Here’s a guest post from a new contributor, Cath. I was put in touch with her through the wonderfully effective local activist Lisa Clarke of No More Page 3; and was amazed at the organisation she co-runs. The Beestonian, our physical sister, is putting together an special issue with a feminist theme: it’s out soon, so seek it out; and more importantly, we’re inside International Women’s Month. It’s a shame that the oher gender has to still fight certain battles, but it’s good to know the fight is on, and eternally creative and positive.
I’ll hand over to Cath:
The Women’s Room UK
For two consecutive days in October 2012, The Today Programme on Radio 4 discussed issues relating to women without including a female expert.
The first debate was in relation to underage teenage girls being given contraception. This was debated with a Head teacher (male) who, whilst he had some perspective on teaching teenage girls, didn’t have any experience of why teenage girls may or may not want contraception. The second feature was on breast cancer and, whilst the BBC managed to speak to a woman who had survived the illness, she was then dismissed in favour of the male ‘expert’ who talked at length about how women may feel about breast screening.
Myself, Caroline Criado-Perez and many other women, were so incensed by this failure to incorporate women as experts we decided to provide the BBC with a ‘binder of women’ so they would have no reason to ignore them. One woman volunteered to set up a website, another set up a Facebook page, another set up the Twitter account and from this, grew The Women’s Room.
It took off more quickly than we could have anticipated with women from all over the world signing up.
We currently have over 6,000 followers on Twitter and over 2,000 women signed up as experts in their field. And these are not only women who are experts in traditional ‘women’s issues’. Our experts come from a huge variety of fields, such as chemistry, biophysics, environmental, nuclear power, history, geography, sex work, medicine and law.
However. It’s not simply about qualifications. We want to challenge the perception of experts and widen this to incorporate women who are experts in an area because of their experiences. For example, women who have experienced domestic abuse, childbirth, breast feeding, child sexual abuse, homelessness, substance misuse or mental health difficulties are, we believe, also experts. Academic qualifications and research is extremely valid but we cannot ignore the power of lived experiences.
Often the media, and indeed other women, struggle with this concept and we are working towards supporting more and more women to acknowledge their expertise and place more value on their voices.
There is a clear inclusion policy for the website. If you identify as a woman, we value you and we want to hear from you.
We don’t discriminate, we don’t judge and we don’t believe in giving advice on presentation or grooming. We need to move away from the idea that women should dress a certain way, or present themselves in a certain way, in order to be taken seriously.
We believe that every girl and woman has views, experience and expertise that is valuable and relevant, and we will continue to campaign and work towards a less sexist and biased approach, towards more balanced visibility in the media.