Wednesday, 18 February 2015

A snapshot of life in Greece

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Wishing Syriza all the very best in a very difficult week for the government.

Wednesday, 11 February 2015

The Furore Over The Pink Bus Is First World Feminism

Golly! What a load of fuss there is swirling about on social media, in the print press and on TV about the colour of Labour's battle bus that has set off on the female campaign trail. After endless debates stretching over the years about the lack of female representation in Parliament whether it be over the low numbers of female MPs or the deficit in Westminster debates about issues that affect women, along comes a means of targeting females and it is attacked for the colour it is covered in.

If this is not a First World Feminism concern then I don't know what is, frankly. By First World Feminism I mean that there is this strong sense of self-entitlement to critique the novel value without dissecting the issue for greater substance. If only women in third world countries had this privilege. I do think that First World Feminism  critique, when it comes to issues of trivia, is a Western privilege.

I have watched different news channels on this and, there is a chance, unless i have missed something more substantive I did not fall upon an analysis of what the bus riders (presumably Labour female MPs) will be talking about specifically. Such is the lack of substance attached to this story.

The colour of this political bus is a far cry from the concerted efforts by feminist campaigners to gender neutralize the colour of children's clothing and toys.  These campaigns serve to change entrenched mindsets about the gender polarity that imbues young children with expectations about what they can/cannot do and what they can/cannot achieve. There is a value laden benefit to this exercise.

What is the value laden benefit to attacking a pink political bus which is only going to be around till 6 May-no campaigning is allowed on the day of the election of 7 May - and serves a single purpose of ferreting out women's concerns?
Image result for pink bus labour
This is not a blog post about endorsing Labour's policies. In fact, as I have already stated, I don't know what is proposed for discussion but it won't be far off the mark, I am sure, to guess that the bus is a publicity seeking device to root out women who are prepared to talk about how Westminster's policies affect them.

The feminist in me applauds any attempts to include women in politics. Feminist analysis largely centres around women's role and how a patriarchal system discriminates against them. Women interact with the state, the labour market, public sector and private sector everyday yet our views don't really add up when it comes to central policy making.

My only hope is that the Pink bus will also visit those sites such as Foodbanks where many women can be found struggling to keep their children going. Representational female politics includes those who cannot fend for themselves and they would have greater concerns than the colour of the vehicle that politicians have come to visit them in. They may have an issue with politicians turning up in expensive limos to talk to them but the colour of the car? I don't think so. 

Tuesday, 3 February 2015

I am glad my daughter was vaccinated

My daughter was born in 1999. The decision on whether to vaccinate children or not at that time was being driven by the MMR controversy after Dr Andrew Wakefield's research was published establishing a link between autism and the MMR vaccine. As a result, we consulted a private pediatrician who advised us to opt for vaccination. We agreed but with a degree of trepidation. A number of new mums faced the same dilemma among my circle at the local baby and toddler drop in sessions. Our concerns were solely centered around the wellbeing of our children.

Looking back now I am embarrassed at not considering the wider implications of not having my child vaccinated. Was it the fault of science for not informing parents of this?  Was it the cocoon of new parenthood that blinkered us all? I don't know the answer but I do remember that  the choice of having a vaccination was presented as a personal choice. To opt for the vaccination meant that you were erring on the side of caution and, if nothing else, your child was 'safe'.  At no time did it occur to me nor was it put to me that not having my daughter vaccinated could cause cause harm to others who came  into contact with her.

Private versus public choice is the context for the debate currently framing the news that a woman who had not been vaccinated visited Disneyland in California in December 2014. She infected 7 people but the numbers subsequently being infected hit 84 at the end of January and is growing. The fall out has spread to 7 American states and Mexico. It's become a national issue and has impinged on politics (Obama has spoken out in support of vaccination) and has become a class issue too because medical experts have noted that rich parents tend to go down the route of 'personal choice' with a veto on vaccinations. Even American sport was affected when health officials warned people who were suffering from measles like symptoms to avoid attending the Super Bowl on Sunday 1 February.

Is it time that vaccinations were made a legal requirement? Should parental choice supersede the greater good argument in favor of 'choosing' whether to vaccinate their children or not or is there enough evidence to suggest that the causal effect in terms of public health and costs justifies a mandatory requirement?  

Saturday, 10 January 2015

Is your child lonely in school?

My daughter was lonely at school and it broke my heart. She is now 15 but in a time span of over four years from when she was 5 to the age of about of 9 years old she was a lonely little soul at school. They were horrible years and I was reminded of them today when I read this letter in The Guardian. When your child starts school you imagine their years ahead to be filled with being invited to birthdays, sleep overs and Easter bonnet making activities at someone's home. Instead, it didn't quite work out like that. 

For the first two years of her school life we invited all the children in her class over for birthday and Easter parties. In the third year we stopped doing this because I was forced to confront the reality that a self-imposed elite group of mothers had become firm friends and their daughters had followed likewise. This group quickly became the one that dictated their children's friendships and out of school activities. My daughter was excluded. I lose count of the number of times that my daughter would come out of school with a smiling face then cry when we were out of sight because some party invitation had been handed out and she was in the minority group who did not receive one. 

I spoke to the teachers who assured me that she was happy in class and doing well. My daughter wanted more and it was the parents who pulled the strings on that one. You may be wondering whether it was something my daughter did that put them off? The reality is that sometimes there is no fault on the victim's side. Remember the time when you were at school and you were ignored for no apparent reason? If you weren't then you are one of the lucky ones. A whole Hollywood industry has flourished based on the experiences of girls who were treated badly - Carrie, Romy and Michele's High School Reunion and Muriel's Wedding. 

Muriel's Wedding (1994) Poster

The mother who has written in The Guardian today is distraught at seeing her daughter's unhappiness. I don't blame her. The ups and downs of your child's life become your mantle as a mother. You wear their unhappiness especially when they are still dependent on you emotionally. It is heartbreaking that this child (referred to in the letter) does not laugh anymore or joke or sing or be silly. Her childhood is being taken from her by spitefulness. 

I have come across numerous other parents who are witnessing their children going through the same experiences. My advice is to be there for your child and never to belittle their sadness. However, be watchful for signs of your child being bullied. There is a fine line between a child being excluded from child's play and bullying. If it's the latter than take action by forcing the school to step up to their responsibilities. 

Wednesday, 7 January 2015

Will you do anything different as a mother in 2015?

I am living a mothering conundrum. Towards the end of 2014 I started pondering on how and what aspects of mothering I ought to change to accommodate a teenager who suffers from mood swings and slides along a scale of disliking and loving her mum every few minutes. It was doing my head in and I was looking forward to the distraction of Xmas and New Year. Even an adoring mum can only take so much.

So it began that I started analysing situations, words and gestures to work out in minute detail what the trigger points were for discord and what the tipping points were for unhappiness. I hadn't got very far because preparing for Xmas, as you know, takes up so much time and energy. However, in hindsight it was just as well that I hadn't reached any conclusions or a plan of action because, to my surprise, my teen spent the Xmas and New Year period seeking out my company and praising me whenever an occasion for a slight against mum arose.

As a result I am no wiser in 2015 than I was in 2014. I am going to put my head down and live the mantra 'to go with the flow'. Calm and humour will be my armoury in defusing 'hot headed' situations and we'll see how long I can keep up with that too! Happy New Year to mothers everywhere.

Have you made any mother resolutions yourself?

Friday, 2 January 2015

The first rule of parenting-support your child even if it conflicts with your beliefs

The devout Christian mother of a transgender teenager who took her own life is refusing to acknowledge her child’s gender identity. 
Carla Alcorn, from Cincinnati, Ohio, repeatedly referred to her daughter as a boy in an interview with CNN, saying that "we don’t support that, religiously".
Leelah Alcorn, who was born with the name Joshua, walked in front of an oncoming truck and was crushed to death on Sunday morning.
Leelah Alcorn in a photo she posted on her Tumblr pageLeelah Alcorn in a photo she posted on her Tumblr page
She left behind a suicide note on her Tumblr blog, in which she said she had been forced by parents to undergo conversion therapy, which seeks to change sexual orientation through counselling. The practice has been banned in two states on grounds it is medically unfounded and puts children in danger.
Her mother told CNN: "We don't support that, religiously. But we told him that we loved him unconditionally. We loved him no matter what. I loved my son. People need to know that I loved him. He was a good kid, a good boy."
Following her daughter’s death, Mrs Alcorn wrote a Facebook post, which has since been deleted, in tribute to her "sweet son". Screen shots of the post show that it said: "My sweet 16-year-old son, Joshua Ryan Alcorn, went home to heaven this morning, He was out for an early morning walk and was hit by a truck. Thanks you for the messages and kindness and concern you have sent our way. Please continue to keep us in your prayers."
Carla AlcornCarla Alcorn
The seeming ignorance of her daughter’s situation came despite the fact Leelah had left a message condemning her parents’ behaviour. In a separate post on her blog, posted after the suicide note, Leelah wrote: "Mom and dad: F**k you. You can’t just control other people like that. That’s messed up."
This was accompanied by messages of love towards her siblings.
However, Mrs Alcorn claimed that her daughter was depressed and had never told her how she was really feeling. "He just quit talking about it (being transgender)," she said, adding that she had never heard the name Leelah.
But she did say her daughter had asked her for permission to undergo transition surgery. Mrs Alcorn said she had refused for financial reasons.
She added that she was concerned by the backlash against her and her husband, which had rendered the couple too frightened to hold a memorial service for their child.
A number of vigils are to be held around Cincinnati in memory of Leelah. Meanwhile a Facebook group called Justice for Leelah Alcorn has garnered over 27,000 likes and a petition to have Leelah written on her tombstone has amassed over 65,000 signatures.
Transgender teenager Leelah AlcornTransgender teenager Leelah Alcorn
In her suicide note Alcorn said she had felt "like a girl trapped in a boy’s body" since the age of four and had "cried of happiness" when she first came across the term transgender.
But she said she began to feel hopeless after realising her parents "would never come around" and allow her to transition.
"The only way I will rest in peace is if one day transgender people aren't treated the way I was, they're treated like humans, with valid feelings and human rights," she wrote.
"Gender needs to be taught about in schools, the earlier the better. My death needs to mean something. My death needs to be counted in the number of transgender people who commit suicide this year. I want someone to look at that number and say 'that’s f**ked up' and fix it. Fix society."