The Guardian: How cycling helped women on the road to rights

Recently, an old black-and-white photo appeared on my Twitter feed. It showed an effigy of a woman riding a bicycle being dangled out of a second-floor window while crowds of young men rallied in the street below. With it, Cambridge students were protesting the proposed admission of women to the university in 1897.

This week is National Bike Week – a chance to celebrate the humble bicycle. And among the many reasons to do so, perhaps the one most often overlooked is the key role it played in the women’s liberation movement; to the Cambridge protesters, a woman on a bicycle represented changing times.

…Read the full article here on the Guardian website.

Prospect: Is Roe v Wade still viable?

In 1969, a 21-year-old Texan woman named Norma McCorvey fell pregnant for the third time. McCorvey had led a deeply sad life, repeatedly the victim of domestic and sexual violence. She had her first child at the age of 18, the result of an abusive relationship, but soon lost custody of the child. A year later she became pregnant again and gave the child up for adoption. This third time she was determined not to see the pregnancy through. But in 1969 Texas still banned abortions, except in cases where the mother’s life was at risk.

McCorvey turned to two lawyers, Linda Coffee and Sarah Weddington, for help. They took her case to court on the grounds that the Texan ban breached the 14th amendment of the United States constitution, which protects citizens’ right to privacy against state action. It became one of the most famous Supreme Court cases in history: Roe v Wade…

… Read the full article on here on the Prospect magazine website.

The Telegraph: Meet the ‘digital nun’ – the Sister funding her monastery through her apps

She’s a web and app developer with 15,000 followers on Twitter. She produces podcasts, YouTube videos and e-books and runs a selection of websites and blogs. And she does all this from the small rural monastery where she lives as a Catholic nun.

I first heard about Sister Catherine Wybourne when I stumbled across her LinkedIn profile last month while researching religious communities. A “Benedictine nun and web developer” was not what I had been expecting to find. The prioress of the Holy Trinity Monastery in Herefordshire, which she helped to found in 2004, she now leads a mostly self-sufficient life there with just one other nun, Sister Lucy, and a dog named Brother Duncan. But running a monastery requires income and – while nuns elsewhere bring in money by making soaps or jams – Sister Catherine has established a professional web design and maintenance service, offering everything from hosting to content management to social media integration, which goes by the name of “Veilnet”. I had to find out more.

To read the full article, published by The Telegraph on 5th April 2015, click here.

The Telegraph: Why are 95% of the world’s prisoners men?

There are 84,731 people in prison in Britain and according to the latest figures, 80,915 of them are men. Less than five per cent of this country’s prison population is female, and the trend is similar elsewhere in the western world. In France, it’s about three per cent; in Germany, just under six. The global median is 4.3 per cent, according to figures from the International Centre for Prison Studies. You can find all sorts of trends by analysing the demographics of the prison population that might tell us something about the groups most likely to offend, at least at a level warranting incarceration, but perhaps the most striking and persistent is that serious crime is still overwhelmingly committed by men.

The discrepancy is not quite so stark when looking at lower-level crimes, because when women do participate in crime they tend to commit less serious offences. But the gap still exists at all levels: in 2011, men accounted for about three-quarters of all criminal court cases and out-of-court disposals (warnings, cautions and so on).

…Read the full article here on The Telegraph website.

Prospect: I’d defend a woman’s right to parade down the street naked if she wanted to – but Page 3 is sexist

Defenders of Page 3—and there are many, many women among their ranks—tend to argue that true feminism supports the right of women to do whatever they want. The feminist movement, they say, is about ensuring that women have choices, not dictating what those choices should be. If men are silly enough to pay women to take their clothes off, then the joke is on them—women are more than happy to oblige and rake in the modelling fees.

This understanding of feminism is widespread. Responding to criticisms from Bette Midler, for example, Ariana Grande described feminism as “women being able to do whatever the F they [want] without judgement.” And talking about Miley Cyrus, writer Catherine Hakim told BBC Radio 4 that: “There’s absolutely no contradiction at all between being a feminist and taking your clothes off… She’s using it for her own purposes, she’s increasing her fan base, she’s making a lot of money, she’s doing what she wants to do.”

…Read the full article here on the Prospect website.

Prospect: Should drinking while pregnant be a crime?

Drinking alcohol to excess while pregnant is “on all fours with manslaughter.” That is the view of lawyers currently involved in a criminal injuries compensation claim at the Court of Appeal, on behalf of a child with foetal alcohol spectrum disorder, an umbrella term for developmental problems caused by maternal drinking. A ruling in favour of the claimant would involve the court accepting that the girl’s alcoholic mother committed a crime under the Offences Against the Person Act.

Although a test case in the UK, this is not the first accusation of its kind. From the classical period through to the present day, mothers have often found themselves in the firing line when children are stillborn or suffer from disabilities—whether it is her negative thoughts or bad posture, her diet or the condition of her womb that is thought to have caused it.

…Read the full article here on the Prospect website.

Prospect: The war widows of Afghanistan

Afghanistan has one of the highest proportions of widows in the world compared with the size of its population. Three decades of conflict—from the Soviet invasion to the war on terror—have left millions of women without husbands, alone in a country that does not treat widows kindly, and where few women are literate or have ever worked outside the home. The average age of an Afghan widow is 35, according to a UN estimate.

Nobody knows how many widows there really are in Afghanistan, but in 2006 the UN estimated there were at least two million, at a time when the entire female population numbered roughly 13m. Women who have lost their husbands see their already limited personal freedoms fall further, since widows are considered to be bad omens in Afghan culture. Options for remarriage are limited: it is sometimes possible for a widow to marry a relative of her late husband, but if she chooses to remarry outside the family she can lose custody of her children.

…Read the full article here on the Prospect website.

Prospect: What’s wrong with Entrepreneur Barbie

Barbie. The feminist’s nemesis, long-accused of playing a role in—or at least failing to combat—the hyper-sexualisation and prevalence of body image issues among young girls; a toy that encourages children to buy into gender stereotypes. There’s been a princess Barbie; a bride Barbie; a rather controversial Barbie wearing a leather leotard and fishnets; even a talking Barbie who, in 1992, declared that, “Math class is tough” and “Meet me at the mall!”

But there’s more to Barbie than a shopaholic bride: she has now had 150 different careers, including presidential candidate (above, second left) and astronaut (above, far right). Latest to join the party is Entrepreneur Barbie, launched this week with the billboard pictured above, a LinkedIn profile and hashtag, #unapologetic. Some commentators have lauded this as a step in the right direction for Barbie-makers Mattel. I’m not so sure, since I’ve spotted a few problems with the high-flying Barbies featured in their advert.

…Read the full article here on the Prospect website.

Prospect: Should we hold elections on the weekend?

There has been a lot of talk about the low voter turnout at last week’s EU and local elections. With a showing of 36 per cent, according to EU figures—significantly lower than the European average of 43.1 per cent—roughly two-in-three UK adults didn’t cast their vote. There are many factors contributing to this, but in the context of a longer-term fall in voter turnout it has led to calls for the introduction of online voting to make it easier and more accessible.

Eventually, it seems, the process will go this way—some countries are already working on introducing online voting—although there are concerns about fraud and anonymity that still need to be addressed. The Electoral Commission, the UK election watchdog, has suggested a number of other measures that could help, such as allowing voters to use any polling station within their constituency and introducing US-style same-day registration for those who have not registered to vote in advance.

…Read the full article here on the Prospect website.

Prospect: Are peace talks the priority for Israel and Palestine?

Since the Israel-Palestine peace talks finally collapsed, the two sides have been engaged in a blame game. Was it the fault of the Israelis, who failed to freeze settlement construction and reneged on a promise to release Palestinian prisoners? Or was it the Palestinians? They, too, broke an agreement to halt unilateral action when they applied for membership of 15 international conventions—signaling that they might attempt to seek international recognition of statehood as a way of side-stepping the talks—and then struck a surprise deal with Hamas, a group that does not recognise Israel, which would see a unity government leading Palestine.

Amid all the finger-pointing, relations continue to deteriorate. In an interview with The Independent over the weekend, Yasser Abed Rabbo, a senior official in the Palestine Liberation Organisation, said that if Israel continues to “undermine agreements… through continuous settlement activity, and lately though destroying the peace process, they are paving the way for the destruction of what remains of our relationship,” threatening to freeze cooperation with Israeli security operations in the West Bank. Meanwhile, US Secretary of State John Kerry appears to be hoping that talks may be resumed after a hiatus.

…Read the full article here on the Prospect website.