Activists at UK Feminista's lobby of Parliament in October 2012. Photo: Getty
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How to make yourself feel happier about feminism

If you're fed up with Twitter storms, there are a few more practical things you can do to further the feminist cause.

Tired of Twitter storms? Uninspired by infighting? If the recent comment pieces surrounding feminism are to be believed, then the movement has become one hell of a navel-gazing drag. It's struck us that, among all this hand-wringing about hand-wringing, too many people have started to feel a bit depressed about something we hold very dear to our hearts. So, with that in mind, we've compiled a list of things you can do that should make you feel a bit happier about 21st century feminism.

Get involved with the Josephine Project

The Josephine Project, based in Newcastle and founded by an indomitable community arts organisation of women who call themselves Them Wifies, came out of a drama workshop. Josephine is a "life size, three dimensional anatomically correct cloth puppet" who is used to explore issues of sexuality with disabled women, who are statistically at much higher risk of sexual abuse. Using Josephine to help those with learning disabilities to understand sex and relationships, a dedicated team of workers address issues that may have never been addressed in the women's lives before: one recent New York Times profile detailed how the idea that they were allowed to say "no" to sexual advances was alien to a majority of participants before discussion. You can get involved with the Josephine Project and other equally worthy campaigns by Them Wifies (such as the domestic violence course Mams For A Change) here, and donate to them here.

Host a Chalk Walk with Hollaback!

The anti-street harassment group Hollaback! have been strangling catcalls across the world for a while now, but there's still time to host your own Chalk Walk. All you need is a load of chalk, maybe some stickers, a couple of women, and loads of creative catcalling puns. Hollaback! has been challenging street harassment across 71 cities and 24 countries, holding local nonviolent demonstrations that challenge everything from people's public reactions to the hijab to people who think of lesbian couples as "free entertainment" (yes, really). Let everyone know that the only people who catcall are pussies. Find out about hosting your own Hollaback! Chalk Walk, or setting up your own local branch, here.

Help end female genital mutilation (FGM)

Britain has been paying of FGM the long-overdue attention that it deserves this year: this week saw Michael Gove agree to write to all schools about its devastating effects before the summer holidays, following a campaign and petition by 17-year-old schoolgirl Fahma Mohamed. However, there is still a lot of work to be done, including the provision of mental health services to those who underwent FGM in their childhood. Leyla Hussein and Nimko Ali have been doing tireless work to end FGM and support its victims with their nonprofit organisation Daughters of Eve, and their holistic approach means that they're always in need of more supporters with varied skills. Get involved here.

Join your local Fawcett Society

Fawcett has been going since 1866, so what have you been waiting for? Local groups abound across the UK, and you're certain to be in sensible proximity to at least one. They count on the participation of each group's members to spread their wide-ranging campaigns, write and produce newsletters, and vote for the actions they should undertake in the next year. Head to their AGM, share their message on social media, and help the Fawcett Society become even more diverse. You can join here - and you can even buy one of those 'This is what a feminist looks like' T-shirts that looked so fetching on Bill Bailey.

Man the phones at the National Domestic Violence Helpline

They're open 24 hours a day, run in partnership by the charities Refuge and Women's Aid, and they're completely free. But they're always looking for more people to answer phones for periods when the people calling outstrip the number of people able to pick up. Making a phone call about domestic violence often involves short snatched opportunities, so it's imperative that the helpline has enough volunteers available. If you think you might have the time, you could do worse than looking into becoming a helpline operator here.

Become a trustee at Women For Refugee Women

Women For Refugee Women is a charity run by Natasha Walter - her of Living Dolls fame. It aims to bolster and safeguard the rights of women and children seeking asylum in the UK, and supports a number of grassroots groups (such as Women Asylum Seekers Together London) helping refugee women to have their voices heard on issues affecting them. They hold a number of forums with refugee women in the UK, and run groups including English classes, practical financial advice for recently arrived asylum seekers, and safe spaces for victims of human trafficking to discuss their experiences. Fundraisers and volunteers are always needed, which you can find out about more here, and the charity is presently looking for three new trustees with past experience in charity law or communications.

Request a Generation F workshop at your school

UK Feminista offers some inspiring workshops that challenge gender perceptions, and offer resources for both students and teachers for setting up a day with them. Workshops can be tailored to age group, and start combating prejudice and media bias young. It's well worth looking into what they offer, or getting hold of their guide for setting up school-based feminist organisations.

Visit the Herstories Archive

The Herstories project began in July 2012, when founder Radhika Hettiarachchi returned to Sri Lanka after working in crisis areas for the UN. After years of conflict, she decided to encourage empathy between previously warring communities by collecting family histories from the mouths of mothers across the country. The resulting archive is fascinating, and has done so much social good in such a short time that Radhika is now training groups in Afghanistan to do the same. Pictures and stories from the Herstories archive will go on display in London in March, and further details about the project can be found here.

Donate to Rape Crisis every time you see an angry tweet

Our final recommendation comes straight from our own experience: we've both begun to do this every time we see a Twitter storm erupting. Stepping away from the keyboard and onto a donation page in these cases has the potential to do serious damage to your wallet, but serious good in the world - and trust us, it's therapeutic. Happy feministing, everyone!

Rhiannon Lucy Cosslett and Holly Baxter are co-founders and editors of online magazine, The Vagenda.

Photo: Getty Images
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Autumn Statement 2015: George Osborne abandons his target

How will George Osborne close the deficit after his U-Turns? Answer: he won't, of course. 

“Good governments U-Turn, and U-Turn frequently.” That’s Andrew Adonis’ maxim, and George Osborne borrowed heavily from him today, delivering two big U-Turns, on tax credits and on police funding. There will be no cuts to tax credits or to the police.

The Office for Budget Responsibility estimates that, in total, the government gave away £6.2 billion next year, more than half of which is the reverse to tax credits.

Osborne claims that he will still deliver his planned £12bn reduction in welfare. But, as I’ve written before, without cutting tax credits, it’s difficult to see how you can get £12bn out of the welfare bill. Here’s the OBR’s chart of welfare spending:

The government has already promised to protect child benefit and pension spending – in fact, it actually increased pensioner spending today. So all that’s left is tax credits. If the government is not going to cut them, where’s the £12bn come from?

A bit of clever accounting today got Osborne out of his hole. The Universal Credit, once it comes in in full, will replace tax credits anyway, allowing him to describe his U-Turn as a delay, not a full retreat. But the reality – as the Treasury has admitted privately for some time – is that the Universal Credit will never be wholly implemented. The pilot schemes – one of which, in Hammersmith, I have visited myself – are little more than Potemkin set-ups. Iain Duncan Smith’s Universal Credit will never be rolled out in full. The savings from switching from tax credits to Universal Credit will never materialise.

The £12bn is smaller, too, than it was this time last week. Instead of cutting £12bn from the welfare budget by 2017-8, the government will instead cut £12bn by the end of the parliament – a much smaller task.

That’s not to say that the cuts to departmental spending and welfare will be painless – far from it. Employment Support Allowance – what used to be called incapacity benefit and severe disablement benefit – will be cut down to the level of Jobseekers’ Allowance, while the government will erect further hurdles to claimants. Cuts to departmental spending will mean a further reduction in the numbers of public sector workers.  But it will be some way short of the reductions in welfare spending required to hit Osborne’s deficit reduction timetable.

So, where’s the money coming from? The answer is nowhere. What we'll instead get is five more years of the same: increasing household debt, austerity largely concentrated on the poorest, and yet more borrowing. As the last five years proved, the Conservatives don’t need to close the deficit to be re-elected. In fact, it may be that having the need to “finish the job” as a stick to beat Labour with actually helped the Tories in May. They have neither an economic imperative nor a political one to close the deficit. 

Stephen Bush is editor of the Staggers, the New Statesman’s political blog.