The Growing Season by Helen Sedgwick

I review The Growing Season by Helen Sedgwick.

Now anyone can have a baby. With FullLife’s safe and affordable healthcare plan, why risk a natural birth?

Without the pouch, Eva might not have been born. And yet she has sacrificed her career, and maybe even her relationship, campaigning against FullLife’s biotech baby pouches. Despite her efforts, everyone prefers a world where women are liberated from danger and constraint and all can share the joy of childbearing. Perhaps FullLife has helped transform society for the better? But just as Eva decides to accept this, she discovers that something strange is happening at FullLife.

Piotr hasn’t seen Eva in years. Not since their life together dissolved in tragedy. But Piotr’s a journalist who has also uncovered something sinister about FullLife. What drove him and Eva apart may just bring them back together, as they search for the truth behind FullLife’s closed doors, and face a truth of their own.

A beautiful story about family, loss and what our future might hold, The Growing Season is an original and powerful novel by a rising talent.

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The Growing Season is a book that looks at motherhood from every feminist perspective. With the advent of the pouch, a way of growing babies outside of a female body, heterosexual couples can share the load of pregnancy, reaching for true equality. Gay couples and infertile women can also experience pregnancy in a way they never could have before. With your male partner sharing the pregnancy, women are no longer seen as a burden, a risk.

But there’s a darker side to this equality. With the pregnancy occurring outside of the woman’s body, what do they need women for? Eva – and before her, her mother, Avigail – campaigned against the pouch for this very reason. Arguing for choice, for the respect of motherhood not to be taken away from women, Eva and Avigail fight for what they believe to be a woman’s right. They fail to acknowledge, at least for the most part, how the pouch helps those who cannot have children naturally, until later on, when Eva manages to adopt a wider view.

The Growing Season takes multiple viewpoints into account. Women are also encouraged to transfer their unwanted foetuses to the pouch, rather than opt for abortion. This would satisfy the pro-life groups (or anti-woman, as I prefer to call them), but the issue of funding these unwanted children rears its ugly head. Many pro-life groups dedicate so much time to telling women what they can and cannot do with their own bodies, they fail to address just how the children will be looked after throughout their lives – and who will be responsible.

This is a complicated story, not least because of the subject material. We are getting closer to developing a way for a baby to be grown outside of the female body. While this is a positive step for some groups, it might not be seen as such by others. There will always be clashing perspectives when it comes to something like this, and no one of them is more right – more righteous – than the other.

Sedgwick has taken a common, relevant theme, and turned it into an engaging, dystopian fiction. It’s real enough to be relatable, understandable, but still with that reassuring distance, almost like we’re holding the future at arms length. Read it.

Goodreads

The Battle For ‘Ms’: Why are we so obsessed with titles?

Titles. For some reason, Brits think they’re incredibly important – especially when it comes to women. But why are we so obsessed with determining whether a woman is married or not?

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The above picture outlines the conversation I had this afternoon with a customer service agent while attempting to renew my car insurance. He was going through my details before generating a quote, and decided that ‘Ms’ is the wrong title for a married woman. He was convinced that ‘Ms’ is only for divorced women, and that’s “just the way of things over here”. I want to challenge this misconception, and ask: what’s so wrong with using ‘Ms’?

“Ms.” began to be used as early as the 17th century, along with “Miss” and “Mrs.”, as a title derived from the then formal “Mistress”, which, like Mister, did not originally indicate marital status.
– Spender, Dale (1981). Man Made Language. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul. ISBN 978-0-7100-0675-2. From Wikipedia.

Simply, I use ‘Ms’ because I do not want my marital status to be known or inferred by my title. My marital status is irrelevant to most things, and I will disclose whether or not I am married to the appropriate channels, but I will continue to use ‘Ms’ for all correspondence, and everything that requires a title.

I’m not entirely sure what’s so difficult to understand about this. Boys are known as ‘Master’ when they’re boys, but by the time they reach early teens, they become ‘Mr’ until they die. Girls are known as ‘Miss’ until they get married, whereupon it’s expected that they will become ‘Mrs’ (and take their husband’s surname, but that’s a whole nother argument). Why does a man have his title changed when he reaches apparent maturity, but a woman’s title is only changed when she marries (or divorces)?

Let me be clear: Women are more than their relationship to men. As a professional in her mid-twenties, ‘Miss’ seems rather young and immature, whereas ‘Ms’ feels more appropriate. Some people do like to use ‘Mrs’ once they marry, and that’s fine too, but, to me, using ‘Ms’ means I am more than my relationship status. I’m simply an adult woman.

This isn’t the first time this has happened to me, nor is this a new, modern feminist issue. Many women have shared their own ridiculous stories – one explained that their bank wouldn’t let them use ‘Ms’ until they saw their divorce papers, for fuck sake. A couple of members of my own family abused and disowned me because I complained about being referred to as ‘Mrs Husband’s First Name, Husband’s Surname’. There’s so much wrong with that, it’s unreal.msmissmrs

Last year, I was speaking to our utilities company, and mentioned that they couldn’t schedule a call back on that particular date, as I was getting married. I had been using the title ‘Mx’, which is a newer, gender-neutral term. Once the call was finished and I received some confirmation emails, I realised that the customer service agent had changed my title to ‘Miss’, because I was, at the time, unmarried, and they deemed that title to be the correct one. Are these people fucking insane? In what world is it okay to impose your own ideas and beliefs on others (paying customers, too!), and amend their details without asking them? Hell, I wasn’t even informed that my title was being changed, let alone asked.

This absolutely shouldn’t be an issue. If I’m speaking to a company, or anyone really, and I give my title as ‘Ms’, they should damn well accept it, and say no more on the subject. I certainly don’t expect to be argued with on the subject of my own damn title. My question is this: why do you care so much? Let me choose my own title, and be done with it. Until we afford women the same respect as men – and yes, even in little, seemingly insignificant things like this – we will never achieve equality.

S.N. Lemoing talks about the problem of finding a book cover

As an indie author, I have to do a lot of things by myself, and finding a good cover is one of our worst nightmares – unless you’re skilled at graphic design. For those of us who aren’t, we have some solutions: pre-made covers which can be affordable, or attempting photomontage.

 As I write about strong female characters, I have been dealing with even more hard choices each time I have to create a cover for my novels. First, I was browsing through a lot of pre-made covers in many genres: fantasy, thriller, drama, chick-lit, etc. There are some very beautiful works, some are as worthy as covers created by huge publishing houses.

However, it’s clear they’re all in need of a feminist helping hand.

The women represented on them are all overly feminine, wearing gowns and high heels. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with that, but not all women are like this, and these different women should be represented too.

Moreover, all the models look fragile, strike unnatural poses like holding their bare shoulder while looking away. They all seem to be in waiting, probably for Prince Charming or a bad boy who will harass them.

And this is when they’re not naked, offering themselves to the male gaze – or simply dead bodies.

It’s striking how male characters are not illustrated the same way, just as in the movies, on TV, or in any media that we know. Have you ever seen a cover or a film poster showing a man holding his shoulder with a sad patient look, longing for the girl of his dreams? We’re still waiting.

The thing is, for my first novel, I was looking for female warriors with realistic and practical outfits, but I only found two women, hypersexualized, wearing the same stuff we can see on The Hawkeye Initiative.

Then, I was looking for a determined Mexican woman who’s also a police officer, but could only find two Latina characters (yes, because there is also a lack of ethnic diversity): one who was sexy and passive, lying on a bed, and another one who was crying.

For another novel, I was looking for a confident plus size girl, but as the models on the pictures are all tall and thin, and mainly white, nothing matched. Or the few bigger women that could be found looked passive and/or hypersexualized too, which wasn’t the subject of my story at all.

Representation matters, and we need more diverse pictures and illustrations. We need women who aren’t scared, women with confident stares, women who can actually wear clothes and look powerful thanks to independent and self-assured positions. And also different body types.

We need different male models too, because as you scroll the pages, all you can see are bodybuilders, flexing muscles, and it shouldn’t be a standard either. There should be no standard.

S.N. Lemoing is the author of Powerful – Tome 1: The Realm of Harcilor. She was born in 1987 near Paris, France. S N Lemoing

She graduated in Cinematography and English, studied philosophy, literature and lately, at University, she had the chance to follow classes about the Image of Women in the Media as well as the Female Gaze: Women directors. She then worked as a PA for films and TV, and also wrote, directed and produced episodes for 3 webseries and short films.

You can read more about Lemoing, and her book, here.

Introducing: Powerful – Tome 1: The Realm of Harcilor by S. N. Lemoing

The Bandwagon introduces indie author S.N. Lemoing, a fresh feminist voice in the fantasy world.

From the author:

“Several years ago, I wrote this novel to bring some subjects to the fore, such as diverse and powerful female characters, ecology, different families (single parents, large families, poor and rich backgrounds), and diversity of body types. The characters are never totally as they seem to be. The reader can feel a lot of emotions; the story is like a roller-coaster.

About the characters, we have ingenious children and teenagers, a biracial rebel princess and a maimed female warrior, among others. Politics, treason, magical powers, epic battle scenes, a little bit of romance – these are the themes you can find in this story.”

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For twelve years, the power has been usurped at the Realm of Harcilor. Cyr, an erudite, and his adopted son, Kaaz, have formed a secret school.

Indeed, in this world, some people were born endowed with magical abilities: the Silarens.

However, it is not that easy to detect your own powers. They will soon be joined by a mysterious young woman who will provide them with valuable information.

When Litar – the most powerful being of the realm – goes away for two months, they finally foresee the opportunity to act.

Can they win their freedom back? Will they make the right choices?

Grab your copy on Amazon now, or find it on Goodreads. You can keep up to date with the latest book news on the Facebook page.

About The Author

S. N. Lemoing was born in 1987 near Paris, France. S N Lemoing

She graduated in Cinematography and English, studied philosophy, literature and lately, at University, she had the chance to follow classes about the Image of Women in the Media as well as the Female Gaze: Women directors. She then worked as a PA for films and TV, and also wrote, directed and produced episodes for 3 webseries and short films.

The will to write without boundaries led her to become an independent author. Her first novel is POWERFUL – T1: The Realm of Harcilor, a fantasy novel acclaimed by more than 85 French literary bloggers.

Her second book is a sassy chick-lit ‘Mes 7 ex’ (My seven exes), and the 3rd one ‘SHEWOLF’, urban fantasy genre, has been read by 1200+ readers and stayed on the Amazon’s Supernatural top 15 for 5 months.

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Tumblr 

The Handmaid’s Tale: Heart of glass

The Handmaid’s Tale hit our screens in the UK on Channel 4 three weeks ago, several weeks behind the US.

Please note, there will be spoilers for the first three episodes below. Proceed with caution.

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In Gilead, women are ranked on how useful they are to society. If they’re fertile, they become a Handmaid, subjected to rape by their Commander, and expected to bear children. Written in 1985, this story is still harshly poignant. The TV show takes this story even further, bringing it into the present day, and showing just how close we are to such a world.

Last week, viewers were shocked by the harsh storylines. Ofglen, a lesbian, was considered a gender traitor, and, since she’s still fertile, was allowed to live. But she was subjected to a horror that women and girls still face today – FGM. I’ve seen complaints about the violence depicted in The Handmaid’s Tale, but let me tell you this – the violence brought against women every day is very real, and, in order to do it justice, it must be shown.

Everything about The Handmaid’s Tale is real. It may be a story, but author Margaret Atwood claims that she didn’t make anything up – everything she wrote about had happened to women at some point in history. And I can believe it.

In episode 3, we also discover the slow disintegration of society, and the removal of women’s rights. Offred describes it perfectly: “Nothing changes instantaneously. In a gradually heating bathtub, you’d be boiled to death before you knew it”. The women lost access to their money, their jobs – their freedom. Joan – Offred’s pre-Gilead name – and her friend Moira attend a protest, where the army opens fire, killing civilians. They show Joan, Moira, and Luke, Joan’s husband, in their home, discussing what had happened. “I’ll look after you,” Luke says, and every female viewer clenches their fists. That’s not the point, Luke.

Moira explodes at Luke, calling him part of the problem. This scene shines a light on the microaggressions women have to deal with every day, dealing with men who, thinking they’re helping, are actually contributing to the problem.

The music accompanying the fallout of the protest is Heart of Glass by Blondie, the Crabtree Remix. It’s slower, darker, haunting. Every episode so far has left me reeling. My fists are tight balls throughout each episode, my jaw clenched. Tears are barely held back. Because this is reality, not some dystopian fiction. The Handmaid’s Tale isn’t just some TV show to entertain the masses on a Sunday evening. It’s so much more than that – it’s our lives.

Women’s Equality Party hails results of its first general election

The Women’s Equality Party (WE) this morning hailed the results of its first ever Westminster elections as a stunning vindication of its founding principles of collaborative politics, progressive values and the need to fundamentally reimagine the democratic process.

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“When we started the party, we said ‘voters don’t want politics as usual’,” said party co-founder and president Catherine Mayer. “We also pointed to a consensus for progressive values that traversed party boundaries yet was constantly stymied by old-style partisan politics. If this election has proved anything, it is the scale of the appetite for those values and for a new politics.”

“The outcome of this election—a hung Parliament—means any parties seeking to implement the mandate for those values will now have to follow our lead and focus on finding ways to work together.”

The Women’s Equality Party also celebrated the extraordinary achievements of its seven general election candidates, who changed the conversation and raised the game, forcing gender equality on to centre stage.

“These brilliant women, none of whom had any history of political involvement, show individually and collectively how much better politics would be if it drew on all the talent available, rather than remaining a white man’s club,” said Mayer. “During the campaign I saw Sophie Walker’s opponents complaining she was ‘too good’. I heard Harini Iyengar tipped as a future Prime Minister. Just yesterday a young Asian woman came up to tell me how thrilled she had been to vote for Nimco Ali. It was amazing, she said, to be able to vote with 100 per cent enthusiasm. All of our candidates have drawn many, many responses like this.”

WE party leader Sophie Walker led the charge nationally and in Shipley against Conservative Philip Davies, whose 10,000-vote majority had been deemed by Labour to be unassailable. WE’s ground campaign lit a fire under the Shipley contest, prompting a surge in progressive votes that came close to unseating Davies, a notorious anti-feminist.

“I entered this race because Shipley and the UK deserve so much better than Philip Davies,” said Sophie Walker. “Our campaign galvanised the progressive response to Davies—and also showed the potential of progressive alliance. We are proud to have led the way with the Green Party, who stood down their candidate to campaign alongside us.”

The campaign showed how much WE can achieve, but it also highlighted the urgent need for electoral reform—and for the Women’s Equality Party. The first-past-the-post system has been proven globally to exclude women and minorities. It also encourages progressives to fight each other. It is also a system that demands huge resources and is unnecessarily expensive, issues that become even more acute for smaller parties in a snap election. For all of these reasons, WE advocates for a fairer proportional system.

The iniquities of the electoral system are compounded by broadcasting guidelines, meant to ensure impartiality during elections, that instead skews the system further by putting more weight on past electoral performance than the current level of membership. “This is why UKIP was splattered all over the nation’s TV screens, while the Women’s Equality Party and the Greens could barely get a look-in,” says Catherine Mayer. “Print media followed broadcast’s lead on this, and in misrepresenting the election as a contest between the two biggest parties instead of what it was, a contest between competing regressive and progressive values.”

Some media coverage did acknowledge the impact of the Women’s Equality Party and the importance of the WE manifesto. “Their prospectus did make me wonder how much more women could be valued in our society if all parties had the imagination to think this differently and comprehensively,” wrote ITV economics editor Noreena Hertz. Zoe Williams in the Guardian praised the manifesto as “an extraordinary document” and the party for “doing the painstaking graft of reimagining all politics through the lens of equality”.

But the story about the Women’s Equality Party that made the biggest headlines, on the eve of election day, underscored the reason for the party’s existence. Female staff working at the party’s London headquarters in the evening received multiple abusive phone calls from a number of men, one of whom said he was coming to the office and that they should be scared. Nimco Ali, WE candidate for Hornsey & Wood Green, received a letter full of racial and Islamophobic abuse and signed “Jo Cox”, the name of the female MP brutally murdered in 2016.

“Two of the Women’s Equality Party’s core objectives are an end to violence against women and girls and equal representation. The fact that people tried to intimidate us and stop our campaign shows how urgent those objectives are,” said Catherine Mayer.

Editors’ notes

The Women’s Equality Party contested seven seats in the general election:

  • Shipley: Sophie Walker won 1040 votes = 1.9% of vote share

  • Tunbridge Wells: Celine Thomas won 702 votes = 1.3% of vote share

  • Vauxhall: Harini Iyengar won 539 votes = 1% of vote share

  • Hornsey & Wood Green: Nimco Ali won 551 votes = 0.9% of vote share

  • Stirling: Kirstein Rummery won 337 votes  = 0.7%

  • Manchester Withington: Sally Carr won 234 votes = 0.4% of vote share

  • Vale of Glamorgan: Sharon Lovell won 177 votes = 0.3% of vote share

The Women’s Equality Party was established to highlight and dismantle obstacles to gender equality in the UK: a political and economic architecture rigged against women and diversity, an education system riven with unconscious bias and gender stereotyping, a media that reinforces these stereotypes, a society that assigns little value to caregiving and therefore assumes it to be women’s business, that underpays women and invests less in women’s health and permits endemic harassment and violence against women.

The Party currently has 65,000 members and registered supporters. It aims to put equality for women at the top of the national political agenda by being an electoral force that also works with other political parties; in addition to party membership it also offers joint memberships to members of other political parties.

Press enquiries to Catherine Riley, Head of Communications (catherine.riley@womensequality.org.uk/ +447764 752 731).

Press at Women’s Equality Party

http://www.womensequality.org.uk/

General Election 2017: The future is female

In about 5 hours, the polling stations will close, and the first constituencies will start to declare. Will it be Labour? Will it be Tory? Or will the country be divided once again? The polls have been all over the place, the bookies unsure, but what I do know is this: more women are getting involved than ever before.

Back in May, I wrote about the importance of politics, of voting, and the history of women’s suffrage. I wrote about how women almost have a duty to vote, to pay respect to the women who came before them. Women under 30 are the least likely to vote, according to #SHEvotes, a statistic I can only face with utter horror. But are women less likely to vote because they’re less likely to feel represented within politics? There may be something to that. Thankfully, more and more women are getting stuck in, carving a path for young women to pursue a career in politics.

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The Telegraph

The Women’s Equality Party is, of course, in the lead, with all of their candidates being women, and Labour is second with an almost equal 40%. The Green Party and SNP follow close behind – and with Nicola Sturgeon at the helm in Scotland, I dare any woman to not be inspired.

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“Politics aside – I hope girls everywhere look at this photograph, and believe nothing should be off limits for them.” – Nicola Sturgeon, Twitter

Our current Prime Minister is a woman, yes, but she is also a Tory, and she, like Thatcher (and other British female leaders), is not interested in pushing for equality. But Sturgeon is right. While May and her Tory government may stand for everything I hate, I’m still proud to be able to say that we have had two female leaders. And with more women getting involved, who knows where politics is going? I want to see an equally split cabinet, I want to be represented in Parliament, I want issues specific to women being addressed. And I want to see women succeeding.

I almost ran in my local election last month. I would have been another woman standing for the Women’s Equality Party, but I decided against it, for multiple reasons. But having the chance, the option, the opportunity, to stand as an MP and represent the women of the country, is an opportunity I’m thrilled to have, and I will never forget the hardships women faced in order for me to have it.

We have had less than 100 years of all women being able to vote. Although I’m waiting with baited breath to hear the result of the election, I’m also interested in how many women voted this year – and how many young people. Since Brexit, more young people have been taking notice of politics, getting involved with discussions on social media. And why not – it’s our future, after all. Let’s fight for it.

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Did you vote? How are you hoping it will go? Let me know in the comments!