I am not a token

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When I look at a group of people, I don’t break it down into a mental pie chart of the genders, races, ages or disabilities represented within that group. To me, removing barriers for everybody and seeing all people equally is the best thing we could possibly aim for as a society and it is my view that any kind of tokenism directly contradicts that mindset. To try to ‘balance’ any selection of people is to categorise them by the very things that I wish we could all be blind to.

I’m not, however, saying that I’m happy with the status quo. Where under-represented groups exist, I believe that we need to find the root of that problem and deal with it effectively. Quotas and tokenism achieve nothing but to undermine the very people they are trying to help.

Liberal Democrats celebrated this week when a popular fringe panelist announced his intention to refuse to sit on any more all-male panels. A few of us, however, were upset by the wider-implications of stands like this but quickly found ourselves in a minority. It’s easy to dismiss us as being too ideological or as not being committed enough to solve the problem and, through that dismissal, I felt very much excluded from the debate.

We spent a good while on Wednesday night getting our ideas and objections together for a concise blog post which was published over at Liberal Democrat Voice today and I am now really hopeful that party members will understand where we’re coming from a bit more now that we’ve reasoned it all out and, maybe, that some might even agree with what we’re saying.

At the top of this post is an avatar that we made of myself and the two other co-authors (Ewan Hoyle and Eilidh Dickson) for the original blog post. The Campaign for Gender Blindness, however, is not limited to 3 people writing a blog. If you like our view of a world in which nobody is judged by their identifiers and in which all barriers are broken with nobody excluded or included on the basis of anything other than what they can bring to the debate then, please, let’s start a movement.

We are not tokens. We are all worth so much more than that.

Thoughts on the Prohibition of Prostitution

[Disclaimer: normally when I write a blog post I like to research what I’m writing about and, ideally, link to some evidence to back up what I’m saying. Today, however, I’m stuck without internet and I’m writing this while I wait for someone to come and fix it so this post is based purely on my own opinions and I won’t be linking to any studies or sources.]

There’s a lot of talk today about a Private Member’s Bill in the Scottish Parliament that seeks to criminalise prostitution. Firstly, I want to point out that I have no problem with prostitution in itself; if one person wishes to pay another for sex and the other person is happy to fulfill that request then that’s fine by me. There’s a reason that prostitution is known as the ‘oldest profession in the world’ and that’s because no matter what the law says, people will always sell sex and people will always pay for it.

Sadly, I’m aware that there is a lot more to the issue than whether or not it’s morally ok to sell or pay for sex. Human trafficking and the treatment of those involved in prostitution are real and serious issues that need addressing. The safety of those involved is very important but I return to my earlier point; prostitution will always happen.

If prostitution is made illegal, the practice will move underground and the associated problems will only get worse. Without any form of regulation, those involved in the practice will not be protected from ill-treatment and those who are being trafficked or forced into the role will find it even more difficult to get help.

Prohibition doesn’t work with drugs or alcohol and it certainly won’t work with prostitution. I feel that this bill is well-meant and I hope that it will highlight some of the issues that surround prostitution. I hope that it will prompt more discussion about human trafficking and I hope that this will result in some effective action to tackle that problem and the others associated with the sex trade but I really hope that this doesn’t become law and have the unintended effect of worsening the situation.

Leave my pants alone!

I’ve had muffs on my mind recently. That’s not a statement that I often come out with but, in this instance, it’s both true and relevant. A friend of mine recently thrust a copy of Caitlin Moran’s book in my direction to convince me that I was, in fact, a feminist (it worked by the way and I highly recommend you read it if you haven’t already, but that’s a different story). In her book, Caitlin talks about the pressure on women to keep their body hair in check and this is a topic that we have since discussed thoroughly over tea and biscuits.

On Friday I read about UK Feminista’s Muff March which looked to be a great, fun way to protest against ‘designer vaginas’ and to highlight the worries many women have about how they look ‘down there’ and how they compare to other women. The porn industry depicts the norm to be hair-free, vaginoplastied and unrealistic. Even women who realise that that isn’t normal can be concerned that their men do not. So, hurrah to UK Feminista for bringing that taboo body-confidence issue into the spotlight this weekend.

So, where do pants come in to it? Well, I turned on my TV this morning and saw Gok Wan cutting up a poor woman’s cotton pants and exclaiming that she needed to be more adventurous with her underwear – WHAT? I’m not ashamed to announce that I wear cotton pants. That’s right, everyone, I wear plain, simple, comfortable knickers and I’m proud of it! The thrush-inducing lacy synthetics that Gok was waving about later in the show looked horribly uncomfortable and they certainly wouldn’t have any place in my top drawer!

Was this supposed to be some sort of public service announcement from E4 to all the wearers of cotton pants? “LADIES, CUT UP YOUR PANTS! Because you know what you need on that shaving rash? Some sequins.”

It’s bad enough that women have already been convinced that they need flat tummies, round breasts and a cellulite-free bum before they can even consider leaving the house in a morning. With all this focus on muffs and pants at the moment, isn’t it about time we take a step back and get our hands off each other’s bits? Let’s pop our cotton pants back on and give our privates some privacy!