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7 Things That Make me Happy on International Women’s Day

It is easy to feel depressed on International Women’s Day – the scale of women’s oppression never seems to lessen, brutal rapes and murders continue to happen daily, girls are refused education or forced into inappropriate marriages or have their genitals mutilated and the places of power across the globe are still inhabited by a skewed proportion of men.

However, I have decided to focus on the things that make me happy on IWD. Here’s my list:

  1. The feminist blogosphere is full of vibrant, intelligent women blogging up a storm. My feedreader is continually updated with excellent posts and articles that continue to make me think.
  2. My feminist publisher, Argument mit Ariadne, is doing a brilliant job with the German translation of Balthasar’s Gift. Their sensitivity to the book’s themes, their commitment to feminist crime fiction and their commitment to excellence right down to word level, makes me feel like a very lucky and very fulfilled writer.
  3. One Billion Rising even took place in Heidelberg – check out this great video, which still makes me cry: 
  4. Opinions may differ on Sheryl Sandberg, but I am all about women of all generations, in all jobs leaning the fuck in. Anyone want to join a Heidelberg Circle?
  5. Teenage feminists and male feminists. (If anyone could point me to a teenage male feminist, my joy would be complete.)
  6. The fact that the No More Page 3 campaign is rapidly approaching 100,000 signatures and is still getting loads of press coverage.
  7. Mamphela Ramphele’s new political party platform in South Africa. She is one of a host of amazing African women who are getting on with making things better.

What makes you happy on International Women’s Day?

ETA: Here’s what I did for last year’s IWD – a Pinterest board.


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Who Needs Feminism?

We’re all equal, right?

Here are some of the front page articles in today’s Observer:

Despite having one two top-notch female candidates, the BBC chooses yet another man as DG.

Jesus was happy with female apostles, but the Church of England still can’t decide on female bishops.

Family planning summit in London threatened by religious groups.

UK recession hits middle-aged women worst.

ETA: Andy Murray, who as of this morning, has not yet won the Wimbledon Men’s Final, is all over the front page, whereas it takes four clicks to even find out who took the Women’s Final. (It was Serena Williams, if you care.)

Slap yourselves, folks. Apparently we are living in 2012 – although today’s headlines would indicate otherwise. Right now, men at better at leading broadcasting companies and being bishops, 200 million women around the world don’t have access to contraceptives, recession is worse for women than for bankers and no-one gives a rat’s arse about women’s tennis.

Are these the messages you want your children to receive?


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Are quotas really so bad?

Stats from earlier this year show that Germany is doing really badly at getting women into senior management – not to mention paying women significantly less than their male counterparts. Angela Merkel has mooted quotas, a concept I support whole-heartedly. What surprises me, however, is how little support for quotas I am seeing in the workplace.

People say things like, “I would never want to be promoted just because I am a woman. I want to be promoted on merit.” or “Quotas are insulting. We don’t need them.”

I notice that the women who dismiss quotas are usually in some kind of a management position already or who have strong technical qualifications and experience – people who have already fought a hard journey to secure their positions. They have made sacrifices to get there: had no children or only one, paid a premium for childcare, worked long hours, perhaps worked harder than anyone else, sacrificed their personal lives. It is these people who, understandably, aren’t happy to see others swing in on the liana branch of quotas and grab jobs similar to those they have nearly killed themselves for.

For those who have taken on the patriarchy at great personal cost, and won, it doesn’t seem fair to then hand out jobs like so many bananas to others. I get that.

I have two counter-arguments:

1. Men have had a quota system in place for 2,000 years. They have been handed bananas, many have been promoted above their skill sets – because there was no-one else there. The other half of the potential work population was elsewhere, fulfilling their “biological destiny”. There was no competition.

It’s time for some reciprocity.

2. The only way to fight the patriarchy is to break it. The system will never change unless there is radical action and the only radical action I can see that will enforce and inscribe change is the introduction of quotas.

I am South African, and for the last 18 years, South Africa has had a radical system of affirmative action to counteract the injustices of apartheid that privileged white people over black people. People weren’t going to hand over jobs out of the goodness of their hearts. It had to be systematic.

It’s the same with gender. We can talk diversity until we are blue in the face, but until there is systematic change – a quota – the patriarchy will continue to feed itself the bananas.


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Working and Raising a Family

Why Women Still Can’t Have It All by by Anne-Marie Slaughter might just be the best article on the topic of working and raising a family that I have ever read. Read it! (It’s long.)

Here’s one of many quotable quotes:

The best hope for improving the lot of all women, and for closing what Wolfers and Stevenson call a “new gender gap”—measured by well-being rather than wages—is to close the leadership gap: to elect a woman president and 50 women senators; to ensure that women are equally represented in the ranks of corporate executives and judicial leaders. Only when women wield power in sufficient numbers will we create a society that genuinely works for all women. That will be a society that works for everyone.

Hat tip to Rachel Happe, whose own post is not shabby.

ETA: Slater’s article seems to be going viral. I’m seeing links to it everywhere, which means it has touched a nerve. Here are a couple of posts from my blogroll:

Why women can’t have it all, why they’re not to blame and how we can make it better by lovely Aussie feminist blogger Bluemilk

Where in the world can women have it all? by Expat Writer Chantal

The ever-fabulous Twisty goes for the jugular.

My good friend Courtney is very thoughtful about That Article.

The lovely Belgian Waffle, now of Ireland.


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2011 in First Lines

It is traditional here at Charlotte’s Web to review the past year in blogging by posting the first lines from the first post of every month. Having scrolled through my 2011 posts, one thing is clear to me: life took over from blogging this year. After moving house in January, I spent many long hours revising Balthasar’s Gift, many hours pounding the pavements training for the Mannheim team marathon, many hours planning and giving two weekend-long creative writing workshops at Heidelberg University and then, in July, starting a six-month job posting at one of my customers replacing someone out on maternity leave. It was quite a year!

January: So I’ve reviewed my goals for 2010 and found them to be good.  Ten Things for 2011

February: One of the most appealing things about Germany is its cafe society; places where you can nurse a coffee, read a book and watch the world go by.  Cafe Society

March: Today is the anniversary of the death of Herbert James Downs, who was murdered in South Africa a few weeks after his 100th birthday.  In Memory of Herbert James Downs

April: Life has taken over from blogging – nothing serious, but an accumulation of things over the past three months that have left me exhausted.   Hiatus

May: May is turning out to be quite the month chez moi, which means my presence here at Charlotte’s Web will continue to be vague, scattered and somewhat erratic.  May Madness

June: While reading to the creative writing students about voice this weekend, I found myself getting a little choked up.  More on Voice

July: I’ve just come back from a week in Mallorca, having found its quiet, laid-back corner (it still exists) and am feeling horizontal.  Feeling Horizontal

August:  So I’m back in full time work for the first time this century, and I am loving it.  Three Things I Love about Work

September: Still loving work, so that’s a good thing.  On Women and Work

October: My grandmother was not only an angel, but she was more than a little fey. Survival Skills

November:  My life has changed exponentially – and for the better – since I re-entered the working world. What Feminist Motherhood Means to Me (Now)

December: The theme of today’s World AIDS Day is ‘Getting to Zero’ (zero new infections; zero discrimination; zero AIDS-related deaths)’.    World AIDS Day 2011 – Are There Any Good News Stories?

What was your 2011 like?