Sins of omission
I object to your use of the male and female symbols linked together alongside the word ‘sex’ in the July issue. The only justification for perceiving sex as exclusively heterosexual is that it is solely procreational - a myth which your article attempts to refute. Later you refer to ‘male-controlled, penetrative sexual intercourse’ as ‘normal’ - a pejorative term which I would have expected you to avoid. The fact that some men use their power to force women to have sex which is unpleasant, often painful and physically dangerous (which you acknowledge) hardly makes it normal.
And the omission of Lesbianism - in an article about women’s sexuality and men’s control of it. - is inexcusable. Lesbianism is about women having sex for their own pleasure; it represents a real threat to men’s sexual control and challenges patriarchal society.
Ed. note: This article was from a much longer piece in our book:- ‘Women: A World Report’, where these issues were explored in more depth.
I heartily agree with Buchi Emecheta (NI 149) when she says ‘we will train all people - men and women - in housework’. This has always seemed to me to be the practical solution. After all housework cannot be considered demeaning and unimportant as long as anyone likes to eat or to sleep between clean sheets. With this in mind, much of the upbringing of my own two boys and two girls took place in the kitchen. I told all of them that, no matter what their future might hold, they would have to eat, and to live in a fairly tidy place. Learning to do this work from an early age would help them do it efficiently and this would leave more time for other things.
Of course my children did not always do the tasks cheerfully, or efficiently, or completely. But at least they are able to cook and keep their homes without depending on anyone else of either sex.
Carol H Ufford
In my mind, Issue 149 on women makes the same mistakes as other feminist publications. It condemns all men, across the board. As a man with a lot to learn and relearn, having been brought up in a male dominant society, I feel it is a retrogressive step for women to tar all men with the same brush.
Some of us are aware, and are trying to help women to balance the scales. If the domineering ‘macho’ men see that some males do see women as equals, with the same rights in self-determination, self-expression, family life, sex and so on, they might then take stock of themselves.
I’ll fight against the guys at work tooth and nail for women’s rights. But I wish that women would realise that such a thing as a ‘male feminist’ can and does exist.
Whilst I thought your article ‘A guide to giving’ (NI 148) was generally accurate, some of the information was out-of-date. The OXFAM International Association is a grouping of six independent organisations in Australia, Belgium, Canada, New Zealand, the UK and the USA. It is an informal association of autonomous and equal members bound together by shared values, a lengthy history and in most cases a common name.
It is true that there were tensions during the years when the newer OXFAMs were evolving from dependencies of the UK parent organisation into equal and independent partners. It is also true that the Association is now one characterised by maturity, mutual respect and consultation on matters of general concern to all. We collaborate in our international programs through joint funding of projects. We have also experienced increasing agreement on the great issues of the day and what is to be done about them – peace and disarmament, Southern Africa and Central America for instance.
Lawrence S Cumming
I read the figures in your article ‘Accounting for aid’ (NI 148) with interest. It is difficult to produce useful comparative figures on the percentage of agencies’ budget spent overseas, on fundraising or on administration. There is no commonly accepted definition of where such costs start or stop. Under the circumstances, publication of tables like yours does a disservice to all.
CUSO has fundraising costs comparable with other Canadian development organisations. In fact, as a percentage of our overall budget they are very low - just over 1 per cent
- due in part to the larger than average grant we receive from the Canadian government. Incidentally in your table,
CUSO’s figures only total 90 per cent.
Our administrative costs are higher than other agencies due to the nature of our work. CUSO recruits, selects, trains and manages hundreds of development workers overseas. This requires more money and staff than would be necessary simply to disburse funds to projects. We do development this way because it is works so well and achieves so much good. It might be fairer to have compared us with other volunteer-sending organisations.
It would be more honest and fair, albeit less sensational, if you would present the positives and not only the negatives of the child-sponsorship issue (NI 148).
I have met adults in the Third World who were at one time that’one sponsored child’ and whose education was paid by that ‘one donor’. I have seen a few of these adults in action in their Third World communities, where they willingly and lovingly give back in expertise and help the love they experienced through child sponsorship.
Why not show your readers why we, the donors and child-sponsorship agencies, feel that this is a worthy cause which helps to bring about some salvation in the wretched struggle for survival that so many poor children fight?
I am offended to see the work of The Hunger Project described as ‘fruitless activity’ (NI 148). I’ve been a supporter of The Hunger Project since its inception in 1977. I had virtually no previous awareness or interest in the subject of world hunger.
Since then I’ve become a supporter of Save the Children, Food First, UNICEF, produced a short film for a local hunger organization, travelled to India and Bangladesh at my own expense to research and write a feature film on the subject, and even become a subscriber to the New Internationalist.
Enrolling in The Hunger Project was the catalyst which sparked my active involvement in doing what I can to eliminate world hunger, and I know many whose experience has been similar.
In your ‘Guide to giving’ (NI 148) you state that ‘Oxfam-America has been providing useful ammunition (my emphasis) for opposition to US government policy in Central America’. This is really misleading if read literally, and shows how we constantly use militaristic metaphors without noticing it.
The result is that we continue to support militarism even when we think we are opposing it.
The ironies of using militaristic language are abundant, but one of the most striking is the name of the recently-sunk Greenpeace ship - Rainbow Warrior.
Bernie Harder Windsor
Trick or treat
While I found your recent edition on the consumer society useful (NI 147) I noted the omission of a trick
used by some book clubs and magazines - namely giving potential customers a free or cheap book or editions (and gifts), getting a financial commitment from them and then placing the onus on the customer to cancel. This can work most successfully, as I’m sure your own subscribers will testify.
Ed. Note: Well spotted! But with publications like the New Internationalist that are not widely available for perusal, the three editions given free in the UK offer potential subscribers the opportunity to look at the magazine to see if they like it. Certainly, this is a method used by other publishers and we believe in using good ideas to help us reach more people with what we think are important issues raised in the NI. Many of our own staff are also subscribers and find it convenient to pay by standing order or direct debit - a method commonly used in the UK for making regular payments. As you rightly point out, people can cancel if they wish; but of course they still keep the three free magazines and the gift.
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