Are you comfortably numb?

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Feminism may have won a few battles, but it has fuelled a war that is still raging

Because men are now berated for being ‘male chauvinist pigs’ and women can go to work, we suppose that feminist ideology has become reality: misogyny’s reign has ended and we are liberated. Women have won the right to choose, apparently, and are no longer confined to the abhorrent evils of the kitchen or child-raising. We may step from the ashes of our charred brassieres and embrace the equality of opportunity that now awaits us.

Yet I argue that this opinion is not only misguided but dangerous. Our society is still saturated with attitudes which are detrimental to women and men alike. These are the result of two factors: some aspects of feminist ideology itself, and society’s skewed perception of what constitutes feminism and the resulting behaviour.

I do not intend to spout pure vitriol against feminism. Undoubtedly, it has caused positive change in our society. Early feminism was extremely honourable in its aims: to allow women to step out of situations that were tantamount to slavery. Until the 20th century, women were considered the legal property of their husbands. Shockingly, it only became illegal for a man to rape his wife in 1992. Feminists are right when they talk about the ‘glass ceiling’ that confronts us; a recent survey of businesses found that in 16% of them, women were still paid less than men for doing exactly the same job. These injustices must be confronted, and feminism set out to do this.

Yet despite these admirable objectives, the ideology of feminism has also caused women to suffer. Rather than give women more choice over lifestyle, it has merely changed the one choice they have. It is now seen as a rejection of your femaleness to not want to work. Feminist thought has caused having a vagina to be synonymous with having a career. To want to stay at home and look after your children – or to even have children at all – is sneered at, and women who choose to do so are despised. Feminism loudly argued that staying at home, having children and not working is a waste of our abilities, and should be avoided at all costs.

But far from liberating women, this has constricted their choices. Not only has this social conditioning meant that women often automatically choose a career rather than considering other options, it has meant that if they do not want to work, they are condemned. A practical example? A college teacher asked me, in front of our class, what I wanted to do in life. I replied that I would like a career in journalism, but if I got married and had kids, I would rather stay at home and bring them up. In response, a girl in front of me turned round and declared, “Shame on you!” This is a perfect embodiment of the attitude now prevalent in society. Women have not been empowered. Rather they have been coerced. Working mothers now face the impossibility of juggling a career and parenthood, a situation which is worsened by the costliness of childcare in this country. Furthermore, many women feel guilty because they are not bringing up their children themselves. Yet they feel that to do so would be to reject their identity as women, because of a false ideology.

Further victims of feminism have been our men. You may argue that was the entire point of the movement: to show men they can’t trample women underfoot. Indeed it was, and still is, necessary for men to change their attitudes. Yet we are now faced with a generation of men that do not know what masculinity is. Extreme feminism has stripped men of their identity. Unfortunately, this extremism has not stayed on the lunatic fringe of society; it has seeped to all corners of it. Think about it: how many times have you heard a man being called ‘useless’? Men can’t multitask; they apparently have no feelings, and if they do, they’re gay; they can’t do anything for themselves (apart from maybe loosen the lid of the jam jar). This is what we have come to believe in modern-day Britain.

What are men supposed to be? They are no longer allowed to be our protectors, our husbands, our fathers. They have been reduced to redundant members of society, whose only purpose is to be criticised and berated for their derogatory attitudes towards women and incapacity to be of any use.

This is one of the most dangerous consequences of feminism. What is more, it shows that feminism has turned to the very behaviour that provoked its wrath. It aimed to rid society of unjust attitudes and discrimination against women, but in the place of these things it has instated hatred towards men. Let me say something controversial: women need men. And men need women. We complement each other. We do need men to loosen the jam jar, just as they need us to show them how to actually change a loo roll. Yes, we are different, and there is no denying our differences. But these differences are to be celebrated, not criticised. There is no point in pretending that women and men are the same, because we are not, and that is a good thing.

Men now need to learn how to be men. Girls, it is not an insult if a man opens a door for you or pulls your chair out for you in a restaurant. Feminism has spurred us into resentment and we need to unlearn this. We must respect, not ridicule, each other.

Not only has feminist ideology in itself caused problems, a misguided interpretation of feminism has meant that exploitation has been mistaken for ‘empowerment’. I speak of what has been referred to as the ‘Nuts-and-Loaded’ culture, which has recently been much criticised by those who have a clear perception of its true nature. Far from illustrating our emancipation, it only serves to show just how backward our culture is in terms of respecting women. Just when did women decide that taking their clothes off in order to be the subject of a man’s seedy imagination and masturbatory sessions was empowering? Being paid money is no justification. Women who claim they are empowered by this are deluded. Kinga masturbating with a wine bottle on live television is not empowerment. Neither is Jordan, with gravity-defying breasts, posing for the camera. It is pure degradation, sanctioned by those being degraded.

The key misperception in society with regard to this is that because women are now able to control how men feel, often whilst earning large amounts of money, we have somehow conquered sexism and male chauvinism. Yet this is a fundamentally flawed view. Why do women take their clothes off? Because they know men will enjoy it. They are allowing a man’s desires to shape who they are and what they do. Moreover, the people who pay them to do this are men. The following line is from the number 1 song in the charts at the time of writing: “I need you to strip… I need you to grind like you’re working for tips”. How, in a society which is ‘post-feminist’, can we allow that sort of attitude to pollute our airwaves on an hourly basis? This is a men’s industry, in which women are merely pawns who think they are queens because they are getting rich. Women are degrading themselves within the context of an entirely man-made agenda, in the name of liberation.

Far from living in a Utopia of equality, we are surrounded by a mess. In order for women to be truly emancipated they must feel able to choose the lifestyle they want, without the rest of society hurling abuse, subtle as it may be. Men must learn to be men. And women must stop pandering to patent sexism under a false pretext of empowerment. Only then will true feminism have achieved its goals.

Friday, January 27, 2006

Guild could face legal action as row with BUECU hits national news

Friday, January 27th
Rebecca King

The Guild is facing possible legal action in the dispute over the constitution of Birmingham University Evangelical Christian Union (BUECU) after freezing the society's assets in an unprecedented manoeuvre.

Last week Redbrick ran an article covering the ongoing debate between the Guild Executive and BUECU. The story hit the national news on Wednesday with articles in The Times and The Guardian, as well as making the front page of The Birmingham Post and being reported by BBC West Midlands.

The row escalated following revelations that the Guild has suspended BUECU's assets of more than £5,000, pending a final decision on the matter. Media coverage of the situation has centred around thsi issue and has been largely supportive of the Evangelical Christian Union's cause, although this is likely to be because of a BUECU press release. The Guild were also reticent to comment on the matter up until Wednesday of this week, when a formal statement was issued.

The original disagreement was over the constitutions of the two organisations, as two mandatory clauses in the Guild's ruling document conflict with BUECU policy. The clauses include requirements that every society allow anyone to be a member regardless of religious beliefs, and rules on how the society's committee should be established. BUECU does not democratically elect members of a committee but has a process in which the incumbent committee selects suitable candidates and then presents their choice to society members. They also require members to declare themselves as Christians and to commit themselves to the aims of BUECU.

However, the actions of the Guild have been described as "political correctness gone mad", following discoveries that the Evangelical Christian Union were also told to amend references to 'men' and 'women' in their constitution on the basis that this represented discrimination against transsexuals. Unfortunately, the article in The Times seemed to focus more on this issue than the main thrust of the debate, with a sensationalist headline claiming 'Students ban Christians in row over gays'.

Richard Angell, President of the Guild, asserted, "We have to ensure by the 1994 Education Act that all of our societies are open to students' membership", and contended that BUECU was in direct contravention of the legally binding clauses, of which the Executive Committee are trustees.

Certainly, in legal terms it is necessary for BUECU to be disassociated from the Guild given the irreconcilable differences between their two positions. Yet there is some feeling amongst students that if Guild policy constitutes this kind of action, it may be necessary to make some amendments to it. Some also feel that the Guild has become subsumed in red tape and is no longer able to cater for the needs of students (ultimately its main goal) because of this.

BUECU has been running for over 76 years and has maintained the same constitution since their original affiliation to the Guild. Although they revised around a third of it in the light of this criticism, President Matthew Crouch wrote that "There are some Guild 'mandatory clauses' we feel we cannot include in our constitution because they are in conflict with our religious beliefs". He also pointed out that in no way does the ECU discriminate between members and non-members, with "all students... welcome to any of our events and meetings".

Staff worker Andy Weatherly, from the University and Colleges Christian Fellowship, also stated, "it is a fundamental right of any organisation to be able to include in its membership only those who abide by the ethos and focus of the organisation". Mr Weatherly emphasised the view of the ECU that this applies to all societies, not just religious ones. A key argument is that the very premise of a society is to bring together people with a certain commonality, and to deny that commonality is arguably to nullify the nature of societies in general.

The actions of the Guild have come into question more recently. Despite an original decision at a Council meeting on 1st December that de-recognition would be delayed until a further meeting of the Society Recognition and De-recognition Committee, BUECU was suspended on 8th December and had its societal privileges revoked, including the use of Guild facilities, e-mail and webspace. However, the most controversial point in question is that of BUECU's funds, which have been frozen by the Guild. These amount to around £5,300, most of which Matt Crouch describes as "donated by individuals in ECU and members of the public".

A solicitor acting on behalf of the Union has warned the Guild they could possibly be faced with court proceedings unless these monies are returned. In the press release issued by the Guild on Wednesday, they stated that "the accounts of ECU were frozen, with the intention that any money will be returned to donors".

These events have not prevented BUECU from continued planning for their forthcoming week named "Truth.", in which they aim to "put on events designed specifically for non-members to investigate the Christian faith". This will be held from Monday January 30th until Friday February 3rd.

BUECU have hired a marquee to go on Chancellors' Court to host their event, so derecognition from the Guild does not effect them running the week.

This issue is not a new one for Christian Unions in Universities throughout the country, with CUs in University College London and Hull having faced exclusion from their Student Unions. However, Pod Bhogal, communications director for UCCF, said, "In all our years of working with hundreds of higher education establishments, this action by Birmingham's Guild is unique".

At the time of going to press, a Guild Council meeting had yet to take place on Thursday 26th to make a final decision on the matter. It remains to be seen whether BUECU will take legal action against the Guild, following any other consequences of the current debate.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

A whale of a story... I don't think

Walking home from a night out last night, I experienced one of those blissful moments when you discover that a feeling you thought was unique to yourself is shared by at least one other person.

The feeling, in this case, was indignance and outrage at the fact that the appearance of a whale in London can dominate headlines for so long.

Now I'm not denying the story is newsworthy; it's interesting, it 'captivated the hearts of Londoners', everyone was on tenterhooks waiting to find out if the poor creature was going to survive. Let's face it, we don't often see a whale, let alone a whale in London.

Nevertheless, I find it depressingly symptomatic of the insular attitude of our country that we care more about what happens to this whale than many of the other events that are occurring daily around the world. We may sneer at the Americans for being inward-looking and unaware of global events, but we are in danger of being just as guilty as them - and what's more, we're hypocrites.

When was the last time you saw a news bulletin that encompassed events from more than 1 or 2 continents? And when was the last time those continents weren't Europe or America?

When the Argentinian economic crisis occurred, it just about made the news in Britain. But it should have been a massive story. And after all, it's totally relevant to us, as it's our multi-nationals who helped screw them over (why on earth wouldn't they want to report that over here?) Not to mention the Bolivian water crisis for which we were partly responsible. How about Asian and African politics? We are a nation of ostriches who care not about world affairs. So next time you slag off an American for not knowing where Belgium is, think about the last time you paid attention to the rest of the world.

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Man pleads guilty over death of student abigail

Jaswinder Lakhvinder Singh, the 45-year-old man arrested and charged over the hit-and-run case in which medical student Abigail Craen was killed, this week pleaded guilty to four different charges, including death by dangerous driving, in Birmingham Crown Court.

Singh, of Ward End, who handed himself in on Monday 7th November 2005, initially pleaded not guilty, but during an 8-minute appearance in court on Monday of this week admitted to charges of death by dangerous driving, driving without a license, failure to stop after an accident and failure to report an accident. Speaking through a Punjabi interpreter, he appeared "tearful". The maximum sentence he faces is 14 years.

Singh has lived in Britain since the 1980s and holds a British passport. It was also revealed this week that in April 2004 he was issued with a 12-month driving ban following a conviction of drink-driving. He hit Abigail only six months after this restriction was lifted.

Abigail, a 20-year-old student from Birmingham University, was hit whilst crossing Pershore Road on a pedestrian crossing just outside Hunter Court, her halls of residence, on 30th October 2005 at around 5:00pm. The dark-coloured Mondeo, travelling from the direction of the city centre, failed to stop at a red light and hit her, leaving her around 30 feet up the road. She died soon afterwards after being stabilised in hospital, having sustained severe brain damage.

The case attracted a high level of media attention as Abigail's mother, Susan Craen, chose to release a picture of her daughter lying dead in hospital in an attempt to find her killer. This led to the coverage of the story by the BBC, Channel 4 news, the Daily Mirror and the Daily Telegraph. A campaign was also launched by the Birmingham Mail offering £5,000 to the witness who could provide the vital piece of evidence needed.

The prosecutor, Miss Angela Hallan, told the court how Singh was driving at around 41mph in a 30mph stretch of road and "did not brake" before hitting Abigail as she started to cross the road. Miss Hallan commented that there was "no evidence of any braking or skidding on the road". Singh told the police he then "panicked as he was uninsured", and hid the vehicle, which had sustained damage to the windscreen and bonnet, the following day in a garage in Highgate.

Judge Trevor Faber remanded Singh in custody after telling him a custodial sentence was inevitable. Medical and probation reports are currently being processed in preparation for him to be sentenced on March 6. There was no application for bail.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Quick update on the life of Bec

Hi guys,

Sorry I haven't posted for ages but my life has turned into an insanely busy mass of busyness and insanity. This is for the following reasons:

1) I determined to go to all my lectures and seminars this term
2) I determined to do all the reading - a ridiculous task, for which there are not enough hours in the day
3) Have started my duties as a Redbrick news editor - which takes up so much time - I was in uni from 10 till 8 yesterday!
4) I joined the swimming pool and go nearly every day

But it's really good being busy and I'm really enjoying the course (apart from rubbish History lecturers). And the RB stuff is cool - I'm getting the hang of it. Got the front page again this week by a stroke of luck (involved being interviewed by ITV, but thankfully they didn't use it!!) Will post the article soon. On the down side, very skint on news at the moment so yesterday I had to write about 4 articles about absolutely stupid subjects - such as 2 cambridge students being fined for sending a hamster through the post, and the fact that a survey has shown the Midlands population is suffering from many bladder problems but are too embarrassed to visit the doctor... riveting reading!

Also, this week has been a jolly good one for receiving essays. As some of you know I had 3 politics essays and one history essay due in at the end of term, and I thought they were all rubbish. However, I achieved the following marks:

Foundations of Politics - 72
International Relations - 72
Classical Political Thought - 71
History - 69 (thought I'd got a low 2:2/3rd for that one!)

So all in all I'm pretty darn chuffed, three 1sts ain't bad for my first attempts I feel! I'd just like to thank my parents, my friends, my teachers, my pets, my aunties, my cousins, my uncles, the girl who served me in a shop the other day, etc etc...

Anyway, I've had a lot of stuff on my mind recently as well, so no doubt I will post a big fat ramble/rant (a ramblant?) soonish.

But for now, reading about apartheid calls. By the way Dad, "heid" does not mean skin, but 'ness'... so apartheid means 'apartness' kind of thing. Thought you might be interested to know.

Ta ra all. Take care


Friday, January 06, 2006

Who am I?

Put on a voice that makes everything sound dramatic and incredibly important? Check
Think my surname is Paxman? Check
Make even Terry Wogan sound like he's good at his job? Check
Cultivate the market for middle-aged fishwives to phone up the radio and mouth off about trivialities? Check

I... am Jeremy Vine.

BBC, Radio Twwwoooooooo!