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A Magazine for Sheffield

Feminism and Activism.

Activism can spring up as a protest reaction, or else existing actions may create the conditions for further developments. In Sheffield we've seen both happening recently. Following up on opposition to expansion of the Sheffield incinerator, the second largest emitter of greenhouse gases in Sheffield, Sheffield Green Party and Friends of the Earth have stepped in. Search for 'incinerator' on their websites for an update, or for analysis of the real dirt on Veolia see Sheffield Indymedia's article. Veolia apparently has financial problems. One analyst said, "I don't know what sort of rubbish they have in their portfolio." Well, it seems that Sheffield's Bernard Road incinerator is one such piece of rubbish. On the positive side it's good to see various feminist activities developing in the city. In spring last year, Sheffield Against Sexism organised We Won't "Calm Down Dear", a family-friendly day to protest about issues ranging from domestic violence to cuts in women's services. Then in November a Reclaim The Night march was held to oppose male violence against women, and LaDIYfest Sheffield ran a weekend full of workshops. In December, Sheffield Uncut symbolically transformed tax-dodging Starbucks into a one-day centre for vital services being slashed in the government's austerity cuts, like childcare, women's refuges and crèches. Now the city has a pressure group to defend people's reproductive rights, Sheffield For Choice. The increasingly aggressive anti-choice movement is an American import we can do without, but another, Hollaback, is welcome. This is a challenge to street harassment. Sheffield Hollaback highlights the fact that 80-90% of women have been harassed in public, and if street harassment is a social and cultural norm, it's far from OK. Most women constantly look over their shoulder, and many feel they can't go out in public alone. The Hollaback response is a website and app reporting descriptions of incidents, marked on a map of the city, empowering people to speak out. Hollaback helps others to intervene if they see street harassment happening, and to celebrate and document successes. By the way, this is not a women-only problem, nor a women-only solution. Street harassment can be sexual, racial, homophobic or just generally aggressive. It's unwanted and non-consensual, dehumanising bullying based on disrespect. It's a "gateway crime" that makes other forms of gender-based violence seem more acceptable. Most men don't do it, but those who do create a very threatening atmosphere. As the Hollaback website says, you may not have created this world of street harassment, but you're living in it. It's also worth noting that Sheffield has a rape and sexual abuse counselling service, and that there's a domestic violence freephone helpline (details below). As awareness of these issues is raised, we wonder whether 24th January will be the last ever appearance of Roy Chubby Brown at Sheffield City Hall? For decades, Britain's 'most outrageous comedian' has been perpetuating offensive jokes against women, under the disclaimer that the easily offended need not attend. Spearmint Rhino lap-dancing club still squats, as inappropriate as a dirty secret in the 'cultural industries quarter', opposite the Showroom Workstation. Perhaps change is in the air in 2013? Let's hope so. This article began with an opinion that activism can spring up as a protest reaction, or as a development of what already exists. Perhaps the same can be said of the negative side of life. Disrespect breeds disrespect. Violence breeds violence. Or we can react and change things. Freephone 24-Hour National Domestic Violence Helpline: 0808 2000 247 )

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