Covid is a feminist issue

We have been told repeatedly that this virus is a great leveller, that it does not discriminate; but it does. The death rate from the disease is twice as high for men as women, Black men in the UK are 4.2 times as likely to be killed by the disease than white men of the same age, Black women 4.3 times as likely as white women. Disable and chronically ill people are not only at higher risk of death from the virus itself, but also as a result of the institutionalised ableism in health care policy and medical ethics. COVID-19 has hit the most deprived neighbourhoods and the most deprived people hardest. Inequality has shaped the pandemic, its course through the country and responses to it.

Our ability to adjust to the pandemic, to protect ourselves or to find a ‘new normal’ is unequal too. Women and young people have been most likely to lose paid work, low-paid workers in personal services most likely to have to continue working, in close contact with others, often without adequate protection. People with the highest incomes (disproportionately white men) are the most likely to be able to work from home and to have the space and equipment to do so. Staying home is not the same for a household with a big house and garden as it is for a large family in a small flat. COVID-19 and the social response to the pandemic have caused population-level anxiety, which is being experienced variable ant the individual level. We are perhaps in the same storm but different in boats. In the UK domestic abuse helpline have risen by 49 per cent and charities assisting vulnerable families have seen an exponential surge in demand for their services.  In India the ‘world’s most dangerous country for women’, the scale of domestic violence has escalated to such an extent that the National Commission for Women (NCW) has launched a Whatsapp service in addition to supporting online complaints. These examples show the need to examine and understand how the geopolitical dimensions of the pandemic are impacting individual’ homelife and how homelife is also characterising individual experiences of the pandemic (see Brickell 2012). For some this will be a period of deep trauma and we may only learn the extent of what people have suffered over the years to come.

Women of a Self-Help Group making masks in Darbhanga, Bihar. Courtesy- Dr. Gaurav Sikka

For academics these inequalities have been felt in the threat of job losses and cut hours for casualized staff, PhD students coming to the end of their studies face bleak prospects for employment in universities, or elsewhere, while staff and students with caring responsibilities have seen demands on their time multiply. Unsurprisingly, women are doing the majority of the increased childcare and housework that lockdown has brought, with domestic pressures even greater for parents of disable children with complex care needs, who have lost access to respite and other support services. The effects of this are measurable in a reduced ability to do research, to write and to publish – the things that ‘count’ for promotions and job security. Around the world, as universities move their teaching online, existing inequalities are being strengthened and social and gender divides between students are widening.

This virus is not an equaliser, it does discriminate. We call on universities and other actors in Higher Education to monitor and ameliorate this discrimination. Covid-19 could undo decades of work towards equality within the academy, we must not let this happen. Instead, we can use this opportunity to imagine a new future, where the value of caring is recognised, work is flexible and the environmental gains of our new ways of working continued. We could embrace an ethic of care within academia, redefine what is important, and build an academic world that is sustainable, caring, and respectful to all.

(Paper) Academia in the Time of COVID-19: Towards an Ethics of Care

Esteve Corbera, Isabelle Anguelovski, Jordi Honey-Rosés, &Isabel Ruiz-Mallén (2020)

https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/14649357.2020.1757891

ABSTRACT

The global COVID-19 pandemic is affecting people’s work-life balance across the world. For academics, confinement policies enacted by most countries have implied a sudden switch to home-work, a transition to online teaching and mentoring, and an adjustment of research activities. In this article we discuss how the COVID-19 crisis is affecting our profession and how it may change it in the future. We argue that academia must foster a culture of care, help us refocus on what is most important, and redefine excellence in teaching and research. Such re-orientation can make academic practice more respectful and sustainable, now during confinement but also once the pandemic has passed. We conclude providing practical suggestions on how to renew our practice, which inevitably entails re-assessing the social-psychological, political, and environmental implications of academic activities and our value systems.

Source: Esteve Corbera, Isabelle Anguelovski, Jordi Honey-Rosés, &Isabel Ruiz-Mallén (2020)

Academia in Covid-19 times: Reflections on practice

As a group of feminist researchers we thought it pertinent to provide our reflections on how our current practices are being impacted by Covid-19 and the uncertainties surrounding the new conditions in which we find ourselves. Should you wish to present your own story/ reflection for inclusion on the website please email our web coordinator at Lucy.Jackson@Sheffield.ac.uk.

All reflections/ personal accounts will be posted anonymously. In publishing these accounts we hope to create a sense of solidarity around the struggles that some researchers are finding themselves immersed in.

Links

https://www.reuters.com/article/us-health-coronavirus-leveller-trfn/uk-under-fire-for-suggesting-coronavirus-great-leveller-idUSKCN21R30P

https://opensafely.org/outputs/2020/05/covid-risk-factors/

https://www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/healthandsocialcare/causesofdeath/bulletins/coronaviruscovid19relateddeathsbyoccupationenglandandwales/deathsregistereduptoandincluding20april2020

https://www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/birthsdeathsandmarriages/deaths/articles/coronavirusrelateddeathsbyethnicgroupenglandandwales/2march2020to10april2020

https://www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/birthsdeathsandmarriages/deaths/bulletins/deathsinvolvingcovid19bylocalareasanddeprivation/deathsoccurringbetween1marchand17april

https://www.theguardian.com/society/2020/may/13/parents-disabled-children-buckling-under-24-hour-care-coronavirus

https://www.forbes.com/sites/andrewpulrang/2020/04/14/the-disability-community-fights-deadly-discrimination-amid-the-covid-19-pandemic/#6acfaee6309c

https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/coronavirus-child-abuse-domestic-violence-family-charity-a9519186.html

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2020/apr/12/inequality-pandemic-lockdown

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2020/may/13/state-collapse-social-order-coronavirus-britain

https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2020/03/15/business/economy/coronavirus-worker-risk.html

https://www.kcl.ac.uk/news/the-impacts-of-covid-19-are-gendered-but-there-may-be-cause-for-hope

https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/j.1749-8198.2012.00511.x

https://mobile.abc.net.au/news/2020-05-24/coronavirus-has-set-back-progress-for-women-workplace-equality/12268742

https://www.theguardian.com/education/2020/may/12/womens-research-plummets-during-lockdown-but-articles-from-men-increase

https://www.outlookindia.com/website/story/india-news-opinion-the-gendered-impact-of-coronavirus-pandemic-in-india/350804

https://www.newsclick.in/online-learning-during-COVID-19-lockdown-deepening-class-gender-divide

https://wonkhe.com/blogs/universities-must-not-forget-about-bame-students-during-this-crisis/?doing_wp_cron=1589817762.1538031101226806640625

https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/14649357.2020.1757891

https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/14649357.2020.1757891#

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On the importance of recognising misogyny as a hate crime

Jess Bostock is a member of ‘Misogyny IS Hate’, a student led activist group working with Greater Manchester Citizens to improve the lived experience of women in the city through legislative equality. Jess presented her research on Misogyny hate crime in Greater Manchester in the GFGRG session ‘New and emerging research in gender and feminist geographies’ at the RGS-IBG Annual Conference 2019.  

Twitter link for the campaign: https://twitter.com/misogynyishate?lang=en

Words by Jess Bostock

Manchester’s ‘Misogyny IS Hate’campaign began following Misogyny Hate Crime policy implementation in Nottingham, under Chief Constable Susannah Fish in 2016. Why is it important? What is misogyny? Implementation allows for police training to recognise and tackle crimes motivated by misogyny, as well as actions which legitimise women’s experiences by challenging the realities of gendered violence, such as through directed education for those displaying misogynistic behaviour (Citizens UK 2019). A two year post-implementation evaluation demonstrated overwhelming support for a national roll-out of the policy (Mullany and Trickett 2018) and MP Stella Creasy has advocated for misogyny to be made a hate crime nationally under the current upskirting bill in parliament. 

Research on women’s experiences of misogyny in Greater Manchester

In a survey I conducted in 2019, with 520 respondents from within Greater Manchester (GM) and a further 232 nationally, 75% of respondents stated that they had been groped, 65% had been followed, and 83% had been harassed in a public place. The data also highlighted the intersectionality of misogyny as the experiences of BAME women, visibly religious women and older women were often rooted in their identity as women, as well as their race, religion or age. These results highlight the severity of misogyny with Greater Manchester and indicate how normalised misogyny is, considering its widespread nature. Respondents also highlighted key spaces and temporalities in which misogynistic instances occur. The most common spaces were workplaces and on public transport, often at night-time.

The proliferation of such lived experiences for women, and the lasting impacts these can have on their wellbeing, mental health and use of public spaces, highlights the need for Misogyny Hate Crime in Greater Manchester. In fact, 90% of survey respondents stated that they believe such a policy should be implemented.

Contributions of the research to national and local action

Through the ‘Misogyny IS Hate’ campaign I have had the opportunity to give a national voice to the experiences of the women who participated in my research;  first at the Manchester Law Commission of England and Wales hearing of Hate Crime[1] (Figure 1) and now through the inclusion of my research within the Citizen’s UK National Hate Crime report. However, whilst the national strategy awaits the Law Commission’s recommendation, we continue to strive for local change.

The research was presented to Supt. Rick Jackson Head of Hate Crime within Greater Manchester Police (Figure 2), to enable him to garner internal support for the legislation. In late 2019 Greater Manchester Combined Authority released a public consultation on Hate Crime, with the first question asking whether GM authorities should recognise hate against women and girls. At the GM Hate Crime Awareness Week Launch in February 2020 (Figure 3) the overwhelming support for the inclusion of this category was announced. This gives Greater Manchester authorities and the Chief Constable a unique opportunity to take the transformative step of recognising women are disportionately targeted due to their gender.

To conclude

Misogyny is a complex issue, rooted in patriarchy, Othering and the systemic oppression of women and minority groups. Hate crime legislation is a key progression in a wider picture of tackling gender inequality. Criado-Perez (2019) argues that ‘whether unthinkingly or not, we just aren’t prioritising women’ and therefore live alongside an ‘endemic of sexual violence’ towards women in a ‘Misogynation’ (Bates, 2018). I argue that recognising the disproportionate threat and violence that women face, through the implementation of misogyny hate crime, is the first key step in tackling gender inequality of the 21st century.

As a campaign group, we hope to continue working closely with GM authorities to see Manchester take the lead on such an important issue for women once again, as the Suffragette City.

References

Bates, L. (2018) Misogynation: The True Scale of Sexism. London: Simon and Schuster.

Citizens UK (2019) Making misogyny a hate crime. Available at:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rW8jCOuuXWQ (Accessed: 9 February 2020)

Criado-Perez, Caroline (2019) Invisible Women: Exposing data bias in a world designed for men. London: Chatto & Windus.

Mullany, L and Tricket, L. (2018) Misogyny hate crime: new research reveals true scale of issue – and how the public are united against it. Available at: https://theconversation.com/misogyny-hate-crime-new-research-reveals-true-scale-of-issue-and-how-the-public-are-united-against-it-100265 (Accessed: 9 February 2020)



[1] The draft proposal of findings is due to be published in early 2020

Figure 1 – Manchester Law Commission of England & Wales Hate Crime Hearing

Figure 2 – Misogyny IS Hate Meeting with Superintendent Rick Jackson (GMP Hate Crime Lead) and Former Chief Constable of Nottinghamshire Police Susannah Fish
Figure 3 – Greater Manchester Hate Crime Awareness Week Launch

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GFGRG sponsored sessions at the RGS-IBG Annual Conference 2020

The GFGRG is pleased to announce its sponsored sessions at the RGS IBG annual conference 2020. Please see the CPFs outlined below, with links to further information and deadlines for submitting an abstract.

We look forward to seeing you at the conference in August

1. The politics of terminology within resistance geographies: Revisiting Katz’ distinctions between resistance, resilience and reworking.

Session convenors: Amber Murrey , University of Oxford, and Sarah Hughes, University of Northumbria

Link to CFP: http://conference.rgs.org/CallForPapers/View.aspx?heading=Y&session=6601efed-4a9d-48b4-adcc-99587e992360

Deadline to submit a paper 7 February 2020.

2. Feminist geographies of legal pluralism, activism and everyday justice

Session convenors: Sydney Calkin (QMUL), Philippa Williams (QMUL)

Link to CFP: http://conference.rgs.org/CallForPapers/View.aspx?heading=Y&session=49c75961-42f0-4fc1-9aa0-ab99e3d07e35

Deadline to submit a paper: 31st January 2020  

3. The borderlands of motherhood and academia

Session convenors: Dr Karen Horwood, (Leeds Beckett University) and Dr Bronwen Edwards, (Leeds Beckett University)

Link to CFP: http://conference.rgs.org/CallForPapers/View.aspx?heading=Y&session=b88d943d-90d2-4da8-9f6c-dae6d43cb10a

Deadline to submit a paper 31st January 2020

5. Breaking the Borders of Home: Transformations of Care and Reproductive Work

Session convenors: Rosie Cox & Lexter Woodley, Birkbeck University of London, and Karin Schwiter, University of Zurich

Link to CFP: http://conference.rgs.org/CallForPapers/View.aspx?heading=Y&session=65a66038-9b10-4aeb-a435-be94660c8e7f  

Deadline to submit a paper: 31st January 2020

6. Digital Labour Geographies, Gig Work Futures – Extending the Conversation

Session convenors: Organisers: Al James*, Karin Schwiter** & Christian Berndt**, *Newcastle University & **University of Zurich

Link to CFP http://conference.rgs.org/CallForPapers/View.aspx?heading=Y&session=78bac921-9b37-4353-bd3b-21c5e47b331a

Deadline to submit a paper: 31st January 2020

7. Working at the edge: Performative and material bodies in mobile lives

Session convenors: Karine Duplan (University of Geneva & University of Neuchâtel, CH) and Ailie Tam (University of East Anglia, UK)

Link to CFP: http://conference.rgs.org/CallForPapers/View.aspx?heading=Y&session=3aee12e2-0de0-425f-9476-0317bcfbf266

Deadline to submit a paper: 5th February 2020  

8. Minorities in South Asia: Contesting bordering processes  

Session convenors: Prof Neloufer de Mel, Department of English, University of Colombo, Sri Lanka, Dr Christine Schenk, Department of Religious Studies and Department of Geography, University of Zurich, and Dr Shermal Wijiwardene, Department of English, University of Colombo, Sri Lanka

Link to CFP:  http://conference.rgs.org/CallForPapers/View.aspx?heading=Y&session=16fbe8bf-b867-4259-abfd-26a54fab5d4c

Deadline to submit a paper 4th February 2020

9. New and emerging research within Gender and Feminist Geographies

Session convenors: Alex Kendrick (University of Liverpool), Olivia Engle (Birbeck, University of London)

Link to CFP: http://conference.rgs.org/CallForPapers/View.aspx?heading=Y&session=8a332f40-1cc7-4dbb-9403-7babd40102bc

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The beautiful game: the multiscalar experiences of women footballers playing a male-dominated game

GFGRG dissertation joint 1st prize winner

Isobel Phillips, University of Nottingham

With the best piece of pre-dissertation advice ringing in my ears – “Write about something you enjoy”, I decided to focus my research on a sport I have grown up loving, football. Combined with an interest in gender geographies that had developed through lectures, the challenge was initially daunting, with preliminary research finding sociology as the anchor of what I wanted to focus on. The benefit of conducting my own primary research however was I could find the geography within people’s experiences.

My primary methodology was 10 one to one semi-structured interviews, walking on the pitch, near a pitch, utilising a bird’s eye view and over the phone with a range of female university and civic players. Using some prompts as well as bouncing off the interviewees’ responses, a range of themes emerged including gender, sexuality, media, spaces, performance and stereotypes to name but a few. Due to my complex position as a double insider (I am both a football player and some participants were teammates), I also kept a reflexive diary throughout the process to understand my subjectivity, recording often some uncomfortable thoughts but ones that ultimately helped my research. I drew on a range of literature to give a thorough geographical grounding to my work, including key thinkers like Foucault, Massey and McDowell, as well as incorporating research outside of the usual discipline, giving it a new geographical spin.

I grouped my findings into three main scales, the overall sport, the pitch, and the body scale.

Within football itself, gender differences were such an influencing factor as female footballers struggle against a narrative that puts football as “more acceptable for boys” (Sally, an interviewee), a territory that’s not encouraged. The large-scale gender inequality; with the annual pay of the top 1,693 women footballers equivalent to one of the highest paying male footballer’s playing only contract in 2017-18 (Kelner, 2017). This trickles down, discouraging girls from an early age to play. The media emerged as a key factor in women’s football, with newspapers actively choosing how much space – column inches in fact – they give to women’s sport, historically very low, but slowly improving. Increasingly though social media, a new but hugely growing online space offers a geographically distant but strongly networked resistance to the masculine hegemony, as seen here in the Chelsea men’s and women’s teams sharing online space.

Figure 1: Chelsea Women and Men’s double header Instagram post (@chelseafwc)

The pitch was a crucial element to my work, raising some real geographical connotations I wasn’t expecting. Yi-Fu Tuan’s concept of topophilia was explored and I found that for these players the strength of connection was increased by an emotional connection, primarily when playing games as that’s where the winning and losing occurred, in comparison to training. Playing at home was still preferred, but with the increasing placelessness of sporting arenas due to artificialisation, the difference is becoming less pronounced. Analysing sub-pitch space was something new I hadn’t come across but I found through mapping the player’s comfort zones within the pitch, as shown below. This revealed an atypical link between Butler’s theory of gender performativity. Just as gender is re-enacted until seemingly natural, by playing football for many years and repeating scripts, the performance comes naturally to them. Non-visual senses, originally overlooked in geographical research were also prominent; the feeling of “standing in the cold” and “the smell of muddy football boots” highlighted the importance of senses in creating a richer sense of place. What was also interesting was the rubber crumb of 3G pitches travelled with the players back to their houses and cars, expanding the bounded space of the pitch.

The third results chapter discusses the impact of football on the body. The power of stereotypes was clear here, from being ‘tomboyish’ as a girl, viewed as a softer form of masculinity, with less of a threat to sporting patriarchal power. Hitting adolescence however this changes into “everyone thinks you’re gay!” (Sally – a participant). Using Foucault’s (1975) theory of normalisation within a sporting context; just as heterosexuality is positioned as natural, the association of lesbianism with women footballers, society also controls women athletes by being “doubly abnormal”. This idea is also caught up with being a “woman” as being a lesbian and to an extent, a women footballer, challenge the category of woman as they don’t have a socially sanctioned relationship to men (Caudwell, 2003). Women footballers are disciplined by the woman-feminine-heterosexual imperative, when in fact many employ woman-masculine-lesbian as well as embodying typically masculine aspects such as strength, power, muscles and short hair, disrupting the gender construct.   

Within the body work, injuries were a powerful component. The mind has often been prioritised over the body in dualistic thinking, so bodily emotions have often been excluded from geography (Antoninetti and Garrett, 2012). I found that through injury, players experienced ‘place panic’, an anxiety with feeling out of place in one’s usual comfort zone. This challenges Ettinger’s (2004) work on how mobility is linked to all emotions, as here immobility produces the stronger reaction. Bodies may also be subject to temporary spatial deprivation in which the ground may be physically inaccessible to crutches or wheelchairs, adding work to exclusionary space that has until now mainly focused on chronic disability. In addition, women footballer’s bodies were often subject to performativity. The male gaze acted as a form of surveillance that appeared in women’s football from a young age, making women feel out of place and like their body had to change. They had the contrasting experiences of wanting to feel attractive but the shame that when a female player made a mistake, it was representative of their entire gender.

My research addressed how gender differences are enacted at multiple scales; the sport, the pitch and the body. I hope I showed that although there are gendered challenges that come with playing football there is a volume of positive emotions that have contributed to women playing to high levels and for many years. Four main themes emerged; the strong sense of home, consciousness of their gender, contrasts between and within women’s experiences and resistance to stereotypes.

The future is exciting for women’s football; viewing figures for the 2019 Women’s World Cup in France hit 1.12 billion, the Australian women’s national team just announced they would be paid on parity to the men’s squad and England Ladies played for the first time ever in front of a sold-out crowd (86,000 people) at Wembley this November. There’s plenty of work still to be done, but the time is right to be studying both geography and football.

Antoninetti, M. and Garrett, M. (2012). Body capital and the geography of aging. Area, 44(3), pp. 364-370.

Caudwell, J. (2003). Sporting Gender: Women’s Footballing Bodies as Sites/Sights for the [Re]Articulation of Sex, Gender and Desire. Sociology of Sport Journal, 20, pp. 371–386.

Ettlinger, N. (2004). Toward a Critical Theory of Untidy Geographies: The Spatiality of Emotions in Consumption and Production. Feminist Economics, 10(3), pp. 21-54.

Foucault, M. (1975). Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison. London: Penguin.

Kelner, M. (2017). Football’s gender pay gap worse than in politics, medicine and space. The Guardian. [online]. Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/football/2017/nov/26/football-gender-pay-gap-worse-than-inpolitics-medicine-and-space. [Accessed: 1/6/18].

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Emotional geographies of breastfeeding: Private and public spaces of support and stress

GFGRG dissertation joint 1st prize winner

Tabitha Shell, QMUL

The World Health Organisation (WHO) recommends that all new mothers breastfeed their child exclusively for 6 months and states the factors that a woman needs to successfully breastfeed: consistent and correct information, personal, professional and societal support. However, these have also proven to be the root causes of pressure, stress and judgement around breastfeeding for a new mother, varying through different private and public spaces. Although Mahon-Daly and Andrews (2002) suggested that breastfeeding women are more comfortable breastfeeding in private spaces like the home, rather than public space, this research has challenged this. In several circumstances breastfeeding in public space was the solution to the entrapment, isolation and intrusion of others in the private space of the home.

Exisiting literature around breastfeeding is extensive in terms of statistics but more limited regarding breastfeeding mothers’ embodied experiences of breastfeeding in public. Particularly there is a need to understand how breastfeeding mothers engage with different forms of public space and certainly how private space can affect their experience of breastfeeding through feelings of isolation and intrusion from visitors. There is little discussed regarding the impacts of the interactions between the breastfeeding mother and professional support beyond the mention in work by Larson et al., (2008), which may have serious implications for the mother’s experience of breastfeeding, particularly between the private spaces of the hospital and the home. Similarly, the importance of the personal support networks in the experience of a breastfeeding mother is relatively neglected by academic literature (Bailey and Pain, 2001). Furthermore, there is less research on breastfeeding mothers’ engagement with activism, despite an increasing proportion of mother’s engaging with breastfeeding activism through social media, literature has not explored this or other more achievable, inclusive solutions to make breastfeeding mothers feel more than tolerated when breastfeeding in public. Literature should reflect the complex relationship between a society that does not seem to understand nor respect the hard work, stress and guilt of breastfeeding for women who are giving their all for their child, and an unsupportive but simultaneously pro-breastfeeding culture, mentioned by Knaak’s (2010) research.

Through the application of Emotional Geographies we can explore the emotions produced through experiences in various spaces. As Anderson and Smith (2001) conclude, to neglect emotions in academic research is to exclude a key part of how lives are lived and societies made. The report focuses on how these public and private spaces interact with the challenges a mother faces during her time breastfeeding within the context of a pro-breastfeeding culture, with key findings of support and stress in the private space of the home. Finally, the report discusses the possible solutions to the pressure and stresses of breastfeeding in public and private space, namely activism and public health policy reform respectively. The issues and challenges raised throughout the research for a breastfeeding mother emerged from in-depth, semi-structured interviews about the lived experiences of eight women, who are currently breastfeeding or have been in the last two years. It was necessary to carry out qualitative research to secure the greatest understanding of the complexities and contradictions of real-world experiences of the participants (Valentine, 2008) during their time breastfeeding in different private and public spaces. Interviews are both a reliable and flexible form of qualitative research method due to their socially interactive nature, although this can make them unpredictable (Byrne, 2012). Although the issues of breastfeeding have traditionally been categorised as a ‘women’s issue’, the low breastfeeding rates begin to drop drastically after the six-week mark in the UK.

Woman breastfeeding in a park

I chose this idealised image for the cover of the report from an article by BBC news showing a woman breastfeeding happily and demurely in presumably public open space. The media commentary on issues such as these has a significant impact on the communities within which women feed their children and therefore impact how comfortable women feel breastfeeding or bottle feeding. Breastfeeding in public is a necessary aspect of a mother’s breastfeeding experience but with recent headlines of “breastfeeding shamers” (Mail Online, 2018) in newspapers and on our screens, the relationship between breastfeeding women and the public sphere has become increasingly complex. This was reflected in the negative encounters of the majority of participants when breastfeeding in public. These ranged from “people look at you funny,” (Helen), to people saying something negative within earshot (Emma; Helen), to members of the public directly telling a breastfeeding woman to go elsewhere (Fay).

The significant findings of this research were the major challenges faced in the private space of the home. Generally, the most stressful moments of the breastfeeding experience are concealed from public gaze in the home. Additionally, the home acts as the site of stress and decision when breastfeeding women choose to stop breastfeeding or start topping-up with formula. The major issues were found to be inconsistencies in advice, especially regarding weight gain of the baby as well as feelings of entrapment and intrusion in the home.  Although this data has been analysed from a geographical, feminist perspective, this is an issue for all that affects the physical health of the next generation and the mental health of current mothers. These women are giving their all to put into the practice the professional advice they are given, with little professional support to assist them.

I agree with the perspective of strong pro-breastfeeding women in this report who argue that the invisibility of this problem is huge, but the pressure the mother then feels to be more visible is unjust and the mother and the child’s comfort must come first.

A supportive personal network has proven crucial through this research but giving the mother time to establish breastfeeding alone with her child, without isolating her, can also not be underrated. Her emotional wellbeing is as vital as the child’s physical health, but its importance seems to dissipate after the birth. We cannot continue to expect the weight of their children to weigh on a mother’s mind emotionlessly, or struggle with physical pain silently. The encouragement of health professionals, who are also concerned for the mother’s wellbeing, may make all the difference, if this is only a text a week asking how the mother is doing. Cath’s statement of, “It’s a minefield” regarding professional breastfeeding support rings true with the majority of women’s experiences as the stresses and pressures of the pro-breastfeeding context complicates the morality of breastfeeding, as discussed by Knaak (2010).

References

Anderson, K. and Smith, S. (2001). Editorial: Emotional Geographies. The Royal Geographical Society (with the Institute of British Geographers), pp.7-10.

Bailey, C. and Pain, R. (2001). Geographies of infant feeding and access to primary health-care. Health and Social Care in the Community, 9(5), pp.309-317.

Byrne, B., (2012). ‘Qualitative interviewing’, pp. 180-192 cited in Seale. C., (2012) ‘Researching society and culture’ Sage Publications, London.

Knaak, S. (2010). Contextualising risk, constructing choice: Breastfeeding and good mothering in risk society. Health, Risk & Society, 12(4), pp.345-355.

Larsen, J., Hall, E. and Aagaard, H. (2008). Shattered expectations: when mothers’ confidence in breastfeeding is undermined – a metasynthesis. Scandinavian Journal of Caring Sciences, 22(4), pp.653-661.

Mahon-Daly, P. and Andrews, G. (2002). Liminality and breastfeeding: women negotiating space and two bodies. Health & Place, 8(2), pp.61-76.

Mail Online. (2018). ‘Woman hits out at breastfeeding shamers by nursing while naked’. 1 October, [online] Available at: https://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-6227941/Woman-hits-breastfeeding-shamers-nursing-naked.html [Accessed 18 Nov. 2018].

Valentine, G., (2008) ‘Living with difference: reflections on geographies of encounter’ Progress in Human Geography, 32(3) pp. 323–337.

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‘Bloody Injustice: Period Poverty, Power and Shame in 21st Century Britain’

GFGRG dissertation 3rd prize winner

Bronwen Butler, UCL

Menstruation, somewhat unexpectedly, has become a high-profile issue in the UK over the last couple of years. From ‘the pink protest’ outside the Westminster Parliament in December 2017 to Bodyform’s advert campaign #bloodnormal, from tampon selfies and campaigns against the luxury taxing of tampons, to a day dedicated to menstrual hygiene, menstrual issues have been firmly put on the map. Now, a growing number of charities and social enterprises, such as, Bloody Good Period, #FreePeriods, the Red Box Project, The Homeless Period, Hey Girls and Freda have all coalesced around a fight against what is termed ‘period poverty’ – a lack of access to menstrual products due to financial constraints. Even certain multinational companies, such as Procter and Gamble’s Always who launched their #endperiodpoverty campaign in March 2018; are promising consumers that they can help bring menstrual products to women and girls who cannot afford them.

Text Box:   
The Pink Protest on 20th December 2017
Figure a (left): Bloody Good Period Charity at the 20 December 2017 march outside Downing Street. Source: BBC, 2017
Figure b (right): Tampon Tax references during the #freeperiod protest 20 December 2017. Source: Free Periods https://www.freeperiods.org/the-protest

The UK seems to have taken hold of such actions under the phrase ‘period poverty’ and a surge in conversation among activists, media outlets, companies and politicians, utilising this term. It has subsequently been debated in parliament where Labour MP Danielle Rowley declared to the House of Commons ‘I am on my period’ and spoke about her experience as a woman on her period to highlight the issue within the UK. Furthermore, after outcry around period poverty across social media, supermarkets like Tesco have reduced the cost of menstrual products by five percent to cover the cost of the once 20% ‘Tampon Tax’ (Tesco PLC, 2017).

My research centres around the term ‘Period Poverty’ and the recent proliferation of this idiom in the United Kingdom. Much of the geographical and sociological research completed so far around the ideas contained in the phrase ‘period poverty’ have been within the context of sanitation in the Global South (Thorton, 2013; Jewitt & Ryley, 2014). While in both this, and the UK context, social problems around menstruation are symptomatic of patriarchal induced taboo, I noticed that the ‘Period Poverty’ proliferating media in the UK was portrayed in a distinctly different way to the Menstrual Hygiene issues of the Global South and therefore felt it merited attention in its own right.  

This research is situated as part of a growing crop of critical feminist geographies that explore the power behind discourses affecting gendered inequality, like that of shame and taboo in menstrual discourses. I explore ‘period poverty’ as a counter-discourse to typically entrenched representations of both menstruation and women.

The effects of period poverty are a clear example of how gendered geographies of the everyday can produce and reinforce social inequalities and therefore this term needs to be investigated in its various contexts. I analyse ‘period poverty’ in these contexts; its development through research; use by advertisers and use activists in creation of a movement of menstrual activism. I situate this work as part of a growing crop of critical feminist geographies that explore the power behind discourses affecting gendered inequality, like that of shame and taboo.

Text Box:  Image from HeyGirl's Instragram of a person's bloody underwear while on their period.
Source: HeyGirls’s Instagram page https://www.instagram.com/p/Bspyp0lnoEF/

I use a multi-sited critical discourse analysis to dissect the work that the drive around ‘period poverty’ has done in challenging patriarchal power, by revealing a symptomatic silence, and confronting social norms around menstruating women’s’ bodies. I trace the work of this term throughout research, advertising and popular media. Throughout this dissertation I explore what work ‘period poverty’, as a concept, does in enabling mainstream conversation of a taboo subject. How it challenges the history by which menstrual taboo has been reinforced. How period poverty differs to discussions of Menstrual Hygiene Management; and the work period poverty does in assembling a powerful alliance for the visibility of menstruation/menstruating bodies.

Text Box: Bodyform Blood Normal Campaign
  
Figure a (left): Blood Normal Advertisement showing red menstrual blood on a pad for the first time.
Figure b (right): Blood Normal Advertisement showing red menstrual blood on a real person for the first time.
Source: ‘Periods are Normal, showing them should be too’, Available at: https://www.bodyform.co.uk/our-world/bloodnormal// 	(Accessed: 30 September 2018).

My first section uses Plan International UK-based period poverty research to understand the production of ‘period poverty’ as a category. The research they undertook brought the issues of period poverty in 21st Century Britain into the public consciousness (Russell & Smith, 2018: 4). This is to understand the evolution of period poverty and the extent to which the work under ‘period poverty’ deviates from ‘Menstrual Hygiene Management’ discourse commonly seen in Development geographies. In the following chapter I analyse the embodied politics of web-based brand-generated promotional contents. The historic silencing of menstruation in mainstream culture limits visible cultural representations of menstruation to menstrual product advertising. Advertising reaches huge audience and holds incredible power to spread stigma or inform/empower watchers. I dissect advertisement representations in order to understand how period poverty is characterised by the wider media. This section looks to the gendered representations within advertising and patriarchal induced censoring. It unearths the extent to which ‘period poverty’ has contributed to a transition in menstrual product
advertising.

The final chapter uncovers how a popular movement has arisen in 21st century Britain to tackle a lack of access to menstrual products and the taboo that has caused this issue to go relatively unnoticed until recent years. Here, I explore the embodied politics of ‘period poverty’ as a movement. This is to understand what work this phrase does in assembling a powerful alliance of menstrual activism to combat taboo and gendered inequality. In order to complete a picture of period poverty I ascertain the extent to which it is part of a broader societal, liberal feminist movement and provides new visibility for a counter-discourse around all menstrual issues.

My analyses allow for a few grounded conclusions: I contend that ‘period poverty’ is a politicised term and category that differs from menstrual hygiene management and from other forms of menstrual activism. While, ‘period poverty’ has been used to some extent as a promotional device and can replicate development discourses of menstrual hygiene or the ‘girling of development’, it has done much politicalised work in creating a counter discourse to the menstrual taboo that reinforces gendered inequality. 

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GFGRG dissertation prize winners 2019

We are delighted to announce the winners of the GFGRG’s dissertation prize for 2019. We received a number of fantastic dissertations for consideration for this year’s award and want to thank all of the entries for their hard work and thorough engagement with feminist geography. As always, the standard for the competition was very high making judging a pleasure (we love reading your projects) but also incredibly difficult (such great projects to shortlist!)

The winners for this year are:-

Joint first prize:

Tabitha Shell, The emotional geographies of breastfeeding: public and private spaces of support and stress (Queen Mary, University of London)

Isobel Phillips, The beautiful game: the multiscalar experiences of women footballers playing a male-dominated game (University of Nottingham)

Third place:

Bronwen Butler, Bloody injustice: period poverty, power and shame in the 21st century (University College London).

Congratulations to our winners!

The GFGRG committee

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GFGRG sponsored posts at the RGS-IBG 2019

The GFGRG is proud to be involved with the RGS-IBG annual conference 2019. https://www.rgs.org/research/annual-international-conference/ 

The conference will take place at the RGS-IBG in London from 28-30th August 2019.

The GFGRG are proudly sponsoring 12 sessions which cover a range of topics including family, race and nation, geographies of trouble and hope, hydrofeminism, migration, fertility, reproduction and family planning, and sexuality and gender identity. We will also be celebrating the contributions of renowned feminist geographers Linda McDowell and Ron Martin. for further information on the sessions being sponsored please visit http://conference.rgs.org/Conference/Sessions/SearchResults.aspx?conference=AC2019&rg=GFGRG

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GFGRG committee posts up for renewal

We have a number of Committee roles up for renewal (see terms of service below).

  1. Dissertation prize coordinator (2019 – 2022) (you would become part of a team of 3)

The dissertation coordinator is responsible for advertising the undergraduate dissertation competition in July each year. They will receive nominations directly and then liaise with other committee members to arrange for the reading, evaluation and ranking of dissertations before nominating a short list for the Chair to judge.

  • 2 postgrad members (2019 – 2020)

PG members will jointly organise the RGS sessions. PG members will encourage and support PG involvement with the group and perhaps identify / organise events and activities that would be useful to PGs.

  • 3 ordinary members (2019 – 2022)

Ordinary members will be expected to attend the AGM (in person if possible) and committee meetings (by skype), propose, attend and sometimes be involved in the organisation of GFGRG events, publicise the work of the group to others. 

  • Social media coordinator (2019-2022)

We are looking for a social media coordinator to support the role of the web office in promoting GFGRG news, related events, related research, and keep up to date with current affairs on the GFGRG’s social media pages.

If you are interested in taking on any of these roles please email expressions of interest to Rosie Cox and Jo Waters. Each post will be voted on by existing committee members at the GFGRG AGM at the RGS-IBG (details to follow). You do not necessarily need to attend the AGM in person to be considered for one of the roles.

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GFGRG 2017-2018 Dissertation prize

We are delighted to announce the winners of the GFGRG 2017-2018 dissertation prize

1st prize: Jessica Pandian (LSE) ‘Colombian Women in London: Shaping Collective Memory through Art in the Post-Conflict Era’. 

 joint 2nd prize: Isabelle Green (University of Oxford) ‘The Gendered Geographies of Rebuilding: Worlding Women’s Experiences of Post-Katrina New Orleans.’ 

Joint 2nd prize. Charlotte Lindley (University of Bangor). “How is the changing status of women altering the culture and heritage of brass bands?”. 

Here you will find summaries of all 3 fantastic projects.

Colombian Women in London. Shaping Collective Memory through Art in the Post-Conflict Era. By Jessica Pandian

How is the Changing Status of Women Altering the Culture and Heritage of Brass Bands. By Charlotte Lindley

The Gendered Geographies of Rebuilding. Worlding Women’s Experiences of Post-Katrina New Orleans. By Isabelle Green.

Congratulations to our winners and many thanks to all for submitting such interesting and varied dissertations for us all to read.

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