This is a guest blog by Chloe Price. She is a creative writing student and a feminist who wants to write a novel. She likes reading, baking and will one day travel the world

When starting university, students should expect nothing less than a safe environment where they can enjoy themselves without having to worry about being groped or being subject to sexist ‘banter’. But unfortunately, that is not the case.

‘Lad culture’, which is increasingly connected with ‘rape culture’, emerged in the 1990s as a backlash to second-wave feminism and the pro-feminist man, and a reaction to the change in traditional gender stereotypes.

Flash forward to 2017 and it manifests as a mix of heavy drinking, clubbing, misogynist jokes, and grabbing and harassing women. It normalises sexism. Considered by many to be just students having fun, it is deeply problematic. And it is on the rise.

In 2010, an NUS study found that one in seven women had experienced sexual assault at university, and, in 2015, the Telegraph found that one in three had been victims of unwanted advances or of assault. Lad culture has become one of the dominant forms of masculinity at university, allowing young men the opportunity to assert their power over women, without fear of consequences.

There have been many instances where universities and police have failed to take rape allegations seriously, such as that of Amy Irking, a lecturer, who was raped while drunk. But neither the police nor the university investigated it; instead the incident was labelled as ‘sex with regrets’ by the police. This attitude leaves many survivors unwilling to step forward and speak out.

How has this culture become such a core part of the university experience? Many point the finger at the ‘masculinity crisis’ happening right now.

Feminism is more popular than ever, and many women of all ages are engaged in some form of activism. The recent global women’s marches demonstrated the scale of women’s dissatisfaction with the status quo. Meanwhile, men are no longer on top economically or educationally, as more women have higher education degrees than men and the pay gap is the lowest it has ever been. Has this led to anger and resentment from men towards women, and thus the search for a means to assert their dominance in another form?

This becomes a real problem on campus when combined with the new-found independence that comes with university life, and the urge to ‘fit in’ with a group and find your tribe. It can often lead to a willingness to participate in activities, such as initiations and other forms of socialising, that men would have felt uncomfortable with in the past. These activities can help them build their identities while at university, making them feel like they ‘belong’.

Societies often capitalise on this, encouraging regular nights out and heavy drinking, and clubs are making a business model out of it. Many students actually believe men taking advantage of drunk women is part of the university experience, normalising and trivialising rape.

Not nearly enough is being done to put a stop to this – in fact, the issue is rarely even talked about. The last major study on this topic was by the NUS in 2010, which exposed many shocking truths that no one could quite believe, but that was now seven years ago. We need to acknowledge the scale of the problem now and start educating teenagers and young people about consent. Thankfully, this has been happening at some schools and even at Oxford University. But consent should be taught from secondary school as a core part of sex education.

And it is not just schools that should take action. There have been situations where rapes have been witnessed on nights out, but no one recognises the signs and just passes it off as ‘drunk sex’. By educating staff and bouncers, it is more likely that sexual assault will be prevented, as they will know what to look for. There has been progress in this area with the emergence of the ‘angel shot’ – a code that informs the bartender discreetly that a woman needs help.

The sexist and degrading advertising that clubs use also needs to be regulated to make women feel more comfortable on nights out and to stamp out the normalisation of sexual assault.

Universities and student unions can also help eliminate lad culture from campuses and clubs. If they join forces to stand against this behaviour, rapists are more likely to face repercussions for their actions. Lad culture has become so normalised that when someone does notice the issue and try to fight it, they are branded as ‘boring’, while the ‘lad’ is free to do what he wishes.

Rape at university is not something that people want to hear or read about – it is a very uncomfortable truth. But it needs to be openly discussed in order to expose the dangers of ‘lad culture’ for both men and women, and to highlight the effects it is having on student life.

Image depicts a blurry club scene, with a man putting his hand on a woman’s shoulder

Close-up of a woman's face
Emily Chudy is an LGBT journalist, food blogger, and intersectional feminist living in Paris. Follow her on Twitter @EmilyChudy

The secrecy starts early: from keeping your period a red-faced lie to your mother, to hiding tampons up your sleeve at work and to feigning a migraine when in reality it’s your stomach you’re clutching.

Women are taught from adolescence that their bodily functions are something to be hidden from others, so it’s all too easy for serious symptoms to be brushed under the rug. Testimonies show that this culture of shame surrounding women’s health is leading to their unfair dismissal by doctors.

Many were shocked by the recent report that period cramps can be more painful than a heart attack for some women. I was not surprised. There are women, including me, who have taken days off work, switched contraceptive methods or taken strong painkillers for menstrual cramps without saying a word to anybody else. For the estimated one in ten women of reproductive age in the UK suffering from endometriosis, periods can be unbearable and are dealt with in secrecy.

Endometriosis is a chronic condition in which tissue that behaves like the lining of the uterus is found outside the uterus. The illness can cause pain, exhaustion, infertility and inflammation. There are treatment options but no known cure.

One of the main issues surrounding endometriosis, aside from the debilitating pain it causes, is how long it takes to get a diagnosis. At present, endometriosis can only be confirmed through surgery and takes an average of seven to eight-and-a-half years to diagnose in the UK. This difficulty can lead doctors – or even patients themselves – to overlook warning signs of the illness.

In fact, often women live silently with worrying symptoms because they are implicitly told to take period pain in their stride and are not given adequate information about what they might be experiencing.

In a recent report by the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Women’s Health (APPG), a survey of over 2,600 women with endometriosis and fibroids found that 42% felt they were not treated by doctors with dignity and respect and 62% were not satisfied with the information they received about treatment options. This not only means that diagnoses often take irritatingly long to receive but could lead some women to feel too ashamed to return to their doctor at all.

Despite this, slowly but surely people are battling through the silence and stigma to share their stories and raise awareness of endometriosis. In a November 2015 essay, Lena Dunham wrote about her experience with the disease, including the struggle to attain a diagnosis, her constant agony and how lucky she was to have found a doctor that took her pain seriously. At first, due to misdiagnosis of her condition from appendicitis to food poisoning, she even began to doubt her own pain:

I am one of many women who grasp for a sense of consistent well-being, fight against the betrayals of their bodies, and who are often met with scepticism, by doctors trained to view painful periods as the lot of women who should learn to grin and bear it

A brilliant article by Buzzfeed’s Lara Parker, who herself suffers from endometriosis, collects the stories of women whose medical conditions have not been taken seriously. This gendered dismissal means that women are having to fight alone to get their voices heard.

Many theories as to why this happens are mostly to do with outdated notions of women’s hysteria: the stereotype that because women are more emotional, their pain is less real. Another theory is that as medicine has for a long time been a male-dominated field (although wonderfully, this is starting to change now) and education around women’s health is still lacking, their pain is dismissed due to ignorance.

Personally, I believe that a lack of research into menstrual pain, endometriosis and other vaginal illnesses is to blame.

Whatever the many reasons for the problem of misdiagnosing and under-treating endometriosis, the time has come for it to change. There are things that can be done to break down the shame and silence surrounding women’s health. If you have worrying symptoms, don’t ignore them; listen to and share women’s stories; shout about your experiences. Educate yourself about your options and how you can communicate with your GP. Where you can, don’t be afraid to search for alternate care if you don’t feel taken seriously.

We certainly will not be the last generation of women to suffer, but one thing is for sure: we will not be silent any longer.

If this article has affected you, please visit Endometriosis UK for more information and support

Image is by David Sedrakyan, from Unsplash. Used under Creative Commons Zero licence.

Image is a close-up of a woman’s face, cropped to only show the bottom of her eyelids down until the bottom of her chin. She is looking away and seemingly consumed by thought and stands against a dark teal background. The tone of the image is slightly grey, moody and pensive.

Weekly round-up and open thread

by Lusana Taylor // 22 May 2017, 10:44 pm

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Welcome to another weekly round-up, where we share (what we see as) the most interesting and important articles from the previous seven days. We’d love to hear your thoughts on any of the issues covered in the articles we’ve picked.

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.

This Woman Inspired A Dialogue About Agreeing With Men’s Compliments And People Are Nodding (Buzzfeed)

From the article: “Because for some reason women are required to be beautiful, but also oblivious to it.”

As a personal trainer, I’ve seen the human proof: you can be fat and fit (The Guardian)

From the article: “We are living in a society that accepts weight bias and discrimination as the last form of openly acceptable oppression. Fat people are heckled from cars as they run, cursed at on the internet to get their “fat asses” moving. And, in this case, they are publicly called unhealthy by the medical profession. Fat people are damned if they do and damned if they don’t. Studies like this only amplify that message, especially when there’s no solutions offered alongside it.

We are now in an era when our bodies have become larger because of the food chain, technology, desk jobs and stress, yet we still measure our health by an archaic body mass index standard developed in the 1830s for population studies, not individuals.”

How to get more women on Wikipedia (Refinery 29)

From the article: “Gender bias plays out on Wikipedia, too – less than 16% of editors and contributors are female.”

Women are often excluded from clinical trials because periods (Fusion)

From the article: “Thankfully, a growing number of scientists are fed up with this gender testing gap and demanding change. In a new paper published in the journal Cell Metabolism, researchers from hospitals including Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles and the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center argue that men and women experience diseases differently and metabolize drugs differently—therefore, clinical trial testing should both include more women and break down results by gender.”

Film Twitter Needs More Female Voices. So Does Everything Else (Pajiba)

From the article: “There is still an overwhelming assumption that the most privileged voices in our society represent an apolitical default mode, wherein they are qualified to talk authoritatively on every issue, free from a supposed agenda. That attitude tends to extend towards the cultural and social context of a piece of art too, so you see a lot of insistence on “separating art from the artist”, which is a pleasant falsehood and also a boring way to do criticism. When the critics recommending the films are from such a narrow demographic, and their views cannot help but be slanted by that bias, we all miss out. There is no artistic joy in false neutrality. This gap is all the wider for women of colour in our industry, who must fight a much tougher battle for representation and a chance to have their voices amplified. Yet they’re the ones leading the way for major industry change – #OscarsSoWhite would not have happened without a black woman critic making it happen.”

Photographer Susan Meiselas on documenting women’s refuges (Rachel Cooke at The Guardian)

[Meiselas spent several months in Black Country shelters, working with residents on a new book, A Room of Their Own.]

Internalised Fatphobia is Still Fatphobia (Fat Heffalump)

From the article: “Put simply, it’s in no way a big risk to put yourself in the media and parrot the dominant paradigm about fatness. It’s a safe bet that is going to get you support from the majority, because the majority actually do believe that fat is bad, and that one must go to any length to not be fat. This is not a brave step, or one that has never been heard before. It’s a safe bet that to do so you are going to have people patting your back and telling you ‘You go girl, good on you.'”

Conservatives launch attack on elderly with dementia tax and cuts to winter fuel allowance (Descrier)

Chelsea Manning released from military prison (The Guardian)

Mums hit back at ‘insulting’ slurs calling them ‘slummy, moaning mummies’ (Zahra Mulroy, with various contributors, The Mirror)

How The Chicken Connoisseur Is Translating Viral Fame Into A Long-Lasting Career (The Fader)

From the article: “The only times you’ll see mandem on TV is if they’re [showing a] gang violence documentary. You never have a documentary about mandem cracking jokes, and that happens more than violence.”

Kalki Koechlin: Feminism is not isolating women (The Times of India)

They’ve endured domestic violence. Now they’re victims of austerity (Frances Ryan at The Guardian)

Grime MCs are Talking About the Election and No One Should be Surprised (Gal-dem)

What’s next in the long, troubling saga of Julian Assange? (The Pool)

The image is used under a creative commons license with thanks to Ippei & Janine Naoi on Flickr. It shows a very blue sky with white clouds and sunbeams filtering through.

Mother Pearl is a London-based blogger who recently set up ‘The Pearl Diaries: The hopeful, helpful, empowering guide to managing your sex drive’ to share her experiences of having a low sex drive and talk about what’s out there to help women like her

I’d tell my mates if I had the flu, no problem. In fact I’d be shouting from the rooftops about how crappy I felt and could someone come bring me a Lemsip.

And now thanks to the work of some amazing charities and public figures to challenge stigma, I rather sheepishly tell my friends about my anxiety and how I sometimes struggle.

But what I still find hard to talk about is my sexual health. Or, more specifically, my lack of sex drive.

Now, the first thing we often think of when we say ‘sexual health’ is a very clinical definition. Visions of condoms, pregnancy, STDs and rather unpleasant swab sticks is what I think of.

But our sexual health is so much more than that.

Just like it is important to boost our physical and mental wellbeing, it is also important to look after our sexual wellbeing. So why don’t we talk about it?

Us Brits are quite prudish. I know I was never brought up to talk to my family or friends about my Neverland region. Look at how British I am, I can’t even use the word ‘genitals’ without having to make a reference to something else!

Instead, I remember shy visits to the STD clinic, laughing with mates at university about getting tested, then being very tight lipped about my results if they weren’t positive. It takes a brave person to let you know they’ve got an STD. Chlamydia maybe – what’s a bit of the clap between friends? But genital warts, crabs, herpes… they’re a definite ground-opening-up-kill-me-now issue that takes a lot of courage to tell others about.

Even worse than that is the incredibly isolating world of having a low sex drive.

I’m only 30. I’m female. And I feel like the stuffing has been knocked out of me. Or more specifically, my desire to have sex.

It’s an issue no one talks about. In the public eye, sex sells! We’re bombarded by sex, in our adverts, our papers, our movies, sitcoms, even our novels.

But what happens if we’re one of the over 40% of women that don’t often want to have sex? Or find it hard to get turned on. What then?

Most of the articles out there are ‘quick-fix-here’s-something-I-made-earlier’ style about putting on some sexy pants, adding broccoli to your diet and Bob’s your uncle – instant sexpot.

But our sex drives and sex lives are so much more complicated than that. And women out there with the same problem deserve more. Goodness knows, men with the same problem have all sorts of options and resources at their disposal if they don’t always feel like getting it on.

I’ve found that the traditional measurement of female libido is a feminist issue. That is, it is thought to be more ‘normal’ for women to have a lower sex drive.

For a start, this is definitely not true for all women. But also our libidos are compared directly with those of men, quantified using statistics around number of times we think about sex, or the number of times we’d like to have sex in a week. And we’ll always come up short because some of us work differently, perhaps valuing context, quality and intensity over frequency.

There are so many reasons beyond the biological why some women have low libidos – after all, we live in a world which prioritises male sexual pleasure, objectifies women, and attempts to control our bodies by ‘slut shaming’ us if we enjoy sex and calling us ‘prudes’ if we don’t. Is it any wonder that many women just don’t know how to get turned on?

I’ve also found that so many people panic if they struggle to want sex, or get aroused. I’m sending out a more hopeful message that everyone at some point experiences this, whether it’s a one-night, short-term or long-term problem.

I want women to start talking more about our sex lives, discovering more about female desire, and giving each other advice and tips to better manage, or accept, our sex drives if they are usually quite low.

I’m not a medical professional, or a sex therapist, or trying to peddle a hidden agenda. I’ve just got a vested interest in sharing what I’ve learned to let other women know they’re not alone and give them a space to connect.

Image depicts woman lying on a bed, looking pensive

Courtesy coloredgrey on Flickr

Three years ago, Philippa Willitts looked at how The F-Word might appear to disabled people who aren’t familiar with the site. She focused on instances of disablist language and the visual representation of disabled people in the images we use. This internal review highlighted the urgent issues we needed to address and prompted us to start a disablism working group to help us take action. The following year, we summarised the review results on the site and outlined what we had been doing and what we would be investigating over time to help us achieve our goals. Last October, Megan Stodel conducted another internal disablism review to track our progress in this area. Some of the results indicated we had improved (e.g. in terms of editorially intercepting and challenging lazy, outdated disablist terms such as the use of ‘crazy’ and ‘insane’ to describe something being viewed negatively). However, a key area where we clearly had – and still have – a long way to go was in our use of images of disabled people.

Megan’s picture review focused on visible impairments, which do not represent all types of disability, but nonetheless provided a visual cue in terms of how welcoming The F-Word is to disabled people who do not already run, write for or read the site.

As with the original review, Megan only included photos (not cartoons or illustrations) and only counted people whose faces were visible. Along with this, she applied the following exclusions:

  • posts where there were no people visible at all
  • images of people who were specifically discussed in the post
  • posts where images were promotional (for example, an album or book cover related to a review).

Megan reported the following:

…There were frequent instances where [representation of disability] was not entirely clear, particularly in large crowds (I counted people if I could make out any of their facial features, but not indistinct faces blurred in the distance) or if faces were partially or almost entirely turned away. If I was uncertain, I included the images in the analysis. However, a repeat study might find slightly different numbers.

The original review acknowledged that there may be a difference between the proportion of images showing people with visible impairments and the proportion of people shown with visible impairments, especially due to large crowd scenes. I therefore considered both for a fuller picture, though only the latter was considered in the original review.

Megan continued:

Although the proportion of images showing people with visible impairments has increased, this is only because of the incredibly low benchmark of 0% set originally. There was one photo in the entire time period since May last year that showed the faces of people with visible impairments.

For context, in the UK, an estimated 1.9% of the population use wheelchairs. This is just one way in which it might be visible that somebody is living with a disability. However, even this shows us that the site underrepresents people with visible impairments.

This means we still need to do better. However, we’ve been struggling to find a good selection of pictures featuring visibly disabled people in connection to a variety of topics through the usual avenues of free stock pictures and Creative Commons searches via Flickr, Wikimedia and Google. In our commitment to actively seek out images of disabled people, this has led us to take steps to build our own resource.

For this purpose, we have created an invitation-only Flickr group for F-Word readers and contributors to share their own photos or illustrations featuring under-represented groups, with a particular focus on images of and by disabled people. As previously discussed, one of the problems of diverse representation within stock images is that women with marginalised bodies have reasons to fear putting images of themselves up for use in any context. We’d like to create a safer space where that can happen.

A few caveats for participating photographers/artists:

  • As per our usual approach, you will always be fully credited when your image is used and the pictures would still be owned by you. They can even be described as ‘all rights reserved’ (i.e. we can indicate that The F-Word is not sharing the images as Creative Commons items available for free use by everyone).
  • As a team, we will be looking for Creative Commons/public domain images to add, but all Flickr group members will be welcome to share any they think might be relevant.
  • In line with the fact that we’re entirely not-for-profit (i.e. none of us are paid here), participation is entirely voluntary. This is problematic in an intersectional context, but we hope that not being beholden to benefactors or advertisers means that we are free as creators and contributors to make the space our own (i.e. a creative community where each creative contributor/writer is able to benefit from the established F-Word brand, while contributing as much or as little as their own personal commitments allow).
  • Finally (in the case of photos), please don’t forget to get permission/a model release from anyone featured prominently!

Depending on team resources, we may also end up expanding the group to include a chat/message facility where we would post a description of an image we need and the deadline so that members can add an image to fit this (or email one to the editor in question).

If you’re interested in joining this group, but don’t have a Yahoo/Flickr ID to be able to request to join through the Flickr link, please email editor@thefword.org.uk or art@thefword.uk. We may be able to move the pictures over to another space. Suggestions welcome!

Please note that, while we are focusing on images of disabled people in this call-out (due to this being the area most in need of improvement), we also welcome images of people from other underrepresented marginalised groups.

Image description and credit:

The photo is by Mary Austin and is used under a Creative Commons licence. It shows a woman, Kim Jones, dressed in riding clothes and boots and using a wheelchair, attaching the bridle of a horse, Star.

Madeleine Pownall is our monthly guest blogger. She plans to start her first major research project at the end of May, which will study the effects of parents’ feminist views on their children’s book choice. Specifically, it will investigate how aware parents are of the stereotypical messages of children’s literature

As I write this I am sat in Costa Coffee, peering over the brim of my mug, scanning the scene. A young girl of about four is happily plodding around in front of me. She dips and dives among the sea of legs and chairs, squealing in delight as she topples over and pulls herself back up. She pushes out with her pudgy fists and hits the back of a lady’s leg. Her mother then proceeds to shout at her. She tells her she is ‘stupid’, that she should watch where she is going, to apologise to the lady she hit. My heart pangs for her. Meanwhile, I see her brothers swing around the cake display, unnoticed. Boys will be boys after all.

Our words are powerful, especially as grown-up figures of authority. We are the voices that guide behaviour and that form the foundations of children’s identity. Not only does using such a disablist term reinforce the assumption that to be disabled is inherently bad and inherently less than a non-disabled person, but child psychiatrist Dr Charles Sophy explains that calling a child one outright label such as ‘stupid’ also makes it difficult for them to see themselves as anything else. It limits possibilities. It ruins self-esteem. I am not saying that this effect doesn’t also ring true with little boys. I’m just saying it’s different.

At school I loved to debate – and I still do. In my English literature class we had lessons dedicated to debating books and social topics; I was in my element. That was until I was called ‘bossy’ by my teacher. I was branded as being outspoken and argumentative, and it didn’t offend me until I realised it was supposed to.

As a psychology student, I am compelled to ensure that my claims about feminism are evidenced. Indeed, as suspected, empirical literature supports my hypothesis. Research has found that women face inequality across a variety of domains, and that this is heightened by stereotypes about women related to their intelligence and abilities. Crucially, research has shown that parents play an essential role in the development of gendered beliefs in children, and parental beliefs predict their children’s beliefs well into adulthood.

This is not just applicable to degrading language. You may tell your daughter that she is pretty and cute and beautiful. However, she is also strong and independent and brave. Using empowering words to describe your children (both sons and daughters) can really create a sense of pride and encouragement. Being really mindful of your language, particularly when speaking to older children, makes it easier to spot when gender stereotypes are present. We’ve all heard people say (and perhaps have said it ourselves) ‘man up’ to someone who is demonstrating their pain or hurt – this can enforce the idea that men are strong and women are weak and passive. This also may discredit the emotions of both male and female children.

The use of positive, gender-neutral expressions and openness to discuss emotions can avoid reinforcing negative stereotypes. A recent study found that women are naturally inclined to reserve conversations about emotions for their daughters and not for their sons. This can perpetuate gender stereotypes and cause emotional intelligence delays in boys and girls. We should nurture and respect the emotional experience of children regardless of gender, and create an open and honest dynamic which allows for girls to be tough and boys to be vulnerable.

Editor’s note: For more information on disablist terms, see this short guide

Image depicts two little girls with their arms around each other, one smiling and the other pulling a silly face

Courtesy utpal. on Flicker

This is a guest blog by Mercedes King-Jones. She is a Divorce Lawyer and Partner with Wright Hassall LLP

There was a certain irony that the Appeal Court hearing into Tini Owens’ divorce case was scheduled for 14 February 2017. The subsequent judgment attracted acres of newsprint, with much criticism being erroneously directed at the judges for the outcome of the case.

In a nutshell, Mrs Owens’ desire to divorce her husband was thwarted by his decision to defend the petition. She cited, as she must under the current law, the only one of the five reasons for seeking a divorce which was applicable – that of ‘unreasonable behaviour’. Because her husband chose to contest the divorce, all the allegations underpinning her charge of unreasonable behaviour had to be tested in the Family Court under the terms of the Matrimonial Causes Act 1973, the most recent legislation in this area. Because the judge found that her evidence was ‘flimsy’ at best and ‘scraping the barrel’ at worst, he had no option but to refuse her petition. She appealed and the Court of Appeal upheld the previous judgment – albeit with much criticism of the existing law.

The nub of the matter, acknowledged by both Judge Tolson in the Family Court and Lord Justice Munby in the Appeal Court, is the requirement for someone who wishes to get divorced to cite one of five reasons: adultery, desertion, unreasonable behaviour, two years’ separation with consent of both parties, or five years’ separation without consent. The law does not recognise unhappiness in a marriage as a reason to seek a divorce and, as it stands, only allows a judge to grant a divorce if, on the balance of probabilities ‘the respondent has behaved in such a way that the petitioner cannot reasonably be expected to live with the respondent’. In turn, this can only be established by applying the objective test: what would a ‘hypothetical, reasonable observer make of the allegations?’

Mrs Owens filed for divorce in May 2015. Although Judge Tolson acknowledged that the marriage had broken down, he refused to grant a divorce because Mrs Owens had failed to prove that her husband had behaved unreasonably. Mrs Owens’ legal team put forward 27 examples of her husband’s behaviour which the Court examined in detail in order to decide whether or not the cumulative impact of the behaviour was such that made living with him impossible. Although Judge Tolson found Mrs Owens’ evidence ‘hopeless’ against the standard of evidence required by the law, he acknowledged that his decision left Mrs Owens without anywhere to turn.

At Appeal, Lord Justice Munby noted that Appeal judges can only interfere in a previous decision which cannot be reasonably explained or justified. In this case the Appeal Court agreed that Mrs Owens had exaggerated the context and seriousness of the allegations, and thus it upheld the Family Court’s decision – albeit with a considerable ‘lack of enthusiasm’. Lady Justice Hallett went on to make the point that the criticisms levelled at the husband would probably be tolerated within an otherwise happy marriage but would be intolerable within an unhappy one.

All the judges agreed that the law was inadequate as this marriage had quite clearly and irretrievably broken down but not in a way recognised by the law – and judges only interpret the law; it is Parliament’s responsibility to make or change it. This anomaly in the law rarely comes to light because so few petitions are defended. If a petition is defended, the claim of unreasonable behaviour (the most frequently cited cause of marriage breakdown) has to be tested in court. Because solicitors are encouraged by the Law Society and Resolution to use relatively uncontentious examples, not least to avoid inflaming an already difficult situation, most will be too anodyne to withstand detailed scrutiny. As the Appeal judges pointed out, the laws on which they have to base their decisions are based on ‘hypocrisy and lack of intellectual honesty’.

It just so happened that the day before the Appeal hearing, the Lords’ spokesperson for the Ministry of Justice stated, in response to a question, that there were no plans to change the current law relating to the fault-based system of divorce. Most women trapped in an unhappy marriage can (and do) cite unreasonable behaviour, confident that their petition will not be defended. If it is, then unless they have made allegations which are sufficiently robust to stand up in court, they may find themselves completely disempowered, left with no option but to wait five years. This can have a significant impact on their mental health and ability to move on with their lives.

Even if the allegations are robust, for example being subjected to domestic violence, they have the additional stress of submitting hard evidence of this, which can involve re-living trauma and coming into conflict with their partners.

The argument for reform is strong and Mrs Owens’ experience may be just the nudge that Parliament needs to carry out a root and branch review.

Image depicts two wedding rings

Courtesy Robert Cheaib on Flickr

Egg freezing is not a perkLaura Cooke is a journalist from the south of England

With US companies Apple and Facebook offering to freeze their female employees’ eggs to allow them to put off having children and focus on their careers, it was only a matter of time before this idea reached our shores.

In April this year, CARE Fertility, the UK’s largest private chain of fertility clinics, revealed that a number of British employers have enquired about offering this dubious ‘perk’ to their female workers.

“It will let you focus on your career, save up, meet the right person — you’ll feel so empowered!” screams the subtext of their sales pitch.

Empowered? What is so empowering about allowing your boss to interfere in one of the most important and personal decisions you are ever likely to make in your life?

Sky News, like other media outlets commenting on the issue, presents IVF as an easy option, with a complete lack of appreciation for exactly what is involved in the process.

The chances are that you know a woman who has been through IVF. And if you think you don’t, I can assure you that with one in seven couples struggling to conceive, the likelihood is that you do. It’s just not something everyone feels comfortable shouting about.

Like anyone who has been through IVF, I can tell you that nobody goes through it by choice. It’s a last resort, when doing it the old-fashioned way simply isn’t an option. And, speaking for myself but in the knowledge that I’m probably not alone, it is humiliating to admit that your body has let you down.

Setting emotions aside, there is the dreaded course of self-administered daily injections to the stomach, blowing you up like a puffer fish in an attempt to stimulate your ovaries to produce as many eggs as possible. There is a risk of ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome (OHSS), a thankfully rare but pretty dangerous complication.

Once you’ve had the operation to remove the eggs via needle passed through the vagina (not pleasant, but at least you are sedated), the fertilisation process follows. Then, prepare yourself for yet more drugs to get that womb embryo ready.

Then there is the agonising two-week wait before you can find out whether you are in that small percentage of people who have been successful, or whether the invasive procedures, weeks of drugs and spending more money than you can afford has come to nothing.

Which leads me onto another important fact which has seemed to be glossed over: the success rate for IVF using frozen eggs in the UK simply isn’t that great.

In the latest data available from the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) the approximate successful birth rate for IVF cycles using frozen eggs in 2013 was reported as 14%, compared to an average success rate of 26% for IVF using fresh eggs.

That rate was even lower for women aged over 38.

The stats show that the number of women freezing their eggs rose from 59 in 2005 to 816 in 2014, suggesting that more and more women are opting to preserve their fertility.

I’m sure each of these women went into this with their eyes fully open and were made well aware of the perils and pitfalls before making their choice.

That is the key word here: choice.

I have nothing at all against egg freezing if a woman decides that is what she wants to do with her body.

My issue is the way that this process is being presented as an easy answer to the career/baby conundrum women are plagued with by the very people who have a vested interest in keeping these same women working through their most fertile years.

How much support are these companies going to provide when those eggs are thawed and these women find they are not in that magic 14%?

Your employer giving you the option to freeze your eggs, which could lead women feeling pressured into doing so, is not my idea of empowerment and the way it is presented as such is rather sickening.

Offer women instead more flexibility or increased parental leave by all means, but stay the hell away from our ovaries.

Image by Freestocks.org, from Unsplash. Used with Creative Commons Zero licence.

Image is of a pregnant woman, with her belly in the middle of the frame. The image is cropped so that she is only visible from the bottom of her breasts to the top of her thighs, with her hands and arms also in the frame. She is wearing a long-sleeve, fitted maroon dress. Both of her hands rest on her belly. She wears a gold ring on the hand closest to the camera.

Madeleine Pownall, our monthly guest blogger for May, considers portrayals of rape in the Netflix show 13 Reasons Why

We love a good drama. We crave outrage, social injustices to protest against and controversy. I think it’s a part of our human nature. But when I heard that Netflix show 13 Reasons Why had a storyline tackling the issue of rape, I felt apprehensive. I expected the typical Hollywood dramatisation. I expected crying, resisting and horrible explicitness. I expected it to make me cry and make me scared.

However, the episodes surprised me. The female character, Jessica, passes out drunk and is raped by a boy at a house party. Hannah, the show’s protagonist, becomes trapped in the corner of the room and is forced to listen to the series of events. It was a difficult watch for me. The show deals with the reality that approximately 90% of rape victims know their attackers.

The scene rings true: one ‘friend’ taking advantage of another. There is no over-the-top music, no screaming, no obscene Hollywood melodramatics. It is attack – in its most brutal and most real form. It didn’t make me upset; it made me hopeful. I was relieved to see such an honest portrayal of sexual abuse.

The rape that makes headlines is often extreme, gruesome and between two strangers. But not all rape is like that. Mine wasn’t. That doesn’t make me any less of a victim, and that doesn’t make it any less difficult to deal with. My rape was quiet, self-contained, private. I wasn’t pulled into the bushes while walking home. I wasn’t hit. I wasn’t left for dead.

It was done by someone I knew – by someone I trusted. He then left and I haven’t seen him since. It was quick, but by no means was it painless. I don’t think he even realised what he had done. I wasn’t too resistant, and I didn’t shout and call for help. I was, like Jessica in the Netflix show, passive and helpless. Indeed, I offer my full praise to 13 Reasons Why for showing the very real nature of rape. This does not mean that attacks by strangers don’t happen, but it does move us away from the idea that this is how all rape is perpetrated.

This misrepresentation of rape feeds into a ‘shock factor’ culture. It would seem that a hunger for drama has leaked into every facet of media, and every element of media story-telling (or news reporting, as they like to call it). When we think of children getting kidnapped we think of black balaclavas, hushed voices and panic. We don’t remember the children who are silently led away from school by a friendly-looking stranger. When we think of death we imagine blood, horror and pain. Our minds are not immediately drawn to those who pass peacefully and happily in their own home.

I would argue that we have been somewhat programmed as willing consumers of paranoia-inducing, shocking stories. The rape we recognise, that we are able to process and name, is often brutal and violent. It fits perfectly into our internal framework, which allows us to distinguish what rape is. We forget that the only prerequisite for rape is the lack of consent. We forget that so often it involves a boyfriend with a friendly face who has betrayed our trust.

When we think of rape we don’t think of love. Indeed, we may even think that these two concepts are entirely mutually exclusive. But so often they are interlinked, even operating simultaneously together. I didn’t love my rapist, but I welcomed him into my life with open arms. This is the case with many survivors of sexual abuse, which – I believe – feeds into the victim-blaming culture that is so apparent during discussions of rape. This is echoed in 13 Reasons Why, when Hannah is asked by her school counsellor if she remembers vocally refusing to have sex with her rapist. This scene, and the implications of her lack of outright refusal, rang true with my experience too.

After much internal turmoil and a lot of soul-searching, I have come to understand that although I never said ‘no’, I did not mean ‘yes’. My lack of resistance – both physical and verbal – did not constitute consent. The social bond between two people in a relationship does not diminish the fact that lack of consent is rape. Period. Many women love their rapists, and this is scarcely represented in media depictions of abuse.

I was raped and I continued to hold his hand in public.

Image depicts a man and woman holding hands in the street

Courtesy freestocks.org

Since 2011, the Home Office has been using incorrect information about Albania that may have led to the deportation of lesbian, gay and bisexual (LGB) asylum seekers. The expert evidence they have been using was ruled as impermissible almost six years ago, but has been used continually since then.

It’s disturbing to think that people persecuted for their sexuality may have been driven from safety to harm, but unfortunately not surprising. Theresa May, as Home Secretary between 2010 and 2016, oversaw an asylum system that made it almost impossible to claim asylum on the basis of sexual orientation, while keeping people in horrendous detention conditions.

Information used by the Home Office to determine whether any individual country is a risk for LGB asylum seekers comes from their country of origin information (COI). In the case of Albania, it seems like required updates were excluded. However, for many other countries, COI is not good enough either.

There are 72 countries where it is illegal for a woman to have sex with a woman or a man to have sex with a man, as well as others where it is technically not a criminal act but still receives harsh social punishment. A cursory glance at the COI used by the government reveals there are only 40 countries that warrant any information, some of which are not places where being LGB is dangerous. This alone suggests that the Home Office is not fully informed.

Alternatively, the Home Office is not transparently publishing all their COI. In Cameroon, it is illegal for a woman to have sex with a woman or a man to have sex with a man. The government will be well aware of this, as it was the country of origin of one of the defendants in a landmark case in 2010 that meant the Home Office could no longer reject cases on the basis that people should be able to hide their sexual orientation by being discreet in their home countries. Despite this, the COI for Cameroon does not include a section relating to sexual orientation. However, when I checked this in 2013 as part of a research project, this section did exist. At the time, it had last been updated in 2008. I therefore believe that only COIs that have been updated very recently are available online, which disguises the fact that in many cases, the government is relying on information that is very old and potentially outdated.

Looking at the COI that exists, 21 countries have sections relating to sexual orientation and gender identity. Not all the countries that criminalise men having sex with men or women having sex with women are among these; Angola, Egypt, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kuwait, Libya, Myanmar, parts of the Palestinian territories, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen all have COI available that lacks a section on sexual orientation.

The issues faced by women and men can be quite distinct. The barriers women face can include:

  • being under particular pressure to get married or have children (and therefore not being believed in claims about their sexual orientation)
  • holding less autonomy over their movement or being unable to live alone (and therefore not being able to relocate internally to escape socially-led persecution locally)
  • being treated differently by the law (and therefore being perceived as less at risk)
  • However, 17 of the 21 existing sections do not have specific passages relating to barriers and harms that are gendered. Where this distinction is not made, the information often reads with an assumption that men are the primary focus or primarily using sources that relate specifically to the experiences of men.

    Where there are separate sections concerning women and men, the section relating to women is often shorter. For example, the section relating to women in the Afghanistan COI is roughly quarter the length of the section relating to men. The section that is specific to women is titled “Lesbians”, bluntly erasing the lives and experiences of bisexual women and other women who have had sex with women. Half of this short section is dedicated to whether or not lesbians exist at all in Afghanistan; luckily, it does concede that “their presence was confirmed in an October 2016 article by the BBC”.

    It is shameful that the government has been using information about Albania that was known to be inaccurate. The Home Office should take this opportunity to review how it records, updates and uses COI when considering cases relating to sexual orientation across the board, as Albania may be just one example of a much wider problem.

    The image is by Hanna Sörensson and is used under a creative commons licence. It shows a close up of part of an illuminated globe, which glows warmly orange. The background to the picture is darkness.

    Weekly round-up and open thread

    by Lusana Taylor // 15 May 2017, 10:56 pm

    Tags:

    Welcome to another weekly round-up, where we share (what we see as) the most interesting and important articles from the previous seven days. We’d love to hear your thoughts on any of the issues covered in the articles we’ve picked.

    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.

    Study on HIV & pregnancy preventing vaginal ring launched (New Vision)

    From the article: “Reported in Uganda publication New Vision. The success of this study could mean a massive reduction in the transmission of HIV – Experts say over 500 girls get infected with HIV every week and that the teenage pregnancy rate is very high.”

    Global contraceptive drugs and devices market to surpass US$ 35.7 billion by 2024 (Crossroads Today)

    The Girls’ Soccer Team That Joined a Boys’ League, and Won It (NY Times)

    When you say you’re trans, the constant refrain is ‘Can’t you just not be?’ (CN Lester at The Pool)

    A healthy baby isn’t the only important outcome of birth. A healthy mother is too (Sydney Morning Herald)

    2017 Power Part Time Top 50 (Timewise)

    From the article: “This year’s Power Part Time List of outstanding business leaders includes nine job shares, and over half the people on the list were actually hired on a part time basis, from day one in the role. Proof that employers are getting more creative in shaping roles to attract the talent they want.”

    What We Mean When We Say “Femme”: A Roundtable (Autostraddle)

    From the article: “I want to be the one who gets to ride on the horse and “save” the princess, and I want to do it in a skirt that does the Thing when I spin around.”

    Believe it or not, but the Tories are running an energetic election campaign – you just can’t see it (New Statesman)

    From the article: “The precise message is tailored to target voters. It also remains safely hidden from the scrutiny of the national media, on citizens’ computers and in their local press.”

    Killing the mammy myth: SheaMoisture needs a reminder that black women built its success (Bitch media)

    From the article: “Black women’s uncomplaining fealty is so taken for granted that Black women are expected to operate outside the basic tenets of America’s one true religion—capitalism. We alone are supposed to reward brands with our dollars whether or not they target or value us as consumers. The free market isn’t supposed to be for the likes of us.

    The irony of this situation is that SheaMoisture created the now-infamous ad to woo a non-Black customer base – namely white women. No one expects these women to purchase beauty products that do not center them. A brand has to demonstrate that it recognizes and can fulfill white women’s beauty needs…”

    Sex Work Is Inherently Traumatic… but not the way you think it is, and if you’re a civvie it’s probably partially your fault (Kit Snicket at Medium)

    From the article: “People think that the emotional pain that comes from sex work is the emptiness that must come with offering your body up to strangers, but it isn’t. Clients come and go, if all goes well they leave no mark. The pain comes from others. Being reduced to nothing but your job by somebody you thought was a friend is some real fucking emotional pain. Never being just Kit, but being Kit the whore, is pain, especially when you’re constantly bombarded by messages saying that your labor makes you different, even subhuman. Especially when you’ve been hearing that hookers aren’t the same as women since before it occurred to you that you might not be able to make it as a ballerina or a princess or a painter.”

    9 Ways You Don’t Realise You’re Being Internally Misogynistic Towards Your Mom (Buzzfeed)

    If you’re interested in the above article you might also like to check out Hannah Murden’s piece for the F-Word: Can mum be the word when it comes to modern feminism?

    Nicola Sturgeon: I have a ‘girl job’ – it’s called running the country (inews)

    To The Woman Who Talked Me Out Of Having An Abortion (Taryn de Vere at Medium)

    Tesco replaced their Merseyside model’s voice with a “posh” woman – why? (The Pool)

    From the article: “It’s as if we’re only allowed to be visible as women if our voices imply a certain level of wealth, education and class. We all know that feminism has a privilege problem, and that it’s the women who have the most who are most likely to speak out and be listened to.”

    COMMENT: Places that are still safe if you are white (Nayuka Gorrie at NITV) [Satire]

    From the article: “In a bold move of ‘reverse racism’ last week Narrm based blak arts collective, Real Blak Tingz exhibited “Unnaturalized”, as part of Yirramboi festival. Part of the work has drawn criticism from noted supporters of Aboriginal people, including the Herald Sun.”

    The image is used under a creative commons license with thanks to vonguard on Flickr. It shows a person in a pink patterned vest top, black trousers and sunglasses stood in front of a wall covered in street art. The most prominent image on the wall is of a person with a bandana wrapped around their hair. They have one fist raised in the air; their mouth open as if perhaps chanting at a protest. The person in the foreground is mirroring the pose, with one fist raised high in the air.

    This is a guest post by Jackie Thomas. She is a feminist, a Francophile and lectures at university. She loves the analysis of painting and film, and has never been a supporter of referendums

    Like half a million women in the UK, my late mother was diagnosed with dementia. Dementia affects 46 million people worldwide, of which 58% live in emerging economies. This figure is expected to rise by 2030, particularly in Asia due to the ageing populations of China and India. Although it is a disease that potentially affects us all, the impact of dementia on women is significantly higher. In the UK alone, 61% of those diagnosed are women, and as a result dementia is considered to be the leading cause of death among our female population.

    In addition to this, the caring responsibilities also largely fall upon women, who provide over two and half times more care than men, often sacrificing their careers for part-time employment, family and social relationships. Given how dementia affects women, either directly in the latter stages of their lives, as carers of elderly parents or as employees of healthcare providers, why are we so slow to acknowledge the need for a gender-specific approach to tackling the problem?

    When my mother, a long-serving NHS employee, was diagnosed with vascular dementia and Alzheimer’s I read up on the disease and its treatment. Although I had studied psychology I knew very little beyond the broader label, nor had any clear idea of how to care for her. And despite living in an area which provides outstanding NHS health facilities, frankly no medical professional spelled it out to me in a way that was helpful. Although accompanying my mother on her journey with the disease was one of the most loving mother-daughter experiences I will ever go through, it was also a minefield in terms of diagnosis and health monitoring, and emotionally stressful and physically demanding.

    As with their male counterparts, loss – of the person, their lifestyle and their capabilities – is one of the main features of the disease and the quicker both the person affected and their carers face this the better they can adapt to the challenges and navigate the turbulent road ahead. However, unlike their male counterparts, women’s lives are far more greatly affected by the consequences of the disease.

    For women with Alzheimer’s the loss of memory is crippling, as research shows that they experience a far more rapid decline in their cognitive functions than men. But even worse still is their experience of the disease itself, as a significant number have poorer access to health care in comparison with men. Moreover, women are more likely to be placed on medication for much longer periods which can often affect their physical well-being and how they experience dementia.

    It goes without saying that while we choose as a society not to adopt a more gender-specific approach to dementia treatment, unlike some of our European neighbours, we risk subjecting women at their most vulnerable to poorer health conditions. By not taking women’s particular needs into account or acknowledging the increased power imbalances at play, we leave them susceptible to further gender discrimination. People with dementia are often subject to abuse due to their condition, but this problem for women can be compounded by their gender. We are continuing to fail women in sickness as in health.

    Female carers are exposed to these very same risks. In order to meet the demands of dementia care, many face losing their jobs, missing out on promotions, earning less, as well as the loss of their support and social network. Considering that more than 70% of female carers of people with dementia in the UK are unpaid and fail to receive adequate support, they are also economically disempowered and themselves at risk of poor health and well-being, isolation, depression and eventually dementia itself.

    Although it remains unclear whether dementia was the main cause of my late mother’s death, there is little doubt that the disease took a considerable toll on her body and mind within less than a year of diagnosis. I have lost count of the number of healthcare professionals whom my mother had seen throughout the course of her illness. However, I can certainly count on one hand those who were attentive to my mother’s experience of the disease and how this had potentially been exacerbated by the current gender-neutral approach to her treatment. Dementia receives nowhere near the same level of attention as other life threatening diseases, which without wanting to point the finger do actually affect far fewer people.

    Dementia affects more than twice as many women as any other medical condition. During Dementia Awareness Week (14-20 May) this year we need to see widespread acknowledgement of the disease as a women’s issue, we need to see women’s experiences being incorporated into research in order to improve treatment, and a more person-centred approach to care which takes gender into account.

    Image of an older woman’s hands being held by a younger woman’s

    Courtesy Bournemouth Borough Council on Flickr

    Welcome to this month’s stage blog. We’ve published some great reviews since my last blog in April so check them out if you haven’t already. They’ve been on Oh Yes On No at Camden People’s Theatre, All The Little Lights at the Drum and RUN at The Place.

    At the Royal Court in London Manwatching begins tonight. It is a funny, frank and occasionally explicit insight into heterosexual female desire, read out by a man. The show begins with a male comedian being given a script they have never seen before. They read the script out loud, sight unseen, in front of an audience. This is a show about what one woman thinks about when she thinks about sex with men.

    There are a couple of interesting spoken word shows coming up at the Roundhouse which are part of their The Last Word festival. Firstly there is Francesca Beard’s How To Survive A Post-Truth Apocalypse on 31 May. On this journey the audience will explore make-believe in its many forms – from political spin: “We live in a meritocracy”, to polite half-truths: “Thank you Grandma, I love this cardigan” to our formative memories and our consensus reality. Secondly there is Testament’s The Privilege Show on 7 June which is being created over the next year. Testament has made theatre shows and had his poetry on Radio 4. He thinks he’s a right-on kind of guy. And then his daughter is born and he starts to see the world through her. Maybe what he understood about equality and privilege isn’t as clear cut as he assumed.

    In dance, following a successful international and UK tour, dancers Eleanor Sikorski and Flora Wellesley Wesley, AKA Nora, return to Sadler’s Wells in Lndon on Thursday 1 and Friday 2 June. Nora Invites is a programme of specially commissioned duets by renowned duo Jonathan Burrows and Matteo Fargion, up and coming French choreographer Simon Tanguy and the provocative Liz Aggiss. It should be a thoughtful, engaging programme that brings a distinctive feminist voice to Sadler’s Wells.

    At Soho Theatre from 15 – 17 June will be standup show Rose Matafeo is Finally Dead. Join Matafeo as she commemorates the end of existence while she’s still there to enjoy the party. Expect visits from her mother, impressive lip-syncing, and intern Stephen making his mark on the biggest day of her (after)life.

    At Theatre by the Lake they will be reviving Handbagged on various dates between 16 June and 3 November. Moira Buffini’s sensational comedy looks behind the closed doors of the palace to speculate what really happened when two of the most powerful women in the world clashed. Handbagged will be captioned on 22 August and audio-described on 16 September.

    Flare International Festival of New Theatre in Manchester has just launched its programme for 4 – 8 July. Shows in the listing that leapt out at me were Beauty and the Beast: “Let’s talk about gender baby, let’s talk about you and me… Go crazy and celebrate your dreams and your differences, through the body of a real live superstar. Inspired by the freak shows of the 19th century, this show twists and dissolves body norms and gender binaries” and Actresses Always Lie: “A performance exploration, using the stereotype and universe of ‘the actress’ as a springboard to talk about a wide range of subjects, from gender to trade and precariousness.”

    The National Theatre will mark the 50th anniversary of the partial decriminalisation of homosexuality in England and Wales by staging its first Queer Theatre event series from 6 – 10 July. A group of actors and directors will look at how theatre has charted the LGBT+ experience through a series of rehearsed readings and post-show discussions in the Lyttelton Theatre. Sarah Frankcom, who is one of my favourite directors, will be directing Neaptide, which was astonishingly the National Theatre’s first full-length play by a female playwright in 1986. 1986!

    Registration for the Funny Women Awards 2017 has just opened. You can apply whether you’re a standup, sketch group, script writer or just like making funny YouTube films with your mates and audience members can also nominate their favourite comedy shows too.

    F-Word favourite, Sofie Hagen, will be on tour again between October 2017 and February 2018 after the Edinburgh Festival Fringe this August with her new show Dead Baby Frog. Once again she will be attempting to make the tour anxiety safe by offering accommodations to audience members who get in touch and the toilets will be gender neutral.

    And speaking of Edinburgh, I’m beginning to plan for this year’s festival. If you might like to write for us this year please join the theatre Facebook group, comedy Facebook group or email me. Please also get in touch if you’re going to Edinburgh this year and you’d like us to review you!


    Image descriptions and credits

    Image 1 is a photograph of Francesca Beard by Suzi Corker. Beard is perched on the floor against a wide white background. Her weight is balanced on her crossed legs and her hands which are placed just behind her. She looks straight at the camera and her long dark hair hangs down either side of her face. She wears dark clothes and white trainers.

    Image 2 is of Nora in Bloody Nora by Liz Aggiss. The photograph was taken by The Other Richard. Eleanor Sikorski and Flora Wellesley Wesley are on stage, both wearing strange red outfits which are reminiscent of old-fashioned swimming costumes. They are standing right next to each other, but facing slightly away and pointing at the audience in front as if they are asking them a question.

    Image 3 is of Beauty and the Beast at the Flare Festival and was taken by Marcos Angeloni. It is a photograph of what appears to be a male figure who is naked apart from a scarf around his neck. He is squatting down slightly, facing to the side and holding a microphone up to his mouth with one hand while his other hand is lifted in the air. It is a black and white photograph with strong contrast.

    Weekly round-up and open thread

    by Lusana Taylor // 9 May 2017, 4:37 pm

    Tags:

    Welcome to another weekly round-up, where we share (what we see as) the most interesting and important articles from the previous seven days. We’d love to hear your thoughts on any of the issues covered in the articles we’ve picked.

    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.

    It’s a scandal that the Bank of Mum and Dad funds a quarter of property transactions (The Pool)

    The alt-right hates women as much as it hates people of colour (The Guardian)

    Women accuse DVLA of sexism over ‘Mrs’ on driving licence (Evening Standard)

    From the article: “Ms Roberts, from Newcastle-Upon-Tyne had tweeted the DVLA account, writing: ‘Just received my new licence and it is wrong. I asked for no title on but it has come back with one on it. Can this be changed?’

    The DVLA twitter account responded: ‘Hi, the purpose of the title is to allow the system to determine the male or female format of the driver number. I’m afraid it can’t be removed.’”

    How a Frog Became the First Mainstream Pregnancy Test (The Atlantic)

    The Forgotten Story Of The Radium Girls, Whose Deaths Saved Thousands Of Workers’ Lives (Buzzfeed)
    CN: Graphic descriptions of the effects of radium poisoning.

    Nadia Rose’s ‘Skwod’ used to ward off fascists in London (Dazed)

    Resistance: Thank people for their work (This ain’t livin’)

    From the article: “Thanking people for their efforts — from the person who posts a daily list of action items for you to follow to the volunteers who help your organisation function — means a lot, and can help people feel more engaged and committed to a mutual effort of interest or concern. It’s unreasonable to expect people to commit to unpaid labour without any kind of acknowledgment of their work, almost as though ignoring their very existence and focusing on their product will allow you to dodge the question of whether they should be paid. To the contrary, it just makes people feel prickly, unpleasant, and used.”

    More from BADD2017:

    Able Bodied People You Are Not Entitled To Know Details Of Our Disabilities. #BADD2017 (Life Through The Disability Lens)

    Stop Lying To Me About Accessibility (That Crazy Crippled Chick)

    Blogging Against Disablism: Racialised disability employment numbers (This ain’t livin’)

    Dear Science (The one-handed activist)

    From the article: “You want to make the world a better place. This I know. This is why I love you. But in this pursuit of ‘better’, maybe you should consider how you treat the patients you claim to care for.”

    BADD2017: Dehumanization of the Disabled: An Exploration of Fear (So Much Stranger, So Much Darker, So Much Madder, So Much Better)

    From the article: “I believe that the dehumanization of disabled people stems, at least in part, from fear. There is, of course, the fear of what is different from oneself as well as the fear of the other. Yet, I think the biggest fear that contributes to our dehumanization is the fear of mortality. Disabled people are walking (or rolling or however you get around) reminders that our bodies can and will break down and that one day we will all die. People with mental illness or I/DD are reminders that our minds are fragile things that can break down and that one day we may be left as shells of our former selves due to diseases like Alzheimer’s or dementia. We are feared because we remind people that they are not invincible. They see our “broken” bodies and minds and they are reminded that one day they too will have their bodies fail them, that they too may have their minds become foreign.”

    BADD 2017: Ableism – The overlooked bigotry at the root of social injustice (Notes, Notings, and Common Refrains)

    From the article: “Disablism, in other words, is what leads to sympathetic treatment in the media of parents who murder their own disabled children, because of course, they were too heavy a burden to care for. And ableism is what leads to Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA) – which forces autistic children mimic neorotypical people (often through electric shock and withholding food) – to be considered “therapy” rather than torture. Like the filling and bread of a sandwich, the two ideas are not exactly the same, but neither can they exist in isolation.”

    Thanks to the awesome Tara for the following links:

    The Overlooked, Radical History of Black Women in Art (Artsy)

    From the article: “While the show raises timely questions about intersectional feminism, female representation, and gender inequalities—all urgent themes in Trump’s America—perhaps most pertinent is the show’s insistence on reminding us that black women have long faced the perils of a world in which their voices are silenced.”

    Turner Prize: Black painting pioneers break award age barrier (BBC)

    15 Men React To The Idea Of Taking Their Wife’s Last Name After Marriage (Thought Catalog)

    Artemis Is the Queer Girl Goddess BFF of Your Dreams (Autostraddle)

    Woman found guilty and faces year in jail for laughing at Jeff Sessions (Independent)

    Protester featured in iconic Ferguson photo found dead of self-inflicted gunshot wound (St. Louis Post-Dispatch)

    On The Realities Of Being A Black Woman With Borderline Personality Disorder (Fader)

    10 Real Laws Straight Out of The Handmaid’s Tale (Gizmodo)

    The image is used under a creative commons license with thanks to Rita on Flickr. It shows two sunflowers against a blue sky which is slightly overcast with white clouds.

    Weekly round-up and open thread

    by Lusana Taylor // 1 May 2017, 10:43 pm

    Tags: ,


    Welcome to another weekly round-up, where we share (what we see as) the most interesting and important articles from the previous seven days. We’d love to hear your thoughts on any of the issues covered in the articles we’ve picked, which include everything from body positivity to Blogging Against Disablism Day.

    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.

    How ‘body positivity’ lost its true and radical meaning (Dazed)

    Lush might care about the environment, but they don’t seem to care about fat people (The Pool)

    ‘Hundreds of us will die in Raqqa’: the women fighting Isis (The Guardian)

    Theresa May Refuses To Accept Government Responsible For Nurses Using Food Banks (Huff Post)

    Denmark Place arson: Why people are still searching for answers 35 years on from one of the biggest mass murders in our history (Independent)

    Serena Williams calls Ilie Nastase comments ‘racist’ and backs investigation (BBC Sport)

    Dyke Life: An Interview with Eileen Myles (Ray Filar at Verso)

    Bristol’s Colston Hall to drop name of slave trader after protests (The Guardian)

    Labour will block the sale of weapons to repressive regimes if it wins the election (Independent)

    Can’t be bothered to vote? If you’re young, you simply can’t afford not to (Guardian)

    You Aren’t Imagining It, ‘Wonder Woman’ Really Isn’t Being Well Promoted (Uproxx)

    The Dax J incident shows just how insensitive dance music can be (Mixmag)

    Laverne Cox: Trans People Shouldn’t Have to Blend In (Elle)

    Death and terror for LGBT community in Chechnya (Philippa Willitts at Global Comment)

    From the article: “Members of the LGBT+ community in Chechnya are being held in concentration camp-like conditions, and at least four have been killed. Ramzan Kadyrov, the country’s president, has vowed to ‘eliminate’ all gay men by the end of May.”

    How Netflix’s ‘Hot Girls Wanted’ series exploits sex workers in the name of exposing… how sex workers are exploited? (Babe)

    From the article: “…The real names of the sex workers, who go by aliases on the internet, were released and footage of their performances have been streamed to a global audience of millions.”

    Queer Muslim Sex Worker: A documentary (Vada)[Interview with Amy Ashenden, producer of both The Gay Word and new podcast documentary Queer Muslim Sex Worker.]

    From the article: “The world needs to start listening to people like Maryam – we could all learn a lot, the queer community included.”

    Maxine Peake: ‘I’m a Corbyn supporter. We need a coup’ (The Guardian)

    From the article: “What does she think of Theresa May? ‘A terrible politician. How can you like her? And I can’t buy into this thing, “Oh, but she’s a woman.” I don’t care.’ What upsets her about May’s politics? ‘Her lack of care. I mean, we’re talking about another £30 being cut off disability benefits. I cannot believe the callousness. Why are we not in the streets rioting? Why are we not in the streets going, ‘You cannot treat people in this country like that’? It’s absolutely distressing when you go to Manchester and see the homeless people on the street. Every time I go back, there’s more.'”

    Trans Women Don’t Have ‘Male Privilege’ — We Have Something Way More Complicated (Sam Riedel at The Establishment)

    From the article: “Whether you know you’re trans or not, society has many ways of making sure you know the consequences of straying outside your prescribed gender.

    The same hand that extends an invitation into a “man’s world” also shoves these ideas down our throats, so that our sense of identity and self-worth is chiseled away. When we talk about “male privilege,” that’s what we’re really referring to: the demonic barter millions of people have had to make in order to stay alive in a culture that, unconsciously or not, wants them dead or silent.”

    11 remarkable women to celebrate Lesbian Visibility Day 2017 (Pink News)

    BADD 2017- Six ways disablism makes it harder to live with chronic pain (The Goldfish)

    From the article: “We shouldn’t go through what we do – the scrutiny and doubt, the trick questions, the sense of having to justify our existence. But nobody should go through this. Nobody should enter into any process under the working assumption that they are trying to commit fraud. There is nothing special about physical pain.

    All games of legitimacy are disablist games which hurt other disabled people. But they can also effect our own relationship with pain and impairment. If we believe that any functional limitation we have – the inability to work, the need to use a wheelchair or any other kind of assistance – needs to be justified not just with difficulty but with suffering, it becomes extremely easy to start second-guessing ourselves. So we’re in pain, but are we really in that much pain? Could we push ourselves a little harder? If we are enjoying life at all, does that mean we’re not truly suffering and cannot ask for any accommodations?”

    DH Kelly also writes for the F-Word. Here is another recent piece for the F-Word in honour of Blogging Against Disablism Day: Imaginary families and the Social Care crisis

    The image is used under a creative commons license with thanks to Guilhem on Flickr. It is a photograph of street art. A person stands inside a set of concentric circles. The person is dressed in robes and has their hair covered with a scarf or a veil (that doesn’t cover the face). The image is depicted on a plasterboard wall.

    Louisa Adjoa Parker was our guest blogger for April

    The plethora of crime dramas and real-life crime documentaries suggests that we can’t get enough of murder. I enjoy a good whodunit as much as the next woman, but I’m sick of seeing so many – real or fictional – women’s murdered bodies on TV.

    I’d long been conscious that this made me uncomfortable, but it was only when watching BBC4’s O.J.: Made in America that I became distressed. The documentary continuously showed pictures of Simpson’s ex-wife Nicole’s murdered body. It simply wasn’t necessary to keep showing this image. Whenever it came on the screen I covered my eyes and shouted at the TV: “Have a bit of respect!”. I should have stopped watching, but I was fascinated by the story: an interplay of celebrity, ‘race’, media and gender that could only have happened in America.

    I don’t know if Nicole’s family had to give permission for the images to be shown. Whatever the legalities, it felt wrong. If I was killed, I wouldn’t want images of my brutal death on screens across the globe.

    Showing her body on primetime TV was unnecessary. Of course it’s important to expose violence against women. But there are other ways this can be done. Nicole deserved respect in death as she did in life. Her children didn’t need to see their mother reduced to a broken body lying on the floor.

    A friend recommended Spiral recently. The programme began with a murdered woman whose face had been smashed to a pulp. “I expect she was beautiful,” a pathologist said. “That’s why he did this.” So what? I thought, I don’t need to see this misogynistic crap, and turned it off.

    So why do TV producers feel the need to show so many dead women? It’s as though female murder has become ‘sexy’, and it’s a certain type of woman – young, beautiful, white, thin – who is the typical victim. (This in spite of the fact we know that women from all backgrounds can be murdered). We are all too familiar with the stylised image of pale flesh covered in bright blood, the glimpse of a nipple or pubic hair, splayed limbs, long hair fanned across the bed (because all murders take place when a woman is naked in bed, right?).

    There’s nothing sexy about a man (and it’s always a man) ending a woman’s life. The images reduce women to nothing more than bodies, and we have enough of a problem with objectification of women’s bodies already.

    There has been criticism of the high female body count in British TV drama from those within the industry. Helen Mirren told the Observer that she agreed with David Hare’s statement on the bloodthirsty nature of crime drama, and that there was a clear sexual divide with the corpses.

    So what effect can this have on us? Research has shown that watching violence on TV can affect children’s behaviour. Dr Gail Gross writes in the Huffington Post: “There is a chemical change in the brain, similar to that which is seen in post-traumatic stress disorder; if enough violence is viewed, the brain reacts as if the person has actually been abused.” I would imagine this is similar for adults. After watching The Fall I was checking under beds and in wardrobes. It was the same with Luther – friends who are far less anxious than me were checking under their beds after one particular episode. As Alison Graham argued in the Radio Times: “Violence against women in the real world is all too disproportionate and vivid. We don’t need any reinforcement from dramas.”

    These programmes confirm our fears that the world is unsafe for women, and can make us feel that our lives are expendable. They’re not based on reality: it is widely acknowledged that we are far more likely to be murdered by someone we know than by a stranger.

    An example of a detective drama which avoided the portrayal of dead women was ITV’s The Level, starring Karla Chrome who played DS Nancy Devlin investigating the death of a corrupt businessman.

    We need more shows like this – with strong female leads, and interesting stories that don’t have a poor, dead, conventionally beautiful young woman at the centre of them. Killing women isn’t sexy, and the sooner TV producers realise this, the better.

    Image courtesy Austin Chronicle on Flickr

    Image is of a framed photograph of Laura Palmer, the murder victim from TV show Twin Peaks, with candles on each side

    Today is Bloggging Against Disablism Day 2017, a day where disabled and non-disabled people around the world blog about disability discrimination.

    Social care in in crisis. Last year, Age UK reported that 1.2 million older disabled people were not receiving adequate care. This crisis is often presented an inevitable effect of an aging population rather than systematic underfunding by the Conservative and coalition governments.

    In January, MP David Mowatt spoke to the the House of Commons’ select committee on communities and local government, passing the buck onto the family members of care-users;

    “…no one ever questions that we look after our children – that is obvious. No one says that is a caring responsibility, it is what we do. I think some of that logic […] will have to impinge on the way that we think about caring for our parents. Because it is a responsibility in terms of our life cycle which is similar.”

    Disabled adults of all ages are missing out on Social Care (or Independent Living as we used to call it), but most are older people and most of them are women. Women also make up the vast majority of carers and PAs, both unpaid within families and underpaid professionals. Social Care is a feminist issue and the Conservative government’s idealisation of families where women are available, capable and willing to take on any unpaid care work needs to be put to bed with a nice cup of cocoa.

    There are two problems at the heart of the Social Care crisis. One is money; we live in the age of austerity and there are important missile programmes which have to be paid for from somewhere. The second is the Charity Model of Disability; the idea that disabled people exist as objects of charity, for the generosity and warm-fuzzy feelings of non-disabled people. The value of a disabled person is measured by our appeal as a charitable cause; we have to be prove ourselves innocent victims of tragedy, deserving of compassion and it helps if we’re cute. Disabled people’s needs are then met through kindness and compassion and everyone feels good.

    The Charity Model works well if a six year old needs a new wheelchair; folk can put their hand in their pocket, sit in a bath of cold baked beans for an hour and the gratitude in the smiling eyes of that poor wee child makes it all worthwhile. Disabled adults have much less appeal, but our culture still expects our needs to be met this way. Carers – both professionals and unpaid family members – are often portrayed as acting out of kindness, as modern day saints.

    It would be vulgar to talk about money in relation to saints – knowing that they’re doing good is surely reward enough for such people. Carer’s Allowance – awarded to people who perform at least 35 hours a week care without pay – has just gone up by 60p to £62.70 a week. Professional carers are often paid only Minimum Wage, sometimes zero hours contracts, and often paid only for the time they spend with clients when much of their working day is spent travelling between jobs.

    It would be insulting to talk about abuse in relation to saints, despite the fact that carers often yield dangerous levels of power over disabled people, half of all disabled women experience domestic abuse at some point and over half a million older people are abused each year.

    Disabled adults are not like children. While children require guidance in all things, disabled adults need to be allowed to organise our own lives. We need more space, are more cumbersome to move and require considerably greater privacy and autonomy. Even when unexpected, babies usually provide at least a few months warning, while illness and impairment can arrive, or a manageable condition deteriorate, at any time. Few people can organise flexible working hours and a ground floor spare room just in case Granny – who is independent just now – needs live-in assistance.

    People largely choose to have children but nobody chooses to have the parents they have; if people have a poor relationship with their parents, it is of benefit to no-one to place older disabled people in the hands of family members they don’t get along with. Meanwhile, there are plenty of folk who just don’t have any blood family, or any in the country, or any who aren’t already laden with responsibilities.

    This is not the first time that the Conservative administration has implied that everyone has a supportive, geographically close family with a lot of spare rooms, but Social Care requires much more than even those things. I have experienced the gap between deep love and the capacity to help from both directions: I have performed care for others but lacked the physical capacity to do it well. I have had family members do their very best for me while lacking the temperament or patience required. The very best of intentions are not enough.

    We need decently paid professionals funded by the state and real support for those caring for family members. We need this not because we have sympathy for older disabled folk, but because we respect their right to live with dignity, make choices about their lives and continue to contribute to communities around them.

      
    [Image is a photograph of a black woman with grey hair. She is learning against the back of a seat, resting her chin on her hand and looking thoughtfully from a window. This photograph is by Rhoda Baer and is in the Public Domain.]

    Introducing May’s guest blogger

    by Amy Grant // 30 April 2017, 5:00 pm

    Tags:

    Time is racing by and it is nearly May, which means that we’ve got a new monthly guest blogger to introduce you to: Madeleine Pownall.

    In her own words:

    “Madeleine studies psychology at the University of Lincoln and blogs about all things feminist, psychological and current. She is one of three daughters, and grew up in a pro-female and pro-strength family. At home she was taught that she had a voice and she was allowed to use it. At school she was taught that this voice makes her sound bossy, whiny and she should be quiet and obedient. This irritated her. And so, a feminist was born.

    Madeleine is now fascinated with exploring the facets of young girls’ identity. She is currently researching how objectification affects women’s use of their voice. When she’s not questioning life, reading social psychology books or blogging, she can probably be found drinking coffee.

    She is also interested in the social class dimension of female identity, and how women of different classes and sexualities see themselves in relation to society. She hopes to one day write a book, get a PhD and see the Northern Lights. She has some big plans.”

    Welcome, Madeleine!

    Featured image by Cody Geary, from Flickr

    Image is a close-up of the keys of a red typewriter

    Silvia Carrus is an Italian illustrator and comic artist living in London. She loves to make comics about feminism and animals, and is the author of ‘Feminist Cat’ and ‘The Feminist Superheroes’. Check out her work on Tumblr and tweet her @silviargh.

    This month’s comic depicts two women discussing which cake they should eat, with one arguing they should eat the bitter, poisoned cake because it was made by a woman and is therefore the feminist choice

    Welcome, new editors!

    by Editor // 26 April 2017, 12:54 pm

    Tags:

    After a long search for the right people, you will see we have two new faces on our ‘About us’ page. Please join me in giving them both a warm welcome!

    Here are some more details about our new recruits, in their own words:

    Sophie Jackson (features editor, working with Pooja Kawa)

    Sophie is a feminist writer and editor, having discovered the joy of writing when she was gifted a Barbie typewriter on her fourth birthday. She co-edits features for The F-Word and writes about feminism’s intersections with mental health and LGBT+ communities. Sophie makes a living working in student politics and spends her spare time watching any television about happy queer characters that she can possibly find. Born and raised in New Zealand, she now lives as close to London as she can get without going broke. You can find her on Twitter at @sophlynne.

    Contact Pooja and Sophie with pitches for features at features@thefword.org.uk

    Erin Aniker (visual arts editor)

    Erin Aniker is an intersectional feminist, freelance illustrator and Arts PR based in London. She is half Turkish, half English and enjoys celebrating and exploring dual identities, cultures and strong women from diverse backgrounds across her illustration work. She creates illustrations for the likes of The Metro Newspaper amongst others and can often be found visiting a mix of exhibitions by established and emerging artists in London and across the UK. You can follow her on Instagram and Twitter at @ErinAniker.

    Contact Erin with pitches for visual arts reviews and section-relevant features at art@thefword.org.uk

    For the full list of our section-related addresses, click here.

    NB: We are still looking for a suitable person (or people!) to take care of our social media. Shoshana is a tough act to follow, but we know you’re out there somewhere!

    Image description and credit:

    Close up of a fountain pen’s nib, with an out of focus page in the background, showing typed words with handwritten annotations. By Nic McPhee, shared under a Creative Commons License.

    Why having black friends doesn’t mean you can’t be racist

    by Guest Blogger // 25 April 2017, 12:30 pm

    Mixed race friends

    Louisa Adjoa Parker is our guest blogger for April

    People often say “I’m not racist, I’ve got black/Muslim friends”. I’ve had friends say this then proceed to tell me – an immigrant’s daughter – that immigrants/Muslims are causing problems for society, or that there are too many here. Let me unpack the statement a little.

    Firstly, if you need to prove you’re not racist, the chances are you’ve said/thought/are about to say some racist things. During the ‘politically correct’ nineties and noughties, it was as though being accused of racism became worse than being on the receiving end of it. There’s a brilliant meme, in which a girl puts her finger on the lips of someone who’s just said “I’m not racist, but …” saying “Shh. Nothing good comes after that.” She’s right.

    It is possible to be in a relationship with someone from an oppressed group that you hold prejudicial beliefs about. Misogynistic males have been known to have relationships with women. Think of the old-school comedians joking about their mother-in-law, or the man who proclaims “I love women! I’m married to one!”

    It means nothing. White people can have relationships with non-white people or have dual-heritage children and still hold unconscious racist beliefs. A Facebook post went viral last year when a black man posted screenshots of texts with his daughter’s white mother after he took their daughter to get her hair cornrowed. The mother said she didn’t want her daughter to have an “ugly black hairstyle”.

    Then there are the stereotypes that white people might unconsciously buy into, for example, that Asian women are docile and black people are hyper-sexual. Of course, this isn’t to say all white people in a relationship with a person of colour think like this, but it’s complex and this stuff goes deep – we are drip-fed racist and sexist beliefs from birth.

    Jennie* is a white woman married to a black man with three dual-heritage sons. She assumed she “harboured no racism”, but moving to rural England led her to start studying race:

    I focused on how white people’s English sense of identity, superiority and privilege had been constructed over years of colonisation, empire, race-based practices and more latterly, liberal, ‘politically correct’ ideas about race. I needed to turn the lens on myself too and consider the ways in which I benefitted from a system of white supremacy and helped to reproduce that system, whilst being married to a black man

    There are different degrees of racism. White middle-class liberals might imagine a racist to be a flag-waving thug with a shaved head. But extreme racism is only one end of the scale. White people can unknowingly inflict micro-aggressions on black people, something that’s highlighted brilliantly in the film Get Out.

    It’s easy to understand why white people don’t notice racism when it doesn’t affect them. This is part of white privilege, the very nature of which – like male privilege – is that you don’t know you have it. You don’t have to think about someone hating you because of the colour of your skin when you walk into a room. White fragility is another theory that has been gathering attention. It was developed by Robin DiAngelo, a white American woman, who suggests that all white people hold racist beliefs, but get defensive if this is pointed out and that by not challenging racism white people are colluding with it.

    It’s uncomfortable, I get it: no-one wants to hold their prejudices up to the light. But we all have them and this is the only way to move forward.

    The belief that white people are superior to others – a hangover from Empire and colonialism – is deeply engrained in our collective consciousness and plays itself out in a myriad of ways. White people need to be having conversations about this without getting defensive. Waving your black friends around like a shield to protect you from accusations of racism is not OK.

    Jennie* says “The real work is in standing alongside and fighting for equality, in learning about the experiences that are not our own, in listening instead of assuming and the hardest work of all, in examining our own lives and attitudes.”

    We can move towards a future of equality, but it’s going to take some work.

    *name has been changed

    Image by Shamim Nakhai, from Unsplash. Used under Creative Commons Zero licence.

    Image is of a white and a black woman. The white women rests her head on the black woman’s shoulder, sadly looking away. The black women, wearing a colourful scarf and grey jumper, looks straight at the camera.

    Weekly round-up and open thread

    by Lusana Taylor // 24 April 2017, 8:51 pm

    Tags:

    Welcome to another weekly round-up, where we share (what we see as) the most interesting and important articles from the previous seven days. We’d love to hear your thoughts on any of the issues covered in the articles we’ve picked, which include everything from contraception to unicorn frappuccinos!

    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.

    50 Things That Made the Modern Economy: Contraceptive Pill (BBC Podcast)

    I am not a nun, I am a midwife: maternity care in a “modern” Ireland (Feminist Ire)

    The spreadsheet for strategic voting against the Tories is now a website (Indy100)

    Starbucks’ Unicorn Frappuccino Shows The Problem With How We Talk About Food (Bust)

    New research shows role-playing disability promotes distress, discomfort and disinterest (EurekAlert!)

    Ukip announces plan for mandatory FGM checks on ‘at risk’ girls (Independent)

    Why does the medical establishment fail to take women in pain seriously? (New Statesman)

    The Heart of Whiteness: Ijeoma Oluo Interviews Rachel Dolezal, the White Woman Who Identifies as Black (The Stranger)

    Sexual Self Esteem & Sex Positive Parenting 101 (Taryn De Vere at Medium)

    The image is used under a creative commons license with thanks to Maureen Barlin on Flickr. It is a photograph of street art, painted onto the metal shutters of a closed shop. The image is a person turned so their profile faces the viewer. Their red/ginger hair is tied up and falls in tendrils around their face. Both their septum and the ear visible to the viewer are pierced. A dusting of freckles covers their cheek. In front of the shutters are tables and chairs which could be part of the outdoor seating area of a cafe or restaurant.

    Kate Townshend is a journalist, a feminist and a card-carrying wishy washy liberal. She likes cheese, gin, rivers and books. Her Twitter is @_katetownshend

    Forget the seven stages of grief. More and more frequently over the past twelve months, I find myself going through five queasy stages of political adjustment. From shock and denial to apathy, fear and eventually, if I’m lucky, not acceptance but something at the polar opposite end of the scale – defiance perhaps – and the will to keep fighting and believe that there is a point to the continued fight.

    So, it was yesterday when Theresa May returned to class after her break, ready to read us all an essay titled “Things I decided to do during the Easter holidays. (A tale of why I should be in charge of everything, forever).” Seemingly proud of her cliché-ridden ramblings, May basically used this as an opportunity to explain how naughty the other Westminster children were being in not just going along with everything she said, and how much better off we’d all be if we just let her take charge and implement ‘the people’s’ wishes. (All of this ‘the British people have spoken’ nonsense makes me imagine all 65 million of us standing on each other’s shoulders wearing one ginormous trench coat.)

    Under normal circumstances, given how utterly and diametrically opposed I am to almost every decision this government makes, I’d be jumping for joy at the chance to put my vote where my mouth is. But, I suspect like many left-leaning types right now, the problem is that I have plenty of energy to channel into supporting a party and no clear party to support.

    I like Corbyn’s policies but I worry that he remains too divisive a figure. The Liberal Democrats’ pro-EU stance matches my own, but I’m still wary of finding myself voting for yellow-clad Tories… particularly given that my last Liberal Democrat MP had a voting record almost indistinguishable from a Conservative. I admire the Green Party’s willingness to offer something different but they remain a party on the periphery.

    It’s clothes shop syndrome all over again where the racks and racks of choice start to make me dizzy and the fear of getting it wrong and thus wasting time, or missing some perfect gem of a skirt that will make me look like Carey Mulligan becomes paralysing and all-consuming. Only, obviously, it’s a whole bunch more important than that, because people are being hurt – and will continue to be hurt – if we don’t seize this chance to chart a different course for the country. (See, Theresa May, two can play the ‘use some sort of vague navigational terminology’ game.)

    What I’ve realised though is that my uncertainty when it comes to who to vote for is something I have time to work on. And actually, I am clear on the absolute most important thing in this election.

    Anyone but the Tories.

    If you don’t want this suicidal hard Brexit ripping the country apart, anyone but the Tories.

    If you voted for Brexit because you thought things could hardly get worse, anyone but the Tories.

    If you care about the NHS, anyone but the Tories.

    If you think that women being expected to prove they’ve been raped in order to claim benefits is ridiculous and barbaric, anyone but the Tories.

    If you’d rather Scotland stayed with the union, anyone but the Tories.

    If you think there’s a chance that you or anyone you love may at some point be poor, old or sick, anyone but the Tories.

    I know, I know – they’re points ahead in the opinion polls and some of the right-wing newspapers are already forecasting – with predictable glee – landslides of blue votes burying every library, community centre and hospital in the country come 8 June. It’s inevitable they want us to believe this, of course – who has the energy to try to challenge a foregone conclusion?

    But hey, upset apple carts are all the rage on the political catwalk this season and the idea that mid-June will see every wishy washy liberal being righteously beaten around the head with a copy of the Daily Mail is currently just as much of a fantasy as some messed up world where people decide instead to send the message that they’re not buying what Theresa is selling.

    I still feel waves of despair when I hear the Tories on the radio, complacency oozing from every syllable as they parrot the same soundbites that have served them well so far. But if pride cometh before a fall, then goodness knows they’re due.

    And if June doesn’t, as all common-sense and logic and decency would suggest it should, herald the end of May, I want to at least be able to look my nieces and nephew in the face and tell them I tried.

    So let’s all at try to pick a party or a candidate or even a cause and try to make a difference.

    Because really…

    Anyone but the Tories.

    Image of a sign which says ‘polling station’ hanging from a gate

    Courtesy Angie Muldowney on Flickr

    Weekly round-up and open thread

    by Lusana Taylor // 17 April 2017, 6:31 pm

    Tags:

    Welcome to another weekly round-up, where we share (what we see as) the most interesting and important articles from the previous seven days. We’d love to hear your thoughts on any of the issues covered in the articles we’ve picked. We missed last week so today’s round-up is a selection of links from the past fortnight!

    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.

    I’m not going to answer the same question about being fat any more (The Guardian)

    Not Now, Not Ever (Fat Heffalump)

    From the article: “Tell them where to shove their damn demands for you to justify your existence. Because the truth is, even if you were to respond, you’re not going to change their mind anyway. Trust me, I’ve been doing this for YEARS now, rapidly approaching a decade, and I have never, ever had anyone who came at me expecting me to either justify my existence or prove my life to them in any way, actually change their mind and start recognising my right to exist in this world as I am, a fat woman.”

    Cartoon: What Bathroom Bills Do (Alas, a blog!)

    Do young women really crave the 1950s? (The Guardian)

    Men all over the Netherlands are holding hands to protest anti-gay violence (Independent)

    BBC complicit in Tory propaganda over ESA cuts (SPeye Joe (Welfarewrites))

    The Twitter etiquette that matters: A brief guide to not being annoying in our mentions (Another Angry Woman)

    Why our charities refuse to have anything to do with the Rape Clause (The National Scot)

    From the article: “…Rape and sexual violence are amongst the most underreported, under-convicted crimes there are, and certainly among the most abhorrent.

    And yet despite knowing all of this we have a policy launching today that could literally make women choose between poverty and telling someone – possibly for the first time ever – that they were raped. Hingeing benefits on proving trauma isn’t a choice, it’s a disgrace and one which may well re-traumatise women.”

    For 18 years, I thought she was stealing my identity. Until I found her (Guardian)

    From the article: “It was then that it became clear to me: the reason for the tickets wasn’t that these Lisa Davises were petty criminals. The reason was likely that they lived in highly policed areas where even the smallest infractions are ticketed, the sites of “Broken Windows” policing. The reason, I thought, was that they weren’t white.”

    What It’s Like To Be A Mom & A Sex Worker (Romper)

    From the article: “The only thing that will hurt my daughter is the stigma and discrimination she’ll absorb through television, strangers on the internet, and out-of-towners who come to the wrong place. I am lucky that I don’t have to hide my work from my family, or from my neighbors.”

    Huck Magazine article on indie porn (Pandora Blake)

    From the article: “The thing is that media coverage is likely to be imperfect, and we should absolutely hold the press to account and encourage them to strive for more diversity and nuance. But that doesn’t mean we should give up and never do it for fear of being misrepresented. I might roll my eyes at the gaudy, sensationalistic descriptions in this piece of my shoot with Blath, and Vex’s film Red Shift, but perhaps those are the hook that will make more people pay attention – and maybe, hopefully, those people will learn something.”

    America’s first female mayor was elected 130 years ago. Men nominated her as a cruel joke (Washington Post)

    A plea for fathers to take more photos of the mother of their children (Sydney Morning Herald)

    From the article: “…Another reason for dads to take more photos of mums is that every time they do it they tell the mother of their children that she is important. In a culture like ours, dominated by the image, photography is a way to demonstrate that women and women’s lives are worth documenting just as much as men’s.”

    As a Hot Woman, I’m Heartbroken (Jezebel) [Satire]

    From the article: “I am a hot woman. I don’t have a name because I never needed one because I’m so hot. (Like a lot of hot women, I don’t even have a social security number. Just a card that says “HOT” followed by a series of 10s.) Earlier today, I read (or had someone read to me, because remember, I am hot) the New York Post article about the average-looking, uninteresting man who is no longer dating hot women because we are too boring and now I can’t stop crying hot tears from my hot hot eyes.”

    British government realises Brexit is a mistake, official says (Irish Times)

    From the article: ““I see signs in the contacts that we’re having, both at EU level and with the UK, of a gradual realisation that Brexit in many ways is an act of great self-harm, and that the focus now is on minimising that self-harm.”

    To The ‘Cosmopolitan’ Editors Who Offered Cancer As Diet Advice (Your Fat Friend at The Establishment)

    Becky, Barbie’s friend who uses a wheelchair, was discontinued. Here’s why. (PRI)

    Being Kinky Doesn’t Make You Queer (Autostraddle)

    Newspaper Chooses To Focus On “Troubled Past” Of The Passenger Who Was Violently Dragged Off A United Flight (Media Matters)

    The Incomparable Differences Between Whitewatching and Racebending (Geeks of Color)

    From the article: “Imagine two bowls of jellybeans sitting on a table, one running over with jellybeans and the other with what looks like a handful. The bowl that’s running over represents the overabundance or roles for white actors and actresses in Hollywood, and the bowl with only a handful represents the roles for actors of color in Hollywood. If you take a few handfuls of jellybeans from the bowl with an overabundance and put them in the other bowl with less, then nothing is harmed. The bowl with more jellybeans has a few less but it still has more than enough. However if you take even a single handful of jellybeans from the other bowl and place it into the overflowing bowl, then you’ve diminished and almost emptied it. When Hollywood whitewashes a role, that’s exactly what they are doing; further emptying the well of roles from which actors of color have to draw from.”

    Hannah on Girls Could Not Have Gotten That Job (Vulture)

    From the article: “Girls has always had a fraught relationship with realism. It’s been a fundamental part of both the show and the critical response to it — is the series trying to argue that this is what millennial life is really like?”

    ‘I’m a Queer Muslim, Babes Get Over It.’ Our Favourite Photos from Lucknow’s First Queer Pride Parade (The Ladies Finger!)

    In Full Sight: ‘The pimp lobby’ at the Amnesty AGM (Frankie Mullin at Verso)

    From the article: “What’s really being claimed, when abolitionists sound the pimp lobby klaxon, is that they don’t believe sex workers. They don’t believe sex workers could be this organised, don’t believe they could be this united, don’t believe anyone in the industry could be clear-headed enough to understand misogyny, or racism, or the complexity of how these inequalities play out within the industry.

    “It’s a tidy way to discredit any labour movement. Claim the workers are puppets, that industry bosses are pulling the strings, and you can ignore all they say. Would it have been so easy to make such accusations though, I wonder, if sex workers weren’t overwhelmingly women?”

    We Don’t Imagine It, We See It (Fat Heffalump)

    Gay Men in Chechnya Targeted by Police (Feminist Majority Foundation)

    The Country With Legally Enforced Pregnancy (Taryn de Vere at Medium)

    The Ableist, Racist, Classist Underpinnings Of ‘Laziness’ (Lindsey Weedston at The Establishment)

    From the article: It’s easier to think of someone as “lazy” than to face the fact that school costs too much, that better jobs are inaccessible, that childcare is unaffordable, that people are forced to work so hard for so little that there’s no way they could have enough energy to attempt schooling or finding better work, and that what we give to people who can’t work is insufficient to the point of being shameful. I could say that calling people lazy is, in itself, lazy, but it’s not just an intellectual shortcut. It’s a defense mechanism.”

    The viral image of Saffiyah Khan is an to an era of escalating male rage (The Pool)

    What It’s Like to Be a Genderfluid Sex Worker (Vice)

    The image is used under a creative commons license with thanks to Cherry on Flickr. It is a photograph of a purple flower emerging from a green shoot.


    On tour at the moment in Scotland is singer-songwriter, Horse McDonald, with her one-person play Careful. This poignant and compelling autobiographical story of her triumph over adversity through music, is collaboratively written with writer and comedian Lynn Ferguson, directed by Maggie Kinloch and produced by The Gilded Balloon. It still has Kirkcaldy, Edinburgh, Falkirk, Paisley, Aberdeen, Cove, Ayr, Wick and Glasgow to visit.

    At Soho Theatre from tomorrow will be Katie Bonna’s All The Things I Lied About. Last year our reviewer, Lauren Hossack, described it as: “While it’s not short on humour, All The Things I Lied About is about much more than getting cheap laughs from being found out. In examining how, when and why we lie, Bonna has created a highly compelling show.”

    In Manchester at HOME from 25 May until 10 June will be a revival of Martin Sherman’s Rose starring Janet Suzman. From her home in Miami, USA, 80-year-old Rose takes us on a journey through her long and tumultuous life, a life marked by oppression, displacement, suffering and survival. As the current refugee crisis engulfs Europe, as the USA closes its doors to refugees, and as racism, xenophobia and nationalism are resurgent across the globe, this revival of Rose is extremely topical and timely. There will be a British Sign Language interpreted performance on 6 June, a captioned performance on 7 June and an audio-described performance on 8 June.

    Earlier this month we published a review of Out of Blixen which is currently on at the Print Room. Following on from this, and as part of a mini-season on Blixen’s life and work, the theatre will present Glyn Maxwell’s commissioned adaptation of Blixen’s much-loved short story, also a critically acclaimed film, Babette’s Feast from 8 May until 3 June. This production will bring innovative style to the familiar tale of one community’s willingness to accept a stranger in need, and the ensuing act of thanksgiving.

    Lastly, Funny Women have a couple of great nights coming up. On Thursday 20 April there will be a Best of British Comedy Night in London including Thanyia Moore, Sophie Henderson, Harriet Braine, Lauren Pattison, Cath Rice, Lindsey Santoro and Sarah Callaghan. On Saturday 29 April in Brighton will be Brighton Nights including Julie Jepson, Rosie Holt, Kelly Convey, Rosie Wilby, Helen Bauer, Samantha Baines and Tania Edwards.

    Have a good month, I’ll see you in May!

    The image is courtesy of the Print Room and is a publicity photograph for Babette’s Feast. It is a head and shoulders shot of a young black person wearing a headscarf who is lying on their back and looking directly up at the camera. They are surrounded by greenery and food, including tomatoes, onions and halved apples, with parsley sprinkled across their chest.

    Further Reading

    Has The F-Word whet your appetite? Check out our Resources section, for listings of feminist blogs, campaigns, feminist networks in the UK, mailing lists, international and national websites and charities of interest.

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