Monday, 4 April 2016

Britain in Crisis: The EU Referendum

Evening all!

It's been a long while since I last published a blog. Despite the fact many opportunities have surfaced in regards to issues in the world that have cropped up, I feel the topic of the possible Brexit needs to be addressed in as many ways in possible. Campaigning in the centre of my hometown (a fairly modest place in Northern Oxfordshire) earlier for staying in Europe, it's evident that, upon conversing with the people who are agreeable to leaving Europe, their main problem is immigration. So, let's address that:

The media is an incredibly powerful tool. Whilst we may not choose to question the bias of the newspaper sources we read, perhaps it is advisable to begin doing so. It appears, because of the media, people are under the pretense that almost anybody can walk into the UK, "take our jobs", (and by the word 'our', I do question why they use possessive vocabulary in talking about something as simple as a job), put a strain on "our" NHS and "claim all our benefits". Firstly, we have to consider why there is a sudden influx in illegal immigrants - because, let's not deny it - worryingly, there is. In 2014, 276,113 migrants entered the EU, which represents an increase of 138% compared to the same period in 2013. This suggests, yes, we do need border control to ensure people are not taking advantage of the system, but we have to start acknowledging illegal immigrants and asylum seekers as two different things with one thing in common. They both run from tragedy. Images of migrants and asylum-seekers crammed into unseaworthy boats making perilous voyages to Europe have come to symbolise the unsettling reality of the irregular migration phenomenon. Asylum seekers run from the tragedy inflicted upon their homes by terrorism whereas many illegal immigrants try to escape the horror in their motherland and with no economic support for their families, is it any wonder? However, these people are not the animalised beasts The Daily Mail and The Sun portray them to be. They are vulnerable to labour and other forms of exploitation. The EU has established tougher rules for action against criminals involved in trafficking in human beings, combined with better assistance for victims, which is why, we are better staying in.

Despite this, there is a return policy as induced by the EU. So those who do come to exploit the system are reintegrated back into their own society, which is humane and effective. However, the special thing about the UK is that we choose, on a case-by-case basis, whether or not to adopt EU rules on immigration, visa and asylum policies. Great Britain has a voice well and truly heard in the European Union and I am proud to be part of a country that considers the cases as individuals, which is ultimately good as it promotes values of tolerance.

What is disappointing on the subject of tolerance is that ultimately, people (especially those of the elder generation) are living in the past. We are not in the '50s, or '70s. We are in the 21st century, and by now, people of all ethnicities should be being accepted. People need to realise that just because you are English, British, or any nationality, for that matter of fact, you are not superior. We are all equals. However, it is a shame some a treated more equal than others. Yes, so perhaps 'English' culture was more pure in the past as a lady who 'travelled around the world' 50 odd years ago told me in an almost anecdotal sense. Countries were very different from others then, but it's globalisation that has changed that. Not the EU and the migrants. The EU cannot be made a scapegoat to people's problems. The risks are far too grave.

Earlier on, upon campaigning for staying in the EU, a man attempted to blame the recent shootings in Brussels on being in the EU.  I see no reason to leave the security the EU provides for us as a whole and I believe leaving the EU would be more detrimental to our economy and political position in the world. After the recent terrorist attacks in Paris, Brussels and now Pakistan, I am only further convinced that nations and people coming and staying together is the way forward. Being a part of a productive community is essential to the peaceful cohabitation of this planet. Unfortunately, I have never been overwhelmed by Conservative ideas (like many) and it is disturbing that people are very willing to agree with Cameron's opposing stance on something that will tear us apart from our home continent. The peoples' best interest is not at heart being taken into account here and the prime goal of those such as Boris Johnson is enforcing an outdated conservative idealism. Staying in the EU with our fellow European citizens provides us with the security and justice we need. The European Arrest Warrant replaced long extradition procedures and enables the UK to extradite criminals wanted in other EU countries, and bring to justice criminals wanted in the UK who are hiding in other EU countries. Eurojust helps UK authorities work with other EU countries’ to tackle international organised crime such as drug smuggling, people trafficking and money laundering, as well as terrorism.

And to all my fellow feminists, equal pay for men and women is enshrined in EU law, as are bans on discrimination by age, race or sexual orientation. This benefits Britain and British people who live in other EU countries. Europe has done a huge amount to protect the rights and freedoms of women. It ensures equal pay for equal work, underpins maternity and paternity rights, the right to work after maternity leave, and the right to sick leave and time off for urgent family reasons. Thanks to the EU, part time and agency workers, who are more likely to be women, also have the right to equal treatment in line with full-time permanent employees. Across the world, European nations are working together to improve the lives of women in developing countries by tackling violence against women, improving standards in factories staffed by women, and cracking down on the horrific practice of female genital mutilation. We are stronger in Europe working with other countries to get more women in Britain the rights and jobs they and their families need and securing the safety and security of women across the world.

So, what if we actually do leave?

Let's imagine for one second we wake up on June 24th to find out we voted collectively (and by we, I mean those eligible to vote. So 16-17 year olds can't cast a vote in potentially the most groundbreaking decision affecting us so far, but 95 year olds can? So effectively, are the establishment trying to tell us we are not responsible for our own future? That is another can of worms though.) to leave Europe. Months pass and slowly the cracks begin to show. Free migration within Europe has ended, so British expats cannot move to Spain and invade the Costas with their failing businesses, even though there's already a million of them there. Students can't go to Germany or France to study, despite the fact they'd have less debts and, depending on their chosen degree, get better education. Businesses would too suffer, as British firms wouldn't have unimpeded access to the single market and wouldn't continue to benefit from the EU’s trade deals with other countries whilst we would have no say over EU trade policy which could be potentially devastating. If you think unemployment is a problem now, let's just imagine it without the EU. With around 3.5 million British jobs are directly linked to British membership of the European Union’s single market – that's 1 in 10 British jobs.  Effectively, investment would fall as foreign companies that invested in the UK as a launch-pad for serving the entire EU market shifted some of their activities across the Channel. Some British companies would do the same. Unemployment would then rise until wages had fallen far enough for people to price themselves back into the market. British families enjoy lower mobile phone roaming charges, lower credit card fees, cheaper flights and proper compensation when flights are delayed or cancelled simply by being in the European Union. These sorts of benefits could not be achieved by Britain alone. There are countless positives of staying in the EU. Countless.

There are really no good alternatives to membership. We should stay in the EU and put our energy into reforming it, instead We should be voting to stay in the EU for employment reasons, for gaining far more than we spend in trade, for being able to travel freely, and for global political and economic stability. We should be voting to stay in the EU for all generations to reap benefits, not voting to leave so only a few at the top of the hierarchy can gain from it. We are stronger together.

Remember, your vote counts and this is an extremely important and significant decision that you have some power in to help make. Leaving Europe will impact us all and it's not something I wish to see happen in my lifetime.

Take care,
Sophie xo

Thursday, 31 December 2015

What do we owe to Socialism?

Good evening! (or morning, afternoon, etc. depending on where in this world you are...)

So, I hope you've all been well! I was just doing a bit of work when it hit me that I hadn't blogged in so long, (slap on the wrist!), so it seemed appropriate to do so now. This post is fairly linked in to something I was researching as part of the work I was doing, but it seems important. Something that definitely needs more awareness raised.

The title of the post gives it away: what do we owe to socialism?


Every single one of us at some point has benefited from the principles of the National Health Service, free at the point of use as a Human Right. The free market capitalist economy of the United States has 40 million people without access to health care, and the rest have to pay a great deal for it. We owe our health care system to socialism.

Where did these socialist ideas come from though? Did they come from some extremely benign, very wealthy person or were they the dreams of people who saw their mothers dying in poverty, saw their wives dying in child birth, or saw others suffering grievously because they could not afford the medical care they so desperately needed? They wanted a communal system that protected everybody from illness and disease. We owe the compassion prevalent in society to socialism.

Today, some 21,000 children will die. This happens every day though, around the world. And the statistic is rising. This is the equivalent of one child dying every 4 seconds. This is the equivalent of 14 children dying every minute.  This is the equivalent of the 2010 Haiti earthquake disaster occurring every 10 days. Some 92 million children died between the years 2000 and 2010. That’s 7.6 million children a year dead because of the silent killers. And what exactly are the silent killers? Poverty. Hunger. Lack of medical care to treat easily preventable diseases and illnesses. These statistics, believe it or not, affect us all. In the UK, infant mortality is 10% higher for those in the lower social group than the average. But, a different world is possible.

In 2012, (this is a particular example that touched me!), 17 year old Layla Smith would become a single mother. She gave birth to a premature baby boy, who she’d go on to name Mark. Layla was hospitalised for several weeks: as a young girl she was still growing herself and needed help with her deprived nutrition intake and her smoking addiction. As the health of her and her child improved, they were released from hospital. However, in 2012, 3,000 babies died under the age of one. Baby Mark would be one of these who perished as a result of the socio-economic deprivation. Even if Mark and the other 2,999 babies who died alongside him that year had made their 1st birthday, they still wouldn’t have had the same chances at something as basic as living in comparison to those with a higher income. In the poorer communities, the streets are not as safe, there would be nowhere near and secure to play, but above all, the children would be discriminated against in the education and health system. It’s evident that the system in place today just isn’t working for everybody. But, a different world is possible.

And we could go on to discuss many other things that are profoundly socialist, such as access to food banks, such as the development of council housing in the 1920s by the Labour Party particularly, but by those who believed there should be decent housing for all. Surely this is more beneficial than those who are presiding over an explosion of free market, privately rented flats which now make up at least 1/6th of each parliamentary constituency. People are therefore being socially cleansed by these high rents, and by insufficient benefits and the refusal from the government to bring in any form of rent control. Again, better quality housing leads to better education achievements, leading to better health. There are many things that we owe in our welfare state to the ideas of socialism.

And so, if we are therefore able to consider the moral case of socialism, bearing in mind those people who of opposite ideologies will indoctrinate so you believe there is something normal and natural in living in a society where the dog eats dog, the poorest go to hell and the richest do well. This isn’t normal. This isn’t natural. It could be said that in everybody, there is either an ounce of socialism, a pound of socialism, or in many other cases, kilograms of it. Socialism is surely about the kind of society you want to live in. Do you want to live in a society where there is no public provision of any kind of service? This being where there is only private provision, where the only thing to worship is money and getting wealthy at the expense of others. Or do you want to live in a society where there is universal health care, where there is a protection against total destitution and poverty, where every child gets to go to school? Because in many parts of the world, they don’t. I’m sure the majority of us would rather live in a place where there is that distinct, collective principal about it.  We owe the freedom we have to socialism.

I also think we should bear in mind the national environment in which we live. We live in a free market society, to some extent in Britain and to a great extent in the United States of America, and certainly in the domination of the world’s multi-national companies and banks which is very, very powerful indeed. Are they really caring about what happens to the environment? Are they really caring about the level of exploitation of oil and other mineral resources? Are they really caring about the damage they are doing to the environment? It’s only if you live in a society and a set of principles where you take from people what they can afford in order to give that to people who need it. So, in other words, “from each according to their means to each according to their needs” is surely a very sensible, very basic principle in life. This different world is possible.

The point here is that if we want to survive on this planet, we cannot go on polluting and exploiting at the rate we are. We cannot ruin our environment, destroying an eco-system and expect to survive. If you live in a free market society, a free market capitalist society, each piece of resource with the ability to be used will be grabbed, with no thought spared to the environmental damage done. A collective principal where we care for everybody will spare this thought, where we care for everybody does give us that opportunity to protect the natural environment. We owe the consideration for the natural world to socialism.

If you want to live a decent world, is it then right that the world’s economy is dominated by a group of unaccountable multi-national corporations? They are the real power nowadays, not the nation’s state. It’s the global corporations. And if you want to look at the victims of this free market catastrophe that the world is faced with at the moment, visit the small towns on the fringes of so many big cities around the world. Look at those people. Migrants are dying in the Mediterranean, trying to get to Lampedusa. Why are they there? Why are they dying? Why are they living in such poverty? It’s when the World Bank arrives and tells them to privatise all services, to sell off state-owned land, to make inequality apparent and a virtue. That is what drives people away into danger and poverty. But, a different world is possible.

I will conclude with this final thought: think about the world you want to live in. Do you want the dog to eat the dog, or do you want us to all collectively care for each other, support each other, and eliminate poverty and injustice? A different world is possible.

I hope you all have a good 2016 too! 

Sophie x

Friday, 30 October 2015

Sanitary Products: When a Necessity is Deemed a Luxury

Good morning all!

It's been quite a significant while since I last posted a blog. I suppose I speculate on the frequency of my publishing quite a lot, but that's because it's important to express your views. In any way possible. Through writing, speaking... it all makes a difference. And this is what I'd like this post here, in particular, to achieve.

So, getting to the point: on October 27th, 305 Members of Parliament voted against the motion of abolishing the tax on sanitary products which forces women into paying 5% VAT on what the European Union classifies as 'non-essential luxury items'. My MP, Victoria Prentis, was one of them. We're talking about sanitary products here. Tampons and towels. Not diamonds and pearls.

In a sense, however, we have progressed. Thanks to Labour MP Dawn Primarolo's 'tampon tax' campaign, the percentage of VAT on sanitary product was reduced by a big 12.5%, hence the tax now being 'just' 5%. But how much extra does this mean spending, even with the added 5%?

Women who currently menstruate are advised to change their tampons or sanitary towels every 4 hours, at a maximum. So, 24 / 4 = 6. That's a minimum of 6 pads or tampons per day, and seeing as the average-sized pack of sanitary towels/box of tampons includes just 12 individual items, that's enough to last us 2 days. It is important to note, though, that many women will choose to change their sanitary-wear more often than recommended for varying reasons, but moreover, through necessity.

Now, the average period lasts 5 days. Of course there are cycles that last longer and shorter amounts of time, but we're keeping this simple. After looking at a variety of local shops and analysing their prices, the cheapest it's possible to buy a packet of 30 (the amount you'd need - 5 days x 6 pads/tampons, at minimum) pads or tampons for comes to £3.75. Per period.  So, annually what does this mean? Well, 3.75 x 12 = 45.

£45 per year on sanitary products. £45 on something inevitable. In a very brief sense, we pay the price for being women. Something has to change.

And of course, these periods typically last for around 39 years, bearing in mind the average starting age is 12 and the average age of the menopause start is 51. For some more maths, £39 x £45 = £1755.

£1755 spent on sanitary products. This statistic in itself sounds outrageous, but what about women with daughters? Women who are earning lower than the minimum wage with no other means of income are having to spend almost over £2000 for a necessity they cannot avoid.

Basic sanitation is vital. It would be inhumane to deny anybody this. But people who live in poverty are suffering. They are denied this right because sanitary products are unnecessarily taxed. They are denied this right because of those in Parliament, who, in many instances, won't have experienced menstruation because of their gender.

We have a voice and we have to use it. Our voice is represented through our constituency's Member of Parliament. We must use the democracy our country offers us to our advantage. Getting in touch with your local MP, at the House of Commons, Westminster, SW1, reminding them they have the right to reflect your voice in their parliamentary votes is vital. It is only through engagement and activity that we will progress.

And that's it for today! Please do remember you have a voice and you have the right to use it.

Take care,

Sophie x

Sunday, 30 August 2015

Do you know how lucky YOU are?

Hi all, welcome back!

So a couple of months have passed since I last wrote a blog. I'd put it down to something between not having the motivation, nor the inspiration. However for many of us, the return to school or university is imminent. Whilst we're quick enough to complain about the 'tedious' hours spent in the classrooms, and the 'copious' amounts of work we're given,  do we really recognise how lucky we are to be able to go to school without risking our lives? Or do we just take it all for granted?

The answer is "yes". We do take things for granted. Many won't even spare a thought about those girls in the middle-east who go against society's standards whilst risking their lives just to be educated. This is all very seldom-talked about though, isn't it? Look at the connotations associated with being excited, or, to say the least, content with going to school: you're deemed as 'dorky', 'geek-y', in fact. Nobody wants to be known as the nerd obsessed with education and I'm not proposing trying to change society's view of teenagers in the UK, but, what I am saying, is that we need to be more appreciative. After all, you don't know what you have until it's gone.

Perhaps this should be re-instated. Perhaps those at school in 'developed' countries such as the UK should have their awareness raised about how fortunate they are. Surely a bit of global awareness won't do any harm - albeit damaging to this naive perception some people are under that everything in other continents runs as smoothly as it does here. It's evident that many students in the UK would rather not be in school and the exact percentage is unknown, but why aren't students taking responsibility for themselves? It's all very easy to blame teachers and parents for the complete lack of interest students have nowadays, but ultimately, these role models can only do so much. Whilst parents and teachers should be drilling the importance of education into their students/children, they have to accept the benefits and consequences of their own choices and actions. Going to school on average for 14 years of your life and coming out with A*/A grades at the end of it all means the world is your oyster. And of course for those who don't quite achieve the grades they were after, there are always other options. This isn't always the case though in other countries though.

It was only last year that a school in Pakistan was attacked, leaving 149 for the dead. Naturally, a country's particular culture has an impact on how schooling is received and we cannot expect those in Pakistan, for example, to have the same thoughts on education as what we do here in Great Britain - but I think those, both male and female, who risk their lives to attend school need to be commended. We don't think about that though, do we? The security locks on the doors provide reassurance for those with the most wildest imaginations.  But of course, why would anyone sane want to attack a school to prove a point? After all, it's second nature to attend for us.

How many illiterate 9 to 10 year old children do you find nowadays in England? Very, very few. In fact, I'm yet to meet a child of that age that isn't capable of reading and writing, doing the basics at least. Yet in Africa, at this age, children are most likely to drop out of education completely. As a continent, Africa holds almost 128 million school-aged children. That's a lot of potential - but the reality is a world away from that, to say the least. 17 million children will never attend school, yet 38 million will have learnt so little that they won't be much better off than their peers who didn't attend school. Shocking, right? This is an issue that needs to be addressed. Whilst campaigning for equal rights education-wise for those in Asia might seem a tad too asking, being just a bit appreciative doesn't take anything, no time nor effort.

I think the overall message I'm trying to convey here is that perhaps, consider thinking twice before complaining about attending school. It's not costing you your life, after all.


Sophie! X

Saturday, 27 June 2015

A Priceless Value: Youth in Politics

Good Evening (or morning, afternoon, night... whichever is appropriate!) to you all!

I'll start by poiting out the obvious: I haven't written a blog in a couple of months now. So, first of all, apologies for that. I was quite tempted to do one on the United Kingdom's political voting system and the effects of that, but that was something I didn't quite get round to doing. I think waiting for the both mental and physical affects of the General Election to wear off took longer than I'd predicted...

Anyhow, I'm back now and seeing as things have (relatively) gone back to normal, I intend to post as regularly as possible.

So, as you can tell tell from the title of this post, it's going to be on the issue of Youth in Politics. I've been wanting to write this piece following a trip to Pembroke College in Oxford on Monday with other young writers, and I must say, the event definitely served its purpose in inspiring us to write. The event there was also to celebrate the winners of The Orwell Youth Prize 2015 (which I'll touch on later), so congratulations to everyone who won or was short-listed.

Following the tedious journey there, our morning consisted of a tour of the college (and it is pretty beautiful, if I can say so myself!) and then a writer's seminar in the morning. I won't describe every single thing that was said or done during this period, but to summarise, we came to realise there was more of a link between writing and power itself than one would have thought. I'm not just talking about famous authors who have written books on different political ideologies and became successful. I'm not just talking about those who wrote diaries or memoirs in historical events, inspired and became famous, like Anne Frank, say. I'm talking about us. Any of us have the power to change anything with words. We have social media, we don't have to be of any authority to get a book published and we have the ability to get involved. I know the campaigns for the General Election are over now, but that doesn't mean it's too late. It never is. It can never be too late for you to pick up a pen and write. It doesn't matter if you're responding to something you've seen on the news, or whether you're debating an issue on paper. You're developing yourself. You're engaging yourself. As Orwell said himself, there is no issue that isn't a political one. Politically engaged youth nowadays hold a priceless value.

Edging away from the more annecdotal side of things, and putting the question forwards to you: would you rather be fed watered-down information straight from Westminster, or would you rather be out there, experiencing things for yourself? I know what I'd choose. Getting involved with a party local to you, actually bothering to research instead of being indoctrinated by the media and speaking to people in general about such issues are all ways you can benefit yourself. To understand is to know. And seeing as we are the future, we need to know.

16 and 17 year-olds are put off of becoming politically engaged. Fact. I see it myself happening in the Sixth Form. We can only thank Mr Cameron for not allowing youth of that age to vote, and that is a factor that prolongs the involvement of youth in politics. It appears that, unless you have a burning interest in politics, voting is a chore. Even thinking about it seems to be a chore. I've spoken to people whilst canvassing who were relying on their (mainly Conservative) parents to tell them who to vote for. Never mind what party would have benefitted them as individuals. This needs to stop. We cannot benefit as a nation when only a minority are actually taking politics seriously. And politics isn't what the stereotypes play it out to be.

Things won't get easier. Depriving yourself the opportunity to vote and thinking you can block out anything political won't make things better. We can't all play 'Boo Radley' in today's society. Just by reading this post, you're politically engaging yourself which is exactly what needs to be done. We can't be brainwashed any more. We can't be patronised and have people be condescending to us any more.

After all, we are the future.

Anyway, have yourselves a lovely rest of the weekend. As always, thank you for reading! Much appreciated!


Sophie x

P.S, thank you and well done to everyone reading this that partook in the Orwell Youth Prize Celebrations 2015. It was both quite an amazing and insightful day, so once again, well done!

Sunday, 5 April 2015

The Religious: Faithful or Feared?

Good afternoon (well, morning or evening depending on where you are) to you all!

I hope you've been keeping well, and it seems only appropriate to wish the Christian readers and followers I have amongst you a very happy Easter!

I've been wanting to write a blog with the same title as this one on religion since the shootings in Paris but became somewhat disheartened when my laptop decided to shut itself down whilst I was in the process of writing. After even more shootings in different places around the world, the rising profile of the Islamic State (ISIS) and a little closer to home, the comments the PM made on this country and religion earlier, I've decided to alter what would have been my original post a bit.

Religion can be interpreted in many different ways depending on which perspective you take. It could be an incredibly important part of your life as to which you're devoted. It could be what you turn to when you're in need of help, or it could be something you're reluctant to believe in. Whichever one of these 'if' statements applies to you, I think it's important we understand that recognising and not only tolerating, but accepting everybody else's opinion is essential. Just because you don't pray 5 times a day, that does not make you inferior. The same logic is applied to if you believe in The Big Bang Theory, just because you have scientific evidence on your side - it doesn't make you superior. At the end of the day, we should be embracing the fact we are all open-minded enough to choose our own beliefs and whatever we choose them to be need to be accepted.

However, it appears that racial tension is one of the biggest factors that turns what could be a somewhat utopian society into a dystopia. Nobody is ever going to have the same beliefs. One of our biggest attributes that distinguishes humans from the majority of other species is that we will remain different because we each have different experiences, pasts and factors that influence us. We also have the power of communication - that ability is often abused though. Instead of sharing our beliefs, embracing our different paths and enjoying the beauty in a multi-cultural society, we appear to consistently put pressure on those both of a different religion, and saddest of all, those of the same belief.

We don't just come up with this hatred ourselves though. In fact, our sources are far from our own creation. Indoctrination always has been a powerful tool used by the media (I do find myself frequently saying this - I'd like to think people would now be strong enough to realise we should have our own opinions based on ourselves, instead of being brainwashed.) and let's face it, pretty much every media source is biased to some aspect of the political compass. I'd like to use the example of Islam and ISIS, which I know has already been speculated over quite a bit, but it's valid in this context. ISIS are a horrific terrorist organisation, and I will admit myself, seeing their videos from training, seeing what they do to those 'different' to the norm (i.e homosexuals) in the countries they operate in, is scary. The atrocities they commit are condemned by Atheists, Agnostics, Christians, Jews, Catholics, Hindus, Sikhs and Muslims. ISIS are an extremist organisation. They are not Muslims and it's important to reiterate this. Yes, so ISIS were the culprits behind blowing up a Catholic monastery, and a Christian church - but they've done the same to a mosque. No religion is inferior, just as no human race is superior.

What we can learn from that given example, just in case it isn't clear, is that terrorism does not have a religion. You are actually, believe it or not, making yourself more vulnerable by becoming indoctrinated, therefore fearing your own kind. Guess which pretty successful dictator used that technique?

Ah yes, that'd only be Adolf Hitler. Nobody wants a repeat of that. Well then, let's not put those methods into practice.

Whilst you might be an innocent reader just catching up on the latest news, the media know what they're doing. Humans are quite predictable. We aren't only destroying relationships in our generation, but we're scarring the bonds that are necessary for our children's generation, and our grandchildren's generation. We really aren't being cruel to be kind in this case.

Another incident that the majority of you will know about (because of you guys being Chelsea fans and all that) is this act Mourinho did in celebration:

*I think the caption from the lovely @AliHayek96 was quite fitting. Why speculate over Jose doing this but not the guy next to him? Well, let's ask the press, shall we?*

Whilst Mourinho is incredibly quiet over his political views and hasn't officially converted to Islam, there is an enormous amount of speculation over this. Perhaps he misinterpreted the religious symbol behind this celebration. Just because he's doing something that typically religious people do, there is no need for comment. I'd just like to make the point that so what if Mourinho did convert anyhow? What does it matter which religion he believes in? It doesn't change the person he is anyway. We can again thank the media for twisting this, as an example.

It isn't like the authorities are helping anyhow. Earlier, a friend showed me what David Cameron said over this country's religious status. Him saying Britain is a 'Christian country' was bound to cause tension. You cannot imply one religion is superior when the other 40.7% of inhabitants in your country aren't Christian. Actually, only 4.8% of the UK population from a year and a half ago were Muslim. We were probably under a different impression because of the media's influence, unsurprisingly. (I must admit I was quite shocked when I saw how little of the UK population was Muslim though.)

Earlier on, I mentioned judgement playing a part in how we perceive the religious, and non-religious, in this case. Just to clarify a few facts:

1) Just because people choose not to be of a faith, that is their choice and that should be respected. Trying to say otherwise would be like insulting that person for who they are. I myself am christened; I didn't really get a choice in the matter because I was only around 2 years of age. I wasn't brainwashed with Christianity when I finally became able to make my own decisions regarding religion and it does not make me inferior because of doing so. Nor should I be judged. And the same applies to anybody else similarly agnostic/atheist. 

2) A passage from the Bible (6:37) states "Judge not, and you will not be judged; condemn not, and you will not be condemned." Again, this is important. It breaks away from the stereotype that the religious (Christians in particular) are judgemental. As I've said, nobody has any right to do that. It revolves back to the old saying of don't do to others what you wouldn't want doing to yourself.

3) Islam is not a sexist religion. Or a racist one. In fact, in the Qu'ran, it states that we should respect and honour all human beings irrespective of their religion, colour, race, sex, language, status, property, birth, profession/job and so on. (17/70). This is such a meaningful statement in my eyes, and it takes away no end of negative stereotypes associated with Islam. Again, acceptance over intolerance. 

Obviously, as much as I'd love to, I cannot justify the inaccuracies within different stereotypes and clich├ęs we have over all of the different religions. Some of what you may have read could have been perceived as quite shocking, which isn't surprising because my jaw dropped a few times in my spontaneous research.

The key word there is 'research'. If we actually bothered to use our initiative and find things out for ourselves instead of having 'information' (applying that term loosely for obvious reasons) fed to us like we're incapable. We have the power to find out anything we want, and I suggest we do that instead. Next time you see something on the news, actually consider what perception you're getting. Even the vocabulary the reporters use can influence how we think/feel about a certain issue. And whatever you do, hold your own judgements and go on what you feel. Don't adapt other people's judgements, especially if they're negative ones.

After all, the world has enough negativity in it. People are what they are, and we shouldn't be attempting to try and change that. As long as nobody is hurting you, just let them get on with it.

I'm going to end that here, with fear of sounding like a patronising grandmother if I keep these life-lessons up... Anyway, have yourselves an enjoyable, relaxing week!

Thanks again for reading. Your views/comments are always appreciated! 

Take care,

Sophie xo

Saturday, 7 March 2015

The Fight for Acceptance: Women In Football

Hello people, it's been a long time! (In fact, I'd say far too long!)

I haven't written a blog post in some months now, but despite this, it isn't because I couldn't be bothered - it was more because I was struggling to find an issue to actually address without seeming repetitive, or like I was ranting. It was only yesterday when I saw an article on Eva Carneiro and Chelsea calling for an end to sexism in football that I realised this issue still does need to be tackled. Much to my dismay, we are well into 2015 and still, still women are being dehumanised, desensitised and objectified due to their gender. We don't choose what gender we are when born, nor what race, species, sexuality or even what religion in some cases. Despite this, acceptance for all isn't happening. To put things back into context: men have gender privileges, simple as. Just because an environment (such as the game football, in this instance) is male-dominated, that does not make them superior. 

For those who don't know, Eva Carneiro is Chelsea FC's first team doctor and has been so for a number of years now. Being born in Gibraltar to a Spanish father and an English mother, it became clear to her what she wanted to do career-wise, as when she was just 16 she knew she wanted to pursue a job working in the medical department. "...women want to be leaders..." she said at a Swedish medical conference last year. She finished that particular sentence indicating how oppressed women were, due to the unwritten rules of society. You might think this doesn't concern you, perhaps because you aren't female, or perhaps because you yourself have never been on the end of sexist abuse, however it was Desmond Tutu that once said "If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.".

So, what exactly happened with Eva? She was victimised by having vile abuse hurled at her. Two nights ago, the BBC broadcasted a clip of some Manchester United and other Manchester City fans shouting things like "Show us where you p**s from, you s**g, show us your m***e." Of course, this really isn't acceptable. These male and other female fans don't shout this at fellow men, such as male referees, whether because they aren't that way inclined or not is a different question. But the fact men don't receive this level of gender abuse does not mean they should be the ones doing this. The fact Eva is trying to work yet constantly is treated like a piece of meat is unacceptable. How about we start recognising her for her intelligence and compassion, instead of her assets?

It isn't just Eva (she is frankly, quite high-profile in the game) who even to this day receives such a level of abuse. Assistant referee Helen Bryne was targeted at an unspecific Football League game where fans taunted her. We know these women as figures who do a job, but what if it was our daughters, sisters, even mothers who couldn't fulfil their dreams and aspirations because they were worried some misogynistic, disgraceful beings would humiliate them to such an extent? It needs to stop. Now.

Following this abuse, Chelsea have called for an end to sexism in football and in all seriousness, this demand has needed to be made for a while now. They shouldn't be the only club wanting this either. Furthermore, the FA have urged all supporters to report sexist abuse when encountered because we can't, and we shouldn't have to tolerate this for any longer. Discrimination in a sport such as football where we are all supposedly "united" should not be happening in any shape or form, whether that's racism, sexism or dealing with non-heterosexual players. We should be embracing and accepting, not doing the opposite. Awareness is spreading of this though, thankfully. A campaign group called 'Women in Football' launched an anti-sexist social media drive yesterday, and all female staff in matchday programmes will be championed following International Women's Day, tomorrow.

However, whilst we can celebrate International Women's Day tomorrow, we need to eradicate inequality. Let's make it International  Women's Day every day, and make sure women aren't inferior, or superior either - because that isn't what I'm proposing. We just need to recognise women have every right to do the same as men without being abused. We are all humans and we are all equal. 

On that note, have yourselves a lovely week ahead. With love, 

Sophie xo