British elections and corporate media sexism


This video about the British election campaign says about itself:

Leaders’ debate: ‘Farage should be ashamed’ on HIV – Leanne Wood

2 April 2015

The leaders’ debate first clap went to Plaid Cymru‘s Leanne Wood, after she told Ukip leader Nigel Farage that he should be ashamed of himself.

Mr Farage had been talking about the treatment of immigrants with HIV on the NHS.

By Louise Raw in Britain:

Why are we so afraid of the idea of women in power?

Saturday 9th May 2015

Women have been sidelined and written out of history due to a longstanding notion of what constitutes the ‘natural order,’ writes LOUISE RAW

IN the run-up to this election, you may have noticed the mainstream media noticing something very particular — the leaders of the Green Party, the SNP and Plaid Cymru are not men. They’ve been falling backwards off their chairs.

Excitement has been considerable, with some commentators opining that feminism can now pack up its bags and go home — its work here is done.

But is that really the case? The tone of much of the commentary suggests not. We might have expected the tabloids to take more interest in the women’s hair and clothes than their gravitas — and so they did, with the odd publication ranking the women in order of attractiveness.

But consider James Ashton on Plaid’s Leanne Wood, in the Independent (even before it essentially declared for the Tory Party): “Less fierce than Nicola Sturgeon, less shrill than Natalie Bennett, Leanne Wood has emerged from three-and-a-half hours of prime-time television as the leader you’d most likely invite around for a cup of tea.”

Shrill? Fierce? Cups of tea? Can you imagine David Cameron or Ed Miliband being rated in those terms? I’ve met Bennett, and a calmer, more measured woman you’re unlikely to meet. Nor does the Sturgeon I’ve seen and heard in the media bear any resemblance to the woad-clad Braveheart, roaring and rattling her sword at the English, who is supposed to be making my blood run cold.

Such are the workings of sexism and misogyny. Women in the vicinity of power must be reduced, made manageable, diminished. And if they refuse to, as the wonderful Ngozi Adichie has it, shrink themselves, then they are a threat, and we will demonise them.

Behind it all lies the idea that women attaining power is new. If something’s a novelty, it’s not tried and tested. It could fail, be a passing phase, a mistake — could even lead to disaster. It might also be a threat to that extremely subjective concept, so infinitely malleable to such a variety of arguments — the “natural order.”

Naturally, this is a crock. As socialists, by definition somewhat at odds with the system we live under, we should find it easy to accept and challenge that kind of cant (not a typo). And yet ideas about the dodginess of women in power seep into all our consciousnesses.

How can they not, when every other billboard tells us women are here to ornament, to compete with each other for men, and at the mercy of hormones, periods and other bodily unpleasantness?

The history of women’s lives is fudged, blurred, ignored, not taught. No wonder some believe its chronology was essentially: Dawn of time; babies; cooking; cooking; nothing much… (millennia pass) … 1960s! Miniskirts! The pill! Working women (secretaries, etc)!

If you skew the facts like this, it’s easy to think nature has been usurped, and that this explains all modern social malaise. It’s feminism — boys no longer know how to be men, women feel they have to have careers and are unhappy in them, kids are neglected, you can’t even open a door for a woman without being arrested, political correctness gone mad, yada, yada.

Just as we’re messing up the environment, we are messing — at our peril — with the essential nature of men and women.

Whereas in “the old days…” This would all have been music to John Knox’s ears. The Protestant preacher and reformer pulled no punches when he titled his 1558 polemic The First Blast of the Trumpet Against the Monstruous Regiment of Women. By “regiment” he meant “rule” — there wasn’t some 16th century marching army of uppity women, sadly. What really got Knox’s goat was Catholic queens like Mary of Guise. To rail against them, he went straight to the “it’s not natural” box (“monstruous” means “unnatural” here). “For who can denie but it repugneth to nature … that the weake, the sicke, and impotent persones (yup, that’s women) shall norishe and kepe the hole and strong, and finallie, that the foolishe, madde and phrenetike shal gouerne … and such be al women.”

Foolish, mad, frenetic — ringing some shrill, fierce bells? Like any modern Twitter troll, Knox published anonymously, but authorship quickly became known and shot Knox stupendously in the foot. That same year, Protestant Elizabeth I took to the throne. She took umbrage at Knox’s insults to female sovereigns and put a complete block on his involvement with the English Protestant cause after 1559.

But if men were arguing against women’s power in the 16th century, clearly there’s nothing new about the concept. In fact, we can go back much further — anthropologists have shown us women hunting and fully involved in “pre-historical” societies. The evidence is there, should we care to see it, for ancient Egyptian women working, including as brewers, medieval women in every trade from fine art to construction and powerful in the guilds, militant women weavers on strike in 1788 — it’s a long list, covering every historical period imaginable.

But there’s profit in “othering” women and keeping all of this quiet. If you tell people for long enough that they’re not capable, it will sink in. Though they know, intellectually, that it’s not true, some of that will be internalised.

Companies make millions telling women they are unacceptable as they are, and must constantly improve every physical aspect of themselves. Wax that body hair, be thinner, prettier, younger-looking — and then we just might treat you nicer. Black and Asian women are sold skin-bleaching products and must straighten or otherwise Westernise their hair.

Mothers are told their most important new job is getting “their body back” post childbirth (where did it go? Who is snatching the corporeal form of new mothers? We should be told).

This is women’s true life’s work, and a handy distraction from that pesky pay gap. Rape, domestic abuse, street harassment, FGM? Nothing a new pair of shoes can’t make better.

It has been capitalism’s most successful trick to make the majority of citizens of the world feel unequal to holding power — from the divine right of kings to “scientific” treatises on the inadequacies and lack of full humanity of black women and men, women generally, and the working class, it’s been done relentlessly and well.

We can’t do better than writer and theorist Bell Hooks here, who has long warned against the interconnectivity of race, capitalism and gender both creating and perpetuating systems of oppression and class domination.

But few white feminists are introduced to Hooks’s work. Even those who fight for liberation are made to feel they can only operate in their own limited spheres — class, race, religion, gender — all are absolute divides we cross at our peril, we are made to believe.

So white feminists can talk about their Muslim sisters, but not to them — they’re “naturally,” or at least culturally, anti-feminist, aren’t they? Also we’d probably offend them somehow. No wonder the marvellous Sara Khan of Inspire Muslim Women, who challenges gender discrimination in Islam, is writing a book on how the left has failed Muslim women.

All the mainstream parties, and all of us as individuals, need to utterly and publicly reject divisive thinking right now. The protests, opposition and strength under impossible duress of our sisters and brothers in Gaza, Ferguson and Baltimore and the young mothers fighting enforced homelessness in Britain cannot but impress and teach us that we must talk to Muslim women, black women, working-class women — and, yes, men — not just when we want their votes, but constantly.

As socialists — especially if we’re white — it’s incumbent upon us to do this, too. Yes, we might misunderstand, tread on cultural sensitivities, get it wrong — so we will learn, listen, fight our own privileges, and do better. We cannot be silent any longer and we must no longer allow ourselves to be divided. We need to remember that “divide and rule” carries within it an equal and opposite potential — unite and conquer.

Louise Raw is the author of Striking a Light: the Bryant & May Matchwomen and Their Place in History (Bloomsbury). The 2015 Matchwomen’s Festival is on July 4 in Canning Town. Discounted advance tickets now available at www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/matchwomens-festival-2015- tickets-16082194276. Children’s tickets are free.

Welsh captain rescued Spanish refugees from Franco’s butchers


This video says about itself:

Spanish families unearth their civil war dead

4 January 2012

Seventeen women, relatives of people on the Republican side, were shot by the forces of Francisco Franco at the height of Spain’s civil war 1n 1937 and tipped straight into a mass grave. Now, 74 years on, their bodies are being exhumed so that their descendants can bury them properly.

From daily The Morning Star in Britain:

Alicante and Cardiff honour seafarer heroes

Thursday 16th April 2015

During the Spanish civil war Captain Archibald Dickson and the crew of a small frighter Stanbrook rescued 2,639 stranded republican fighters — a singular act of bravery that was commemorated in Cardiff last Sunday

ON SUNDAY, Labour International’s Costa Blanca branch delegation in Cardiff presented a memorial plaque to the city. The ceremony was hosted by the Lord Mayor of Cardiff, Councillor Margaret Jones.

The plaque was dedicated to the memory of Cardiff-born Captain Archibald Dickson and the crew of the Stanbrook, which rescued nearly 3,000 republican supporters from Alicante Port and Franco’s troops at the end of the Spanish civil war on March 28 1939.

It was jointly unveiled by Pedro Olivares Martínez and the lord mayor at the Mansion House in Cardiff on Sunday April 12.

Also present at the unveiling were Arnold Dickson and Dorothy Richardson, Captain Dickson’s children, and David Lillystone and Sandra Robinson, the great grandchildren of the ship’s engineer Henry Lillystone.

They were joined by six members of Labour International Costa Blanca and members of the Welsh section of the International Brigades Memorial Trust.

The stainless steel plaque depicts an image of the Stanbrook taken at the time, together with an inscription in English, Spanish and Welsh.

Following the ceremony, the delegation and invited guests assembled at the Welsh headquarters of Unite the union.

There they watched short film Britain Expects, about the British blockade runners during the civil war.

Civic Commission historian Francisco Moreno Saez described their work in preserving the memory of those who suffered under the repression of the fascist Franco regime.

On Saturday the delegation had placed a wreath on the memorial, in Cathays Park, Cardiff, to the Welsh members of the International Brigades who fought and died fighting for the republican cause in the Spanish civil war.

Nautilus national secretary Jonathan Havard gave the following speech

“I am proud and honoured to be here. Nautilus history spans over 150 years and during that time thousands of merchant seafarers — despite being civilians — have lost their lives in the fight for freedom and against fascism.

As we pay tribute to the heroism of Captain Archibald Dickson, we should also remember the scale of the contribution made by British seafarers — and Welsh seafarers in particular — to the defence of the Spanish republic.

During the civil war, organisations like the Aid Spain movement and the Spanish Medical Aid Committee reflected widespread popular support for the anti-fascist cause.

Around £2 million was donated in Britain during the conflict and 30 ships were chartered by British campaigners between 1936 and 1939, which were then loaded with food and sailed through the naval blockade to Spain.

Almost 4,000 Spanish and Basque children — many of them orphans — were evacuated to Britain, where political parties, trade unions and church groups combined to provide accommodation and education.

It seems hard to believe, but there are still no definitive figures on the number of British ships that were lost and the number of British seafarers who died during the Spanish civil war.

British merchant ships accounted for around 70 per cent of the vessels attacked and it is estimated that as many as 29 British-registered ships were sunk and at least 40 seafarers — probably many more — were killed and over 50 seriously injured.

Ten British ships were sunk and 37 were damaged in May and June of 1938 alone, and during the three years of the civil war 10 Welsh ships were bombed sunk or badly damaged.

What we do know for sure, however, is that merchant vessels were having to run a gauntlet of aircraft, mines and torpedoes, warships and submarines — many of them sent by Franco’s fascist allies in Germany and Italy.

Many neutral merchant ships — nine of them Welsh — were seized and detained, and even ships sent to carry refugees to safety came under attack.

The statistics, shocking as they are, tell only part of the story.

They certainly do not convey some of the extraordinary heroism and sacrifice of the seafarers serving on the blockade runners — especially those who were carrying supplies for the republicans or evacuating refugees from beleaguered Bilbao.

Their stories deserve to be remembered, perhaps none more so than Captain Dickson’s.

His ship, the Stanbrook, was the last to leave Spain before Franco’s victory and instead of departing with his planned cargo of tobacco, oranges and saffron, he left with a total of 2,639 republicans onboard.

Although the captain had been given orders not to take refugees unless they were in real need, he told how that after seeing the condition which many of them were in, he had decided from a humanitarian point of view to allow them aboard.

His desperately overloaded ship dodged U-boats and enemy aircraft to take them to Algeria, although their ordeal didn’t end with their arrival there.

Captain Dickson had to threaten to crash his ship into the dock before the French authorities allowed the passengers to disembark.

Sadly, the ship — and Captain Dickson and his crew — were to fall victims to the nazis only six months later during a U-boat attack in the North Sea.

Stories like this, though tragically neglected, remain relevant today in the face of immense geopolitical instability and at a time when merchant seafarers are once again in the forefront of humanitarian work to rescue refugees in the Mediterranean.”

Sand martin back from Africa in Wales


This video from Ireland says about itself:

Sand Martins at Aughris Head Co. Sligo.

From the Pembrokeshire Birds blog in Wales:

Saturday, 7 March 2015

First Sand Martin

While going through a couple of hundred gulls sheltering in the Teifi Estuary for my WeBS count, a Sand Martin flying over was a nice surprise. A second, or the same bird, was over the river viewpoint on the Teifi Marsh.

Other birds of note were a Red-breasted Merganser and Great Crested Grebe near the boat builders. Wigeon and Teal numbers were down and Shelduck up as usual for the March count. 3 Goldeneye and 3 Goosander on the river.

Posted by Wendy J at 1:37 pm