Tagged: America

Technology, Protest and the G20.

Yeah, I know I said that I wouldn’t be blogging again until after my submission date, but what are rules there for if not to be broken? I’ve spent much of the evening following the events at the Pittsburgh G20 protests online, unable to drag myself away from multiple Twitter feeds. Finally, Twitter is really making sense to me, after a long time being very dubious of why I would need to use something that was basically a Facebook status update – but without the other fun and stupid things you can do on the Book of Face (as my sister calls it).

The importance of technology in protest was actually very fiercely brought home to me at the London G20 demos back in April. Stuck in the huge police kettle by the Bank of England on April 1st, the Media Activist and I had no idea what was going on – and the Met police goons surrounding us weren’t exactly communicative. Enter the humble mobile phone, and text updates from people elsewhere (in my case, Leicester!), who were a damn sight closer to a computer and those informative Twitter feeds/news sites than we were. In fact, my mobile was a godsend during those two days; it got me a load of useful photos and it kept me in touch with my friends when we got separated in the chaos of April 2nd. And I wasn’t the only one: the vast majority of the overwhelming evidence for the police brutality inflicted on protesters over that 48-hour period came not from professional media photographers and cameramen, but from the phones and digital cameras of protesters and bystanders. In the days following the London G20 protests, more and more amateur photos and footage were being uploaded onto the internet, shared by individuals and groups, and forwarded to the mainstream television and print media. Indeed, if it wasn’t for such footage, the truth about the death of Ian Tomlinson would have probably never come out – the police had, in fact,  been publicly lying about Tomlinson’s tragic death almost from the moment it happened.

The subsequent scandals surrounding the police behaviour at G20 seems to have made them rethink their protest tactics – I’ve been on a number of demos in London since G20, the most recent being an impassioned Disarm DSEi anti-arms trade protest in the City of London earlier this month, and the police have, without exception, very ostentatiously been distinctly hands-off in their approach. Despite the continued presence of the FIT (cops with cameras who seem to enjoy photographing and harassing known activists), and the distinct impression amongst many groups that these new softly-softly police tactics won’t last, I suspect that the Met has been quite severely shaken up by the fact that they’re not the ones in control of the technology any more….

And that’s true in other parts of the world too. The mobile phone footage and pictures that emerged during the protests over the result of the Iranian election earlier this year (and the fact that ‘IranElection’ has been a trending topic on Twitter as recently as this week) showed a face of the Iranian people that Mahmoud Ahmadinejad didn’t want the rest of the world to see, for example. The demonstrations in Pittsburgh today were all over Twitter (and you know things have got truly international when you re-tweet a link from London, only to find it being re-re-tweeted by a Pittsburgh TV station a few minutes later, as happened to me earlier!), which gave the protests far more solid coverage than the vague paragraph or so they seem to be getting on the mainstream news websites. Tales of tear gas, rubber bullets and ‘military sound weapons’ being used against the Pittsburgh protesters hit Twitter long before the mainstream media picked up on them, showing just how central citizen journalism can be to the newsgathering process these days.

The power of such technology in the struggle to hold the authorities to account for abuses of position is only growing in strength. The police still have the ability to record and track the movements of activists (although why they bother half the time is a bit beyond me – they’re more of  a threat to public order than we are…), but they are beginning to realise that we are fighting back with the same weapons. And they really don’t like that. They can no longer hide behind the anonymity of removing their numbers, or the illusory strength of photographing demonstrators to be put ‘on file’. The files are now on them, as organisations like FITWatch amply prove – and these files grow thicker and thicker with every demonstration, with every cameraphone wielded in anger, with every image or video uploaded to the internet…..

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Forthcoming Attractions and Another Kind Of Mind takes a break

Just a quick post to let you all know that Another Kind Of Mind will be taking a brief break until next month while I finish up and submit my final (ever) extended essay for uni. Once that’s done and dusted, I’ll be free, FREE to… well, I dunno yet, but it’s gonna be fun!

I’m still working on one more post which is almost finished, and that may well go up in the next few days – apart from that, the world of trickygirl will be a little on the quiet side until I’ve got done all the stuff I need to do. But fret ye not, my lovely readers, for there is lots and lots more to come, and here is but a taster of what you can expect when I return…

Find out why a bunch of stoner lads from Manchester made one of the greatest albums ever – and then fell apart. Learn more about third wave feminism (as promised), how men can be feminists too, and get the lowdown on some of the righteous and remarkable women who have inspired me over the years. Discover why astroturf is no longer just the stuff Luton Town FC used to controversially play on at Kenilworth Road. Delve into the world of heavy metal (the ultimate rebel music) and find out how, in parts of the world, it has become a dangerous and very political statement. Contemplate the rise of European fascism in the 1930s and see how it is again on the rise in the modern world today…. And even more stuff as and when I think of it!

If you have any suggestions of subjects you’d like to see me cover, please let me know.

Incidentally, if you have a blog or a website you think I might like and want to link to, please feel free to leave the address here as a comment – I’ll check it out and, if I do like it, link to you. If you want to link to me, just give me a shout!

While I’m away, please do have a look at the blogs I have linked to on my Blogroll. There are only a few at present, as this site is still very much under construction, but I hope to be expanding the list very soon.

I highly recommend all the links on my Blogroll, particularly as they (already!) reflect the diverse nature of my interests:

MARSHALL LAW: This is an excellent pro-wrestling blog written by my good friend Martin Marshall, which deals with the major issues and debates within the sport in an intelligent and thought-provoking way. And for those who of you who are shocked and horrified by the mere thought of a feminist enjoying pro-wrestling, I’ve got one word for you: Chyna. She’s the whole reason I started watching it in the first place – and I am very much looking forward to Marshall Law’s upcoming take on women in wrestling.

ME, AS OTHER THINGS: I love this quirky blog, created by the American writer, artist and cartoonist Jason Block. Its title is pretty self-explanatory really; Block takes a photo of himself as a starting point and then recreates it as something else. The most recent entry shows him as the cover of Radiohead’s The Bends, but other efforts show Jason as a Soviet-era propaganda image, Jack Skellington from The Nightmare Before Christmas, an H.R Giger Alien, Heath Ledger’s take on the Joker and a Calvin and Hobbes kid, amongst other things. Well worth a look!

THE OTHER SIDE OF THE APPLE: Like Another Kind Of Mind, Jessica’s new British feminist blog is still under construction, but there is already some very interesting content on there, including a response to Gordon Brown’s apology to Alan Turing and an excellent piece on women’s magazines. Aiming to cover feminism from a British perspective, alongside ‘armchair activism’ (a brilliant idea!), popular culture and food, The Other Side of the Apple is already well worth a read, and I am looking forward to reading more.

Keep reading, stay tuned and wish me luck!

peace and love,

trickygirl

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Fat as a Feminine Issue?

“Hips. Tits. Lips. Power” – Silverfish, early 1990’s

There have been some interesting goings-on in the world of modelling this week. Now, normally I would have absolutely no interest in this whatsoever, but when it concerns the desirability (or otherwise) of so-called ‘plus-sized’ women as models, I can’t help but take notice. As a ‘plus-sized’ woman myself (5ft 10ins and a UK size 16-18/US size 14-16), I was fascinated by the decision made by the US edition of Glamour magazine to feature a nude picture of a healthy-looking and non-skinny woman (with a bit of a tummy on her) in their latest edition. In some ways, the lovely picture of model Lizzie Miller printed in Glamour is a step forward for all of us girls who don’t look like the painfully thin stick insects normally seen in fashion magazines and on the world’s catwalks. Not all of us are size 0, and not all of us want to be. But, despite being described as ‘plus-sized’, a term with clear undertones of ‘you’re fat’, Miller is not actually that big – she’s a healthy, normal size. She actually looks like a woman, with curves and a soft body. She’s not ‘plus-sized’; she’s real, like so many women out there, models and non-models alike.

In an interview in today’s Observer, the Icelandic model Inga Eiriksdottir makes this point very vividly, describing how she was told she was fat and was pressured into losing weight by her model agency, despite the fact that she was 5ft 11ins and a UK size 8. “It was awful,” she says, “I couldn’t make myself the shape they insisted on.” So she started eating properly, went up to a UK size 14 (a normal, healthy size), and became what she describes as a ‘real-sized’ model and hasn’t stopped working since. Her jobs have mainly been for well-known department stores, which, like most high street chains these days, tend to stock a relatively wide range of sizes anyway – but major designers still seem to focus on the uber-skinny, emaciated women. The likes of Karl Lagerfeld and Donna Karen don’t design for bigger, real women – in fact, I recall Lagerfeld throwing a very undignified tantrum when he discovered that the range he designed for the high street chain H&M would also be available in a size 14 and above. This is something confirmed by the stunning British model Kate Smith, who is a size 16 and looks pretty damn good on it. “What does my head in,” she points out, “is that I’m a model and I can’t buy designer clothes that fit me.”

That says it all, really. The widespread attitude (amongst males and females) that to be a sexy woman you have to be unnaturally skinny is a dangerous and insulting one. When well-toned and definitely not ‘plus-sized’ women like Beyonce and Jennifer Lopez are described as having ‘fat arses’, I start wanting to throw things. Not only does that have dubious and near-racist undertones, it’s also a huge insult to those of us who are naturally curvy. Some of you may remember when The Gossip’s Beth Ditto, no small lady herself, posed nude for the front cover of a British music magazine a couple of years ago. I cheered her to the rafters for doing that – it was a brave and liberating move on so many levels – but the response from a number of quarters was that a girl as big as she is should have kept her clothes firmly on in front of the camera. Why? Because Beth Ditto is not Kate Moss, and thus, by definition (whose?), curvy/fat/real women are not sexy.

I find this sort of dangerously discriminatory attitude distinctly disturbing, particularly as  there is now a whole generation of young women who have grown up not knowing anything different; who have been force-fed (unpleasant pun intended) the ‘rightness’ of the dangerous equation that skinny = sexy and curvy = ugly. I recently read an article by a female journalist in one of the daily papers (I forget which one, possibly The Guardian), which nearly made me weep for this new generation of women. The journalist had sat down with two teenage girls to watch Billy Wilder’s truly wonderful classic comedy Some Like It Hot, which stars one of the greatest curvy film goddesses of them all, Marilyn Monroe (a UK size 14 – at least). Instead of marvelling over Monroe’s undoubted talents as a comedienne, the girls were appalled by her curves, repeatedly commenting on how ‘big’ and ‘fat’ she was. For me, that’s incredibly sad – one of my formative cinematic experiences was seeing this film for the first time; the scene where Monroe, shot from behind, wiggles her way down the train station platform, followed by Jack Lemmon’s stunned gasp of “Will you look at that! Look how she moves! It’s like Jell-O on springs…” is forever seared into my memory as being synonymous with gorgeous, sassy, curvy, real female sexiness…

In my time, I have dated both men and women of all shapes and sizes. One woman, in particular, sticks in my memory. She was most definitely what the fashion world would call ‘plus-sized’, but she was also one of the sexiest women I have ever met. Why? Because she was intelligent, funny, and utterly comfortable and at home with her size and shape. Her confidence in the fact that she was a real, curvy woman made her very, very sexy, and it is such a shame that outside influences continue to characterise non-skinny women as ‘other’ and as not attractive.

I am well aware that some women are naturally skinny, and it is not them I am criticising here, of course – an individual’s height, build, genetics and metabolism play a major part in whether they (naturally) have non-stop curves or a more boyish figure. However, the fashion world and the media need to remember that skinny is not the natural, default state of womanhood per se, and that by declaring that it is they are setting dangerous precedents. Starving yourself to be skinny is dangerous to anyone’s mental and physical health, whoever you are. That old cliché of ‘childbearing hips’ is very true indeed; the genetic make-up of a woman is different from that of a man for a very good reason. Women give birth. We nurture a child inside us, and our bodies continue to feed the child once it has been born. That’s why we have curves, hips, breasts. In the dim and distant past, men would choose a woman as a mate at least partly on the strength of her curves, seeing them as an outward sign of her ability to carry and nurture healthy children, to continue his lineage (an example of Dawkins’ ‘selfish gene’?). Despite the fact that in this modern era, women now have the choice whether or not to become pregnant and have children (and many of us have chosen not to), we should not forget that our curves are an integral part of who we are as women. They give us power.

“I’ve been trying to show you over and over
Look at these my child-bearing hips
Look at these my ruby red ruby lips
Look at these my work strong arms and
You’ve got to see my bottle full of charm” – PJ Harvey, ‘Sheela-Na-Gig’

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In Defence Of The NHS

This was originally posted last month on my old blog, but due to the continued lies and bullshit being spread about socialised healthcare in America, I felt it was about time I posted it again. Whatever you think about Obama and his policies is immaterial on this one, because no-one should die because they cannot afford healthcare and no-one should go broke because they get sick. It’s as simple as that.

Read, learn and inwardly digest, Americans. Your bitter and twisted Republican politicians are lying to you. This is the truth about socialised healthcare from one who has worked in and received much medical treatment from Britain’s ‘evil’ NHS. Many of you know full well that 99.95% of what the conservative news networks and Republican politicians have been spouting on the subject is simply lies and spin. But such lies and spin should not be left unremarked, especially when they reveal such appalling levels of ignorance and prejudice.

So, Republicans – are you sitting comfortably? Well, you won’t be by the time I’m through here. Time for a history lesson….

Despite its many imperfections, the NHS has managed to survive for more than sixty years without exploding or turning into an ‘evil and Orwellian’ communist/Nazi system (honestly Republicans, what do they teach you in Politics 101?). Prior to World War Two, healthcare provision was actually very different in Britain, and was seen by many as symptomatic of a long-standing and much wider social inequality. In fact, I suspect the current GOP crew would probably approve of the pre-NHS system in Britain, as it was overly complex, provided under a number of different systems and skewed towards those with money – which meant that a very large percentage of the population either could not afford or were not entitled to decent healthcare. Hmmm. Oddly familiar, all that.

Then along came an arrogant and self-obsessed upper class senior civil servant called William Beveridge; perhaps the last person you would expect to advocate universal social security and universal health care. But that is exactly what he did, in the Beveridge Report on Social Insurance and Allied Services of 1942. The Report‘s suggestions extended welfare reforms (like old age pensions) introduced by pre-World War One Liberal governments to their logical conclusions. It also reflected the experience of the de facto nationalization of Britain’s hospitals during the horror of the war on the home front in the early 1940s – a necessary process in order to provide a decent level of healthcare for the huge and increasing numbers of wounded civilians and servicemen and women of all social classes needing treatment. In the words of the historian Arthur Marwick: “only by making the state services open to all could it be ensured that the highest standards would be available to all; only by having a universal service could the stigma be removed from those who had to make use of state services” (1990, p.47).

Despite a great deal of political debate, the fact that post-war Britain was close to bankruptcy (mainly due to the sudden US withdrawal of the Lend-Lease programme), and a spectacular sulk over money and prestige from the British Medical Association which nearly scuppered the whole thing at its inception, the NHS finally came into being on 5th July 1948. Right from the start it wasn’t perfect (and it still isn’t), but it immeasurably improved the lives of millions of British people previously unable to access the treatments they needed. Yes, Republicans, it was indeed eventually introduced by a Labour government (oooh, Socialism, run for the hills!!), and yes, the NHS has always involved a great deal of government expenditure funded by tax payers’ money – but have you looked in the mirror lately?

No, really, you should. You’d be surprised. Didn’t you know that the American government already pays more for healthcare per head per annum than even that evil-NHS-socialised-healthcare-Britain does? A lot more. In fact, in 2007, US government spending on healthcare accounted for 16.2% of GDP – not far off twice the average spend of other OECD countries. Figures from 2004 are even more specific, showing that for every American, the government spends $6,102 on healthcare every year (this figure has probably risen since then), compared to a measly $2,546 per capita spent by the British government.

How do you account for that, Republicans? Oh, I know, it doesn’t fit in with your crazy, delusional worldview, so you’ll probably just ignore it. Or start lying about it, just like you’ve already been telling lies about the NHS. Your ignorance will show through – in fact, it already has. Who, I wonder, failed to fact-check that Investors Business Daily article this week which brazenly announced that: “people such as scientist Stephen Hawking wouldn’t have a chance in the UK, where the National Health Service would say the life of this brilliant man, because of his physical handicaps, is essentially worthless”? A quick trawl through Google or Wikipedia would turn up the astounding fact that Stephen Hawking is actually British (shock, horror!) and has gone on record as saying that he, like so many, “wouldn’t be here today if it were not for the NHS”. Just because some random renegade Tory MEP has nailed his colours to the mast in opposition to the NHS, it doesn’t mean it is a failed system which lacks the support of the British people, as you lot seem to assume. Honestly, Republicans, go get yourselves some IT classes and read a few British newspapers, blogs and websites – you’ll soon discover that the NHS is not perfect, but it is still much loved and appreciated by many (even to the extent of crashing Twitter on Wednesday due to the sheer volume of Brits defending the NHS), including a huge number of people who would, like at least fifty million Americans, be unable to afford healthcare if they also lived in the US.

I am exactly this type of low-income individual who would have fallen through the cracks in the American health care system. Recently, I was found to have a large pre-cancerous abnormality on my cervix after a smear test. Within a couple of weeks of the smear test results coming back, I had been referred for further tests at a local hospital – and within less than two months the tests had been taken, I had received treatment, and been given the all-clear. I doubt I’d have been able to afford any of that under the American system, and I’d now be well on my way to… well, dying, actually. Then there’s my dad, in his late sixties and retired, who had serious heart valve surgery two years ago – according to the Republican lies, the NHS doesn’t perform surgery like that on anyone over the age of 59. Then there’s a friend of mine who gave birth to her twin daughters prematurely, with all the risks to mother and babies that entails – her adorable little girls are now four years old and fit and healthy, all thanks to the NHS. Or there’s even another friend of mine who had a heart and lung transplant as a child and is now, in her thirties, one of the longest-surviving transplant patients in the country – again, all because of the NHS and the groundbreaking healthcare they have provided over the last two decades. All of this life-saving surgery and treatment has been carried out according to a need, not a price or a profit – and that is how healthcare should be. And if that requires government intervention and funding, then so be it. What’s so scary about that, Republicans?

I will keep on saying this until I am blue in the face: the NHS saved my life. And I am only one of thousands upon thousands of British people who can say the same thing. Lying about the British health service for Republican political ends won’t change this simple truth; in fact nothing will change in American healthcare until those in power, the disproportionately influential, reactionary conservative forces in American society and the hugely wealthy pharmaceutical industry start to realise that healthcare is about people, not profits. And fifty million uninsured and uncovered Americans deserve a decent and universal ‘socialised’ health system. They deserve better than Republican lies.

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