Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Back to uni + some good news for once

After 4 months of doing very little I was fairly happy to go back to Glasgow Uni today for the start of my second year where I'll be studying level 2 Politics and Central and East European Studies and level 1 Sociology. A lot of work (which is not so good) but hopefully there'll be some interesting stuff as well. But there's one slight problem - I've got lectures at 9am 3 days a week (last year there was nothing before 1 in the afternoon). So today I was up at 7:30 after 2 and a half hours sleep - not getting back home again till 15 hours and 2 socialist meetings later. I don't know why I'm still awake but I do know that I feel crap and am probably more than doubling the risk of death from all sorts of hideous diseases (at least that's if the study on sleep I recently read about is correct).

On the subject of busy students, something I read today in the Guardian is that the English work much less than those in other countries (studying for just 26 hours a week compared to 41 for the Portuguese, 35 for the French and 34 for the Germans). These 26 hours are said to include 14 hours tuition and at least 12 hours private study. In my three courses the maximum time spent a week in lectures and tutorials (provided I went to them all) adds up to just 12 hours so maybe the Scots are even lazier. As for private study I didn't do nearly as much as 12 hours a week last year but then it was only my first year and I'm probably quite lazy. But I think the fact studying hours are generally much lower in the UK must have something to do with the way in which many students here have to devote so much of their time working in crappy jobs to cover their costs - something made far worse by the abolition of grants and the introduction of tuition fees (in England and Wales at least).

Not all news is bad news so here's some positive stories I've seen over the last week or so:

* After a recent reshuffle Norway's cabinet has, for the first time, more female than male ministers – by 10 to 9. Added to the fact that 4 out of 7 of the country's parliamentary parties have female leaders this is certainly a positive sign for gender equality in the country, at least at a political level. Another good thing about Norway is that it was the first country to introduce compulsory gender quotas within company management positions and soon no less than 40% of such posts can be occupied by women. Patriarchy of course goes a lot deeper than simply creating a lack of female politicians and business leaders but at least the Norwegians are doing more than most. And I'm very happy that they're likely to follow Sweden's example by criminalising the purchase of sex later on this year, a move which will hopefully have a significant effect on public attitudes to the sex industry in general.

* Scottish Labour's new leader Wendy Alexander appoints 7 women and 3 men to her party's 10 most important posts with hardly a mention and significantly less criticism than you might expect from our sexist media (although if I remember correctly the Daily Record had a big full page story titled “JOBS FOR THE GIRLS”).

* Italy considers fining men who pay for sex as well as serving legal papers in their own homes to shame them. Any action against these evil bastards is more than welcome but should surely also include keeping them behind bars for a good few months.

* The emergence of a new mass struggle against the brutal military dictatorship in Burma which has, for 45 years, been torturing and enslaving its own people and starving them of the nation's resources. Western countries might now be expressing their support for the protesters but let's not forget that they've done nothing up to now and have always been perfectly happy to let their corporations profit from the misery of the Burmese population.

Friday, August 31, 2007

Courts show their contempt for victims of domestic violence,,2155428,00.html

I felt totally sick and disgusted to read this article a week ago and it provides all the proof you need that we have a male dominated legal system which doesn't give a damn about the rights of women. The article is about two recent cases in which men were found guilty of horrific acts of domestic violence yet were let off with a miniscule fine.

The first sick bastard we hear about is Stuart Brown. For 7 years he made his wife Carol McEwan's life a misery before ultimately being convicted of dragging her out of bed and punching her 24 times. What words did the magistrate use to describe him? A "vile monster" perhaps? Wrong, he described him as being of "good character" before handing out a fine of £500. This woman-hating pig has so far been allowed to keep his £100,000 a year job as a hospital anaesthetist. His former partner on the other hand will have to live with the abuse he subjected her to for the rest of her life.

The second evil swine is Colin Read. As soon as he had married his partner Elizabeth Axe last year he reverted to being the savage misogynist he really is. In one horrendous attack he slashed her feet after she failed to make a sandwich for him. Eight days later he branded her on the back with an iron, causing severe burns, after complaining she hadn't ironed one of his shirts. Read, a wealthy management consultant on a £90,000 a year salary, was fined just £2,000 for these vicious acts of violence. He didn't even have to undergo a community sentence because according to the judge he would be "too busy" to carry it out.

Noone who has ever been a victim of domestic violence themselves can begin to imagine what these two women have been through and it must be a sickening blow to watch the person who subjected you to so much pain and misery being let off with not even a slap on the wrist. According to the Guardian just 4% of the men responsible for domestic violence ever go to prison. Yet for a crime of this nature anything other than prison is a complete insult to the victim and will do nothing to make men like these think twice in future.

The legal system in this country is rotten to the core and is clearly far more interested in upholding the interests of patriarchy and of capitalism than it is in getting justice for the victims of those who hold all the power and wealth. Maybe there will be no progress until we get rid of all the overpaid middle-class middle-aged men who make up the vast majority of judges and magistrates and who seem to have no capacity for seeing things from the perspective of anyone else, or at least from the perspective of anyone who doesn't have exactly the same social profile as themselves.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Only 14% of Scots think it's acceptable to view porn!

After a long absense (and 5 weeks on holiday in France and Switzerland) I've decided to come back and hopefully start posting more regularly to my blog. I think this article from yesterday's Herald (which made me happy and angry at the same time) is worth commenting on:

Firstly we hear the rather surprising figures from a recent poll that only 14% of Scots think it's acceptable to view porn and 10% to pay for sex. This is really positive and while I'm sure many of the participants oppose them for the wrong reasons it suggests that the sex industry, despite its continuous onslaught of patriarchal capitalist propaganda, has been failing miserably to change the attitudes of the Scottish public. In fact according to the article pornography and prostitution have became less acceptable over the last few years. I think it's really vital that feminists build on this almost universal opposition to the commodification of sex by pushing for tougher laws and ensuring our perspective is the one which is heard when the issue is debated in public.

The second part of the article, referring to the same survey, discusses public attitudes towards rape, finding that 30% of men and 25% of women believe a woman who's drunk to be to some extent responsible for being raped. 26% of respondents think in the same way in regards to women wearing revealing clothing and 34% of men and 29% of women when it comes to flirting. I suppose one positive thing the survey shows is that such views are far less prevalent among younger people - 7% of adults under 24 believe women who were flirting can be held at least partly responsible compared to 50% of those over 65. And a clear majority of those surveyed do hold the view that women are never responsible for being raped.

But why is it that so many people still feel the way they do? Could it be, as an SSP comrade suggested, that sex is very much seen as something which men do to women and that it is women who have the responsibility to say no and resist - with getting drunk being considered an abdication of that responsibility? The above survey was carried out by the Scottish Executive in an attempt to tackle the miserable conviction rate for reported rapes which last year fell below 4% for the first time. What sort of society are we living in, we should be asking, when less than 4 out of every 100 women subjected to rape ever see their attackers brought to justice, when rape victims are hardly ever taken seriously, when they have their stories laughed at and ridiculed by the police and by the male dominated legal system?

Thursday, June 14, 2007

SNP abolish graduate endowment fee

I must admit I’ve been pleasantly surprised by some of the new SNP government’s policies. One of the most important has got to be the scrapping of the “graduate endowment” charge. Although tuition fees were meant to have been abolished until now Scottish students have had to pay a charge of £2,000 when they leave university. Those receiving the Disabled Students Allowance, like me, have been exempt but for everyone else it’s yet more student debt to be lumbered with and a disincentive to entering further education.

I was also pleased to hear Justice Minister Kenny McAskill saying that too many non-violent criminals are locked up and that instead we should put resources into dealing with the really dangerous criminals such as sex offenders. Of course with by far the highest prison population per capita in Europe what alternative do they have? Another positive thing has to be the cancelling of the decision to close A&E at Ayr and Monklands hospital as well as the government expressing its opposition to nuclear power.

So I’m a bit happier than I was the last time I wrote about the SNP and it's nice for a government to do something I agree with for once. But still I’m sure, like all the main parties, they’ve got their own opportunistic reasons for doing what they have. The question is whether or not the Scottish Executive can move on from taking a few populist measures and show they’re really serious about changing Scotland for the better. It’s not good enough to drop key policies like an independence referendum or, for that matter, the pledge to wipe out existing student debts.

Monday, June 04, 2007

Calls for campaign to target men who buy sex

I was reading in the Sunday Herald that anti-prostitution campaigner Jan Macleod has called on the Scottish Executive to establish a publicity campaign aimed at the men who buy sex now that doing so will, for the first time in Scotland, be a crime. Such an approach could, in my view, help change public attitudes and make clear, in a society where women's bodies are increasingly being seen as any other commodity, that the actions of these men are unacceptable as well as showing who's to blame for the existence of prostitution in the first place. But, as pointed out by the Scottish Coalition Against Sexual Exploitation, misogynistic attitudes among men towards sex begin at an early stage and far more attention needs to be paid, in school sex education classes, to the promotion of egalitarian relationships. Sexuality has to be portrayed not as something which is all about one person's enjoyment but instead as an expression of people's mutual love and respect for each other.

Going back to the recent change the Scottish Executive made in regards to prostitution laws it was certainly welcome but still the priorities are all wrong in that both prostituted women and the so-called “clients” who use money to buy control over their bodies will be held equally responsible for the existence of this vile industry. Sweden offers an alternative approach, one which the Norwegian government is also likely to implement and which the SSP had in its manifesto for the May election. That is to bring in and enforce real penalties against the “clients” while decriminalising prostitutes and giving them help to leave the industry which enslaves them. In Sweden trafficking has been almost completely eradicated and prostitution drastically reduced since the law was introduced in 1999 - so while an end to patriarchy and capitalism will likely be the only way we can fully eradicate the sex industry there is a lot which could be done by the government if the will was there.

Sunday, June 03, 2007

Same old anti-abortion crap

Today I was again reminded of the extent of the hostility shown towards abortion rights by many in our society – both at a personal level and from letters in the newspapers. The letters were in response to yet more of the same old sexist pronouncements made by Cardinal Keith O'Brien several days ago. Mr O'Brien himself has compared abortion in Scotland to “two Dunblane massacres a day” – as if a woman deciding to exercise her control over a certain part of her body is somehow equivalent to a psychopathic serial killer gunning down children. This is a truly sickening statement and one which serves to severely devalue the pain and horror of Scotland's worst ever act of mass murder.

Recent news which the church didn't hesitate to comment on is that the number of abortions in Scotland over the last year has risen from 12,603 to 13,081. So what? Why do media outlets like the BBC even bother to mention the fact that another 500 women decided to have an abortion? Of course we remain a deeply misogynistic, deeply patriarchal, society and so you could say it's hardly surprising that such attitudes remain. Yet I still have difficulty comprehending just how twisted the logic of some of the people who oppose abortion really is. Do those who constantly rant about women being personally responsible really believe that men have no role in regards to the pregnancy?

The question is not, as some people suggest, whether or not we should allow the bigoted Mr O'Brien to express his views. It is whether or not he's talking shite and if we believe so then let's make our opinions loud and clear. Let's denounce the insane hypocrisy of an organisation which calls abortion “anti-child, anti-women and anti-person” yet did nothing to prevent the systematic sexual abuse of children at the hands of its own priests.

Saturday, June 02, 2007

Brown congratulates Salmond

So Gordon Brown has waited a full 29 days after Scotland elected its new parliament to congratulate Alex Salmond for his nomination as First Minister. Childish maybe but then should we really care about the petty disputes between two of the same old establishment politicians who have done, and will do, nothing to challenge those who hold all the power and wealth in our society?

Let's take a look at the programme Salmond and the SNP have announced:

  • Scrap trams and put more money into improving roads

  • Cut business rates

  • End supermarket offers on alcohol

  • Abandon bridge tolls

  • Stop building nuclear power stations

Some good, some bad, but what of their own policies have they decided to keep silent on? Well an independence referendum seems to be the most glaring as is scrapping the council tax, two of their most radical policies and the ones which would do the most to benefit ordinary people in Scotland. Most in the SNP may support them but Salmond isn't going to try to push anything through if he doesn't think he'll get it passed in parliament which is likely to mean a lot of disappointed SNP voters at the time of the next election.

And there's all the other things they could do (but won't) if they were serious about building a better society. Things like free school meals, free public transport and taxing those who deserve to be taxed. As always we're not going to get what we want from this government and while the end of the SSP's presence in parliament was a disappointment the fight against inequality and injustice continues, on the streets, in the communities and in the workplace.