Ireland’s Battle of the Buses

17202821_624209414429449_4553029286758498912_nIreland was recently host to a ‘battle of the buses’ with abortion rights at the centre of the debates.

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Rosa (for Reproductive rights against oppression, sexism and austerity) is an Irish pro-choice organisation which was established by the female members of the socialist party in 2013

When they made it public knowledge that they would be touring the country in their ‘Bus 4 Repeal’ it was no surprise that an opposition group sprung into action and decided to do something about it.

Newly formed anti-abortionists The Irish Centre for Bioethical Reform (ICBR) are a branch of the UK’s Abort67. They decided to have their own bus to follow the Bus 4 Repeal and called it the ‘exposing deception tour.’ Leading to the ‘battle of the buses.’

They named themselves after two influential women named Rosa. One being Rosa Parks who sparked the Montgomery bus boycott of the Civil Rights Movement in America. The other is Rosa Luxemburg who was an activist in the 20th century and was ultimately killed for her political views.

Their main aim is to repeal the 8th amendment in Ireland. This is the amendment that essentially makes the rights of a foetus equal to the mother. They’re hoping for a referendum on the 8th amendment, and to fully decriminalise abortion so that they can distribute abortion pills to those who need it.

On average 12 women a day travel to England from Ireland for an abortion. This is a very expensive trip that not everyone can afford to make. The cheaper alternative route that many people take is buying abortion pills online.

This is becoming a harder task as they have a lot of problems getting the pills into the country as customs confiscate the packages before they can enter the country. Police have also started to actively search for these pills by raiding houses in Northern Ireland, but have so far found nothing. One of the raids was on pro-choice campaigner Helen Crickard’s workshop, she told The Guardian that she felt ‘violated and humiliated.’

If these pills are cut off Rita Hammond, a spokesperson for Rosa, worries there will be a ‘crisis’ that will affect the poorest of women.

Hammond talks about how the movement for abortion rights can be extremely political. Noting the difference between those who can and can not access safe abortions.

‘Those who can afford to travel and talk to a doctor face to face, have the highest standard of care. Versus those who can’t afford it, they have to speak to someone over the internet or possibly not even access that information. That is very clearly a class issue.’

Leading them to their latest venture the Bus 4 Repeal. They said that the purpose of this tour is to ‘provide direct assistance to those in need of safe abortion pills and to campaign for the repeal of the Eighth Amendment to legalise abortion in Ireland.’

This bus toured around Ireland for 3 days visiting cities and universities. The final stop was in Dublin and coincided with International Women’s Day.

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Hammond described International Women’s Day as a ‘major day of action for the fight for women’s rights,’ which is why they ended their tour that day in the capital. They were met by 2,000 people supporting their cause.

During the three days they held rallies at each stop along the way and gave out information about the pills which is illegal according to the Abortion Information Act.

Aboard the bus, women can get help and information on their pregnancies. They can have consultations and the women can be put in touch with websites such as womenonweb.org.

Womenonweb.org are an international organisation run by doctors in the Netherlands. They sends pills through the post to women in countries where abortion is illegal or restrictive for example Africa, South America and of course Ireland.

There are often anti-abortion displays in Ireland, opposing their opinions and hoping to keep abortion illegal in their country. ICBR followed the bus to every stop and held their displays opposite the bus. Their displays include graphic abortion images that are often criticised.

Jean- Simonis Engela, the director of the new organisation, defends the use of graphic images by saying that they are educational, ‘if showing this is way to awful, then why would we make it lawful. If it’s too horrifying to visualise, then it’s too depraved to legalise.”

A spokesperson for ICBR, Aisling Hubert commented on the plans for the bus, saying they were providing the opposite view and ensuring that women were told the whole truth. They followed Rosa’s ‘abortion bus’ everywhere they went. Hubert said, ‘We will expose the graphic reality of abortion using large banners that show the broken bodies of pre-born children dismembered through abortion.’ She goes on to talk about how the Rosa volunteers are not medical experts but in her words ‘anarchists that only care about one thing – killing pre-born babies.’

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How Europe celebrated International Women’s Day

March 8 marked International Women’s Day and protests took place in major cities all over the world.

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Women all over the world took to the streets to protest for their rights. From equal rights to Donald Trump to the hot topic of abortion.

Abortion is a worldwide argument and the law on abortion varies from country to country. But within the EU the variations are dramatic.

Whatever the law or religion in these countries, public opinion is changing and making an impact.

Back in October thousands of Polish women who took to the streets in the czarny protest, translated to the black protest.

They were protesting the controversial proposal to ban abortion in Poland.

Abortion is already quite restricted but this proposal was wanting to implicate a complete blanket ban. This was not received well and women took to the streets donning black clothes to mourn their loss of rights. The amount of people who took to the streets in protest led to the overturning of the proposed plan.

Polish organisation, the Federation for women and family planning, were heavily involved with the protests and believe that safe and legal abortion is a fundamental right to everyone. They also say that the law in Poland discriminates against certain women saying that the law’s ‘impact varies among different groups of women depending on their socio-economic status.’

On International Women’s Day Poland had further protests outside the Law and Justice party building demanding reproductive rights as they wrote on a ‘wall of fury.’

Despite the countries deeply religious traits, these protests clearly show that public opinion is changing.

The same can be said in another religious EU country; Ireland.

Ireland is a hot bed for discussion on abortion, currently the law is that abortion is illegal. This is due to the 8th Amendment. This is the amendment that essentially makes the rights of a foetus equal to the mother.

Over the week leading up to International Women’s Day, cities in Ireland such as Limerick and Cork saw some of its pro-choice biggest protests.

A pro-choice group in Ireland named ROSA, toured around Ireland on an ‘abortion bus’ on the days leading up to International Woman’s Day finally arriving in Dublin on the day itself.

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The ‘Strike for Repeal’ had huge support on International Women’s Day with 8,000 people standing on the main bridge in the centre of Dublin at midday, and 12,000 people who marched in the evening. This shows an immense amount of support for the pro-choice movement in Ireland.

In Ireland many women travel to England for a termination, on average 12 women a day which could cost them up to £2,000.

There are groups both in England and Ireland who try to help these women. Abortion Support Network (ASN) is just one of them who try to help these women as much as they can.

ASN is a small charity based in London, which started in 2009. They help women travel from Ireland or Northern Ireland by providing financial aid and accommodation. They do everything they can to help the client, by offering information on what airlines will accept other forms of ID apart from passports and which clinics offer an Irish discount.

The Founder of ASN, Mara Clarke, says they don’t ask their clients why they want abortions and feels it is their place to help not judge. Mara believes being a parent is a big choice and that ‘parenthood should not be the punishment for a broken condom or a lapse in judgement or not having £400 to £2,000 in the bank.’

Anti-abortionists on the rise in the UK

US style tactics of displays outside of abortion clinics has become increasingly popular here in the UK over the past 6 years.

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In 2014, British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS) launched their ‘back off’ campaign where they hope to have ‘buffer zones’ between clinics and the displays.

Head of advocacy and campaigns at BPAS Abigail Fitzgibbon, believes that the groups are just trying to provoke an emotional reaction from women.  She absolutely agrees that everyone is entitled to their own opinion and a presence in a public space where it is legal but she also states that ‘the truth is what they are doing is not protests or displays when it’s outside of a clinic but it’s a campaign of harassment’ she goes on to say if they had a problem with the law to protest outside The Department of Health which would be similar to how most protests are held.

There are a number of anti abortion groups here in the UK and each one has a different approach to vocalising their opinions. 40 days for life are a Christian group that in the 40 days of lent, hold vigils outside of clinics and participate in silent prayer.

Another Christian group is a post-abortion support group. Manchester based organisation Image provides support for both men and women struggling after an abortion. Rebecca Johnson is a volunteer and talks about how they help clients with post-abortion stress that can present itself in many ways from grief and guilt to anger and depression. They offer a ‘Step by Step’ programme to explore the thoughts and feelings of the client in a safe place in the hope of finding a new sense of peace and freedom.

Each year Image also holds a National Day of Prayer where in Johnson’s words they ‘pray for an end to abortion in our nation.’

An anti-abortion group that often hits the headlines is Abort67 which are a secular group that hold graphic images and distribute leaflets in the hope of ‘showing the truth about abortion.’ This group hold ‘educational displays’ outside of clinics but also in city centres.

Andrew Stephenson, the founder of abort67, says that the main goal of their displays is to ‘stop pretending that abortion is healthcare, to move people who are pro-abortion to pro-life, and those who are pro-life to action.’

Whilst also holding graphic images at the displays, volunteers also hand out leaflets. In these leaflets, there are more graphic images and lots of emotive language used to spark a reaction from the public. As Stephenson has said he wishes to motivate people into action rather than people sitting on the fence with their views.

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Before each display abort67 will notify the local police of where and when their display will be taking place. Most displays take place outside of abortion clinics.

At Manchester Piccadilly Gardens the display is held right next to the Manchester City Centre Neighbourhood policing team, in an attempt to show that the police are fully aware of what is happening.

This is a result of the police being called to several of their displays.  Abort67 member Kathryn Attwood has been a part of the group since she was 16 years old and has been arrested three times. She says that the police were just reacting to the public claiming that the images upset them, she believes now that ‘thankfully our right to free speech has been upheld and we continue to display, now without the constant threat of arrest.’

Each volunteer for the Abort67 displays must sign a volunteer agreement. Promising to not pressure members of the public and should condemn abortion related violence.

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The volunteer consent form that each volunteer must sign before participating in the displays

As a further result of previous displays, one of the members will more than likely be wearing a body camera, they say that this is to ensure that if violence or threatening acts take place they can use the footage as evidence.

When asked how they approach members of public, John McKenna stated that he would see if someone was taking a glance at the posters and then ask them ‘I see you looking at our posters, what are your views on this?’ They often say well I haven’t really thought about it, and that’s the whole idea, to open up what they think about the issue.’

While Manchester Piccadilly Gardens was very busy on the Saturday lunchtime, only a handful of people vocalised their opposition to the group. One of which was Daniella Lightowlers who spoke to the group for about 10 minutes getting into a debate. This is according to McKenna one of the reasons why he volunteers for the displays. He wants abortion to be put on a platform so that everyone can have an open and honest debate about the issue. Abort67 founder Andrew Stephenson also agrees with this outlook as he does not believe that an opposing view is a negative one, he says ‘it really is possible to disagree without being disagreeable.’

Lightowlers, while appreciating their right to express their views, she also said ‘They don’t give a s*** about women, they don’t care about pro life, they care about pro birth…if you give a woman less rights than what she needs, to be able to access safe abortion and healthcare, you are legally giving women less rights than a dead body.’ She explains further what she means by that, saying when you die you have to have give consent to take anything from their body, but as a woman if the law were to change you would be forcing her to carry a baby.

Of course there were also passers by that shouted their opinions whilst making their way past. The main one being ‘my body my choice.’ One woman who hurried past the images made the comment ‘3 men stood telling women what they should do with their bodies.’

There was a mix of volunteers at the display with some travelling from just down the road to some who had travelled from as far as Chester and the Wirral.

One woman who chooses to remain anonymous, stated she was once pro choice, as when her daughter fell pregnant at a young age she wanted her to have an abortion, ‘I really wanted her to have an abortion because I didn’t understand it was a life.’ Now reflecting back she is grateful that she didn’t persuade her daughter as now she has her grandson.  Her main argument for being against abortion is ‘What do we do? Do we let that life live and give it a chance to be what it’s supposed to be? Or do we kill it before it gets that chance?’

Another woman at the display, Ruth Boulton, likes what abort67 do as they show the realities of abortion. She believes that if ‘you’re all for looking after the whales and the refugees, let’s look after these little ones, that scream silently every day.’

Both Boulton and another volunteer, Michael Freely, speak about how if we didn’t use the term abortion but said ‘killing babies’ then the mood of the country would change. We would not be desensitised to the idea of abortion. Freely talks about how he doesn’t understand why there is even debate about ‘killing babies’.

Before you got to the display there was a sign that the group put up to warn people of the graphic images that lay ahead of them. Unfortunately these do not allow for those people on public transport going past or shoppers on the opposite side of the road to be warned about the images.

While this display was nowhere near an abortion clinic, 1 in 3 women have an abortion in their lifetime. Meaning that on a busy Saturday lunchtime in the city centre of Manchester as hundreds of people walk up and down the streets it would not be inaccurate to say that the images would have caused someone emotional distress. This display would not be affected by the BPAS back off campaign as they are just using their freedom of speech to stand in a public space and ‘educate and inform about the truth of abortion’

In an anonymous online survey one women who had had an abortion said that if she saw these displays she would feel ‘angry as it has nothing to do with them.’ Another woman said that they shouldn’t be doing it as ‘people don’t know the reason they are having one.’

BPA’S Abigail Fitzgibbon believes that all women who have an abortion know what they are doing and ‘have thought about it very hard or they wouldn’t be coming to us to seek our help.’

Countries like the U.S, France and Canada have already introduced buffer zones between their abortion clinics and anti-abortionists. They also limit photography and recording as it could risk exposing the identity of women at the clinic.

While abort67 continue to ‘educate and inform’ BPAS will continue to try and follow in the footsteps of these countries to create buffer zones.

50 years of the 1967 Abortion Act

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A banner with the infamous coat hanger symbol

2017 marks the 50th anniversary of the Abortion Act in Great Britain, yet women in Great Britain could still be criminalised for their decision to have an abortion.

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Have you ever thought about how you would feel if you fell pregnant?

The law on abortion in Great Britain could soon become less restrictive. MP Diana Johnson took her Ten-Minute rule bill to decriminalise abortion to the House of Commons on March 13.

A campaign by the British Pregnancy Advisory Services (BPAS) named We Trust Women have been guiding the support for the bill. Head of Advocacy and campaigns, Abigail Fitzgibbon thought it would take ten years before they saw any change and that ‘the ten minute rule is beyond our wildest dreams.’

MP’s backed the vote with 172 votes in favour versus 142 against.

The 1967 Abortion Act came into effect 50 years ago. If you were ‘a girl in trouble’ before 1967 your decision to keep or terminate the pregnancy would have ‘legally’ been out of your hands.

It was a question of class.

If you had money and could convince a psychiatrist to give you written consent that you were not mentally able to carry on with the pregnancy, then you could terminate your pregnancy. But at a price. If you weren’t financially able then you may have turned to a ‘backstreet abortion’ putting your health and life in danger.

Britain’s first-ever consultant in reproductive health, Dr Rosemary Kirkman, knows all too well what the situation was like before 1967. Her experiences lead her to recognise the importance of the Abortion Act in Great Britain. She recalls ‘on a Monday morning all the gynecology wards would be full up of women with septic abortions. They got kidney failure, they got septicemia, they needed dialysis, they needed emergency care. They actually used far more NHS facilities than ever there are nowadays even with the greater number of legal abortions.’

Backstreet abortions tended to be performed by women with either little or no nursing knowledge or could be performed yourself. From soapy water to the infamous knitting needles or coat hangers, backstreet abortions were far from safe. You could be prosecuted for your actions through the 1881 Offences Against the Persons Act.

While the 1967 Abortion Act made abortion legal it still has restrictions.

Abortion in Great Britain is also still governed by the same 1881 act which criminalises abortion, meaning the 1967 act only provides a defence for those who have abortions or the doctors who perform them. If you procured your own abortion at home even through pills bought online, you could face a prison sentence.

In 1974 Mary Redcliffe interviewed a woman from Newcastle who had a backstreet abortion in her own home. She already had a child and felt it was impossible to have another. After finding a woman who she knew performed abortions she asked for her help. She was told to buy a household syringe, some antiseptic and some ordinary soap. Along with boiling water that was all that was needed.

The process was fairly simple but caused a lot of pain and is extremely dangerous. The syringe is inserted into her and the other side, which is squeezed, is in the bowl of boiling water and soap. The pain she experienced was described as agonising and ‘worse than childbirth.’

As the abortion was not performed by a professional, the only pain relief she was offered was a cup of tea, a cigarette and some brandy. When the pain became unbearable she needed the help of a doctor, the woman who performed the abortion was very withdrawn but eventually made an anonymous phone call and never returned to see how she was.  Her backstreet abortion ended up costing her a months worth of pain and her job.

You can listen to the full interview here

Variations on this story echo throughout Great Britain before 1967 with around 35,000 women being treated annually when backstreet abortions go wrong.

Dr Maggie Eisner worked as a GP in Shipley, West Yorkshire throughout the 70’s. She sees many differences between the patients she saw then and now. She believes people request terminations much sooner due to increased awareness and availability of pregnancy tests.

This is true as in 2015 92% of terminations were carried out under 13 weeks gestation.

Eisner then goes on to describe how she believes that attitudes in the medical profession has also changed as ‘GP’s are trained to be much more patient centered’ they are much more sympathetic and women do not need to justify their decisions as much.

The decision to have an abortion is never easy and that decision stays with you all of your life. Bridget Maguire had an abortion in the 1970’s. She believes it changed her life for the better explaining, ‘It was inconceivable at that age and that point in my life to have a child.’ she goes on to say how the abortion was just something she had to do.

Currently in Great Britain a woman seeking an abortion must have the permission of two doctors who both agree on one of the grounds for Abortion under Section 1 of the Abortion Act:

  • A. The continuance of the pregnancy would involve risk to the life of the pregnant woman greater than if the pregnancy were terminated.
  • B. The termination is necessary to prevent grave permanent injury to the physical or mental health of the pregnant woman.
  • C. The pregnancy has not exceeded its twenty-fourth week and that the continuance of the pregnancy would involve risk, greater than if the pregnancy were terminated, of injury to the physical or mental health of the pregnant woman.
  • D. The pregnancy has not exceeded its twenty-fourth week and that the continuance of the pregnancy would involve risk, greater than if the pregnancy were terminated, of injury to the physical or mental health of any existing children of the family of the pregnant woman.
  • E. There is a substantial risk that if the child were born it would suffer from such physical or mental abnormalities as to be seriously handicapped. Or, in an emergency, certified by the operating practitioner as immediately necessary.
  • F. To save the life of the pregnant woman.
  • G. To prevent grave permanent injury to the physical or mental health of the pregnant woman.

The latest statistics  for abortions carried out in England, Scotland and Wales were published by the Department of Health in May 2016. They found that 98% of abortions were performed under Ground C and only 2% under ground E.

Technically in Great Britain if you have an abortion without meeting one of these criteria and getting permission from two doctors, you are committing a criminal offence. Although hardly anyone is turned away for their choice to have an abortion, there is argument that it still needs to be decriminalised.

In many countries around the world abortion is legal, with no restrictions what so ever.

As the laws that govern abortion here are so old (the 19th century) there was no foreseeing the impact of the internet. Women were once forced to the back streets but in the age of the internet they would undoubtedly end up online. As Dr Prabha Sivaraman, a member of the Doctors for a woman’s choice on abortion said ‘if we don’t liberalise the law, a new set of problems will come up.’

Doctors for a woman’s choice on abortion is a group that set up in 1976 with the aim of showing the public and MP’s that a number of doctors want a change in law to give women the right to make the abortion decision themselves.

It won’t come as much of a surprise that you can now buy abortion pills online. WomenonWeb.org is just one of the websites that sell abortion pills and in the last year 645 amount of pills were intercepted by customs compared to just 5 in 2013. If abortion becomes legal in Great Britain it is hoped that it will regulate and keep abortions safe. Especially for those who can not easily access abortion clinics because of distance or not being able to take the time out to go to appointments.

As one of the first countries in Europe to become forward thinking about abortion rights, it seems strange to most that we now have restrictions on abortions where other countries do not. The 1967 Abortion Act applies to women in England, Wales and Scotland but not Northern Ireland.

The future of abortions in Great Britain is hotly debated.

The anti-abortionists are discovering new ways to vocalise their views, taking inspiration from their American counterparts. While the pro-choice groups are fighting to decriminalise abortion here in Great Britain .

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Kathrynn Attwood is a member of one of the anti abortion groups based in Great Britain called abort67. She believes that the group are ‘working to expose abortion so that the next generation don’t face the same pain as the last’ meaning that they want to educate the public on the ‘truth’ of abortion and get rid of the Abortion Act.

On the other side of the argument pro-choice organisations such as the British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS) have many campaigns to try to liberate women’s rights in Great Britain and make strides for the pro-choice movement. One of their campaigns is the We Trust Women campaign. Their aim is to decriminalise abortion as a law passed 136 years ago in the 19th century is still governing the women of Great Britain today and many don’t realise it.

We Trust Women have many supporters one of which being the Royal College of Midwives (RCM) who say that the ‘Victorian legislation is still deeply affecting women in 21st century.’ Cathy Warwick, Chief Executive of the RCM, gives the campaign full support saying  ‘the law should not be potentially criminalising women for their decision. The system should be offering support and care, not obstacles.’

The Women’s Equality Party are also supporters, party leader Sophie Walker said ‘It is time for Britain to catch up and to acknowledge that women know what is best for themselves and their families.’ She believes that 21st century women should be trusted to make their own decisions.

Dr Sivaraman as part of Doctors for a woman’s choice also supports this campaign, she believes ‘if doctors don’t give voice to women, women will not be able to survive. Women will die like flies.’

She says this because while the anti-abortion movement can be described as being ‘loud’ and can grab a lot of media attention. With one in three women having an abortion within their lifetime it seems odd that the pro-choice movement is seen as quieter in comparison.

It is this silence that Amelia Bonow believes anti abortionists are manipulating for their own gain. Bonow became an internet sensation in September 2015, when she decided to share her abortion experience on social media, the #shoutyourabortion started trending around the world in a matter of hours with women all over the world using the hashtag to talk about their experiences.

Many in the UK already thought that abortion was legal. When MP Diana Johnson hit the headlines in March with her bill to decriminalise abortion, it made many open their eyes as to the state of legalisation in this country.

In her bill she set out that she wanted to decriminalise abortion claiming that the ‘Victorian’ abortion laws should be scrapped.

During her speech she talks of how no other medical procedure in this country is governed by legislation this old.

She has also mentions the abortion pills being sold online and how she hopes that women who cannot access doctors easily could speak to a GP online, be assessed and prescribed the pills in a regulated safe way.

Andrew Stephenson, founder of the anti-abortion group abort67 is fairly confident that the bill will amount to nothing stating ‘The public shouldn’t be deceived by how manipulative the abortion industry are. This was just a first reading’

The bill will go on to a further reading on March 24 before it is passed into law.

Suffragette Review

Suffragette is the long overdue film which gives the dramatic account of some of the pivotal moments in British women’s rights history.  The film boasts many A-list actors that give outstanding performances throughout, such as Meryl Streep whose screen time was short-lived but nonetheless inspirational. Those with much more screen time like Helena Bonham-Carter, Carey Mulligan and Anne-Marie Duff give performances that are hard to fault.PHBCkOvcE7GpEK_1_l

Screen writer Abi Morgan’s previous work has shed light on women’s issues before for example Sex Traffic. While at the BFI London Film Festival Morgan suggested she will for the next four or five years be focusing on productions based on the experiences of women.  In Suffragette she teams up with director Sarah Gavron who she worked with once before on a previous production Brick Lane. Morgan has also worked with Meryl Streep before in historically based film The Iron Lady.

While the film includes many of the famous pivotal moments in suffragette history including speeches by Emmeline Pankhurst, the leader of the Suffragettes, and concludes with Emily Wilding Davison throwing herself in front of King George V’s horse at the Epsom derby. Morgan decides to portray the story through the eyes of factory worker Maud Watts played by Carey Mulligan.

Watts is from a lower class and was somewhat reluctant to join the suffragettes at the start of the film and focused more on her work and family, but she soon found herself in the centre of the suffragette movement and ultimately ended up risking everything for what she believed in.

The film takes you through a range of emotions, at different points of the film I found myself gasping and feeling angry yet powerless to what I was witnessing. Not to long afterwards I was laughing and feeling inspired by the comradery shown, but of course before I knew it I was back to crying at heart wrenching scenes. Throughout I was constantly on the edge of my seat, and while some parts were hard to watch I still could not tear my eyes away from the screen which in itself is the highest praise I can give.

On reflection it is notable that some storylines that were developing alongside the main ones were dropped off with no conclusion for example what is going to happen to Maud, as she was not left in a good position. Since this is my only criticism I feel I only give it as I got too involved with the characters and really that just demonstrates how terrific the acting and direction of the film was.

The timing of the film could not have been better with the news of domestic violence cuts. Protesters actually used the film’s premiere as their opportunity to draw media attention to the issues much like the suffragettes did less than 100 years ago.

You can read one of the protesters account of what happened here.

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Protesters at the films premiere

The final few minutes of the film drove home its serious nature, while we may roll our eyes at some of the sexist comments made; it demonstrates that the fight for equality is not yet over.

You will not leave the cinema feeling anything less than empowered and grateful. The film sheds light on history that everyone should be aware of but also proud of the women who quite literally risked it all for what they believed in.

 

Who says you need to be a man to be an engineer?!

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As a girl currently studying Mechanical and Medical Engineering, I have been made well aware of the gender ratio in engineering. I know some people’s perception of the ‘push’ to get girls into engineering is just because we think we can do a better job, but it’s really not. The whole point of girls joining the sector of engineering is to diversify the work place because the female and male minds are stronger at working in different ways. We all have our strengths and weaknesses but when we work together we find the best and most efficient solutions to engineering problems.

I think there are so many reasons why girls choose not to study engineering such as it sounding ‘manly’ or ‘boring’. Even some people that don’t know about it think it’s about fixing cars! I know that some girls are put off because it is full of men and…

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Celebrity reactions to Ferguson

America was immersed into chaos at the grand jury’s decision not to charge Darren Wilson the police officer who killed an unarmed black teenager, Michael Brown, in Ferguson Missouri.

This is the situation of how one shot managed to cause outrage throughout America and create chaos and protests throughout.

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Michael Brown

 

The police officer Wilson, first confronted the teenager at 12:01 and by the time other officers arrived at 12:04, Brown was dead.

According to the autopsy the teenager was shot six times, twice in the head and four times in his right arm.

There are opposing stories of what happened on that day, with his friend saying he had his hands up in the air surrendering whilst the authorities said he had attacked the officer in his car.

Dorian Johnson, Brown’s friend who was there when the shooting took place. He said that after a confrontation at the car window and the police officer fired his weapon. The two teenagers then ran down the street.

Dorian Johnson
Dorian Johnson

When running away Johnson said his friend was shot once from behind and he then turned with his hands in the air, the officer fired more shots before he fell to the ground.

As a result protests and unrest took place all over America because of Michael Brown’s death, causing national debate about law enforcement and race equality. The situation became even worse when the grand jury made the decision not to indict Darren Wilson.

Whilst many members of the public took to the streets in protest, celebrities also reacted some more passionately than others.

Celebrities flooded twitter with tweets of sympathy, shock, prayers and calls for peace.

Some were even active within their protests, for example Macklemore marched in his hometown of Seattle alongside many members of the public. He did not tell anyone he was going to be there, which suggests he was genuinely passionate about the situation rather than the need for publicity.

Other celebrities like Katy Perry, Pharrell Williams and Will.I.Am expressed their concern through Twitter with a single tweet:

Pharrell Williams is calling for peace her, while he shows his outrage at the decision, he still tries to calm the situation.

One of the most active and non aggressive celebrity who gave a powerful message of disgust at the decision but gave a peaceful outlet at how to show your anger rather than causing more pain in aggressive protests, was Orlando Jones.

Orlando Jones, was inspired by the very popular ALS Ice Bucket Challenge that involved celebrities and ordinary people, it helped the campaign by receiving many donations. In order to bring attention to the violence that keeps occurring in America. Orlando Jones decided to have a new variation he calls the ‘Bullet Bucket Challenge’. He was said to be inspired by the death of Michael Brown, he felt he needed to take action in a public way.

Orlando Jones, the star of Sleepy Hollow, has probably been the most active in his protests and does not seem to have an ulterior motive other than trying to make America take notice of the issue in race equality.

He also made sure he did it in a peaceful way, and is suggesting a way for others to get their views across peacefully.

 

 

Some celebrities opted to post pictures online to illustrate their opinions on the verdict of the trial.

Rhianna posted this photo with the caption ‘facts’.

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While the celebrities wanted to show their opinions about the decision that was made however they expressed also how they believed action should be taken peacefully.

Cher was the most vocal in making sure she let everyone know her stance on the way actions should be taken. After her initial tweet goes on to show her point of view on violence and stating that whilst protests are acceptable, taking it too far is crime and the public should think about what their actions can do to the innocent members of the public.

Andy Cohen was especially concerned for his hometown, and wishing for people to have peaceful protests, reminding the public and those that are protesting in the streets of Missouri and all around the USA, of the main people who are grieving which are Michael Browns family.

Barack Obama even commented on the protests and how he thinks they should be handled peacefully, his motives for doing so are obvious as he wants his country to be peaceful and deal with things in a better way.

https://www.google.co.uk/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=video&cd=4&cad=rja&uact=8&ved=0CC0QuAIwAw&url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.theguardian.com%2Fus-news%2F2014%2Fnov%2F25%2Fobama-ferguson-appeal-peace-overshadowed&ei=OpG3VILjEZDbauSggfAN&usg=AFQjCNF6Mgph7gLWdK0_Qd9so5WVfNYj2Q&sig2=KNVrwUi8hchMuL9eM39xdQ

 

Social media doesn’t accept body shaming in women’s shops

Social media has been the battleground for some serious debates lately, especially when it comes to body shaming.

Many women’s retailers have stimulated these discussions with social media users fighting back.

A huge recent example of this is when Topshop was under fire after a student from Hull, Becky Leigh Hopper, brought to social media’s attention the size of their mannequins.

Becky Leigh Hopper posted a picture of her friend Georgia Bibby stood next to a mannequin and commented on the notable size difference in the legs.

This started a huge twitter debate where her tweet was praised for bringing attention to Topshop’s ‘body shaming’ and what that could do to the younger generations view of their own bodies. An online petition was started to promote a diverse range of healthy body types throughout all Arcadia group mannequins.

http://www.glammonitor.com/2014/11/04/tell-arcadia-group-remove-super-skinny-topshop-mannequins/

Topshop released a statement saying they had long “made it a priority to showcase a healthy size image”, also saying: “The mannequin in question has been used in stores the past four years and is based on a standard UK size 10. The overall height, at 187cm, is taller than the average girl and the form is a stylised one to have more impact in store and create a visual focus. Mannequins are made from solid fibreglass, so in order for clothing to fit, the form of the mannequins needs to be of certain dimensions to allow clothing to be put on and removed; this is therefore not meant to be a representation of the average female body.”

Although the photo that was posted shows a major size difference between the supposed ‘size 10’ mannequin and Georgia Bibby’s legs.

There was also a backlash accusing Becky Hopper of body shaming skinny girls. This is something she strongly denies in her blog, claiming ‘[she doesn’t] have a bad word to say about skinny girls, we believe that all girls are beautiful and all should be comfortable in their own skin, whether they be a size 4 or a 24.’ https://beckyleighhopper.wordpress.com/2014/10/29/topshops-idea-of-normal/

According to an online survey to see whether or not the size of Topshop mannequins affects regular people who shop there regularly, of those that responded most were women aged between 18-24. There were mixed opinions on whether Topshop mannequins promoted a healthy body image, one person thought ‘they have features which are not comparable to the female body’ whilst another commented that ‘at the end of the day they’re mannequins not people’.

They have noticed how these can have an effect on how these women have felt about themselves with comments like ‘I feel like I need to look like the mannequins to wear Topshop clothes as I will get judged because I do not have the “perfect” body’. However in Topshop’s defence another comment was made that ‘you see staff wearing the clothes and this for me is more realistic’ this shows that while Topshop’s mannequins are very thin that doesn’t mean that they are promoting an unhealthy body image.

One opinion that was given in the survey brought up the fact that those shops that only stock larger sizes such SimplyBe and Jacamo, these shops seem to never come under fire for them exclusively selling  bigger sizes.

Overall the survey suggests that while some can be affected by the unhealthy body image being promoted others just tend to ignore it, but the main way that most believe it should be solved is by having a variety of sizes of mannequins in Topshop and other retailers aswell.

Of those that took part in the poll most believe that a variety of mannequin sizes should be used in order to represent a healthier body image. However one women who looked at this debate from a business point of view ‘ the models they use are there to sell clothes (or other products).. The clothes generally always look better on tall slim models.’ implying it has nothing to do with the body image it is giving out, it is purely for sales.

Other companies have also hit the headlines and consequently been discussed on social networks such as the Victoria Secret campaign of the ‘perfect body’. This resulted in twitter users slamming back with many tweets and pictures being posted using #IAmPerfect

Victoria Secret
Victoria Secrets ‘perfect body’ campaign

Frances Black from Leeds University is one of the students behind the Victoria Secrets campaign..

This and other tweets led to Victoria Secret changing its campaign fro ‘the perfect body’ to ‘a body for every body’.

Another retailer that started an online debate was the introduction of Calvin Kliens ‘plus size’ model who is in fact a size 12.

 

Myla Dalbesio
Calvin Klein’s plus size model, Myla Dalbesio

This tweet shows the general opinions of twitter users who think that the idea that a size 10 model is classed as plus size is ridiculous.

All of these controversy’s have obviously hit the headlines but also have caused a social media storm like never before, with anyone who’s anyone being able to give their own opinions on the situation.

Basically women’s retailers shouldn’t body shame any more because whether it was unintentional or not social media will backlash almost instantly.

 

ONLINE SURVEY RESULTS CAN BE FOUND HERE- https://www.surveymonkey.com/results/SM-C786X5BV/

 

Chris Ramsey returns to Leeds (SEO)

Rising comedian Chris Ramsey performed his latest tour ‘The Most Dangerous Man on Saturday Morning Television’ at Leeds City Varieties Music Hall.

Chris Ramsey is a 'ball of energy' on stage
Chris Ramsey is a ‘ball of energy’ on stage

The tour was originally just set for a Spring run earlier this year but after great success Ramsey extended it, with tickets selling out at Leeds.

He came to Leeds on the 20th October 2014 where he was described by The Huddersfield Daily Examiner as a ‘ball of energy’, and had free flowing banter with the audience making him very much more cheeky and lovable rather than a ‘dangerous’ man.

In 2012 he was kicked off Sky One’s Soccer AM and banned for life after discussing a twitter argument he had live on air.

This gave him his inspiration for the topic base of his new show. He looks at what happens when you say the wrong thing in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Ramsey himself enjoyed his time here as much as the crowd did, he tweeted;

 @IAmChrisRamsey Oct 20              

Wow Leeds. Wow…

Ramsey is best known for his stints on panel shows such as Celebrity Juice and playing alongside Vic Reeves in the BBC2 show Hebburn. He is described by GQ as being ‘frighteningly talented…tearing up every stage he lands on’.

The tour has been a success in pretty much every sense of the word and is seen by The Sunday Times as ‘ A mainstream hit, a cult favorite or almost anything in between’.