Mama Cass


The February playlist begins with the awesome new track by Riton, ‘Rinse and Repeat’. The track includes vocals by Kah-Lo, a Nigerian woman with a very low internet profile. You can follow her Twitter account here and listen to more of her on Soundcloud.

Julia Holter’s Have You In My Wilderness is one of my favourite albums of last year – absolutely sublime. Her current single from the album, ‘Sea Calls Me Home’, is an absolute delight. It’s always good to hear a track with such an inspired use of the saxophone, and this track nails it.

Tommy Genesis is an intriguing new Canadian rap star. If you like ‘Execute’ read more about her here and here. I’m looking forward to listening to more of her.

Feeling rubbish? Crank up Mama Cass and feel better.

If you like the Hinds track, check out Holly’s review of their latest album here.

Click here for your February playlist. Enjoy!

The image is a black and white shot of Mama Cass, taken by RCA Records in 1972 as a trade shot for her album Cass Elliot. The picture is a head and shoulders shot of Mama Cass, turning towards the camera, adorned with rings and bracelets, and wearing a feather boa or coat. She looks fabulous, but also a little sad and tired.

Weekly round-up and open thread

by Lusana Taylor // 8 February 2016, 11:08 pm


6089772763_26096cbfc2_zWelcome to another weekly round-up, where we share (what we see as) the most interesting and important articles and essays from the previous seven days. This week’s collection of links includes everything from Facebook’s “motherhood challenge” to the arguments for and against safe spaces on university campuses. We’d love to hear your thoughts on either (or both!) of these issues or on any of the other issues covered.

As always, linking to articles does not mean endorsement from the F-Word and certain links may be triggering. We welcome debate in the comments section and on Facebook/Twitter but remind readers that any comments containing sexist, racist, homophobic, transphobic or disablist language will be deleted immediately.

If you notice that we’ve missed out any important articles from the past week, feel free to let us know.

Uncovering the “privilege” of being a white passing person of colour: Why we shouldn’t let white people police who gets to be “white” (Vice)

The violence behind the words “be a man” (Bitch)

I Don’t Owe Anyone My Body (Buzzfeed)

Content warning: contains description of sexual assault.

From the article: “I hesitated, but reminded myself that he had done all the generically “correct” things when it came to dating: He texted the next day, he told me I looked beautiful, he arrived on time, he opened the door. He’s a nice guy, I scolded myself.”

Why the EU emergency brake on migrant benefits is sexist (The Conversation)

Facebook’s motherhood challenge makes me want to punch my computer screen (The Guardian)

From the article: “It’s not the casual posting of photos aimed at friends that I mind. It’s the revived fetishisation of motherhood, the idea that it’s a ‘challenge’ that only ‘mummies’ can understand, an exclusive, excluding club of laughing, shiny, breast-feeding super-beings who know exactly how to raise ‘great kids’ and will only invite others of their kind to join the party.”

Zika virus: Brazil journalist speaks out over microcephaly fear (BBC)

From the article: “I am aware that not everyone with microcephaly will be lucky enough to have a life like mine. But what I recommend to mothers or pregnant women is that they remain calm. Microcephaly is an ugly name but it’s not an evil monster.”

Boots revises cost of two products over accusations of sexist pricing (The Guardian)

DJ Justin James posts outrageous list of requirements for female DJs (Fact Mag)

What we talk about when we talk about anal (Dazed)

A Young Artist Wants To Give South Asian Women The Spotlight They Deserve (Huffington Post)

Study finds romcoms teach female filmgoers to tolerate ‘stalking myths’ (The Guardian)

Obama’s mosque visit demonstrates tacit acceptance of a form of gender apartheid (New York Times)

‘I had to undo eight years of being a woman’: how LGBT prisoners are lost in the system (The Conversation)

Tory councillor accidentally sent details of ‘smear plot’ to intended targets (The Guardian)

How to See the Charm That Everyone Else Sees in Your Harasser (Reductress)

Where is the pet shop? Roosh V Plans Secret Meetups, Announces Locations on Internet (We Hunted the Mammoth)

The explicitly sexual female artists that feminism forgot (The Guardian)

Three cheers for misogyny: why the world can’t handle Susan Sarandon and her 69-year-old cleavage (Stylist)

Republican “show us your cunt” bills are an issue for all women (fae rising)

Kesha wins a legal battle over her producer, Dr. Luke, who she says sexually assaulted her (Yahoo)

My LA Food Diary (Medium)

5 Sex Workers Speak Out On The Super Bowl Sex Trafficking Myth (The Establishment)

From the article: “If the media can convince readers that all sex work is bad and involves a level of coercion, it justifies the state’s criminalization of our work, bodies, and lives.” (Margaret Corvid section of piece)

The Sexism of Safe Spaces: Students’ unions that want to ‘protect women’ are turning the clock back (Spiked)

Please note, the concept of ‘safe spaces’ is complex and multi-faceted and The F-Word, as a site, does not side with any particular view on the issue. The above Spiked article is clearly very against the idea. There are many other articles out there that speak of the importance of safe spaces on university campuses and in other institutions. For another view, you can read this article from last year hosted on Everyday Feminism, 6 Reasons Why We Need Safe Spaces.

The image is used under a creative commons license with thanks to 5foot8 on Flickr. It is a photograph and depicts a person, with long dark hair, curled up on a stony beach. The person has drawn their knees right up to their head in a foetal position, so that their face is obscured. They appear to be dressed entirely in white.


Besides “away”, where should men who care about gender issues go?

When The Durham Male Issues Society approached Durham’s Student Union in June looking for ratification, founder Adam Frost was told the group could only exist as a subset of the Feminist Society. Many sources would agree with this decision: articles from Everyday Feminism and the Huffington Post have made strong cases for men identifying themselves as feminist allies, most rooted in the idea that the patriarchy hurts men as well. Meanwhile, other feminists have been skeptical of the role of men in the movement. Guardian writer Kate Iselin wrote a piece entitled “Why I Won’t Date Another Male Feminist”, citing their self-importance and dubious intentions in regards to feminism. Recently, Sarah Ditum of the New Statesman criticised feminist men for taking up space in the movement.

The men’s movement is viewed with, at best, scepticism and, at worst, mockery and distaste. Men’s rights are often conflated with other separate but male-oriented internet subcultures: pickup artistry (websites that focus on often misogynistic and manipulative techniques used to seduce women), Gamergate (a movement rightfully criticised in the media across the political spectrum for its misogynistic doxxing — the leaking of highly sensitive personal information — of prominent feminists), and “Red Pillers” (a subreddit based on The Matrix which espouses in its philosophy that all women are somehow simultaneously sluts, children, and manipulative geniuses).

Has feminism’s synonymy with gender issues created an unnecessary silence around issues that disproportionately affect men, such as suicide, male violence (against both women and men), and homelessness? And has this silence driven activism-minded men to these misogyny-breeding subcultures where they feel more free to talk about these issues? With some women in the feminist movement fatigued by increasing male involvement, it’s time to make a feminist case for a separate men’s issues movement.

As a feminist, I’d be lying if I didn’t admit to being frustrated when male issues take centre stage in feminist discourse. I’m tired of hearing that “men should be feminists because the patriarchy hurts men”. Though the phrase is true, I find it slightly disingenuous: the patriarchy hurts men by equating masculinity with dominance and control. And despite the harmful consequences of this system (which are numerous), women are equated with submission and compliance, thus giving men institutional power. I am a feminist because I care about the subordinate status of women in society — and, while I whole-heartedly appreciate genuine male allies, I want the movement to be focused on women. Why isn’t “men should be feminists because the patriarchy hurts women” enough?

Similarly, the wider inclusion of men in feminism has caused mistrust of their intentions. Many complain that men seem to be on board with feminism when it appears in its sex-positive, choice-feminism strands — a pattern myself, and others, have noticed and become weary of. In Oxford University’s controversial feminist Facebook group Cuntry Living, of 10,000 members, a woman rightly observed that “the gender split in conversations about abortion or FGM is often 90/10 [female to male]. When decriminalisation of sex work comes up, it’s 50/50.” It’s easy to feel like men win “progressive points” in these discussions, while failing to defend anything more than a woman’s right to sleep with them.

I want men to be interested in feminism because they are passionate about the disproportionate treatment women around the world, and in the UK, receive. I want men in feminism because they sense an injustice towards women. I want male allies to show they care about issues affecting women that don’t revolve around sexual empowerment.

And if men aren’t interested, and would rather focus on issues affecting their gender, I don’t see the point of reeling these men into the feminist movement under a false premise, with the chance of tokenising their issues. Though many would argue that most of men’s issues are rooted in other intersections (class, race, sexuality, etc.), or negative symptoms of patriarchal norms of masculinity and dominance, perhaps these are issues that would be most efficiently dealt with if men were able to talk freely about them among themselves.

Many feminists fear the men’s issues movement, and I understand why: it’s equated with anti-feminism and associated with misogyny. Men’s Rights media outlets like A Voice For Men or the Men’s Rights subreddit are environments in which anti-feminist (and anti-female) stances are fostered, rather than focusing on awareness and true activism.

It is time feminism let a healthy men’s movement grow without immediate criticism: it will refine the aims and goals of feminism, allow issues that are not gendered towards women to be more effectively handled, and, for the skeptics, give rise to a concrete movement

Nipping it in the bud with cries of “misogyny” before it grows isn’t working. It pushes, and perhaps encourages, some men into a feminist label they may not deserve, and others into reactionary, anger-oriented politics.

Sarah Fletcher is an American-British writer in her final year at Durham University. Her articles have been published at Feminist Current, Luna Luna Magazine, and Ambit. She tweets at @SarahFletcher27

The image used depicts the arms of two male-presenting people sitting at a table with coffee. It is used under the Creative Commons License.

The comic strip: Friend-zone

by Guest Blogger // 5 February 2016, 8:00 am

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Silvia Carrus is an Italian illustrator and comic artist, living in London. She loves to make comics about feminism and animals, and has recently self-published the comic ‘Feminist Cat’. See her work on Tumblr.

This month’s comic depicts a man bemoaning his lot as a “friend” when his female friend should have noticed the “signs” he gave her of his undying devotion – like being nice and holding her hand for five seconds in 2010.

Samantha Rea watches Celebrity Big Brother and wonders how a snog can possibly be a scandal in 2016

As a child, my literary canon comprised the works of Enid Blyton and Judy Blume, the Sweet Valley High series and News of the World. At the weekend, while my parents read The Sunday Times, I caught up on kiss-and-tells by lingerie clad ladies, who claimed their conquests did it three times a night.

With a complete disregard for when these stories took place, let’s take a non-linear look at the tabloid splashes that shaped my psyche:

  • Mick Hucknall shagging over 1,000 women, at a rate of three a day, Martine McCutcheon being sick in his hair and Alicia Douvall, the stalwart of steamy flings, saying: “I had to get away from him, he was weird.”
  • Princess Di smuggling Will Carling – captain of the England rugby team – into Kensington Palace, under a blanket in the back of her car. Oh, and allegedly making 300 silent calls to the family home of rumoured shag Oliver Hoare.
  • Mick Jagger spending nights with France’s First Lady and former supermodel Carla Bruni, while Jerry Hall was at home with the kids. Oops, no – scratch that – Jerry was shagging a horse breeder behind Mick’s back.
  • Darren Day, “Britain’s Number One Love-Rat”, having coke-fuelled sex binges and passing his parcel round every soap actress in Britain – then walking out on Suzanne Shaw when their baby was three months old, declaring he “didn’t do family.”
  • Chelsea captain, John Terry, shagging tabloid staple Alicia Douvall in the toilets of a nightclub while his wife was pregnant with twins.
  • Eastenders’ Dean Gaffney having saucy sessions with porn star Linsey Dawn McKenzie, Alicia Douvall and the lucky ladies of Skegness, while his girlfriend was home looking after their kids.

This, ladies and gents, is tabloid fodder at its finest. So don’t tell me – a connoisseur of misconduct – that snogging is some sort of scandal. Yet that’s the story we’re being force-fed in the case of Celebrity Big Brother (CBB) contestants Jeremy McConnell and Stephanie Davis, simply because Stephanie had a boyfriend – Sam Reece – before she went into the house.

In McConnell’s exit interview on Friday, Emma Willis adopted her disappointed face and gave him a harder time than former UKIP-er Winston Mckenzie, who asserted that same-sex couples adopting was tantamount to child abuse. At the weekend, I switched on The Saturday Show to hear Gaby Roslin cueing the cameras for a close-up of McConnell with the question: “Do you have a message for Sam? What would you say to Sam if he’s listening now?”

A similar scenario played out on last night’s Big Brother’s Bit on the Side – and in every interview, model McConnell looks shame-faced, saying he knows his behaviour was wrong. In the house, former Hollyoaks actress, Davis, took the self-flagellating baton to say: “I know I’m hated because I’ve got a boyfriend and I’ve done what I’ve done… I’m basically a slut.

Really? Did either of you have coke fuelled sex romps with strangers while your partner was home looking after the kids? Did either of you do apparently unethical things with a Cadbury’s Flake and a ‘family friend’? And are we really still labelling women ‘sluts’? I thought we were making progress here.

Let’s look at the facts:

  • Neither Jeremy nor Stephanie are married
  • Neither Jeremy nor Stephanie have children
  • Jeremy, age 23, is single
  • Stephanie, age 22, has been with her boyfriend less than a year.

And let’s be clear: ALL THEY DID WAS SNOG!!! (Probably.)

For a child of the tabloids, this is a bit of a non-fucking-story. I wouldn’t even rate it PG. I was reading steamier shit about Anthea Turner when I was eight and she was presenting kiddies’ craft show Blue Peter. Meanwhile, George Michael was cottaging on crack.

That’s where I set the bar for a scandal, CBB. If you want me to bat an eyelid at the housemates’ antics, I suggest you raise your game. Throw in a mountain of marching powder, Lord Sewell in Bet Lynch’s bra and task Darren Day with licking a bath load of custard off Vanessa Feltz. That’s what I call entertainment!

In the meantime, Stephanie and Jeremy should shrug off the desperate efforts to demonise their behaviour and refuse to apologise. Stephanie, you’re not a ‘slut’ – you just moved on.

Samantha Rea is a freelance journalist living in London. Her writing is a disarray of filth, feminism, poker and peccadilloes. She has an MSc in Gender & the Media from the London School of Economics and she’s happiest when she’s sinking into a sofa, drinking an Old Fashioned.

[Image description and credit: Screenshot from Channel 5’s Celebrity Big Brother, showing Stephanie and Jeremy hugging each other in what appears to be the kitchen (possible disinfectant spray visible in background on the left and a toaster on the right). Stephanie wears a black long sleeved top and faces the camera, while Jeremy is topless (revealing elements of his elaborate back and arm tattoos) and wearing a furry hat with large animal ears, with his back to the camera. The Channel 5 star logo is in the top left corner of the picture and ‘LIVE’ is in large white letters, with white stars on either side, on the right. Shared under fair dealing.]

We need to talk about periods

by Guest Blogger // , 8:00 am

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“What’s the difference between tampons and Tampax?” the girl said. It was 2001 and I was eleven. I could hear from her voice that she was a few years younger than me, and the shadows beyond the toilet door told me there was another person there, who coughed and rubbed her foot on the carpet. “I don’t know,” she admitted. I flushed and walked out.

“Tampons are the things you stick up yourself,” I said in a bored voice, “and Tampax are those pads you use.” The girls thanked me and skipped out of the restaurant bathroom excitedly, like I’d invited them to join some sort of club. My smugness wore off the second the door banged shut and I felt hot, red embarrassment wash over me as I realised I’d made my answer up. The thrill of being a cool, older know-it-all had taken over.

Tampons have been my friend for over a decade but I don’t feel like I know them and their other pals much better now than I did when I was eleven. I’ll watch TV as a softly-spoken lady talks us through the amount of inoffensive blue liquid her pads can absorb. I cringe when my mum says “pantyliners”, and I’m acutely aware of the way I try to bury my Always under a pile of spinach and Babybels when I do my food shop, lest someone see the box brazenly sitting at the top of the trolley.

When my boyfriend and I first moved in together back in April I spent a good half a day unpacking my toiletries in the bathroom. I sort of looked forward to the first time one of us got the flu so we could try out our brand new Beechams. My shampoos and moisturisers set up camp on the open shelving above the toilet, and next to them sat the box of tampons and pack of thick, winged sanitary towels.

We were up and running. I was proud. But one housewarming guest said “Oh, great to see you’ve got your tampons on full display!” sarcastically. I felt vile. Was this one of those SIGNS YOUR RELATIONSHIP HAS BECOME TOO COMFORTABLE that I’d read about in a BuzzFeed article? When my boyfriend’s male friends dropped round, I temporarily hid everything period-related. But later, as I slid the boxes back into their dust-lined places on the shelf, I became angry. I need tampons. I need them like I need toilet roll and toothbrushes – things that are also “on full display” 24/7. I wondered why the comment had led me to feel like I was being lazy and sloppy when neither my partner nor I had any issues with the contents of our bathroom shelves.

I grew up convinced that the most AWFUL thing would be if a boy learned I was on my period. I watched movies where the female lead accidentally bumped into her love interest and – OH NO! – tampons went flying. Her secret was out. For many women periods are a cloak and dagger monthly event. I own a small pouch to stash pads in so they don’t peek out the top of my handbag while I’m paying for lunch. I hide tampons up my sleeve at work so I can smuggle them into the bathroom undetected. I’ve always said things like “It’s a… bad time of the month” apologetically to boyfriends, as if the word “period” might gross them out too much and render me forever unattractive and bloodstained in their eyes. I’ve been able to see cogs whirring as they worked out what this crazy euphemism might mean, and I’ve felt bad for not being more succinct but also resentful for not feeling able to be.

I wish I could talk about menstruation as openly as I do tonsillitis or foot cramps, but I still struggle. I feel as if I have to pretend it doesn’t happen. There’s something about showing the ‘process’ of ‘being a woman’ that isn’t acceptable – we’ve been taught to present the end product, and for some of us it’d be mortifying if our date turned up halfway through our winged eyeliner application or walked in on us shaving our legs. And, similarly, during our periods we’re still supposed to stay quiet – to make everything lovely and rose-scented and invisible until we reach the other side.

I don’t want that. I don’t want to be the girl who keeps her Maxi pads in a box in the cupboard, or the girl who says she has a slight stomach-ache when she actually has raging cramps. We have to deal with periods – let’s talk about them, too.

Sophie Jo writes a lot and cries a lot and is the queen of Disney trivia. Tweet her @notaquamarine.

The image used features a vintage advert for Carefree Tampons showing a woman in her underwear underneath a headline which says “Tamponphobia”. It is used under the Creative Commons license.

Weekly round-up and open thread

by Lusana Taylor // 1 February 2016, 3:37 pm

Tags: ,

3265290852_7429ffef31_zWelcome to another weekly round-up, where we share (what we see as) the most interesting and important articles and essays from the previous seven days.

As always, linking to articles does not mean endorsement from the F-Word and certain links may be triggering. We welcome debate in the comments section and on Facebook/Twitter but remind readers that any comments containing sexist, racist, homophobic, transphobic or disablist language will be deleted immediately.

If you notice that we’ve missed out any important articles from the past week, feel free to let us know!

#TraditionallySubmissive: How 30,000 British Muslim women like me took down David Cameron (By Shelina Janmohamed, The Telegraph)

Working women in poverty speak out (By Jenny Nelson, Red Pepper)

From the article: “I think the word is wrong. Aspiration suggests you’re somehow trying to get to the top of the tree. For me, the aspiration would be to think alternatively – what is the best quality of life I can have that supports other people around me? Otherwise people have lost their human value.. and I don’t want to aspire to that. I do want to go on holiday sometimes and buy my children decent clothes, but not at the expense of other people.”

Leaning in to the Feminine Mystique (By Lauren Murphy, Huffington Post)

Guilty Feminist: Podcast (Guilty Feminist)

Should we still respect Kanye West after his public fight? (By Amber Jamieson, The Guardian CiF)

When it comes to transgender rights, there’s nothing feminist about being a bigot (By Katy Guest, The Independent)

The Birth of Venus: Pulling Yourself Out of the Sea By Your Own Bootstraps (By Mallory Ortberg, The Toast)

Nine humiliating tory defeats you might have missed this week (By Bex Sumner, The Canary)

Julie Delpy and the Cluelessness of White Feminist Entitlement (By Kimberly Foster, For Harriet)

Sex Work Gives Me Anxiety – But For Me, It’s Better Than a Cubicle (By Magpie Corvid, Medium)

From the article: “Much of what would make my work safer or more convenient is illegal. If I offer services with a friend, we become an illegal brothel. If I rent a friend’s studio, she can be arrested as a brothel-keeper. If I hire a driver or security, they break the law by working for me. And of course, I face the risk that a client will turn out to be dangerous, and he will know my address.”

The image is used under a creative commons license with thanks to carnagenyc. It is a photograph of street art in Boston. The image is of a person in, what appears to be, a niqab. The person is standing staring directly ahead with their arms at their sides. Their veil is pale beige in colour, but their clothes are black and, on one sleeve, is a motif picked out in white that reads ‘Peace’. On one shoulder is, what could be, a case holding arrows (to use with a bow) but, where the sharp point of the arrow should be, there is instead a flower. The image is painted onto the brick wall of a plain-looking building. Two people in dark coats are walking past.

About a month ago, I posted a call for applications to be a monthly guest blogger at The F-Word, looking for people interested in blogging over the course of a month in 2016 about issues relating to feminism. We had a truly fantastic response; thank you to everybody who put time and thought into applying.

We’ve now selected all the monthly bloggers for the year (though remember, there are still lots of ways to contribute, with blog posts, features or reviews). I’m very pleased to introduce our first blogger of the year – sorry, I didn’t organise myself quickly enough to cover January!

Throughout February, Helen Reid will be blogging for us. Here’s a bit about her in her own words:

Helen is a 22-year-old feminist journalist living and writing about politics, culture and sports in Brixton, London. With South African roots, she grew up in France and Texas before moving to the UK for university, becoming involved with Cuntry Living feminist zine at Oxford. During her Masters in African Politics at SOAS she deepened her understanding of queer politics and African feminism and aims to write about these during her time blogging for The F-Word, as well as encouraging discussion of gender in sports. She’s looking forward to hearing feedback from The F-Word community this month!

The photo was taken by Alejandra Rojas Salazar and is used under a creative commons licence. It shows a red exterior wall in the sunlight; in the top left corner of the shot is part of a window, covering about 1/3 of the picture. It has a yellow frame and ornamental black bars, behind which there are plants, and then yellow shutters.

2671822805_9dc96eceb1_zOn April 15th 2015, ‘revenge porn’ was criminalised in England and Wales under sections 33, 34, and 35 of the 2015 Criminal Justice and Courts Act (CJC Act). The law is, in theory, a welcome and necessary response to a form of harassment that poses a significant threat to gender equality. I say in theory, however, as a close inspection of the law with a focus on precisely gender equality reveals the extent to which sections included to protect the free speech of a faction of the (usually male) distributors of revenge porn, violate the interests of the (usually female) victims.

The Act requires that a person responsible for disseminating the private sexual image or film has an “intention to cause distress” in doing so. Moreover, where proving “intention to cause distress”, it’s not enough to assume that “distress” is an obvious and expected result of the perpetrator’s actions. Rather, it has to be proved that they fully intended to cause distress.

Arguably, these sections have been included to protect the free speech of those responsible for distributing revenge porn without a malicious intention in doing so. Certainly, a person can distribute revenge porn, for instance, for a laugh, to show a partner off to his friends, by accident, or simply because he wants to make a profit in selling the material to a pornography website. Nevertheless, the reality is that revenge porn causes harm regardless of the intentions of the person responsible for its dissemination. The law criminalising revenge porn thus creates a conflict between the interests of a specific faction of those responsible for distributing revenge porn, and their victims.

Unless the policymakers are willing to waive the protection of people’s right to disseminate revenge porn material, even if without malicious intentions, revenge porn will be difficult – if not impossible – to prevent or strike down. As it stands, the law fails to capture the objectification of women’s bodies for the mere purpose of entertainment and mockery. This is problematic, because it is this form of everyday sexism in the domain of speech about sex that constitutes the very core of revenge porn. Certainly, it is only when the law captures how revenge porn feeds off, and into, gender inequality that it can fully capture and address that which informs the relationship between the victim, offender and audience of revenge porn.

This is not to say that we will not be able to use the law to charge and prosecute anyone. Since the law came into force, people have already been both charged and prosecuted. Furthermore, the increased social and political focus on revenge porn has encouraged Internet service providers and social media sites like Google and Reddit to introduce stricter regulations to prevent revenge porn from appearing in their domains. Whilst this recent development is a very positive movement in the right direction, it is still not clear what material these companies will actually be removing from their sites without a concise legal definition of revenge porn to guide them.

According to the revenge porn legislation, proof of an intention to cause distress is necessary for the material to constitute revenge porn. Unless such proof can be easily established, there are no concise further definitions for the sites to go by in determining what material to remove. As we are already aware, sex sells. It is therefore unlikely that any sexual material will be removed from the Internet unless it is absolutely evident that the material was disseminated non-consensually. Whilst the law is not aimed at the Internet service providers and social media sites, it is also futile as a means of providing any form of legal guidelines to those responsible for removing revenge porn material from their sites.

The focus on malicious intentions renders the revenge porn law a flawed piece of legislation. In failing to capture the everyday sexism that the distribution of revenge porn, even without malicious intention, represents, the law also fails to address the gender inequality located at the very core of this particular form of cyber exploitation. In terms of responding to, and preventing, the harms to gender equality that occur in cyberspace at the hands of revenge pornographers, the Act is a futile legal tool.

Rikke Amundsen is a PhD candidate at the University of Cambridge Centre for Gender Studies.

The image used depicts the “Control” key on a computer keyboard and is used under the Creative Commons License.

Weekly Round-up and Open Thread

by Lusana Taylor // 25 January 2016, 9:40 pm



Welcome to another weekly round-up, where we share (what we see as) the most interesting and important articles and essays from the previous seven days.

As always, linking to articles does not mean endorsement from the F-Word and certain links may be triggering. We welcome debate in the comments section and on Facebook/Twitter but remind readers that any comments containing sexist, racist, homophobic, transphobic or disablist language will be deleted immediately.

If you notice that we’ve missed out any important articles from the past week, feel free to let us know!

What it’s like to be a single woman at 60 (New Statesman)

Could feminists save the Anglican Church? (The Conversation)

Couple to begin court fight against ban on heterosexual civil partnerships (The Guardian)

From the article: “Keidan and Steinfeld said: ‘We’ve just had a baby and we want to cement and celebrate our relationship by forming a civil partnership but we can’t. We were both involved in the fight for same-sex marriage within our community, and it is fantastic social progress that couples can now marry, regardless of sexual orientation. We, however, want to raise our child as equal partners and believe that a civil partnership – a modern, symmetrical institution – best reflects our beliefs, and sets the best example for her.'”

Weight Loss Is Not An Anti-Feminist Act (Lucy in the pub with cider)

Oscars 2016: It’s time for Hollywood to stop defining great drama as white men battling adversity (LA Times)

From the article: “‘Diversity,’ the lack of it and need for it, has been discussed and debated ad nauseam. But diversity isn’t a civic duty, it’s an artistic necessity. For any art form to remain relevant, it must grow with the society it explores, questions, criticizes and represents”

Where’s Rey? (Sweatpants & Coffee)

From the article: “The insider, who was at those meetings, described how initial versions of many of the products presented to Lucasfilm featured Rey prominently. At first, discussions were positive, but as the meetings wore on, one or more individuals raised concerns about the presence of female characters in the Star Wars products. Eventually, the product vendors were specifically directed to exclude the Rey character from all Star Wars-related merchandise, said the insider.

‘We know what sells,’ the industry insider was told. ‘No boy wants to be given a product with a female character on it.'”

The invisibility of black women (Boston Review)

David Cameron should celebrate Muslim women, not strip them of their identity (The Conversation)

A Story of a Fuck Off Fund (Bill Fold)

Guest post: The Fuck Off Fund–all right for some (Another angry woman)

Sick Woman Theory (Mask)

From the article: “‘Sickness’ as we speak of it today is a capitalist construct, as is its perceived binary opposite, “wellness.” The “well” person is the person well enough to go to work. The “sick” person is the one who can’t. What is so destructive about conceiving of wellness as the default, as the standard mode of existence, is that it invents illness as temporary. When being sick is an abhorrence to the norm, it allows us to conceive of care and support in the same way.”

Genderqueer & disabled… but not your motivational tool! (The Queerness)

From the article: “They don’t want the symptoms; the incontinence pads and catheters, they don’t want staying in bed because everything feels so horrible and wrong, or being unable to get dressed without help, falls and injuries. They want a vague idea of some nightmarish scenario that somehow you consolidate with your life and you come out stronger”

Gillian Anderson Initially Offered Half of David Duchovny’s Pay for The X-Files Revival (The Mary Sue)

From the article: “Even in interviews in the last few years, people have said to me, ‘I can’t believe that happened, how did you feel about it, that is insane.’ And my response always was, ‘That was then, this is now.’ And then it happened again! I don’t even know what to say about it.”

What It’s Like to Date When You Can’t Have Sex (Everyday Feminism)

From the article: “There was a possibility I could climax in other ways. As several friends and fellow sufferers over the years had pointed out, oral sex exists. But the feeling of arousal was so often accompanied by emotional distress that I never wanted to try. I could hardly even listen to friend’s stories of sexual escapades without feeling like my stomach was going to fall out of my body.”

TS Eliot prize row: is winner too young, beautiful – and Chinese? (The Guardian)

From the article: “The author’s claim not to be sexist wasn’t exactly helped by his tweet: ‘This gentle interview with a leading young poet has led various deranged poetesses to call me thick, sexist etc’. Here’s the thing: people who don’t belittle women also don’t use the term ‘poetesses’.”

Bad TV Romance: Could You Not? (Foz Meadows)

From the article: “Returning, then, to the problem of romance, why is will-they won’t-they still seen as such a reliable default? I have my suspicions, and once again – somewhat unsurprisingly, at this point – they’re rooted in sexism. While straight romance as endgame is a device common across all genres, and is therefore seen as an acceptable, even mandatory inclusion, writing romance as an ongoing or primary narrative component is consistently coded as feminine, and is therefore devalued.”

What I would have said to you last night, had you not cum and then fallen asleep (Feministing)

From the article:
“[Patriarchy] structures consensual sex: It helps determine what we believe sex is, and how we experience it…
…I’m saying this because we need to know — you, human male lying next to me; you need to know — that the way you conceptualize pleasure and its choreography is not the way sex inevitably is. You can fuck differently.”

How to Keep Writing When No One Gives a Shit (Jennifer Garam)

Here’s what to do if you see a homeless person sleeping rough in the cold (Metro)

Parliament’s New Sex Work Inquiry Looks Like a Witch Hunt (Frankie Mullin at Vice)

From the article: “This bullshit legislative situation, which doesn’t put workers’ safety as a primary concern, has real implications. Since 1990, 151 sex workers have been murdered in the UK and an estimated two-thirds have experienced violence at work. This is your ducking stool, hookers: how much danger and persecution can you take until you realise what you’re doing is an affront to the moral order?”

Dawn Foster Interview: Equality, Misogyny and Leaning Out (Huffington Post)

Activist Charlotte Cooper on Loose Ends (Radio 4)

You can read Charlotte’s latest article on her website HERE.

The image is used with the permission of L.Taylor. It is a photograph of a woodland scene. The sun is shining through grey cloud and reflecting in a puddle on a dirt track. In the distance, pine trees are silhouetted against the pale sky.

Opening up and shutting down

by Megan Stodel // 23 January 2016, 3:12 pm

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I’m non-monogamous and in much the same way that I want to be open about my bisexuality, I’m pretty vocal about being in an open relationship, at least partly to try to increase visibility of non-traditional relationship structures. This means I have a lot of conversations about non-monogamy, particularly with people I don’t know very well. I’m totally up for talking, but there are a few things that come up repeatedly that I’m less thrilled about.

How did your boyfriend convince you to do that?

Always from people who don’t know me at all, normally from straight men, often accompanied by, “Lucky him!”

This reveals the underlying assumption that such an arrangement would clearly appeal to men but women would be reluctant to be involved. Men, after all, think about sex 12,617 times a day, while women are hell-bent on carefully constructing a traditional family unit that they can dress in coordinating outfits. Non-monogamy is a challenge to conventional relationships that runs contrary to what women prize, but allows men the freedom that they crave (and probably need).

Or something like that.

Unsurprisingly, this isn’t how things happened. I worked out I was non-monogamous when I was 20 and since then have had a few relationships, all of which have started with me clearly explaining that I don’t want a monogamous set up and talking through what will work best for us. I’ve always been the instigator of this discussion.

When will you start looking for a proper relationship?

On the rare occasions open relationships are discussed or portrayed in mainstream media, the couple involved are on their last legs, trying something new to spice things up, or else just not looking for anything serious. The relationship is a diversion and ultimately doomed.

The notion that the only kind of serious relationship is a monogamous one most likely stems from the idea that relationships need physical commitment, which seems like a hangover from times when things like ancestry were important and difficult to determine while avoiding conception was a bit hit and miss. I’m not planning on having children but in modern times, if I wanted to have a child with my partner, I could probably manage it without being too worried it was somebody else’s. Similarly, in the event that I don’t want a child with anybody else, that’s also avoidable.

Family plans aside, however, you can be in a non-monogamous relationship that is serious and aspire to be in it lifelong. In fact, these sorts of relationships have the potential to be incredibly strong, because if you have successfully managed to work out jealousy issues, then the key reasons for many relationship breakdowns suddenly become kind of irrelevant. You’re also often communicating a lot about what’s going on and how you’re feeling about everything, which is great for keeping relationships going well.

You just need to meet the right person.

Non-monogamy is not about my relationships; it’s about me. No doubt others have different approaches, but I don’t ever envisage being in a monogamous relationship. I cannot imagine any individual changing that.

All these comments fail to engage with the fact that non-monogamy is a way of having a relationship (or multiple relationships). It isn’t a bro hack that lets men have all the fun of singledom (remember how when you’re single, you literally sleep with a new person every night?) while still having a woman at home to cook you steak and do laundry. In fact, those who are so impressed at my boyfriend’s luck often have their fantasies dashed when they realise it’s a two way street, and actually they might not be that comfortable with their partner being with somebody else, mere seconds after celebrating the idea of their own potential freedom.

There are also countless ways of having non-monogamous relationships and partners will have different ways of approaching them. My account may well not reflect somebody else’s experience. What would be nice, however, would be recognition of these sorts of relationships as valid and worthwhile. I’m very happy to talk about mine with those who are interested, but my heart will sink if the starting assumption disengages with the idea that I’m in a meaningful relationship at all.

The image is by Alan Levine and is used under a creative commons licence. An unilluminated sign on a door reads OPEN in large red letters with a blue border round the entire word. Below it a smaller sign stuck on the window reads SORRY WE’RE CLOSED. It’s clever wordplay, basically.

On sexism and immigration

by D H Kelly // 22 January 2016, 2:31 pm

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White cliffs of doverOne of the biggest problems with discussing immigration in Britain is the way people conflate diverse, often entirely unrelated issues, into their general complaint that ‘it’s all gone too far’. One minute, someone will be complaining about foreign businesspeople buying up London property and pushing up prices and the next minute, they’ll be complaining about the doctor whose accent they couldn’t understand as if those two things are connected.

This week, our Prime Minister did something much like this. On Monday, David Cameron spoke of how many Muslism women were kept isolated and segregated by their “menfolk”. Somehow connected to this, non-EU migrants will soon be obliged to learn English within two and a half years or they might be forced to leave the country. The government are going to spend money on teaching and testing English, despite cutting English teaching programmes a few years ago. All this, to somehow prevent terrorism.

That’s about as coherent as I can make it out to be. The figures for how many Muslim women (the majority of whom are not recent migrants) struggle to speak English are controversial and there isn’t a shred of evidence of a relationship between not speaking English and sympathising with terrorist groups. The idea of testing people seems to add another nonsense hoop for migrants to jump though (much like the Life in the UK test, which the vast majority of UK residents would flunk).

Our immigration policies are indirectly sexist by virtue of the inequalities within our society and this has got much worse in recent years. After April, non-EU migrants who have been here for five years and earn less than £35,000 a year will be thrown out. This is a ridiculous policy based on the idea that a person’s contribution to the country can only be measured in how much they earn – as if Wayne Rooney’s £13 million salary represents 620 times the contribution of a nurse on £21K. And that’s before we take into account the contributions – in terms of unpaid labour, community and social support, and civic participation – that people, especially women, make without pay.

Because of unequal pay, the £35K salary threshold excludes 70% of men working in the UK, but 80% of women*. So, for every two non-EU women on work visas who are allowed to stay after five years, we can expect that there will be three men.

There’s a similar gender disparity for British people with foreign spouses who wish to settle in the UK. Before 2012, the foreign spouse of a British citizen faced a probationary period of two years before being allowed permanent leave to remain. This was then extended to five. The British party must now earn £18,600 a year in order for their spouse to be given leave to stay here – a particularly cruel and heart-breaking rule, especially in the twenty-first century when geography is no barrier to meeting and falling in love. 30% working British men don’t earn enough to have a foreign spouse live with them. 40% of women don’t*.

This means that most of those migrants on spousal visas will be women, but where migrant women are kept isolated from society, the migration system plays an essential role. A controlling British husband can hold his foreign wife under the threat of deportation (with accompanying shame, destitution and separation from any young children) up to five years after her arrival. Women who experience domestic violence are protected from automatic deportation, but isolated women are unlikely to know this or have the means to seek help. They will however be acutely aware of the five year probation and the dire consequences if their marriage breaks down before then.

A shorter probationary period or, as happens in some other countries, a system that allows foreign spouses to apply for permanent leave to remain at the point of entry, would make migrant women far safer and very much reduce the power of their British “menfolk”.

The fact that Cameron focussed on Muslim women in particular – as opposed to all migrants from non-English speaking countries – is suspicious. Cameron added to the confusion of his central message (Does he mean to help Muslim women? Does he mean to control them?) when on Tuesday he stated he would not object to schools or public buildings banning the face veil.

Miriam Francois-Cerrah’s excellent article on this is worth reading in its entirety, but I will leave you with a quote from her:

How would potentially taking away his mother from a vulnerable child help solve the issue of extremism? How exactly is this likely to ingratiate said vulnerable child to “western culture” – or, as I like to call it, his own country – if he is said to be struggling with its values?

The answer, obviously, is that it won’t. You don’t assist marginalised women by criminalising them.

* According to my sums, based on the ONS figures from government analysis of the gender pay gap (link to PDF).

[Image is a photograph of the white cliffs of Dover – white cliffs over a blue sea on a sunny day. The photograph is by Makiko Itoh, was found on Flickr and is used under a Creative Commons license.]

Weekly Round-up and Open Thread

by Lusana Taylor // 19 January 2016, 7:43 am


Welcome to another weekly round-up, where we share (what we see as) the most interesting and important articles and essays from the previous seven days.

At the beginning of last week we woke to the sad news that iconic musician and all-around cultural trailblazer David Bowie had died. You can read what he meant to A-Level student Melanie in her article for the F-Word, Gender is Performance! However, among the outpourings of grief and tributes, there was a fair amount of unease from certain quarters about Bowie’s status as an unchallenged feminist icon. You can read more about this in the articles below and we would love to hear your thoughts.

As always, linking to articles does not mean endorsement from the F-Word and certain links may be triggering. We welcome debate in the comments section and on Facebook/Twitter but remind readers that any comments containing sexist, racist, homophobic, transphobic or disablist language will be deleted immediately.

If you notice that we’ve missed out any important articles from the past week, feel free to let us know!

The “Carol” Oscars Snub: The Problem Isn’t Lesbians, It’s Misandry (By Heather Hogan, AutoStraddle)

8 incredible Oscar-worthy performances that deserved nominations (By Nikita Richardson, Hello Giggles)

Amy Winehouse, Kurt Cobain and the Gendering of Martyrdom (By Molly Beauchemin, Pitchfork)

UK a long way from transgender equality, MPs say (BBC News)

It’s time to end the ‘last acceptable racism’ – against Gypsies and Travellers (Mike Doherty, The Guardian)

‘Lovely and Slim’ (Kuir Fest)

Three misfit polyamorous queers poke fun at the social pressure to be lovely and slim to an ironic soundtrack. Filmed in a day in the trio’s front room, this delightful short celebrates funny-looking bodies, lo-fi values, DIY and punk philosophy throughout.

Notes Towards a Theory of the Manarchist (Strike!)

CONTENT WARNING: misogyny, sexual assault, rape

From the article: “The Manarchist is the best activist. He knows this in his heart. The Manarchist proposes the most radical actions, articulates the most meaningful theories. He alone is enlightened. We all must read Adorno, but only the Manarchist understands him properly…”

Sex Equality: State of the Nation 2016 (The Fawcett Society)

The rebel feminist artists of the 70s, uncensored (By Alice Newell-Hanson, i-d)

Some Complex Thoughts on David Bowie and Consent (Ferrett)

From the article: “In the end, I think it’s good to promote models of consent. And it’s good to call out people who violate models of consent. But if we get so caught up on the model that we actively ignore people saying, “No, wait, this was actually a positive event in my life” after they’ve had literally decades to ponder its effect, then I think we’ve abandoned some essential principle of humanity in the pursuit of an ideal.”

David Bowie, rock star groupies and the sexually adventurous ’70s: “Labeling us as victims in retrospect is not a very conscious thing to do” (By Scot Tinberg, Salon)

How Labyrinth led me to David Bowie (By Charlotte Richardson-Andrews, The Guardian)

David Bowie was wonderful. He was also an abuser. How do we handle that? (By Aoife, Consider the Tea Cosy)

The following post is a response piece to the comments Aoife received on her first post about David Bowie (above).

Aoife is a vile opportunist attention-seeker, jumping on a bandwagon for clicks and money (By Aoife, Consider the Teacosy)

From the article: “What on earth is wrong with wanting attention in the first place? Let’s say that I did want attention. That I wrote a post on a blog so that other people could read it. And then I shared it on social media so that people would read it. Let’s say that I liked it when more people started to read it. Let’s say that I loved writing and would love to earn a living from it. Maybe I took the time to think about what topics people would like to read about, and then spent more time writing them. Why do you have a problem with that?”

Reconciling David Bowie’s genius with rape (Dr Rebecca Haines)

David Bowie: Death of an author (Really Ely?)

David Bowie: Time to mourn or call out? (Aida Manduley)

The following post was published last year but it’s worth reading again given circumstances, which is why it’s being included.

What Is It About Our Artists and Very Young Girls? (By Emily, XOJane)

The image is used under a creative commons license with thanks to Wowser on Flickr. It shows David Bowie holding a beautiful Abyssinian cat. In the photo, Bowie’s hair is dyed blonde and is tousled at the front. He is wearing a black leather jacket and is holding the cat protectively against his chest.

Weekly Round-up and Open Thread

by Lusana Taylor // 11 January 2016, 11:01 am


Welcome to the F-Word’s first weekly round-up of 2016! I’m referring to this as a ‘bumper round-up’ because it actually contains links from the past fortnight (and ‘bumper round-up’ sounds better than ‘I forgot my password for the sixth time and so couldn’t log in to post last week – whoops.’)

All the links listed are chosen by the F-Word editors & team members and vary between things we think are awesome and things that have caused us a fair amount of feminist rage. We’d love for you to get involved and discuss issues raised in any of the articles we link to, so please do feel free to start up (friendly) conversation in the comments section below or on our Facebook/Twitter pages. You’re also very welcome to share other links if you feel we’ve missed a key article from the past fortnight and would like to talk about it.

As always, we remind readers that linking does not necessarily mean endorsement/acceptance from the F-Word and that some articles may be triggering. We encourage discussion and debate but any comments including sexist, racist, homophobic, transphobic or disablist language will be deleted immediately.

My personal highlight from the last two weeks in feminist news has been discussion about the new Star Wars film and, in particular, the character of Rey. I encourage you to read Nick Beard’s amazing piece for the F-Word – ‘Star Wars has always been a girls’ thing too’ – as well as the other articles below. Enjoy!

Rey is the real breakthrough for women in Hollywood in 2015 (By Marisa Bate, The Pool)

2015: The Year of the Lioness(es) (By Jen Offord, Standard Issue)

The Top 50 White Guys Of 2015 (By Emily Pothast, The Establishment)

Let’s end the taboo over the menopause (By Myra Hunter, Morning Star)

10 Ways the Beauty Industry Tells You Being Beautiful Means Being White (By Maisha Z. Johnson, Everyday Feminism)

“Any body—every body—is a bikini body”: Women’s Health bans the phrases “Bikini Body” and “Drop Two Sizes” from its covers for good (By Rachel Kramer Bussel, Salon)

As a gay black ex-detective, this is what I think when I’m asked if black people should join the police (The Independent)

Crap apps and female e-mail (language: a feminist guide)

From the article: “Apart from being based on naïve and simplistic ideas about how language works, the other big problem with the ‘women, stop undermining yourselves’ approach is that it presupposes a deficit model of women’s language-use. If women use the word ‘sorry’ more than men (and by the way, that’s a genuine ‘if’: I’m not aware of any compelling evidence they do), that can only mean that women are over-using ‘sorry’, apologizing when it isn’t necessary or appropriate. The alternative interpretation—that men are under-using ‘sorry’ because they don’t always apologise when the circumstances demand it —is surely no less logical or plausible, but somehow it never comes up.”

Rebel Without a Cause: The politics of The Hunger Games series aren’t as revolutionary as they’ve been hyped to be (By Marlon Lieber & Daniel Zamora, Jacobin)

This is my reality as a woman music journalist (By Lina Lecaro, Noisey)

The End of the Desistance Myth (By Brynn Tannehill, Huffington Post)

Woman Goes Viral After Shutting Down Racist Co-Worker in the Most Hilarious Way Possible (By Amanda Girard, US Uncut)

You would never know I’m crying after I answer your 999 call (The Guardian)

Cologne Mayor’s ‘code of conduct’ to prevent sexual assault angers many (BBC News)

After Cologne, we can’t let the bigots steal feminism (By Laurie Penny, New Statesman)

From the article: “So let me be clear: sexual violence is never, ever acceptable. Not for cultural reasons. Not for religious reasons. Not because the perpetrators are really angry and disenfranchised. There can be no quarter for systemic misogyny. And if we’re serious about that, there’s not a country or culture on earth that won’t have to take a long, hard look at itself. I stand with the many, many Muslim, Arab, Asian and immigrant feminists organising against sexism and misogyny within and beyond their own communities. Nobody seems to have thought to ask them how best to deal with systemic sexual violence – even though attacks on Muslim women have increased since the terrorist attacks in Paris last year.”

Carrie Fisher Tells Off Body Critics After The Force Awakens, Continues to Give No ****s (By Dan Van Winkle, The Mary Sue)

Our 30-Day Masturbation Challenge Is About To Change Your Sex Life (By Hayley Macmillen, Refinery 29)

What are your feminist resolutions for 2016? (By Laura Bates, The Guardian)

Chris Gayle’s comments were not funny, they were misleading (By Alison Kervin, The Pool)

Ghastly Chris Gayle not an isolated case – sport devalues women (By Carrie Dunn, Eurosport)

Carrie has previously written for the F-Word and her past articles can be found HERE.

Women, Work, Creativity, Leisure and Time. Because Time is a Feminist Issue (Kelly Diels)

What A Sex Worker Can Teach You About Working For Yourself (By Margaret Corvid, The Establishment)

22 Times Philomena Cunk Spoke The Terrifying And Wonderful Truth (By Robin Edds, Buzzfeed)

Sexism is not an imported product (rs21)

In Defense of the Personal Essay (By s.e smith, This Ain’t Livin’)

The subversive feminism of two Obama staffers’ Secret Service codenames (By Emily Heil, The Washington Post)

8-Year-Old Asks Hasbro “Where’s Rey?,” Hasbro Responds … Not Terribly, I Guess (By Carolyn Cox, The Mary Sue)

The Chubsters and me: how my fat girl gang queered activism (By Charlotte Cooper, Open Democracy)

Saatchi Gallery to show its first all-female art exhibition (By Nadia Khomami, The Guardian)

Don’t code me bro: Gendered language markers (By s.e smith, This Ain’t Livin’)

Big Joanie: On Being Black Feminist Punks (By Fatma Wardy, Gal-dem)

Things Mums of Boys Will Know (Salt & Caramel)

John Akomfrah: ‘I haven’t destroyed this country. There’s no reason other immigrants would’ (The Guardian)

At a glossy hotel in Barcelona, I found the unicorn of pornography (By Tanya Gold, New Statesman)

The image is used under a creative commons license with thanks to Heather Paul. It shows the actor Daisy Ridley, who plays Rey in Star Wars: The Force Awakens, at San Diego Comic Con. In the photograph, Daisy is smiling broadly with her head turned slightly to the side. She appears to be wearing a blue V-neck top or dress, and is sat in front of a microphone. Her hair is arranged in French plaits. The San Diego Comic Con logo can be seen on a banner behind her.


Happy new year! I hope 2016 is a good one for us all.

Starting as I mean to go on, I’ve kicked off this first playlist of the year with a classic Belly track. If anyone hasn’t listened to their 1993 album ‘Star’, crank that up right now. It’s an absolute classic – all killer, etc.

Tuff Love sound similarly inspired by that era, with a great balance of grunge guitar and sweet lyrics. The Glasgow band are touring the UK in February – check out the dates on their website. I’ll see you down the front.

The Kelela track is absolutely epic! Her second album ‘Hallucinogen’ was released to mass critical acclaim in October last year and I’m looking forward to give this and her first album some proper time.

Grimes’ album ‘Art Angels’, which was released in November last year to mostly universal critical acclaim (NME listed it as their number one album of 2015), makes for an interesting listen. For me, the tracks I’ve heard so far are decidedly more ‘pop’ in sound, although this is something Grimes has contested. The track I’ve included featuring Janelle Monáe is a favourite, so far.

Please click here for your January playlist. Happy listening!

The image is of Kelela performing onstage. She has long, black dreadlocks and sports a long-sleeved black shirt. She tosses her head, mic in one hand, eyes closed, seemingly caught up in the music. Image by Mr Oxblood, shared under a Creative Commons licence.

Breaking up is hard to do

by D H Kelly // 6 January 2016, 4:01 pm

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luggageThere are many ill-effects of our belief that having a romantic partner is a necessary and sufficient condition for happiness. Most of these fall on single people, in the form of unsolicited advice, unwanted sympathy and a sense of failure in a world that treats any cheap prize in the lottery of love as a sparkling jackpot. But I think the very worst effect of our cult of coupledom falls on partnered people. Folk don’t break up nearly so often as they ought to.

This week, more people will contact solicitors about getting divorced than any other week of the year. Three out of four divorces in other-sex marriage are initiated by women, although it’s very difficult to know quite what that means: Is it that women are more likely to initiate the break-up, or is it just that women take it upon themselves – or have a more pressing need – to get things formalised, however the relationship might have ended?

The idea that good people have lasting relationsihps comes from all directions. There are social conservatives, often with religious objections to divorce, who have an inconsistent faith in romantic love. Marriage is wonderful, they argue, but marriage is extremely difficult, and what counts is that people endure it, no matter what. Such people often use statistics which demonstrate the costs of ending long-term relationships – like the fact that the children of single parents (usually women) are significantly more likely to live in poverty – with all that entails – than those living with two parents. Being single can be extremely expensive – the cost of housing is now such that some couples who break up can’t afford to live apart. But these are economic issues and don’t demonstrate any natural advantage for unhappy couples to stay together.

Yet even in the most progressive circles, there’s still this belief that staying together is what really matters. There are perfectly sound arguments for polyamory; if folks want to do it, agree the terms amongst themselves and proceed in a spirit of love, respect and openness, then they have every chance of increasing the sum of human happiness. But there’s a very bad, more evangelical, argument for polyamory I still see around, which claims that none of us are capable of authentic monogamy, that all partnered people will fall in love or want to have sex with other people and, in monogamous relationships, this means either agonising self-denial, betrayal or – heaven forbid – breaking up.

Our culture is awash with both highly romantic and deeply cynical views on romance, often tangled together in the same message. That people shouldn’t break up combines both; people shouldn’t break up because love is all about hard work and compromise; people shouldn’t break up because love is sacred and everlasting.

Arguably these ideas are enshrined in UK law, which still lacks a no fault divorce. In the eyes of the law – unless both parties are happy to wait for two years in the not-exactly-married, not-exactly-divorced limbo of separation – if a marriage ends, someone has done something wrong. The situation puts me in mind of Buffy The Vampire Slayer, where there is a constant flow of teenage couplings and decouplings but few break-ups are prompted by anything short of one party becoming supernaturally evil.

This is a culture which leads to a lot of misery. My own experience as an abuse survivor is extreme, although not uncommon. But as well as fear of what an abuser will do, people stay in abusive relationships for exaggerated versions of the reasons that people stay in more mundanely unhappy relationships. There’s fear of being alone and unloved, compounded by isolation and the sense of incompetence that’s been drummed into a person. But there are also these pseudo-moral claims. A good person (most often a good woman, a good wife) will stand by their partner no matter what. A loving emotionally-intelligent person (which is what women are supposed to be) can make a relationship work.

This emotional work women do – along with the bulk of unpaid domestic labour and childcare – may be why married men tend to be happier and healthier, while married women, on average, are not. This isn’t about individuals – it would be difficult to describe the quality of my second marriage to a man without making others both nauseous and suspicious. However, to weigh against such positive experiences and average out at zero benefit, many women must be in inequitable and unhappy relationships which are grinding them down.

Life is hard work and being involved in the lives of other people is hard work, but we easily confuse hard work and suffering. Change is also hard work, and if that’s what it takes to move from a place of suffering, then it is very much worth while.

[Image is a photograph of four old fashioned suitcases stacked on top of one another. They are different colours and sizes. The photograph is titled “Parmiter Antiques Southsea Luggage”, is by THOR and was found on Flickr. It is used under a Creative Commons License.]

Star Wars was always a boys’ thing and a movie that dads could take their sons to, and though that’s still very much the case, I was really hoping this could be a movie that mothers could take their daughters to, as well,” said JJ Abrams, director of the newest film in the Star Wars series, The Force Awakens. It’s a big shift in thinking for the franchise whose fandom had been perceived especially by merchandisers as predominantly male. Yet Abrams seems to be confusing two different issues – that Star Wars has traditionally been a fairly white, male homogeneous film on the screen versus the incredibly diverse fanbase that the films have enjoyed offscreen.

Star Wars: The Force Awakens

I speak from my own experience as a lifelong Star Wars fan: I first saw Return of the Jedi with my younger sister when I was nine years old. Sure, we both loved the cute, cuddly Ewoks and we were probably at the right age to accept the idea of the Force without questioning the myriad of inconsistencies, but even then we understood there was something magical about Star Wars, and especially Princess Leia (Carrie Fisher). We spent hours discussing what we would do as senators during the takeover of the Galactic Senate.

At the time I was just becoming interested in politics and beginning to understand that the government I saw in my reality was overwhelmingly white and male. Leia was a member of the Galactic Senate, organising humanitarian missions, arguing loudly for democracy and human rights, but when in a life-threatening fire fight, she was also the films’ best shot with a blaster. When we first meet her in A New Hope, she is compassionate but defiant. “You weren’t on any mercy mission this time,” Darth Vader (James Earl Jones) spits at her, bringing to my mind untold but imagined humanitarian crises and missions that Princess Leia had undertaken.

She was a role model I had been looking for: unafraid to stand up for what she believed in and never short of the eloquent words needed to make her argument. Yes, she might have fallen in love with a handsome smuggler along the way (Harrison Ford’s iconic Han Solo), but her priority was always protecting the Rebel Alliance, achieving her mission to overthrow the Empire. The idea that a relationship could start not with love as first sight (like in Disney movies), but through banter and teamwork of two equal partners working together to save the galaxy sounded a lot more interesting and rewarding to me. I didn’t want to be a woman whose story seemed to end when she fell in love. I wanted to establish a relationship based on shared goals and principles. To this day, when asked about my childhood role models, I would cite Princess Leia and clearly her massive fan following amongst both young girls and boys indicates she enchanted plenty of others.

I was lucky I could identify so strongly with Leia, because female characters in the original trilogy were sparse and sidelined during action sequences. There is a stereotype that Star Wars is a movie for boys – to the point of selling action figurine sets without Rey and female villain Captain Phasma (Gwendoline Christie). It’s disappointing and hardly representative of the experiences I’ve had in Star Wars fandom among many women.

The new movie promised to be more diverse and it does indeed deliver, in casting crowd scenes and minor roles. No longer is everyone on the Rebel base nor all of the fighter pilots white men – I was incredibly excited to see both an Asian woman and a man of Indian descent flying for the Rebellion during a critical fight scene. Even the evil First Order has diversified: the descendant tyrannical organisation of the Empire seems to have used the time between Return of the Jedi (1983) and The Force Awakens to lean in, as women now make up a significant part of their ranks. It’s a bit concerning when an organisation happy to destroy entire planets is more gender-aware than the leadership of most Fortune 500 companies.

The main characters of this The Force Awakens continue this trend of exciting casting: we’re introduced to former stormtrooper Finn (Black Briton John Boyega), scavenger Rey (Daisy Ridley) and ace pilot Poe (Hispanic actor Oscar Isaacs). It amplifies a sense that the First Order’s General Hux (Domhnall Gleeson) and Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) are relics from another time, reminiscent of Donald Trump or Nigel Farage, clinging to a long gone historic supremacy. Watching the new film, I was envious of every young girl being introduced to this Star Wars, a world where women can be heroes, villains, fighter pilots. Finally Star Wars is becoming a franchise that better matches its broad fanbase – and more diverse casting in the next films (and Rey action figures!) would continue that trend.

Nick Beard is a massive fan of both Star Wars and Star Trek and does not find the two to be the least bit contradictory. In between debates about the Ferengi’s view of capitalism, she can be found doing a PhD in London. Tweet her @beardy911.

Picture is a still from Star Wars: The Force Awakens. It shows a robot BB-8 (it’s white orange and grey) in the background and Rey (Daisy Ridley) in the foreground. She’s a young woman with green eyes and her hair tucked back, she’s looking into the camera concerned/frightened and her mouth is open as if she was shouting something or perhaps making a disgusted sound. Photo: Film Frame © 2014 Lucasfilm Ltd. & TM. All Right Reserved. © 2015 Lucasfilm Ltd. & TM. All Right Reserved.

A look back at 2015 at The F-Word

by Lissy Lovett // 29 December 2015, 4:59 pm

Number_2015v2This is a round-up of some of our posts from 2015. If there was a post that you particularly loved (or hated!) this year at The F-Word then let us know in the comments. You can find all the older posts from The F-Word at this link.

Some of the biggest stories in UK feminism this year for us were Protein World’s unfortunate advertisement, Germaine Greer’s unhelpful views on transgender issues and the film Suffragette including Sisters Uncut’s protest at the premiere. We had pieces responding to other feminist issues in current affairs like this nonsense from Dr Aric Sigman, this nonsense from the Independent, the furore surrounding Tim Hunt’s comments, some of the restrictions on HIV prevention drugs available to women and the closure of the Broken Rainbow Helpline.

Lots of interesting people blogged for us over the year. They wrote about feminist awakenings, the objectification of women, sexism in schools, intimidation and misogyny, abuse, high heels, and a really funny post about intimate hygiene products. There were also thoughtful posts on terminology like “mansplaining” and “trigger warning”.

In our reviews section, we gave feminist critique to some mainstream television programmes including Louis Theroux’s documentary, Raised By Wolves and Orange is the New Black. We also considered films including Girlhood, books including Louise O’Neill’s Asking For It, exhibitions including Idil Sukan’s comedy photography, music including Florence + the Machine and theatre and comedy at the Edinburgh Festival. Our features included pieces on gender equality within music, the continuing lack of women on panel shows, and interviews with Desiree Akhavan, Elisabeth Subrin and Ste McCabe.

We closed off the year with some festive feminism considering the yearly “don’t get raped” advice that women receive from the police and a feminist santa comic strip from our new illustrator.

Lastly we had a few new faces join The F-Word team this year, including me. We’re always interested in hearing from new writers, and if you’d like to write for us in 2016 then you can find out how here.

The image is of the number 2015 created with small lights against a dark background. It is by Fraxinus Croat and used under a creative commons licence.

Today marks the introduction of a new law in the UK: coercive control is now a criminal offence. Originally announced just over a year ago, the creaking cogs of government have now made it official, with the offence included the Serious Crime Act 2015 as of March this year and officially applicable as of 29 December.

This covers numerous activities that could be considered controlling in personal relationships, like a person preventing their partner from having a social life or doing anything on their own, or having control over their money, sleeping or eating patterns. Many of these things were covered by previous laws around domestic abuse, stalking or harassment, but this new offence is clear that this is an offence even if the person subjected to coercive control does not fear violence; while this is certainly one of the elements that define the activity as criminal, it is also sufficient for the person being controlled to experience “serious alarm or distress which has a substantial adverse effect on [their] usual day-to-day activities”.

Some have criticised this law. Sandra Horley, Refuge’s chief executive, opposes the criminalisation of coercive control, with the following reasoning:

We already have enough laws – the problem is that they are not being implemented properly. The police don’t even arrest when there is evidence of serious physical violence, so how are police and juries ever going to understand complex concepts like coercive control?

I recognise the problem that Horley highlights. It should undoubtedly be a priority to address a lack of implementation of laws around domestic abuse. I can also see how it might be challenging to secure a conviction on the more nuanced basis of the coercive control offence, which is surely less clearly understood and appreciated by the police and general public than violence within a relationship.

However, ultimately I think the introduction of this law will be a good thing.

Firstly, the very fact of its existence is due to a consultation, in which 85% of the 757 respondents (a mixture of the general public, victims of domestic abuse, service providers, charities, police forces, academics and professional bodies) were in favour of strengthening the law on domestic abuse. Seven in ten (70%) felt the law did not capture the government definition of domestic abuse. It’s good to see legislation arise from such a clear consultation. And given that the law does seem to clarify details of the definition of coercive control and confirm that violence or the threat of it is not necessarily a part of it, it may well be crucial to broadening the legal understanding of domestic abuse and enabling convictions.

Laws must to be consistently carried out to be effective, but they need to exist in the first place to get to that stage. One of the barriers that people can face while experiencing domestic abuse is an uncertainty about what is happening and what it amounts to; if the law is hazy, then it is not properly supporting people in harmful situations. A clearer law is affirmative and potentially empowering (a word that is much overused, but I mean it here, in instances where people who previously might not have been clearly covered by the law now have legal standing).

And if one of the problems with tackling domestic abuse lies in flaws with the approach of the police, then enacting a law speaks their language. It is not guaranteed to be effective, but putting it into law is a clear signifier to those whose role it is to enforce it. Increased clarity will help – it won’t exacerbate the problem. Certainly, there will need to be training around the meaning of the law and it will need to have focus on it to ensure its relevance is understood, but this is already happening; for example, a new campaign has been launched in Northumbria by the police there, aiming to raise awareness of domestic abuse, especially considering the new legislation.

Indeed, having this change to the law (and having the consultation last year) increases the attention being paid to domestic abuse bin general. The more this is covered, the more there will be discussions about what it means, and the more understanding of domestic abuse will be strengthened. That’s important for many: people in abusive relationships and friends and family unsure of what is going on, the police, and even more broadly for people in relationships who may be prompted to discuss their boundaries.

It’s good to see this being addressed. More is always needed – but this is a positive step.

The image is by Ed Schipul and shows a phone screen, reading “2 New mess” on one line and “18 Missed c” on the next – the rest of the lines are cut off. The date “9/22” is below. It is used under a creative commons licence.

Weekly Round-up and Open Thread

by Lusana Taylor // 28 December 2015, 9:46 pm


It’s the last round-up of the year so you’ll find this week’s collection of links a combination of new articles with a few classics from earlier in 2015 thrown in. Enjoy!

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.

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.

Happy New Year to all of the F-Word readers. See you again in 2016 :)

Twelve months of sexist jerkery – and those who stood up to it (The Guardian)

Marina Abramovic and the art of female sacrifice (NY Times)

From the article: “Rhythm 0 has all the makings for feminist art: a woman’s nudity, her blood and tears as a response to violence and violation at the hands of men. Abramovic literally objectified herself. But the piece — none of her work, she stressed — was not presented with a feminist political agenda or through that lens. “I’m naked in so many places, but I’m not naked to please the men,” she explained, crossing one black-clad leg over another. “I’m not naked because I’m feminist. I take a naked body as a body in a space and I would relate it to architecture. I wanted to deal…with that temporality: here I am a woman, but it could also be [a] man’s body.” The closest she’s come to conducting an overtly-feminist piece was in her tenth year of practicing art, when she switched places with a prostitute who had been a sex worker for an equal number of years. “But I don’t think it was feminist either, we were just changing positions,” Abramovic said.””

As a sex worker, Christmas is one of my busiest – and strangest – times (The Independent)

From the article: “What I’m most worried over about over Christmas is police raids which seem to happen more over the holidays. A couple of years ago, people I know were raided just before Christmas in Soho, which is just down the road from me. They had to stand in the freezing cold in their underwear being photographed while the police took the women’s money from the flats as ‘evidence’ that they were trafficking victims. None of them were.”

This Is Why You Don’t Have a Girlfriend: The Story of a Nerdy Lady Dating Online (The Mary Sue)

From the article: “It is possible that in middle school, high school, college, and adult life, the way others viewed you was defined by what they saw: a nerd. I’m sure it was hurtful and made you feel like less than you were. No one deserves that, but the reason I understand is because I was also that kid. In middle school, I was the chubby girl with glasses and braces who ate her hair in the back of the class. I grew out of some of those things (eat your heart out Thomas Jefferson Middle School classmates), but that girl sticks with me and colors my worldview.”

Why you should always buy the men’s version of almost anything (Washington Post)

Lizzie Kelly becomes first female jockey to win Grade One race (BBC)

From the article: “It’s been something of a breakthrough year for female jockeys, with Michelle Payne becoming the first woman to ride the winner of Australia’s Melbourne Cup, Katie Walsh landing the Irish Grand National and Sammy-Jo Bell dominating Ascot’s Shergar Cup in August. And now this by Lizzie Kelly who, thanks to her neatness in the saddle and articulate and excited style out of it, has long been making a very positive impression – but a Grade One is history.”

Reflecting from the Inside: On Being A Black Woman in School Edtech (Rafranz Davis)

We Need to Stop Devaluing Femininity (Ravishly)

Surviving The Christmas Season With Depression (Healthy Place)

Note: Liz Smith has previously written for the F-Word. You can read more of her writing HERE.

Until Corbyn led the Labour party, we were all wonderfully polite (Independent)

From the article: “Labour MPs opposed to Corbyn seem especially angry at the moment because they’ve received abuse from the public. They naturally assume that Jeremy Corbyn is to blame. So they make media statements such as: “Last Monday, a schoolboy yelled ‘wanker’ at me from a bus. I’m warning you, Jeremy, this sort of behaviour must stop.” The online abuse is even worse, and Corbyn is clearly responsible.”

‘Christmas’ leaflet distributed in Cambridge claims homosexuals are like vampires (Pink News)

Excerpt from the leaflet: “Homosexuals, like vampires in their insatiable lust, prey upon youth, as they conspire to create more of their own kind, meanwhile busy abusing each other’s anuses and worshiping (sic) their own and each others’ penises in a festival of authentic Satanism. This corruption of youth cries to heaven for vengeance.”

Why Sci-Fi Keeps Imagining the Subjugation of White People (The Atlantic)

From the article: “What does it mean that all of these novels and films, from War of the Worlds more than 100 years ago to Into Darknessin 2013, are powered by colonial inversion, a dream of Western imperial violence inflicted upon Westerners?”

I Rewatched Love Actually And Am Here To Ruin It For All Of You (Jezebel)

Some Of The Times In 2015 When I Felt My Blackest – Bim Adewunmi (Buzzfeed)

Why are so few film critics female? – Katie Kilkenny (The Atlantic)

From the article: “So what are some of the explanations? For one, it’s been suggested that many women feel discouraged from speaking out in such an opinionated way. “Maybe a lot of women don’t feel like they want authority to tell people what to do,” theWall Street Journal critic Dorothy Rabinowitz told Lydia Magazine in 2014. Rabinowitz’s speculation recalls similar justifications for the dearth of women in opinion and literary writing.”

The image is used under a creative commons license with thanks to “peaceful-jp-scenery” on Flickr. It shows a new year’s firework display with a number of brightly coloured explosions lighting up a pitch black sky.

As we’ve done in the past, we’re looking for people to write for us as monthly guest bloggers. That means you have a month, during which you can blog about any feminist-related thing you want on The F-Word! There aren’t strict rules; we’d like it if bloggers were able to post once a week or more, but recognise that this isn’t possible for everybody and are understanding about individual circumstances. The main thing is that you have stuff to say and we have a platform for you to say it.

You’ll get help and guidance from one of the team and you don’t need to have experience blogging, knowledge about posting or perfect English. You also don’t have to blog under your real name if you’d prefer not to.

Contact me ( if you’re interested, either to apply or to find out more. To apply, let us know a bit about yourself and the sorts of things you would be interested in writing about.

We’re open to anyone who applies but are particularly interested in views, topics and perspectives that are currently under-represented on the blog, particularly intersectional perspectives. This could be older women, disabled women, working class women, sex workers, women of minority ethnicities (including Black, Asian, migrant or refugee women and women of dual or multiple ethnic heritage), trans* women, lesbian, gay, bisexual or queer women, male feminists and/or socialist feminists or just someone keen to write about about a topic that you think we should feature more frequently. This is not intended to be an exhaustive list – please don’t be put off from emailing us if you’re interested but don’t identify with the perspectives above, particularly if you feel your perspective is currently under-represented in the feminist blogosphere.

The F-Word is an online magazine about and for contemporary UK feminism so we are concentrating on contributions relating to this. Contributions are encouraged from UK feminists, people living in the UK, or UK feminists currently living elsewhere. If you are unsure about this you can email us to check.

We can’t promise a slot to everyone – we’ll try to set a programme that is as varied as possible. If you’ve emailed us in the past about being a guest blogger but haven’t heard anything then please do put your hand up again.

And although you’re welcome to get in touch any time if you’re interested in writing for us, we’ll be deciding the monthly bloggers for the next little while after 15 January, so send your application by then to be considered for that.

Finally, a reminder that outside of the monthly guest blogging programme, everyone is still very welcome to submit features, reviews and one-off guest blog posts at any time to The F Word as normal; please see here for more details.

The image shows two women looking engrossed as both look at a laptop screen. They are facing us so only the laptop’s back is visible; it is silver with the Apple logo. They sit on black chairs. Everything else is white and featureless. The image is used under a creative commons licence and is by WOCinTech Chat.

This post was edited on 1 January at 10.30 to add a deadline for applications and some details to eligibility.

7687805718_790fd67578_zLast year for Christmas, I got a make-up set from a well-meaning family member. The slogan was, in big, red letters, “empower yourself”. I was genuinely grateful for the gift — God knows I’ve used the set to doll myself up for parties many times — but something about the “empower yourself” marketing bothered me.

After a bit of thinking, I was able to put my finger on it. As a feminist, I’ve always had a child-with-her-hand-caught-in-the-cookie-jar feeling about wearing make-up: something I know I am against, but do anyway, with a hint of guilt, hoping none of my friends see the numerous tubes and bottles of paint hidden away in my bathroom. Sometimes, I reason, I just want to look “good”, even if this definition of “good” stems from societally dictated standards of beauty. The “empower yourself” collection seemed to almost work as a “get out of jail free” card for this guilty feeling: if I re-embraced make-up as empowering, I was making a feminist statement. It seemed like a sneaky way for the company to both assuage my critiques and co-opt feminist rhetoric.

At the time, I wrote off the branding of the product as a one-off and largely forgot about the experience. But since last year, the internet has exploded with gift guides and listicles for feminists that use similar language: Buzzfeed, The Huffington Post, Ms. Magazine. Hell, even the Torygraph published a list of holiday suggestions for that pesky equality-fighter at your Christmas table. The gifts that made the list are largely kitsch-y fashion statements: pink, flowery pillows with “fuck the patriarchy” written on them. “Feminist killjoy” pins with sugar hearts. A tea mug with “male tears” emblazoned on it in “girly” cursive. On none was there any genuine feminist theory: no bell hooks, no Andrea Dworkin. No Audre Lorde or Sojourner Truth.

These gifts were all a bit twee. All were cashing in on this post-modernist idea of being “ironic”. But the issue with irony is that it’s in the eye of the beholder: while I may be baking cupcakes and wearing my retro 50s makeup with a hint of sarcasm, the average viewer will most likely view these things as being in earnest. They’ll see a person who dresses femininely and embraces stereotypically feminine activities like cooking. The issue here lies not with the activity (making cupcakes is great!) but rather the fact it can rebranded as feminism if a cheeky wink to the audience is added. Irony has, in many ways, become the rhetoric of compliance.

I wonder how feminism has gotten to this twee stage and I wonder whether this is largely a reaction to the still-persisting stereotype that feminists are man-hating, hairy lesbians. A “male tears” mug is sassy rather than angry: it contains no threat to radically redistribute power imbalances in society. An “empower me” make-up set holds no genuine potential to abolish the constraints of femininity on young women. To an extent, these products declaw feminism from a political movement to a fashion statement. I wonder why other liberation movements haven’t faced the same commodification. Why there is no market for a “this is what a socialist looks like” shirts, or flowery ‘black power’ mugs?

Radical left movements and racial equality movements are confident they are not cute, or twee, or kitsch. Feminism isn’t cute, and should question itself when corporations reduce it to “girl power” or “empowerment” (a largely white, middle class definition of the movement). Feminism is a political ideology which fights FGM, child marriage, rape-as-a-war-tactic… We live in a world where two women are killed a week by domestic abuse in England and the average woman still faces structural inequalities. The reduction of our movement to knitted uteruses and pink blankets is not just a shame, but a threat to feminism’s effectiveness.

I say, for the feminist woman in your life, get her an Audre Lorde book or subscription to Ms. Magazine. Because feminism is for life, not just for Christmas.

Weekly Round-up and Open Thread

by Lusana Taylor // 22 December 2015, 12:17 pm


It’s our last round-up before Christmas and, in keeping with the festive season, links this week include everything from the sexism of pantomimes to kids’ thoughts on female Santa!

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.

Regardless of the time of year, normal rules still apply. 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.

Merry Christmas to readers who choose to celebrate and a restful holiday to all!

Tim Peake: UK astronaut to follow pioneer Helen Sharman into space (The Independent)

Why Female Mass Shooters Are So Rare (Huffington Post)

Going Natural: When LinkedIn Profiles Turns to Racial Profiling ((not) Mixed (up))

Men Explain Lolita to Me (Literary Hub)

From the article: “There is a common attack on art that thinks it is a defense. It is the argument that art has no impact on our lives, that art is not dangerous, and therefore all art is beyond reproach, and we have no grounds to object to any of it, and any objection is censorship.”

We Don’t Need Defending, Thanks: Being A Young, White, British Man (Quite Irregular)

From the article: “Society is not prejudiced against young, white British men. Individual people might have negative views of them, which is a shame, and those views might build up a picture which young men would reject. But that doesn’t amount to a social disadvantage. The stereotyping of older women, which Cosslett brings up, prevents women being taken seriously in the workplace, reducing their earning power and their odds of getting a job.”

Multiracial in America: Who gets to be “white”? (Hopes and Fears)

This is what happens when you ask kids if a woman could do Santa’s job (Fast Co Create)

AbFab movie ‘is racist’: Margaret Cho blasts Janette Krankie’s yellowface (Chortle)

Natasha Tripney: There’s no excuse for the overt sexism of some pantomimes (The Stage)

From the article: “Wendy, Tinkerbell, and Tiger Lily spend much of their curtailed stage time scrapping and squabbling over the drippy, insipid Peter Pan. That’s it. That’s their lot. I know it’s just a panto, and one of the less progressive ones around, but I found myself looking at the audience, of families, many with young children, and feeling increasingly uneasy about the fact that these were being presented as something to laugh at. That this is just the way girls behave.”

The image is used under a creative commons license with thanks to Rakka on Flickr. It shows a snow globe. Inside the globe, on an orange background, is a person, with curled hair and a slight smile, holding up a classified ad that might appear in the dating section of a newspaper or magazine. Above the person’s head, in newspaper type, appear the words “How to lead a happy, useful life”.


It’s that time of year again, the Christmas lights are on, the shops are heaving and we need to start watching our drinks in pubs. Police Scotland have launched their seasonal “don’t take risks” campaign with an ad about drink spiking and protecting yourself. Sure, it doesn’t mention the R word, but it’s all about not leaving your drink unattended because… if it’s not about rape then I don’t know? Someone might drink it?

I’m getting pretty sick of writing/talking/arguing that preventing rape isn’t actually the victim’s responsibility. But here we are, talking about drink spiking and protecting your drink. Seriously, police, stop it. I know you’ve got so much better at this not blaming victims thing, after all, you tell us often enough that women should come forward and report crimes, but really… you are not doing yourself any favours with this. I know, I know, you’ve used a festive pun, and not even mentioned sexual assault, but it’s not a flight of fancy to make the links between drink spiking and sexual assault.(If it really is an ad about taking care of an elf because they really don’t cope well with drink, then huge apologies.)

The reason feminists ask public bodies and others time and time again to really think about how they talk about alcohol and responsibility is because we live in a culture where society thinks it’s women’s responsibility not to get raped. Any sniff of alcohol throws everyone in a tailspin about whose fault it really is (spoiler: not the perp). Never mind the impact this has on reporting or conviction stats, the real problem with this “risk minimisation” approach is that it stops women from healing and it keeps rapists raping.

I know the arguments for taking a risk minimisation approach to prevention, we’ve had them time and time again – it’s not about blame, it’s about safety and it’s basically the same as telling people to keep their homes locked up and to zip up their bags.

But we cannot treat rape and sexual assault in the same way we treat the prevention of burglary or not being mugged, and for the last time, rape is not analogous to leaving your car unlocked. We can’t treat it this way because we are people, not inanimate objects.

The biggest risk women face in terms of experiencing violence is being a women. And the risk we face it from? People we know. That shit is scary. So what does risk minimisation mean when we acknowledge this scary truth. Staying in doors? Not talking to men? Come on.

But sure, if we’re all about risk minimisation as a way to prevent crime, what about men? We know that the biggest risk men face is violence from other men, so I’m assuming we’re going to hear about a brand new campaign telling men to keep themselves safe soon.

I want to live in a world where I don’t have to worry about my drink, where I don’t have to worry about looking after a friend on a night out, but most of all, I want to live in a world where I don’t have to keep banging on about whose responsibility it is to not be a victim of a serious assault.

It’s not about short skirts, or alcohol, or risk minimisation – it’s about control, ownership and entitlement. Keeping an eye on my drink doesn’t change that. So this Christmas, eat, drink, and put the responsibility where it actually resides; with the perp, and no-one else. Not at Christmas, not ever.

Ellie Hutchinson is a freelance feminist writer, speaker and trainer. She’s been a rape crisis support worker, chair of Edinburgh Hollaback and a prevention and campaigns worker for a national domestic abuse charity. She works in housing and likes red wine, Channing Tatum and hanging out with her lovely friends and family.

The comic strip: Feminist santa

by Guest Blogger // 21 December 2015, 1:20 pm

Tags: , , ,


Silvia Carrus is an Italian illustrator and comic artist, living in London. She loves to make comics about feminism and animals, and has recently self-published the comic ‘Feminist Cat’. See her work on Tumblr.

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