By Lucy Gallard
Originally, I wanted to write an article about birth. I wanted to explore the different ways we can think of birth and our intersectional experiences of it: how does the way we experience childbearing differ depending on whether we are a man or a woman? Depending on our ethnic, socio-economic, or religious identities? How do we conceptualise the relations between mother and child and what are the moral, legal and health consequences this? Whose rights trump: the mother’s or the foetus’? I was going to attempt to show you how complex something as common as birth really is and some of the variables that can drastically change our experiences of it. After wetting your appetite, I was going to tell you about Spectrum Radio, the Feminist Society’s interview-based podcast series on gender issues, which is releasing a new episode on just this topic on November 1st. In fact, I had even written the article, I just needed a final run through again before sending it off.
However, something happened that made me change my mind. On Friday October 24th, a strange man turns up in our garden and stands bashing at the door until I, all a-tremble, open up. He immediately begins shouting about a poster…what poster? Oh, THAT poster.
Believe it or not, this is our landlord, who we are meeting for the first time (we deal with the agency, not with him directly) and he is berating us because of an NHS Sexual Health scheme poster in the window of my flatmate’s bedroom window. The poster (as you can see in the picture) is roughly the size of an A4 piece of paper, blue, and carries the simple message of ‘NHS Fife Sexual Health, Condom Distribution Point’. After a great deal of shouting, finger-shaking and some unsuccessful attempts at explanation, he marches through the gate with a final: “I’m going to deal with Eve Brown, and then I’ll deal with you!”
This in itself, could just be put down to bad luck and a particularly nasty, old-fashioned landlord. It could. However, this is not the first time it has happened and unless we start taking on the belligerents that cannot seem to tell the difference between promoting government services and inciting prostitution, it certainly will not be the last. Last year, my house-mate, Michael, who is a volunteer on this scheme was subjected to threats and intimidation tactics from his landlady, June Baxter, and a male neighbour, who forced him to take the poster down. The pair claimed they would use their contacts to ensure that Michael would never be able to rent another property in St Andrews and even to even get him expelled from the university.
This is all pretty heavy stuff for a laminated piece of paper measuring 210x297mm promoting a free government sponsored service. The fact that a landlord feels entitled to turn up unannounced, shout and demand it be removed appears ludicrous in the country that invented the Page 3 Girl. That is why this year, we are determined to fight tooth and nail to keep that poster up and to continue promoting highly valuable projects such as these which simply provide people with the information and tools to choose their futures. This is why platforms for discussion, such as Spectrum Radio, are absolutely essential to bring these issues into the light, to grant them legitimacy, thereby granting people freedom.
On informing the agency and the police, we were listened to with kindly impatience, before being advised to a) simply remove/move the poster to somewhere less obvious (which defeats the point of having an informative poster at all), and b) to warn future landlords that we are part of this voluntary scheme before signing the lease (which we did anyway, but we did not mention other convictions we hold or what football team we support…could this also be an issue?).
So please, do tune in to Spectrum, support us, talk about us, because this kind of initiative really is important. It is a great show with a fresh outlook on old favourites (Birth maybe an old idea, but it’s a keeper) and a passionate team dedicated to bringing you thought provoking analyses and great interviews. For this episode we will be speaking to the Producer of Downton Abbey, Chris Croucher, Philosopher Elselijn Kingma, Doctor Nnaemeka Amodi from Kings College London, key researcher on the ‘Clean Sheets’ male contraceptive pill, and many more. You can find us on: https://www.facebook.com/groups/581936578528013/?ref=br_tf or http://www.spreaker.com/user/thespectrumradio.