Sunday, 23 January 2011

Adoption rate "needs to quadruple over the next few years"

This article from The Guardian contains an impressive mix of information and views on transracial adoption. The article appeared more than two and a half years ago, though it's the best thing I've found on the matter since I saw The Guardian's interview with Barnado's outgoing chief exec, Martin Narey, this week.

Narey criticised local authorities and adoption agencies for preventing adoptions on the grounds that potential parents' ethnicities don't match the child's. The ensuing delays -- and in some cases even relocations -- has led many willing parents to give up, while the children -- predominantly black, Asian or mixed race -- remain in care. Meanwhile adoption is at an all-time low: according to the interview, "[o]nly 70 babies were adopted last year compared with 4,000 in 1976."

Monday, 17 January 2011

Oh. *That* argument again.

Two reasons to listen to today's Radio 4 PM programme:
  • You can hear LPMG hero Dave King arguing against recent proposals to pay sperm and egg donors.  Hurray!
  • You can hear supercilious very-much-non-expert Toby Young arguing against Fatherhood Institute Chief Exec Rob Williams, for not giving fathers the chance to have substantial parental leave.  Boo.
Young's argument?  That women are just naturally better at it (palm on forehead), and that the experience of the dozy bloke drowning in nappies and loving care or whatever is detrimental to the mother-father relationship.  Gah!

It would be all too easy to criticize Toby Young for regurgitating clichéd, unreconstructed essentialist claims as if they were established fact.  And if it is true (which I imagine it is) that, statistically, men are more likely to express anxieties about their parenting skills, you don't have to be a sociologist of great esteem (like Toby's dad) to wonder whether prevalent gender norms might not play a significant role in ensuring that men are less well initiated for parenting, and more comfortable admitting to their unwillingness and feelings of inadequacy as a parent.  Nor does it take a great cognitive leap to think that all this might actually justify an equal system of parental leave, which would give fathers the opportunity to do their share, which is not even available (never mind attractive or not) to the vast majority of fathers.  And what a cinch it would be to offer the obvious observation that fathers might actually have an obligation to their children to be better at parenting and helping around the house, and that it's about time the rest of us stopped letting them get away with it.

Yup.  It would be all too easy to make these basic points.  So how come no-one at the BBC did?

Sunday, 16 January 2011

Demos' launch of The Home Front report

Tomorrow morning (Monday 17th) at 9.45, New Labour's favourite think tank Demos will launch The Home Front, their new report on work and families.

According to this BBC News article, the report will make several feminist-friendly recommendations, not least among them being "an equal system of parental leave". (There are no details yet whether this would mean that each the parents get the opportunity to take up to, say, 6 months off; or whether some fixed amount of time is shared between them. Dave has argued to me very convincingly against the latter.) Nick Clegg (yeah, I know) is giving the keynote speech.

The Demos webpage for the event is here. 

Tuesday, 11 January 2011

The police response to Joanna Yeates' murder, and Reclaim the Night

So it seems little has changed since the late 1970s. According to this Guardian article, following the murder of Joanna Yeates, Avon and Somerset police are advising women not to walk alone at night. Sound familiar?

This casually sexist response by the police, according to which women are effectively being advised not to have a life (especially given the wintry daylight hours!) reminds us of the importance events like Reclaim the Night and the Million Women Rise March. They are as important as they ever were, since the early Take Back the Night marches in Philadelphia and Brussells in the mid-1970's. (A history of Take Back the Night is here.) What is frustrating is that the same argument needs constantly to be made, 35 years on.

When the first Take Back the Night and Reclaim the Night marches took place, they were a direct response to small-minded sexist police "advice" like that recently meted out by the Avon and Somerset police. That is why they were held outdoors; that is why they were held at night; and that is why they were women-only affairs. But recently the focus of many RTN marches has justifiably shifted to domestic violence and intimate partner violence. (According to Home Office statistics, only 17% of rapes are committed by strangers; 54% are committed by partners (including spouses) or ex-partners. And according to this BCS report, only 13% of rapes are committed in a public place; 55% occur in the victim's own home, and 20% occur in the offender's home.)

I have personally heard the view many times that this change of focus makes RTN marches in some sense passé. But this criticism overlooks the fact that RTN marches make for a strong, clear public message, and provide an opportunity for the feminist community to reassert their continued presence and solidarity. And anyway, thanks to Avon & Somerset police, it turns out that after all we all need reminding of the original motivation for RTN: that violence against women is not the responsibility of the women who suffer it.

Monday, 10 January 2011

Happy New Year from the London Pro-feminist Men's Group!

You might have noticed that the blog is looking a bit different these days. Following the departure of two key members, who we can't thank enough for all their efforts (love to Dan and Jon!), we have taken the opportunity to reinvent the group somewhat. So welcome!

The group has always been about consciousness-raising, and we want to keep that aspect of the group. But now we want to direct our attentions outwards somewhat, and make more the opportunity of so many pro-feminist men being in the same place, so we are gearing up for some more focussed activism (as well as the day-to-day stuff we have always done!).

We each have our own take on our feminism or pro-feminism, and the group will be a great way to meet like-minded men to get involved in some actions. But our main concentration as a group is the campaign for equal parental leave, as well as surrounding issues of work/life balance and better working conditions for women and men with dependents.

To get things rolling, we are all reading the recent report by the Fatherhood Institute into a variety of gender inequalities and injustices in current government legislation about parenting and more besides. You can download the report here. The UK is a pathetic *18th* out of 21 countries considered. If you want to do something about it too, consider joining us for our next meeting, on the 23rd January. (Email us for more details.)

More New Year feminist and pro-feminist things of interest:

bill's profeminist blog has this great post suggesting some Pro-feminist New Year's resolutions for straight guys. (I think plenty also apply to gay men!) Thanks, Bill!

The Feminist Library is celebrating 35 years of archiving and activism on the 19th February, at the Round Chapel, Powerscroft Road, London E5 0PU. (For FB-lovers, the event page is here.) It's going to be a good one, and volunteers are still wanted!

We will also be updating the blog much more often, so bookmark us, or sign up to our RSS feed, and get involved!