You can’t ride a bike…You’re a girl!

“You can’t ride a bike, because you’re a girl”

A sentence that made a five year old girl become a feminist, the notion that you cannot or should not want to do something due to gender was absurd to her even then.

Natalie Bennett has gone on to do some remarkable things, and she came to speak to us at Keele about some of them.

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Natalie’s first degree was in Agricultural Science, which meant that when she would be the only politician with a background in science in meetings about science.

She thinks we need more scientists in politics.

She has also worked as a journalist where she would often write about things from a feminist perspective.

She was the leader of the Green Party 2012-2016 and she was the first woman, in British political history to take over the leadership of a party from another woman, Caroline Lucas.

It took until 2012 for that to happen.

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Westminster is full of memorials to dead white men. 

Natalie told us a story, to illustrate how the Houses of Parliament were not designed to accommodate women MPs.

In 2010, a young MP had a baby, and in parliament, when voting the rule is that an MP has to walk through the doors to vote, but only MPs are allowed to do this.

So when a woman, who had a baby with her, needed to vote she had to quickly pass her baby to the nearest MP and walk through to be counted.

This year is the anniversary of both women’s vote and women being allowed to stand

Suffrage a hundred years ago was a strange thing.

To vote you had to be a woman who was over 30 years of age with property, this was an attempt to prevent an imbalance of women to men following war.

However women over the age of 21 were able to stand to be an MP – this wasn’t considered to be an issue because they never thought female MPs would outweigh male MPs.

As of 2018 we currently have parliament at 32% female MPs.

If we continue at the pace we are at now, 15 year old girls will see a 50:50 Parliament when they are in their 80s.

Natalie asked the room, do we think parliament is a meritocracy?

Surely, we can do better surely than the people in government at the moment!

A Government needs to be representative of the people.

https://5050parliament.co.uk/askhertostand/

Period positivity and period poverty

Natalie told the room about a massive debate in 2015 where David Cameron was very uncomfortable talking about period poverty due to its relevance to female anatomy and period stigma.

Three years on politicians are talking openly about it, and talking positively about periods.

This means it is becoming easier to talk about period poverty and campaign to end it.

Where are the Women?

Natalie spoke to the room about tackling the myth that there are not enough qualified women to be in leadership positions:

In Norway, a law was passed to have 40% of boards be women. If this wasn’t done, the company would be de-registered.

There was a five year period to allow companies to do this and yet some companies still only did this hours before the deadline.

Many companies used the narrative that qualified women couldn’t be found.

When a study was conducted afterwards, looking at qualifications of women versus men on the boards, the findings showed that women held higher qualifications than the men, and were more qualified for the board positions.

So there are plenty of women and if this door can be opened, it opens the door to other forms of diversity other than gender.

How do we get women into leadership positions and politics?

#AskHerToStand you have to ask multiple times for a woman to stand as a political candidate.

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Within the Green Party if there are no women on a short-list – they re-open the position and actively promote to find women to stand.

In 2015 Hackney’s female Green politician was found in this manner.

Patronising, Obnoxious and Unapproachable (Man at Keele, 2018)

Sophia (co-founder of WOKE, KPA Equality and Diversity Officer and co-author of this post) was lucky enough to be called all three of these in April 2018.

Natalie Bennett spoke about the gendered double standards women are held to and the negative labels given to women for acting in the same way a man would in a position of power.

The first time Natalie Bennett went on question time, she was reserved due to the branding of Caroline Lucas as a woman who “always interrupted”, consequently she didn’t have much time to voice her opinion.

Therefore, the second time she went on question time, she “ploughed through” to be heard.

This is a real problem for women, due to the negative stereotypes of “women always talk”, or the idea that they have nothing important to say.

Society has ingrained this within us all, and it will take a lot to undo that within society as a whole – but it’s about baby steps, it’s about empowering women, and encouraging them to have a voice.

You are NOT alone

It is harder to stand as a woman. Don’t do it alone.

The Green Party always has gender balance rules, if there is a lack of candidates the short-lists will be reopened, an example of this Natalie talked about was when all the women from the London Assembly List when to the pub together and signed each others nominations, it was a moment of pure support, women empowering and supporting women, and it resulted in 7 women and 4 men being put on the list.

Natalie described herself as a believer in quota systems; because unless those systems are implemented you have to keep fighting the same battles.

There is a real necessity for building in rules in order to put each battle behind you in order to power forward.

Understand that politics is something we have to DO otherwise it is done to us

Natalie stressed that people have been doing politics to us for so many years

Now it is time to campaign, empower, and make a difference. Each small step can lead to everyone feeling like the CAN make a difference

Political change doesn’t happen because the top GIVES it, it happens because the bottom TAKES it

Three things to take away:

1) Don’t be alone – build networks of support

2) Take every opportunity to gain experience – it will get easier, and be kind to yourself

3) People aren’t going to remember the small details, like stumbling over a word, the world is more forgiving than you think

 

This write up is by Yasmin Benjelloun and Sophia Taha

 

How to make an emergency self-care box 🌻

Life is hard.

While we may be working like robots and juggling all that is thrown at us, we must to stop and breathe every once and a while.

Some of us are suffering in silence and because of that, our suffering, strengths, battles, hard-work and resilience go unseen and sometimes uncredited.

The topic for this month at W.O.K.E is the following:

“November 2018: Welcoming writing around the topics of challenges faced & visibility of Trans and Non-Binary people; anti-bullying and workplace bullying; unseen, unvalued & unpaid labour; carers and the pressures they face” (W.O.K.E, 2018)

The one thing which unites these topics is invisibility.

Not being acknowledged or appreciated can be detrimental to our mental health and in turn, we can forget to love ourselves, care for ourselves and take a moment to reward ourselves for what we know that we have achieved.

As this is often the case, I have created a step-by-step guide to create an affordable emergency self-care box for either yourself or for anyone in your life that you think is in need of some T.L.C. and recognition!

 

After all, WE ARE ALL WORTHY OF SELF-LOVE AND APPRECIATION.

 

(Disclaimer: While I have tried my best to find the cheapest way to create a self-care box, I understand that not all of us have money to spare. So if you do not, I suggest you write a letter to remind them of their achievements, their strength and their worth! You can can also do this to yourself as a reminder to look after and appreciate yourself even when you are running out of self-belief)

 

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So here’s how I made my self-care box:

YOU WILL NEED:

  • A box (or a spare cardboard box that you can wrap up with old wrapping paper and maybe decorate)
  • Small candle/reed diffuser
  • Origami paper
  • Origami instructions
  • Paper of any kind
  • Pen
  • Very small plant
  • Sticky note
  • Sheet mask/face mask

CREATE (AND DECORATE THE BOX)

To do this you can either buy a box from discount stores like Poundland, Home Bargains or Card Outlet for £1 or less.

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Or you can use a cardboard box and cover it with old wrapping paper!!!

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In order to make things easier for you to make your own self-care box, I have split the following sections into 4 self-care objectives for the contents of the box:

  1. Creating a calm space
  2. Distracting the mind
  3. Feeling loved and appreciated
  4. Remembering to look after yourself

STEP ONE: CREATING A CALM SPACE

The space around us can often dictate our moods which is why creating a tranquil environment is so important.

To do this add a small candle (or a reed diffuser if you or your friend live in a property in which they are not allowed to light candles).

I found the smallest ones pictured in THE CANDLE SHOP in Newcastle-under-Lyme town centre for £1.90. The second largest ones were in PRIMARK for £1, and the largest one was in HOME BARGAINS for £3. The reed diffuser was also £3 from HOME BARGAINS.

STEP TWO: DISTRACTING THE MIND

It can be hard to find a hobby and it can seem impossible to find time to do something for fun.

So add something to the box that will offer something fun and creative.

I choose to add origami paper from AMAZON for around £5 for 100 sheets and I printed out instructions that I found online at http://www.origami-instructions.com/

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STEP THREE: FEELING LOVED AND APPRECIATED

Make it personal! Everyone is different and everyone needs to hear different things in regards to support and reassurance.

So if you can, write a small letter to yourself or to your friend, so they can have a friendly reminder of how much they are loved and appreciated even when times aren’t so great.

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Place this letter where you will see it every day!!!

STEP FOUR: REMEMBERING TO LOOK AFTER YOURSELF

If you can’t get a pet, get a plant!

When life is hectic we can often forget to do the little things like drink, eat, get enough sleep etc. but having the responsibility to look after something else can often help remind us to look after ourselves.

To do this, add a small plant to the box and add a sign to it (a sticky note or something similar) to remind yourself or someone else to water the plant but also to drink themselves!!! I found this plant for £1 at MORRISONS.

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Another idea is to add something so the receiver can pamper themselves when times are tough.

I chose to add sheet face-masks which I found cheap at TK MAXX, PRIMARK and MORRISONS.

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Finally: PACK THE BOX!!

 I hope this ‘how-to’ has given you some ideas on how to spread love and appreciation to those who need it (including yourself). 

FINAL DISCLAIMER: This kit is not at all a trivialisation of mental health in any way. If you or anyone you know is in need of emergency mental health support please contact the helplines suggested through this link: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/stress-anxiety-depression/mental-health-helplines/

If you make a self-care box for yourself or a friend, why not tweet us or Instagram a photo and tag us?

Twitter: @KeeleOf

Instagram: Women Of Keele Educate

#SheShouldRunKeele

Time to Do Better

A quick Saturday morning of research has thrown up some interesting facts and figures:

2016

When looking at the data from the KeeleSU Elections in 2016 there were 47 candidates total.

Of that total 78.7 % identified their ethnicity as white. When you compare that to Keele’s statistics on all students, the student body, was 65.8% white.

So in percentage terms, the white student populace is over-represented in running for positions of power on campus.

I also found that whilst 61.7% of candidates in the SU elections identified themselves as male, the campus wide demographic showed that only 41% of all students on campus were male.

(Head to here to see the full report on the student demographic at Keele that year)

2017

When looking at the data from the KeeleSU Elections in 2017 there were 43 candidates in total.

70.45% of candidates that ran identified themselves as white compared to a campus demographic of 64.8% white students.

61.3% of candidates that ran, identified themselves as male, but campus wide the demographic data meant that 41.4% of all students were male.

Head here to see the full report on the student demographic at Keele that year

There is a disproportionate number of men running for and holding positions of power on campus.

It is not representative of the student body.

I don’t currently have access to the data to do the same work for KPA positions, but it is significantly worse if you consider the number of male postgraduates that have held the KPA positions versus the number of female postgraduates we have in total.

(This data is from 2015/16 as it was available it is unlikely that there are  huge fluctuations in gender balance year on year):

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It’s time to do better.

After just a few months of work Women of Keele Educate have ensured a higher number of women and non-binary people at Keele have nominated themselves in the upcoming by-elections.

Take the time to read the manifestos of some fantastic candidates when you see them appear in the next few weeks.

Take the time to vote.

Take the time to ensure that you are accurately represented.

If you need any help or would like to join us get in contact

Feminism in 2018: What is there to do?

It’s a funny time to be a woman.

We live in a society that tells us we’ve never had it better, whilst it ignores our cry for change.

One that tells us we have our equal standing in the workplace and pays us less.

One that points to the single woman at a chair meeting and tells us how represented we are around the 14 men drowning her out.

One that tells us our bodies are our own whilst men decide what we can do with them.

One that shuts our trans sister out of her bathroom in the name of ‘protecting us’ from a threat that isn’t there.

And yet, it points to the suffrage of the past and tells us, “They did the work! You got your rights!”

 

How do we fight for change in an environment that acts like we’ve already made it?

 

I was 14 years old when I decided I wanted to be a medical doctor.

I was high achieving, top of my classes, and passionate about doing good in the world.

A few days after I decided, I broke the news to an aunt of mine; married to a psychiatrist, I thought she’d be someone I could turn to for some insight into what lay ahead. Naively happy about my decision, and eager to share it.

She listened to me, intently. She let me reason out what I wanted to do, how I wanted to do it – developing a 20-year plan in my 14-year mind.

She heard all of this quietly, and when I was done, she asked me the question: “but don’t you think it’s too much hard work?”

Of course, it’ll be hard work! But it’ll be so worth it in the end.

“But what’s the point in wasting all that time and money when you’ll only be housewife in the end anyway?”

 

I’d pinpoint that as the first time I remember my gender being sold to me like it’s a crutch.

 

Misogyny carries a certain power, when it comes from a female mouth.

She really, genuinely believed that my education was a waste of resources. Because of course, it’s universally accepted that I’ll give up any suggestion of a career to fulfil my womanly duties in the kitchen, right?

And there, I see the work still to be done.

How can our society claim to be equal while it perpetuates the normalisation of those attitudes?

So normalised, in fact, that the very victims of this system are its advocates.

Where women believe it’s normal to drop their passions, their aspirations, their futures because they need to take up the role that’s handed to them.

 

I was 21 years old when I walked through the doors of the medical school as a student.

 

That aunt rarely talks to me now.

When she does, it’s to tell me she thinks this is all useless.

I think of her whenever I speak up about feminism, whenever I feel the passion I have for activism.

I think of her because my heart hurts for her.

The cage she’s been in for so long that she sees as a mansion.

I hope she gets out of it one day.

I hope that she, and anyone who thinks like her, realises that they represent the work that’s still to be done in a society that thinks we’ve already made it.

It’s a funny time to be a woman.