Amber E. Kinser’s Motherhood and Feminism

History of motherhood starting at industrial revolution. In many ways, it is a ‘basic’ history of motherhood in the US. Or, at least, it should be a basic history but Kinser traces more than the usual history of white middle class women with its focus on Victorian values, Betty Friedan and the myth of suburbia. Instead, Kinser traces the real history of motherhood looking at how issues of class, race and homophobia/lesbophobia challenge the dominant discourses of motherhood.

Her inclusion of the history of reproductive rights and mothering of Chicana and African-American women is a much needed addition to the feminist movements understanding of history and the complexities of real reproductive justice in a culture where racism and classism create categories of good and bad mothers; which punishes women of colour for becoming mothers.

Kinser also examines radical feminist texts on motherhood and labels them as radical feminist. Usually these texts on women’s history and feminist theory try to erase the term radical feminist and situate women like Adrienne Rich and Audre Lorde out with their theoretical heritage. Shulamith Firestone is simply dismissed. Kinser writes about the history of motherhood as a patriarchal institutional and the challenges to it through an intersectional lens actually addressing issues of race, class, gender, and identities.

Five Wounds by @KatharineEdgar

I have had the absolute pleasure of reading various drafts of this book over the past two years. I started the first draft one evening and spent the following day half-asleep. The worst thing you can do when you have fibromyalgia is stay up late reading a book, but I simply couldn’t put it down as it melds all my favourite parts of literature: a brilliant, capable and feministy teenage heroine and historical accuracy.

5 Wounds is the comingof-age story of 15 year old Nan – a fiercely independent and headstrong young girl whose life changes drastically during a period of revolution and rebellion. Nan was sent sent to live in convent school following an unfortunate incident as a young child. This afforded her a level of freedom and education that many young girls of her class would never have experienced.

However, this is 1536 and the schism between Rome and Henry VIII has changed everything. Nan’s dreams of remaining in the convent and becoming a great Abbess are destroyed after Henry’s troops close the convent. Instead, Nan was bartered as a commodity and betrothed, rather unwillingly, to the much older and frequently married Lord Middleham. Nan’s father gains more land from this betrothal and Lord Middle ham a wife younger than his children. Nan’s Catholic faith, nurtured during her years living in a convent leads to her involvement in the Northern rebellion against Henry VIII during the Pilgrimage of Grace. Nan is forced to choose between her faith and her personal safety. Does she chose treason or eternal damnation?

The true strengths of Edgar’s writing are the character of Nan and the accuracy of the historical context of the Pilgrimage of Grace. Nan is alternately naive and brave, and her flawed choices reflect her optimism, faith and failure to understand the full consequences of rebellion. She is equally a child and an adult – limited by the constraints of her gender but freed by her desire to change the world.

Edgar’s love of history and the breadth of her research only adds to brilliance of the story. 5 Wounds precipitated one of my favourite historical discussion The Great Whether-Or-Not Noble Women Learned to Ride Normally Debate. I voted yes on the theory that noble daughters were valuable commodities and no sensible father would allow an expensive piece of property to remain incapable of escape from the numerous wars/ tantrums and general violence that defines European history.

I loved 5 Wounds. It was fast-paced, exciting and utterly brilliant. I can’t recommend it enough!

You can buy 5 Wounds from Amazon now.

Esther Freud’s Lucky Break

I have to admit here that I never heard of Esther Freud before getting a freecopy of this book from the Mumsnet [non-feminist] fiction book club. I have vague recollections of thinking that I might enjoy watching a Kate Winslet movie called Hideous Kinky but I don’t think I ever got around to actually watching it.

Clearly, this was a massive over-sight on my part since Lucky Break is fucking brilliant [and that’s not just because I’m still cranky about wasting my time reading the misogynist wankfest which was Paula McLean’s The Paris Wife last month]. It is well-written, funny, engaging with a host of characters that you might actually want to be friends with – as well as some men that should immediately put on the list of undateable wankers.Loved the fact that she left the ending open so I could choose their futures. It’s the only disappointing bit of Kris Radish’s The Elegant Gathering of White Snows. The epilogue was unnecessary and ruined my fun of deciding the happiness of the characters. I like the fact that Freud leaves us with an ending which isn’t really an ending. I like being able to believe that Jemma dumps the useless selfish narcissist Dan and waltzes off into her own successful career as a screen writer and actress with 4 children under ten in tow whilst he gets stuck playing a chicken in really bad ads which only air at 4 in the morning. Or, that Nell is actually the successful and incredible actress she deserves to be and finds a real partner and not the usual arsehat that successful actresses end up with in real life. I also hope she waltzes back to the “drama school” she attended and gets to make fun of the directors there who didn’t recognize the real talent when it was in front of them. I like the fact that I can believe that Charlie is finally happy with who she is instead of what she thinks should make her happy.
So, this is obviously an outstanding recommendation since it does deal with the issue of the “casting couch”; that lovely euphemism for the sexual exploitation of women within the industry and the total failure of the industry to take that exploitation seriously. It deals with being invisible for not being a “proper woman” and reading this in conjunction with Sheila Jeffries’ Beauty and Misogyny for FeMNist non-fiction book club this month was a real pleasure. They meshed so well with Freud demonstrating some of those very real harmful cultural practices outlined by Jeffries [and the suggestion of using spanx as rain gear is just genius].

Standing up for all women by WAPOW

I was not involved in the writing or research of this post. I am cross-posting it on my blog because I support the questions asked in this document.

Standing up for All Women:

Statement in response to London Young Labour Summer Conference

Motion 8

1. This statement has been written by a group of feminist women – including academics, activists and practitioners working directly with women who experience male sexual violence. We share an understanding that inequality between men and women is more than a matter of women needing “choices” – a profoundly conservative approach – but is instead about power; specifically the deep and structural power imbalance women face in a society still dominated by regressive notions of gender. In other words, we believe feminism should be as radical as socialism in seeking to end this imbalance, instead of treating women’s inequality, and some men’s exploitation of it, as inevitable.

2. We support the decriminalisation of those who sell sex; we recognise the variety of reasons why people, overwhelmingly women, would do this. By contrast, however, we do not support the decriminalisation of those, overwhelmingly men, who buy. Their entirely different motivations and attitudes, and crucially the risk that they pose to the women, manifestly mean that their role in the sex industry must be treated separately. We consider moves to conflate the two and decriminalise both to be an effort to legitimise the sex industry, instead of acknowledging that it is both a cause and a symptom of deeply-rooted, systemic normalisation of men’s sexual entitlement.

3. For this reason, although we support the decriminalisation of women who sell sex, we do not support this motion. Despite the title’s claim to be about the decriminalisation of selling sex, in reality the focus is much more on opposing the criminalisation of buying (also known as the Nordic model). We believe that committing London Young Labour to oppose the Nordic model, and thus to support the legitimacy of men buying sex, is the true intent of the motion, and that it is misleading and disingenuous.

4. We further believe there are significant flaws in the logic and evidence used to support this end, and we draw attention to these below.

5. Clause 1: “Sex work refers to escorting, lap dancing, stripping, pole dancing, pornography, webcaming, adult modelling, phone sex, and selling sex (on and off the street).”

6. It should be noted that despite this opening, the rest of the resolution refers, and brings evidence that pertains only to, prostitution – i.e. the so called “full service”, or full access to women’s bodies for the purposes of men’s sexual gratification. Women who sell sex in person are also the group most at risk of men’s violence, and the documented physical and mental health risks that ensue. It is disingenuous to have such a wide definition yet in fact only discuss one aspect of it.

7. Clause 2: In Clause 2, the motion concedes that “Selling sex is not illegal in the UK”. However, it continues: “but it is criminalised. Almost everything that sex workers do to stay safe is illegal.”

8. Firstly, this is a hyperbolic and generalised statement. As in all other prostitution regimes, it is local implementation that matters, and this varies depending on the prostitution politics in cities and regions. Furthermore, there is no country where there is no regulation, nor where there are no local variations in practices of police and other agencies.

9. The footnote to this statement reads: “Similar laws operate in Scotland, Wales & England. Prostitution (the exchange of sexual services for money) is not illegal, but associated activities (soliciting in a public place, kerb crawling, operating a brothel) are. The main laws around sex work in the UK are: the Vagrancy Act of 1824; the Sexual Offences Act of 1956 and the Street Offences Act of 1959 (England and Wales); the Burgh Police (Scotland) Act of 1892 and the Sexual Offences (Scotland) Act of 1976, Sexual Offences Act 2003, Policing and Crime Act 2009, Crime and Disorder Act 1998, Anti Social Behaviour Act 2002, Proceeds of Crime Act 2002.”

10. It is unclear from the text of the motion which specific provisions of this long list of legislation are to be repealed in order to achieve decriminalisation. A brief review of some of these laws reveals that:

The Vagrancy Act 1824 is almost entirely repealed and it is not clear which remaining clauses are meant.

The Sexual Offences Act 1956 criminalises abduction, incest, “unnatural acts” (repealed), living off the proceeds of prostitution and causing or encouraging prostitution of mentally disabled persons (in the language of the Act, “defectives”). One assumes that these are not things women do to “stay safe” in prostitution and therefore cannot be targeted by the motion.

The Act also criminalises the keeping of brothels and permitting premises to be used as brothels, which we infer is what the motion intends to criticise. It is however a debatable claim that indoor prostitution, or women working in parlours and brothels, is necessarily safer than outdoor or single-woman prostitution. Research conducted by Ulla Bjørndahl in Norway in 2012 has shown that women working indoors are seriously sexually assaulted and robbed by their clients more frequently than street workers (Bjørndahl, 2012, table 11). Indoor workers also reported higher incidence of abuse from a pimp (ibid, p. 15).

The Policing and Crime Act 2009 mostly deals with police procedure or co-operation, but among other things criminalises purchase of sex from persons subjected to force; again, this provision is surely not the target of repeal under decriminalisation, and more specific information is needed to support the assertion that “Almost everything that sex workers do to stay safe is illegal”.

The Sexual Offences Act 2003 mostly deals with sexual offences such as rape, incest and child abuse. There is a section criminalising trafficking and a section criminalising the solicitation by a person seeking to purchase sex from another in a public place. This provision does not criminalise women engaged in prostitution. The Act also elaborates in a minor way on the criminalisation of brothel keeping in the 1956 Act.

11. It is outside the scope of this document to conduct a thorough review of the law pertaining to prostitution; however even the partial examination above casts serious doubt on the idea that the effect of the legislation cited is to prevent activities designed to keep women “safe”. The only potential example that does emerge is brothel-keeping, but, as Bjørndahl’s research reveals, and as has been reported by exited campaigners such as Rachel Moran and Fiona Broadfoot from personal experience, brothels are not a reliable means of increasing women’s safety.

12. Clause 3: In Clause 3 the motion states that “Financial reasons, and any criminal record gain due to the criminalisation of sex work, are usually cited as the main reason for staying in sex work.”

13. This assertion is supported by a reference to research undertaken by the Department of Justice in Northern Ireland in 2014. However, careful review of the findings does not support the claim implicit in this clause: that acute financial necessity is what leads women to sell sex, and that they are devoid of other options. From the DOJ report: “The need to earn money to survive (22%), the need to support the family financially (18%), to finance their own education (14%), to pay off debt (10%) and having no other way to earn a living (7%) were stated reasons for respondents to engage in prostitution.” Only the last of these implies that selling sex is the only available option.

14. Financial reasons to engage in any form of paid work should be considered as normal; abolitionists fully support the self determination of all women and there is no reason to expect them to make their decisions in any other way than rationally. But from the evidence above, there is no reason to suppose that more undue hardship would come to them as a result of a reduction in trade than would from being made redundant from any other job in the course of normal capitalist dynamics.

15. Furthermore, the New Zealand based research additionally cited as support for this claim states only that: “around 93% of sex workers surveyed… cited money as a reason for both entering and staying in the sex industry.” No further detail was available and, despite what is implied by this clause, it is not possible to come to the conclusion that women in prostitution are experiencing unique financial hardship, from which selling sex is their only way out.

16. In addition to this inaccurate use of evidence, we suggest this clause lacks both logic and an alignment with Labour values. The mission of the Labour Party cannot and should not be only to keep people in jobs under any circumstance: zero hour contracts, and unsafe or degrading jobs, are rightly considered a focus for a labour movement with a conscience. Therefore it is surely not a sufficient or satisfying argument for the mainstreaming of the sex industry to say that some people might otherwise lose their jobs.

17. Clauses 4 and 5: The implicit appeal to the vulnerability of women is made more explicit in clause 4, which reads: “There are a disproportionate number of disabled people, migrants, especially undocumented or semi-documented migrants, LGBT people and single parents (the vast majority of whom are women) involved in sex work.”

18. Clause 5 elaborates: “The financial cost of being disabled, the cost of childcare, the cost of medical transition and hormones, racism in the workplace, the vulnerability of undocumented migrants to exploitation in other forms of work and the prejudice faced by LGBT and disabled people undoubtedly contribute to this overrepresentation.”

19. The footnote citation for Clause 4 is “Safety First Coalition” only, without any link or reference to any relevant research that would verify this claim. Clause 5 is not referenced and cannot be verified. However, the Northern Ireland (NI) research done by the DOJ, which the motion cites (and which it can therefore be assumed that those moving it consider reliable), found that only 4% of non-EU nationals had an illegal immigration status: the majority of those selling sex in NI were UK and Irish nationals, followed by Romanian and Hungarian nationals who are EU citizens, and of the remaining minority most were on legal visas.

20. Analysis of family status showed that 52% in the NI sample were in relationships and/or married; and 42% had children. No detail is provided as to the number in the sample who both have children and are not in a relationship (single mothers). Irish and UK nationals were more likely than foreign women to be in relationships and to have children.

21. Regarding the gender identity, disability and sexuality (except in respect to a very small minority of men who have sex with men), the research provides no information. The claims here cannot therefore be substantiated based on the sources provided. While there is a widespread belief among both the general public and advocates of decriminalisation that women engaged in prostitution substantially belong to marginalised groups, the DOJ report in fact reflects high levels of secondary and tertiary education among its respondents.

22. Clause 6: This gets to what we think is the real impetus behind the motion: protecting the rights of men who buy sex. It states: “The criminalisation of sex workers’ clients… was recently passed in the Northern Irish Assembly, despite government-commissioned research showing that 98% of sex workers working in Northern Ireland did not want this introduced.”

23. This is a misrepresentation. The research does state that only 2% of those currently selling sex who were surveyed thought the criminalisation of clients was a good idea. However, it does not give the number of undecided respondents or those who did not respond to the question, making this a poor and tendentious use of research. Additionally the wording of the question is misrepresented: whether or not criminalisation is a good idea is not the same as whether the respondents wanted it or not.

24. What’s more, when the scope of questioning is expanded to those who have sold sex in the past, the landscape of responses changes considerably. As was found in the consultation by Rhoda Grant MSP exploring the introduction of a “Nordic Model” style law in Scotland: “[it] was clear that the majority of those who have already exited prostitution were in favour of legislation, while those currently involved were fearful of the impact on them” (Grant, p. 51). In addition, only a small proportion of respondents to this consultation objected to the law, and the majority of those were organisations explicitly dedicated to legalisation. Supporters of the proposal included social and health services, women’s organisations, local councils, the White Ribbon campaign to end men’s violence against women and so on. The full list is available here.

25. This aspect of the motion, the silencing of exited women, is particularly disingenuous and disturbing. In considering the regulation and/or normalisation of any other industry, we would not dream of demanding that only those currently employed in it have a valid view on its management or social impact. It would have been unthinkable, for example to set the terms of the Leveson inquiry in such a way that only current tabloid journalists were seen to have a valid opinion on widespread culture and conduct. The focus on testimonies and perspectives of those currently involved in the sex industry only is unique to advocacy for the decriminalisation of the sex trade, and is ethically baffling.

26 Clause 7: “Organisations that support the decriminalisation of sex work include the World Health Organisation, UN Women, the Global Commission on HIV and the Law, the National Union of Students and NUS Women’s Campaign, and the Royal College of Nurses.”

27. This is in fact a list of organisations which support the full decriminalisation of both selling and buying sex, since they all oppose the Nordic model. Organisations which support the Nordic model by definition also support the decriminalisation of women, but oppose the decriminalisation of sex buying, as well as pimping and those who exploit the prostitution of others. As well as those listed above (paragraph 24) supporting the proposed criminalisation of demand in Scotland, these include:

TUC Women’s Committee, Scottish Trades Union Congress, the Northern Ireland Committee of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions, Unison, Ashiana, the Centre for Gender & Violence Research at the University of Bristol, Child and Woman Abuse Studies Unit at London Metropolitan University, Durham University Centre for Research into Violence and Abuse, Eaves, the End Violence Against Women Coalition, Equality Now, European Women’s Lobby, the Fawcett Society, National Alliance of Women’s Organisations, nia, Northern Refugee Centre, SafeLives, St Mungo’s Broadway, Welsh Women’s Aid, Women’s Aid Federation of England, and Women’s Aid Federation of Northern Ireland.

28. Clause 8: In Clause 8, the Motion attacks the efficacy of the Nordic model: “The Global Alliance Against Traffic in Women opposes introducing criminal penalties against the clients of sex workers. Their research found that criminalising clients does not reduce sex work or trafficking, but infringes on sex workers’ rights & obstructs anti-trafficking efforts.”

29. This is a claim which is contested by many others, and is not supported by actual data on the introduction and implementation of the law in Sweden and Norway. It has certainly decreased street prostitution – which few prostitution regimes do not regulate or even make illegal – in both countries, and the law is considered by police and prosecutors in Sweden as the most effective measure they have in their anti-trafficking efforts. This has been recognised by the Council of Europe (COE, 2014, p. 10).

30. Clause 10: “The criminalisation of sex workers’ clients has been proven to lead to further distrust of the police amongst sex workers, a willingness of sex workers to engage in more risky behaviour/safety procedures out of desperation, and does not reduce overall levels of prostitution.”

31. This is a contentious and contested claim, and none of the references provided are links to the three evaluations of the law in Sweden (see SOU, 2010 for the most recent). Those studies suggest that precisely because the law decriminalises those who sell sex different, more open relationships have been possible with police and social workers. There is also very little evidence supporting the claim that it has made selling sex more dangerous: the last woman to be killed in prostitution in Sweden was in 1986. Support for this claim also often cites a Norwegian study after their law reform in 2009, which did show those reporting having experienced violence in prostitution increased from 52% to 59% (Bjørndahl, 2012). However, closer examination of the data shows that the definition of violence in the post-2009 study was wider, including name calling, hair pulling and being spat at. It is these behaviours which account for the increase, whilst rape, physical assaults by regular customers/pimps and in a car with an unfamiliar customer actually decreased by half or more in the same period (Berg, 2013).

32. Those moving the motion now set out a number of beliefs to support the call for decriminalising sex work, or to put it more honestly, against the introduction of the Nordic model which decriminalises women and criminalises men who buy.

33. Belief 1: “Sex work is work. Sex work is the exchange of money for labour, like any other job. It is different because it is currently criminalised and stigmatised.”

34. We fundamentally disagree. Sex work is not identical to other forms of labour. Firstly, unlike other labour, sex is an activity which the majority of people engage in freely without remuneration. In this context, it is not labour, but an activity motivated by mutual desire. So, in the buying and selling of sex, what is effectively paid for is the waiving of this requirement of mutual desire. It is emphatically not the exchange of money for labour; it is the exchange of money for consent.

35. Framing the debate as an issue of labour rights thus rests on obscuring the fact that the sex industry involves financial coercion of consent, not an exchange of labour for money. And that, moreover, this takes place in the context of a society in which women have less social and economic power than men, and are hence particularly vulnerable to financial coercion. And as the legal strictures around paid organ donation indicate, there is significant potential harm to coercing an individual’s consent to transgressions of their bodily integrity. Since the sex industry relies on this coercion, it should therefore be seen in the same way.

36. Furthermore, there are practical barriers to treating the selling of sex (again, this motion seems to refer only to “full service” sex – i.e. intercourse, oral sex, anal sex and associated activities) as other jobs are treated under the law. One key difficulty is around health and safety (H&S) legislation. While abolitionists and supporters of decriminalisation both agree that the safety of the women engaging in sex work should be a paramount concern of any proposed policy, the latter have not been able to give an account of how, for example, bodily liquids would be treated under H&S law with regard to prostitution. In other professions when contact with potential body fluids such as saliva, blood, semen or urine is likely, protective equipment such as face masks, latex gloves (double latex gloves in the case of nurses working in the presence of blood or semen), plastic aprons etc. are recommended or in some cases mandated, for the protection of the workers. It is difficult to imagine how the provision of full intercourse could function while complying with such regulation, and we are left to imagine that supporters of this motion would in fact exclude women from being fully bound by such regulation, treating them very much as not professionals doing “any other job”, but as a special case, worthy of reduced protection.

37. Similar difficulties arise when looking at legislation touching on sexual harassment at work and other hard-won legislation which functions to protect workers and structures what is legally considered an appropriate work environment. It would be irresponsible in the extreme for people belonging to the Labour movement to hide behind a glib assertion of “sex work is work” while abandoning the workers in question to be excluded from the protections available to others.

38. Belief 3: “The right of consenting adults to engage in sexual relations is of no business to anyone but the people involved.”

39. Consent to sex and equality in sex are not the same, as students will know from the fact that sexual relationships between students and teaching staff are prohibited, even where they are consensual. This is a highly contestable statement of opinion which does not reflect society’s growing awareness of socialised male privilege and sexual entitlement.

40. As set out above, in selling sex, one person is in reality paid by the other to waive the usual expectation of mutual desire and equal power that applies in non-paid consensual sexual encounters. “Consent” in this context refers to the kind of temporary relinquishment of rights that happens when patients sign consent forms for medical procedures: “I grant you my consent to temporarily have the right to do something to me (for example cut me in a surgery, or have intercourse with me) which I would normally consider harmful and which it would be an offence for you to do to me without this form.” However the patient signing away bodily integrity is doing so out of a medical necessity, whereas the woman is doing so purely out of financial interest and not because of any reciprocity of benefit.

41. Belief 4: “The moral panic around sex work and prostitution echoes the moral panic that was present when homosexuality was in the process of being decriminalised. It is no coincidence that many who argue for harsh anti-prostitution laws under the guise of feminism also voted against equal marriage and similar civil rights measures.”

42. While some voices may oppose both the sex industry and equal marriage for religious reasons, it is profoundly misleading to ignore feminist organisations and individuals such as those listed above, who oppose the former and support the latter.

43. Belief 6: “Regardless of their reasons for entering into sex work, all sex workers deserve to have their rights protected and to be able to do their jobs safely. This includes sex workers who do not find their job ‘empowering’. Whether or not you enjoy a job should have no bearing on the rights you deserve while you do it.”

44. By definition, the Nordic model would not deny women this protection, since it too would decriminalise them. This being the case, it is not clear how this motion would better ensure that women can “do their jobs safely”, when its very distinguishing feature is that it protects the “rights” of those responsible for the threat to women’s safety in the first place: men who buy.

45. Belief 9: “Tim Barnett was correct in asserting that “prostitution is inevitable, and no country has succeeded in legislating it out of existence”. Sweden cannot show a reduction in the number of sex workers.”

46. In the DOJ research cited in the motion, it is estimated that only 3% of men currently regularly pay for sex. If the numbers did decrease in the wake of criminalising demand, then the proportion of men paying for sex would shrink to the point of being insignificant.

47. No undesirable social behaviour has yet been eradicated completely – which is why we have laws and courts punishing those who commit murder or theft, despite the fact that they are illegal. To argue that, because it is impossible to prevent 100% of offences, we should not have laws making them offences in the first place is a bizarre for a political organisation, and not particularly coherent in terms of the wellbeing of the women involved in the sex trade. Our concern, as a society, for their welfare should not be predicated on the willingness or otherwise of men to change their behaviour.

48. Conclusion: This motion is based on selective and tendentious readings of the research and on assumptions and myths about the nature of prostitution and those who engage in it. It also seems to set out actively to misrepresent the Nordic model and those who support it. It engages in the strange sophistry of defending women as fully self-determined agents operating from purely rational and free motives on the one hand – whilst simultaneously claiming that it is driven primarily by the needs of vulnerable people who have no alternative. And in both these arguments, the interests of the men who fuel the demand are completely absent, suggesting that the industry somehow operates solely to the benefit of the labour force- an odd position for a Labour movement to find itself in. Where it does make any fleeting reference to the role of buyers, it relies on the deeply ingrained belief that male sexual exploitation of women is immutable and can never be eradicated as an argument for normalising it.

49. By contrast, as feminists we believe that women who sell sex are fellow human beings who operate under the constraints and limitations of all human life. Most of them are neither superior, sexually liberated entrepreneurs, nor weak and defenceless victims. They are responding to the demand created by men and catered to by pimps and traffickers (among others), a demand which can and should be delegitimised through the introduction of legislation that signals that sexual exploitation is not an acceptable “service” to purchase, even if the money exchanging hands seems to make it a “free” transaction on behalf of the class of people thus being exploited. The protection of those who sell should not be conflated with the legitimisation of those who buy. Those within the Labour movement who fail to distinguish or even acknowledge these two very different constituent elements of the sex industry, and who do not identify which holds the power, should explain their position better and more honestly than they have done in this motion.

 

WAPOW (Women Assessing Policy on Women)

June 2015

 

 

References:

Berg, S. (2013) New research shows violence decreases under Nordic model: Why the radio silence? Feminist Current, January 22, available at: http://feministcurrent.com/7038/new-research-shows-violence-decreases-under-nordic-model-why-the-radio-silence/.

Bjørndahl, U. 2012 “Dangerous Liaisons: A report on the violence women in prostitution in Oslo are exposed to” Accessed at https://humboldt1982.files.wordpress.com/2012/12/dangerous-liaisons.pdf on June 2nd 2015

Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly, 2014, “Prostitution, trafficking and modern slavery in Europe“. Accessed at http://assembly.coe.int/ASP/Doc/XrefViewPDF.asp?FileID=20559HYPERLINK “http://assembly.coe.int/ASP/Doc/XrefViewPDF.asp?FileID=20559&Language=en”&HYPERLINK “http://assembly.coe.int/ASP/Doc/XrefViewPDF.asp?FileID=20559&Language=en”Language=en on June 2nd 2015

Department of Justice, 2014, “Research into Prostitution in Northern Ireland”. Accessed at http://www.dojni.gov.uk/index/publications/publication-categories/pubs-criminaljustice/prostitution-report-nov-update.pdf HYPERLINK “http://www.dojni.gov.uk/index/publications/publication-categories/pubs-criminaljustice/prostitution-report-nov-update.pdf%20on%20June%202nd%202015″on June 2nd 2015

Grant, R., “Proposed Criminalisation of the Purchase of Sex: Summary of Consultation Responses”. Accessed at http://www.scottish.parliament.uk/S4_MembersBills/FINAL_consultation_summary_Criminalisation_of_Purchase_of_Sex.pdfHYPERLINK “http://www.scottish.parliament.uk/S4_MembersBills/FINAL_consultation_summary_Criminalisation_of_Purchase_of_Sex.pdf%20on%20June%202nd%202015” on June 2nd 2015

SOU (2010) Selected extracts of the Swedish Government report SOU 2010:49: Prohibition of the purchase of sexual services. An evaluation 1999-2008.

Into the Woods: Could have been funny but ended up Mother-hating (Spoilers)

(spoilers)

Into the Woods is meant to be a modern twist on the traditional fairy tales of Cinderella, Little Red Riding Hood, Jack and the Beanstalk, and Rapunzel. Their stories are tied together by the Baker and his wife who cannot conceive a child due to a curse placed on their house by the witch next door. They need to find 4 items in three days to lift the curse: a cape as red as blood, corn-silk hair, a white as milk cow and a golden slipper.

This construction of the Baker and ‘his wife’ sets the scene for the whole film. The bumbling baker who can’t remember a simple set of instructions is the hero, whilst his possession-wife is brave, smart, funny, kind and dies. The baker gets everything he wanted in life: 3 children and a maid in Cinderella. His wife is killed. The idea that a ‘good’ family would be so desperate for a child that they would steal from another child is rather bizarre too. At least, the wife steals hair from Rapunzel. The baker, on the other hand, can’t steal from Little Red Riding Hood and returns her cape the moment he steals it. He earns the cape by killing the wolf.

I’m not a fan of the ‘women so desperate for a child they will do anything’ trope. The baker wants a child too but he isn’t punished for his failure to conceive – only his wife. His refusal to acknowledge his wife’s contributions to the marriage are not seen as flaws but the signs of a ‘good’ man.

The representation of women in the film is entirely sexist – all of them have serious character flaws. Little Red Riding Hood is so greedy she steals from the bakery AND eats the treats for her grandmother. Both her mother and grandmother are killed. The original curse on the witch was placed on her by her mother in punishment for failing to notice a thief. The witch curses her neighbours because she’s spiteful and hates her aged body. The original thief is the baker’s father who is forced into it by his pregnant wife (the father runs away but that’s because he’s sad not bad like the women). The witch steals Rapunzel to punish the mother. The baker’s wife dies because of her desire for a child. The woman giant is killed because she seeks justice for the theft of her property and the death of her husband (yes, the giant wants to eat Jack but Jack did steal from him first). Jack’s mother dies because she’s not very bright and thinks her son’s dim too.

Rapunzel and Cinderella are the only two women not ‘punished’ although Cinderella is sentenced to a life time of cleaning up after the baker and raising his children. Rapunzel goes off with the lesser of the two dim princes but without learning about her birth family. They are also not mothers and it is mothers who are classed as deserving of death.

Johnny Depp’s performance as the wolf in Little Red Riding Hood is the most ridiculous part of the film. It isn’t scary but rather creepy in the traditional sense. He stalks the young Red Riding Hood using words like lush. Granted, we know he wants to eat her but actually he appears at the sexual predator common in 80s stranger-danger messages for children. The sexualised imagery in this song is in complete contrast to a film that is obviously aimed at children. Beyond the distressing imagery of an adult man stalking a child with sexualised language, Depp’s performance is pretty much Jack Sparrow and his character from Dark Shadows all rolled into one. As much fun as Sparrow is, he’s already had 4 films – and Dark Shadows is a dreadful mess of drivel.

In contrast, the song ‘Agony’ performed by the two princes was a brilliant piece of satire:

It made them both look as pathetic, whiny and ridiculous as they are (and thank Gaia Cinderella dumped Charming’s arse).

What would have made this a true modern twist would be for the mothers to have survived and lived together. The baker punished for not recognising his wife as a person and Jack and Little Red Riding Hood held accountable for stealing without being killed. Even the witch reacted out of desperation and self-loathing. Her crimes are ones to be pitied. Instead, this is a film where mothers are punished for mothering.

10 Good Reasons to Date a Single Mom: If you’re an asshole

Continuing these weekends theme of offensive, heteronormative and dangerous dating advice about single mothers, we have this entry from Belief.net 

All you single Mommas will be pleased to hear that we aren’t considered drama llamas anymore.

Don’t listen to the assumptions and over opinionated bunch that associates single moms with the ‘D’ word – drama. It’s not true, single moms are great women who deserve a chance. Here are the ten reasons you should date a single mom.1

To be fair, I hadn’t realised we were ever considered drama llamas. I’ve always thought of single mothers as, like, people. With kids and no partner. But, whatever.

1. She’s Got it Together: Single moms have to have it together all the time. Rest assure that you’re dating an independent woman that is self sufficient and will not need a man to support her.

Yep, because all single mothers have great paying jobs and access to affordable quality care so that they don’t have to worry about chasing their child’s father for child support. I mean, it’s not really fair of single mothers to expect Dad’s to fork up cash to feed their kids when the Dad needs the money to go to Vegas for the weekend. It’s totally fair for the vast majority of kids in the UK living in poverty to be that way because it’s just rude to expect their fathers to financially support them.

2. You Already Know That She’s a Great Mom: You don’t have to think twice, you know that her love is endless and her heart is as big as the moon. She’s capable of providing the unconditional love and devotion that any child would be lucky to have.

Obviously, “any child” is code for man. Since we all know good women focus on their unconditional love and devotion on their man ensuring that he’s happy. All the time. The fact that she’s working, doing all the housework, childcare and thinking for the men so that she rarely sleeps, is chronically ill and depressed is a small price to pay so that some Dood can get a blowjob and play golf on a Saturday morning.

3. She Takes Relationships Seriously: You don’t have to worry about relationship games. She knows what she wants out of a relationship and she’ll only keep you around if you’re good for her and the kids. There is no party phase to overcome because she’s mature and knows what she wants.

Because women who don’t have children are totally immature. After all, UK streets are littered with drunken women assaulting each other and raping women. Oh wait, that’s men. But, requiring men to be mature is just those evil feminists being stinky meanie-pants again.

 4. Ambitious: A single mom is very ambitious. She has her priorities set and has goals. She can articulate what she wants out of life and out of a relationship.

Her priorities being feeding her kids and paying the rent? Or, your penis? Is her ambition supposed to be giving blowjobs?

5. Appreciative: Single moms appreciate the smalled gestures and acts of kindness. You will be treated with respect and she will not take you for granted.

Single mothers: so desperate they’ll fuck you just for remembering their name.

6. Powerhouses: Single moms have an intense amount of energy. They are able to multi-task and do just about anything. They are able to accomplish the long to-do list with ease.

Fuck knows what mothers this arsehole has met, but he’s clearly not bothered to read a single media article about women for 50 years since he’s missed the whole women living in poverty/ women with disabilities and chronic illnesses/ women who are severely depressed thing that’s going on.

But bonus points for sliding in the multi-tasking bit again: we get the message. Date a single mother and never have to turn on a washing machine ever again.

7. Less Likely to Rush Into Things: Single moms are juggling a lot – career, the average day-to-day, house and anything and everything else that you can possibly think of. When you first start dating, you may only see her once a week because she has to fit it into her schedule and make arrangements for her children. You don’t have to worry about being rushed into a serious relationship. Single moms have defined boundaries.

Single moms have “defined boundaries” or single moms are exhausted working and caring for children. I love the idea we all have ‘careers’: no single moms balancing two jobs at McDonalds and Tescos to pay the rent.

Although, Dood won’t have to worry about the kid’s father hanging around since these children are clearly all the product of immaculate conception.

8. They Know What Makes a Relationship Work: Being a single mom involves having prior relationship experiences – which means a single mom can identify what does and doesn’t work. They are able to carry their expanded ability to love someone well into their other relationships. Their friendships, relationships with family and bonds with their children benefit from their ability to know what works.

Gotcha: single mothers are totes desperate that they’ll drop all their friends to hang out with yours.

9. They Understand Selflessness: Not every person is selfish but being a single parent gives you a different perspective on life and allows you to view the world with a different lens. The important stuff seems small – in other words importance gains a different meaning.

This is essential or you may end up having to clean the toilet.

10. They’re More Aware of Your Needs: Having kids teaches you how to better treat others. Single moms are able to know what you want because they are constantly in tune to the needs of others.

AKA: Worship your cock.

Good to know that single mothers are more than just fucktoys. We’re also solely responsible for childcare AND housework, whilst giving daily blowjobs.

10 reasons why single mums are great in bed.

The Metro is renown for its inability to accurately report on male violence against women and girls. Personally, I’m a huge fan of the article which suggests that Dr. Melvin Morse was justified in waterboarding his step-daughter because he researched near-death experiences in children. That was truly an awe-inspiring piece of journalism. Granted, I’m still slightly perturbed about the fact that their staff can’t tell the difference between bad sex and rape, but that’s only to be expected in a newspaper that thinks sexual violence is entertainment.

Today’s evidence of The Metro’s Misogyny is 10 reasons why single mums are great in bed.

First off we have the: unrealistic, patronising and downright freaking dangerous assumptions about single mothers:

There are plenty of things single mums have mastered the art of – multi-tasking, compromise and patience to name a few.

But it’s not just the ability to breathe deeply and count to ten that they rock at.

When it comes to sex, single mums have got it going on – and it’s got nothing to do with gratitude.

‘Compromise’ being code for doing exactly what their male partner wants regardless of their own pleasure. After all, no one ever talks about men “compromising” during sex. This is always the woman’s job. And, what’s with the obsession with insisting single mothers are still viable fucktoys?

And, they can fuck right off with the patience and ability to count to ten horseshit. Single mothers aren’t Mary Poppins in Ultimo. In the UK, many can’t afford Ultimo since they are living in poverty whilst their ex-partner commits child abuse by refusing to financially support his children. They multi-task because they have NO choice. Multi-tasking and patience don’t exactly come with the new hormones after you push a baby out of your vagina (or after a c-section).

1. Body confidence

When you’ve pushed a human being out of your vagina, suddenly something like a 3-inch stretch mark carries less significance.

Trust me on this one, you don’t want more detail.

I’m so glad that Katy Horwood thinks all single mothers have great body confidence. I’ve never met a woman who was actually confident about their body – never mind women who are juggling work with childrearing without help. But, hey, let’s pretend single mothers don’t actually livein a white supremacist, capitalist patriarchy and are required to pass the Patriarchal Fuckability Test whilst cooking dinner (or shoving chicken nuggets and chips in the oven because they are exhausted).

We also need to be totally honest here – there is a reason the images of single mothers that accompany the article feature young, attractive white women: because even Horwood doesn’t believe fat women can have body confidence. And, we all know that Black single mothers are pretty much the scions of satan walking the earth. There is a reason the term reproductive justice was coined by Black Women and it isn’t because they were worried about looking sexy for random dudes reading the Metro. Being poor is just too tacky to mention. And, we won’t mention disabled mothers. Who wants to fuck them?

2. Appreciation

There’s nothing like Peppa Pig on loop for the last 36 months and daily conversations about the pros and cons of a roller-skating disco party to encourage gentle enquiries about the availability of beds at your local mental health hospital.

If you want your date to cry with joy for just leaving the house, date a single mum – thankful for a parking ticket if it means they can have a conversation with another adult about something other than Disneyland, can you imagine what they’re like in the sack.

Single mothers are so desperate to be fucked that they are grateful for a dude shoving their penis in them. It doesn’t matter how horrible or abusive a man is, single mothers are so desperate for sex they’ll do anything (obviously this doesn’t apply to fat women or lesbians, because they don’t count as the acceptable face of “single mothers”

3. Hot sex and lots of it

Your date gets out once a month and has a babysitter until 10.30pm.

Cinema? Art gallery? Walk along the Thames? LOL.

Single mothers: always gagging for it. You don’t even have to pretend you actually want to date them. They’ll be so desperate they’ll shag you in the backseat of a Mini in a Tescos parking lot.

4. No small talk

And if she’s lucky enough to have a free evening, not only will you get the reverse cowgirl instead of a stroll through Richmond park but you’ll also get the pleasure of some serious zeds after.

If you think you’ve mastered the art of dozing off after a shag, try three nights of unbroken sleep in the last four years.

Let the snooze off begin.

Because, really, who the fuck wants to actually talk to a single mother. You might have to learn their name or something.

5. Condoms

If there is one thing guaranteed to make a woman stringent about birth control, it’s solo child rearing.

The only unexpected surprise she wants from you is the ability to get it up again 10 minutes after your last orgasm.

Gosh, who knew that birth control was TOTALLY the responsibility of the woman? Granted, I’m a single mother so maybe my perception is skewed but don’t men have the penis that the condom goes on? Are they no longer capable of putting one on themselves? Or, saying no to sex without a condom?

6. Wet wipes

Always in a single mum’s handbag. Handy.

Apparently, there’s now a law banning men from buying wet wipes. Who knew?

7. Biological clocks

Tick, tick, tick.

Is the scary sound you will not be hearing from your single mum girlfriend after two months of dating.

Been there, done it… now where were we, ah yes – orgasms.

Cus, it’s not like men’s fertility and the quality of their sperm doesn’t deteriorate with age. Or, men might want to have children. Or, women who don’t want to have children. Or, non-single mothers are so desperate to get pregnant they’ll fuck anyone.

8. They know what they want

When time is precious and adult interaction scarce, suddenly getting things right first time matters a lot.

Forget fumbling sex and not knowing what’s working or not – single mums spell it out.

And without the luxury of Sunday lie-ins and seven day-a-week shag options, single mums make sure it counts – and rarely get headaches.

Single mums never get headaches and women that do: well, they’re just hateful. Who gives a shit about consent when a dick is involved?

Course, if you are still having ‘fumbling sex’ over the age of 21, the problem is you. Not the women you’re dating.

9. Role play

Spending the majority of her waking life barking orders, when it comes to role play in the bedroom, single mums have it wrapped up.

You’ve been a bad boy, straight to bed with no supper!

Ya hear me.

Because women who aren’t single mothers are incapable of expressing their sexual desires. Or, something.

10. But know how to cuddle like a pro too

Just don’t ask for milk.

Because this isn’t creepy at all.

Katy Horwood is supposedly a relationships expert – one steeped in misogyny with a soupçon of racism. Just for funsies.

Mrs Doubtfire is Patriarchy in Action.

I have always hated the film Mrs Doubtfire as I thought it was creepy. As a teenager, I never understood how a useless father who lost custody of his children in the divorce due to his useless, incompetent and lazy parenting. Hell, even the editors at Wikipedia – who are not known for their feminist analysis – get that this a film about a pathetic man:

His wife, Miranda (Sally Field), considers him irresponsible and immature, and their marriage is on the rocks. When Daniel throws Chris a birthday party despite his bad report card, Miranda loses her temper and asks for a divorce. At their first custody hearing, the judge provisionally grants Miranda custody of the children, as Daniel has neither a suitable residence nor a steady job.

The entire premise of the film is that the character of Daniel Hillard, played by Robin Williams, is a dickhead. This isn’t a loveable film about a man supporting his ex-partner and children. This is a man who had a temper tantrum at being held accountable for his piss-poor fathering and instead of taking responsibility for the consequences of his behaviour, he chose to lie to his children and ex-partner by dressing up as a female housekeeper. The idea that his ex-partner Miranda is too stupid to notice that her new “housekeeper” is, in fact, her ex-husband in drag demonstrates a remarkable lack of belief in women’s intelligence.

My analysis as a teenager wasn’t feminist. It was just disbelief that a useless father could miraculously become a better one overnight. You don’t need to be a feminist to look at the fathers of all your friends – who have little to no contact and commit financial abuse of their children by their refusal to pay maintenance – to understand that whitewashing a man’s laziness helps no one. The ending of the film is all about evil women and nasty judges punishing men for being useless and the children being devastated at their father being removed from their lives. Miranda got full custody of the children because the father REPEATEDLY lied to her, the children and the judge. Having a steady job and a permanent address does not undo years of piss-poor parenting and lies. The premise of the film is that children are men’s possessions and it doesn’t matter how shit a parent they are, the children will be harmed by being parented properly by their mother. The fact that evidence points out the exact opposite of this is always ignored, even with an abusive father, because father’s rights are always more important than the health and wellbeing of the children involved.

I haven’t seen Mrs Doubtfire in years  and it wasn’t until I saw this shared on Facebook that I realized the subtext of the film that I had been missing for years:

Angela LeeI was just telling Jitana that Mrs. Doubtfire was a tribute to domestic violence and stalking. Yup, one of the most famous comedies in fact romanticizes IPV stalking. Women are always the joke.

I hadn’t even realized that this film was about stalking and intimate partner violence. I had always focused on the relationship with the children. The stalking of the mother and the wearing down of her boundaries is classic abusive behaviour. Being “jealous” of Miranda’s relationship with a new man isn’t the behaviour of a good man – it’s the behaviour of an abusive man who believes his ex-wife is also his possession. Daniel has no right to interfere with his ex-wife’s new relationships. He has no right to stalk her and he has no right to manipulate her. Lying to Miranda and the children about who he is isn’t a funny movie plot. It’s the creepy behaviour of a classically abusive man.

We need to stop pretending these kinds of films are just a bit of fun. They reinforce male ownership of children, stalking as appropriate behaviour for men and rewarding men for not being assholes. Children aren’t rewards. And, a lifetime of piss-poor parenting and irresponsible behaviour cannot be overcome by lying to your children.

High School Musical: Disney Goes Feminist

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Granted High School Musical 3 has a rather unnecessary number of shots of Sharpay Evans’ arse and there is a very clear evidence of bullying by the two main male leads: Troy Bolton and Chad Danforth who steal the clothes of two younger classmates and make them chase them through the school dressed only in towels. In HS-land this gets the bullied boys detention. In my-land, it gets the two bullies an in-school suspension and a ban from participation in after school activities because it constitutes sexual harassment. And, I can’t even begin to describe the horror which is the Tiki song in High School Musical 2: racism a go-go there.

There are also very few non-white actors in the films. The best friends of the two leads are both African-American but they both are stereotypes. Chad Danforth is basketball obsessed and a loyal friend. Taylor McKessie is bossy, demanding and over-organised. Her character is also incredibly intelligent and loyal to her best friend which is a departure from many portrayals of African-American characters in Disney films. But, they are still only supporting characters living stereotypes of what “good” African-American teenagers are interested in: boys do basketball and girls do smart & over-bossy. On the other hand, the main character Gabriella Montez is Hispanic-American, which is a major departure for mainstream Disney programs. Disney does feature non-white actors but only in supporting roles and frequently as crass stereotypes.

We can’t forget the issue of class as every single one of the characters lives in a huge house, including Gabriella Montez whose mother is a single parent. Poverty is never an issue. In fact, the characters can afford to just hop on planes and fly 1000 miles without so much blinking about the credit card charge. Obviously, abuse doesn’t exist and no one has any disabilities. It is the American Dream: a white heteronormative culture.

There are also serious problems with gender stereotyping. The mothers of all the teenagers are shown in kitchens only bringing in groceries, baking snacks, serving food, and interrupting private moments between teenagers. Fathers, on the other hand, are actively involved in coaching sports and being ‘cool’. The drama teacher is OTT in the ridiculous and Sharpay, well, Sharpay is a blond narcissistic ice queen who treats everyone like shit. Because, that is oh-so-original.

Yet, High School Musical is probably one of the most feminist films Disney has ever produced. The main character Gabriella is a “good” girl who wears virginal outfits. But, she’s also intelligent, loyal and prone to speeches on everyone working together. She changes everyone for the better by encouraging them to be true to themselves. She’s also true to herself valuing her education over her boyfriend. Gabriella isn’t mean and she doesn’t take shit from anyone. Yes, there is an unnecessary amount of twaddle about boyfriends and girlfriends and loving one another forever but Gabriella is an inspiring female character. The value placed on friendships between the teenage girls is so very, very different. With the exception of Sharpay, the girls support one another through their dreams, their hobbies and their lives.  They work together for each other and they talk about the importance of valuing yourself as an individual over any potential relationship.

It’s not a perfect feminist film but it’s a start. And, in a complete departure from normal Disney narratives, the boy follows the girl to university.

 

<this rant is brought to you by my daughters who’ve been watching the trilogy together>

 

The Women Who Mapped the Universe And Still Couldn’t Get Any Respect

The Smithsonian published this article last year but I’ve only just come across via Facebook. It’s a great piece on misogyny and cultural femicide with one teensy tiny omission. They don’t actually name the 80 women in the article. Now, I do understand the pressures of space in the production of a glossy magazine such as the Smithsonian but an article on the erasure of women which doesn’t name the 80 women seems to miss the point, particularly when these women were derided as Pickering’s Harem.

Natasha Geiling is so very clear on the role of misogyny, gendered stereotypes, patriarchal control and sexual harassment that not naming the women seems odd. There are links to information on the women in the online version but not, apparently, in the magazine. These women were the only reason that Edward Charles Pickering, director of the Harvard Observatory, could photograph and catalogue the entire sky. Their work is invaluable, yet we only know them as Pickering’s Harem.

We really need a feminist to write a collective biography of these 80 women!

The photographs and information below are taken from here:

pickering-611

 

A print of this HCO photograph was found in an album that had once belonged to Annie Jump Cannon. The print was dated by tracing the HCO serial number on it to the record books in the Harvard College Observatory Collection of Astronomical Photographs. The women were identified by comparing the print to other HCO photographs on which Margaret Harwood or Annie Jump Cannon had noted the names.

This picture which includes Edward Charles Pickering, the Director of HCO (1877-1919), was taken on 13 May 1913 in front of Building C, which faces north. At that time it was the newest and largest building of Harvard College Observatory. It was specially built of brick to protect the astronomical data and glass negatives from fire. Since the astronomical photographs were stored on the ground floor and most of the women worked on the top floor, the building had a dumb waiter to convey the plates up and down. The women all worked in a large room on the east end of the third floor. Pickering had his offices on the west end across the central hallway. All the other men worked on the lower levels.

At the far left of the photograph is Margaret Harwood (AB Radcliffe 1907, MA University of California 1916), who had just completed her first year as Astronomical Fellow at the Maria Mitchell Observatory. She was later appointed director there, the first woman to be appointed director of an independent observatory. Beside her in the back row is Mollie O’Reilly, a computer from 1906 to 1918. Next to Pickering is Edith Gill, a computer since 1989. Then comes Annie Jump Cannon (BA Wellesley 1884), who at that time was about halfway through classifying stellar spectra for the Henry Draper Catalogue. Behind Miss Cannon is Evelyn Leland, a computer from 1889 to 1925. Next is Florence Cushman, a computer since 1888. Behind Miss Cushman is Marion Whyte, who worked for Miss Cannon as a recorder from 1911 to 1913. At the far right of this row is Grace Brooks, a computer from 1906 to 1920.

Ahead of Miss Harwood in the front row is Arville Walker (AB Radcliffe 1906), who served as assistant from 1906 until 1922. From 1922 until 1957 she held the position of secretary to Harlow Shapley, who succeeded Pickering as Director. The next woman may be Johanna Mackie, an assistant from 1903 to 1920. She received a gold medal from the American Association of Variable Star Observers (AAVSO) for discovering the first nova in the constellation of Lyra. In front of Pickering is Alta Carpenter, a computer from 1906 to 1920. Next is Mabel Gill, a computer since 1892. And finally, Ida Woods (BA Wellesley 1893), who joined the corps of women computers just after graduation. In 1920 she received the first AAVSO nova medal; by 1927, she had seven bars on it for her discoveries of novae on photographs of the Milky Way.

Barbara L. Welther published the photograph and some of the text in a note about “Pickering’s Harem” in Isis 73, 94 for March 1982.

annie-611 pickering-611