Religion, Politics, Culture Shock

As a transplanted American in the UK, it’s very clear to me how different these supposedly similar cultures are.  And nowhere is this more obvious than with issues of religion and politics.  I thought I’d share a bit of that with you (especially perhaps the Americans).  Back in the US, Republican Presidential candidate Mitt Romney has been declaring, in a widely praised speech, that “freedom requires religion”.  Over here, in the country that actually does have an official state religion:

    Tony Blair has reported that he never felt he could discuss his religious beliefs because he’d sound like a “nutter”.
    The new leader of the 3rd party, the Liberal Democrats* has mentioned publicly that he’s an atheist.  On the BBC radio report I listened to, the Archbishop of Canterbury and Michael Portillo were interviewed. The Archbishop of Canterbury says he doesn’t think anyone should care about this.  Michael Portillo, a former Conservative Cabinet member, now sort of an elder statesman, says he thinks the only people one should worry about are the ones with really strong religious convictions. (He does worry about atheists who are intolerant of believers, but makes it clear he doesn’t take Clegg to be such.)***
    *Yes, they’re called the “LIBERAL DEMOCRATS”! And that’s not the reason they don’t win the big elections– a key reason for that is that they’re seen as too middle class. **
    **Yes, TOO MIDDLE CLASS, an inconceivability in US politics.
    ***Not enough culture shock yet?  How about the fact that Portillo has admitted to having had gay sex, and NOBODY REALLY CARED.

Enjoy the culture-shock!  And, just to add yet another twist, in the UK everyone seems to say “Happy Christmas” to everyone else, without any thought that it’s odd e.g. for one Jew to say this to another.  At first I thought this must mean a real assumption that everyone’s Christian.  Now it seems much more like it doesn’t occur to people that there could be such a presupposition involved in the greeting.  (Maybe kind of like atheists saying “bless you” when someone sneezes.)  So, hey, Happy Christmas!  (Nope, still doesn’t feel right to me.)


World March of Women

In “Globalization and Political Change in the Women’s Movement: The Politics of Scale and Political Empowerment in the World March of Women” (my stress) by Dufour and Giraud in the Social Science Quarterly for Dec2007, we are told

The WMW is a transnational collective action that integrates women from grassroots organizations, labor unions, and leftist political parties in over 150 countries (approximately 6,000 groups) into a process of transnationalization of solidarities.

The article is about the European presence and tactics of the WMW.

Going on my own lack of knowledge, I could be worried that a very great deal of news about women’s important political actions world-wide are left unmentioned in the US and English press. In this particular case, the web presence of the WMW is also not much, a fairly quick look on google indicates. Still less is there much recent.

The WMW movement appears to have originated in  Quebec and there is a big Canadian site.   I did find a WMW blog from Pakistan, which also mentioned WMW protests in India over the action in Pakistan; a blog from Ecuador has a letter from the International Secretariat of the WMW, and so on. 

What I am wondering is whether it is right to suspect a general lack of knowledge among some groups of feminists about such international movements.  If so, are these  largely English-speaking feminists?  Is the language or the press creating an insularity?  Is there a kind of passive censorship, with international feminists movements being of so little interest to the media that we never read about them?

Another possibility, I suppose, given the seeming lack of web presence, is that the movement lacks some of the resources to create a more formal media presence.

 If the insularity is largely mine alone, I’m be happier about the situation!

‘Tis the season

For last minute job-market panic.  If anyone would like some last minute advice, feel free to ask in the comments thread here.  We can’t make the job market a good, sane place where people are treated as well as they deserve.  But we can try to give some advice on how to cope with the way it actually is.  So do feel free to ask, and we’ll try!  My big tip for anyone on the job market:  get *away* from the damn hotel.  Spend as little time as possible hanging out with all the other incredibly stressed people who are trying to impress.   Go to a museum, go for a walk, do *anything* other than hang out at that hotel.

Proposed reform of Scotland’s rape laws

It’s an easy life (relatively speaking) if you are a sex criminal in Scotland. Want to rape someone without being prosecuted as a rapist? No problem – since rape is defined as the penetration of the vagina by the penis, simply pick an alternative object, an alternative orifice, or just bugger a man. If you don’t fancy a struggle, there is an even easier way. It’s only rape in Scotland if she has explicitly refused (or her refusal is implied, e.g., if you have to bash her around beforehand). So pick some nice girl in a pub, then ply her with booze until she passes out unconscious. Unless she told you earlier that she wasn’t up for sex – and someone else heard her tell you and is willing to stand up in court and say so – you’re home and dry! (If only other crimes were treated similarly – ‘It wasn’t theft, officer! He didn’t say I couldn’t take his car!’ )

Unfortunately for sex criminals, this happy state of affairs may not continue for much longer, because legal types in Scotland have unveiled proposals for reform. The changes will make it possible to rape a man. They will also redefine ‘against someone’s will’ to mean lack of consent, rather than presence of refusal. Furthermore, they will spell out various scenarios where consent cannot be given, which include, when the person is unconscious. (If having sex with inert bodies is your thing, then you might be better off just investing in a good quality sex doll.) Also, if the reforms go through and you happen to find yourself up in court on rape charges, just claiming ‘she said I could’ won’t cut it – you’ll have to explain to the court what you did to ascertain whether or not she was up for it. A small suggestion: maybe just ask politely next time you meet a lady and want to take her home to your bed.

CFP: Global Gender Justice

We seem to be all about the CFPs these days!  Tis the season, I guess.  This one’s got a deadline coming up soon! 

Call for papers: Global Gender Justice Symposium

The Gender Justice Research Community at George Mason University is sponsoring a one-day Global Gender Justice symposium to be held April 17, 2008 on the Fairfax campus of George Mason University.  The keynote speaker will be Chilean poet, essayist, and human rights activist Marjorie Agosin, winner of numerous awards for both her human rights work and her literary achievements. We seek proposals for papers and creative works on any topic related to human rights and gender in a global framework, with an eye toward fostering interdisciplinary discussions of issues that might include genocidal rape as a human rights violation, the impact of war on women andchildren, women and the worldwide peace movement, gender and humanrights activism, and others.  We currently envision 15-minute presentations by individual participants, but welcome proposals forother formats, particularly when necessary for collaborative and/or creative presentations.  Further information about this symposium is available here.Send 300-word proposals and one-page curriculum vita to Dr. Tamara Harvey or English Dept.,George Mason University, 4400 University Dr., MS 3E4, Fairfax,VA  22030) by January 15, 2008. 

CFP: Multiculturalism and Feminism

‘Multiculturalism and Feminism’, the 2008 International Association of Women Philosophers Conference, will be held at Ewha Women’s University in Seoul on 27-29 July 2008.The deadline for submissions has been extended to 28 December 2007.Abstracts of 3-500 words should be submitted online here, where further information about the conference and the theme are also available. Note the IAPh conference is timed to precede the 22nd World Congress ofPhilosophy, taking place in Seoul from July 30 to August 5th 2008. Further information about the World Congress can be found here.

CFP: Embodiment and Identity

Embodiment and Identity: Call for papers

SWIP UK conference hosted by the Centre for Research into Embodied Subjectivity, Philosophy, and the Centre for Gender Studies, University of Hull, May 22–23 2008.

Keynote Speaker: Linda Alcoff

This conference aims to explore the role the body plays in constituting aspects of our individual and social identity. The claim that biology fixes identity has been hotly contested in recent decades, but its apparent abandonment has led to intense theoretical debate over the role of the body in constituting both individual subjectivity and categories of social identity. We will be focusing particularly on gendered, cultural and racial identity, disability and identity, and identities reached by degrees of bodily modification. In each case attention will be paid to the role of social others in constituting the meaning and recognition bestowed on bodily physiognomies. The common assumption that such categories of identity are required for social participation, political agency and constructions of subjectivity, will be subjected to critical scrutiny.

Papers are welcome on any aspect of embodiment and/or identity, (including; “raced” identities, “cultured” bodies, diasporic and transcultural identity, hybridity, disability and the body, trans-sexuality, bodily integrity, body dysmorphia, identity and recognition, materiality and the body, imaginary bodies).

Confirmed Speakers

Linda AlcoffProfessor of Philosophy, Political Science, and Women’s Studies , Syracuse University (website)

Dr. Lois McNaySomerville College, Oxford (website)

Dr Jackie ScullyNewcastle University (website)

Dr. Margrit ShildrickQueens University, Belfast (website)

Dr.Simone GiordanoManchester University (website)


Abstracts should be sent to Stella Gonzalez Arnal by 18 February 2008. Contributors will be informed if their abstracts are accepted by 3 March 2008.

If you wish to discuss possible proposals or other aspects of the conference you can also contact other members of the organising committee: Gill JaggerMinae InaharaKathleen Lennon;  Sue Walsh.


And do note:  Anyone can submit papers to this conference.  Paper-giving SWIP-UK is now open to all


Appalling comments on rape

From former Conservative cabinet member John Redwood: 

Former Tory cabinet minister John Redwood was condemned by victim support groups last night after he said the government was wrong to regard “date rape” as seriously as assaults by strangers.
Redwood said that Labour’s “doctrine of equivalence” had “led to jury scepticism about many rape claims” and added: “Young men do not want to have to take a consent form and a lawyer on a date.”

It will be very interesting to see the reaction of Redwood’s party leader, David Cameron, who has been rather more impressive on the issue. (Thanks for letting us know about this, Ross!)

“Cool last minute gifts?”

Filed under:  I don’t think so.

Mmmwah. Outrageous Warhol lips make the party circuit. Fun melamine appe-teasers offer a taste of 15 minutes of fame. Embossed artist’s signature on the back. Images courtesy of the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts.
• Pop art “Lips” by Andy Warhol serve appetizers with style
• Great for parties
• Heat-resistant
• Top-rack dishwasher-safe

I.e., these are small plates.

This product comes from cb2, which it considered a “really cool store”, my young New York friends say, though just about everything said like that is ironic.  Fortunately.