Sunday, 28 July 2013

blog moving home

I have moved my bog over to wordpress - you can find it at - would be lovely if you clicked over and found me there.

Monday, 1 April 2013

Social Media Feminist

It can be difficult to fight for and keep up to date with all of the passions that I hold dear - one of which is challenging sexism and misogyny. I want to fight for true equality for women in all of its forms and yet feel I never have the time to do something, never mind enough, towards the cause.

I have, though, become quite addicted to Twitter....and I am discovering that social media is enabling me to keep up with what's happening out there and to support it through the simple action of re-tweeting or responding to tweets. This is in no way a substitute for direct action and trying to live feminist principles in my everyday life but it is better than nothing and helps me feel connected when I have little time to engage in meetings or 'real life' events and projects. And some Twitter campaigns are being highly effective at giving women and the issues of equality, sexism, and feminism a voice where mainstream channels do not. Below are a selection of my favourites - I urge you to follow/engage with them. 

NoMorePage3: [@NoMorePage3] Campaign lead by Lucy-Anne Holmes to persuade the Sun to drop scantily clad women on Page 3 - motto is 'Say no to the wrong things, the right things will happen'. NoMorePage3 is not about banning photos of women in minimal clothing - although many have tried to characterise it as frigid feminists doing just that and promoting censorship. It is about saying that such material can be accessed by adults freely already through the internet, top shelf magazines and, indeed, not so top shelf magazines like Nuts and Zoo. I am not a fan of Nuts and Zoo either but at least they don't pretend to be a national family newspaper and that is what the campaign is about - that naked breasts are not daily news so why are they in a daily newspaper? Lucy-Anne's petition has generated over 84,000 signatures and has given women and men a voice that the mainstream press - until recently - ignored. Her work has challenged Lego's advertising in the Sun [why would a family brand endorse such sexist behaviour?] and moved the Sun's position from one of complete resistance to Murdoch tweeting "you may be right, don't know but considering" in response to @NoMorePage3 tweeting "seriously, we are so over page 3 - it is so last century".

The Women's Room: [@TheWomensRoomUK] Website set up to proving the media wrong that the media just reflects the way the world is and there are not enough female experts around - research shows that while women are present in the media - for example we represent 79% of victims - three-quarters of the media's "experts" are men.  You can sign up and log your area of expertise so that the website has a searchable database of experts for the media to draw on. Media outlets can contact TheWomensRoom for help in finding women experts so they achieve a more balanced panel/input. As they say on the site:

"For two days in a row, in October 2012, the Today programme ran a segment on a female issue. On both days, the issue was discussed exclusively by men. The BBC claimed that they had been unable to find female experts despite their best efforts. Well, their best efforts clearly weren't very effortful, because within minutes of sending out a request on twitter, we had found a wealth of female expertise on both topics – teenage contraception and breast cancer."

EverydaySexism: [@EverydaySexism] This project exists to catalogue instances of sexism experienced by women on a day to day basis and is the brainchild of Laura Bates. Too often women are told that the sexism they experience is one-off, not the norm, or not evidence of an endemic issue with society around the oppression and control of women. Women who do challenge sexist behavior are often labelled prudes, or uptight, or bitches, or ranty feminists who can't take a joke. And women who express that they think sexism is a real issue are told that equality has been won and sexism is not a real, live issue any more. Laura's project dispels those myths with over 10,000 instances of sexism being reported. You can submit your story in your name or anonymously, through the twitter account, or by emailing and she will upload your story for you. 

WomenUnderSeigeProject [@womenundrseige] is a journalism project that investigates how rape and other forms of sexualised violence are used as tools of genocide and conflict throughout the 20th and into the 21st century. It was originally devised by Gloria Steinem and builds on works such as Sexual Violence Against Jewish Women During the Holocaust [Sonja Hedgepeth and Rochelle Saidel] and At the Dark End of the Street: Black Women, Rape and Resistance - a New History of the Civil Rights Movement from Rosa Parks to the Rise of Black Power [Danielle McGuire].  

One of the key elements to note about all of the above is that they are action focused. Stating that sexism and discrimination against women exists is fine - because it is true - and I believe everyone should take action - everyone is responsible for this. But to all the naysayers who use jaded arguments about women not taking action, women just criticising from the sidelines [generally where we are put against our will it has to be said!] or there not being the women out there who can provide solutions - the above answers that in spades. 

A wee note....

Engaging in social media is not risk free - it is worth noting that when I signed up to @NoMorePage3 I got several abusive tweets back. It isn't exactly pleasant. However, none of what I have experienced through social media is any worse than what I have experienced in real life. That is a sad indictment of the society we live in but, while I want to highlight the downside so you are prepared, I don't want to put people off. Words can and do hurt - the vitriol poured out under anonymity and with the abuser knowing they are safe from any real consequences can on occasion be poisonous - but you can't be physically assaulted [not that verbal abuse isn't bad in and of itself] and the abusive tweets can be easily forwarded to like-minded supporters to receive an equal and significant vocal response back. You can tap into support very easily in a way you can't when you have just been groped on the tube or are being heckled on your way home from work - both rather isolating experiences. The networks of support are being built and are there to join - get your own voice heard too. 

Tuesday, 19 February 2013

Inspiring me this week: Dani Cochrane

The blog has been neglected terribly - mainly because of the impact of a full time job, part time post grad and untimely fall on the ice resulting in broken bones. Blogging, no matter how much I love it, has had to take a back seat in the list of priorities. So it would always have been something incredibly important and close to my heart that drew me back and gave me a very good reason to update the blog.

There are many aspects of diabetes and diabetes care to be positive about, and many that the charity spends time campaigning about or working with people with diabetes to address and improve. All of these issues motivate me - but there is are two areas that are really important to me and this week they both converge.

Young people who have Type 1 diabetes and engagement with people to create a positive change are those two issues. Tonight I will be briefing the Scottish Parliament Diabetes Cross Party Group on our new children and young people's campaign. The four areas of the campaign are:

  • The 4 Ts - the signs and symptoms of T1 diabetes [tired, thinner, thirsty, toilet]
  • Standards and access to diabetes care
  • Care in schools
  • Transition - when children become young people and then move into adult NHS services
I could tell you all of the reasons why getting these four areas right is so important to young people - and I will blog about the data and evidence later this week - but for now I want to share with you a strong, smart, young voice from our Making Connections project. This project is about young people creating their own project and approaches to improving things for young people with diabetes - who better to do this but young people themselves? So, here is Dani who has kindly allowed me to share her story so that we can read a piece from someone who not only lives diabetes themselves, but is making a contribution to supporting other young people to live well too  -

PDF link:


Danni Cochrane - My Diabetes Story

Being diagnosed: Hi, I’m Dani. I am 23 years old and have lived with type 1 diabetes for 11 years now. Being diagnosed with diabetes can never come at a good time for anybody. For me, it struck me just as I was starting high school. Instead of making new friends and concentrating on my homework, I was faced with the constant urge for a drink and worrying where the nearest toilet was. My walk home from school became a sprint in order to reach the loo in time. I even got locked out the house on one occasion and had no other option than to pee in the woods behind my house! I then became really lethargic, sleeping at any opportunity. Now, I love a nap as much as the next person, but these were hours at a time. When I eventually got round to going to the doctor’s, I was told that I had tonsillitis and a urine infection at the same time which was causing both thirst and frequent urination. After my mum insisting that this was not the case and that friends/relatives had even suggested it could be diabetes, my doctor ensured us that there was no need to test for diabetes and I was sent home with antibiotics and told to rest.

A few weeks later, I returned to the doctor’s, this time barely able to function normally. I was seen by an experienced and thorough doctor who performed the basic finger prick blood test and tested my urine for ketones. Alarmed by the results (blood glucose reading off the scale and DKA) I was rushed into hospital and diagnosed with type 1 diabetes.

It was all a bit of a blur to be honest. One minute I was finishing school for the day, the next I was lying in a hospital bed surrounded by nurses, doctors, and very worried parents. At first I remember thinking it was quite ‘cool’ having all these people looking after me and feeling sorry for me. However, that feeling very quickly disappeared. I found myself crying at night when my parents went home. I had a horrible headache and was sick for hours as the insulin started doing its job. I still have a notebook which I used as a diary while I was in hospital which read: ‘Why did this have to happen to me, life is so unfair’. Talk about feeling sorry for yourself!!!

From then on, things started to improve and once my blood sugars had stabilised I was introduced to the diabetes team. They were brilliant and helped me and my parents learn all that we needed to know about type 1 diabetes and get started with managing the condition. I was discharged a week after being admitted to hospital, and was sent on my way into my new life with type 1 diabetes.

Living with diabetes:
For the first few years it was relatively easy actually. I was a 12 year old only child, living at home with my mum and dad, I had great friends and loved being active and playing football. Ok, it wasn’t all fun and games, I still had a lot to learn about diabetes, but I was happy and living a healthy life. But then, I turned into a teenager and cracks started to appear.

All I wanted to do was spend time with my friends, socialising and causing mischief – what most teenagers do! I started not to care about my diabetes and would shun it to the side and try to forget about it. Even though I was supposed to carry my insulin and tester everywhere with me, I would go out all weekend and stay at a friends without it. This was my ‘denial’ stage. I didn’t want to take responsibility for my diabetes and make the extra effort to look after myself. The real problems started when I left school and started university. I wanted to enjoy myself and party like every other first year. I would go out drinking and get myself into states that not even a non-diabetic should. I would go for days without doing a test and forget to take injections. I ended up in hospital 3 times, when I had gone on a night out without a proper meal and hadn’t taken my insulin (to make matters worse, I was dressed up as a smurf on one of these occasions, covered in blue paint!).

After the first time, I promised myself it wouldn’t happen again, but what I didn’t realise at the time is that I had to make a behavioural change in order to ensure it didn’t happen again. I was still in the stage of denial and wanting to put my diabetes to the back of my mind, and wanting to be like everybody else. Then, I left home and moved in with a friend from university. In retrospect, this is one of my lowest points. I was so caught up in the excitement of leaving home that I forgot about all the things my parents did to help me. Everyday things that you wouldn’t think twice about became major issues. For example, having some form of sugar in the house in case of a hypo. I was so unorganised and got myself in dangerous situations. Even forgetting to order prescriptions and running out of insulin. These are all things I learnt from and I would never make these mistakes again, but at the time I was faced with feelings of panic and despair. Although it was completely my own fault that I had not been organised and prepared, I still felt sorry for myself and kept wishing that I could forget about it all. This is how I overcame my ‘denial’ of having diabetes and I started to take control.

Turning my life around:
I was at a point in my life where I needed to make decisions, mainly on what career I would like to pursue. I was in my last year of my undergraduate degree in Sport and Exercise Science and needed to think about the next step. I have always had a passion for healthy living and had very quickly realised whilst doing my degree that instead of working with athletes in order to improve performance, I was interested in helping the general public live healthy lives through diet and lifestyle. I therefore applied to do a Masters in Public Health Nutrition.

This made me think about my own health and if I am going to be helping others look after their health, I should take control myself and that meant managing my diabetes effectively. Very quickly, I started making healthy changes to my diet and lifestyle. I made the effort to plan my weekly shops and buy healthy ingredients which I could cook with, instead of being a lazy student and buying ready meals and take aways. I realised that by doing this I was also getting better blood glucose control and managed to drastically reduce my Hba1c. I even noticed that I was getting better results at university and had more energy in general. I also make sure that I exercise regularly and try to keep as fit as possible – something that I do sometimes struggle with because of my diabetes (I would recommend the DAFNE course for anybody having problems with this). Most people are under the impression that having diabetes means that you ‘just have to’ take a few injections a day and do a couple of blood tests here and there. This is true if you are like my former teenage/student self who isn’t properly controlling their diabetes. Whereas for a diabetic to ensure they have optimal health (which I try my best to achieve now), it involves a huge amount of effort. They say that managing diabetes is an art, and it is true. Controlling my diabetes does takes effort but I have made the choice to do so and I am now living my life the way I want to, and my diabetes is damn sure not going to stop me doing anything.

Now: For the first time in my life I have met other young people living with diabetes and been able to share experiences and learn about how others overcome it. The best thing I have done since being diagnosed is volunteering with Diabetes UK Scotland, where I am involved in a young people’s project aiming to support young people living with type 1 diabetes across Scotland. This group has given me the opportunity to share the difficulties I have had with others who may have experienced similar problems, but it has encouraged me to face up to many aspects of my diabetes and take a positive look at living with diabetes. This group is full of bright young individuals and we all share a passion for helping each other and others live with our condition. I would highly encourage young people out there who have maybe struggled with any aspect of their diabetes to get involved, you won’t regret it! The future: I thought I knew everything about my diabetes and that nobody else understood what I was going through, but recently I have realised that I don’t know everything and I learn something new every day. I hope that I continue to learn from others and that others can also learn from my experiences. Lastly, I will never let diabetes get the better of me ever again.

Danni Cochrane, 2013

Thursday, 2 August 2012

How ithers see us?

Can you lift your own body weight? No? Then what you lookin' at?

There are so many ways to comment on how we see other people. The 24 hour news cycle, Twitter [catch me @JCJudson...], Facebook, comment sections on newspaper sites. Tom Daley can be trolled by someone who does not know him making judgements about what Tom's dead father would think of his Olympic performance. Frankie Boyle can make jokes about Rebecca Addlington. Karl Lagerfeld can comment in Grazia about Pippa Middleton's face in, if it was possible, an even more abusive way than he commented on Adele.

No-one should be commented on in this way - but it seems even being a Grammy winning multi-millionaire singer or Olympic medalist is not achievement enough to give the haters pause for thought. There are a lot of people out there who have lost any perspective on what is appropriate to comment on and what is not. I think it goes beyond that though. People occasionally overstep the mark - down the pub, a few beers with friends, and some ribald jokes may be told. The comments made about people - famous or not - that I am focusing on though usually also betray a hatred born out of sexism, racism and a sense of massive entitlement that an individual can judge without being challenged themselves.

Gabby Douglas is a 16 year old Amercian, Olympic Gold medal winner. I am in awe. But apparently, to some, what matters is her hair. I am sure as she competed her main worry was whether her hair would go a bit curly and not stay ramrod straight due to a bit of sweating [how unlady-like].

The comments on her hair demonstrate a multi-layered approach to taking someone down. She is female - and we all know that society demands that girls be pretty and their hair be straight, long and shiny. As female tennis players and Zoe Smith know, ladies need to be looking feminine and sweetly pretty. We know that society considers straight, 'polished' hair to be professional and pretty. Not hair pulled back in order to compete at THE OLYMPICS.

This is also a lot more achievable if you are white [still a slog though - as my own battles with naturally curly hair attest]. She is black - so her hair not only doesn't fit the stereotype of acceptable femininity it is also up for comment in relation to whether she should go natural, have a weave, or straighten adding a nice dose of racism to the mix. The still-prevalent attitude that you can touch a person's hair if they are black without asking and ask down right impertinent questions about it astonishes me. Jezebel helpfully collates some of the worst comments and best retorts - yet manages to miss mentioning what Gabby won the medal for.

Sometimes people comment on other people and it isn't just their appearance they have a shot at. There are the trolls who think feeding a baby in public is unacceptable. I mean, breasts on show and it is not for the enjoyment of men? Or to objectify women through an advert or Page 3? Breast is best but only when other people define that for you - and we would rather babies cried out in hunger or were fed in toilets. Then there are the people who comment on you as though you are not there. If you have a visible disability then you are likely to have experienced this. And if you have a condition that requires management outside other people's 'normal' you will also face this.

I work for Diabetes UK and so this one is close to my heart. If you have Type 1 diabetes you need to inject insulin in order to stay alive. You don't have a choice and it can be tough knowing you have to inject several times a day. Sometimes people with diabetes inject - shock, horror - outwith their homes. In cafes, or at work, or hanging out in the park. Now, the first time someone sees this they may be - understandably - curious. Most people with diabetes don't mind a polite question or two and are used to that. However, it seems some would rather people with diabetes risked their health and possibly their life itself to avoid their own discomfort at the use of an insulin pen. Do people feel the same way about asthma inhalers?

The shocking thing is that sometimes it isn't even excusable through lack of knowledge. This week an avowed expert and healthcare professional who 'understands' diabetes and what someone with diabetes needs to do to manage their condition, made some very cruel, unthinking and unfortunate comments about people taking their insulin in public.

Jackson failing to make the link between insulin, food intake and the right to take life saving medication [screenshot nicked from 'the bad diabetic' aka @type1teenager]

Jackson thought it was rude,offensive and should not happen in public. That instead the person with diabetes should hide themselves away in a toilet to take their medication. Well, I am not speechless, I am horrified. Never mind, though, how horrified I am. I don't have diabetes and I don't need to inject every day to stay alive. Hannah [@type1teenager] does though and she explains eloquently and with strength what this means to her.

On a positive note - the new Scottish-set Pixar movie, Brave, has inspired a celebration of another phenomenon that often comes in for a lot of stick - red hair is the feature of a flash mob - to celebrate the opening of the film and as someone who has red locks [albeit delivered by the skill of my hairdresser] that enjoy being in their naturally curly state - I heartily approve.

Merida stole my hair and did it better - she also apparently stole the Diabetes UK Scotland we get bows and arrows too?

Everyone has foot-in-mouth syndrome at times. I hold my hands up to asking those daft lassie questions that in hindsight were less than sensitive. But there is a fundamental difference between genuine curiosity delivered with clumsy good intentions and the vitriol that seems to be on display in such high volume. A misjudged comment in the pub is not the same as a comment designed to harm and projected to the widest audience possible through the media channels now at our disposal. Winning an Olympic medal is awesome - it is an achievement I can't really even understand because the skill, dedication and strength is beyond my ken. But no medal is big enough to shield from hatred. That is everyone's job - and the chance to do it is not every four years. The chance is there every day and everywhere we find it.

Saturday, 14 July 2012

Neglected Blog

So - it has been so long since I actually posted [in fact this is the first post of 2012] that Blogger has changed so much I don't know how to work it. Tomorrow's job will be to figure that out and start posting again. In the meantime, I am listening to the new Garbage album. A brilliant distraction from the 7 hour train journey I am currently enduring. Manson remains the hero she always was to me and may have influenced my own choice of hair dye over the years. And helped me come to terms with the fact that I am as pale as porcelain. Lightly freckled porcelain. I am also digesting the Darren Elmore/Lorrie Hearts/Danial Tosh 'rape is funny' incident. I followed the tweets and now here is Lorrie Hearts on the F Word blog setting out nicely the whole damned episode. You should follow her on twitter [@LorrieHearts].

Sunday, 11 December 2011

women and sport

I am catching up a bit here - there has been plenty of comment on this over the past week - but I can't let this one pass. An all-male shortlist for BBC Sports Personnality of the Year. How can that be?

I am not a fan of 'sports'. I like exercise, I like being outdoors but I pretty much avoid all organised sports and certainly what is on the box. Apart from Wimbledon when I become obsessed with tennis for two weeks and Andy Murray's biggest fan.

But even I have heard of Rebecca Adlington, Keri-Anne Payne, Chrissie Wellington, Sarah Stevenson and our own Katherine Grainger. And perhaps people like me would be more into sports if it wasn't so dominated by men.

It doesn't seem to matter that our women's football teams fare as well as, if not better, than the men's - our sports coverage is dominated by the male. Football, cricket, rugby.

Several of the women above have won gold. Now, as mentioned, I am a big fan of Murray, but he hasn't won a grand slam this year that I am aware of.

Even Richard Morris of the New Stateman can see the issue here. Not least that all of the people making nominations were themselves men. A bit of groupthink going on?

There are of course those who argue you shouldn't include a woman on any list 'just for the sake of it'. Yes, I did see Matt Gatward's comments in the Indie. First, it only seems that women can fall prey to the 'just for the sake of it' line. You don't hear that one being used for blokes. Also, there is no 'for the sake of it'. These sportspeople are top in their chosen fields. It isn't a wooden spoon to recognise their achievements.

What could be argued is that - as the Indie stated - they are successful in less high profile sports. In other words, in sports that don't have the financial clout of football or the 'audience' of rugby etc. But then, the two elements of money and sport are male dominated. A perfect storm.

The BBC has announced they will review the list whilst defending the current system as independent and fair. Yes, about as independent and fair as everything else is for women - that's why we still get paid 18% less than men, will be worse off under Cameron's cuts and lose our jobs when we have children. Because all of the systems that cause these outcomes are gender neutral. And having Nuts and Zoo magazines represented on the shortlisting panel ensures a balanced approach [publications where the content and understanding of that content by their readers can barely be distinguished from the viewpoints and opinions of convicted rapists].

On the run up to the London Olympics the message of support and acknowledgement of women's achievements in sport is clear. We don't dislike it when you win - but don't expect merit, that old chestnut, to count when it comes to awards.

Sunday, 23 October 2011

the salmond speech - gender neutral?

I was at home for Alex Salmond's speech - and interrupted our test run of the new Dance Central game to watch it. Yes, just moments before the most important speech at a party conference this year we were bopping away to Haddaway's 'what is love'. What an image.

Now, I love me some party conference coverage but even A was keen to see this. He is always up on current affairs but is not so far down the spectrum to have 'political anorak' attached to him as I do. So the first point of note for me was that I think this might be the first time we have shared the same level of eagerness to watch this kind of speech.

The second thing is that at no point during Alex Salmond's oratory did I feel conscious of my gender. I didn't realise this until later on but usually there is at least one - if not several points during these kind of speeches - where I shout at the TV over gender issues. Usually it is when 'family values' are mentioned [usually shorthand for women doing it all for less and with little acknowledgement], 'single mothers', 'maternity leave', 'abortion' or anything to do with wages.

It made me wonder if it is because of the language used - that Salmond doesn't deal in the psephology of voter groups in the way others do. Or because in fact the SNP hasn't yet cracked the issue of the lasses. PeatWarrior posted a well researched piece last year on the SNP and women and - not surprisingly - we see that there is a gap in support both for the SNP and for independence itself between men and women [women are always less inclined - this could be the basis of a sexist joke for lazy comedians]. Is this because the voter group is 'Scots' and at the moment with independence and constitutional issues being to the fore it is more about Scots as a voter group in and of itself compared to other parts of the UK, that it is unionist versus republican versus federalist?

There was plenty in his speech that could speak to women in traditional policy areas - new schools, more training for young people, help for those in fuel poverty. The fact that women don't like seeing their sons and daughters being killed in illegal wars [I know, neither do fathers].

All parties face challenges around women. How many are members, how many hold senior positions in their parties, how many are elected. No-one has cracked it yet. Westminster is a sea of suits with David Cameron using school boy insults towards his female parliamentarians - even those in his own party. So the SNP can't be charged with being the only party that may have an issue. Susan Deacon, Wendy Alexander and Cathy Jamieson all cited the male culture of politics and of Parliament as key issues for them. Annabel Goldie suffered comments on her personal life for being single [which I perpetrate below but only as an example]. The tories like a woman who is 'male' in her approach and has a signature female 'item' [Thatcher/handbag, Theresa May/leopard print kitten heels, Annabel Goldie /doughty spinsterhood]. Jo Swinson flies a lonely flag for the lib dems. The only party I can think of where I could say a strong female role model has been supported is the Greens in Caroline Lucas.

This lady just stole my milk...

The SNP has some strong women within its ranks. Roseanna Cunningham, Shona Robison, Fiona Hyslop [taken a battering recently but seems to be rebounding], Aileen Campbell and of course, Nicola Sturgeon. Sturgeon is steely - I can't recall her using her gender to political ends. Normally I abhor comment on women's looks and dress. But I can't help it this one time. Sturgeon also has a wardrobe edited mainly it seems from Hobbs - a good look, I am quite jealous [she would rock the new NW3 collection] - she looks like herself. Not like someone caught between gender, politics and identity like so many women in politics seem to be - and not of their own doing. Sturgeon doesn't handbag because she doesn't have to.

Is this a sign that the SNP is getting it right for women? What I am trying to wrestle with is this. Is it that Salmond's speech just didn't address women at all in any sense or is it that it speaks to all in Scotland regardless of gender? It seems that one of their own female delegates finds the SNP a family friendly place to be - maybe my ears are just not quite attuned to a new way of discussing these issues.

Salmond's speech spoke to me of being Scottish, of a vision of Scotland. It was a brilliant speech - but I will cover that in a different post. What the SNP need to do now though is think about who the Scots are beneath broad policy statements. Because until he does women will not be as positive about independence or about the SNP as the men are - and there something about how the way in wich we treat women and children tells us about the kind of society we are. Salmond wants the Scots to set their own agenda. And this is not a negative criticism - more it is a statement of what I hope to see happen - I want that agenda setting whether for independence or not or the direction thereafter to be set by all Scots - not just one gender.