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About Heather McRobie

Heather McRobie is a novelist, journalist, and former co-editor of openDemocracy 50.50. She has written for Al Jazeera, the Guardian, the New Statesman, and Foreign Policy, amongst others. She researches and lectures on public policy at the Higher School of Economics in Moscow, and previously studied at the University of Oxford, University of Bologna and University of Sarajevo. Her latest book Literary Freedom: a Cultural Right to Literature explores the issue of hate speech in literature and the philosophy of freedom of expression.  Follow her on twitter @heathermcrobie 


Articles by Heather McRobie

This week’s front page editor

Rosemary Bechler

Rosemary Bechler is the mainsite editor of openDemocracy.

Constitutional conventions: best practice

Tariq Ramadan interviewed post-Arab spring

We are making a mistake, a very big mistake if we look at what we call the Arab Awakening only by looking at the whole dynamics in political and not in economic terms.

The Handmaid's Tale of Coalition Britain

Jeremy Hunt's recently-voiced and ill-founded opinion on abortion adds insult to injury. Coalition austerity policies and attacks on women's rights mean that day by day Britain is becoming no country for women.

Kate Middleton: the female body in the post-Berlusconi media

The publication of topless photos of the Duchess of Cambridge, and the backlash it evoked, reveal an uneasy and gendered understanding of privacy in British, French and other countries' media, that the oldest tactics are still deployed to humiliate women, and how life in the public sphere is filtered through Berlusconi lenses.

When austerity sounds like backlash: gender and the economic crisis

The discourse of 'urgency' surrounding the public sector cuts masks their widespread reinvention of a Conservative vision of British women as mothers and carers.

Who's (still) afraid of the word 'vagina'?

Recent events in Britain, America and Australia have revealed a fear of the word ‘vagina’ in public discourse, in tune with the shaming and controlling of women’s bodies by the US right.  What does this reveal about the alignment of capitalist commodification of sexuality and conservative misogyny, and how are the feminist responses to this climate changing the tone of feminism?

A-levels 2012: the Tories have already failed a generation

The publication of this year's A-level results for England, Wales and Northern Ireland come at a time of crisis in higher education and the jobs market. As top grades fall and university applications decline, many will struggle to negotiate the space between being 'priced out' of university while fighting to find employment. 

The gender-equality Olympics: medals and penalties so far

The 2012 London Olympics have been heralded as the best Olympics yet for women, although gender-inequalities remain, from sexist media commentary and gender-based bullying to less sponsorship and media coverage for female athletes than male athletes. Here, a gender score-card of the winners and losers so far.

Diversity in the British judiciary: on the backburner for too long

With Britain's House of Lords reform on the cards, what about all the other powerful white men in white wigs?

Canada must not break its promise on Omar Khadr

Detainees like Khadr remain both a relic of the Bush-era’s disregard for international and human rights law and a contemporary reminder of the continuation of the world the neo-cons built.  

Abortion access in the US military – time for the MARCH Act

A Congressional bill has been proposed that will finally repeal the severe restrictions on American servicewomen’s access to abortion.  But how will this sit with the religious right currently gearing up for the 2012 Presidential elections?

Srebrenica in 2012: carving out the space to remember

This week, a funeral for five hundred genocide victims marked the 17th anniversary of the Srebrenica genocide in Bosnia.  But with genocide-denial in the regional air, and electoral changes and political manipulation erasing the Bosnian Muslim history of Srebrenica, is the tragedy being both frozen and erased, when what is needed is both remembrance and to move on?

Artemisia at the Musée Maillol: power, painting and perfume

Artemisia Gentileschi presents a problem for chronology, the question of how to fairly handle the dynamic between the artist’s work and the artist’s life.

Don’t bank on gender equality from the UK high street

Women are facing a double-bind, bearing the brunt of banks' practices both in the build up to, and in the wake of, the economic crisis. In a feminised recession, with women bearing the brunt of job losses and austerity measures, do we now need to add another grim example – women being undermined by their banks?

Feminism is funny

Recovering Mysoginist

Artist Sarah Maple’s new exhibition places feminism firmly at the centre of its work, using comedy to explore 21st century gender issues. Heather McRobie asks whether  feminism is finally coming back to the fore in the art world

Gender mainstreaming: the future of feminism? Or feminism’s disappearing act?

Sylvia Walby’s ‘The Future of Feminism’ makes the case for gender mainstreaming as a successful mechanism for integrating feminist principles into institutions. But doing so runs the risk of subordinating feminist goals to other agendas, a contradiction that Walby never entirely resolves.

The precariat and Mad Men secretaries: temping under the Tory government

Temporary employment is increasing, challenging the binary between employed and unemployed. Temping agencies use the language of flexibility and choice, but are they also reinforcing the regressive gender roles promoted by the Coalition government?

Women on the French left: political heavyweights? or mothers, daughters, and ‘potiches’?

The ascendancy of Martine Aubry as a main Socialist Party candidate for next year’s Presidential elections and the rise of Eva Joly to Presidential candidate for the Green Party tell one story of the success of women on the French left. The response to the DSK arrest and Segolene Royal’s treatment by the party elephants, however, shows a darker side to the French left’s treatment of women in politics.

Mamma I Just Shot A Man Down: Rihanna’s response to violence against women

Pop singer Rihanna has offered to re-film the music video 'Man Down', in which she plays a rape victim who shoots her abuser. But was the controversy caused by the film's sexual and violent content, or because it shows a woman answering back on her own terms?

London SlutWalk: "no means no, Clarke must go"

The SlutWalk protests came to London last Saturday, as part of a global show of solidarity challenging a 'rape culture' that holds sexual assault survivors partly responsible for crimes against them

Ratko Mladić's arrest: a start, but let it not obscure how much more is needed for justice

Poisonous ethno-nationalist political rhetoric, genocide denial and the celebration of war-time leaders are still routinely permitted in the discourse of Bosnian politicians, the media and citizens – if ‘citizens’ is the right word to describe the Bosnians who live in this protectorate-state purgatory

Heather McRobie

The single most welcome transformation that, after many decades of dedicated hard work, means that open democracy prevails worldwide is the emancipation of women, who are finally able to fully enjoy their rights and fulfil their human potential.  In 2050, women are equally valued members of societies and, as poverty is no longer feminised and women are fairly compensated for their work, our societies are both more prosperous and more stable. 

Securing girls in the global south and worldwide full access to their right to education was perhaps the key victory, but the shifts in attitudes and wholesale reform of social and political structures was equally vital: rape is now fully recognised as violent crime for which perpetrators are punished, female agency is recognised, and the demise of exclusivist identities mean women’s bodies and lives are no longer the punching-bag of historical change.  Increasingly meaningless borders don’t hinder the flow of resources and information, and women have full autonomy over their bodies, and are empowered to exercise their human rights.  Homophobia, the virgin/whore dichotomy, social practices which marginalise humans on the basis of their sex, gender or sexual identity now seem universally absurd, and it’s no longer a novelty to see women in key positions of global political and cultural life.  As women are now significantly more able to fulfil their full human potential, tackling the other enormous problems of our era – the climate change crisis, and massive global inequalities – has become significantly easier.  In 2050, identifying or being identified as female no longer curtails your capability as a human being.

Photo by Kate Cummings for The Advocacy Project

Ken Clarke, Strauss-Kahn, Yale and SlutWalks: rape, consent and agency

In recent weeks, one word has dominated the headlines: rape. The events worldwide have shown how rape remains in the bloodstream of our culture, while our language on the crime is distorting and debased

Blood, birthright and belonging: Obama’s birth certificate and the royal wedding

The ornate rituals in Westminster Abbey, and Donald Trump’s investigation of President Obama’s birth certificate have something in common that threatens modern power, and it isn’t very modern.

Refuse BP sponsorship: the arts will be undermined by petro-dollars

Allowing BP to use support for the arts as a fig-leaf for its devastating actions not only supports environmental destruction, but also neuters the potential of the artist to meaningfully challenge power

In a world where education is a commodity, why not subcontract your PhD?

In trading off plagiarism, essay-writing companies undermine basic goods in education, beginning with critical, independent thinking. But in reducing students to consumers, they may also be giving them a crash course in the prevailing attitude to education.

Yugoslavs in the twenty-first century: ‘erased’ people

Two decades after the dissolution of Yugoslavia, Balkan countries have a complicated relationship with their Communist past. Two recent events in Slovenia and Bosnia and Herzegovina highlight the complexities of regional identity, and the negative effects of compulsory ethnic identification.

Jordan’s uranium and Israel’s fears

At a time when other regional ties with Israel are facing setbacks, US and Israeli moves to prevent Jordan from enriching its own uranium may be misguided when Jordan can play positive role in the Israeli-Palestinian peace process

A difficult week for the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia

The ICTY's struggle to prosecute war criminals causes a further decline in credibility in times when progress is vital for Croatia and the relation between Serbia and Bosnia.

Bosnia's error of othering

Bosnia is saddled with a peace settlement for a constitution, and that is getting in the way of building a functioning state

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