Welcome to our blog! This is a platform where the rich diversity of women's voices can be heard and where we can come together to turn attention on the myriad of issues that affect a variety of women. We celebrate where things are good, and focus a spotlight on areas where they aren't. If you want to write something for this space please just get in touch!

Before sending us your blog, please note: We publish articles that are written by women, pro all women & not for profit in their intention. We welcome lighter pieces as well as articles on more serious issues. There is no specific word count, but most pieces are around the 700 word mark.

Our latest post is by Karla McLaren, Campaign Manager: Women’s Rights in Afghanistan for Amnesty International UK who are campaigning for women in Afghanistan.

[ Items 28 - 30 of 37 ]

Does Sexual assault in the Military Impede Women’s Expertise?

3,158 service personnel in the US military reported being sexually assaulted by their colleagues in 2010. Only 175 of the accused were convicted and went to prison.

These are government statistics which are presented in the Oscar nominated, multi-award winning documentary called THE INVISIBLE WAR, directed by Kirby Dick and produced by Amy Ziering (2012).

The film predominantly focuses on the stories of female personnel who were sexually assaulted while serving in the military and their efforts to have their employer recognise and act on the rape allegations that they presented.

None of the women who are featured in the documentary remained in service; none of them would ever encourage another woman to go into uniform; and none of them would ever allow their daughter to enter the military.

According to a court ruling in response to actions brought by some of the women in the film, sexual assault in the military is an occupational hazard.

This is not solely a problem confined to the American military; sexual assault appears to be endemic in militaries throughout the world and can be found very close to home.

According to an article published last year in The Daily Mail 53 rapes and 86 sexual assaults were reported in a 2 ½ year period by members of the UK armed forces.  Madeleine Moon MP, who has become a parliamentary champion of the issue, maintains that the actual number of assaults could be much higher, as she fears that there is a culture of silencing complainants in the military.

This is not only a problem limited to violence against women; men are regularly also the victims of sexual assault. A recent article published by the Mirror states that in ‘the past 10 years, 26 claims [for compensation] have been made, just three of which have been by women’. In the same article Mrs Moon MP states that,

“I fear the compensation payments reflect that the military accepts that male rape is abhorrent, must be investigated and where possible prosecuted.

“Sadly I am finding that female rape victims are more likely to be condemned as weak and disloyal for reporting the rape and blamed for being in the wrong place, in the wrong state and with the wrong people and thus responsible for being raped by men who are otherwise good military personnel”.

The Defence Analytical Service and Advice publish an annual report which gives an overview of military demographics across the Army, Air Force and Navy. The 2011 report (this year’s report  is due to be published at the end of the month) states that while there is a relatively even split on gender at the recruitment stage, the military is seeing a ‘higher proportion of females leaving at ages 25-39 and a higher proportion of males serving longer careers’ with the proportion of females in each rank reducing as rank increases.

While many of these departures may well be due to pregnancy or changes in career paths, we need to be asking if sexual assault could also be contributing to a decline in the number of female personnel and higher ranking officers and, ultimately, a lack of female experts in the military.

One ex-corporal who was sexually assaulted by 2 male colleagues left the Territorial Army as a direct result of the mishandling of her case; read more here.

How many more have walked away for similar reasons?

Come and join the conversation on at 6pm on 16th April at Queen Mary University London.

We will be screening THE INVISIBLE WAR which will be followed by a panel discussion that considers sexual assault in the UK military.

The panel will be chaired by Professor Jenny Mathers, the acting head of Aberystwyth’s Department of International Politics and former editor of Minerva: Women & War journal.

She will be joined Dr Victoria Basham, who will be speaking on gender and the military as well as Dr Deirdre Macmanus whose work on trauma and violent offending was published in last month’s Lancet. A representative from Women Against Rape, an organisation that has supported service personnel in recent years will also joining the discussion.

Tickets can be purchased here: http://theinvisiblewar.eventbrite.co.uk/

I hope to see you there.

This blog post was written by Danica Wyber-Thomas of delaD Events

Email me at if you have any questions: delad.events@gmail.com

Who Are the Experts on Sex Work?

Glasgow Sex Worker

The Sex Worker Open University (swou.org) started in London in 2009; this forthcoming week of events in Glasgow will mark it’s Scottish debut (glasgowswou.wordpress.com). SWOU is a sex worker-led project that includes people from all sectors of the industry - our members have worked on the street, in brothels, in strip clubs, been cam-girls, rent boys, masseuses and phone sex workers. The only people we exclude from our organising collective are bosses, managers, and those who make a living from another person’s sex work - not because we buy into the stigma of the word ‘pimp’ (mostly used to insult and criminalise the migrant men of colour who associate with female sex workers), but because we have a pretty simple leftwing analysis that the interests of workers are not necessarily aligned with the interests of managers.

Members of the SWOU collective shoot, direct, and edit films; we put on film festivals, we host international panel discussions, we do public education workshops to fight stigma, we hold sex worker-only spaces, and we skill-share. All of these things are happening in Glasgow this weekend and next week, but all of them also happen around the country throughout the year, because the commitment of sex workers to tell our stories, to fight stigma, and to amplify each other’s voices is huge

We believe that the women, men, and gender non-conforming people who sell sex are the experts on how to make the industry safer. To that end, the processes within the organisation mirror the changes we want to make in the world - we treat all sex working voices as intrinsically valuable and well-informed, and we particularly work to amplify the words of those who are most marginal, most precarious, and most stigmatized. One of the ways in which that is happening at Glasgow SWOU is the creation of a ‘SWOU taboo’ sex worker-only space, where we can talk safely about our experiences that are often used to silence or discredit us[1] - for example, histories that include surviving sexual violence, or mental health issues.

Sex worker self-organising faces many challenges, not least the whorephobia that pervades our society. We struggled to find venues, and the Scottish Trade Union Congress attempted to sabotage our event by pulling out at the last minute. To quote Morgane Mertueil, the General Secretary of the French Union of Sex Workers, “ ... If the STUC sees prostitution as a form of violence against women, why would they refuse victims coming together to share their experiences? It seems that for them, a prostitute also need to be silent to fit their idea of the ‘ideal victim’”[2].

In their disingenuous statement on the issue, the STUC admitted that “this was brought to our attention because a number of individuals and organisations contacted us”[3] (emphasis mine) to complain that sex workers were having the temerity to discuss issues that are about us. People who believe that sex work is inherently “a form of violence against women” were therefore contacting the STUC to suggest that our status as victims makes us inappropriate people to speak about our own lives, or to be listened to. As any woman who has ever been in an abusive relationship can tell you, it is a profoundly disturbing experience to be silenced and isolated by those who self-represent as wanting to take care of you, as only having your best interests at heart.

Happily, sex workers are valued members of the community in Glasgow, and despite the STUC’s best efforts, SWOU will go ahead. I’m going to end with a quote from a female sex worker, because its important to emphasise the variety and diversity of voices and experiences within the sex industry. Lily, 25, says, “ ... in Glasgow you are made to feel like you shouldn’t have a voice – usually because sex workers are excluded from the mainstream feminist movement and made to feel bad for not conforming to their perception of sex workers as victims (even at the point of accessing health services I am constantly told I am a victim and either given options to leave sex work or I’m made to feel like because I have made a choice to do this work that I’m undeserving of their health advice or support). At such a horrible time in Scotland where media and campaigns have focused so much on criminalising clients, it is wonderful to have a safe space to talk about our work and discuss what rights we deserve”.

We’re looking forward to an imminent future when women like Lily will be listened to by policy-makers and trade unionists as well as other sex workers and our allies. In the meantime, we can build our own strong, supportive, and sustainable communities on the margins.

[1] A good example of this dynamic work in this article. http://www.eveningtimes.co.uk/news/sex-worker-calls-for-changes-to-laws-120375n.20702622 Paraphrase - Molly: ‘I’ve got experience of the sex industry, and these are measure that I think would make sex workers safer’. Rhoda: ‘It’s all abuse so rah rah rah I’m not listening’.
[2] http://glasgowswou.wordpress.com/2013/04/04/very-latest-press-release-see-the-press-kit-for-more/
[3] http://www.stuc.org.uk/news/1009/stuc-cancelling-of-the-sex-workers-open-university-event


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Opportunities in Opposites

- Mummy Kindness 

I have been thinking a lot about the fourth point in my Mummy Kindness Manifesto:

“I will accept that others will do things differently to me. This doesn’t mean that they’re wrong, I’m wrong, or that they think I’m wrong.”

I think that we are missing huge learning opportunities by negating the opinions of others who don’t see things the same way that we do.

I’ll give you an example…. Unlike you, another mother may only give her children organic foods. That’s her choice. If deep down the reason this bothers you is that you feel that you should be doing the same, ask her advice, get some recipes. Or just accept the fact that her choice is right for her children and your choice is right for yours. It’s not a competition. We all have the same goal; to be the best we can be for our children.

Your best and her best will be different and you can still both be right. She may be the opposite of you in may ways, but there are lessons that we can all learn from each other if we stop assuming that we’re being judged for our choices or differences in opinions.

In his book Buddhist Boot Camp, Timber Hawkeye imparts the following incredible pearl of wisdom

“The opposite of what you know is also true”.

By this, he means that we all experience life differently. There are infinite theories on what is right and wrong. But however sure we are of our version of the truth, someone else can believe the exact opposite to us and still be right according to their set of beliefs and circumstances.

Few opinions are as strong as those regarding the choices we make as parents. But our job is to align our choices with our beliefs and values and respect other parents for doing the same. Even if their values an opinions differ to ours. As parents we come to our own conclusions and we must allow other parents to do the same without assuming they’re critical of us.

Nothing is ever certain in life, and especially not when it comes to parenting small children.There are no absolutes. What works for you and your family may change from one week to the next and being too judgemental about others may force us to eat our words. 

In her fantastic book, Daring Greatly, Brene Brown says :

“Who we are and how we engage with the world are much stronger predictors of how our children will do than what we know about parenting”.

I am a strong believer in being the type of person that we want our children to be, and leading by example. But this is so much easier said than done. If we are busy judging other parents and being hard on ourselves, what are we really teaching our children? That anyone different to us is wrong? That the only right way is the way our family does things?

Brene Brown sums this up perfectly:

“If we want children to love and accept who they are our job is to love and accept who we are”.

Criticising other mothers perpetuates a feeling of “us and them” when in reality we should be pulling together. If we want our children to be inclusive of children with other values, beliefs and needs we need to lead by example. We can start by having enough faith in our own choices not to feel threatened or judged by someone whose version of right is the opposite to ours…remember, “the opposite of what we know is also true”.

Our children will encounter so many different types of people in their lives. One of my greatest fears is that a child of mine would ever bully, exclude or discriminate against a child that was different to them for any reason. I would feel that I had failed as a parent.

I believe that this kind of behaviour is learned and that it comes from a place of fear or ignorance. An inability to accept someone who is different to us. If your child encountered someone with autism or a disability, would they welcome their differences and get to know them?

How can we teach them this?

By respecting, welcoming and learning from the differences in others and by modelling who we’d like our children to be. By embracing the Different and accepting that the opposite of what we know is also true. By realising that those with differences to us (even if we’re only starting with differences in opinions) are also often as right as we are. 

Bio: 
I am a married mother of two small children from Woodford Green. My husband and children are my heart, soul and my world. But that’s not to say that life is always easy or that motherhood is always a bed of roses. Six weeks after giving birth to my second child,  I was diagnosed with Post Natal Depression (PND). I started a blogging because I believe in encouraging mums to stop comparing and competing with one another. I think we're all on the same team and should be doing our best to be kind to ourselves and kind to each other!

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