GWL

West Dunbartonshire Women are making history

A woman’s place was, until recently, in the home and it certainly wasn’t in the Scottish history books. Up to the 1980s and 1990s if you were looking for women in Scottish history, apart from queens and standout individuals like Flora Macdonald they simply weren’t there –  they weren’t writing history  either.  Uncharted Lives published in 1983, the first book written by Scottish women about their lives changed all that and blazed a trail and women’s history groups spread across the country.

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Uncharted Lives 1983

Glasgow Women’s Library was part of that original 1980s movement and  since then they have been making sure that women take their rightful place in our national story. Since last year, GWL workers Morag Smith, Lorna Stevenson and writer Sue Reid Sexton have been working with an enthusiastic group of women in West Dunbartonshire keen to record their local history.

The Women Making History Group in West Dunbartonshire have gathered together a rich storehouse of women’s memories of growing up, courting, working and motherhood in the 1950s and 1960s.

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1950s Vanity Case

They tell the other half of what has been until now the very masculine history of West Dunbartonshire – full of ships, strikes and sewing machines. The group have collected oral histories and objects that tell women’s stories and preserve them for future generations. With funding from the Sharing Heritage Lottery Fund the Group have created a lasting treasure trove for the West Dunbartonshire community celebrating the lives of local women. In an imaginative and richly illustrated booklet and two remarkable Memory Boxes  of artefacts from what seems  like a bygone era, a fascinating story emerges.

Pollocks dumbarton

 Pollock’s of Dumbarton for the Pearl of the Paris Collections

Not so long ago women’s lives were so very different from today:  school girls (not boys) in the 1950s learned how to ‘sew and knit, how to cook, do the laundry and ironing’; daughters (not sons) had to do the housework and shopping at home; Dumbarton Academy had night school classes for young women in shorthand and typing.

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‘Friday Night is Amami Night’,

‘Friday Night was Amami Night’, when hair rollers were used with the famous setting lotion before setting off for ‘the dancing’ here many met their future husbands – Clydebank Town Hall and Dalmuir Masonic were firm favourites – yet very few dances were ‘Ladies Choice’.

Dancing at CTH

For many of the women, it certainly was a man’s world: married women generally didn’t go back to work after they had their babies and few fathers took much to do with their children,   ‘You never saw a man walking along the street pushing a pram.  It was an unsaid rule. A man was a man and that wasn’t his job.  They were the breadwinners’.

‘You never saw a man walking along the street pushing a pram. It was an unsaid rule. A man was a man and that wasn’t his job.  They were the breadwinners’.

Women share their often hilarious, occasionally surprising and sometimes sad stories to remind us just how much women’s lives have changed for the better over the years… and yet…and yet… they suggest that we might still have a bit to go yet.

The  Memory Box and Booklet Launch:

Friday 21st August from 1pm to 3pm in the Heritage Centre of Dumbarton Library.

This event is free and open to all – booking is required.

Contact Glasgow Women’s Library: 0141 550 2267 or email info@womenslibrary.org.uk or visit their website

Follow GWL on Twitter @gwlkettle

Memory Box Workshop Session run by the creators:

Saturday 22 August 10.30 – 12.30  Heritage Centre Dumbarton Library

Memory Box Drop-in Exhibition

 Monday 24th – Wed 26th August 10am – 3pm Heritage Centre of Dumbarton Library

See The History of Working Class Marriage in Scotland at Glasgow University

Follow Working Class Marriage in Scotland on Twitter @WCMScotland

wecanstopit

Rape Crisis Scotland and Police Scotland have launched a high profile media campaign to tackle rape.  The latest phase of the #WeCanStopIt rape prevention campaign is aimed at 16-27 year old men – an age group who commit one third of reported rapes in Scotland. Young women in the same age group are also the most vulnerable to attack.

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A hard hitting post-watershed TV and viral ad shifts the focus to potential perpetrators and sends out the message that sex without consent is rape.   Sandy Brindley, confirming Rape Crisis’ commitment to the campaign said “The law is clear – sex without consent is rape, but we need to do much more to increase public awareness around this issue.”  Chief Constable Sir Stephen House echoed this, “Sex without consent is rape.  There are no excuses.”

Recent revelations about US comedian Bill Cosby show his widespread use of sedatives on his victims prior to sexually assaulting them.  Cosby claimed he used drugs to ‘facilitate consensual sex’. Men like Cosby don’t use drugs to gain consent but to prevent women from saying no!  Cosby’s victims’ stories show the importance of focussing on the legal issue of consent in rape cases as Scot’s law now does.

Scottish law on rape and sexual assault changed in 2009 and is quite clear that rape occurs where the victim does not consent and the person responsible has no ‘reasonable belief’ that the victim is consenting.  If the victim is incapable of consenting then it is likely a crime has been committed. A woman’s use of drugs or alcohol is not an invitation to rape.   Consent can also be withdrawn at any point even if a couple have already had sex. Prior intimacy is no invitation to rape either – rape in marriage is illegal.

Rape is not ‘having sex with someone’, you cannot have sex “with” another person if that person is unconscious, asleep or unwilling.  With implies free agreement.  Rape is something a rapist does to another person and potential rapists are being told in no uncertain terms that the victims’ rights supercede theirs.  With most rapes are carried out in private by people who know their victim, coupled with public attitudes to victims this has until now made reporting a rape a daunting prospect.

With this campaign the focus shifts to potential perpetrator of rape.  The message is clear: rape is the responsibility of the rapist and involves a decision they make.   The prevalence of sexual assault, rape and sexual harassment in young people’s lives is higher than it should be.  While women are mostly the victims, boys and men are also victims.

The aftermath of a rape or sexual assault can have devastating consequences. Rape Crisis Scotland Helpline is there to talk confidentially to victims who can often feel isolated and worried about speaking about their experiences to friends or family.

RCS

Rape Crisis Centres across Scotland work closely with Police Scotland’s RapeTask Force who are ready to provide a sympathetic response. There is a great deal of excellent work going on in Scotland to tackle all forms of sexual violence and other forms of violence against women. This is the latest national initiative to send out the message that the days of so-called ‘rape culture’ in Scotland are numbered.

If you are affected by any of these issues, please contact:

In an emergency call:  999

National rape and sexual assault helpline:  Freephone 08088 01 03 02

Conversation piece image-20150608-8700-1qedfba

This article was first published on The Conversation 9 June 2015.

Here’s the link:

http://theconversation.com/pressure-growing-for-scotland-to-join-other-nations-in-ban-on-sex-trade-42972

A form of violence against women or a legitimate career choice? That’s roughly where the two sides stand on the debate over what we should do about prostitution. Voices from the violence camp have just become louder in Scotland thanks to the launch of the End Prostitution Now campaign, which is backed by various civic organisations.

It is pushing for the buying of sex to be banned north of the border, along with decriminalising prostitution and introducing support services to help people leave the trade behind. The campaign argues that sexual exploitation cannot be addressed without challenging the root causes: gender inequality and men’s demand to buy sexual access to women.

Among its supporters is Rhoda Grant, the Labour MSP for the Scottish Highlands and Islands, who is pushing for an amendment banning the buying of sex to be added to the human trafficking bill currently making its way through the Scottish parliament. Grant recently spoke at an event in Belfast to mark the passing of a similar law in Northern Ireland. She praised Northern Ireland for joining the countries, “sending out a clear message that people should not be bought. Prostitution is a form of violence against women which should not be tolerated”.

Regulation or removal?

There are two distinct approaches to prostitution internationally. There are those who wish to challenge, criminalise and eventually eliminate “demand” and those who support safe and continuing “supply”. In countries persuaded by the latter camp, prostitution is legal or has limited legality, including Germany, New Zealand, Spain and some counties in Nevada in the United States (where otherwise it is illegal).

Advocates for this approach say that prostitution is happening anyway, it is a legitimate career choice for women who enjoy sex and should be classified as “work”, with trade unions to protect the interests of its “workers”. Individual prostitutes and owners and managers of brothels are regulated in the countries that have gone down this route. Health and safety checks are made on the women and the establishments and business often booms.

The new Scottish campaign makes the opposite argument, arguing that for the safety of those involved and women in general, there is no room for libertarianism – and no truth in “realist” arguments that it will keep happening regardless. Since Sweden became the first country in the world in 1999 to criminalise buying sex, it has been followed not only by Northern Ireland but also by Norway (2008), Iceland (2009) and France (2013). We are also seeing a growing volume of debate in the likes of England, Wales and Ireland for a similar direction.

There is evidence of positive results. Sweden has reportedthere has been a shift in attitudes for the better, a decline in the number of men buying sex and a reduced market for traffickers. There are also positive reports from Norway, though Iceland admittedly appears mixed and you can read a more critical summary of the Swedish experience here.

Harm not work

When people refer to the “oldest profession”, I would more accurately describe it as one of the world’s oldest cultural practices. It exploits women in a marketplace for access to their bodies and maintains their second-class status. Most women involved in prostitution are among the poorest and most vulnerable in any community. Substance misuse is commonand many have previously experienced childhood, sexual or domestic abuse. The United Nations and Council of Europeboth say that prostitution, as a form of violence against women, is a function of gender inequality.

The single most harmful aspect is to have to repeatedly endure unwanted sex. In a recent Channel 4 programme Strippers, about women working in lap dancing and pole dancing clubs in Scotland, many commented on having to shut off emotionally to get through their evening and some remarked that it had changed their personality altogether. This can create long-term psychological damage and lead to drug and alcohol abuse in order for sex workers to be able to detach emotionally. Substance use often rapidly escalates Calling prostitution “work” doesn’t make it any less harmful.

Harm by any other name

The attitudes of the “punters” rating the performances of prostitutes on websites often display deeply disturbing attitudes towards them, as last year’s Invisible Men exhibition in Glasgow revealed. Little wonder that sex workers regularly experience extreme physical and sexual violence. And from the back streets of Victorian London to the modern streets of Norwich and Glasgow, many have been murdered.

Working in prostitution also often starts early. A Glasgow study in 2000 showed that 24.5% of the women surveyed had entered prostitution before age 18, with 8.2% starting at age 16 or under. Much of the industrial-scale grooming and sexual exploitation of children exposed in places like Rotherham, Rochdale and Oxford in England has shown that prostitution sometimes involves the trafficking of young people. The long-lasting emotional damage of early and continued involvement in prostitution can only be imagined.

For these reasons, I am much more inclined to the argument that we should seek to eradicate prostitution altogether. Reframing the debate as an issue of human rights and gender equality, while focusing on harms, may allow people to ask the right questions: is it ok to buy or rent women’s bodies for sex in the 21st century? Certainly not in my view.

White mountains better

This article appeared in The Lennox Herald on 2 April 2015

In April, A Woman’s Place relocated high in the Apokoronas region of western Crete in the foothills of the White Mountains.  April is a good time to speak of brighter things and sunnier climes.  Far from Scotland’s pantone grey, these bright breezy hillsides are exploding with springtime: lambs, almond blossom and camomile.  Snow still dresses the highest peaks of Kastro and Spathi to the south while the Mediterranean’s azure waters twinkle to the north beyond Souda Bay.

Apokoronas mapdownload

Crete has experienced waves of overseas invasions and cruel treatment over the centuries. Occupations by the Venetians and Turks, and later by the Germans during the Second World War are visible in hilltop forts, military roads, bullet-holed walls and in local memory. The Cretan code of filoxenia – a generous hospitality towards outsiders – camouflages a healthy caution of foreigners.  Nowadays budget airlines bring gentler hordes each summer.  Mainly from northern Europe, tourists delight in Crete’s sunny weather, lovely food, stunning scenery and beaches.  Filoxenia accommodates and caters well but Cretan people expertly sustain their own way of life and culture alongside the whims of seasonal visitors.

The tourist season has not yet started and the village life of Crete can still be glimpsed through the boarded up beach resorts, tourist-lite tavernas and quiet alleyways.  I pass the local shepherd every day.  Herding his tinkling belled flock to one juicy pasture or another I often see him later, heading home for lunch, arms draped over the knarled crook he wears yoked across his shoulders.    People are busy in the fields, or cleaning up the fine red dust which blows over from Africa in the winter and can turn the mountains pink; they are painting, and rebuilding after the winter’s storms, sprucing the place up for their Easter holiday weekend. A week later than our Easter, the Greek Orthodox Easter Liturgy is a deeply religious occasion when whole villages and extended families join together in religious rituals followed by feasting centred on spit-roast local lamb.

Sunset is a time of cool and calm.  Folk settle in the cafes to relax and review the day.  First sightings of the colourful hoopoe bird are discussed and the fruits of lemon and orange trees are exchanged.   The men gradually trickle home.  Women begin to drop in, they joke and laugh, they settle down and play board games late into the night.  I speak no Greek, am warmly welcomed, we toast each other, we nod and smile and settle comfortably together into that special Cretan woman’s place.

Crete tavernaimages

rosie the Rdownload

From the Lennox Herald 15 May 2015

I heard this week of the death of Mary Doyle aged 91 years, the woman who posed as Rosie the Riveter for Norman Rockwell’s iconic painting (not to be confused with WE CAN DO IT). The painting was on the cover of the Saturday Evening Post in May 1943, and quickly became a symbol of the millions of women doing war work while men were at the front.   Last Sunday marked the 70th anniversary of VE Day and Mary’s death was a reminder that we are gradually losing members of an extraordinary generation of women who came of age during that second terrible world war.

We_Can_Do_It!

The recent loss of the last of the women elders of my own and friends’ family has been hard.  Born in the 1920s, the decade when all women in Britain finally got the vote, these young lassies were not all riveters exactly.  Leaving school at fourteen many did go to work in factories in the west of Scotland.  It cannot have been much fun walking to work and back during the blackout. In these factories where they endured tough and unsafe working conditions, they still managed to play skipping ropes at lunchtime and sing all day long.  They maybe grew up with rationing and having to count your pennies before calling the doctor but they still got to go dancing four nights a week.

During the war my mother, my aunties and their pals, learned a great deal about being independent and by 1945 hopes were high for a better world.   They now knew about the power of collective action, they got political.  They joined trade unions and campaigned for equal pay, to improve working conditions, for better housing, for peace, for family planning; joined political parties, they had their own sport and hiking groups and choirs; they got active, they got singing.  Many married and their children got used to Mammy being out on a Tuesday night at her night class or the Guild or away on at a weekend school – they got educated. They also had social lives separate from their menfolk.  They were independent; they had style.

Women’s activism did not stop after getting the vote and the women’s liberation movement in the 1970s didn’t start something that new. No ma’am. The 1920s generation of working class women knew what to do with their vote, knew what poverty and inequality felt like and kept up the struggle – they also carried on dreaming. We remember VE day but let’s not forget the future the 1920s generation of women gave us, the future we now hold in our hands.

For Mary Donaldson, Annie MacKay, Pat Scott and Agnes Owens

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@LennoxHerald 11 March 2015

You couldn’t get a book and film more at odds with the founding principles of International Women’s Day than that film of that book. As thousands of women and girls are being kidnapped, enslaved, tortured and raped for real by militias in Boko Haram in Nigeria, by Isis in Northern Iraq and by organised gangs of men past and present in Oxford, Rotherham and across the UK, author E.L. James and the film’s makers kept their eyes fixed on the dollar in their very own value-free cultural vacuum. Almost weekly we hear of the ever expanding extent of Saville or some other celebrity’s sexual abuse of vulnerable women, children and young people while ‘safeguarders’ look away and do nothing.  Paul Gadd may finally have been put away for life but people queued to watch the same criminal behaviour glamourised and sold back to them for their titillation on Valentine’s Day.  Give me strength!

In the movie, the perverted sexual proclivities of a very rich, handsome, white American magically convert the entrapment and sexual torture of an intelligent but naïve student into a ‘love’ story and endeavour to  make it ok.  So ok in fact women that you can buy Tesco’s branded range of ‘fifty-shaded’ lingerie with the messages while your local Ann Summers shop will helpfully provide all you need to kit out your very own red room so that you too can submit to being handcuffed for the delight of your very own Mr. Grey.

your local Ann Summers shop will helpfully provide all you need to kit out your very own red room so that you too can submit to being handcuffed for the delight of your very own Mr. Grey.

Mr. Grey is simply a stalker, sexual predator and rapist who doesn’t know that no means no.  Rape Crisis in Scotland are in despair.  Faint heart never won fair lady apparently!  Stalking is a criminal offence and our hero’s regime of husbandly control – aka domestic abuse hereabouts –  is criminal behaviour and Scotland’s courts are full of it. Fancy pants won’t cut it there as admissible evidence in the case for the defence.  Scottish Women’s Aid are also in despair.

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                                                                                                   Mr. Grey is simply a stalker, sexual predator and rapist who doesn’t know that no means no.

Shading sexuality as a strategy of pure power and violence dehumanises men and women and kills romance stone dead.   International Women’s Day has been celebrating women’s achievements and publicising their continued struggle for equality and freedom for over one hundred years. If we accept cruel sexual fantasies as mainstream entertainment, mistake it for romance and an excuse for branded lingerie and the fluffy accoutrements of torture we are sleepwalking into a dystopia which will take another century to correct.

@rapecrisisscot

https://www.facebook.com/pages/Glasgow-Rapecrisis/922020791146717

RIP Sheila Stewart

GlasgowAnni

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If we were a’ sensible, there would be nae fools

Traveller’s Life – The Autobiography of Sheila Stewart

Published April 2011

Birlinn £9.99

Maybe this book is not like other people’s biographies.  But it has to be different…because a travellers’ life is different from anyone else’s.’   And so it is.  A Traveller’s Life by Sheila Stewart is a life’s story we should know about.  The joys, tensions and traditions of a member of one of Scotland’s best known Scottish Traveller families provides a welcome antidote to the negative press reports of Traveller conflicts with settled or ‘scaldie’ communities such as the long running Dale Farm dispute and of the extravagances displayed in Channel 4’s My Big Fat Gypsy Weddings.

Born in a stable in Blairgowrie ‘into a world of poems and stories and songs’, described as ‘the voice of Blairgowrie… a raven-haired beauty, envy of many traveller lassies and the…

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Sun competition ban

This article was originally published in The Conversation on 10 December 2014 by Anni Donaldson

https://theconversation.com/time-to-finish-off-page-3-and-tackle-everydaysexism-by-handing-out-a-few-prizes-35351

The contortions of The Sun newspaper against mounting opposition to its notorious Page 3 topless women would be laughable if they did not represent a much wider problem. With even glamour queen Katie Price apparently throwing in the towel and having her breast size reduced, you wonder how many senior Sun executives seriously want to keep it going. Even they can’t have entirely missed the dawning of the new millennium and 40 years of advances in women’s equality.

Page 3 dates from a time when Benny Hill, Les Dawson and Jimmy Savile were the acceptable faces of a male-dominated culture where women just needed just to “calm down dear” and take a joke. As the No More Page 3 campaigners say, this isn’t just about getting rid of a sexist image in a newspaper. This is part of women’s “wider struggle for better representation, equality and human rights”.

Everywhere you look …

British society is slowly wakening up to pervasive everyday sexism, rape culture, the normalisation of pornography and epidemic proportions of sexual exploitation, gender-based violence and sexual abuse – both here and across the world. Post-Leveson, how long can fair and balanced journalism co-exist with the continued stereotyping and objectification of women? You don’t have look far beyond Page 3 to see the Ched Evans row, the Grand Theft Auto Rape Mod, the Fairlife milk adverts and countless more.

The wider picture? It certainly won’t help that this is a country that was recently described by a senior UN official as having an “in your face sexist culture”. Fewer than one quarter of reporters on national dailies are women. Research has shown that men outnumber women as television and radio experts by four to one. The TV industry’s unwillingness to put older women in front of the cameras is meanwhile legend.

An imbalanced society. PandaVector

Light amid darkness

Yet if this is the mountain still to climb, we are arguably at a slightly higher altitude than we once were. Part of this is changing times – The Sun’s management at least sounds awkward defending Page 3 these days, and it ditched the page in Ireland with little effect to circulation. Its UK days also look numbered.

The atmosphere has also arguably been changed by the slew of sexual abuse scandals that have hit the media in the last two or three years. Operation Yewtree, Rotherham, Rochdale and the Westminster affair have all created a sense in which practices that used to be tolerated are now being confronted. The media has been shamed by its own past acquiescence and has not shied away from full coverage that gives the impact on the victims its proper due.

So how do we make these steps forward permanent? Unrelenting campaigns from No More Page 3 to Everyday Sexism are obviously part of the answer. Scotland might also have something to offer here, through the work of anti-abuse charity Zero Tolerance. In 2013 it launched the first Write to End Violence Against Women Awards and published a media guide to promote responsible journalism and reporting of all forms of violence against women. The group also awards an annual wooden spoon for the worst examples of sexist reporting. The 2014 award winners will be announced on the evening of 10 December.

It is a reminder that we could do with a high-profile version of these awards for the whole of the UK. If we can give large amounts of coverage to Bad Sex Awards in writing, we need exactly the same approach for writing that degrades women. To give others a chance of course, Page 3 would need a category all of its own.

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This article first published  @LennoxHerald 19 November 2014

November 25 marks the UN’s International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women and signals the start of the annual 16 Days of Activism against Gender Violence ending on 10 December, Human Rights Day. This year the global campaign, which began in 1981, highlights the links between gender-based violence and militarism.

16 days

As its slogan ‘From Peace in the Home to Peace in the World: Let’s Challenge Militarism and End Gender-Based Violence! ‘ shows, violence in everyday life and violence in war are two sides of the same coin. In a year which marks the centenary of the outbreak of   World War 1 this is apt.

The colour white is internationally recognised as the colour of peace. During the run up to this year’s remembrance ceremonies some people wore white poppies. The white poppy was first worn in 1933 by the Women’s Co-operative Guild movement who demonstrate their remembrance by pledging themselves to peace. Some wore only white poppies, others wore both white and red poppies.

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In 1991 the 16 Days Campaign joined with the White Ribbon Campaign, first launched by a group of Canadian men, in adopting the white ribbon as a symbol of hope for a world where women and girls can live free from the fear and threat of sexual and intimate partner violence. The campaigns challenge the acceptability of all forms of violence against women – and show us that women and men can work together to help break the silence surrounding these forms of violence. While violence against women mainly targets women, children, young people and men are also affected.

Domestic abuse, rape and sexual assault are too common in Scotland and across the world. Police Scotland recently reported an 81% increase in reports of domestic rape, a 55% rise in reports of domestic stalking offences and 58,976 domestic abuse incidents last year – most victims were women. Police Scotland have just announced details of their annual festive campaign against domestic abuse and in June, the Scottish Government confirmed their continued commitment to the prevention and elimination of violence against women. The scale and nature of systematic child sexual exploitation Rotherham revealed in a recent report written by Alexis Jay, former Director of Social Work at West Dunbartonshire Council, has caused widespread concern. The Scottish Government recently launched its own national child sexual abuse strategy amid warnings that the problem here is likely to be widespread.

The links between inter-personal, intimate partner and international war and violence are clear. Scottish Women’s Aid, Zero Tolerance and White Ribbon Scotland will join campaigning groups and women’s activists on 25 November in marking the 16 Days across the country. Wear white for world peace, wear a white ribbon for an end to violence against women.

White ribbon

women's lib  in scotland book cover

Scottish Review of Books Vol 10 Issue 4 November 2014

Sarah Browne, The Women’s Liberation Movement in Scotland c 1968-c.1979, Manchester University Press

Book Review by Anni Donaldson

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