Thoughts from the WOW festival

Kara shares her experience of International Women’s Day and the WOW festival

March has been a fantastic feminist power week so far with the Women’s March, International Women’s Day, the Sex/Work strike and the WOW (Women of the World) festival at the Southbank.   

During this period, I have been fortunate to hear some fantastic and inspiring women speaking. What strikes me amidst all the shuddering awfulness of our current situation with Trump, Weinstein, the pay gap etc, is the resilience and brilliance of my fellow sisters. We still laugh even when we are angry.

I wonder when we are going to stop letting our politeness stop our progress. I definitely feel the pressure to confirm, smooth over to maintain the status quo. Since being a child, I have felt compelled to be polite, go with the flow and not create ripples. However, after this intense week of joining with other women, hearing from other women and seeing some truly kick-ass protest signs I am feeling more empowered and confident to push against and work to begin to change our society for the better. Practical Woman is one way I see myself able to take action as well as calling out sexist attitudes and behaviour where I come across it.

The theme of Mirth Control at the WOW festival was #artsovertit and the night explored the huge inequalities in the arts including sculpture, painting and conducting and composing music. Sandi Toksvig and other women challenged us to find a historic artist and find out about their lives and their works and then promote them. You will read who I have chosen in a future post.  

As I left WOW, I felt overwhelmed and deflated. There is still so much to do, and at times it seems completely impossible. I wondered what would happen to light the fire under us and make us do something but I am reassured by the messages of the last couple of weeks – #PressforProgress and #westrike etc.  

At Mirth Control Jude Kelly, the founder of the WOW festival and the Artistic Director of the Southbank Centre, discussed the situation abroad (such as Iran where it is illegal for women to sing in the street) and that whilst WOW has gone from strength to strength, her own personal experiences of people in positions of power holding her back is still accurate today. This was from her recent experience of speaking with women in Australia.

Kelly finished by saying that now is the time to put your foot on the accelerator, keep it down and keep pushing. Overall it felt like a sombre night with less laughter and more reflection on the state if the world and all the statistics and facts to show the reality as it is. One horrifying fact is that we have in fact increased the amount of time, by 47 years, that it will take to get equal representation in Government.

I like to think the millennials with their optimism and determination might be the ones to force change and I, for one, will be right by their side.  

 

 

Suffragettes and #March4Women

Sally Heathcote Suffragette graphic novel

Interested in learning more about the Suffragette movement? So were we.

We’ve been listening to a brilliant radio documentary on the BBC World Service called ‘The Lost World of the Suffragettes’ which we would recommend listening to on iPlayer. With #March4Women this Sunday, it gives us access to the voices of the Suffragettes to whom we owe so much. Fascinating.

Feeling in the mood for all things Suffragette, we have also borrowed the graphic novel, Sally Heathcote Suffragette from the library. Have you read it? Review coming soon.

Interested in attending #March4Women on Sunday 4 March? Sign up on at careinternational.org.uk. We are starting at Millbank, SW1 at 12noon ending at Trafalgar Square. Hope to see you there! 

Who is Lottie Dod?

Lottie Dod age20

We first found out about Lottie Dod as an answer in Trivial Pursuit (spoiler alert!). When we looked in to her more, we discovered that Lottie was really rather awesome. Born in 1871, Lottie was Wimbledon Ladies’ Singles Champion five times! She was only 15 years old when she won the first time –  the youngest woman ever.

In her career, Dod tried her hand at many different sports and excelled in all of them. She won the British Ladies Amateur Golf championship, the Silver medal in Archery at the 1908 Olympics and co-founded the England women’s national Field Hockey team. If that’s not enough, Dod is named as the most versatile female athlete of all time in the Guinness Book of Records!

We’re incredibly impressed at how much Dod did for raising people’s awareness of women’s capabilities in the sporting world.  If you are interested in getting more involved in sports, visit UK Sport or Women in Sport.

PS. Did you know our founder Kara is also a Guinness Record holder!?

Guiness Book of World Records certificate

 

Sisters before Misters

Kara Bird and Emma Halford-Busby

Our female friends are awesome. I’m sure yours are the same. We support each other, offer sympathy, talk through problems and can always be relied upon to be in each other’s corner. See Galentine’s Day

When I hear about women competing for a man (as if there aren’t enough of them to go around!) or being hyper critical of another woman’s dress sense or shape, I feel so sad. The world can be tough enough without us hurting each other for NO REASON! Whatever the woman looks like is really none of our business. The time spent being critical is taking up time that could be spent being happy or doing kind things for the people you love. Life is too short to spend precious time thinking ultimately negative and worthless thoughts. We are so much better.  

Sisterhood and its magic are going to have pride of place at the upcoming Practical Woman workshops where we will spend some time appreciating each other and thinking of ways we can do more.  

And finally, wouldn’t it be fabulous if one day it could be better and rather than sisters before misters or bros before hoes (ugh!) it could instead be sisters and misters banishing the hateful term ‘hoes’ forever.

“Howard made it very clear that my allegiance should be to male comrades before women who sell their bodies for money.”

The Big Bang Theory

 

Women and Power

FrA Book for Her by Bridget Christieom our founder, Kara Bird

If you are following me on social media, you’ll already know that I’m devouring and thoroughly enjoying Bridget Christie’s ‘A Book for Her’. In it, Christie has summed up a powerful concept I’m been thinking about recently. Women and Power. Especially the difference between power perceived by one-upwomanship/status and actual power.

The women who claim power through coquettish behaviour (by pretending to be weaker, stupider and useless to irritate women around them and play into men’s alpha male side), claiming honorary male status (“I’m one of the boys”) or are overly harsh against other women (“Beyoncé is not a feminist even though she identifies as one” or engages in fat talk with others and/or is critical of other women and the shape of their bodies).  

Women with actual power (Michelle Obama, Sandi Toksvig, Aung San Suu Kyi) don’t need a man to authenticate it. They are doing what they are doing and achieving change without a man in sight! Except of course in a supportive, relationship, husband case scenario see President Obama.

And those with power should try and tackle issues that discriminate against women not just highlight them:

Theresa may - This is not what a feminist looks like t-shirtImage from Workers Solidarity Movement

And please remember all the women who say, ‘I’m not a feminist but…’ that we wouldn’t be able to keep our wages, have birth control, go into education, vote and not be raped by our husbands if it wasn’t for the feminists campaigning for equality before us. You can fit feminism into your own life however you wish, there are no rules.

We all just believe in equality for everyone irregardless of gender, class, ethnicity, and disability

If you have lots to say about this area and would like to discuss it with friends please look out for the Practical Woman workshops. Specific dates will be announced soon but I can let you know now that they are going to take place in January 2018! In the meantime, please read Bridget Christie’s book. She tackles this area and much more around subjects that matter to all of us. Screw the haters go be powerful in the world today using your brains, guts, and determination, you can do it!

Campaigning for change

Pride in London 2016 - Enthusiastic members of the Women's Equality Party in Trafalgar Square

Image by Katy Blackwood [CC BY-SA 4.0], Wikimedia Commons

“Be the change that you wish to see in the world.” Mahatma Gandhi

In these uncertain times, it is easy to feel discouraged, powerless and apathetic. I urge you instead to make positive steps in living your ideals. I have never been part of so much optimistic action nor felt so much fantastic energy directed towards positive change as now. From protesting against Sainsbury’s dropping their adherence to the independent Fairtrade label to campaigning for positive change in government so many people are standing up and asking to be counted.

I have been on two protests in the last month and have seen for myself how many people are animated, passionate and gearing for change.  If you want to campaign for change, there are many things you can do, most of them do mean getting up and joining with others who feel the same way as you.

Where do I start?

A good place to start is to sign and share a change.org petition you feel passionate about or by contacting your MP.

You could also watch the wonderful Josie Long on the BBC for inspiration.

Now is also the time to talk to neighbours or family members who might have different views. Talking can help you understand their perspective a bit better and maybe find a common ground.

“We are far more united and have far more in common with each other than that which divides us.”
Jo Cox

Boxing isn’t just for blokes

Nicola AdamsImage by Andy Miah on Flickr. CC BY-NC 2.0

From Kara Bird, founder of Practical Woman

I like to think that I have the love of boxing in my blood. My dad boxed at school and my husband uses it for fitness and follows it with a passion. I am a fan and have enjoyed watching it on TV for years.

My early days of loving watching Manny Pacquiao boxing has been joined by lots of other fantastic boxers such as Luke Campbell, Carl Froch, Deontay Wilder and, of course, the champion Anthony Joshua. I think he really brings grace and humility to the sport which I think increases its appeal to women. No longer thuggish and ear biting I now can see it as a sport, an Olympic sport.

Not to forget the rising prominence of women entering the ring. Nicola Adams and Katie Taylor are showing how women can also get involved and be taken seriously with the support and admiration of people like Steve Bunce, Tony Bellew and promoter Eddie Hearn.

So it was with shock and dismay that I made my first dalliance into watching a live boxing match at the Copper Box in Stratford last Saturday. Three quarters into the night a fight broke out which escalated as scores had to be settled. I could see from my seat dozens of men brawling. It carried on for some time and seemed to be uncontained with the staff unable to curb the fighting frenzy. Thankfully, I think this was rare and  hopefully was a one-off. As Bridget Christie says in her fab book ‘A Book for Her’:

“Male dominated, testosterone-drive environments aren’t that appealing to women.’

If this occurrence became regular it would drive boxing back decades appealing to primarily macho, alpha, drunks intent on hurting people. This would be a massive shame and hold back boxing’s appeal to new audiences including women, children and men.

I suggest they come down hard on the offenders/thugs and ban them from the venue much like, I hear, football stadiums indeed whole countries have with football. I wish the authorities luck and hope for success so I can continue to enjoy the great sport.

Some of our most hated words: Are you beach body ready?

Are you beach body ready? advert. Image by Graham C99 on Flickr. CC BY 2.0
Image by Graham C99 on Flickr. CC BY 2.0

From Kara Bird, founder of Practical Woman

We are now well and truly at that time of the year when all media outlets scream at us to suddenly get fixated on our bodies. Are they nubile enough? Bald enough? Tanned enough? Toned enough? Etc etc. Please, enough already!

Am I beach body ready? Hell yeah! I am ready to go in the sea and have an ice-cream on the beach. What does it matter that I don’t look like Giselle? I will never be Giselle, I am Kara! What did Oscar Wilde say “Be yourself, everyone else is taken”

Did you know that most models would be seen as clinically underweight and two died in 2006 due to anorexia. There is strong societal pressure to lose weight and this is something that falls predominately at women’s doors. It is enough to make any woman crazy.

On the beach we are so preoccupied by having the sexy salty hair, dewy eyes, tanned legs and a six-pack (?!) that the media tells us we should have, that we can’t even relax and enjoy it.

It might take a while but I reject this manipulation of our emotions by businesses. I am fine the way I am and I’m going to have a good time and I hope you do too.

Screw the haters, you’re perfect!