Feminism and Fear.

I was asked a few months back to sit on the feminism discussion panel at BritMums Live. My immediate response was no. No, I cannot do that, I have never done any public speaking, let alone on such a divisive subject. Then I grabbed myself by the metaphorical bollocks   massive ovaries and thought, actually, I am going to say yes. I am 40 in a few short weeks, and I should stop letting fear make my choices and take a gamble.

This was all very well a couple of months in advance, but come the day I wanted to borrow the TARDIS, zip back and give my moderately younger self a stout slap about the face for landing me in such a terrifying position.

I was to share the panel with Eleanor Mills, associate editor of The Sunday Times- a successful journalist with a particular interest in women’s issues, Claire Mulley, a published biographer of historical feminist figures, and Kat Banyard- Director of UK Feminista. And me, blogger and opinionated witterer from a sofa in West Dorset. Not out of my depth at all then. 
The panel started with each member taking a few minutes to introduce themselves and share their opening thoughts, beginning with Eleanor, who would also be our chair. They each spoke passionately, and with great informed intelligence, while I sat at the far end getting more and more anxious as to what on earth I could add when my turn came.
But actually I think (although you would have to ask those who witnessed it for confirmation) that I held my own. I may not have quite the handle on the specific language or nuances of feminist debate, but I think I managed to convey my points clearly.
My nerves mean I do not have perfect recollection of the discussion, but I share the points that stood out for me:-
Eleanor pointed out the lack of women in high powered, high paid roles within society, while I agree whole heartedly that this needs tackling, I added that I also felt it was important not to dismiss the role of those who choose to put their careers on the back burner to be stay at home mothers. We all agreed that freedom of choice is important, and that we should never invalidate another’s chosen path. In terms of improving representation in Parliament, Claire mentioned a brilliant idea she had heard via Tony Benn – that all constituencies should be represented by one man, and one woman – thus guaranteeing equal representation- a fabulous suggestion I thought.
We looked at feminism being more welcoming, discussing that it can be intimidating for people to state their opinions for fear of receiving a lashing from others. We discussed how important it is for women to be able to identify as feminist, that it should be welcoming for all.
I really loved fnding out more about UK Feminista, it is a very positive movement, focused on action rather than just discussion. Kat spoke eloquently on many aspects of the cause, particularly the need for us to be seen, for our objections to be noted and acted upon. We talked about the successes of campaigns such as ‘No More Page 3’  which while has not achieved its goal yet, has successfully galvanised women across society to take a stand.
Two panel members are themselves part of campaigns which deserve our support. UK Feminista are trying to get Lads Mags removed from the shelves of shops on the basis that exposing staff and customers to them may be in breach of the equality act. I would like to be shot of these magazines as they encourage sexist attitudes and for the effect they have on women’s body image.

Eleanor Mills has just launched a campaign in conjunction with the Sunday Times, to safeguard children from online pornography. Kids today have easy access to graphic pornography, it is colouring their view as to what normal sex and normal sexual behaviour is. For both boys and girls this is leading to unrealistic expectations. We need to try and find ways to stop them seeing it, and as parents we need to talk openly and without embarrassment to our children, to inform them about real sex, and real bodies. This kind of extreme porn can lead to rape and other darker forms of sexual behaviours being normalised. I do not want this for my children.
Overall the room as a whole agreed that all women, and men want equality- social, political, and economic equality. We agreed that positive action was a great thing. Contributing bloggers discussed their own experiences dealing with children and pornography, suggested campaigns to get childcare made tax deductible, and expressed their passion for feminism in various forms. Over on twitter people were agreeing with me that they are sometimes scared to put their feminist thoughts in writing for fear of being told off by other feminists – we must start to work together not against each other to achieve our aims, and am delighted that at least a couple have already been encouraged to put pen to paper, or at least hand to keyboard.
I loved the session, I came away feeling that there was a real passion among bloggers for the subject, and a renewed sense of purpose, a feeling of hope that if we all work together we can start to make some real progress.
What do you think?

Love Miss Cisco XXX

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25 Comments

  1. Galina Varese
    June 26, 2013 / 8:30 am

    I would imagine you holding your own in any environment. Big well done!

    • Sonya Cisco
      June 26, 2013 / 4:38 pm

      Thank you, must shyer in real life than I come across, so am proud of myself! 🙂

  2. Older Single Mum
    June 26, 2013 / 11:25 am

    Sorry that I missed this – would have loved to have been there. Pleasure to meet you though, albeit briefly x

    • Sonya Cisco
      June 26, 2013 / 4:38 pm

      Yes, would have loved to have a proper chat, it was all over too fast! 🙂

  3. Shiv Ferguson
    June 26, 2013 / 12:09 pm

    Well done you! That sounds really high powered blimey.

    I have just been involved in a very small way with the debate about the Boobcam at Download Festival. I had no opinion other than embarrassment about watching the best Boobs of 2012 compilation with Cal and Sunny last year. I had no idea that the camera was lingering on girls who hesitated to reveal their tits while the drunken crowd booed them until they complied. I stay out of the mosh pits because I am too short to see anything and too heavy to get on someones shoulders for a sneaky peek at the band. Didnt realise that for a lookie see or a chance to be on camera they had to pay with nudity. How rubbish is that in this day and age? I am glad that a man came back and wrote such an article.

    http://www.thrashhits.com/2013/06/tits-download-festival-2013/

    • Sonya Cisco
      June 26, 2013 / 4:39 pm

      Bloody Nora, that is awful!

    • Jess Palmer
      June 27, 2013 / 8:08 am

      Wow, Shiv, i LOVED that article! And i love the link in to 6 Ways Metal Treats Women Badly. Fascinating stuff! Gonna put a link on my FB & Twitter to both. Thank you!

  4. June 26, 2013 / 1:05 pm

    You were great on the panel – my favourite one of the conference. x

    • Sonya Cisco
      June 26, 2013 / 4:39 pm

      Thank you very much x

  5. SarahMummy
    June 26, 2013 / 3:58 pm

    I thought it was a great session! I went along to support you and see you action, I didn’t expect to enjoy it, learn from it or relate to it, but I did! The online porn particularly scared me and got me thinking 🙁

    • Sonya Cisco
      June 26, 2013 / 4:40 pm

      Really appreciated you being there, made such a difference to have a few friendly faces in the room, am glad you gained something from it, and yes, the porn stuff is scary isn’t it. 🙁

  6. Stephanie
    June 26, 2013 / 3:59 pm

    So pleased to hear that there was this panel at BritMums! We need feminism more than ever I think.

    • Sonya Cisco
      June 26, 2013 / 4:41 pm

      We really do, and it is important that we find time to tAlk about it, thank you for commenting.

  7. June 26, 2013 / 8:49 pm

    Sorry I missed the session, sounds like it was interesting and relevant!

    I must admit I’m totally baffled by feminism, one of those things I want to understand fully, but am scared to question for fear of the reaction from some sides!

    • Sonya Cisco
      June 27, 2013 / 7:22 am

      I think many feel the same, feminism needs to be welcoming to all, not scary!

  8. Tas D
    June 27, 2013 / 7:47 am

    I heard you were very good and it sounded like one of the best sessions that weekend. I’m not sure what all the content was but I do agree with what you’ve said above. Sometimes women are afraid to say voice their feminist views because they don’t want to be shot down by other women. Its sad to have the divisions and people feeling threatened by each other.

    • Sonya Cisco
      June 28, 2013 / 6:34 am

      It is sad, mould like to see a change to more positivity, but have to say, the room at BritMums was lovely, so I think it’s a minority that make life tricky for the rest of us!

  9. Jess Palmer
    June 27, 2013 / 8:13 am

    I think you’re brave AS to go up and be on a public speaking panel. I bet you were fab tho, you write really articulately so i can’t imagine anything less. I always enjoy a reminder that we need to be more proactive to make feminism a non scary topic and to do something REAL in the REAL world to change it. I was scared of calling myself a feminist for years because i thought i’d get cries of HYPOCRITE for wearing make up and liking stereotypical “women’s” pursuits (fashion, shopping, gossip). But now i just say, sod off, that doesn’t make me less equal to men! We all get braver as we get older don’t we? and more confident in our abilities to defend our choices. I am going to seek out the ban page 3 stuff now and get on the trail! 😀

    • Sonya Cisco
      June 28, 2013 / 6:35 am

      Actually, the you can wear pink AND be a feminist issue came up, I think it is such a small minority that get themselves wound up by that sort of thing, we need to reclaim it for the rest of us! Glad you are off for a look at the campaigns! 🙂

  10. June 27, 2013 / 4:32 pm

    Gutted to have missed this session, sounds blooming ace. Also equally gutted not to have met you either so that makes it a double error! X

    • Sonya Cisco
      June 28, 2013 / 6:36 am

      Yes, there were a few people of awesomeness I managed to miss, it goes to bleedin’ quickly doesn’t it!

    • Sonya Cisco
      June 28, 2013 / 6:36 am

      Thank you! 🙂

  11. June 28, 2013 / 8:41 am

    This session was one of my favourites from the whole conference. The whole panel were hugely inspiring and I think you more than held your own, especially when you championed the stay at home mum. So many great points were raised that I am passionate about already and will defo be featuring on my blog! xx

  12. Older Mum
    July 1, 2013 / 5:47 pm

    I am still so bummed I missed this session, heard it was very, very good… but I am very glad I met you and had a wee natter – that was super dooper fabulous! XXX

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