Harrogate Feminists


A well-attended meeting!

We had another meeting at Community House tonight. It is such a great venue.

We had loads of great discussion. I can’t remember everything we talked about. But some things that stuck in my mind long enough to dig out the relevant links:

1. An anecdote of a talented teenager who could have what it takes to be a stand-up comedian but wouldn’t on the grounds that “women aren’t funny”. Why is it still acceptable to say “women aren’t funny” / “women aren’t witty” / “women can’t be stand-up comics”? It’s wrong, anyway – we could all think of women comics we like.

But there is something in it, in a way: women laugh more at men’s jokes than vice versa. There is a “laughter reinforcing social hierarchies” theory discussed further in this Google Book.

2. Apparently one in ten men pays for sex. Why? We also talked about Eaves, and coincidentally it turns out Eaves has produced a report on this very question. Happy reading…

And the next meeting: Monday 12th September 7.30pm Community House – is this OK for most people?

Because in August it’s the UK Feminista Summer School: should be lots of fun!

Flyer for the UK Feminista Summer School 2011

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Top 5 Things That Piss You Off About The Patriarchy – please!
April 25, 2011, 10:59 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , ,

We’ve had a fair few responses to our last email.

The most common question was “But where is Community House?” This is fair enough – I didn’t know myself until I went to that Social Media surgery.

So it’s here, 46/50 East Parade in Harrogate. There is disc parking on the street outside until 6pm – i.e. anyone can park on the road after 6pm, as long as there’s a space. The main entrance on the corner is usually closed after 5pm – so to get to the meeting rooms, you go down East Parade (on the right and past where the cars are parked on that picture I just linked to), down the little passageway at the side of the building and then it’s the door on your left.

They are going to charge us a small fee for use of the room, but it’s very reasonable given how nice the room is.

Regarding what next for the group: one comment we had was “we probably have the same burning issues.” But do we? I think we need to discuss this! What we need from everyone involved in the group, is your Top 5* Things That Piss You Off (from a feminist perspective).

Whether it’s seemingly trivial, or a frequently-discussed topic on the “Today” programme, isn’t important – what matters is that it matters to you, a group member. Drop us an email and let us know!

*or 3, or 10, or 1…

Addendum: Wikipedia, feminist websites and anthropologists all have their own idea of what patriarchy is; I’m using it here to emphasise that I’m talking about our society generally rather than any particular person, organisation or policy.



How many girls do A-level physics?

How many girls do A-level physics? This was the question I asked as we chose a secondary school for our daughters in the early eighties.  The best answer was “only three, but we’re working on it.”  Yes, that was the best answer!

I talked about this at the meeting on 21 March, and by coincidence the next morning it was a topic for discussion on Woman’s Hour.  The good news: everyone took it seriously.  The bad news: many of the problems that I encountered in the fifties, and then again in the eighties, were still there.

Maths seen as too difficult, teachers unsympathetic to problems, unfeminine image, very few role models or fellow-students.

As often happens in teaching, quite small changes can make a difference.  “Make sure the boys don’t hog the practical”, said one teacher.

Science education for girls and women?  Perhaps a future discussion topic?

– by Val Smith



The group gets bigger

We met again (with a record number of people in attendance!) to talk about the event A Celebration of Women, and to think about what we want to do next.

Good things about the event were:

  • it had a lovely “buzzy” atmosphere;
  • it was (as far as we know) the only event in Harrogate celebrating International Women’s Day;
  • many of us found it inspirational from a creative point of view;
  • there was lots of networking, with the emphasis being on the people and their skills rather than solely on the products for sale;
  • it was particularly great to have Lesley Dalton and her sugarcraft demo / interactive activity;
  • it was also great to have some relevant charities represented, including Amnesty, the Gambia Schools Trust and Acorn.

Ceramics by Karen Fall

We are keen to run a similar event again next year. Things to think about next time, now that we have more people who can help organise it, include:

  • more extensive publicity in advance, using the networks of people we have built up this time round;
  • more live demonstrations
  • more interactive activities, including those for children (face painting, etc)
  • coffee and cakes if possible

As for what we want to do next – we discussed two complementary types of activity:

  • “activism” (perhaps building on our previous work on licensing of lap-dancing clubs; there were also ideas relating to promoting female role models, especially in traditionally male-dominated activities and occupations) – this would probably be on weeknights, once a month
  • “social” type activities such as book swap, film night, picnic etc. – this would probably be on weekends, again once a month

We also felt that we are starting to outgrow our current meeting venue. So we’re thinking about whether we can find somewhere else to meet that might be more suitable. We’re looking into this one and will post an update as soon as we get it sorted out.



Advice from a seasoned activist
February 7, 2011, 12:22 am
Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , ,

Yesterday I attended a Global Feminist Activism Workshop.

It was organised by Women for Women International. There was some discussion of what all the various local groups were doing for International Women’s Day; I had to admit that “bridges” sadly do not at present feature in our planned event… However – I am sure we can get a bridge in somehow…?

Anyway, all in all it was a really inspiring afternoon. There was a particularly good guest speaker, Dr Jocelynne Scutt, who had loads of interesting things to say.

Two things she said stuck in my mind.

Firstly, women who try to change things are often told “You are being too aggressive, instead you must learn to be assertive.” She said, firmly, that at least in the context of feminist activism she felt this was “a nonsense”. The distinction between “aggressive” and “assertive” often seems to depend purely on whether the person listening to you agrees with the views being expressed. The idea of the “aggressive women” has, of course, a massive stigma attached, whereas for a man it is often viewed more as a compliment. Go figure.

Secondly, if you do speak out and try to change things, there will always be people who have an interest in maintaining the status quo, or who just don’t like change, and these people can say negative things about what you’re doing. This is why it’s really important to build a network of supportive friends, colleagues and like-minded people whom you can talk things over with when things get tough.

I’ve also added a few interesting “global”-related links to our ever-growing list of relevant groups and organisations (on the left of this page – scroll down, and down…)



Notes from our last meeting

We met on Monday, 10th January and welcomed two new members to our group.

We ate biscuits, talked feminism, and got through lots of “business” too – including co-opting a chair, secretary and treasurer.

We talked about the results of our street harassment survey, which we’re going to post up on the website in full when all our members have had a chance to read the draft report properly. We also agreed to send the report to Harrogate District Community Safety Partnership when it’s finalised, and potentially also talk to Stray FM and the Harrogate Advertiser.

We talked about our draft constitution. We thought it was important to say somewhere that it’s fine for group members not to agree with each other, as long as they aren’t disruptive or derailing.

We talked about plans for our International Women’s Day event, on the afternoon of March 12th 2011, for which we have provisionally booked the Lower Hall of the Wesley Chapel in central Harrogate. The event will be called “A Celebration of Women” and we would like to invite women to share things they have made (arts, crafts… etc) as part of a celebration of women’s creativity. Amateurs and professionals will be equally welcome and nobody’s work will be judged against anyone else’s.

Our next meeting will be on Thursday 27th January, time and venue here.



Quick notes from Monday’s meeting

We had a really good meeting on Monday with lively discussion and lots of planning!

SEV legislation

Harrogate Borough Council Licensing Committee is going to hold a public meeting at the council offices at 5.30pm on 11th November, to discuss whether they will adopt the proposed SEV legislation locally. Incidentally, while writing this post tonight I saw that in their report they did note our suggested improvements to their draft policy, although they haven’t summarised the detailed arguments we’d produced in support of our suggestions. One of the lap-dancing clubs submitted their own response via their lawyers. All other responses the Licensing Committee received during the consultation period were in favour of adopting the new legislation, which is great news. Let’s hope they do decide to adopt it!

16 Days of Activism

We are supporting the following events during this year’s 16 Days of Activism:

  • Harrogate Soroptimists’ End Violence Against Women stall on Sat 27th November in Victoria Shopping centre (first floor, opposite Mothercare).
  • Leeds Reclaim the Night march on Saturday 4th December.
  • DoH communications campaign on Violence against Women and Children – aimed both at members of the public and at those working in healthcare.

International Women’s Day 2011

In 2011, we would like to hold our own event, A Celebration of Women, to mark International Women’s Day (8th March) in its centenary year – to take place in Harrogate, probably either on the Saturday before or the Saturday after. We’re working on the details! For interest, see here for events organised by other UK groups in previous years…

Also, we reckon we need to have a constitution and a bank account, as currently we have No Funds Whatsoever, which is a bit inconvenient when planning an event… so we are going to get this sorted soon.

Next meeting – 22nd November – see “Meetings” for more details.