A 10-point plan to addressing the confidence gap between men and women

Evidence shows that women are less self-assured than men—and that to succeed, confidence matters as much as competence.

This important and thought-provoking article, posted in The Atlantic on April 14, written by Katty Kay (any watchers of BBC World will know her) and Claire Shipman (reporter for the (American) ABC) look at how, despite comprising half the workforce in many developed countries, there remains a staggering and hurtful gap between men and women in levels of workplace self-confidence.

Whether it be mostly nurture, or mostly nature, it is manifest. Here’s why, and what to do about it.

Please read and share this must-read for all working women: http://www.theatlantic.com/features/archive/2014/04/the-confidence-gap/359815/

For what it is worth, derived from a number of sources including Forbes, what follows is my suggested 10-point plan for women to build confidence at work:

10 Steps To More Confidence For Working Women:

Phase One: Eliminating Self-doubt

As with the building of confidence in any sphere, even international relations, there are two distinct phases. The second depends on success in the first.

The first phase involves purging yourself of self-doubt, the mortal enemy of the working woman according to the above article. Frankly, self-doubt is the mortal enemy of all of us.

The second phase entails building up your confidence. Like any task at hand, you should start by clearing the workspace, and your head, and then build on that pristine space.

Here’s the 10-step plan.

Step 1. Understand Its Origins

Self-doubt in women starts in early childhood. As toddlers, we all looked at the power our parents had to control and to do things.

Girls look to both parents for role models. So, seeing mothers suppressed, diminished, or marginalised by fathers is a bad start.

Being hammered by representations of women as products, or only being good to sell products, or being ‘the decorative sex’, eats away at girl’s having confidence in substantive matters.

Girls and women always appearing as the soft, silent, character in a book or film, being rescued by a man, or desiring only to be married to a man, are the sorts of low-power models for girls and women that create low ideals, set low expectations, and set a low bar for women in the public space.

Girl’s toys and clothes being all pink, and seeing boys told pink is weak, diminishes women further. Let’s face it, for girl’s and women’s confidence, the current generation’s push to en-pink girls sucks.

As I read to my 2-year old daughter, it is all I can do to get a thick black pen and change the gender of all the heroes and strong characters to girls and women, and have them rescue a man instead.

So, if it helps to see what society has done to you through conditioning women to be the weaker sex, just pick up any children’s book and go about changing every ‘he’ to a ‘she’. Suddenly, girls and women are the dominant characters, full of self-confidence, effrontery, bravado, and boys become the shy flowers. You will easily, and quickly, see the nature of what this form of conditioning has done to you.

It’s complex, but from the moment we crave power akin to what we feel our parents have, and based on their relationship model and their power and confidence relative to each other, we continually contrast our sense of self with our ego ideal—an imagined, perfect self, derived from our image of our “super-powerful” parents of whom, more often than we might care to imagine, the mother is the less confident or possessed of the least power.

We are how we are raised.

Since no one can live up to the standards set by ego ideals, we spend the rest of our lives (to greater or lesser degrees), plagued by doubt. More so if you are a woman, plagued by doubt also about your role in society and whether it is okay to stand up and be counted, or if that might be criticised as being ‘bossy’. The labels used against us as children, and the gendered labels that for example suggest a boy has leadership qualities while a girl is bossy, set back confidence in girls.

This is sad, but true.

Recognise the role in your lack of self-confidence that is played by the conditioning of girls in our society – and in our families – to be less forward, less confident, and less ‘present’ than boys, and that is the first step in overcoming it.

Step 2. Accept It

Nothing is more true than that everyone suffers problems.

Everybody feels, at various times like a fake or a failure, especially in the workplace.

If that were not the case, if we were all placed only in positions where we had complete command and confidence, there would be no such things as development or progress.

There’s a school of psychotherapy—called “acceptance therapy”—based on the insight that admitting you suffer from a problem reduces the distress it can cause.

Denying the existence of a problem, or beating yourself up for having a flaw, is also always debilitating and, in a competitive workplace where men are conditioned to attack, self-destructive.

Everyone, even superstars, feels like a fake, flawed, or a failure at times. We all have imperfections. Recognizing that those whom you admire most also have insecurities is the trick.

Step 3. Open Up

The odds are that acceptance, step 2, is a long process. These steps are not end on end, but rather some will be gradual developments and, while working on one step, you can move forward on others.

One of the best ways to make clear to yourself that you have an anxiety to confront is to own up to it to someone you trust or love. Open up about it.

But NOT to just anyone.

And the things you open up about are both specific and contextual. If your confidence issues are about public speaking, for example, practice with trusted friends or family.

If you don’t think you command respect, or are nervous about dealing with an issue, ‘workshop’ it with friends or family before you have to do it in the workplace.

Worst case is that whomever you confide in – if you have chosen them well – will give you constructive feedback that you can use to improve.

Admitting your weaker spots, acknowledging what plagues you (and then learning that others feel the same way) will help you realise that, while self-doubt is vexing, no one dies from it.

Step 4. Look At The Facts – Create a ‘Value List’

If anyone with a real phobia is confronted by their fear – sharks, snakes, the air, crowds, elevators, etc, it is almost impossible for them to focus on the certainty that, any minute now, the problem will pass.

Fear and panic simply take over.

The same tendency is true with self-doubt in the workplace, but unlike with many phobias, a few hard facts can help.

So many women who have ‘made it’ in the world workplace, Senators, CEOs, Editors etc all report having wondered at times what on earth they did to deserve a raise, or a title, and often, report they feel ‘lucky’ to have been tapped for that promotion.

If you’ve been promoted somewhat recently, remind yourself why you were tapped. You are of value.

Make a ‘value list’ of all your valuable skills and accomplishments. Read them aloud if you have to.

Read them aloud to some trusted friends.

Share, and vocalise, your ‘value list’

And now, Phase 2: Boosting Self-confidence

Step 5. Know That Nothing Is Inherently Threatening

Perception is everything. If you make a mistake in the workplace, or if you did something you feel very insecure about – submitted a paper, botched a presentation – remember, even the most dreadful events can be made manageable if you tell yourself you have the stuff to cope with it.

Remember that.

And don’t sweat the small stuff. Once the ‘Send’ button is pressed, let it go.

Once the presentation is over, take constructive criticism so you can improve, but then move on.

Don’t dwell.


Step 6. Confront Your Fear…

Fear is one of the world’s most formidable forces.

So, choose to pick a fight with it. There is nothing like the self-confidence of attacking something and coming out the other end as a survivor. Why do you think the army asks people to jump from high towers to what seems like a possible death?  To show that you can do it, and survive.

The way to develop self-confidence is to do the thing you fear. Great ladies throughout history have talked about doing something every day that scares the pants off you.

You will fail sometimes. Setbacks are inevitable.

But suck them up. Learn what you can from them and move on quickly. Remember step 5 – never dwell.

Resilience is the steel skeleton of self-confidence.

Step 7. …But Choose Your Battles

Others in the workplace will throw challenges – and crap – at you. In some workplace, venom between co-workers is the rule of the day.

But just because the office is a battlefield, does not mean you always have to bend down and pick up the gauntlet. Don’t fight everything.

Building self-confidence is a marathon, not a sprint.

Take on challenges that you are ready for and, importantly, match your own self-view. Everyone has an idea of who they are, or who they want to be, and what things they are good at, and what things they like to do.

Some tasks – challenges – will simply not ‘be you’.

It is much easier to boost self-confidence by confronting challenges of your choosing than by tackling what someone else tells you to do.

If you pick the battles you engage in because you believe in their aims, your self-confidence will increase along with your success in those tasks.

Step 8. Once You Master It, Stretch It

Nothing erodes self-confidence like doing the same, easy things once you have already mastered them.

Add more challenge to every task you tackle and your self-confidence will grow.

Level off for too long and you’ll be on the slick slope to burnout. Remember that you are in charge of your own development; nobody does it for you. If you get an easy task given to you, augment it. Grow it. Finishing it well will then feel considerably more worthwhile.

Step 9. Never Solicit What You Hope Will Be Confidence-boosting Feedback

One of the worst questions you can ask anyone, if you are on the self-confidence boosting roller coaster, is “How did I do?.

Why is it bad? Because it smacks of insecurity and probably won’t lead to honest feedback. And some callous bastard just might see it as weakness, and not the candour you have shown.

Remember those trusted friends and family you used before to practice on? Use them again for feedback, if you have any of them in the workplace.

Do not fall into the trap of thinking all of your colleagues share your enthusiasm for self-improvement.

Look at me, for example. I have absolutely nobody reading my blog. But do I ask a tag question? Of course not. 🙂

Forget the tag question.

As a strong, assertive, self-confident women in the workplace, assume you did fine, and move on.

Step 10. Beware Hubris

In all things, too much is no good. That goes for self-confidence, too. Believe in yourself – just don’t be a jerk about it.

The world is full of over-confident men, and there are also a few over-confident women. It never looks good. And nobody ever likes them.

Be ‘you’ in the workplace, not the over-confident jerk that probably made you roll your eyes so many times in the past.





Football in Iran

Well, how about a timely ‘football in Iran’ post while the World Cup has so many millions of football lovers around the world glued to their screens?

Let me start with a disclaimer; I know almost nothing about professional football (called soccer, where I come from), but know enough to be able to size up the teams on the pitch for quality. Beyond that, I can eat ice-cream and cheese doodles (although not always in that order) to match the most ardent soccer fan.

And so, I recently went to a soccer match at Tehran’s Azadi Stadium, located in the southwest corner of the city. En route to the game, you just know who is going to the match; cars festooned with club colours start aggregating on the major feeder roads. Flags from windows and, equally, football fans hanging precariously from windows waving banners. I even saw a little boy standing in the front seat of the car, hanging out of the sunroof (not an uncommon sight in Iran) waving his team beach towel. For this game I had chosen to attend, all bunting was blue.

Pic: Azadi Stadium

With only what turned out to be 18,000 fans turning up to this 85,000-seater stadium – which for one game against Australia somehow is recorded to have seated 125,000 (that must have been COSY!) – my first observations were, in this order, surprise at the long queues of cars to get into the carpark, the ineffectiveness of the authorities to effectively guide parking, the vigour with which drivers sought to offend the few officers trying to ‘herd cats’, and the venom of those officers when they saw their game-plan being challenged by drivers left, right and centre.

Seeing a traffic officer kick one vehicle, as just one example, a couple of things had started already to be evident.

1) The traffic officers seriously need some decent training, or personality transplants, and

2) the crowd was riled up waaaaaaay before kickoff.

Anyway, Iran’s National Pro League comprises some 16 teams and, with the national side getting to fly to Brazil this year, you could expect the league is of some quality. Albeit not World Cup winning, one presumes.

According to Wiki, the clubs, their home towns, home stadia, and their home stadia capacities, go something like this:

Current clubs in the Iran Pro league (2014–15)

Team City Venue Capacity
Esteghlal Tehran Azadi 84,412
Esteghlal Khuzestan Ahvaz Takhti Ahvaz 30,000
Foolad Ahvaz Ghadir 50,199
Gostaresh Tabriz Gostaresh Foolad 12,000
Malavan Anzali Takhti Anzali 8,000
Naft Masjed Soleyman Masjed Soleyman Behnam Mohammadi 30,000
Naft Tehran Tehran Dastgerdi 8,250
Padideh Mashhad Samen 30,000
Paykan Qods Shahre Qods 25,000
Perspolis Tehran Azadi 84,412
Saba Qom Qom Yadegar Emam 10,610
Saipa Karaj Enghelab Karaj 30,000
Sepahan Esfahan Foolad Shahr 31,439
Sorinet Tehran Takhti Tehran 12,922
Tractor Sazi Tabriz Sahand 75,000
Zob Ahan Esfahan Foolad Shahr 31,439

You should note that, over time, most of the seasons have been won by either Esteghlal or Sepahan. The game I attended some weeks back was Esteghlal FC (home town Tehran and home ground Azadi Stadium), versus NAFT Tehran.

My second set of observations is about the queuing to get into the stadium. After parking, you make your way on foot towards the stadium and the ticket offices. The crowd was, let’s just say, a little punchy. All were young men, all wearing or waving blue, and the feeling was not really a very friendly one, I have to say. You got the feeling, just in the poor excuses for queues that existed at the ticket gates, that turning out to football games is, besides driving, the only emotional outlet for this crowd in Iran.

The queues were long and massively disorganised. Tempers were frayed. And ignorance of the others around you was the rule. It seemed like the best strategy for queuing (if you ever happen to go) is join any queue from the side, as close to the front as possible. And then just quickly turn your back on anyone behind who might protest. That seems to be the way.


Pic: A local form of queuing

And, of course, NO WOMEN. Football is, it seems, not for the eyes of ladies. Girls are allowed, up to the age of 7. But, in hindsight, anyone kept away from the live innards of the spectacle are really not missing out. Having said that, that women don’t have the right to choose to go or not to go is, of course, the patriarchal tragedy.

And so, observations of patriarchy behind us, into the stadium we go. An enormous concrete double-decker bowl stadium, with decaying plastic seating, Azadi Stadium is divided into heavily-fenced sections. A glass media bay, and presumably the odd VIP bay, sit high atop the western side of the stadium. This enormous stadium – apparently the world’s third largest soccer stadium and voted the most intimidating stadium in Asia – was built in 1971 for the 1974 Asian Games. Like most constructions in Tehran, it really has seen better days and is, in large part, a ‘renovator’s dream’. I am not sure it has seen any renovation at all, or maintenance for that matter, since 1974.

It must be mightily impressive when filled to its capacity, and throbbing from chants and game songs of really pretty avid Iranian football fans. But it is a shabby stadium with, I think, its headiest days behind it. It needs more than a touch of paint. The fans, all blue, squeezed into mainly two sections at the southern end behind the goal, and one upper deck on halfway, making the remainder of the stadium feel cold and dead even in the late afternoon sun.



Pic: View to the West

On the field are, surprise, surprise, two teams. One sporting bright yellow, the other a royal blue and white strip. The teams are NAFT Tehran FC, and Esteghlal FC.

NAFT cuts something of a strange figure; a team that is effectively created by and still owned by the Iranian National Oil Company without much of a fan base it seems (their home-ground only has a capacity of around 8000 people), they presumably have some cash but are relatively ‘homeless’. In bright yellow ‘away’ strip, the team certainly paraded well. In terms of the play, one might say they had a better ‘average’ than the Esteghlal team. NAFT had one standout player, a tall and somehow near-blonde guy named Norouzi. Me and my co-obervers were convinced for most of the game we was a German or a Swede, possibly we had seen him in Vikings Season 2, and in any event he was clearly a cut above the rest of his team. But of course from 150 metres up in the stadium, it is not clear that we were seeing him in enough detail to make out his ethnic origins. To NAFT’s credit, despite having almost no supporter base, they did not seem to have a bad player on the field.


Pic: NAFT Badge

Esteghlal FC, in their bright blue ‘home’ strip, on the other hand, have a huge following but never for a second looked like the favourites. In my humble amateurish ignorant-of-soccer way, I would assess Esteghlal that day had 2-3 players worthy of the corner office, 3-4 players that might hang around the cubicles where the ‘average’ sign hangs, and the rest languishing in the below-average or just plain awful heating pipe trunk room. Two of those heating pipe trunk room players, who shall remain numberless, could, in a fair competition, have been dispossessed by my 2-year old daughter. Mind you, she is bloody good for her age. 🙂

Esteghlal FC.svg

Pic: Esteghlal Badge

The game can best be described as two teams struggling to define what their ‘average player resting point’ was. It was not a very bad to-and-fro, just not a very inspiring one. The game went back and forth like any football game. One could not say it raged back and forth, however. And depressingly most of the plays of the game ended up in one decent player passing to one less good player, who was quickly dispossessed by a semi-decent opposition player. It is not that I don’t enjoy football. I do, when it is good. 🙂

Overall, Estaghlal certainly had more shots at goal than NAFT, courtesy of their better players being in the attacking half of the field, but the NAFT keeper was mostly up to the task and, frankly, the shots were sufficiently lack-lustre. I might have been able to stop them.

With the on-field action being less than enthralling (this is perhaps why so many stay home and just watch it on TV), the goings-on off the pitch were more interesting. Of the entire stadium, only two sections were really being used to house the fans. Two sections, situated at one end behind a goal, were jam-packed. And ringed by yellow-clad ice-cream sellers and a LOT of black-clad, yellow-vested security guards.


Pic: The ‘blue’ supporters section

Chants and songs were seemingly orchestrated by a hardcore fan club located near the top of the filled sections. What started out as friendly chants, it felt, were a little more…. um…. let’s say ‘bitter’ after a time. I could have sworn by the time the crowd started chanting “attack” to their beloved Esteghlal team, what they really meant to say was “may you and your families suffer the pox when you quit the pitch”.

The home crowd turned on Esteghlal with alacrity, just as the game failed to.

By the 90-minute mark (who knew it could go on so long!?), the game was an awe-sapping 0-0.

And so, into overtime. I guess it is injury time? A soccer fan reader will almost certainly school me on this. Anyways, with barely a single supporter in the stands, and in overtime, NAFT snatched a victory against Esteghlal, scoring the only goal of the encounter. NAFT went 1 up at the hands (read: foot) of the remarkably Scandinavian-looking Reza Norouzi. If I had bothered to do some research before going, I would have found this particular NAFT player, dubbed the ‘blue killer’ for his ability to score uncannily against Esteghlal, is a national player (so probably in Brazil as this goes to press), MVP of the league or something similar in 2010, and a top goal-scorer for the league. And at 190cm tall, that is why we thought we’d seen him in Vikings.

The completely blue Esteghlal crowd was, well, disappointed. No, that does not quite capture the mood. More….ummm….homicidal. Yes, that’s it. The blue fans, by the time the final hooter sounded, wanted blood from some of their blue players.

The air was so thick with distaste at the performance of Esteghlal, one blue player at the end of the game , so sick of being booed and, presumably, having rude things said in his direction, cunningly averted the player tunnel and sought to leap into the stands. One presumes his plan was to fight at least some of the 18,000 supporters-turned-assassins before he was de-limbed. Luckily for him, the security keeping the blue fans at bay also stopped his advance to his own death.

Fighting was, for a small crowd, more common than I would have imagined. Most of the fighting seemed, however, to be between fans and guards. Even two soldiers, definitely high on something, and in uniform, got punchy in our enclosure and were soon booted out by security guards after copping a smack or two from incensed members of the home crowd.

And so, for the generally disinterested observer, there were large packs of cheese doodles available, ice-cream, and as much bottled water as you can drink. Not a dry game by any standard. And overall a good day out for more of a sociocultural experience than a footballing one.

Considering the punchy start to the outing in the feisty queues, and a dull game that ending almost in the lynching of a home player or two, it ended serenely. The sun setting, a little snow still shining with twilight glow on the background Alborz Mountains, the crowd filtered away into the night with a whoop and a yell, but no more fighting.

And the 18,000-strong crowd were very, very quickly soaked up by the anonymity that comes from a 16-million person city.



Prostitution and Trafficking for Sexual Exploitation: the conflated need to end both.

Tired of the repetitive and unfounded message that we must all, and the phrase is now so overused let’s put it in quotation marks, “not conflate prostitution and human trafficking”, it is about time to address some of the rubbish being put out there that is misleading at best, certainly hyperbolic, and perhaps bordering on criminally complicit at worst.

Let me start by saying there is SOME truth in the now-cliched call not to conflate the two. But there is only one very good reason not to conflate the two or, rather, there is one qualifier to the concept; we should not conflate prostitution with all forms of human trafficking. Doing so, of course, means we can run the risk of denying the myriad other purposes for which people are trafficked. Conflating the two has, in the past, served to create a kind of defeatism; just because we cannot end prostitution means we should do nothing against trafficking. This is a good, and the only, reason, we should not conflate the two.

There is one VERY compelling reason to conflate the two. And it kind of trumps the reasons not to. You cannot end one, without tackling the other.

It is now time to recognise that trafficking for sexual exploitation is an OVERFLOW from the demand for paid sexual services – i.e. prostitution – created by men and maintained by men. The demand for sexual services causes a market for, in this case, women, to provide sexual services to men.

The world has, largely, two schools of feminism speaking about the issue. And since the mid-1990s, these two schools have battled it out in the field of human trafficking – a great schism if ever there was one.

One school, sometimes called the ‘lipstick feminists’, are of what we might label the individualist view. That is, they have read Kathleen Barry’s great “Female Sexual Slavery”, but have failed to either read or understand her update 15 years later, ‘The Prostitution of Sexuality”. Those of this individualistic school are the ones who believe (N.B. many of this school are actually men, who have either been told what they should say by women of this school, or have read the Cliff”s Notes to Kathleen Barry but don’t really know how it turns out, and of course they have almost certainly never been subject of sexualised violence) that the rights of the individual are paramount, and the right to self-predetermination trumps any harm that comes from prostitution. This school sees the selling of women’s bodies to be a valid – and somehow free – ‘choice’. Followers of this school see prostitution as a kind of ‘work’. And they believe that it should be regulated or legitimised, through legislation or regulation. This school sees state-run or state-sanctioned brothels as the way forward.

Member of this school are identifiable by their use of terms such as ‘sex work’, ‘sex worker’, the ‘sex industry’ etc. To these people, prostitution more largely is just a big factory, churning out sex for men while women take much-needed cash and no harm is done. These people have to, by choosing this model, internalise the ‘happy hooker’ concept that sees women in prostitution as somehow happy for being able to exercise their choice.

Then, there is the other school.

And this important school is now in the ascendance. This school comprises those who have read and understood precisely what Kathleen is describing latterly when she talks about the industrialisation of sex. That is, while we have since the 70s been putting more emphasis on the individualist approach (the subject of her earlier work) and believe that a woman’s right to choose what she does to earn money is the paramount right in the discussion, the industry grows and grows into the towering behemoth it is now, and consumes far more women over time than it would otherwise. Because we allowed it to happen.

Rapacious demand consumes all the women in the local market who have been cornered into prostitution, and so women from abroad are required to meet the supply deficit. And hence the trafficking of women. Ask the Netherlands why they are going to change their ‘free market for sex to a more restricted model? There were not enough Dutch women to supply all the sex demanded by this open market they created, and women are being brought in from all over the world – many, not ‘free’ – to meet the supply shortfall.

It is precisely this natural consequence of ignoring the systemic implications of the defence of individual rights that has created the monster that is prostitution and, in this globalised world, trafficking as a means of making burgeoning demand and limited supply come together.

The time has come for the approaches to ending prostitution that put men back on the map as both consumer and protector. Policymakers and legislators have for too long been making law and policy on prostitution for the entertainment of (or protection of) other men. The German and Queensland models, are examples of this now clearly failed approach.

The essence of the problem with regulated and legalised approaches to prostitution is the singular failure to recognise the way men’s minds work.  Legalisation and regulation of prostitution mean for many men, ‘okay’. Witness the buying of women as a part of ‘lunchtime meal deals’ for men in Victoria and Queensland in Australia. Women have become, through legalisation and regulation, a legitimate product to be bought and sold. This is the key failure of these individualist approaches to prostitution; they send a message to men that it is okay to buy women’s bodies. As a result, more men do it, and demand increases.

The alternative is to recognise that prostitution is not an ‘industry’ created by women for women. It is created, and perpetuated, by men for men. Policy and legislative frameworks that legitimise prostitution are doing nothing but serving one of the most outrageous ends of patriarchy; access to women’s bodies. Women who defend these approaches uphold – sometimes unwittingly, but most just unthinkingly – patriarchy.

Prostitution is not about love, or even sex. It is about power. And as such is a form of violence against women. Don’t just take my word for that; women in prostitution have the highest rates of sexual abuse in society, and the highest levels of rape and homicide of any group of women.  Many women in prostitution suffer post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms equivalent to victims of war. It is far from given that regulated and legalised prostitution protects women. It institutionalises their victimisation, and ensures the continued rise in demand that means more and more women will be taken into prostitution.

One of the most significant determinants of violence against women in any society is lack of equality in the distribution of power between the sexes. When policymakers and legislators comprise sufficient female representation, things start to change for the better, to change in favour of women and against patriarchal ends like prostitution.

Witness the tide of change in Europe and North America to prostitution. Kicked off by those countries where female representation in Parliaments is high, the Nordics, Sweden, Finland, Norway etc, the blame for creating and perpetuating prostitution is put where it belongs, on the male consumer of women. A tide of consensus has been achieved in these countries that prostitution does promote violence against women, and that regulating or legalising not only perpetuates the wrong but allows the wrong to flourish to industrial levels.

To these progressive Nordics, add France and soon the UK, for seeing the light on this subject. Canada, the US, New Zealand and Ireland are among those awakening states also moving down this path. Even Germany and the Netherlands, both long being places where women were kept in servitude either by the state or the free market to service men as men needed, are also realising they can no longer stand by and allow the industrialisation of prostitution and all that that means for women, including their being trafficked to fill supply.

After the failure of legalised or regulated prostitution in many European countries, including Sweden, new laws were introduced which sought to criminalise the purchase of sex. With a view to penalising the male buyers while not criminalising the female sellers – through processes that combine education with deterrence – these laws seek to criminalise the actions of buyers, pimps, and the owners of the ‘means of production’ in prostitution.

In Sweden, attitudes to sexual services have changed in much the same way as changed attitudes to wearing seat belts or to smoking; buying sex is now simply not socially acceptable in Sweden, and the market for women’s bodies has decreased dramatically. The results of the ‘experiment’ of these laws in Sweden were and remain compelling. Sweden has the fewest trafficked women in the European Union. Traffickers, pimps, and brothel owners fled Sweden for other more lucrative legal markets, swamping nearby Denmark, Germany, and the Netherlands.

That it is a woman’s choice to sell her body is a lie that is bought and sold by men for men. And it is swallowed wholesale by those women who believe in the supremacy of individual rights, no matter the outcome for women more broadly.

Research bears out that, despite the ‘happy hooker’ lie thrown out by the owners of brothels, the vast majority of women in prostitution are not there by choice. And certainly not in any sense of free choice by any reasonable understanding of that term. Recent Swiss research reveals the power of constraints such as drug use, poverty of financial hardship, lack of education, perceived lack of other choices, being dominated by a male etc. These and other factors are prime in influencing a woman’s decision to be prostituted.

Further research also bears out the fact that the vast majority of women in prostitution want to get out if they can be helped to find the way out. Once in, it becomes bewildering and self-perpetuating. Exit becomes dreamlike. This experience was born out in the early 2000s in, for instance, Italy, where NGOs such as ‘On the Road’ began working on behalf of the state to reduce trafficking of women into sexual exploitation, and found overwhelming support amongst women in prostitution that if they can just be helped to see, and find a way, out of their situation, unsurprisingly, they will gladly leave. Exit strategies involve safe housing, detoxification programmes, psychological counseling, job retraining, and finding paid work.

Viable exit strategies mean significant change in the numbers of women in prostitution. However, even with exit strategies, the places of women who exit prostitution will only be filled by others, if not by local women then by smuggled or trafficked women, while demand remains high and growing.

A civil and humane society does not allow women to be raped, trafficked, traumatised, sexually assaulted, through buying and selling in state-run or state-sanctioned institutions.

Although the former Italian Prime Minister (that paragon of male virtue) may disagree with me, women are not commodities for men to buy and sell at their leisure. Some women buying into that, or allowing themselves to be bought and sold, does not make it so.

The only end to this burgeoning demand is to change the choices men make. Make men’s buying decisions harder.

Criminalising the buying of sex is the ONLY way to change buying decisions, reduce trafficking for sexual exploitation, and eliminate prostitution.












Against Patriarchy: 20 Tools for Men to Further Feminist Revolution

If you read my last posting (just a wee bit earlier in the day), of 35 practical things men can do to to combat gender inequality, you will have noted that the author, Pamela Clark, was inspired by comments made about another article, the one in the following hyperlink.

While valuable, and insightful, this list of 20 tools for men does come across as somewhat academic. It is still, if interested in knowing more about the conditions that perpetuate gender inequality, and what needs to be done to eliminate it, a must-read.

The article is written by Chris Crass, a longtime organizer working to build powerful working class-based, feminist, multiracial movements for collective liberation. It appeared in – and the hyperlink will take you to – the blog, Change from Within, a blog by Jamie Utt.






35 Practical Steps Men Can Take To Support Feminism

What follows in the hyperlink is a very useful reference of 35 practical things men can do to help eliminate gender inequality.

The point of departure for the article, that appeared in XO Jane on June 13th, is that the overwhelming majority of men do many things in their daily lives that directly or indirectly contribute to perpetuating a culture of gender inequality. The rationale for this excellent piece, by Pamela Clark (PhD Candidate in Political Science at York University, writing about the politics of civility) is that part of living in a patriarchal society is that men are not socialized to think about how their habits and attitudes harm women.

This very helpful list of practical things to be done is meant to guide men to think more consciously and personally about the direct and indirect effects they have on women, and to think more about how they can contribute to feminism through their lived, everyday practices.





Are you man enough to stand up against violence against women?

Are you man enough to define a masculinity that respects women?

Are you man enough to stand up and be counted in efforts to stop trafficking in women for sexual exploitation?

Are you man enough to stand up to, and speak out against, violence against women?

Then take the pledge! Man up!




Violence against women—it’s a men’s issue

In the spirit of promoting the role of men in changing men’s attitudes to women, and eliminating violence against women, please watch (and SHARE with every man and boy you know) this TEDTalk from Jackson Katz, of the Mentors in Violence Prevention (MVP) programme: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KTvSfeCRxe8

Jackson Katz, Phd, is an inspiring anti-sexist activist and expert on violence, media and masculinities. An author, filmmaker, educator and social theorist, Katz has worked in gender violence prevention work with diverse groups of men and boys in sports culture and the military, and has pioneered work in critical media literacy.Katz is the creator and co-founder of the Mentors in Violence Prevention (MVP) program, which advocates the ‘bystander approach’ to sexual and domestic violence prevention. You’ve also seen him in the award winning documentary “MissRepresentation.”

To learn more about TEDxFiDiWomen, whether to attend, volunteer, speak or sponsor, please click on the following link! http://tedxfidiwomen.herokuapp.com/

To learn more about Jackson Katz, please visit http://www.jacksonkatz.com
* In the spirit of ideas worth spreading, TEDx is a program of local, self-organized events that bring people together to share a TED-like experience. At a TEDx event, TEDTalks video and live speakers combine to spark deep discussion and connection in a small group. These local, self-organized events are branded TEDx, where x = independently organized TED event. The TED Conference provides general guidance for the TEDx program, but individual TEDx events are self-organized.