Harrogate Feminists


Because I Am A Girl

The charity Plan has a campaign called Because I Am A Girl – aiming to make sure girls in every country can access a quality education.

Their latest report is here – highly recommended.

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B(l)og humour
July 11, 2011, 11:42 pm
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Further to our discussions on humour: this is an entertaining blog post, or should we say bog post…

Actually, it’s well worth browsing through some of the other articles on that site – there’s some interesting content there, much of it relating to gender issues.



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



Embracing our inner surgeons
April 21, 2011, 8:39 pm
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On Monday Laura and I went to a Harrogate Social Media Surgery.

I was slighly taken aback by being asked on my arrival Are you a surgeon or a patient?

Gosh, I thought, I know the NHS is supposed to be moving to provide cheaper care closer to patients’ homes but is it really necessary now to set up operating theatres in Community House?

If I’d done my prep, of course, I’d have known that a surgeon is simply somebody who knows more about social media than you.

Well, that makes almost everybody in Harrogate a surgeon, I thought, as I don’t know the first thing about social media.

Having realised with some relief that I wasn’t about to be booked in for a quick appendicectomy, I settled down with a cup of tea and some chocolate cake in front of a laptop, all ready to discover the mysteries of Facebook and Twitter.

I have to confess to still being none the wiser about Facebook or Twitter, however, as it quickly became clear that the limiting factor in our engagement with modern technology was not so much an innate inability to navigate social media, as a rather lax attitude on our part to approving comments, tweeting, and all that 24/7 always-on stuff.

So – We’ve decided to embrace our inner surgeons.  As women we’ve been socialised into taking a passive role in all sorts of situations, but the whole point of this group is that we want to do something, however tiny, to change things. And the conviction that we can do something is the first step along that path.

Watch this space.



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
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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…)