Weekly Round-up and Open Thread

by Lusana Taylor // 30 November 2015, 5:34 pm



It’s time for another round-up and we have found plenty of interesting articles and essays for you to read this week.

If you’d like to comment on one of the issues covered or share another article that we haven’t included, feel free to get involved in the comments section below or on Facebook/Twitter.

As always, please remember that linking does not automatically mean endorsement or agreement from the F-Word and that some links may be triggering. It is also worth noting that, while we welcome engagement on the weekly round-up, any comments including racist, sexist, homophobic, transphobic or disablist language will be deleted.

Zoolander 2 isn’t just bad for trans people – it’s a step backwards for us all (The Guardian)

From the article: “Gender is a prison we all live in – ‘men don’t cry’, ‘women are nurturing’, ‘women can’t read maps and men can’t multitask’. We’re all diminished and restricted by sweeping statements defining boy and girl, our expectations and disappointments with ourselves, the way we look, what we enjoy, and the choices we make. Many of us cis people don’t spend much time thinking about why we identify as our gender, what has been thrust upon us by expectation and conditioning and how it is making our lives worse. We apologise for not liking sport or not wanting to hold someone’s baby when it is the concept of gender that is wrong. Bodies have a sex, but gender is a thing we made up, like your star sign or nationality. It doesn’t really say anything about who you are. The destruction of gender binary would free everybody.”

Gambia bans female genital mutilation (Al Jazeera)

Jeanette Winterson meets Marlon James: ‘You can’t keep upgrading people like you do with your phone’ (The Guardian)

No, one in five British Muslims doesn’t support Isis (Independent)

British Muslims react to report about their ‘sympathy’ for IS (BBC)

Viral selfie of so-called terrorist presents a clear picture of prejudice and fear (Los Angeles Times)

From the article: “It’s not often that bathroom selfies go viral. But last week, a picture of a man posing with a Koran and wearing a suicide vest went viral after some social media users claimed it was taken by one of the Islamic State terrorists that attacked Paris. The only problem: It wasn’t a terrorist but a young Canadian Sikh man named Veerender Jubbal…”

I Refuse To Feel Shame Over My C-Sections (Scary Mommy)

On Pandering (Tin House)

From the article: “She can write like a man, they said, by which they meant, She can write.

A fellow on Twitter says:

‘A lot of young women (not to mention this WM) loved that book. Should I tell them to disregard their reading experience?’

If you like my book I’m grateful. But I remind you that people at the periphery will travel to accept and even love things not made for or toward them: we have been trained to do so our entire lives.”

Enough of aid – let’s talk reparations (The Guardian)

From the article: “Frankie Boyle got it right: ‘Even our charity is essentially patronising. Give a man a fish and he can eat for a day. Give him a fishing rod and he can feed himself. Alternatively, don’t poison the fishing waters, abduct his great-grandparents into slavery, then turn up 400 years later on your gap year talking a lot of shite about fish.’ We can’t put a price on the suffering wrought by colonialism. And there is not enough money in the world to compensate for the damage it inflicted. We can, however, stop talking about charity, and instead acknowledge the debt that the west owes to the rest of the world.”

I’m making sourdough with my vaginal yeast (Another Angry Woman)

From the article: “It probably doesn’t matter that my sourdough may or may not contain any actual vaginal yeast. The very idea of it seems to horrify people more than enough. I suppose it’s a similar socially-constructed disgust that leaves a whole bunch of people repulsed by the idea of licking a pussy. Even the mere idea of a tiny trace of pussy in a massive loaf of bread is sufficiently vile.”

Self-exoneration via Self-flagellation: The structure of neoliberal guilt (The Public Autonomy Project)

From the article: “…And here is where auto-exculpatory self-flagellation falls so short. It hides the systemic, institutional causes of injustice behind a screen of personalizing moral righteousness and it eschews the development of strategies for winning, preferring instead to focus on the accumulation of social capital.”

To the Embarrassed Parent of the Child Pointing at My Daughter (The Mighty)

From the article: “You’re embarrassed, and I understand that. But we’re both parents, trying to do our best, and we both love our kids fiercely. And when you try to hide these obvious conversations that are happening right in front of us, it feels like you’re hiding from our family. It feels like the small, insignificant gap between us that your child has noticed has now grown into a wide-spanning canyon that no one wants to cross.”

Colorado Planned Parenthood shooting: partisan divide looms large in fallout (The Guardian)

Our patronising obsession with the ‘party girl’ Isis terrorist in Paris shows we still can’t cope with the reality of women extremists (Independent)

Explainer: What the proposed changes to laws around sex work in Scotland mean (Common Space)

What it’s like to be a woman of color in privileged white spaces (Elle)

From the article: ” I excel at making people uncomfortable, and I’ve gotten good at turning that to my advantage. But every black woman shouldn’t have to be me. Who wants to be The Only One, a lone explorer and colonizer, every single day? We shouldn’t have to enter our hobbies with loins girded, shields up, and a chisel ready to carve out a space for ourselves.”

Why The Frisky Will No Longer Be Publishing James Deen’s Sex Advice Column (The Frisky)

From the article: “Like so many rape cases, this will very likely be a ‘he said/she said’ situation. And as I tweeted last night, today and every day, I BELIEVE WOMEN. From a professional standpoint, as the editor of a women’s blog which has published the accused’s words, acting swiftly and decisively is the least that I can do. The court of public opinion is not a court of law, and I don’t need Stoya or any woman to ‘prove’ that she has been raped for me to believe her.”

Baroness Scotland uses new role as secretary‑general of the Commonwealth to call for LGBT rights (Independent)

The image is used under a creative commons license with thanks to Scatx on Flickr. It shows a sign being held up against the backdrop of the Texas State Senate building in Austin. It reads: “If men could get pregnant birth control and abortion would be safe and affordable and a holy sacrament.”


My children and I are enjoying a rare quiet moment watching a documentary about a school trip to a farm. Behind our finger-smudged TV screen, the fascinated infants are lined up on a wooden bench watching the demonstrator feed the goats. There is no need for school uniform on this day out, yet I can’t help noticing that most of the girls are dressed alike: a pink army in fuchsia jackets. This passes without comment from my children, from the narrator and from the demonstrator. Of course it does, for the monochrome world of my daughters has become entirely normalised.

I think we’ve grown immune to the pink hegemony. It has certainly worked its insidious way into my children’s lives. Pink coat, pink play tent, pink bike, pink bed covers: a pink plague has beset my home and my eyes have grown weary of its lurid hue.

Most annoying of all is the fact that, from a spectrum of choices, girls have been landed with the most frivolous, cloying colour of all – and one which begs not to be taken seriously. Pink: the colour of marshmallows, bubble gum and lipstick. Few truly useful things are pink and its association with women is unhelpful to us. Can you imagine turning up to a job interview in a pink suit? The central (exhausted) joke in Legally Blonde is that Elle’s bimbo appearance in her top-to-toe pink is at odds with her career aspirations. Of course it is. People with important work to do shun pink for good reason: it diminishes respect. In fact, the only time you’re likely to see someone in a pink uniform is at a beauty salon – because the pursuit of “prettiness” is central to “being a girl”.

I can’t help worrying that painting a girl’s world pink keeps her silly and insubstantial and leaves boys and their sensible colours to get on with the important business. No-one ever boosted their intellectual credibility with pink; its icons are Katie Price and Barbie, for goodness sake. This is partly because pink is also used to sell sex: it’s the colour of labia, tongues and candy and it shouts “eat me, I taste sweet”.

Pinkification is not just about girls; it also affects boys who see pink objects as off-limits. Drenching the dolls section in our stores in this one colour sends a message to boys that this is not their territory. Colour coding children and their toys polarises the sexes, ignoring the plurality of gender identities and tastes. It locks boys and girls into separate play rooms and limits their exposure to a range of skills and learning processes, which is good for nobody.

I don’t like the idea of my daughters wearing a pink badge to designate their gender; I don’t think any child should have to wear a badge so people can make assumptions about who they are.


Like many parents, I am tiring of this saccharine signifier of gender. I don’t have a pink veto – I like bright colours – but I do want my kids to look like individuals and not clones of a misguided concept of femininity. But veering off the pink path is not easy, especially if you want to offer your children something other than dreary navy and grey, which the boys have for their own miserable uniform. It’s often hard to find cheerful, good-quality goods and so I am lured back to pink, again and again, and reinforce the wretched trend.

My misgiving is this: the pink universe of dolls, beauty and princesses is a dumbed-down world where science, exploration, technology and construction have no place. I want to be sure that my children know that there are other rewarding paths available to them. Needless to say, my girls (aged three and five) seem happy to be immersed in pink and dressed like ornamental objects but, then, they’d doubtless be happy to eat sweets for every meal and watch TV all day, which would also do them no good in the long term. Responsible parents naturally insist that some things be enjoyed in moderation and try to introduce their children to a range of experiences.

Fortunately, I am not alone in wanting my children to inhabit a multi-coloured world, full of opportunity and choice. Pink Stinks, Let Toys Be Toys and Let Clothes be Clothes are also campaigning to free children from colour-coded stereotyping based on their gender. Their websites recommend suppliers who offer girls a world that is not exclusively pink. Isn’t it time we reclaimed the rainbow for both sexes?

Deborah Nicholls-Lee is a writer and editor at Amsterdam Mamas and a freelance journalist. You can follow her on Twitter @DebNichollsLee

This is a guest post by Sisters Uncut about their upcoming protest on Saturday

This Saturday 28 November Sisters Uncut will be taking to the streets to protest the government’s sexist austerity measures, more of which have been announced this very week. Public service cuts continue to risk the lives of UK women and non-binary people. On Saturday, we will lead a funeral march to commemorate the specialist services that are a lifeline for women fleeing domestic violence, 32 of which have been forced to close between 2010 and 2014. As more of these services close, more women will die.

Sisters Uncut campaign against cuts to domestic violence services and all cuts that make it harder for women (cis, trans and intersex) to escape violent relationships and live in safety. Over the past year we’ve been making headlines. On our first action we shut down London’s busiest shopping street at Oxford Circus, and held a memorial for every woman and child who lost their lives to male violence over the past year. This October, we stormed the red carpet during the Suffragette premiere to get the world’s attention – and to let them know that this fight is far from over. This Saturday, join us as we take action once again.
As each cut is announced, we are witnessing the dismantling of a welfare state that was supposed to protect us. With two UK women currently being killed each week by their current or ex-partner, we are not being protected.


Following the Budget announcement this July, House of Commons library research suggested that £24 billion (70%) of the £34bn to be raised over the next five years would come from women’s pockets. Women are deeply affected by cuts to housing benefit and legal aid, changes to Universal Credit, as well as a growing lack of refuge space. When you take away her legal aid, how is she supposed to take her perpetrator to court? When you cut back her housing benefit, where can she escape to? Leaving a violent relationship is beyond hard – it can take on average seven attempts to escape before a survivor manages to flee securely. Austerity is making it even harder.

At a local level, women are discriminated against further. By cutting local authority budgets, councils are forced to make cuts to the services they commission. This year the specialist service Apna Haq were told by Rotherham council that their £145,000 contract for providing domestic violence support would end, and a mainstream generic service would do the work instead – at a lower price. Apna Haq was set up in 1994 by local ethnic minority women, and has since supported more than 2000 women and children with their specialist knowledge and experience. Many survivors have gone on to become volunteers and workers, making it a perfect example of services run by and for women.

Specialist services (those that support BME, LGBTQ+ and disabled women) are at risk the most, although those who rely on this support are the most likely to experience interpersonal violence.

Sisters Uncut is an intersectional collective made up of women who experience various oppressions alongside womanhood (including race, sexuality and class, to name just a few) so we know how important it is to fight for all women who suffer under austerity. Austerity is state violence against women and if this country is serious about eliminating VAW, ending austerity would be a good place to start. Austerity is not a necessity; it is a political choice, and a racist and sexist one at that.

We demand that the government restore all lost funding and provide domestic violence survivors with the support necessary to live in safety. We call for secure funding for specialist domestic violence services to be ringfenced at a national level. Local authorities must fully meet the demands of their communities, recognising that different women have different needs.

In the words of Assata Shakur: “It is our duty to fight for our freedom. It is our duty to win.” Each week our public meetings are growing in numbers. Join us this Saturday and take the power back. Use your body, use your voice, and use your energy to take direct action with us. Bring your sisters and dress in black, stand with us as we protest the drastic, devastating cuts to domestic violence services.

Because when they cut, we bleed.

Our protests are for all self-defining women and gender non-conforming people who experience oppression as women. We strive to create a safe space where we can take back the power we are so often denied. We appreciate support from men, and ask that you share our protest online, as well as facilitating any sisters who may be able to attend to be there on the day.

Join us this Saturday

Make a donation to Sisters Uncut


Image courtesy of Sisters Uncut. It shows a street protest in London (there’s Nelson’s Column in the background at the end of the street), with banners reading among others: “Domestic Violence Stop” and “#Black Women Matter”.

Weekly Round-up and Open Thread

by Lusana Taylor // 24 November 2015, 3:50 pm



It’s time for another round-up and links this week cover everything from Gamergate to The Hunger Games!

If you’d like to comment on one of the issues covered or share another article that we haven’t included, feel free to get involved in the comments section below or on Facebook/Twitter.

As always, please remember that linking does not automatically mean endorsement or agreement from the F-Word and that some links may be triggering. It is also worth noting that, while we welcome engagement on the weekly round-up, any comments including racist, sexist, homophobic, transphobic or disablist language will be deleted.

Meet Nina Freeman, the punk poet of gaming (The Guardian)

Glamour Women Of The Year: 9/11 Hero’s Husband Returns Award After Caitlyn Jenner Wins (Bust)

3 Exciting Ways Witchcraft and Feminism Intersect (EveryDay Feminism)

He sexually harassed my 13-year-old daughter – right in front of me (The Guardian)

Why Don’t We Consider Katniss Everdeen A Superhero? (The Establishment)

From the article: “It’s clear, then, that superheroes are defined by a fuzzy list of traits. And one of these traits, I’d argue, is that the superhero be a guy. The reason for this is simple: the two companies that have long monopolized our conception of conventional superheroes, Marvel and DC, have also historically hired a vanishingly small number of women creators, catered to a mostly male audience, and produced a relatively small number of female heroes. That’s changing to some degree, but ultimately, the companies have dictated maleness as one prerequisite of superherodom.”

ISIS Women and Enforcers in Syria Recount Collaboration, Anguish and Escape (New York Times)

Meeting the Anti-Choice Men who Protest outside abortion clinics (The Pool)

Lads’ magazines FHM and Zoo halt publication (Evening Standard)

Apple boss says finding music online is too ‘difficult’ for women. Seriously (The Telegraph)

Transgender woman found dead in all-male prison (The Guardian)

Transgender Day of Remembrance 2015: Those We’ve Lost (The Advocate)

Gamergate: The Greatest Trick The Devil Ever Pulled (The Establishment)

Paris Lees: On Germaine Greer and the Hypocrisy of the ‘Left’(Vice)

From the article: “You see, free speech is really important because can use it to speak out against abuses of power and systemic inequality. But you have to play nice and wait till someone offers you a platform before you can use your free speech. Don’t go looking for creative ways – like “no platforming”, for example – to get your voice heard and highlight discrimination. It’s not like feminists or other activists of Greer’s generation used every means possible to challenge discrimination back in the 60s and 70s, when universities were regularly brought to a halt by sit-down protests in canteens and shit like that.”

Don’t think you’re superior to me because you’re not on Facebook (The Guardian)

“Underneath this platform, zillions of people who feel they don’t have enough of a platform will explain in their made-up names why this is the most pointless thing they have ever read.”

Charlie Sheen Deserves Your Scorn, but Not Because He Has HIV (TheBody.com)

Call Her Out, But Call Her Cait: Caitlyn Jenner and Why I’m Never Here for Transphobia (The Kinfolk Collective)

Let’s celebrate men! Then, let’s make fun of celebrating men! Then let’s feel bad about it all (The Guardian)

Thank You and Goodbye xxx (Ste McCabe)

From the article: “If I’m being honest, I’ve over-immersed myself in queer culture over the years and I have been slowly finding myself disliking it. A lot. I’m more angry with fellow queer people than I am with homophobes these days and it eats me up with negativity – something’s gone seriously wrong there. Queer lyrics, politics and culture has been so integral to my music, but like an amicable divorce I have to be honest and say ‘sorry, but we can’t go on like this’. Maybe we can talk about it over a pint one day, but not over the internet. The internet is where queer culture (in my opinion) is at it’s worst, and I’d rather walk my dog.”

Ste McCabe was interviewed by Holly Combe for the F-Word in March. You can read the interview HERE.

Liberation: a response to #InternationalMensDay (Mansplaining Masculinity)

From the article: “We need to attack our own power/privilege as well as fighting against how patriarchy hurts us. It is not a competition. That’s the emphasis I wish we saw on IMD. Instead, it tends to be a day when the men who benefit the most from patriarchy, and who are uninterested in challenging it, make so much noise that the issues that really hurt men are drowned out in the bluster.”

The image is used under a creative commons license with thanks to Kate Ausburn. It is a photograph that shows a sign tied to a fence post. The sign is written on white paper with a black pen and reads, very clearly and in capitals, “You have 99 problems, they are all misogyny”. In the background a church spire is visible against a clear blue sky.

Man up or grow a pair

by D H Kelly // , 1:00 pm

Tags: , , ,

Steam EngineWithin the space of a few weeks, I’ve heard two stories from friends about men who are being mistreated. One is being physically abused by a male partner. The other is a young man being manipulated and verbally abused by his mother. Both friends who told these stories concluded with despair and the exact same phrase, “Well, if he’s not going to man up, what can you do?”

You and I know (don’t we?) that these men have already been told to man up by the very people who were abusing them. If you wish to undermine a chap, you first insinuate that he’s less than an actual man. For a child, the command is more explicit; don’t be such a girl. Women, of course, are much less than men to begin with, and yet in the face of injustice or insult, we too are required to man up or grow a pair.

For a long time, our culture recognised two distinct sets of virtues – one manly, one womanly. Manly virtues were not only superior in every way, womanly virtues were mostly detrimental to happiness; deference, endurance in the face of ill-treatment, keeping quiet, repressing emotions, stifling ambition and generally behaving like a doormat. Human doormats are of limited use to anyone – coir or rubber are far more efficient materials – which is why we largely did away with these ideas, accepting that we should all aspire to those virtues we used to consider manly; assertiveness, courage, personal responsibility etc.. It’s widely accepted that these things belong to all of us, but the language remains gendered; Rudyard Kipling concludes the epic list of virtues in his poem If with “You’ll be a man, my son.” Around a hundred years later, Ron Swanson’s great compliment to the heroic Leslie Knope is that she’s “a stand-up guy”.

Of course, ideas around gender and virtue are never straight-forward or even consistent. In many ways, gendered language infantilises women; even as adults, we remain girls, we throw and cry like girls (weakly, without self-control) and the command “Man up!” often means “Grow up!” – as I’m sure my friend meant when talking about the lad with the tyrannical mother.

Yet the portrayal of masculinity as childishly fragile is a huge and extremely lucrative cultural joke, where the word man is used to sell items which us grown-ups don’t need extra words for. Man buns are all the rage just now. Something as straight-forward as a bag becomes a man bag on a masculine shoulder, something as simple as close friendship becomes bromance (see also, the man hug). Cosmetics sold to men are called manscara and guy-liner (I guess chap-stick was already a thing).

It can be argued that this is all about misogyny, or at least femmephobia – the horror of a man associating himself with anything stereotypicaly feminine. But it’s also about infantalising men which, funnily enough, women pay for as well. A sick man may be mocked for having man-flu, but it’s a long-suffering woman who must fetch his Lemsip. Few rooms can be more expensive to furnish than the man-cave, requiring extraordinarily expensive gadgets, game consoles, tools and toys. Nestle’s campaign which suddenly insisted Yorkie Bars were “Not For Girls!” was both popular with men and invited women to buy the bars in an act of imagined defiance. I once received a free sample of men’s moisturiser which addressed me, as a woman, with advice on giving him – whoever he was – a lecture about how his skin is different from mine and he should use this moisturiser rather than dipping his “great big fingers” in mine. It concluded, “Tell him it’s either this or you’ll chop his fingers off”.

There are some aspects of problematic language which are difficult to work around. Even feminist MP Harriet Harman told George Osbourne to man up about cutting the deficit. Balls pose a similar problem; to lack cojones is to be weak-willed, submissive, a coward and yet, like the song says about Goebbels, most women have no balls at all. I’ve occasionally seen ovaries substituted, but the word is too formal, has too many syllables and of course, ovaries are no more universal to people of personal strength and virtue (or even women).

There are old-fashioned terms which fit, but now sound rather archaic such as grit, pluck or, um, spunk. Yiddish lends us a couple of great words on this: There’s mensch, which appears to have maintained a gender-neutrality that other related words did not, as a decent upstanding person, the kind of person a man is in phrases like “Be a man!”. Meanwhile, chutzpah is a quality which comes pretty close to balls; a morally neutral sort of mix of courage, dynamism and self-confidence.

However, English and the many languages it pilfers from offers a rich seam in which to mine. There are always half a dozen different ways of saying very nearly the same thing. The abused men my friends told me about require courage, but also support; they’d do much better in a world where living a good and self-fulfilling life was more important than behaving like men (something they do, quite by accident). And we’d all be better off if we stopped playing these games where words around gender or sexual organs are used to describe virtues or vices.

[Image is a photograph of the Stott Park Bobbin Mill Steam Engine, a machine dominated by the flyball governor, consisting of two large brass or bronze balls, on levers, either side of an axle. It is possibly from the flyball governor that we get the phrase “balls to the wall” (as in working very hard and fast) as these balls spin and expand outwards (e.g. towards the wall) as the speed of the steam engine increases. The photograph is by David Dixon, was found on geograph and is used under a Creative Commons License.]

The silly season is almost upon us and here at the F-Word we’re looking for guest blogs for December on the theme of Festive Feminism.

What sparked the idea in my head was the Christmas adverts starting up on the TV. I found myself getting annoyed by the portrayals of happy smiling women brandishing massive turkeys, piling presents under the tree and keeping everybody happy, all without a hair out of place and perfect makeup. It dawned on me that there’s still an awful lot of subliminal pressure on women to be the perfect hostess, wife and mother during the festive period, presumably whilst also holding down a full time job to pay off the credit card bills from all the gift buying.

I wrote about one of these ads recently, namely the Tesco advert for its gluten free range. While the article I wrote came at it more from the foodie/coeliac angle, the new “Tesco family” in their Christmas ad series has also raised my feminist hackles, because it features yet again the trope of capable-woman-does-it-all versus hapless, clueless men when it comes to the requirements of festive entertaining. It’s yet another example of how women are expected to pick up the emotional labour tab, in this case by remembering who has which dietary requirement (and knowing what the heck those mean). The whole thing does neither women nor men any favours.

It feels like for 11 months of the year we’re feminists, but then in December, we’re all expected to switch to Stepford mode. It’s enough to make me want to run away to a desert island for the whole of December, to be quite honest – and just come back when normal service resumes.

This got me wondering how our smart, savvy F-Word readers cope with the coming season. So, we want to hear from you! Are you more Scroogella than Nigella or do you love the festive season? Send your ideas to guestposts@thefword.org.uk. Blogs can be on any subject relating to this time of year, whether specific festival-related or not.

feminist badgeYou can also join the discussion on Twitter using the hashtag #festivefeminism – our readers have been tweeting us their fab feminist gift ideas and wishlists – Mary Anne James sent us this photo of her favourite feminist badge, which we think would be a pretty darn awesome thing to find in your feminist festive stocking!

Liz Smith, Guest Content Editor
Image Attribution: Grumpy Christmas cat courtesy of HDwallpapertops

Fringe-2015-Logo+strap+dates-RGBFabulous Fringe! Queer Film & Arts Fest is back in East London venues 24-29 November, with this year’s programme filled to the brim: you can still book your tickets, there are some left.

Excitingly, I got a chance to interview Sekiya Dorsett (alas over email only), director of the documentary Women and the Word: The Revival Movie showing at the fest. The film follows the team of The Revival Tour: a salon-style poetry tour of queer women artists of colour that in October 2012 toured Brooklyn, Toronto, Detroit, Oberlin, Chicago, Atlanta, Durham, and Washington, D.C.

Born in Nassau, Bahamas, Sekiya Dorsett is a queer filmmaker giving voice to issues of equality. She debuted in 2008 with a short experimental film Wisdom and Understanding, and her later online project The Rainbow Collective merged race, gender, religion and pop culture. She has created work for LOGO TV and NBC Universal.

How did you start making films?
I am a queer woman from the Bahamas. When I moved to NYC after school, I felt very lonely. I had a partner but not a large community of black lesbian friends. There was something out of place about being here and I started to look for community. I was documenting a now defunct female art duo The Agytators and they invited me to an event which they were a part of and I went in the dead of night in Brooklyn to a small apartment. It was just illuminated by candles and there was incense burning. It was called Black Church Maraca, one of Jade’s first iterations of The Revival. There was a poetry performance and drumming. It was a magical experience. After that, Jade and I kept in touch. I started making films because I wanted to add my own stories to the world. A world which doesn’t show us often enough.

How did you become the documentarist of the tour?
Jade approached me in 2010 and I decided to go on the road to try to check it out. I only went to two cities but from those two cities, there was a magic. Firstly, I had never seen so many queer women of color together in one room talking, laughing and making community. This wasn’t a bar/club. They weren’t all posing, they were really connecting. I met so many women and I decided that the next year, I would go. The footage was instrumental in getting the first Kickstarter launched to support the tour for 2012.

Women_and_The_Word_group web

Why did you decide not to show yourself in the film? Did you feel part of the team despite being only behind the camera?
I think that being on camera would have taken away from the characters and I wanted to present them; presenting myself would have taken too much time. But I am a part of every moment. I really had a hard time separating myself at some points because I wasn’t just observing, everyone kept talking to me and interacting with me. But I think it helped add to the intimacy that the film ultimately captured.

I think the camera becomes its own character because most times there is a voice asking something or someone is talking directly into it which adds another layer to the storytelling experience. The camera is present and at all times it is seeing both sides of the presentation. You have the performance but also what they are going through, these layers that the camera keeps peeling away. That is why I love being a filmmaker. With movie making you also get to be a part of history. Years from now, I hope someone will come across this movie and relive this moment in time. The first queer movie I saw, The Incredibly True Adventure of Two Girls in Love (I have the VHS to this day!) helped me understand myself and the experience of being a queer woman. I want to be that for someone else and I want to add my story to the collection of stories that change the world for someone else.

What was the audiences’ reaction so far? How are you feeling about showing the film in London?
Every audience so far has seen a different film. It has been positive and I think this new cut really pulls everyone’s notes together so far. I am really excited about showing the film in London. My stepfather, now deceased, is English and I spent lots of summers in Brighton and Rugby so I almost feel like I am showing it to friends and family. I just wish I were there to go and have some steak and kidney pie after the film, or a shandy. Next time.

For news and updates, follow The Revival Movie on Facebook and Instagram.


Our friends from the Fringe! team are offering The F-Word readers two pairs of tickets for the Sunday 29 November screenings of WOMEN AND THE WORD and KUMU HINA. First come first served, please email film[at]thefword.org.uk indicating which one you’re interested in. See you at Fringe!

Both images courtesy of Fringe! First is the festival’s logo, black lettering on white background reading “fringe! Queer Film & Arts Fest 24-29 Nov”. Second is a still from Women and the Word doc, it shows four women of colour standing next to each other, hugging, on the beach (fully clothed, it seems autumnal). One of them is holding a piece of cardboard with “CHICAGO” scribbled on it.They’re laughing.

Weekly Round-up and Open Thread

by Lusana Taylor // 16 November 2015, 11:33 am



It’s time for another round-up and links this week cover everything from Margaret Cho to eggnog ads!

If you’d like to comment on one of the issues covered or share another article that we haven’t included, feel free to get involved in the comments section below or on Facebook/Twitter.

As always, please remember that linking does not automatically mean endorsement or agreement from the F-Word and that some links may be triggering. It is also worth noting that, while we welcome engagement on the weekly round-up, any comments including racist, sexist, homophobic, transphobic or disablist language will be deleted.

Hull University students’ union apologises for organising ‘sex on stage’ event at nightclub, featuring DJ Lee Watson (The Independent)

Katy Wix: ‘I’ve written women who swear and are allowed to be intelligent’ (The Guardian)

From the article: “What cliches of female comedy characters would you get rid of if you could?
Maybe the permanently annoyed girlfriend role.”

Is Fat Stigma Making Us Miserable? (NY Times)

From the article: “People assume there is a direct relationship between how much people weigh and their psychological health,” said Jeffrey Hunger, a doctoral candidate in social psychology at the University of California, Santa Barbara. “Our research and other research is showing that no, it’s not about their weight, it’s the treatment they faced and what they worry they will face.”

For six days, Tiahleigh Palmer’s loved ones waited for police to act. Not all victims are equal (The Guardian)

Gabourey Sidibe Refuses To Back Down (Buzzfeed)

From the article: “I’ve been behind the idea of ‘let’s make the work’ for a long time,” she said, echoing other women in the industry like Ellen Page, Zoe Saldana, and Olivia Wilde. “Because I don’t have the privilege of being a pretty blonde white girl … I want to start creating my own work; not just for myself, for other people too.”

Bloomingdale’s eggnog ad is everything wrong with the way we approach sex (Chicago Tribune)

Shaved and savage: has comedian Margaret Cho finally gone too far? (The Guardian)

From the article: “She is open about her struggles with eating disorders and addiction, as well as her experience of sexual abuse as a child. ‘I had a very long-term relationship with this abuser,’ she recently told Billboard magazine, ‘which is a horrible thing to say. I didn’t even understand it was abuse, because I was too young.'”

This can be tough material for a comedian, but that hasn’t stopped her. “I figured out a way to talk about it that allows me to show where we are blaming the victim. A lot of times when we talk about rape, we don’t want to talk about sexuality after. I want to still have a right to my sexuality and a right to my power, while talking about stuff that happened to me.” ‘

Plus Size Designer Wins Project Runway, Life Itself (Bust)

How to Write a “Political Correctness Run Amok” Article (Julia Serano)

It is easier to have a ‘spirited’ child when you are a white parent (The Guardian)

The Gay Men Who Hate Women (Broadly)

From the article: “The topic of misogyny among gay men is a difficult one to broach. In my experience, men either simply refuse to believe the phenomenon exists, or the conversation is quickly derailed (“yeah, but what about homophobic women?”). I have a male body, I’m bisexual, and I’m also genderqueer. But I’ve also experienced misogyny from both straight and gay men on the basis of my apparent femininity…”

Let Mercy For Refugees Be The Response To The Paris Attacks (The Establishment)

The lies of Instagram: how the cult of authenticity spun out of control (New Statesman)

This tweet perfectly captures why it’s appalling to blame refugees for the Paris attacks (Vox)

The image is used under a creative commons license with thanks to Jim Davidson on Flickr. It shows comedian Margaret Cho on stage in New York during Cyndi Lauper’s “True Colours” tour in 2008. Margaret is wearing a white sleeveless shirt and a lanyard around her neck. A tattoo of a peacock is clearly visible on her arm. She is speaking into a microphone and holds one hand out to the side as if explaining something. The expression on her face is playful and sardonic. She is standing against a black backdrop painted with what appears to be a picture of a yellow bird, which could be a phoenix.

Do we value women’s work?

by Guest Blogger // 11 November 2015, 3:36 pm

Tags: , , , ,

Global Women’s Strike argue it’s time to stand up for women’s unpaid care work.


It is forty years since the women of Iceland took a Day Off and brought the country to a halt and 20 years since we won a commitment from governments celebrating the UN Decade for Women to include the value of women’s unwaged work in their national accounts. Yet women are still the poorer sex, doing two thirds of the world’s work, including growing most of the food. We care for children and for sick, disabled and elderly people, in the family and outside, in war as in peace. Society cannot survive without caring, yet carers are undermined not supported.

An uncaring market

The economic and social priorities that dismiss the carer are determined not by people’s health and well-being, or even the survival of the planet which sustains all life, but by the global market. In 90% of UK families the primary carer is a woman. 79% of austerity cuts have targeted women, that is carers and those we care for. While the 1% more than doubled their income in the last 10 years and the arms trade has risen by 22%, 1 billion children worldwide live in poverty, 3.7m in the UK and 176,565 surviving on food banks.

Michelle Dorrell spoke for many on BBC Question Time when she attacked government plans to take away tax credits. “I can hardly afford the rent I have to pay. I can hardly afford the bills I’ve got to do, and you’re going to take more from me. Shame on you!” Many go without so their children can eat. Many do two or three low paid jobs. Many do sex work to pay the rent. Even junior doctors (60% of whom are women under 30) are being targeted: pressured to work longer for less and to lose their maternity protection.

We have got used to measuring sexism by how many women have made it to the commanding heights of the economy and politics. Professor Alison Wolf has attacked as a “betrayal of feminism” this “modern obsession” with women at the top, while the poorly paid mainly women shift workers on which these “golden skirts” depend, are ignored.

We are told that a job, any job, is better than caring

When Nadiya Jamir Hussain won the Great British Bake Off she said she was “proud to represent stay-at-home mums” and spoke about the “negativity” she had to face in an age when mothers are expected to prove their worth by going out to work: “As a mum that was quite tough.”

Selma James, co-ordinator of the GWS, points to the neglect of the carer and the people who need care as the basis of sexism. “They don’t want women to have the power that our reproductive work should earn. We are told that a job, any job, is better than caring, and the skills it requires are undervalued and underfunded even in the job market – domestic work, homecare, childcare and even nursing are low paid. Caring is not just an industry profiting from our needs, but the perspective of a movement which is demanding that the market be at the service of people rather than people at the service of the market.”

A living wage for all, including mothers and other carers

Working with Women, the policy of Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, recognises caring as skilled work; the SNP promises to raise carer’s allowance and the Greens propose a basic income for all. And what about technology cutting the working day rather than wages so we all have time to care? What about redirecting economic and social policies by paying all workers, including mothers, a living wage? That would make people and the planet which sustains us all the priority, rather than banks and businesses; help bridge the income gap between women and men; and attract more men to caring.

The International Women’s Conference, Caring, Survival and Justice vs the Tyranny of the Market takes place in London on Saturday 14 & Sunday 15 November.

Called by: Global Women’s Strike, Women of Colour in GWS, 
Payday (network of men working with GWS). Speakers Tickets
020 7482 2496 • gws@globalwomenstrike.net

underwire-hires-whiteonblackThe F-Word have been promoting Underwire film festival since its second edition in 2011 (check our archives for 2012, 2013 and 2014 festivals) and I’m really thrilled to say it again:

Underwire, the only film festival in the UK to focus on female filmmaking talent, will take place in Hackney Picturehouse in London between Friday 20 and Sunday 22 November.

You may remember that Underwire, now in its sixth year, supported female talent across eight technical award categories in short film only. 2015’s biggest announcement is that the festival will showcase feature films by women filmmakers for the first time in its history, including a special 20th anniversary screening of Emma Thompson’s Sense and Sensibility. addicted_to_sheep Two other features are The Violators, novelist Helen Walsh’s directorial and writing debut set in the urban wastelands of Cheshire, and Addicted to Sheep, an endearing documentary following a tenant farming family in the North Pennines (dir. Magali Pettier, prod. Jan Cawood). Both screenings will be followed by a Q&A with filmmakers.

Co-founder and co-producer of Underwire 2015 Gabriella Apicella said:

We are looking forward to giving people a chance to see two of 2015’s most exciting new films alongside the 20th anniversary screening of Sense and Sensibility written by one of our heroes, and passionate critic of sexism in the film industry, Emma Thompson. For real long-term change to take place in the industry, it is essential that films created by women are distributed and watched in the cinema. Audiences can dictate the future shape of the industry by supporting work they want to see more of – and so with our move into features, Underwire continues its mission to change the industry from the inside out!

Films in the festival are from all genres and styles: drama, comedy, romance, horror, documentary, animation, and explore a variety of compelling themes including parenthood, sexual exploitation, child brides, loss, trans issues and ageing, as well as visions of womanhood that you won’t see anywhere else.

After each presentation of films there will be a chance to hear from nominated filmmakers in informal filmmaker Q&A sessions.Copy of still_VIDEO

One week before the festival, on Saturday 14 November, Underwire will hold a day of industry talks which will go behind the scenes. The focus will be on the collaborative nature of Sound Design, Composition, Cinematography, and includes a case study session from the Producer and Director of documentary feature film They Will Have to Kill Us First which received its European premiere at the BFI London Film Festival.

Check out the festival programme and book your tickets.

See you at the festival!


Underwire team have kindly offered a pair of tickets for the Opening Night programme to one lucky The F-Word reader! To win, email your answer to the following question with “Underwire” in subject line:

Who’s the director of Addicted to Sheep?

Send your answers to film[at]thefword.org.uk until Sunday 15 November.

All images courtesy of Underwire.
First image is Underwire logo, white lettering on black background, reading “UNDER/WIRE/festival”.
Second picture is still from ADDICTED TO SHEEP, showing a white man, wearing red anorak, surrounded by sheep in a sheepfold.
Third picture is still from Eva Riley’s VIDEO, showing Sharlene Whyte as Elaine. She is a black woman with short hair, sitting on a chair in a smart-looking room with burgundy curtains and a lamp in the corner. She’s looking at the viewer as she adjusts a video camera on her lap, looking solemn.

Weekly Round-up and Open Thread

by Lusana Taylor // 9 November 2015, 8:47 pm


It’s time for another round-up and links this week cover everything from Essena O’Neill quitting social media to Adele’s Rolling Stone cover!

If you’d like to comment on one of the issues covered or share another article that we haven’t included, feel free to get involved in the comments section below or on Facebook/Twitter.

As always, please remember that linking does not automatically mean endorsement or agreement from the F-Word and that some links may be triggering. It is also worth noting that, while we welcome engagement on the weekly round-up, any comments including racist, sexist, homophobic, transphobic or disablist language will be deleted.

The Dubious Ethics Of Twitter Mining (The Establishment)

From the article: “But there’s a flip side to all of the positives offered by sites like Twitter. Increased visibility means an increased chance of harassment. Tweets are used by media outlets as free content, often without the consent of the Twitter user. Rather than sitting back and learning from conversations about oppression, people often treat these discussions as a sort of public spectacle. And while these things happen across the board to members of various marginalized groups—women, queer folks, disabled folks, trans folks, and people of color, to name a few—they are done most often and most egregiously to women of color.”

Anonymous sexism in paleoanthropology (Medium)

Essena O’Neill: The Instagram Star Who Quit Social Media (Man Repeller)

My Instagram Pics with the Most Honest Captions I Could Give (Broadly)

New PM unveils cabinet that looks ‘like Canada’ (Al Jazeera)

‘Virgin’ Sex Toy With A Hymen ‘Waiting To Be Popped’ Rightfully Angers The Internet (Bust)

I hate women. You know the ones: skinny, blonde, who know nothing about football ( New Statesman)

All Hail: How Adele’s ‘Rolling Stone’ cover destroys the male gaze (Noisey)

I Love Dick is one of the most important books about being a woman – no wonder it’s being dismissed (Independent)

An open casket (Daily Kos)

“You’re So Brave!”: Pro Sub Stigma And Its Discontents (Tits and Sass)

From the article: “”Often, the arguments used to justify the idea of pro-subbing as inherently treacherous are reminiscent of those used by prohibitionists to marginalize all those within the sex industry. SWERF rhetoric claims that no sex worker can ever truly consent to transactional sex, and that even when we do, our work is so fundamentally risky that we are implicitly at fault when a client violates our boundaries. In the context of escorting and other “vanilla” services, we can see that this is a clearly flawed argument. Yet when it comes to kink, many people seem less willing to acknowledge that while we may consent to certain forms of erotic masochism within a scene, that does not mean that we should expect to be hurt in any other un-negotiated way.””

A tip for the guys: don’t be the guy who records consent (Another Angry Woman)

“Radical Self-Reliance” Is Killing People (Kitty Stryker via Medium)

From the article: “Discussions of how privilege entwines with success are seen as being “overly sensitive” or reflective of jealousy. Even being able to begin to compete in a meritocracy requires technology, time, and often education, none of which come cheap. If we spend our time networking, we wonder if we should have been buckling down and learning things… and if we studied hard we wonder if we needed to talk to more people…”

OP-ED: Germaine Greer’s ‘Censorship’ Is a Red Herring (Out)

From the article: “In 2015, Greer can only command a platform of this size by inciting a moral panic over “censorship.” Indeed, this is the most I have heard about Greer since she was on Celebrity Big Brother. In other words, if you can go on TV to repeat your “censored” ideas, you are not being censored. You are not being silenced. You are louder than ever. So where does it come from, this unreasoning belief that cis feminists are in terrible danger from the evil trans woman thought police?”

A surprisingly difficult question for Facebook: Do I have boobs now? (Guardian)

From the article: “Facebook was widely lauded in 2014 when it replaced a binary-gender choice (of male or female) with a drop-down list of multiple options and then by allowing users to input a custom gender of their own choosing in a free-form field.

But as trans activists point out, this progressive policy is at odds with the nudity policy of sorting users into either “male” or “female” according to the appearance of their bare nipples.”

Should We Be Worried About Feminism Becoming Too Trendy? (Man Repeller)

SEO Madness Turns Emma Watson Into Malala’s White Savior (The Establishment)

From the article: “Words matter. In journalism, this adage holds even more weight. The placement of words in a headline can slant a reader’s perception of an issue, a person, or a community. With a critical media literacy lens applied, it becomes clear that this Guardian headline [Malala Yousafzai tells Emma Watson: I’m a feminist thanks to you] reinforces notions of white saviors helping naive girls of color embrace their own power, when there is arguably no one young person in the world more politically astute or influential than Malala Yousfzai.”

Please Note: The F-Word takes does not condone the use of disablist language and apologises to any readers who may find the use of the word ‘madness’ in the context used in the article title offensive. Despite this, the article itself is an excellent and important read.

Women are never straight – they are either gay or bisexual, study suggests (Independent)

The photograph is used with credit to L.Taylor. It shows a landscape scene. In the foreground there are two bare trees, silhouetted against a very unusual looking sky; a mottled blue and pink colour. In the background there are houses and, behind those, a forest is visible

Clasped HandsAs you might have read this weekend, there aren’t really any straight women, just a mass of bisexuals and a minority of lesbians. This, according to a psychologist who has previously concluded that bisexual men do not exist at all. This is why you must never show your fear to a bad scientist – he will observe your pupil dilation and think he’s pulled.

Bisexuality exists in a special place in our culture where it is either everywhere or nowhere. The idea that we’re all a bit bisexual is something I have often heard, though never from actual bisexual people. A couple of times I’ve heard this from close friends who I’ve felt able to ask explicitly, “So would you say that you are bisexual?”

“Well, I can see why you might find women attractive,” one answered. “Women are very beautiful. You wouldn’t want to kiss one or anything but they’re great to look at.”

“I think most people are,” another said. “I seem to be extremely gay for some reason, but I think that’s probably unusual.”

Yet much of the time, the assumption is that bisexual people don’t really exist – that bisexual people are complicating something which most people seem to experience as an either/ or. This largely comes down to the cultural belief that sex is all about men: if in doubt, a person is most likely attracted to men. A bisexual man is a gay man placing one tentative foot out of the closet. A bisexual woman is merely a sexually adventurous straight woman, or one seeking to appear so to be more attractive to men. Female bisexuality is often written this way in popular culture – Doctor Who‘s Clara might describe Jane Austen as “a phenomenal kisser”, but we know we’ll never see Clara so much as give a curious glance towards another woman, let alone fall in love or have a relationship with one. Vague allusions to bisexuality are increasingly part of the sassiness of strong female characters, while meaningful representation is only edging up.

And yet this sexy quirk comes at an enormous cost for ordinary bisexual women. Bisexual women have significantly worse mental health than straight women and lesbians (and are more likely to have their sexual orientation seen as a symptom rather than an identity). Bisexual women are more likely to experience domestic violence. Bisexual women may be less likely to experience overt homophobic discrimination and abuse – inevitably, many of us enjoy the social privileges of having male partners – but we’re more likely to be in the closet, invisible, at home in neither straight culture which dismisses us nor gay culture which often mistrusts us. Without community, it’s very much more difficult to shake off internalised homophobia and self-doubt.

This is why I was so excited when my friend Kate Harrad began to organise Purple Prose: Bisexuality In Britain, a collectively written guide to bisexuality. A diverse group of bisexual folk have come together to write about bisexual life in the UK in the first book of its kind, including myths about bisexuality, the strange things people say to us as well as the intersections of disability, various gender identities and race with bisexuality.

The project is less than 70 hours off the crowd-funding deadline, so now is the time to make this happen.

[Image is a photograph feature three brown-skinned hands clasped together. This photograph is by skeeze, was found on Pixabay and is used under a Creative Commons’ License.]

This is one for the ‘straight’ ladies out there. Why the scare quotes? Well, a study has recently found that, in the words of The Independent, women are “never straight”.

That’s right: you, as a self-aware, cognisant human may be labelling yourself as heterosexual, but your fanciful masquerade has been uncovered by Dr Rieger from the University of Essex, whose groundbreaking research unequivocally proves that life really is like The L Word promised.

In brief (or sexy lingerie), in the study, of the women who identified as straight, 74% were strongly sexually aroused when they were shown videos of “both attractive men and attractive women”. Arousal was measured by a few indicators, including pupil dilation.

I have some thoughts on this.

Let’s assume for the sake of argument that the measures of arousal are sound (because it will make this post a more manageable length, not because I have nothing to say about it…). Is it actually the case that being aroused by an image or scene of a woman means that you can’t be straight? What if you’re aroused by some women but have no desire to be sexually or romantically involved with one? What if you’re not even consciously aroused by women? What if, I don’t know, you’re defining yourself as straight because that’s how you personally feel about your own sexual identity?

I strongly suspect there are women and men who, in different circumstances, might identify differently. Statistics around sexual orientation are almost impossible to interpret, because as long as they have been collected, there has been societal homo- and biphobia that inevitably lead to reticence to discuss or reveal sexual orientations that don’t fit the straight expectations. There are probably some women who might identify as bisexual or gay but who haven’t ever met another woman who turns them on, or for whom the idea is so unacceptable that they haven’t engaged with it. I certainly would prefer a world where everybody could feel comfortable in any sexual identity and believe it’s likely that in that world, we would see more people identify unheterosexually.

But I think there is a more obvious explanation for the reason why this study has thrown up this result. Women are very accustomed to seeing women as objects of desire. Welcome to the male gaze.

So much of the media we consume assumes a heterosexual male perspective – a very generic, macho kind that is pretty unrepresentative of a lot of men, but nonetheless is built on the assumption that the viewer is sexually attracted to women. Films, ads, video games, TV shows: again and again women’s bodies are lingered over, uncovered, overtly lusted over in a way that barely ever happens with men. On the rare occasions it does, it is done in a way that is exclusively marketed towards women or occasionally gay and bi men – it’s a niche, a novelty, whereas women’s bodies are mass market.

I wouldn’t find it at all surprising if a lot of women are aroused by other women, even those who would consider themselves completely heterosexual. Women are those we are taught to be aroused by. That doesn’t mean we are “never straight”; it means that our bodies react in a way that is coherent with a lifetime of conditioning. It’s telling, I think, that it is specified that the women are “attractive”. What does that word mean? It’s such a subjective categorisation that presumably it means “conventionally attractive”, by the standards of the media, the type of women who are exactly those we are continually instructed are sexy and stimulating.

This sort of story frustrates me because it misses the point. Instead, it becomes about labels and denial of identity. Generally, I want to be enthusiastic about research around sexuality, because there’s so much that isn’t understood, but just as I’m furious when I hear people deny bisexuality, I’m exasperated to see straight women be told they are getting it wrong. (Also, I can’t help but feel the story itself is an example of the male gaze at work; there’s something about a headline suggesting that all women want to fuck other women that really speaks to Mr Generic Straight Man.)

Our aims should be, surely, to do as much as we can to make the world a welcoming and comfortable place to be who we truly are; part of that entails accepting that imposing identity and labels is an antithesis to this.

The photo is by Gabriela Serrano and is used under a creative commons licence. It shows a close up of somebody’s eye, with dark wavy hair falling slightly over it.

Susan Cole believes Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP) is an important and effective HIV prevention tool, according to the trial results. So why is the NHS hesitating to offer it to women?

HIV prevention strategies for women used to be as simple as ABC. Abstain. Be faithful. Condom use. Fortunately this retro paternalistic approach fell out of favour by the mid-2000s. It became apparent much more was needed than simplistic behavioural change messages. Jump forward 10 years and Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP), a highly effective “game changer”, comes along. Women should get excited, right? Well, perhaps not – it’s not yet clear if we’ll get our hands on it.

PrEP_FB-Twitter-ShareFor those of you who haven’t heard about it, PrEP is pretty simple. HIV negative people take an antiretroviral drug to avoid contracting HIV. Clinical trials show how effective it is. It has been available in the US for over two years. The recent PROUD trial in the UK, a two year study looking at the impact of PrEP in gay and bisexual men, showed it was highly effective, reducing the risk of transmission by 86%. Gay men at high risk will hopefully soon be offered PrEP on the NHS and in the long term this may actually save the NHS money by reducing HIV infections.

So what about women? Why are they missing from this debate?

Perhaps a valid argument is that most women in the UK do not have the same risk of acquiring HIV as gay men. To be offered a drug, with potential side effects and unknown risk of long term use, doesn’t make sense. Not to mention the cost on the NHS at a time when the spectre of austerity hovers ominously over us. The data on PrEP for women, and on the HIV risk for women in the UK, isn’t as extensive as the data on gay men and there’s certainly a need for more studies focused on women. However for some women in the UK the risk of acquiring HIV is very high.

Let’s start with “sero-discordant couples” where the man has HIV and the woman doesn’t. Sure, if the man is on treatment and his viral load is undetectable, the risk of him passing on HIV to his partner is incredibly low. However not everyone is on treatment and certainly shouldn’t be forced to do so if they don’t want to. Not everyone on treatment has an undetectable viral load. Shouldn’t the woman in this case have the opportunity to protect herself by taking PrEP? Yes, they could use condoms, however as many women will attest it can be hard sometimes to negotiate condom use and they are pretty much at the mercy of the man’s ability and willingness to use them properly.

What about women from African communities where the risk of acquiring HIV is much higher than that of other women in the UK? Shouldn’t they have the opportunity to access PrEP, particularly if they feel they’re at risk of getting HIV? They may not know their male partner’s HIV status or they may think he might have HIV. They may be having multiple sex partners and not use condoms (Girls like sex too, get over it). Even if they are in a relationship being “faithful”, who’s to say the guy isn’t having unprotected sex with other women and/or men? What about trans women, who may be at particularly high risk of catching HIV?

Let’s consider a scenario. A woman walks into a doctor’s surgery. She is in a relationship with a man who has HIV who she doesn’t think is on treatment. She has no idea what his viral load is and despite her concerns he isn’t keen on using condoms. Clearly she’s at high risk of acquiring HIV and is asking about PrEP. Is the doctor going to be forced to say no, because PrEP is only offered to gay men?

The voices of women at high risk of acquiring HIV must be heard in this debate. Let’s make sure PrEP is made available as soon as possible – to everyone who needs it.

Susan Cole works for the National AIDS Trust (NAT). She is an activist, feminist and writer mother of four and ex wife of three. Follow her on twitter @susancolehaley

Image Attribution: #PrEPWORKS Twitter campaign image courtesy of US AIDS prevention charity Aids United

We could all benefit from learning about consent

by D H Kelly // 3 November 2015, 3:18 pm

Tags: , , ,

An image of a sand sculpture depicting two figures leaning against one another's shoulders.
[Content Note: discussion of rape apologism]

As a child, I was routinely instructed to hug or kiss my adult relatives by way of thanking them for presents or saying goodbye at the end of a visit. As an adult relative, I pull rank on this: I say, “You don’t have to hug or kiss anyone you don’t want to.”

It can be immensely gratifying when a little one states, “But I do want to because I like you!” But of course, they don’t always and that’s fine too. It’s great when a beloved child bounds up to me with a huge smile and open arms. Second prize is a wave. The clumsy face-smear of a reluctant toddler isn’t any kind of prize at all.

Yet from infancy, we receive mixed messages about consent. There are lots of things children rightly have no choice about, but we still tell them that their bodies are their own. They needn’t let people touch it in anyway they don’t feel comfortable with. Except sometimes. They should only touch other people because that’s what they both really want. But sometimes it would be rude not to.

As a child, I was also taught that saying No when someone asked for something was the height of rudeness. The biggest trouble I ever got into at primary school was when a teacher asked me to put her dirty dinner tray away and I said I didn’t want to (because I didn’t know where to take it and was scared of messing up). I’m sure children of all genders get some of that, but I think No is particularly unacceptable in little girls, who are taught to be ever-obliging and accommodating to others.

So whether being asked on a date or offered a slice of chocolate and celery cake, we learn to use other words to soften the refusal. These words are absolutely crystal clear; Thank you, but I’m so busy just now. That looks amazing but I’ve just eaten. These things are not ambiguous.

And yet, in a very narrow set of circumstances, which most likely involves someone you know, circumstances where you’re liable to freeze in shock and terror, you’re not only allowed to say No but obliged to scream No and fight back.

There have been many clever and undoubtedly useful attempts to describe sexual consent in a non-sexual way, such as Alli Kirkham’s cartoons and Rockstar Dinosaur Pirate Princesss’s tea analogy which has inspired a video now promoted by the CPS.

The trouble is, people do override one another’s non-sexual wishes. Disabled people and others who are considered vulnerable routinely have their wishes ignored, often for what is perceived to be for our own good. Friends, family and even strangers take hold of occupied wheelchairs and move us about without asking. I once listened in horror to a friend describe driving his autistic sister to a cafe for lunch, but refusing to tell her where they were going. “She insists on knowing the exact plan all the time,” my friend complained, “She needs to lighten up, so I said, ‘Tough. It’s a surprise.’ And she completely lost it!”

Most people don’t do these things most of the time. Most of us really don’t need to be taught not to rape, as one student recently put it. Not that because – as the young man claimed – we love consent, but because we are horrified at the idea of doing something sexual which isn’t wholly welcome.

However, cultural ideas about consent are muddy enough for us to feel confused and conflicted about other people’s actions. Sex in movies almost always erupts spontaneously, without much interaction, let alone verbal discussion. Journalists ask whether you need permission to kiss someone, and there are apps which claim to record sexual consent, as if that’s about one moment in time. When Julian Assange was accused of penetrating an unconscious person – unable to make a decision, let alone indicate her wishes – there was a national debate about whether this was rape or bad manners.

This doesn’t mean you or I, exposed to such a culture, will then look at a lovely sexy person who happens to be drunk as a skunk and think, “Here’s my chance!” but when we hear that someone else committed rape in these circumstances, culture tells us they were succumbing to temptation. You and I don’t find ourselves in a situation where an enthusiastic lover changes their mind, has a medical event, falls asleep or receives an important phone call and we think, “Well they wanted it before so I guess I’ll go ahead!” and yet our culture tells us that someone who is flirtatious, let alone someone who gets into bed with another person, cannot be seen as an innocent party in anything that happens next.

Our culture tells us all this, and while our own behaviour may be impeccable, we are conditioned to have lower expectations of others. Even victims often struggle to identify what has happened to them as rape because they’re used to others treating their boundaries as flexible, their wishes as negotiable. Rapists use all this to justify their own behaviour to themselves and others.

All of which, of course, encourages rapists, allowing them to continue and evade justice.

Of course, things like consent classes in universities or the work that End Violence Against Women and Rape Crisis South London are now promoting to schools will benefit everyone. Everyone can benefit from better communication around sex, hopefully gaining the confidence to assert one’s own particular desires. However, it should also help to change a culture which makes consent, and thus sexual violence, seem far more complicated than it really is.

[Image is a photograph of a head, made out of sand, leaning against the shoulder of another figure made out of sand. The sand is ridged, the face obscured and there is no depiction of hair or clothing. The photograph is by Eric Kilby, can be found on Flickr and is used under a Creative Commons license. The original sculpture was called “Imprinted” by the sculptor Sue McGrew and was part of the Revere Beach Sand Sculpting Competition 2013.]


It’s time for another round-up and links this week cover everything from Germaine Greer to C.S. Lewis.

If you’d like to comment on one of the issues covered or share another article that we haven’t included, feel free to get involved in the comments section below or on Facebook/Twitter.

As always, please remember that linking does not automatically mean endorsement or agreement from the F-Word and that some links may be triggering. It is also worth noting that, while we welcome engagement on the weekly round-up, any comments including racist, sexist, homophobic, transphobic or disablist language will be deleted.

Germaine Greer is a dinosaur – powerless against a new feminist movement (The Telegraph)

From the article: “Outspoken women, who can command a public platform, are so rare that we feel like we must protect them even if we’re cringing with embarrassment. Women have been silenced throughout history and we understandably don’t want to be party to that. But God, it’s a shame when a once vibrant, exciting voice starts to sound an awful lot like the people she wanted to replace. From revolutionary to oppressor, it’s a well-trodden journey.”

Freedom from criticism is quite the opposite to freedom of speech (Diary of a Goldfish)

From the article: “There is no freedom of speech if people are allowed to talk and others are not allowed to object to what they’ve said … Scruton’s views are in the minority. He still has a very loud voice. He just can’t expect such a great applause whenever he uses it. To say so isn’t silencing him. To bombard him with abusive messages would be silencing. To threaten his peace or his person would be silencing. To hack the BBC News website and take down his article would be silencing. He’s not being silenced.”

What intersecting inequality means and why this model of feminism is over (The Idge of Reason)

From the article:”Understanding intersecting inequality requires understanding there is no hierarchy. There is no ‘uniform’ we. There is no elite cabal auditioning who can be considered feminist or not. There are different facets of our lives and identities and they intertwine with gender inequality in a million ways. It is not your role, whoever you are, to decide how and if another woman can challenge that inequality. Not ever.”

Christian Bride Passes Traditional Daddy Vag Inspection Before Wedding (Wonkette)

The Lion, The Bitch, And The Wardrobe: C.S. Lewis’ Complex Views On Women (The Establishment)

From the article: “Lewis’ famous literary group the Inklings excluded women, and he came down strongly for limiting the number of women admitted to Oxford University, citing the “appalling danger of our degenerating into a women’s university.””

Dawn French: Male comics were paid 16 times more than us (Chortle)

The battle for women to be included in peace talk rages on (The Pool)

[TRIGGER WARNING: Please note the following article contains rape enabling sentiment] Christian website: Don’t look at your wife’s face during sex to enjoy it even when she resists (Raw Story)

From the article: “Solomon said that men should think of unwilling wives like Medusa, the mythical Greek monster who could turn men to stone if they looked upon her face.”

The picture is used under a creative commons license with credit to Martin Beek. It depicts a person’s jaw and mouth painted in bright pink. The lips of the person are painted bright red, and the lips are parted showing white teeth. The pink of the chin is dripping, giving the impression of paint running or melting.


Last Monday night, I spent a very pleasurable two hours listening to Gemma Cairney interviewing Grace Jones on BBC6 Music (available here for the next 21 days). Props to Gem for doing an exceptional job and asking some great questions to the pioneering icon that is Grace. Growing up in Jamaica, her 3-day acid trip and Studio 54 are some of the topics they discuss over dinner. It’s well worth a listen.

I heard a Ladyhawke track for the first time in ages recently and remembered how much I liked her. Her entire self-titled debut album Ladyhawke is definitely worth discovering or revisiting, not least because the guitar at 2.43 on ‘Delirium’ reminds me of Chris Rea’s ‘On The Beach’ and I LOVE it. Don’t be scared.

Evelyn “Champagne” King: what a voice, what a name! Evelyn’s vocal talents were discovered whilst working as an office cleaner at Philadelphia International Records. What a coup, for all involved! These kind of inspirational discoveries seem typical of that era and not something you really hear of happening so much, these days. Worth a shot though, non? My advice to aspiring vocalists: get a job, any job, at your local record company and sing ’til someone listens.

Click here for your November 2015 playlist. You can also view the track-list and listen here.


Weekly Round-up and Open Thread

by Lusana Taylor // 26 October 2015, 10:47 pm

It’s time for another round-up and links this week cover everything from plumbing to tech accelerators!

If you’d like to comment on one of the issues covered or share another article that we haven’t included, feel free to get involved in the comments section below or on Facebook/Twitter.

As always, please remember that linking does not automatically mean endorsement or agreement from the F-Word and that some links may be triggering. It is also worth noting that, while we welcome engagement on the weekly round-up, any comments including racist, sexist, homophobic, transphobic or disablist language will be deleted.

A load of ballcocks (Standard Issue)

From the article: “Women want to work in the trades, where there’s a recognised skills gap, and yet there’s no support when they do. Someone, somewhere isn’t doing the maths, says Mica May from Stopcocks Women Plumbers.”

Being non-binary: I’m not A Girl Called Jack any more, but I’m not a boy either (New Statesman)

From the article: “The food writer Jack Monroe on coming out as transgender, and why they are one of an increasing number of people living outside the categories of “man” and “woman”.”

The Odds That a Panel Would ‘Randomly’ Be All Men Are Astronomical (The Atlantic)

From the article: “Working with a “conservative” assumption that 24 percent of Ph.D.s in mathematics have been granted to women over the last 25 years, he finds that it’s statistically impossible that a speakers’ lineup including one woman and 19 men could be random.”

Woman-made Language (Language: A Feminist Guide)

A Women’s Party? Less WEP, more like WEEP for the Mothers and Children (The politics of mothering)

Opposite-sex civil partnerships are the legal solution for the happily unmarried (Guardian)

Stop cheering for the old “Hands off my daughter!” shtick (Salon)

From the article: “What one family does in the spirit of kidding around is, in context, no big deal. But a media endorsement — especially media aimed at teenage girls — of the notion that adolescent female sexuality is something to be guarded by daddy from outside invaders is actually creepy and gross. It suggests that this isn’t about the Schocks any more — it’s about “dads being dads,” and isn’t it cute when a father steps in to police a girl’s private life? Isn’t what goes on with the person a girl dates just a story of what one male does — or tries to do — to another male’s property? Aaaand now we’re getting very territorial and messed up. I’m sorry, does a girl get a vote in what happens in her romantic life? It’s called agency. It’s called bodily autonomy. Live it, learn it!”

Why I’m Absolutely an Angry Black Woman (Medium)

Melissa Farley, Bent Dicks, and Other Unavoidable Aspects of Sex Work (The Toast)

From the article: “The platform we’ve given to people to evangelize about a job they’ve never worked and whose workers they are not listening to has created a climate in which I must prove beyond all doubt that my choice is my own.”

Mock stars: Which female comic could replace Andy Parsons on Mock The Week? (Chortle)

Arts salary survey reveals stark gender pay gap (Arts Professional)

The Game Is Rigged: Why sex that’s consensual can still be bad. And why we’re not talking about it (The Cut)

From the article: “Some second-wave feminists, including Andrea Dworkin and Catharine MacKinnon, had seen sex, pornography, and sexism as all of a piece, finding it impossible to pick the strands of pleasure from the suffocating fabric of oppression. So-called sex-positive feminists — Ellen Willis, Joan Nestle, Susie Bright — set themselves against what they saw as this puritanical slant. The sex-positive crusaders won the war for a million reasons, perhaps especially because their work offered optimism: that sexual agency and equality were available to women, that we were not destined to live our sexual lives as objects or victims, that we could take our pleasures and our power too.”

What we call it (all the content warnings in the world – sexual violence) (The Dirty Normal)

This is a response piece to the article from the above article.

From the article: “I read on, waiting for the moment when either the woman describing the experience (Reina Gattuso) or the writer of the article acknowledge that this was not actually a case of bad yet consensual sex, but of non consenting sex. She was drunk, so drunk her memory was failing. Drunk people can’t consent. This was sexual assault. Someone’s going to say so in the article, right?”

A response to Germaine Greer’s latest comments: Oh, Ms. Greer (EnGender)

From the article: “I don’t know why Germaine Greer missed out on 30+ years of gender theory which allows her to posit that woman is a stable, universal, and identifiable category. I really don’t.”

Eileen Atkins: ‘Middle-aged male actors should lay off female roles’ (The Stage)

From the article: “Making reference to Mark Rylance’s 2012 performance as Olivia in Twelfth Night at Shakespeare’s Globe, she continued: ‘I really don’t want to see the young girls in Shakespeare played by middle-aged men.'”

Do tech accelerators have a sexism problem? (The Conversation)

The photo is used with permission from L.Taylor. It depicts a woodland path, with light streaming through the trees. A figure wearing a red checked jacket can be seen on the path, walking away from the camera lens.

A feminist Barbie?

by Shoshana Devora // 25 October 2015, 10:26 am

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My parents never let me play with Barbies when I was growing up. They were feminists, and didn’t approve of the strict gender stereotypes enforced by them. My brother, however, was bought two. One, a Pocahontas doll. One, a black athlete (on a side note, I just searched on eBay to see if I could find the exact model my brother had. ‘Black Barbie doll’ returns just 4 listings, whilst ‘Barbie doll’ gets you 763. Oh, and searching for an athletic Barbie brings up mostly cheerleaders).

Mattel has produced a new advert, with the tag line “What happens when girls are free to imagine they can be anything?”. I’ll give it this, it’s cute. Young girls are shown taking on a range of professions: lecturer; vet; tour guide; football coach and business woman. They interact with bemused adults, who find the girls funny and cute – they don’t quite fit in, but one day, they might. Then we’re shown that all along, the girls were playing out the scenario with their Barbie dolls, dreaming of a future career with the aid of their plastic props.

And of course, the internet is awash with praise for Mattel. Cosmopolitan see it as “empowering”, Quartz declare that Mattel has confronted “its feminism problem”.

I think Mattel’s problem with feminism requires a slightly bigger fix. We could start with slightly bigger body proportions for Barbie dolls, whatever their career aspirations are.

This latest advert does indeed reflect a step forward from Barbie dolls who came with weighing scales. But for me, whilst this is arguably progress on an individual level, it’s one more sign of a non-feminist company co-opting feminist ideals to sell their product more widely, whilst remaining essentially harmful (Megan Stodel wrote a great blog recently about ‘dilemma feminism’, and whether we should support small improvements when we oppose the larger institution, and this is one more example of that phenomenon).

We shouldn’t criticise dolls for being dolls. Using dolls as play is indeed a great way to build imagination, and society is often too eager to condemn those activities associated with girls whilst encouraging those associated with boys. I spent hours absorbed with my Playmobil characters as a kid, dreaming up all sorts of storylines worthy of winning awards at the British Soap Awards (there were kidnappings and ransom requests, lovers who discovered that they were siblings separated at birth). Mattel are right that Barbies may be able to inspire children’s aspirations and ambitions.

But the thing to remember here, is that how ever many professions a Barbie comes in, they’re still damaging to young girls. Why? Because there’s no point advertising them with a feminist jingle, while their body proportions are still so unrealistic. A little girl (or boy, but let’s remember that this ad doesn’t feature any – it’s clear who Mattel’s target audience are) might pick up a Barbie and imagine that she’s a business woman, but as long as she’s still absorbing the message that she has to have an unhealthy BMI to do so, that’s not progress. The body proportions of Barbie dolls aren’t only unhealthy, they’re frankly impossible. Some researchers have suggested they wouldn’t allow for menstruation, in a cis woman. Others have claimed that the size of her liver would mean Barbie would have to walk on all fours.

So Mattel, great things can happen when girls are left to imagine they can be anything. But for as long as a girl plays with a Barbie doll and absorbs the unconscious message that she needs a 19-inch waist to attain her goals, Barbies continue to be limiting, not empowering.

The image is by Simon Farnworth and is used under a creative commons licence. It shows a Barbie doll with heavy eye make up and lipstick looking at her own reflection in a round mirror

This post contains details of episodes of The Apprentice and The Apprentice: You’re Fired, although it doesn’t discuss which teams lose or who has been fired in any week.

Minutes after The Apprentice finishes airing, Jack Dee and an array of pundits arrive on our screens to dissect the goings on of the task and the teams. This week, we were treated to a particularly neat demonstration of the differences between men and women.

Clips are shown of project manager Vana Koutsomitis clashing with fellow team member Selina Waterman-Smith, with Selina questioning Vana’s decisions but being shut down by her temporary leader. “Catty,” murmurs one pundit. Another points out that for women in business, all too often an attempt to be assertive can turn into being “stroppy”.

Immediately following this, the opposing team’s friction is shown, with this week’s project manager Joseph Valente becoming irked by last week’s project manager Richard Woods, whom he perceives to be too controlling while not negotiating well enough. The clip ends with a scene in the boardroom, which shows a not exactly articulate exchange of views. You may not be surprised to discover, however, that this behaviour – weirdly similar to that displayed by Vana and Selina – is deemed to be typical “alpha male” stuff.

Let’s be clear: neither team comes across as perfect in their approach to business. However, the way they are described makes the women seem particularly petty and unready for the challenges before them and reduces them to the level of children in a playground, while the disturbed hierarchy among the men is addressed as a more serious, adult and therefore reasonable and surmountable issue.

I know I shouldn’t expect too much from The Apprentice. This is, after all, a show which in its 11th series started off with the big reveal that teams wouldn’t be split into women and men for the first task. Even this was so novel that the teams were rearranged after the first task to be back to the much more familiar make up of members of the same gender. This is a set up that cries out for dubious comparisons to be made between women and men in business – the format itself guides us to make them.

So while I think the show itself is perhaps irredeemable, I still found it striking to hear a panel mark the perceived differences between the women’s and men’s teams so clearly, while showing and describing similar scenes. It underlines the barriers that women are more likely to face when trying to get ahead – after all, doesn’t it sound better to be alpha or competitive than to be catty, stroppy, bitchy or bossy? Even when women are approved of for being suitably assertive, this is often described as feistiness, which somehow comes across as more patronising than words used to describe men acting in similar ways.

I would certainly implore people who comment on business and those who appear on panels such as this one on The Apprentice: You’re Fired to consider the language they use and to think about whether they would say the same thing about a man if they are saying it about a woman. If not – why not?

There are several hundred other points that could be made about The Apprentice and its representation of women in business. This just happened to be the trigger for me this evening. And that’s only do to with how the format and show itself deal with gender – the candidates seldom cover themselves in glory when on the subject either. Is there anything that has particularly bothered you this series?

The black and white image shows a finger pointing towards the camera. A bit like when Alan fires people. But not an image from the show – this is by Marc Smith and is used under a creative commons licence.

The second image is a screengrab from the show itself, copyright Boundless and used with permission. It shows three candidates – Elle Stevenson, Vana Koutsomitis and Jenny Garbis – in the boardroom.

Weekly Round-up and Open Thread

by Lusana Taylor // 19 October 2015, 11:18 pm



It’s time for another round-up and links this week cover everything from Jennifer Lawrence to Tori Amos!

If you’d like to comment on one of the issues covered or share another article that we haven’t included, feel free to get involved in the comments section below or on Facebook/Twitter.

As always, please remember that linking does not automatically mean endorsement or agreement from the F-Word and that some links may be triggering. It is also worth noting that, while we welcome engagement on the weekly round-up, any comments including racist, sexist, homophobic, transphobic or disablist language will be deleted.

Jennifer Lawrence on getting paid less than her male co-stars and being likable (Feministing)

A woman’s right to say ‘meh’: being sex positive won’t guarantee you an orgasm (The Guardian)

I’m Not Happy About My Appearance In Ch4’s “Girls To Men” Trans Docuseries (Autostraddle)

Game of trolls: how I took on the internet sexists with Misogyny Monday (The Guardian)

Here’s How Many Women Have Been In BBC Comedy Panel TV Shows In The Last Two Years (Buzzfeed)

Tori Amos’s Boys for Pele: a much misunderstood work of dark, wounded magic (The Guardian)

From the article: “While Alanis Morrisette and Liz Phair were trying to hitch a ride out of Guyville, Amos was razing the patriarchy to the ground, serving up vampiric ex-boyfriends to Pele, the Hawaiian fire goddess rumoured to enjoy man flesh: ‘I wanted to sacrifice all these guys to the volcano goddess and roast them like marshmallows,’ she explained. In the album’s front-porch art, Amos invoked the eerie, biblical magic of the muddy rural South, cradling a shotgun and suckling a piglet…”

Famous quotes, the way a woman would have to say them during a meeting (Washington Post)

From the article: “I came. I saw. I conquered.”
Woman in a Meeting: “I don’t want to toot my own horn here at all but I definitely have been to those places and was just honored to be a part of it as our team did such a wonderful job of conquering them.”

Walking Dead’s Danai Gurira: ‘There’s a dearth of African female perspectives’(The Guardian)

From the article: “The idea of Eclipsed came when Gurira first saw a New York Times article in 2003 about the Liberian war. The cover featured female rebel fighters during the height of the war. Growing up in postwar independent Zimbabwe, she had lived a very different life than the women who were wearing tight jeans, little tops and holding AK-47s. She was intrigued by the story behind the picture and wanted to know more. In 2007, Gurira received a grant to travel to Liberia where she conducted the core of her research for the play.”

To Feminism in London re exclusion of Global Women Strike and Women of Colour GWS (Global Women Strike)

Aid agencies accused of hiding scale of sexual assaults on employees (The Guardian)

BBC comedy risks becoming ‘sexist and racist’ (Chortle)

Femvertising: how brands are selling #empowerment to women (The Guardian)

From the article: “No more apologies for existing, ladies (or for having limp, dank locks). If the commercialisation of the movement has taught us anything, it’s that you can challenge gender norms, battle inequality … and buy more shampoo.”

Swedish Band ‘The Knife’ Nail Central Flaw of The UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (Films for Action)

The Playboy problem: has the brand ever endangered women? (The Guardian)

A woman’s fertility is her own business, not everyone else’s (The Guardian)

The photo is used under creative commons license with thanks to Antonella Di Stefano on Flickr. It is an image of Tori Amos onstage. The shot is from quite far away but Tori’s distinctive red hair is clearly visible as she sits at a grand piano. The lighting is set to make it appear that there stars strewn across the backdrop of the stage.

See Suffragette with other The F-Word readers!

by Ania Ostrowska // 16 October 2015, 1:44 pm

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Please note this screening is now full – Saturday 17 October

The F-Word has teamed up with Vue Cinemas to host a special free screening of Suffragette, the story of the founding members of the British women’s suffrage movement. Written by Abi Morgan and starring Carey Mulligan, Meryl Streep and Helena Bonham Carter, the film tells the story of a working mother whose life is forever changed when she is secretly recruited to join the UK’s growing suffragette movement.


If you didn’t make it to the film’s London Film Festival premiere, followed by Sisters Uncut’s protest on the red carpet, but perhaps got inspired by our coverage of a special Suffrajitsu workshop, join us for the screening next Thursday.

We have 50 seats exclusively for The F-Word readers, for a screening on Thursday 22 October at 6:30pm.

It’s first come first served: to secure your tickets please email vuesuffragette@think.eu with your full names (you can include up to two names per email).


Last week, Daniel O’Reilly, also known as his comedy character alter-ego, Dapper Laughs, was in the news again. He gave an interview to Spiked magazine (content note: banter) where he complained, again, about the events of 2014 where his ITV2 series Dapper Laughs: On The Pull wasn’t recommissioned, in part because of the public backlash against the character and his perceived misogyny.

I feel a bit sorry for O’Reilly. I think our society as a whole has a tendency to blame individuals for systematic mistakes, so O’Reilly takes the full blame for Dapper Laughs: On The Pull making it to mainstream TV rather than the television commissioners, producers and executives who surely had most of the power there. He comes across as confused, one moment apologising on Newsnight for everything, the next saying that he stands by all of it and it’s a question of free speech.

But one thing that O’Reilly said during the interview got me thinking. He said: “Just because there’s a group of feminists out there who don’t like the way some lads behave, there are also masses of groups of women who love naughty, cheeky lads – who love attention from men. Again, I think it’s a class thing.” Do I only find some of Dapper Laughs’ jokes nasty and cruel because I’m middle class and therefore over-sensitive?

Thinking back too, when the No More Page 3 campaign was at its height, I read a few opinion pieces that argued that the campaign came from a place of privilege and didn’t take account of the opinions of the models themselves, mostly working class women. By trying to stop page 3, feminists were denying working class women a route to success and were imposing their values where they weren’t welcome.

These thoughts worry me slightly. Am I, as a card-carrying middle class feminist, doing a disservice to working class women when I argue against what I perceive as the objectification of women? I do my best to ensure that my feminism is as intersectional as it can be, and I’m also aware that life is a work in progress in this respect and so I need to reflect on my prejudices and privilege from time to time. Am I missing the point here? Is there a whole class aspect that I’m just not getting? And am I being, the worst of all things, patronising?

The other thing that happened last week was the Sisters Uncut protest at the premiere of the film Suffragette which was written about here by Sisters Uncut themselves. Sisters Uncut are unambiguous about what they’re fighting for and how class affects their aims. From their Feministo they say “as intersectional feminists we understand that a woman’s individual experience of violence is affected by race, class, disability, sexuality and immigration status.” They know that being working class and a woman can increase your chances of encountering violence and they’re using that knowledge to increase their efforts, not lessen them.

And of course, saying that it’s only middle and upper-class feminists that mind about misogynistic jokes or the objectification of women in and of itself erases the existence and work of the millions of working class women who’ve fought against sexism.

I think, on reflection, that I’d rather be like Sisters Uncut and not like Daniel O’Reilly. I think that behaving as if women are only vessels to receive men’s overtures contributes over time to a society where women are considered to be somehow less. I think a society that views women as just the sum of their body parts is a society where women will find themselves a victim of violence more often. And if violence is more likely to affect working class women then that’s even more reason to work against the attitudes, like sexism, that contribute to it.

But I’m open to thinking more about this. What do you think about the intersection of gender and class? Where does free speech stop and hate speech start? When is something still just a bit of a laugh even when it’s not funny at all?

If you’d like to write about this, anything else to do with comedy and feminism, or write a comedy review for us, please do get in touch with me here.

Image is from Flickr and is used under a creative commons licence. It is of street art. On the left of the image is a section of polystyrene with “FIGHT SEXISM” written on it. On the right is a black and white canvas of a woman’s face.

Weekly Round-up and Open Thread

by Lusana Taylor // 13 October 2015, 10:16 pm


It’s time for another round-up and links this week cover everything from suffragettes to “bunny girls”!

If you’d like to comment on one of the issues covered or share another article that we haven’t included, feel free to get involved in the comments section below or on Facebook/Twitter.

As always, please remember that linking does not automatically mean endorsement or agreement from the F-Word and that some links may be triggering. It is also worth noting that, while we welcome engagement on the weekly round-up, any comments including racist, sexist, homophobic, transphobic or disablist language will be deleted.

Sure, I’m a Feminist, But If I Support Other Women, How Will I Become the Highlander? (Reductress*)

Asian Suffragettes (British Protest)

Sister Suffragette: ‘Slave’ T-Shirts Highlight White Feminism’s Race Problem (The Root)

What did the suffragette movement in Britain really look like? (New Statesman)

From the article: “There were many overlaps between the Indian suffrage movement and the British suffrage movement. Sophia Duleep Singh had every reason to hate the British. They had taken everything from her: her father’s kindgom, wealth, future, everything. But she believed in this sisterhood, and she sacrificed everything to fight for British women’s vote, and also then fought for Indian women’s emancipation as well.”

Flawless feminism (Standard Issue)

From the article: “There can be something of a sniffiness about the notion of ‘Yoncé as a feminist icon. Like about how she’s hell bent on showing us her pants when she’s dancing, for example. And it’s true, I also wish she’d cover her arse up a bit more – but it is a lovely arse. And her Instagram feed reliably informs me that she does coexist peacefully with trousers, in her free time.”

Do strong female roles in theatre make audiences feel uncomfortable? (The Guardian)

My Night Out With The Bunny Girls (Spitalfields Life)

Dani Garavelli: Meryl Streep betrays heroism of suffragettes (The Scotsman)

From the article: “If the word “feminism” has become stigmatised then it has happened mostly at the hands of men who want to de-­legitimise it and prevent the battle from being won. It is men (albeit a minority) who portray the most vocal campaigners as “harridans”, men who penalise women for speaking out, so abandoning it is an acceptance of their narrative and a capitulation to their agenda. You can see this when Streep makes a point of mentioning that she is married and has a son. “I love men,” she goes on. But why is she saying this and to whom? Feminists don’t see other feminists as man-haters.­ By suggesting they might be, Streep is buying into someone else’s propaganda.”

International Day of the Girl (Man Repeller)

VIDEO: Why We Are Militant (Standard Issue)

The video above doesn’t contain subtitles, but a copy of the speech can be found online HERE.

The photo is used under creative commons license with thanks to RV1864 on Flickr. It is a black and white image of a women’s rights campaigner standing holding a banner which reads “To ask freedom for women is not a crime. Suffrage prisoners should not be treated as criminals”. The campaigner is wearing a striped dress which reaches the ankles, a sun hat and black pointed shoes.

Suffrajitsu with Nikki Sahota

by Ania Ostrowska // 12 October 2015, 10:03 am

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Starring Carey Mulligan, Meryl Streep and Helena Bonham Carter, Sarah Gavron’s Suffragette is the thrilling film celebartaing the remarkable untold story of the foot soldiers of the Suffragette movement as they fought for the right to vote. It opens in UK cinemas today (last Friday we published a report of direct action by Sisters Uncut after the film’s red carpet premiere).

SUFFRAGETTE-02A remarkable and unexpected fact not many know about is that the real-life Suffragettes were trained in jiu-jitsu. Members of the Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU), fronted by Emmeline Pankhurst, were taught the practise by Edith Margaret Garrud. She was among the first female professional martial arts instructors in the Western world. Even though she was just 4’11” in height, she didn’t let that stop her! By using jiu-jitsu, a martial art which can be used as a self defence system that focuses on grappling and ground manoeuvres, she was able to teach a smaller, weaker person how to successfully defend against a bigger stronger person. This was by using technique body weight and applying joint locks and chokes to the opponent.

To bring this story to life in line with the film release of the film, jiu-jitsu trainer Nikki Sahota (pictured above) ran an exclusive and interactive self-defence Suffrajitsu workshop, which gave attendees a first-hand attempt at the practise. I was gutted to miss it but Nikki shared:

It’s a little known fact that the Suffragettes were trained in jiu-jitsu and learnt self-defence to protect themselves from the violence that they withstood from the police and men during their campaigning. It was led by an incredible lady called Edith Garrud, who taught the Suffragettes some very kick ass moves! I find this story extremely intriguing and so to bring it to life in line with the release of Suffragette, I ran the Suffrajitsu Experience. Owing to my own personal experiences, I’m really glad to be involved with the film and project. I find the importance of women being able to defend themselves as important now as it was as the women fought for the right to vote over 100 years ago.

SUFFRAGETTE-50Set in the heart of the East End at KO Gym in Bethnal Green, the workshop offered an introduction to a number of jiu-jitsu moves that the Suffragettes used to free themselves from the police and men during their protests, which included:

  • wrist sweep and arm lock- used to freeze police from hitting them with batons;
  • hip toss –used to release oneself from the grip of a stronger opponent;
  • choke hold – used to free oneself from a tight grip.
  • The workshop offered a real insight into how these moves were used in Suffragette times, and how they are still relevant to protect women today.

    Suffragette is realeased in UK cinemas on Monday 12th October.

    Photos are from Press Workshop with Jiu Jitsu expert Nikki Sahota to promote the new PATHE FILM RELEASE OF ‘SUFFRAGETTE’ on the 12th October @KO GYM in Bethnal Green. Photo: Tim Anderson
    First picture is a portrait of Nikki Sahota, a young woman with dar hair in a bun on top of her head, wearing black jumper, smiling.
    Second picture is of a woman applying a self-defence move to a man.

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