Monthly Archives: November 2014

The Trust Women conference – Creating Women-friendly Cities

In Delhi, 95% of women asked feel unsafe on public transport. In the USA, 80% of women surveyed have been harassed by a male stranger. Girls are known to use public parks far less than boys after the age of 9 years. There are many other examples of such Everyday Sexism in towns and cities, so it was good to read about the TRUST WOMEN international conference which took place this month, with lots of ideas and solutions in different settings around the world.

The growth of urbanisation and mega-cities means that more women than ever are living in cities, and especially in mega-cities. The challenge now is for us, men and women, to make these cities work for everyone, and not just for men. The conference covered many experiences and solutions already in place, and these are via the link below.

For me, if I was to highlight one point it would be – the importance of employing women in roles of authority to visibly manage public spaces, from tram inspectors to parks officers to visitor guides, and more. I feel we have gone a bit too far down the CCTV and gadgets route, and lost something of the human, the role model for girls walking to school, the ability to intervene, challenge and remove that urban sexism everyday.


Ursula K. Le Guin’s speech on writing, resistance and change

I don’t normally paste other people’s stuff wholesale in a blog, but this speech below is exceptionally good:

Ursula K. Le Guin was honored at the National Book Awards tonight [19 Nov 2014] and gave a fantastic speech about the dangers to literature and how they can be stopped. As far as I know it’s not available online yet, so I’ve transcribed it from the livestream below. The parts in parentheses were ad-libbed directly to the audience, and the Neil thanked is Neil Gaiman, who presented her with the award.

She said:

“Thank you Neil, and to the givers of this beautiful reward, my thanks from the heart. My family, my agent, editors, know that my being here is their doing as well as mine, and that the beautiful reward is theirs as much as mine. And I rejoice at accepting it for, and sharing it with, all the writers who were excluded from literature for so long, my fellow authors of fantasy and science fiction—writers of the imagination, who for the last 50 years watched the beautiful rewards go to the so-called realists.

I think hard times are coming when we will be wanting the voices of writers who can see alternatives to how we live now and can see through our fear-stricken society and its obsessive technologies to other ways of being, and even imagine some real grounds for hope. We will need writers who can remember freedom. Poets, visionaries—the realists of a larger reality.

Right now, I think we need writers who know the difference between the production of a market commodity and the practice of an art. Developing written material to suit sales strategies in order to maximize corporate profit and advertising revenue is not quite the same thing as responsible book publishing or authorship. (Thank you, brave applauders.)

Yet I see sales departments given control over editorial; I see my own publishers in a silly panic of ignorance and greed, charging public libraries for an ebook six or seven times more than they charge customers. We just saw a profiteer try to punish a publisher for disobedience and writers threatened by corporate fatwa, and I see a lot of us, the producers who write the books, and make the books, accepting this. Letting commodity profiteers sell us like deodorant, and tell us what to publish and what to write. (Well, I love you too, darling.)

Books, you know, they’re not just commodities. The profit motive often is in conflict with the aims of art. We live in capitalism. Its power seems inescapable. So did the divine right of kings. Any human power can be resisted and changed by human beings. Resistance and change often begin in art, and very often in our art—the art of words.

I have had a long career and a good one. In good company. Now here, at the end of it, I really don’t want to watch American literature get sold down the river. We who live by writing and publishing want—and should demand—our fair share of the proceeds. But the name of our beautiful reward is not profit. Its name is freedom.

Thank you.”