Tag Archives: Sian Norris

One billion rising and a cause for celebration in Bristol

On 14 February, women in Bristol were dancing in the city centre and in various locations throughout the day. They, and others around the world, were responding to the One Billion Rising campaign to get women dancing and rising up against violence.

Bristol mayor George Ferguson showed his support by showing up to a flash mob and tweeting “#BristolMayor gives strong support to UN campaign against violence to women and #OneBillionRising”, as did UK prime minister David Cameron who tweeted: “PM: I’m proud to add my voice to all those who stand up to oppose violence against women & girls. #1billionrising”

The Bristol Feminist Network (BFN) had a more specific reason to be rising up, with their submission to the Bristol City Council against cuts to services protecting women. This year, Bristol’s first mayor has had to find £35 million in savings and cuts in his first budget and a draft had just been produced on February 13.

Almost half the women in the city are likely to be raped, sexually abused, assaulted or stalked in their lifetimes, according to evidence from the Bristol Fawcett report ‘Cutting Women Out in Bristol’.

“Across the UK, domestic abuse support services have seen 31% of their funding cut, but in Bristol, we have done better than this. However centralised funding has led to cuts across the sector, including the loss of funding to South Bristol service Wish and the Well House” the Bristol Feminist Network submitted in their evidence.

“There really is not enough support to cope with the scale of the problem and although we are lucky in Bristol that funding has been protected (in part due to the fantastic work by feminists within and outside of the council for years) as the cuts continue to bite it looks like this problem is going to get worse“ said Sian Norris, one of the BFN’s coordinators.

The One Billion Rising campaign, set up by Eve Ensler, author of the Vagina Monologues and activist, has raised $90 million for rape crisis centres so far and has received worldwide support and participation. In Bristol the dancing was a sign of celebration as well. Mayor George Ferguson’s first budget proposals showed that the council have protected domestic abuse support funding.

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Book giveaway, The Lightbulb Moment

The Lightbulb Moment, edited by Sian Norris, is a collection of writings from people describing the moment they realised they were feminist. This is a curious, diverse and fascinating glimpse into people’s lives.

There is a wide spectrum of articles including creative writing, personal accounts and observations. You can read a review here.

Leave a comment on this blog post to be in with a chance to win. The winning entry will be drawn on January 29, 2012.

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The Lightbulb Moment, edited by Sian Norris

Sian Norris writes the blog Sian and Crooked Rib and is the one woman publisher behind Crooked Rib publishing. She invited people to submit a piece about the Lightbulb Moment when the realisation that they were feminist occurred to them. It was a call out to what she herself acknowledges as a self-selected group of individuals but the stories, all 34, are still diverse and varied.

27 year old editor, Norris, published the book through her own publishing company which so far is just for her own work. The work ranges from vague generalisations to detailed tales that provide clear paths to feminism. There seem to be more than a few instances of marginalised individuals finding strength in belonging to such a community, virtual or otherwise. The range of topics include sexualisation, domestic abuse, gender inequality, gender roles, and some brief moments of motherhood.

While I can see why articles by Laurie Penny and Just Women pieces were included by a new editor/author who perhaps would like to import some legitimacy by invoking strength through already published pieces, I think it’s a shame and the pieces seem to weaken the work. The edited blandness of the Just Women pieces, no matter how suitable – one of them is the only piece in the book that talks about the importance of women as mothers in the feminist narrative – contrasts sharply with the raw and powerful original pieces that were submitted.

The Lightbulb Moment didn’t need the artificially polished brusqueness of Laurie Penny talking about Germaine Greer. A piece by Greer would probably have been more useful.

All sorts of paths to feminism are invoked including a personal story by Norris herself and a poem about women’s inequality from a muslim perspective. Creativity blends with short point-form articles. Stories about teenage years shift to a mother’s view point and then to a boyfriend’s and then to an angry city dweller who feels she is working in a city that’s becoming a brothel.

The weaknesses of feminist arguments come through as well with a woman sharing that she had always known that women were disadvantaged but without sharing how she knew this. Another writer, Gillian Coe, says: “I have always believed that women are as valuable and intelligent as men, so when I saw that they were treated as less so, and excluded from all manner of things for no good reason, I naturally thought that this should change”. She doesn’t say from what women are excluded and as a white, educated, middle class woman I can’t even imagine to what she’s referring.

The stronger pieces provide examples that include sexual aggression, sexual objectification, the malignant nature of female and male magazines and the disgusting page 3 culture of the Sun newspaper. Marta Owczarek searches for important women in the local art scene rather than just noting their absence: “countless examples of amazing women and what they did…”.

One of the best pieces is by sports journalist, Carrie Dunn, who took a personal experience of a gender biased passion like football and describes what she experienced as a professional in that field. I found this quite a touching piece especially as my 10 month old daughter already has her first football kit.

Some parts are angry but mostly they are exploratory and creative and a wonderful insight to a part of life that affects us all. A brilliant beginning from Norris.

The Lightbulb Moment is available to buy from Crooked Rib publishing.