#WomenAgainstFeminism ?

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Let’s Talk Opinion in conversation with WeHuntedTheMammoth

It’s been only two days since I found out that there is a new phenomenon on Tumblr and Facebook that carries its standard under the name of Women Against Feminism. I didn’t know whether to find the news upsetting or downright depressing. Having spent some time reading through the commentary, I felt myself torn between a desire to write a dozen hundred messages of “WRONG” in reply to some or adding my own two pennies’ worth to the mix.

The trouble with any such discussions is that it is near impossible to persuade anyone to think otherwise without days of back-and-forths, vast amounts of research to back up arguments and emotional energy to consolidate for potential losses. Plus, the likelihood of succeeding is even then very slim. More often than not the opposition will simply use well-intentioned counter-arguments  as additional fodder for their – dare I say misguided? – cause. They will continue to insist that they know their mind and that it is their right to think however they will. Well… there at least they are right. Since I was already caught in a plethora of projects of my own, I left it all alone.

Until today!

You see, earlier today I was making a much overdue incursion into the world of Facebook  and came across a puzzling article by Katie Halper. (Whoever said that Facebook is bereft of anything useful? Will not be fooled twice.) You may be surprised to find out that this piece was about cats.

Cats? you ask. What on earth could cats have of any use to say?

Alright, alright. But they were not any old cats mind, they were confused cats. Still puzzled? Well… “Like many of the women featured on the Women Against Feminism Tumblr, these cats don’t seem to really get what feminism is,” Katie says and then proceeds with an exhibition of some of their photographs and “anti-feminist” messages:

“I don’t need feminism b/c a woman needs a man like a cat needs a fish. and this cat needs a fish,declares a stripy-grey feline.

I’m against feminism because… wait that’s vacuums. I’m against vacuums,” purrs a moody-looking charcoal black cat.

“I don’t need feminism because I support the oppression of ALL humans! muahahaha”

Ok. That last one was chilling. Brrr… On the bright side, this is how I found the antidote for my upset: humour and Cats respond to #WomenAgainstFeminism with new blog: Confused Cats Against Feminism is just the dish to serve it with. Fishy? Yum.

The project started off quite simply because the blogger of WeHuntedTheMammoth found herself with two anti-feminists in her household: “Against my better judgment, I agreed to take pictures of them with signs spelling out their objections. None of their arguments make much sense to me, but, hey, they’re entitled to make their case on the internet if that’s what they want.

There’s just one little complication: the two antifeminist females in my household are not, you know, human females. They’re cats.

Needs must, however, so this ingenious blogger did not despair, but instead started off a new blog which within days became a phenomenon in its own right. Anyone can add their confused cats to the site. WeHuntedTheMammoth adds a single caveat to this: “your cats must be genuinely confused about why they oppose feminism, and generally unclear about what feminism is.”

There you are: if you have a cat who happens to be harbouring anti-feminist feelings and yet can give no clear explanation for their professed views, now they have a public platform whence to bring their confusion.

And here too is where my own furry companion has decided to take their befuddlement:

Inspired by Monty Python –  

Delivered by Cat.

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Let’sTalk Opinion posts engage with issues that are important to other bloggers, connecting with others on matters close to their heart. If you like a topic and would like to contribute, please feel free to add to the comment box, reblog, share, email or message me on Twitter @shardsofsilence.

Or if you happen to be a fellow Hogwartsian send me a letter by owl. ;)

Portrait of young girl

Portrait of a young Bolivian girl by Vic Briggs

 

About this image: I do not know the story of this child. Her portrait was mine to capture, yet beyond the smile of a Bolivian girl there is a narrative that ought to be told, for in many ways she will become a part of it. She is a part of it already.

I would like to think that she would go to school, that her childhood will be filled with dreams and that one day she will grow up to find those dreams fulfilled. Perhaps hers will be a successful career and a loving family. Or perhaps…

The truth is that wishful thinking oftentimes remains just that, and reality will have its say. For in Bolivia women are at a disadvantage when it comes to equity in all wakes of life. The rates of illiteracy are higher amongst women than men. There is a high degree of discrimination at an institutional level with women receiving both quantitatively and qualitatively worse education than their male counterparts. Where education fails, the opportunities of working your way out of poverty are few and far between.

While women have been increasingly active on the jobbing market, more than half of their number continue to be out of work and the majority of the work open to them is neither highly productive nor is it well paid. Low income amongst Bolivian women, particularly those of indigenous origin, is endemic.

So much for the dream of an illustrious career.

The traditional misogynistic culture that persists in this country subdues women to a life of dependency and subordination. The 1830s civil code of Bolivia that required women’s obedience to their husbands may have been overruled, but its ethos is very much alive. Women are expected to bear children and take care of their family, having almost exclusive responsibility for domestic work. Meanwhile, the maternal mortality rate in Bolivia is one of the highest in the world and in rural areas – particularly the altiplano where this girl resides – it is more than double that of cities.

She may get lucky, but that is another uncertainty awaiting her ahead.

Although the Bolivian constitution guarantees gender equality, effective equity is yet to be reached. Legal change is insufficient in and of itself. This is a battle for hearts and minds. It is a struggle for cultural change, which is far more difficult to accomplish.

I will continue to harbour hope and maybe – just maybe – this little girl will be part of that much needed change.

Daily Prompt: Young At Heart

Is “#Feminism” a politically useful label any more? #FeministFriday Discussion

“If we all decided to get together and make a real push for women’s rights, would it be smart politics to brand that enterprise “feminist?” And what would our alternatives be?” asks Gene’O Gordon.

I am not sure that feminism as a movement has always been popular as such. It started as a grassroots movement and its history is one of struggle, with each generation facing new challenges.
Feminists have always encountered opposition, either from sceptics or worse, and yet their ideas have been at least in part appropriated by the mainstream and women have gained certain advances in terms of effective equality as a result.
Is Feminism fragmented at present? Yes. Yet this fragmentation was perhaps inbuilt into the very nature of the project, since women worldwide belong to different types of communities, themselves divided, and therefore face different types of issues in their everyday lives from those experienced by the originators of that movement.
Would a different label fare better? Perhaps. Yet rebranding would no doubt fail to eliminate opposition on the basis of embracing a new name alone. Those who assert that women’s role ought to revert to pre-feminist times will no doubt continue to do so.
My question is, whether a new movement or association that would be feminist in ethos, but differ in name would be able to overcome the difficulties feminism encounters today?

Join the discussion on Sourcerer’s blog.

Sourcerer

If not, can we revive it? Or do we need to get creative?

(I’m not arguing that feminism is dead; it’s alive, if a little unwell. I’m asking: If  we all decided to get together and make a real push for women’s rights, would it be smart politics to brand that enterprise “feminist?” And what would our alternatives be? )

First, I’ll tell you a story, then I’ll explain why I’m asking this question.

I’m not sure when Diana hooked up with Gretchen of Drifting Through My Open Mind, but it was very early The Monster’s career. I realized sometime in January that Gretchen was a blogger I wanted to keep up with. She has a real talent for the sort of writing I enjoy: long-form posts that relate her personal life to larger issues. Whether she does it consciously or not, her posts are emotionally engaging, and that…

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Women and Leadership | The End of Men as Leaders

Let’s Talk Opinion in conversation with SFoxWriting

“In summary, while I’m not saying that men are bad leader’s in fact there have been many successful and popular male leaders throughout history I believe that they lack certain skills in order to gain the upper hand in every situation. I because of this am of the opinion that women have a broader range of characteristics in order to get the best out of any situation and are the best leaders.” Women make better leaders than men

woman-leader

I object, your honour! I object.

Alright. You caught me. I’ll be playing the devil’s advocate here. Don’t take me wrong. I’m all for women taking on leadership roles. The more the better. So… Instead of arguing in favour or against our Mr Fox’s premise, I will unpick aspects of his argument that I thought might require additional consideration, such as forgetting to include Hermione Granger in his “Inspirational women” list for example. 😉

“In terms of work for example it is crucial that the Boss is a powerful figure,” says Steven. This I presume is meant to indicate that a boss is a figure of authority. Whether it is necessary for a leader to be a powerful figure I am less certain.

If we take power to denote a physical characteristic, it is sufficient to look back at the likes of Napoleon, whence we have the “short man syndrome.” Admittedly, he did lose more battles than he won, but the British had more to do with that than his height. Roosevelt got America through a war while in a wheelchair. Churchill had to fight mental illness as well as the Nazis, not to mention a serious addiction to Cubans and champagne. All in all, I’d say that neither a strong body nor a strong mind are essential for a leader to succeed. Will power, on the other hand, is crucial.

Good news for all aspiring women leaders out there I should think.

A last note on power. It is not the man or woman who occupies the metaphorical throne that needs to be powerful. The seat of power itself will endow them with all that they require in that respect. It is what they do with it that matters. Many are the bosses who have no clue what it takes to become a leader.

“It is however also important that they also have lots of other little skills which help to make the Boss be as understood and motivating as possible,” continues Steven, “one of the biggest tools women use better than men is communication.”

I have to say that I’ve never fully understood why good communication skills are considered to belong to one gender and not the other. I rather think that this is a stereotype that has little foundation in reality. There are women who are good communicators, but there are also men who are equally skilled in this respect. In my experience gender is seldom an indicator of whether the person before you will possess this particular gift or not.

The same goes for being good listeners. I’ve come across many a woman who is devoid of this ability and many a man similarly afflicted.

Steven made an interesting point in this respect: “if something needs to be done but it isn’t urgent and some thought needs to be taken beforehand the women will sit down with all parties involved and genuinely listen to everyone’s points before making up plans to deal with the subject at hand. However the man will jump into the problem and try and fix it sometimes with no exterior input.”

I beg to differ. First of all the example is too vague: “something needs to be done.” By the end of the paragraph we discover that it is not just something that needs to be done, but that something is a problem to be resolved rather than a task to be performed.

If a problem requires collaborative decision-making then a good leader, whether man or woman, will take appropriate measures to ensure that all parties have been given the chance to contribute to the process. Leaders seldom “jump into the problem and try and fix it”, whether men or women. Instead they delegate. Leaders are the ones with the vision. The minutia of problem solving usually falls to middle management and in the case of smaller issues to the workforce at large.

Nor do I think that men jump in to fix problems “due to men wanting more power and having the mentality to try and fix things.” While men may have been socially conditioned to get on with “fixing things”, I doubt that this is in any way related to wanting more power. Those who have power get others to fix things for them, surely. I don’t like the expression “why have a dog and bark yourself”, but I suspect it is the case here.

Next Steven claims that “women are discussion orientated and men are action orientated.” I’d say that this particular stereotype does a disservice to men and women in equal measure. It gives the false impression that women stand around chatting all day, while men jump left right and centre fixing things. Is that really the case?

Leaders thrive on communication. They have to communicate in order to delegate and getting their subalterns to put their ideas into practice is what leaders do. Communication is a form of action when it comes to jobs at the top, as is decision-making. If there are other types of “action” that ought to be included in this context, I have to admit, I’m unaware of them.

When it comes to “employees want their employer to listen to them and even take their ideas on board” and “customers want themselves to be heard”, I get the distinct impression that Steven and I were thinking of different types of leadership styles as well as different sizes of business. In the context of a small business, a leader or boss, to use Steven’s language of choice, may indeed be required to take on the mantle of HR and PR. Medium, large business and multinationals have entire teams dedicated to these tasks. The man or woman at the top has bigger fish to fry. Listening to their advisors, boards of directors, shareholders and those reporting directly to them is a must. Listening to every employee and n-number of customers, on the other hand, would be untenable, even if it may ultimately result in loyalty.

I also doubt that women are alone in trying to “build relationships in and out of work.” Similarly, I am certain that a woman leader would be just as quick in distinguishing between potential partners and rivals when it comes to “collaborations with say other companies”. They would assess the pitfalls and benefits of such collaboration and would take into account “if they are competitors or not.”

Nor do I agree that “This will in the long run most likely make only a small difference to the way the company is run or the success it has”. Why only a small difference? Having successful relationships with partners is invaluable. It’s the difference between making the number or going under. Such collaborative efforts, when part of the company’s overall strategy, are about growth and profit. Otherwise, why bother? No self-respecting leader would put in all that effort on the off-chance that they’ll need allies when “everything goes wrong.” Leaders work towards success. They are not in the habit of planning for the eventuality of failure.

“While men view competition as exactly that “someone else to take part of my pie” and this just leads to conflict, while the women invite each other round to share equal amounts of pie and get better ties with other businesses because of it.” Well I never. Women invite each other round to share equal amounts of pie? Not if they are business women they don’t, and certainly not if the pie is an euphemism for their share of power.

Sorry, but this pie simile ought to have stayed in the bakery. Women view competition exactly as men do. They are usually berated for it, but make no mistake about it: women are just as competitive as men are. They won’t go sharing any pie.

I’m also uncertain about where the point ‘the amount of time it takes a woman to get ready’ fits into a discussion about leadership. It can take a woman five minutes to get ready if she has a deadline. If not, she may indulge. Still. This has no relevance when it comes to her business acumen or her ability to lead. Feel free to extrapolate.

“Women also prefer leading from the middle of the pack rather than the top like men,” says Steven.

Not so. For a very long time, due to socio-political and economic reasons into which I will not go here, women have been confined to the middle of the pack. It wasn’t a choice. It was the state of affairs.

Similarly, successful men and women are all aware that “in order to achieve greatness everyone must chip in rather than just barking out orders”. Those who’ve missed that particular memo, don’t make it to the top.

That’s that. I’ve done my best to do my worst. The devil is done. Medium-rare I should think. Despite the combative tone of the above, I assure you that Steven and I are in agreement on many a point, but I enjoy a good parry and, since he agreed to be a good sport about it, I wanted to measure up to the challenge.

I admire the tenacity with which Steven approached Don Charisma’s challenge on this subject. Kudos to a writer who delved fearlessly into new territory. To find out who made it to his list of inspirational women as well as for additional points on why women make better leaders than men, please read Women make better leaders than men.

My last thoughts for you come courtesy of Joan Kofodimos’s review of Hanna Rosin’s book The End of Men.

The End of Men… as Leaders? is nigh it would appear, since men’s old ways no longer fit into a fast-changing world where adapting to new circumstances holds the key to success. I rather think that Steven attempted to make many of these points in his article, albeit in a different format.

Here is a breakdown of the men’s Old Way versus women’s New Way argument:

The Old Way

  • accepting the legitimacy of external authority
  • deferring to others with authority over you
  • using your authority to get compliance from those below you
  • wanting to please others that you view as powerful – being “respectful”
  • avoiding conflict and communicating indirectly or “off-line” about difficult issues
  • not upsetting the apple cart because of the fear of damaging relationships
  • creating a rational “persona,” not voicing your personal viewpoint for fear of being seen as selfish

The New Way

  • recognizing that the most important influence is lateral
  • seeking commitment rather than compliance – even when you have authority
  • treating everybody the same – “respect” does not vary with position
  • surfacing conflict openly with all relevant stakeholders
  • being able to challenge in a way that deepens, not threatens, the relationship
  • building win-win solutions that address the interests of all stakeholders

So… Are you persuaded? Do women make better leaders than men?

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Let’sTalk Opinion posts engage with issues that are important to other bloggers, connecting with others on matters close to their heart. If you like a topic and would like to contribute, please feel free to add to the comment box, reblog, share, email or message me on Twitter @shardsofsilence.

Or if you happen to be a fellow Hogwartsian send me a letter by owl. ;)

BABY ON BOARD | Senators and CEOs

Let’s Talk Opinion in conversation with genderneutrallanguage

This is the 2nd part of BABY ON BOARD | Discrimination

“Something was really lost taking this post out of context.  That context really addresses most of your points. What we where discussing was if women deserve special treatments in the work place because many women prioritize family over income, and that results in very few women CEO’s and Senators. The question was not if there should be any considerations given to people that prioritize family, but should people that prioritize family over work be promoted over people that prioritize work over family.

We most decidedly live in a society, and this is a good and important thing.  It is not exclusively about the individual, but we do need to balance the individual good against the social good.  It would be a great “Social good” to pay each mother $50,000/year per child for the job of raising children.  The kind of taxes, taking money from other individuals, needed to support this would be enough to break the economy.

I choose to not have children, but I really need to subsidize your children in some ways.  I need to support society.  The only question is extent.  I pay my taxes that fund your children schools.  I pay my taxes that provide school lunches.  I pay my taxes that fund food stamps.  I pay my taxes that will now be used to subsidize your health insurance.  I think many of these programs should be expanded and improved.  We need better schools, and a single payer health care system.  Paying my fair share to be part of a moral society is important.

Where I draw a solid line is when having children is a workplace benefit.  Extra paid time off *because kids* when I’m already paying my taxes to subsidize your choices is just to far.  When we start talking about paying women the same dollar amount for 36 hours of work that men get for 44, we have a real problem.  When we start talking about creating special, lower, standards for women to become CEO or a Senator, we have a real problem.  We need the best candidates as CEO’s and Senators regardless or race, gender, orientation, religion (laundry list of irrelevant things).  When there are mandates to include women, regardless of merit, we have major problems.” genderneutrallanguage

Hillary-Clinton-secret-letter-from-women-senators

I do agree with your argument. You are right in the points that you make, I find little to quibble in the issues you raise, and yet… I am uncomfortable with the outcome of such an attitude when implemented and applied in practice.

I would fully support it if it were the case that it applied equally to men and women. The comment does mention that it does, yet in reality it is more of an “it ought to”, as unfortunately we do not live in egalitarian societies, and therefore this affects women disproportionately more than men.

Men also choose to have children, yet their careers seldom suffer as a result. All these examples you mention, when people get time off work with pay because they have a baby – well, as a matter of biology, it does affect women more than men.

When children are sick, the primary carer is more often than not the woman, and it is her who has to find a way of getting time away from work. The same goes for taking time away from work when the child’s school calls, when day care closes unexpectedly, when the babysitter doesn’t show up.

The brunt of the responsibility for raising children falls on the woman.

I am aware that there are exceptions, but these are exactly that: exceptions. So, until men and women take a 50/50 approach to sharing the responsibility of raring children, I do believe that it is women who will suffer most, and it is their opportunities and careers that would be curtailed as a result.

And all these things you mention are not workplace benefits. This is the life of a jobbing parent, who try as they may, cannot stop their child from being sick sometimes, or prevent a baby-sitter from not showing up.
I am sure they don’t see it as a benefit, and they’d much rather not have their work interrupted by domestic emergencies either.

Since we reached the topic of benefits; there are many benefits that others have and that I have to pay for that I would rather not – but at the end of the day, I’d rather pay my share and live in a compassionate society, where those who need help and assistance get it, rather than a society that punishes people who fall on hard times.

As for the corporate ladder climbing: somehow I struggle to believe that the childless those who work hard and put in the hours are constantly overlooked in favour of their mothering counterparts who somehow have fallen short of doing their job.

Is it possible that these career mothers have simply been more effective and efficient, taken work home and put in extra “invisible” hours precisely because they know that having a child can work against them and they did everything they could to outbalance that particular potential drawback for their careers?
Is it possible that they actually deserved the raise, the bigger pay-packet or making partners?

I do not know how useful it is to talk in terms of hours worked when it comes to getting the job done either. Some people may need longer for the same project than others. It doesn’t necessarily make them more hardworking. It could be a matter of lesser talent=more hours needed.

Perhaps this is a matter to be raised with the employers themselves. They would not discriminate against mothers, but I am sure they would equally not discriminate against talent either.

Incidentally, I assume the “you” in your reply refers to the “you, woman who chose to have children”, rather than “you, woman who wrote the comment.” I know I did not mention it, but perhaps I ought to just in case: I do not have children.

You say: “When we start talking about creating special, lower, standards for women to become CEO or a Senator, we have a real problem.”

The problem I think lies in those who think it necessary to create lower standards in order to get female CEOs and Senators. Being a mother does not automatically make someone incapable of successfully discharging their duties in a job. It may require flexibility, but I do not see why that would in any way equate with lowering standards.

Women should not be made to feel like it’s an either or. They should be empowered to do both.

There is also altogether an ambiguity regarding what this lowering of standards entails.
Women do not need to be men in order to have high standards, a good work ethic and the capability to do high powered jobs. They can choose not to have children, but that ought never be a choice made based on career progression.

If a career demands of a human being to give up everything else in their lives in order to follow it, then the problem is the culture of that career and it is the demands of that career that are substandard, not the people attempting to make a go of it – parents or not.

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Let’sTalk Opinion posts engage with issues that are important to other bloggers, connecting with others on matters close to their heart. If you like a topic and would like to contribute, please feel free to add to the comment box, reblog, share, email or message me on Twitter @shardsofsilence.

Or if you happen to be a fellow Hogwartsian send me a letter by owl. ;)

BABY ON BOARD | Discrimination

Let’s Talk Opinion in conversation with Quinn

“I fully believe in equal rights, equal pay, equal opportunity and whatnot. However, I am NOT a fan of anyone– male or female – being given “special” consideration “because” they have children. […] This is blatant discrimination – “family” vs. “individual”. And yet, it is. It exists. Life is all about choices. If you chose to have a family, IMHO – then THAT should be YOUR priority (not mine or my employers). If you chose to have a family AND climb the corporate ladder, then you – the individual – must choose your priorities. Corporations have no obligation to make those choices for you or make special concessions for you. […] Using the law firm example you gave, an attorney can put up their own money – hang their shingle – drum up business – grow – hire associates – grow – form partnerships – grow – and on and on. They (the original owner and partners) owe you – a female attorney or paralegal or secretary – nothing. If you don’t want to work the 100 hours a week required to make partnership (for whatever reason) – don’t. Doesn’t really matter if you are a man or a woman. But don’t then sit back and demand some special consideration “because you have children”. […]”***

*** This is an abridged version of the comment. Click HERE for the full version (Quinn on October 21, 2013 at 10:30 pm.),and for the context of this discussion

baby-on-board

I absolutely agree, but let me make my agreement contingent on one important thing: a thorough self-reflective and self-aware engagement with the values and norms we want to stand by and cherish, that is: What kind of society do we want to live in?

Some question to ponder:

1. Do we want a society where the individual and only the individual matters? Where did this “individual” come from? Do “individuals” spring up from a void, outside of society and its norms and values OR do they in fact only come into being from within society itself and precisely because of its norms and values?

2. Do we want to live in a society that divests its citizens of their reproductive nature, a society that does not wish to re-create itself and is in fact satisfied to go extinct? What I mean by this is simply this: is the giving birth, bringing up and education of children important to society itself, or is this an absolutely private individual matter that society has absolutely no benefit from or any interest in whatsoever?

3. Do corporations operate in a social void? Are they simply some “individual” exercise or do they in fact benefit from the existence of society, from the system of organisation it offers, from a certain security in laws, norms and values that make it possible for corporations to operate in the first place?

4. Do we want to live in a society, and work for corporations that victimise individuals who whilst contributing to both also take on the burden of creating the next generation? Or may it be perhaps more constructive to acknowledge the value of their work in both areas and reward it appropriately? After all, those that choose to or are unable to participate in the reproduction of society already have a time-energy advantage on their hands to climb the corporate ladder as well as engage in social activities that are no longer attainable for those others who have children. Win/win one would think?

Until the family unit is eliminated and individuals are developed in vitro – see Brave New World by Aldous Huxley for a blueprint – then the two will be forever intertwined in the makeup of society. There is no family vs. individual conflict insofar as I can see it. We are born, we grow up, we live alone, we live together, we learn, we work, we create, we imagine, we strive, we overcome, we succumb, get old and die.

Mutual respect is the basis of equality. I am a democrat. Equality is of great importance in my books. I do wonder however whether we spend sufficient time discussing what the idea actually stands for, because this comment made me realise once again how fluid the concept is, and how little we agree on what it means.

I would like to leave you with this one final comment of my own:

Individuals do not exist in void. They exist in society. Therefore, individuals act upon one another and shape society, just as they are acted upon and shaped by society. There is a tendency within individuals to direct others and to resist direction, a tendency which amplifies both the radical and the contestatory nature of the democratic project, which is a project of autonomy or freedom, understood as the lucid, self-aware and self-reflecting making of one’s own laws.

These laws ought to benefit all – in this case both childless individuals and those who have children.

And a final question:

Why discriminate against either? Why as someone who does not have children must one ever feel like they are somehow done a disservice if their employer happens to value their workers sufficiently to act humanely and with understanding towards those that have a life outside the office that is of equal important to that within?**

**This is the first part of a two part series on this topic. The follow up post is scheduled to be published on Tuesday, the 10th of December 2013 at 7am GMT.

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Let’sTalk Opinion posts engage with issues that are important to other bloggers, connecting with others on matters close to their heart. If you like a topic and would like to contribute, please feel free to add to the comment box, reblog, share, email or message me on Twitter @shardsofsilence.

Or if you happen to be a fellow Hogwartsian send me a letter by owl. ;)