Keep on keeping on… Or don’t let the Bastards get you down

Bravery comes all around us, but it’s surprising how much courage there is to be seen in the case of a single mother from Muslim Morocco.

mainRabha El Haimer was cut loose from a marriage which was never officially blessed – thus recognised – after two years of beatings and violence at the hands of her husband.

She was 16 years old when she arrived back at her parents’ place.

Cardiff-based Deborah Perkin made a film about Rabha to show the world what the remarkably forward-thinking country still considers appropriate treatment of women like Rabha, and her daughter Salma, labelled illegitimate and therefore unable to have a normal life within their own culture.

The anger, inspiration, emotion and joy of the film Bastards is a testament to the incredible strength of both Rabha and Deborah.

Read the piece here.

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Making hard choices… Or the woman who wins over politics

Anyone who has grown up in the last two decades in much of the Western world must know hillswho Hillary Clinton is – and if you’re female, chances are your admiration for this astonishing woman’s power and strength is as sizeable as mine.

As it happens, there are politics that keep some of us apart from the former US Foreign Secretary, but the legend of the woman who would be the first female POTUS is such that for me, as for many, it’s a case of gender winning over political opinion.

Her raft of publicity interviews and in support of her autobiography Hard Choices gave UK viewers a chance to see the strident Clinton in more of a relaxed environment, which didn’t serve to diffuse her brilliance.

Watching her on The One Show and hearing her come head to head with Jenni Murray on Woman’s Hour made for a study in excellence and decorum, whatever your gender.

But she never did reveal if she’s going to run for president in 2015.

Read my piece here.

Radio is cleaning up the nation… Or where are women’s voices on the airwaves?

With the news that BBC Radio Five Live was shedding female presenters came the understandable outrage.

Adrian-ChilesAfter all, these women, Victoria Derbyshire and Shelagh Fogarty, couldn’t have decided to leave the station of their own accord, could they?

In actuality, they might have, they might not – but when I wrote my column, I was less concerned with why – and much much more concerned with the fact that it was so.

The airwaves once humming with the dulcet tones of these two women were to see male replacements brought on.

In themselves, the new presenters Adrian Chiles, Dan Walker, Tony Livesey – all may be fantastic and I’m sure listeners will think so.

But I still hold a belief that there should be some balance between genders on a publicly-funded station, and I haven’t heard anything yet to change my mind.

Read the piece here.

A feminist perspective on advertising… Or why message is more important than method

The move towards working for digital platforms has brought interesting times for those who were formerly print journalists.

Being given the opportunity to respond speedily to an event is a new one for those of us who

Dakota is one of the #likeagirl campaign's real stars
Dakota is one of the #likeagirl campaign’s real stars

are used to waiting all week for a print date, and the global reach of the internet is exciting in that it gives an opportunity to write about ever more expansive things.

In that vein, I wrote a column for WalesOnline about the Always #likeagirl advert.

It’s an interesting one because it seems that, thanks to recent Dove and Pantene campaigns, advertisers really have cottoned on to the fact that women lap up positive messages about femininity, and they’re not afraid to exploit that for profit.

As a result, there are feminist messages about self acceptance, powerful women and confidence at any age proliferating the commercial world, much to the annoyance of left-leaning commenters with a dislike of capitalism.

In my view, perhaps it’s crass and exploitative that these messages are being peddled for profit – but isn’t it the message that’s the important thing?

Read the piece here.

Youth and young manhood… Or how to silence the doubters

In world which values youth above most other things, it seems odd that Luke Thomas has come up against such criticism in his so-far short career.

lukeThe 20-year-old chef from North Wales became the UK’s youngest head chef at the age of 18, and by the account of many of the country’s top chefs, he is the real deal.

But still there are comments from all sorts that he’s too young to handle it, he doesn’t have what it takes.

When I spoke to him, he was very sanguine about the support or otherwise of people in his industry, showing a mature attitude which one might not expect from one so young.

His stance, really, suggests that there will always be people who support you and you must value them, and there will always be those who doubt you, so you must learn to challenge them through your actions.

Not a bad rule for any of us.

Read the piece here.

I am woman, hear me roar… Or tackling the ‘f’ word

Feminism turns out to be an incendiary topic.

It’s difficult to imagine that one little word which asserts that equality across genders is only fair can create such a gulf of opinion, but it does.

headWriting about the equality illusion was a really exciting prospect for me – firstly because I identified quite strongly with the story I was trying to tell and secondly, because there really was an intake of breath from so many who assumed that it had been won.

Equal pay, equal rights, everyone’s treated the same, that’s what I was told.

It’s not the case, says Kat Banyard from UK Feminista, an inspirational woman who helps people learn about activism and opportunities that enable a push for change.

The stories from Laura Bates at Everyday Sexism weren’t just about inequality – they were about harassment, assault, rape culture and victim blame.

All the more chilling as Laura’s work identifies links between this sort of behaviour in the developed world and the use of rape as a weapon in war zones.

Finally, I had a word with The Slits’ Viv Albertine.

As much a force of nature as a musician, mother, icon of our times and, of course, woman, she was clear that she believes in feminism, but she’s wary of putting herself in the ‘f’ box because then detractors can sneer.

Perhaps I didn’t convert anyone new to understanding the issues,  but I had some great feedback on sharing the wise words of these women, so I’ll keep talking about feminism until gender is no longer an issue.

Read the piece here.

The write stuff… Or how even a dream job might not be for you

We all have dreams.

Perhaps you want to sing onstage with The Boss; or tour the Amazon; or write a bestseller.

Maybe all you really want to do is master a Sunday roast.

Writer Marina Fiorato is a woman who has woken up to a fair few ‘dream-come-true’ moments image.phpby my estimation.

Firstly she is from an Italian family who have their own wine, but she was brought up in glorious Yorkshire.

Then she went to study at Oxford University with a stint at the University of Venice – sounds pretty idyllic.

But after that, she worked as a stage designer for rock stars including but not limited to U2, Travis and Queen.

It was all pretty special – until she took maternity leave and decided to make the leap into writing historical fiction.

Six books on and she’s still going strong.

And all because she took time to think about what she really wanted.

I think that’s probably a sign that we should all make a pledge
to dream some more.

Read the piece here.

Meet the meat… Or an investigation into ethical veal

Everyone enjoys what they term good food, but perhaps if I suggest I’m a bit of a foodie, you’ll have an idea of the level of food obsession.

That’s not to say I have never eaten McDonald’s – I have, most recently about two years ago after a late night drive home from Bristol airport – or don’t understand the peculiar pleasure of jalapeño peppers eaten from the jar.

But generally, I’m a fan of delicious food out in places that pride themselves on delicious photo-22ingredients selected in season for their provenance and quality.

Food Adventures really grabbed me the first time I read about it.

it’s not some sort of supper club – the days out organised by the company will put you in the same room as some great cooks to hear all about their experience, take you on a wine tour round South Wales’ surprisingly varied vineyards and get you out in the countryside with foragers.

I got to go down the farm with Food Adventure to meet some frankly adorable veal calves before enjoying some of their meat for lunch.

I’d like to say it was tricky eating something with such an adorable face, but it wasn’t.

It was absolutely delicious.

Read the piece here.

He’s in fashion… Or how a young designer’s using tech to reach his audience

The modern world is moving fast – no one is more aware of this than the average journalist, who has gone from concocting multiple pieces from the same event or interview for a variety of publications to creating a multi-faceted approach for one outlet.

Of course, these days, the average online publisher expects not just copy, but images, a gallery, video, audio, a quiz, a chart, a call to action.

PIC CREDIT: Hari Greenough
PIC CREDIT: Hari Greenough

Manchester-based clothing designer Hari Greenough has jumped on board the new tech available to us all with both feet.

An innovative example of the modern fashion industry, Hari has pledged to overhaul the relationship between designer and consumer with quirky ideas such as using photography social network Instagram to show off his new collections as they’re being worked on.

There’s something to be said for using the media that’s accessible to us.

After all, the large majority of news consumers do so on their mobile phones, and they’re looking for new and interesting ways of using apps and sharing news with their friends.

I hope Hari’s approach gains traction, because he’s a young, exciting designer and those new ideas deserve to be heard – here’s hoping the modern world takes a minute to listen.

Read the piece here.

Nul points… Or why Eurovision is about more than just the music

Eurovision can send people one of two ways.

The annual song contest may fill you with patriotic dreams of triumph, memories of good humour and an excuse for a party.

Or you might bloody hate it. Eurovision_Song_Contest_logo

As a spectacle, I am fairly good natured towards it, but I was pretty surprised to chat to Dr Eurovision.

The Cardiff-based academic Paul Jordan earned his PhD, The Eurovision Song Contest: Nation Building and Nation Branding in Estonia and Ukraine, from the University of Glasgow in 2001.

It’s one of those moves that have given him a media presence, but also offers a political and cultural significance behind the frankly out-there performances from competitors every year.

In my view, it’s a really great chance to have a window onto the cultures of our European neighbours.

Personally, I’m not worried if the UK don’t win – which is probably just as well.

Read the piece here.