About ten years have passed since the final episode of the series Buffy the Vampire Slayer aired on TV. Series creator Joss Whedon, who spoke in the Glasgow Film Theatre at this year’s Glasgow Film Festival, showed that pop culture can be non-sexist, a profound social commentary, deeply philosophical and entertaining at the same time. Buffy, Willow, and many other protagonists continue to be role models for generations of young women. Do we all need to become superheroes to change the world around us? With the economic downturn, climate change and biosphere decline threatening our livelihoods, it seems like that at times. But with the Scottish referendum comes a rare opportunity to envision change on a larger scale, by choosing a different path – a path which is not set on destruction, but on renewal, and on cherishing the things that matter to improve the quality of life for all. As a tribute to the ten year anniversary of the closing of the series, let’s imagine what Buffy would make of the Scottish Independence campaign…
18 Jun 2013 Leave a Comment
08 Apr 2013 1 Comment
No pious liberal homilies here on not speaking ill of the dead or remembering that lots of others contributed to the destruction she caused or that Tony Blair was bad too or that we still have to fight what’s going on NOW.
People have the right to remember and express rage about their oppression. If you don’t think so, maybe you are too cushioned by your privilege to really empathise.
Glasgow in particular has been waiting for this chance to party for many years. Many, many beloved and valuable people are dead or damaged because of Margaret Thatcher, as are communities, our economy and our cohesiveness. So many of us are exhausted and depressed from the ongoing struggle, and the fractures and in-fighting within our various struggles. Several generations of the best and brightest have either left, or worn themselves out by staying and fighting: all that creative energy sapped.
Today, we get to party together. George Square, 5pm.
07 Apr 2013 6 Comments
We’re in the middle of Glasgow’s Sex Worker Open University event (5-10 April 2013). Unfortunately I was only able to attend yesterday’s panel sessions, much as I would have liked to attend other things. So, with yesterday fresh in my mind I’m going to write up a few thoughts right now. Follow the link above to find out more about upcoming events, or follow them on Twitter at hashtag #SWOU13 or the event’s Twitter feed @SexWorkerOU.
If you are a feminist who is swithering about what the issues are and where you stand, maybe this post will help you. If you want women to be safe, sane, respected and valued, please fight with me for decriminalising sex work in Scotland.
Supporting Sex Workers in Scotland: Kill the Bill
We were fortunate to hear about some solid and grounded research into the effects of criminalisation, and conversely, of de-criminalisation of sex work at the event yesterday. It was pretty clear that the Private Member’s Bill ‘ The Criminalisation of the Purchase of Sex’, soon to be brought before the Scottish Parliament by Labour MSP Rhoda Grant, is ill-conceived at best, and callously indifferent to its likely consequences at worst.
Let me just note here: the evidence against any benefits to this type of legislation, as presented at the event yesterday, is extensive and convincing, and the evidence for the benefits of de-criminalisation likewise. I cannot do it justice here so please use links and references to do your own research.
When I first heard about this Bill, it was framed for me as ‘end demand’. I was pretty naive at that point about the current rhetoric and framing of sex work at the nexus of radical feminism and the religious right. I had fluffy thoughts about the concept of ‘end demand’ like “yes, it would be nice to live in a world where sex work wasn’t necessary”. I didn’t think it through. I genuinely believed that this ‘end demand’ thing was about bringing about an ideal society where noone wanted to buy access to sexual services, because everyone would be perfectly happy and fulfilled with the intimacy and sex in their lives. This is not what ‘end demand’ means.
02 Apr 2013 5 Comments
I am sitting in the community centre on my estate, attending a meeting on the Bedroom Tax. 25 people have turned out. Not too bad for a weekday evening, but then these are worried people. A lot of them are looking at a 14% increase in on their rent. That’s £11, maybe £15 depending on the property. (1)
The bedroom only affects people on benefits. So everyone here is on the breadline anyway. There is no way anyone here has a spare £11 per week. This is food from their children’s mouths. Or from the electricity, which everyone pays by key meter and is off half the time already.
I’m here as a benefits advisor, in case any legal questions come up. The idea is that maybe I can answer them. And I can, but only to crush any residual hope that might be remaining.
There are very few loopholes in this one. From now on Housing Benefit will only cover one room for each couple, an extra room for any single adult and one room between every two kids. There’s a little bit of wiggle room for bereavement and a get out for foster parents, families of serving service people and (after a legal challenge by the Child Poverty Action Group) a recognition that severely disabled children may need a room to themselves. That’s it.
The bedroom tax is not completely new. Tenants in the private sector have had to deal with reductions in their housing benefit for “extra rooms” for a long time. But that only ever applied to new tenancies. People could plan ahead and avoid moving into houses that were too big under the rules. This is a massive cut to loads of peoples benefit, all in one go.
So, what to do if you find yourself with an “extra” bedroom?
You could try to transfer to a smaller place. Except there aren’t many. Council housing was built as family homes, for stable communities, back when governments cared about such things.
Apply for a Discretionary Housing Payment? There’s a fund, but its small and thousands of others will be applying too. Move to private rented accommodation? In Glasgow the private sector is tiny and run by criminals, who; by the way, will be loving this.
Get a job to cover the shortfall? Yeah Right! 30% of Glasgow’s working age population are currently out of work (2) and most jobs available are casual or part time or both. Any money you did earn would be deducted from your benefits in any case. (3)
There’s only one possible conclusion, I can draw:
“The only answer to this is collective action”
It’s not lefty rhetoric, this time. There’s genuinely no other way through this. We have our backs against the wall.
I’ve recently read the Chartered Institute of Housing guidelines to Housing Associations and Local Authorities. (4) It’s interesting to pull back and see it from the landlord’s perspective.
Imagine for a minute that you the Chief Executive of a Council. (5)You have a whole load of housing at your disposal. You rent it out. Some tenants don’t have enough money to pay the rent. They claim housing Benefit and you recover the money from central government. You rely on this money to maintain the buildings and to provide services in your area.
So now central government has stopped paying the full cost of the rent and it’s effectively a cut to your council. Another cut. On top of the cuts you’ve had already.
And the government is telling you to make up the difference by taking money from the grocery budget of the very poorest people in the area?! It’s as crazy as it is vicious.
Look at it that way and it not just about immiserating benefits claimants. It’s also about destroying council housing and messing up council services.
So what to do? The CIH recommends “a programme of home visits for face to face conversations with tenants.”
Many people in my area have already experienced this. Some stranger, coming to their door and picking through their household budget, trying to find some little thing they could cut back on. Just try and imagine the humiliation of that for a minute?
But it blood out of a stone. The money isn’t there. So what to do instead? Evict 31% (6) of your tenants, and then process them all through the homeless persons unit?
No council or housing association can evict everyone who can’t or won’t pay and this is exactly why the bedroom tax can be defeated.
We go to the Anti- Bedroom Tax demo in town, me my husband and our baby boy. Someone’s brought along a piece of my own childhood. A banner reading “Paisley Anti Poll Tax Union” They must have kept it safe in a cupboard all these years. A timely reminder of what can be achieved if we all stick together.
We drive home from the demo and I’m thinking about the future as we pull into the estate. Some 930 households here are facing the bedroom tax. (7) Not me though. As a homeowner it’s not my problem.
Except; of course, that it is.
This is a lovely estate. The children play out in the street. At Halloween, we got through three boxes of mini cupcakes, with all the kids coming to our door. Nice polite kids in handmade costumes.
Some with their mothers, but most allowed out on their own. A world away from the intimidating atmosphere of my neighbourhood as a child.
I want my son to grow up here, amongst these people; to play out safely in the streets and to dress up and collect sweeties from the neighbours on Halloween.
I don’t want to see those same neighbours, harassed or evicted out of the neighbourhood. A stable community like this is one of the underappreciated benefits of a fair society. And its benefit for everyone; not just the poorest.
It couldn’t survive the forced migration that the bedroom tax is intended to impose. Its for this reason, more than any other that I oppose the bedroom tax.
I hope this article has given you some sense of why you should too.
(1) This is the figure for my estate. The national average is actually higher, £14 (from the National Housing Federation)
(3) Universal Credit (which replaces most other means tested benefits from October) actually has fairly generous income disregards. So after October raising the additional money might be more of an option for some people. Unfortunately Bedroom tax begins in April, allowing 6 months in which to accrue some really crippling rent arrears.
(5) Actually, in Glasgow, all council housing has been semi privatised and farmed out to housing associations. I’m just using a council as an example, to simplify the argument.
(7) Estimated based on national figures.
24 Oct 2012 3 Comments
Trigger Warning: This post discusses Sexual Assault
- Not having a policy.
- Ill defined Responsibilities
- Open/large meetings
- Not believing women who report a sexual assault
- Hearing “both sides”
- Letting everyone having their say
28 Sep 2012 4 Comments
Hey all you map geeks! Especially ones who are a bit queer and/or interested in lefty/indy/national identity!
My pal Mike Parker, an honorary Welsh Village Auntie and big gay pro-Welsh-indy map nerd, author of the book Map Addict: A Tale of Obsession, Fudge and the Ordnance Survey …
… and the Rough Guide to Wales, inventor of the Coast to Coast TV series, and presenter of BBC Radio 4′s On the Map series, is doing a Scottish lecture tour for the Royal Scottish Geographical Society called On the Map: Cartography and National Identity.
He wants some colourful people at the lectures to mitigate any potential stuffiness, so let’s go see him- I promise he’ll be great (he’s also had a career as a stand-up comedian).
21 Sep 2012 Leave a Comment
We’ll be in Edinburgh for the March and Rally for Scottish Independence this Saturday, 22 September 2012. We’ll have a lollipop-shaped banner. Keep an eye out for us, come and say hello, or march with us if you want! Remember we are LGBT-friendly, and you are welcome to join us whatever your gender, as long as you are a lefty feminist (or pro-feminist) who wants an independent Scotland.
Here’s the link for the march website.
Here’s the link for the march’s Facebook page.
See you there! Photos and blog post to follow.
20 Aug 2012 Leave a Comment
I’ve recently left work at the Citizens Advice Bureau to take maternity leave. My work is primarily in benefits advice and I am a huge benefits geek. It’s a combination of the intellectual exercise of manipulating regulations along with the pleasing sense of mastery over a system that appears all powerful and capricious when you are on the other end of it. I love it.
18 May 2012 9 Comments
in British Nationalism, Propaganda Tags: British nationalism, flags, independence campaign, nationalism, propaganda, Saltire, Scottish flag, Scottish nationalism, semiotics, Union Flag, Union Jacks, unnecessaryunionjacks
See original Village Aunties post from April 9 2012 which kicked off the #unnecessaryunionjacks meme.
See the Village Aunties Pinterest Board (hashtag #unnecessaryunionjacks) for our ever-growing collection of #unnecessaryunionjacks in Scotland, including a mankini, babies’ nappies, and Scottish shortbread.
Join in by Tweeting, Facebook-linking, emailing, commenting here, with pictures of Union Jacks in Scotland.
Read on to see some ideas for resisting the scourge of Union Jacks in Scotland.
What we’ve been doing
Village Aunties have been collecting Union Jacks from around Scotland for nearly six weeks now, mostly on Twitter (using the hashtag #unnecessaryunionjacks) and Facebook, with some folk texting and emailing examples. Thanks everyone who has sent them. With ca. 150 collected already, it is starting to feel like one is never more than five feet from a Union Jack (in Glasgow anyway; thanks to Auntie @CSbungo for this observation and for many of the ideas in this post).
Let’s keep collecting them between now and the Scottish independence referendum: the Pinterest Board will remain live. I can confirm that snapping these pics and collecting them on the Web is pretty good therapy for the range of feelings they evoke. Village Aunties would also like to spark a note of resistance: I’ll come to that further down this post, with ideas from me and from Auntie Mhairi.
Bella Caledonia Jack*** Collection
Note that the independence blog Bella Caledonia has also now started its own collection of Union Jacks, with a witty title, and a competition for the best submission. Let many flowers bloom and all that: I’d be happy if every pro-indy site in Scotland starts their own collection. Then it would be great to use some kind of aggregation system to pull them all together. By the way Bella, I see your man in a Union Jack suit and raise you a man in a Union Jack mankini – linked rather than embedded because it’s neither safe for work, nor safe for your very eyes: brace yourself before clicking.
Union Jacks & Saltires on Pinterest
All relevant #unnecessaryunionjacks are being collected on my Pinterest Village Aunties Board - click the link to see them, and feel free to comment on individual entries. I’ve also had some help from Emma Nicol and Sheila MacNeill, intrepid Aunties both, who have been out and about snapping Union Jacks and pinning them straight to the board. If you are a Pinterest user and would like to contribute directly, let me know.
I’ve also been collecting a very paltry number of Saltires, which seem to have all but disappeared from shelves of tat and shop windows, and had a contribution from a Village Auntie in Newcastle of some St. George’s Cross knickers in John Lewis, which apparently didn’t sell very well (but at least they had the choice of their own national flag, dammit!).
Criteria for submitting photos
The general criteria for #unnecessaryunionjacks are: they should be found in Scotland, and they should be in the public eye-line (i.e. not the Union Jack inside your shoe indicating it was made in the UK). This includes advertisements (e.g. catalogues that come through your letter-box) and actual products that appear in Scotland. Just appearing on the Internet with no specific Scottish presence or connection doesn’t count.
The Jubilympics and why that’s no excuse
Any Union Jacks specifically appearing as part of either London Olympics or Royal Jubilee promotions should also be tagged #jubilympics. A few people have suggested that the imminence of these two events somehow negates what we are doing here, or skews the sample, or something, but for me it is more than pertinent that this is happening at this exact juncture in Scottish history. See this picture from Berlin in the run-up to the 1936 Olympics compared to a recent picture of Oxford Road in London. Just sayin’, don’t Godwinate me.
A Counter-Propaganda Campaign
Some ideas for a counter-Union Jack campaign:
19 Apr 2012 4 Comments
Idly flicking through the stats for this blog I came across something strange. Despite this being a Scottish blog, the majority of its readers would appear to be from India. I was a bit puzzled by this and explored a bit more. The most popular search term that people find their way here through is “aunties” – nothing all that surprising about that, but looking down the list and what aunties is combined with is eye-opening At no 4 we have “village aunties sex“, at no 6 we have “aunties ass” with “nude aunties“, “sexual aunties“, “aunties sex” and “sex with aunties” all featuring prominently. In fact looking down the list, I would reckon that over half the people who have found this blog through a search engine have done so through some combination if “auntie” with sexual terminology.
In Indian society, auntie is used as a term of respect by a young person for an older woman of social aquaintance. A more formal equivalent in the UK would probably be “madam”, a term which is also sexualised through its association with brothel keepers. The sexualisation of older women is not entirely new – most teen boys develop a crush on a particularly attractive teacher with the assertions of Miss Jean Brodie and latent sensuality of Mrs Robinson exploring it in popular culture, but the recent popularity of the terms “Cougar” annd “MILF” (Mother I’d Like to Fuck) tell of an increased sexualisation.