What’s Been On My Mind This Week

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1. Making headlines around the world this week was the actress Emma Watson’s speech at the United Nations conference in New York. Watson was announced as a UN goodwill ambassador in July, and in her speech she called for an end to gender inequality and for men to involve themselves in the fight. Obviously these speeches are important, and hopefully will make a difference, but I think it’s also vital to be aware of opinions such as that in this blog here, which questions ‘mainstream’ and ‘celebrity’ feminism, and reminds us that there is still much work to be done.

2. On this blog last week I referenced a debate between two feminists that appeared in the New Statesman. This week there was a response to that debate in Salon, looking at the difference between white and black feminism, equality and justice.

3. There was an interesting article in the New Statesman this week – taking the trial of Oscar Pistorius as its starting point – about how women are reduced to ‘plot points’ in the lives of men, not just in literature and popular culture but also in how the media represents real-life events.

4. A final piece on feminism. The novelist Naomi Alderman, who also writes video games, wrote a brilliant piece for the blog Medium about the sexism she has encountered in the technology industry and the personae or roles it has led her to adopt.

5. This week the annual Labour Party Conference has been taking place in Manchester. Apparently Ed Miliband forgot a key section of his leadership speech – how to reduce the deficit – and, although many are predicting a Labour victory at next year’s election, there are some who see the party facing serious problems. The Conservatives are taking a battering, too, with the defection of another MP to UKIP, and the accusations that the party has already split, and is in crisis.

6. Scotland said no, but what about Cornwall? Or Yorkshire? This article looks at how Cornwall might benefit from devolution and independence.

7. The issue of adequate housing provision has been a popular one lately, with Ed Miliband making promises on the subject in his recent conference speech. This article in the New Statesman looks at the problem by focussing on one particular housing estate in South London.

8. In American political news, there was this article in Politico looking at Bill Clinton’s position as both his wife Hillary’s strongest asset in what everyone assumes will be a second run at the presidency in 2016, but also her biggest liability.

9. The American midterm elections will be held on 4th November. This week, Gary Younge in the Guardian looked at Obama’s dwindling popularity, the likelihood that the Republicans will retain control of Congress in November, and the fact that they only need six more seats to have a Senate majority as well.

10. Although much of the news coming from America tends to be of the doom-and-gloom variety at the moment, I did read this article in the New York Times that argues that New York City has never been better.

11. There was an article in the New York Times this week about a mother who has been sent to prison in Pennsylvania for helping her daughter have an abortion by purchasing pills off the internet. The article questions whether the increased restrictions in access to abortions will result in a rise of such actions.

12. I’ve written before on this blog about the stigma that women who choose not to have children still face. This week there was a really interesting feature in the New Yorker, written by a woman who ‘simply felt no calling to be a parent,’ and instead felt it more important to help children who already existed, rather than bring new life into the world. However, she goes on to discuss in the article her sadness at her inability to make her husband a father, as well as what she calls the ‘Central Sadness’: the absence of a child.

13. In response to an article in the New York Times that calls for pregnant women to take less medication, the journalist and writer Andrew Solomon – who himself has written extensively on his own struggle with depression – wrote this piece in the New Yorker about depression during pregnancy and taking medication to deal with it.

14. Lyn Gardner wrote in her theatre blog for the Guardian this week about the continued gender disparity in the theatrical world. There is only one female writer who has a play currently being performed in the West End: Agatha Christie. There is also huge disparity among directors and producers, as well as actors. But it’s not only gender we should be thinking about: we also need to address issues of class, race, sexuality and so much more.

15. The New Yorker published a new short story by the brilliant Tessa Hadley this week. Hadley is one of the current masters of the form, and is also a novelist. I particularly recommend her novel The London Train.

16. I’m a great reader of literature in translation. As it was International Translation Day this week, it seems appropriate for me to draw your attention to this blog, in which it is pointed out that no woman has ever won the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize, and that only fourteen women have ever won the Nobel Prize for Literature.

17. This week I read Vixen, the second novel by Rosie Garland, and absolutely loved it. It’s a beautifully written historical novel set in Devon in 1349, when the country was in the grip of the Black Death. Told from the point of view of three alternating characters, it looks at how the lives of those in the village of Brauntone are turned upside down when a mute young woman appears in their midst.

18. I’ve been listening to music by the band Vaults this week. They’ve only released a handful songs so far, so there’s not a great deal out there, but I’ve been listening to the three (‘Cry No More’, ‘Premonitions’ and ‘Lifespan’) repeatedly; they’re inventive, showcasing the kind of blend of electronic and synth which I seem to be partial to, Listen to them on Soundcloud here.

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