speaking out against transphobia

This post relates to the government consultation on the GRA, which Lissy posted about last month. This will now close tomorrow (22 October 2018) at midday. Please note that Level Up have created a simplified form that takes only a few minutes to fill in and has been reported to be less glitchy than the direct government link.

Transphobes have been putting a lot of effort into goading cis women lately. We’re just too accommodating, apparently. And, according to a particularly rotten faction of feminism, cis women’s liberation – though these people refuse to use the word cis even though that’s actually who they’re referring to – depends on the suppression of trans identities, particularly those of trans women.

Apparently, “women and girls must speak out more.”

It doesn’t matter that women and girls – trans and cis alike – have been speaking out in favour of trans people being able to make decisions about themselves that are nobody else’s business. That doesn’t count, according to trans-excluding logic.

The implication is that the reason there aren’t as many cis women speaking out against self-ID as these people would like is that the ones not saying anything have been rendered silent by their lady-conditioning to be polite, while quietly seething at the apparent ‘threat’ of us all being able to decide our own pronouns.

This is a clever button to push and one that complements the effort to load the term ‘cis’ with the sort of horrible assumptions that anyone with a shred of feminist pride is bound to reject. Indeed, most feminist women I know (both cis and trans) would wretch in horror at the thought of unwittingly submitting to gender expectations. Because what feminist wants to be a dupe?

Thankfully, we already know it’s perfectly possible to acknowledge one’s cis status without viewing the characteristics traditionally associated with ‘femaleness’ as ‘innate’ (i.e. be a feminist). However, if this is you, a transphobe somewhere is sure to be plotting to convince you that referring to yourself as ‘cis’ means you’re a handmaiden of the patriarchy and that you somehow identify with your own oppression.

This seems to me to come as part of a very specific strand of radical feminism that attempts to tackle patriarchy’s domination, exploitation and undermining of anyone with a womb by, instead, holding up childbearing ability on a pedestal, viewing it as the ultimate marker of ‘true’ womanhood and refusing to acknowledge trans men as a consideration. This also ties in with the tendency for transphobes to refer to women as ‘females’ and I’d say this wording is as objectifying when it comes from feminists as it is when it comes from chauvinists.

How we’re going to miraculously smash the social construction of gender while continuing to allow people’s pronouns to be dictated by biological sex, I’m not sure. There’s nothing rebellious about this obsession with continuing to allow the establishment to label people according to their primary and secondary sex organs, as this is pretty much the default position outside transphobic feminist circles as well. To use an example, one of my Facebook contacts is undertaking a project centred on conversations with men and, boringly, most of the suggested titles have been based on ‘cock and balls’ puns.

Resistance to self-ID isn’t about resisting the establishment. It’s about using it as a means to an end: ‘protecting’ cis women by letting those in authority make important decisions about gender for everyone. (The fact that a ‘gender critical’ lobbying group has been using the ‘protection of girls’ as a way to goad cis men into action indicates that this tactic includes using patriarchy itself. This is surely a case of doing anything to punish trans women, even if that means hiding behind the sexist wrath of cis men.)

Finally, it also seems to me that a lot of the efforts to resist self-ID are about echoing the abusive tactics of the patriarchy in order to control and restrict trans people: one of the most repugnant aspects of current legislation is that spouses actually have the power to veto the legal recognition of their partner’s gender. How can this possibly ever be okay? How can we acknowledge the painful history of patriarchal oppression of those of us with wombs if we sanction such authoritarianism?

The contents of our pants – and our gender identities – are nobody else’s business. No exceptions.

I haven’t covered the matter of gender stereotyping and the common and insidious idea that only so-called ‘gender critical’ feminists care about this, while the rest of us float around in an insipid haze of pink and believe the gender binary is wonderful. Please read this if you’re at all concerned about whether self-ID is going to somehow lead to a loss of diversity within genders. (Obviously, this is just one article, so please feel free to add other trans-positive stereotype-challenging material.)

Note: Any comments to this post will be moderated in accordance with The F-Word bloggers’ position on transphobia and cissexism.


Image by Clem Onojeghuo, from Unsplash. Used under Creative Commons licence. This shows a woman at a protest. She is holding a large, red megaphone to her mouth and appears to be talking through it. She has long, wavy red hair that hangs over her face and shoulders.

The BFI are currently running a three-month-long comedy season featuring such gems as the glorious 9 to 5, a whole bunch of stuff about “Trailblazing Women” and the often under-appreciated Tracey Ullman.

Eva Recacha’s Aftermath will be at the Lilian Baylis Studio in London on 25 and 26 October. The piece is inspired by Eva Recacha’s experience of recently becoming a mother and the social isolation that can accompany this new role.

Theatre company Don’t Be Absurd will present its production of Sluts at Dare festival at Shoreditch Town Hall on 26 and 27 October, and at Voila festival at Applecart Arts from 12 until 17 November. Sluts presents a feminist perspective on historical and contemporary misogyny based on writings by Goethe and Hebbel.

Funny Women seem to be doing ever more. They have upcoming Time of the Month events in Manchester on 27 October and London on 30 October plus gigs in Brighton on 27 October, London on 3 November, Watford on 9 November and Coventry on 15 November. They’re everywhere!

Free Word are launching a series of themed seasons, beginning with THIS IS PRIVATE which reflects on social media, surveillance and censorship. Each season features events featuring poetry, performance, talks, installations and debate. Of particular note this time around are:

    Taboos: Desire and Disgust, 30 October – An intimate look at youth and womanhood, exploring desire, sex, friendship and alienation. Featuring Margarita Garcia Robayo.
    Our Bodies Will Not Be Policed, 8 November – A night of poetry and discussion with the UK’s most exciting young female voices. Featuring Young People’s Laureate for London Momtaza Mehri.
    Secrets, 19 November – A free workshop with gal-dem, exploring secrets, safety and the effects of sanitising the voices and identities of people of colour to fit the status quo.

On Armistice Sunday, 11 November, all female company, Fun in the Oven Theatre Collective will be at Blue Elephant Theatre in London with their physical comedy Canary. Set in a shell factory, the characters are based on the real life testimonies of the Canary Girls, First World War munitions workers whose work with toxic chemicals turned their skins bright yellow.

Coming up at HOME Manchester is a new production of Jean Genet’s The Maids. As they say in their blurb: “Well ahead of its time, The Maids explodes with modern ideas about sexual and political outcasts, the inequality of society and the idea of gender as performance.” On paper I’m not wholly sold on men playing all three roles, but no doubt it’ll be an interesting interpretation.

Live art festival Compass will be in Leeds from 16 until 25 November. The festival includes Sarah Caputo and Brenda Unwin’s 1000 Handshakes, where casts of handshakes between strangers are collected; Alisa Oleva and Debbie Kent’s The Demolition Project which invites people to reshape Leeds with paper, a scalpel and imagination; Bethany Wells’ mobile wood-fired sauna and bucket shower installation WARMTH; and a documentary film of Rosana Cade’s Walking:Holding.

A relatively short one this month. See you in November!

Image one is a publicity photograph from Canary at the Blue Elephant Theatre by picturesbybish. It shows three women in blue overalls sitting in a small group. The woman in the centre lights lights a cigarette, watched by the woman on the right. They all have their hair pulled back. Behind them is darkness.

Image two is of The Demolition Project at Compass and is by Rocio Chacon. It shows three people poring over a large map on a table. They are writing things on yellow post-it notes and adding them to the map. Someone watches them from a little further back with her hand to her face. They are in daylight in what looks like an exhibition room.

Weekly round-up and open thread

by Lusana Taylor // 16 October 2018, 8:05 am


It’s time for 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.

Perfect Is Boring: What It’s Like to Be Trans in the Restaurant Industry (Ruby Lott-Lavigna, Munchies)

From the article: “Being visibly trans in the workplace isn’t easy. According to a report from Stonewall last year, half of trans people in the UK hide their identity at work—and no wonder, when 12 percent of trans people have been physically attacked by colleagues or customers in the last year, and 21 percent don’t feel safe enough to report such abuse. And as Jones discovered, trans people who work in food—an industry built on customer interaction—face even greater challenges.”

Northern Irish women directly affected by abortion ban tell Westminster to support reform. (British Pregnancy Advisory Service, bpas)

This short film features a young woman from Northern Ireland who was 28 weeks pregnant. Emma, 18, discovered at her 20 week scan that her baby had anencephaly, a fatal condition where the skull does not form properly.

When Doctors Deny A Woman’s Pain (NY Times)

From the article: “I have accepted my reality. I have accepted that today, in this world, if I want birth control without suicide, I will be in pain, inconvenienced, incapacitated for days each month. I have accepted my choice. It’s been proven that doctors — that people, in general — minimize women’s pain. We are not believed about our own bodies. But how do you reckon with the added layer of complexity when a woman is in severe physical pain, but also wrestling a mental illness? People with mental illness struggle to be heard, to be taken seriously — what happens when these realities intersect? And if nothing I say matters in the doctor’s office, why bother talking at all?”

A national scandal”: 449 people died homeless in the last year (The Bureau of Investigative Journalism)

From the article: “Some were found in shop doorways in the height of summer, others in tents hidden in winter woodland. Some were sent, terminally ill, to dingy hostels, while others died in temporary accommodation or hospital beds. Some lay dead for hours, weeks or months before anyone found them. Three men’s bodies were so badly decomposed by the time they were discovered that forensic testing was needed to identify them. They died from violence, drug overdoses, illnesses, suicide and murder, among other reasons. One man’s body showed signs of prolonged starvation.”

FT’s Madison Marriage ‘disappeared for a week’ due to abuse after President’s Club scoop but says paper ‘grew up a bit’ over backlash (Press Gazette)

From the story: “Marriage said she had sought advice from a colleague used to reporting internationally from war-torn countries, asking him if she should consider installing extra locks and burglar alarms. She said he told her: ‘Madison, since World War Two not a single journalist has died on European soil, no European journalist has died because of their reporting on European soil,’ Marriage said. ‘And since then there have been horrific atrocities and all three of them made my blood run cold and I desperately hope we don’t have that situation in the UK. It’s three in one year and it’s no coincidence.'”

IPSO to discuss potential for new media guidelines on reporting of domestic violence deaths with feminist group (Press Gazette)

Loving Yourself and the Politics of BTS (Heidi Samuelson, Medium)

From the article: “And that’s why the personal is political. Why all politics are identity politics. But also why it matters that you have musicians writing songs about not feeling bad about who you are. About recognizing that someone else gave you most of your identity and you have to figure out what parts are you and what parts aren’t and what you want to do with this you. About why it’s okay to reject the norms rooted in liberalism and not feel compelled to push yourself to a level of exception that you can’t meet without hierarchy being on your side in the first place.”

Brett Kavanagh and the Power of Public Trauma (Lissa Harris, Medium)

From the article: “Christine Blasey Ford herself has been keeping a tight lid on whatever anger she may possess, but her testimony was nonetheless deeply enraging. It was so devastatingly specific. The laughter of her assailants — not at her but with each other. The second front door, god help us. And while Ford laid out the terrible instruments of her destruction, in the presence of her foes, thousands of us were chanting our own troubles along with her. The hashtag #WhyIDidntReport is an avalanche of rage. There are ranks upon ranks of women on Twitter right now, telling their stories, women for whom no Kill Bill GIF can possibly convey the fire of their fury.”

Ex Scotland police chief let undercover cop dupe woman into sex (Daily Record)

Metro newspaper runs full-page ad attacking transgender rights reforms (PinkNews)

Afro-Brazilian Trans Activist Wins Historic Election Amid Contentious Presidential Race (Into)

When believing women isn’t enough to help them (Broadly)

Jane Mayer is holding the world’s most powerful men accountable (Elle)

Grammys Preview: At Home With Florence Welch (Billboard)

From the article: “’A lot of people – male journalists, mostly – will ask me how it feels to be a woman in rock today, as if that is somehow still pertinent,’ she says with a sigh, head in hands. ‘Why are we even having this conversation anymore? I’ve just done shows in America with Lizzo and St. Vincent, arena shows. We were not only selling a lot of tickets but also shredding the fuck out of the crowd. But then I see other festivals where there are no women in the topline at all, and I just feel like: “Why?” It’s so confusing to me, this idea that rock stars are the only ones that draw the crowds, and that rock stars are still male. Are they really?’ She pauses, incredulous. ‘Maybe there are still many rock stars around today, but they just happen to be women! And sober! Maybe today’s rock stars happen to be pop stars, too? Maybe rock stars no longer look the way certain people think because that perception is outdated. The times are changing. A festival headliner these days looks like Adele, like Beyoncé. You can be super free and ferocious, and full of female fury – and take the crowd with you.’ She cackles. ‘Female rage is one of the scariest things you could possibly imagine.'”

The image is used under a creative commons license with thanks to Lali Masriera on Flickr. It shows orange autumnal leaves still clinging to their branches. The branches almost obscure the sky but some bright blue can be seen through the leaves.

Our society’s attitude towards sexuality and relationships has changed rapidly over the last decade. The LGBTQ+ community has grown dramatically, and there are now terms to cover almost all sexual preferences. What’s more, conversations about sexuality have now become mainstream. However, in many cases, the terms used to describe a person’s specific preferences, and reasons for such, are still inaccurate.

A study was conducted and released in the UK that claimed most women are attracted to other women. The study used pupil dilation to measure sexual arousal in 200 women, and found that, despite most women identifying as straight, their pupils dilated when looking at both men and women. Thus, the study declared that most women are rarely straight; they are either gay or bisexual.

However, most of the participants in the study identified as straight, so despite most being attracted to other women this does not mean that every woman would actually ‘go there’ with another woman. This may be because as well as sexual preference, a person’s romantic preference may influence whom they choose to have sex with, thus also affecting the sexual orientation they use. Romantic preference is defined as the sex or gender with which a person is most likely to have a romantic relationship or fall in love. Some women may not have any romantic attraction towards other women, so would not choose to have sex with them and would therefore identify as straight.

I do understand that there is a difference between sex and romantic relationships. We live in a time where sex is not necessarily attached to relationships or marriage and the idea of casual sex is widely accepted. Yet, it must remain evident, that our romantic preferences and our idea of who we want to ‘be with’ might have an influence over whom we actively seek for sex as well as relationships. If sexuality/sexual arousal and whom you actively choose to get with are different, then shouldn’t we be talking about them in that way?

Sexual arousal and sexual attraction to individuals are generally influenced by how a person looks and acts, so driven mostly by desire and sex hormones, which is different to romance and love which is driven by the individual’s personality and the couple’s chemistry. You could characterise them as lust and love. Still, the words used for sexuality: heterosexual, homosexual and bisexual, are used to encompass both lust and love.

The long history of societal oppression against anything that is not heterosexual means the dialogue around the intricacies of sexuality has been relatively brief. The acceptance of same sex relationships is relatively new in the UK. Also, attitudes towards casual sex and relationships are constantly shifting and updating. Yet, the words we use and the way we talk about sexuality still do not serve to explain people’s preferences and choices. For example, a person may be asexual yet have a romantic relationship, or a woman may be bisexual, attracted to men and women, but never choose to be with a girl because she only likes the idea of being romantic with men. The words asexual and bisexual do not provide an adequate explanation for these people’s choices.

I am making a shout out for the terms heteroamorous, biamorous and homoamorous to be more widely used. These are terms which indicate a person’s romantic preference, so whom they date or fall in love with. For example, a man may be bisexual, having sex with both men and women, but homoamorous, dating only men. If these terms were used, then the expressions heterosexual, bisexual and homosexual would only be used to explain attraction and sexual relations. Using these labels more widely would help to explain the choices people make when it comes to sexual interaction.

In some cases, the choice to pursue a particular romantic preference rather than a sexual one may come from a wider societal influence. There is a vast history of oppression and discrimination against homosexuality which can also lead to an internalised fear of how a person may be treated by being in a ‘homosexual’ relationship. Thus, providing a distinction and changing the use of language will provide a platform to help us open up the discussion and further address the issue of internalised fear around same-sex relationships.

Creating a distinction between sexual and romantic attraction could change the way we talk about sex and relationships and, in turn, change the way we think about them. This could potentially lead to the validation of sexuality, revolutionising the way we interact and offering a new way for people to express their preferences and choices.

This article was written by Florence Drayson.

The featured photo is courtesy of Unsplash and was taken by Rawpixel. It shows two sets of feet peeping out on a bed with the rest of the legs covered by a duvet. Only the lower half of the bodies are visible in the shot.

The title of this post was changed slightly on 15 October 2018.

Weekly round-up and open thread

by Lusana Taylor // 8 October 2018, 9:45 pm


It’s time for 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.

Deaths of high-profile Iraqi women spark fear of conservative backlash (The Guardian)

From the article: “Al-Fares did not fit the mould. A divorced single mother who had married at 16, she had swayed her way into Iraqi homes with short skirts and makeup on social media platforms. She had 2.7 million Instagram followers and was popular on Twitter, Facebook and YouTube. All are hugely popular in Iraq, where living vicariously remains acceptable – but maintaining a high profile brings danger, especially for women.”

Vaginismus – and what it feels like to be unable to use a tampon or have penetrative sex (The Pool)

GQ: being accused of domestic abuse does not make you cool (New Statesman)

Dear dads: Your daughters told me about their assaults. This is why they never told you (The Washington Post)

From the article: For all the stereotypes that linger about women being too fragile or emotional, these past weeks have revealed what many women already knew: A lot of effort goes into protecting men we love from bad things that happen to us. And a lot of fathers are closer to bad things than they’ll ever know.

The single mums who created one big, happy family (BBC News)

Former foreign sec Boris Johnson paid £275,000 for ten hours a month writing Telegraph column (Press Gazette)

Donald Trump and Donald Trump Jr, I’m worried about your sons too (The Independent)

How to Survive the Traumatic 24-Hour News Cycle if You Have PTSD (Bitch)

They Body-Shamed Her Online. Then This Photographer Struck Back (Evelyn Nieves, New York Times)

Christine Blasey Ford Will Not Pursue Further Action Against Brett Kavanaugh (Ashe Schow, Dailywire)

#CHURCHTOO The Toxicity of Christian Complementarianism (Bitch)

Here are the early signs you’re in an abusive relationship (Ashitha Nagesh, Metro)

I Can’t Stop Thinking About Dr. Christine Blasey Ford’s One-Piece Swimsuit (Veronica Walsingham, Bustle)

From the article: “It would be ideal to not live in a world where sexual violence against women is so common and so inconsequential to the perpetrators, but the current reality is that the Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network reports one in six women will be the victim of an attempted or completed rape within her lifetime. Thus, women do feel helpless, so much so that something as random as wearing a one-piece swimsuit can feel like a saving grace.

“This is not to say that men and non-binary people aren’t also victims of sexual violence too, because they are. But men like Kavanaugh — men who are the perfect storm of wealth, privilege, and status — don’t have to learn the mental skill of weighing the environmental elements working in their favor and against them. Men like Kavanaugh are the ones with friends in the room, whether that room be at a house party or at a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing.”

It comes as no shock that the powerful hate ‘identity politics’ (Gary Younge, Guardian)

From the article: “The trouble is, not all identities count as equal. The more power they carry, the less likely the carrier is to be aware of it as an identity at all. Nobody asks me: ‘When did you come out as straight?’ or ‘How did you balance travelling as a foreign correspondent with raising children?’ because straight men don’t get asked that. What is often dismissed as ‘identity politics’ might be more accurately just called ‘politics’ originating from the concerns of less advantaged groups.”

IPSO: Dignity for Dead Women (Level Up)

From the article: “Every bad article on domestic violence is a missed opportunity to help prevent further deaths. Responsible reporting can improve public understanding of domestic violence, help victims and their families seek justice and help women at risk access support.”

A year on from #MeToo, it’s time for justice, not rehabilitation (Exeunt)

From the article: “Taking away someone’s prime job in the theatre industry isn’t the same as “locking them away and throwing away the key” (as one commenter on Twitter worried). They can still breed miniature goats or write an awful novel or hike through the Pyranees or get a job in pretty much any other field. They’ll fundamentally be fine.”

The image is used under a creative commons license with thanks to traveller_40 in Flickr. It is a black and white photograph of a person walking on a pavement, which appears slick with rain. Only the lower half of the person’s body is visible. They are wearing a long skirt and have bare feet.

Back in April 2014, Philippa Willitts analysed content on The F-Word to identify instances of disablist language and underrepresentation of disabled people in images. The results of Philippa’s analysis were disappointing and led to The F-Word team committing to some changes in the way we worked.

In October 2016, Megan Stodel repeated Philippa’s analysis and found that although instances of disablist language (things like saying a situation is ‘crazy’ or that someone you disagree with is ‘dumb’) had decreased, the site could be still be doing much more to improve representation of disabled people (which we measured by counting the number of people with visible impairments in images).

As part of the access and disablism guidelines that we added to our site earlier this year, I’ve lately repeated similar analysis. I have found that between 1 October 2016 and 30 June 2018 there has only been one usage of clearly disablist language, which is great. However, of the 236 images that included people, only a measly four showed anyone with a visible impairment, which is still not good enough.

We’ve tried to sort this issue with images out before. In 2016 Holly Combe started a Flickr group with the aim of creating a resource of diverse images, but it didn’t really take off: partly because the site doesn’t work that well, partly because there was a general lack of interest and partly I suspect because no one really uses Flickr anymore!

We’ve now set ourselves the goal of each editor using at least one image of someone with a visible impairment at some point over the year – this is unquestionably a very low target, but one that will improve the site’s stats quite a lot.

Finding images isn’t that easy. Some more varied photographs are available for free from sites like Representation Matters and pxhere but we’re still struggling to find good images that are of anything other than people doing sport with wheelchairs (which is great, but we think that people who use wheelchairs do a lot of other things too!)

If you’ve got any tips for us we’d love to hear from you. If you’re a photographer or illustrator and you’ve got any ideas on finding or creating diverse images, get in touch.

We’ll check back in a year or so to see if anything has improved – cross your fingers this is the year we finally get representation right!

The image is from pxhere and is free of copyright. It shows a wheelchair basketball game in front of a crowd. The main focus of the photograph is a player to the right and in the foreground. She wears a red shirt with the number 24 on the front and gloves. She has long hair and is smiling.

Julie Cunningham is an LGBT feminist contemporary dance-maker who will be making their Sadler’s Wells solo stage debut, alongside other up-and-coming dance-makers who have something socio-political to say about today’s society, with Reckonings in October. Their all-female piece for the Triple Bill is inspired by a text called The Lesbian Body and examines sexuality, visibility and gender boundaries, throwing into question the idea of gender norms in dance.

I asked Cunningham a few quick questions over email ahead of the performances in the middle of this month.

Could you tell me a little bit about your career leading up to this point?
I have been a professional dancer for 15 years. I trained in ballet and contemporary dance at Rambert School, then worked with a ballet company before moving to New York to join Merce Cunningham Dance Company. After 10 years in New York, I came back to London to work with Michael Clark. In 2015, I had a break from dancing with Michael and began to make my own work. I was encouraged and supported by the Barbican which led me to making my first full length work [Double Bill] and presenting it there in 2017. Now, Sadler’s Wells has commissioned me to create a piece for their 20th anniversary production Reckonings, which will be a socio-political work.

Why did you decide to set up your own company?
I think at first it was for practical reasons, to help make works. I was, however, quite uncertain about having a company because I didn’t know how to go about running it, or what a company might be used for. Now, after a bit of experience, I feel like it’s a useful entity for making work and for myself – although it’s my company with my name [Julie Cunningham & Company], it’s also very separate from me as an individual.

Who are your inspirations?
I like working with text and poetry to inspire my work. Poetry, in particular, is interesting in its relation to movement because of its rhythm. Poets I have been reading include Kate Tempest, Eileen Myles and Audre Lorde. Recently, I have also been looking at the work of female photographers, and their view of the female body: Zanele Muholi, Claude Cahun, Alice Austen, Francesca Woodman and Cindy Sherman. I am also inspired by my peers and the people I work with in the studio.

Can you tell me about this piece came about?
It started by working with a text called The Lesbian Body by Monique Wittig. It’s an experimental novel where the centre is constantly shifting and the characters are changing form. It is a fluid, unfixed world of both tenderness and violence. I was really interested in how I might work with it, and what movement might come out for the images it created for me.

I don’t know a great deal about dance, but I work in circus and I assume the same gendered tropes turn up in them both: muscly men throwing tiny women into the air, ‘arguing’ male/female couples and the like. Is this something that your piece is going to question or am I barking up entirely the wrong tree!?
I will be presenting something non-normative in terms of how we relate to each other and the space, so gender and identity are likely to be highlighted and explored, including a bit on the politics surrounding these concepts.

Will you be dancing in the piece as well as choreographing it?
Yes, I will!

And do you think it might have a further life after October?
I hope so. I would like to expand on the work further.

Reckonings will be at Sadler’s Wells in London from 11 until 13 October.

The image is a studio portrait of Julie Cunningham by Rick Guest. It shows Cunningham from the thighs up. They are sideways to the camera with their face looking somewhat sternly forwards and are holding their left arm up in front of them. Their face and hand look very pale against their dark clothing and the dark blue of the background.

It’s time for 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.

Girlguiding defends transgender policy after criticism (The Guardian)

How To Ruin Someone’s Life By Not Appointing Them to the Highest Judicial Position in the Nation (Reductress) [Satire]

From the article: “It can be hard to decide to absolutely desecrate someone’s career, especially when the only job out there in the world is Supreme Court Justice. It’s not like you can just go back to being a regular judge after this – that would be absolutely unfair! So make sure this is actually what you want to do. Think it through, okay?”

Ukraine’s ‘baby factories’: The human cost of surrogacy (Madeline Roache, Aljazeera)

From the article: “If we weren’t home after 4pm, we could be fined 100 euros. We were also threatened with a fine if any of us openly criticised the company, or directly communicated with the biological parents.”

More than half of people believe it’s not okay to withdraw consent once you’re naked (Rebecca Reid, Metro) [CN: rape]

Jair Bolsonaro: Why Brazilian women are saying #NotHim (Pablo Uchoa, BBC News)

If you’re shocked that Brighton University is offering advice on sex work at freshers’ week, you need a reality check (Frankie Mullin, Independent)

From the article: “Harm reduction is not enticement. No credible person would claim that abstinence-based sex education works, that safety information about drug-taking should be hidden away for fear it encourages people to get wasted, that handing out condoms is irresponsible or that visible access to the morning-after pill encourages women to have unsafe sex. By the same token, safety advice for sex workers is there to protect, not to encourage.”

The image is used under a creative commons license with thanks to mrhayata on Flickr. It shows a person with shoulder-length dark hair looking out onto a body of water – perhaps a lake or pond. Next to the water is a green plant with yellow flowers. The person is sitting on a deck and their back is turned to camera but the profile of their face is visible and they appear contemplative. They are wearing a cream-coloured puffer jacket and black jeans. They appear to have a notebook, or perhaps a sketchpad, on their lap and they are holding what appears to be a number of pens or pencils.

This is a guest post by Lucy Smith, a recent Creative Writing MA graduate from Cardiff University. Her mission for 2018 is to discover 50 unforgettable films to fall in love with (she’s up to about 30!). Originally from Lancaster, Cardiff won her heart a year ago and she hasn’t looked back since

The Iris Prize LGBT+ Film Festival is in its 12th year, taking place in Cardiff from 9 to 14 October 2018 to share and celebrate exceptional LGBT+ stories from all over the world. What makes this festival special is its focus on exploration: with filmmaker Q&As, panel talks and plenty of opportunities to socialise, Iris is a place where discussion is welcomed.

Before I applied for my internship with Iris Prize, I hadn’t heard of the festival at all. I am relatively new to Cardiff, but I love all things film so immediately knew the Iris festival was the place for me. The Iris attitude is to bring people together, and it’s not just for the LGBT+ community – as a straight woman, I see so much in the festival for me. It is created for everyone, everyone who can get themselves to Cardiff, to watch some beautifully made films and discover things you perhaps had never considered before. Iris is inclusive and its mission is to spread outstanding LGBT+ stories far and wide.

I’ve had the privilege to watch a handful of the films being shown at this year’s festival and was particularly drawn to Brazilian director René Guerra’s short film Profane Cow (Vaca Profana). Following a transgender woman, Nadia, on her quest towards motherhood, the film raises questions about gender and maternity. We are invited to contrast the character of a cis woman who feels a disconnection from her own child with Nadia’s aching, overwhelming belief that she is meant to carry a baby. Nadia craves a pregnant body and the padding she wears seems so much part of her that when it is cut and torn away in a scene where she struggles to breathe, the act almost feels gruesome.

This year 35 short films are competing for the Iris Prize: £30,000 to make a new film. There is also the Best British Short award, with 15 films competing. There are some incredible shorts from women directors, including Erica Rose’s Girl Talk, exploring connection and intimacy in Brooklyn’s queer femme community and Sherren Lee’s The Things You Think I’m Thinking, an unforgettable film which leads you to question your assumptions as you watch a date unravel between two men, one of which is a burn survivor and amputee. I especially loved Emma Gilbertson’s Crashing Waves, one of three British films entered for both the Iris Prize and Best British categories. A clash of aggression and intimacy, two men unleash their frustration over forbidden love through movingly choreographed dance on an inner-city housing estate. Notions of masculinity are being interrogated and explored by women directors such as Gilbertson and I personally can’t wait to hear the discussion around this. Again, I am grateful for Iris’s focus on conversation and hope I can catch the many Q&As happening throughout the screenings!

Iris also has a programme of thirteen non-competing feature films showing throughout the week. Eva & Candela is one to watch out for. Directed by Colombian Ruth Caudeli, the film explores the exhilaration of connection and the agony of it turning stale as it follows the decline of a relationship between two women. The intimacy between the lead characters feels bold and truthful and the frank, explosive dialogue keeps your eyes glued to the screen. Although I haven’t had the chance to watch many of the feature films showing this year, some of them look spectacular, and I’m particularly looking forward to Dykes, Camera, Action!, a documentary directed by Caroline Berler about lesbian filmmakers working against a reluctant film industry to present queer identities on screen.

Panel discussions, filmmaker Q&As, lunches, parties and the much-anticipated awards show, the Iris Carnival, will keep festivalgoers celebrating, networking and chatting throughout the six days. For the first time in the festival’s history, there is also a secret pop-up venue which will include the chance to watch the films created by past winners of the Iris Prize!

I have yet to watch all of the films being shown this year, and I sincerely hope I have the time to catch them in the festival week, but based on the ones I’ve seen so far, there has been a single prevailing message – the fact that ultimately we are all searching for acceptance, for a sense of belonging. This festival’s declaration of acceptance is loud and clear, and even if you can only make it to one of their film screenings this year, you will no doubt feel the excitement and warmth the Iris team couldn’t hide if they tried.

All short films can be found in the themed programmes of shorts screening at Cardiff’s Cineworld throughout the festival week. You can find the full Iris Prize festival programme, including feature films, parties and discussions on their website.

Read our blog about last year’s festival.

Both pictures courtesy of Iris Prize. Picture one credit: Ana Jaks/Iris Prize; picture two is a still from Vaca Profana, directed by René Guerra.

Images description:
1. A colourful artwork illustrating the festival’s programme, featuring cartoon figures of filmmakers with cameras and clapper boards, rolls of film stock and an electric bulb.
2. A person with a slightly wrinkled face and long dark hair, their mouth ajar, is looking at someone whose blurred back of the head we see in the foreground on the right. There are square objects, perhaps small mirrors, hanging on the thread from the ceiling between the two people.

Welcome to The F-Word music blog!

We’re heading into one of the busiest periods of the year in terms of new releases and tour schedules so there’s a lot to digest this month.

The always excellent Christine and the Queens released highly anticipated second album, Chris, at the end of September and Wolf Alice won the Mercury Music Prize 2018 for last years Visions Of A Life. Late September also saw the release of the MIA documentary MATANGI/MAYA/MIA, which has received favourable reactions from critics.

Insofar as upcoming album releases are concerned, 5 October sees new releases by brooding introspectionist Cat Power (Wanderer), gothic tinged garage punks Death Valley Girls (Darkness Rains), Welsh indie punks Estrons (You Say I’m Too Much, I Say You’re Not Enough), ferocious and devastating grunge queen She Makes War (Brace For Impact), electro landscaper Ah! Kosmos (Beautiful Swamp) and the inimitable Kristen Hersh (Possible Dust Clouds).

19 October sees album releases by post punk queen Neneh Cherry (Broken Politics) and angular indie workouts from Weakened Friends (Common Blah) while 26 October sees releases by the towering Pixies tinged Vaureen (Extraterra), minimalist singer/songwriter Julia Holter (Aviary) and brooding soundscapes from Penelope Trappes (Penelope Two).

A lot of artists are touring throughout October and beyond, including She Makes War (who is playing most of her dates with Dream Nails). Cassie Fox’s punk band Guttfull will also be playing live dates in October and November.

Indie rock queen Tancred will be touring the UK in November, and Estrons throughout October, November and December.

Not sure what to check out this month? This month’s playlist might help you decide.

Happy listening!

Image one is of Ah! Kosmos by Arda Funda, courtesy of 9PR. Image shows Başak Günak, also known as Ah! Kosmos. The image is a head and shoulders shot and she is facing the camera, but looking down. Her face is obscured by her black/blonde hair. She is wearing a silver jacket.

Image two is of Penelope Trappes by Agnes Haus. She is silhouetted against a bright blue sky with white fluffy clouds, and some rocks. She is sideways on to the camera, looking downwards.

Weekly round-up and open thread

by Lusana Taylor // 24 September 2018, 9:04 pm


It’s time for 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.

The New York Review of Books just published an offensive #MeToo take — from an accused abuser (Washington Post)

From the article: “[Gomeshi] was the popular host of the radio show ‘Q’ who was ignominiously fired in 2014 after three ex-girlfriends accused him of sexual misconduct, including sexual assault and punching and choking women without their consent. Ghomeshi, for his part, always maintained that the sex was consensual … “more than 20 women came forward with accusations.”

“Now, Ghomeshi has returned to the public eye with an essay titled ‘Reflections From a Hashtag.’ …. What Buruma and the NYRB leadership failed to grasp was that men like Ghomeshi aren’t entitled to a nicely packaged redemption arc, and readers won’t benefit from having an alleged abuser describe life after being exposed as abusive. At the end of the day, the essay never tackled the tensions brought on by the advent of the #MeToo movement. Instead, it read like a thinly veiled attempt by Ghomeshi to resuscitate his career and relevance.”

“In the process of failure, Ghomeshi’s essay has revealed much about the NYRB, which in 2017 was found to have the ‘most pronounced gender disparity’ in publishing by the women’s literary organization VIDA.”

Thousands of autistic girls and women ‘going undiagnosed’ due to gender bias (The Guardian)

A pair of dirty trainers held together by a bit of tape are being sold for £400 (The Pool)

From the article: “In the early 2000s, Vicky Pollard’s clothing was a source of comedy. Fast forward a decade and, with her pink Kappa tracksuit, messy high bun and sovereign jewellery, she’d be an Instagram fashion icon. Over the past few years, I’ve watched through my fingers as the clothes working-class people have been derided and mocked for wearing have been adopted as the uniform of the thoroughly middle class. And then, off the back of it, witnessed an increase in the crucial conversation surrounding the fetishisation of poverty.”

‘Pimples are in’ – the rise of the acne positivity movement (The Guardian)

Trinidad and Tobago High Court overturns law criminalising same sex relations (HRC)

Windrush generation members to be refused UK citizenship, government announces (Independent)

“Acting Your Age” Campaign (Mrs Nicky Clark)

From the article: “I’m launching my campaign because the issue of gender parity in the entertainment industry is a shockingly unbalanced fact. Men still get to play romantic leads, women over 40 if featured at all, are seemingly cast as supportive ex wives, bitter ex wives or therapists.”

This Bisexual Visibility Day, Choose To Be An Ally, And Here’s How (Navdeep Sharma, Youth Ki Awaaz)

From the article: “Through childhood, adolescence and adulthood we are indoctrinated with the harmful idea that bisexuality is a myth, leading to a high degree of self-doubt and low self esteem. So when we do reach out to the larger queer community to be part of something bigger than ourselves, imagine what it does if we are made to feel less-than, or that we are fence-sitters (between straight and not-straight). The truth is closer to how one bi-identified person put it: bisexuality is a place in its own right. We decidedly and consciously occupy that space.”

Everything You Know About Obesity Is Wrong (Michael Hobbes, Huffington Post) [US]

From the article: “Doctors are supposed to be trusted authorities, a patient’s primary gateway to healing. But for fat people, they are a source of unique and persistent trauma. No matter what you go in for or how much you’re hurting, the first thing you will be told is that it would all get better if you could just put down the Cheetos.”

Doctors Regularly Give Anesthesized Patients Non-Consensual Pelvic Exams—And This Needs To Stop (ZOË NASEEF, Bust) [US]

From the article: “It is very common for teaching hospitals around the world to have med students ‘practice’ performing pelvic exams on a surgical patient while they are under anesthesia without their consent, or even knowledge. According to Medscape, oftentimes, multiple med students will practice on the same patient. In the US, non-consensual pelvic exams are legal in every state besides Hawaii, California, Illinois, and Virginia.”

Kenya lifts ban on lesbian film ‘Rafiki’ making it eligible for Oscars (Damilola Odutayo, CNN)

From the article: “The ruling will allow Kenyan adults to view the movie for the first time in the country for just one week.”

Abortion services will be free, Harris confirms (Fiachra Ó Cionnaith, Irish Examiner)

From the article: “Ireland’s imminent abortion services will be completely free to ensure they can be fully accessed by anyone who needs them, end the need to travel abroad for care and to prevent an influx of private abortion clinics into this country.”

The strippers leading the fight to get sex workers protected by unions (Frankie Mullin, inews)

‘Mrs Bibi Syndrome’, the medical stereotype undermining elderly Asian women (Dr Harun Khan, Media Diversified)

Trans people in Chile can now change their name and gender, without surgery (James Besanville, Gay Star News)

‘Sesame Street’ insists Bert and Ernie aren’t gay, but it’s missing a teaching moment (Melissa Blake, Washington Post)

“Why Didn’t You Report it at the Time?”(Chris Brecheen)

Seeing Through the Bi Erasure That Swirls Around Cynthia Nixon (The Advocate)

The image is used under a creative commons license with thanks to Maritè Toledo on Flickr. It shows two autumn leaves – one yellow, another grey – lying side by side on a slick, wet pavement.

I’m sitting in the office of Dr H waiting for my second breast consultation. I wouldn’t really be here if it wasn’t for casually mentioning some breast pain during my smear test earlier this year. But, due to concerns about my family health history, I find myself now sitting on a faux leather seat next to some shrubbery. I’m already feeling a bit uneasy, and knowing that Dr H is a man makes this delicate situation even more unsettling.

I’m sent behind the oddly-patterned curtain where a female nurse watches me undress, and Dr H mumbles some words before opening the curtains to find my tiny tits staring out at him. After lifting my arms in the air and giving my pain a 4 out of 10, Dr H prompts me to lie down. He mutters a few more words, comments that my left breast is lumpy, and then says he’s not concerned but is going to send me for a screening anyway.

But, then it happened. Whilst lying down half-clothed and letting this man with big, round fingertips poke at my nipples, Dr H did something so quietly violent I recoiled. He grabbed my clothes off the chair next to me, and in a crumple shoved them over my naked breasts, as if covering something he no longer wanted to see. As if they needed to be covered to save his shame for looking at them. And in that very confused moment, I sat up and hugged my clothes closely to my breasts as if I too was ashamed and felt I needed to cover them up.

I flash back to the handful of moments when this same kind of action has happened before. It seems that whenever my clothes have been shoved towards me in this manner, it is because my status with a man has changed. I have been fucked and I am no longer a useful sex object, I have been a performer and I am now without function, I have been a patient but I am now just a piece of paper: a form, a diagnosis. I placed my t-shirt over my head and pulled it down over my sad looking tits. “Sorry” they said.

It might seem that this action was slight and not worthy of writing about, but I believe it shows a fundamental problem with the way female patients can be viewed within a medical environment. Specifically, when there is a male consultant within a position of power examining a female body. A position so acute that they are able to write the words ‘cancer’, ‘referral’, ‘complete’ in bold ink. Ink, which at that moment in time, could dramatically impact that woman’s future.

A pair of naked breasts when being examined medically are controllable and potentially vulnerable in their exposure, being a part of the anatomy which is usually covered by fabric. The power rests with the consultant; the ones there to impart knowledge upon the person attached to these naked breasts. The moment the breasts cease to be a medical concern they are transformed: firstly, into a body, and secondly into a gendered and sexual object. In order to retain power and control of the now-gendered breasts, a male consultant has to quickly cover them before they begin to gain power as potential sexual objects that are out of place within the medical environment.

Although the NHS are actively addressing gender imbalances in their workforce, this hospital breast clinic is largely visited and staffed by women but has no female senior consultants. In the NHS, only 35% of all consultants are female, and when I searched for consultants in my region under the profession of ‘General Surgery’ ascribed to Dr H, 10 were listed as male and 3 female. Given the choice, I would have visited a female consultant.

Dr H is in a position of privilege. In the time that he has built his career, negative male attitudes towards women have become exposed in increasingly public spheres with high profile campaigns such as #metoo impacting government-level agenda, and casual sexisms being openly challenged. But outside of the high-profile cases, how much change is taking place? Without highlighting this situation to Dr H, he will presumably have forgotten and failed to acknowledge the incident. If society is to change it has to start with small actions and by addressing everyday sexism. Men must reflect upon their own learned behaviours in order to move forward.

Amelia Beavis-Harrison is a visual artist and activist based in Birmingham. She usually makes art, writes and protests when she is frustrated with a particular situation which often includes discrimination and government failings

The featured photo is courtesy of Unsplash and was taken by Martin Brosey. It is copyright free and depicts a man in a white lab coat folding his arms whilst holding a red stethoscope. Only his arms and torso are visible in the shot.

New Barbie, same sexism?

by Guest Blogger // 18 September 2018, 10:00 am

Tags: , , , , , ,

Barbie inspiring womenSiobhan Ali was August’s monthly guest blogger

To celebrate International Women’s Day 2018, Barbie manufacturing company, Mattel, unveiled their new ‘Role models’ collection of 17 dolls honouring inspiring women.

Committed to celebrating women who have made groundbreaking contributions to their fields, this collection aims to empower young girls and mark a departure from the doll’s previous focus on beauty and fashion.

The Role models collection features dolls of historical feminist icons such as Amelia Earhart and Frida Kahlo as well as more contemporary figures like Wonder Woman director Patty Jenkins and Nicola Adams OBE, the first woman to win an Olympic gold medal in boxing. But how much are these dolls really contributing to the women’s movement?

It certainly appears that Mattel is trying to create more positive and three-dimensional representations of women. Another, perhaps less publicised, range of dolls is the ‘Barbie Career Dolls’, depicting dolls in a range of professions, many of which are traditionally seen as male-dominated.

In 2016, Mattel released a range of tall, petite and curvy dolls that are available in seven skin tones with 24 different hairstyles to choose from. Designed to better reflect their audience’s diversity, as well as appeal to what Mattel identifies as “millennial moms”, this range gives more choice to young girls and hopefully allows them to find dolls that look more like them.

Barbie has long been at the centre of feminist debate: is she sexist? What are the impacts of the unrealistic body image she traditionally promotes? By presenting images of successful women, however, Mattel is demonstrating its ability to progress.

Others are more cynical. Denounced as “nothing more” than a marketing strategy, Dr Rebecca Hains argues that Mattel is not interested in “promoting girls’ empowerment – just Barbie.” The fact that Mattel’s sales have steadily been decreasing since 2013 only underscores her point.

Indeed, some of Mattel’s past stands in contrast to the inclusive ideals their newer ranges promote. In 1997, in pursuit of giving Barbie a makeover and being more reflective of current society, Mattel introduced ‘Share-a-Smile Becky’, Barbie’s friend who uses a wheelchair.

The first fashion doll to come in a wheelchair, Becky was an instant hit, with between 4,500 and 6,000 dolls sold across the US within two weeks of hitting the shelves. Disability advocate John Kemp told the Chicago Tribune in 1997 that Becky worked to “dispel stereotypes and show that people with disabilities can be fun, beautiful and playful”. However, it was later discovered that her wheelchair would not fit through the doors of the Barbie Dreamhouse. Instead of changing the house, Mattel discontinued Becky.

Karin Hitselberger blogged about the product and drew parallels to the harmful effects the discontinuation of Becky had for the perception of disabilities. She pointed out that Becky did not fit into Barbie’s world but it was “easier to get rid of her” than to redesign her surroundings. This sends a dangerous message: rather than ‘fixing’ society, we need to ‘fix’ people.

The newer collections have also received mixed reviews on social media. Many felt the dolls were unrepresentative and ‘Barbiefied’: instead of accurately depicting the real physical appearances of women in their Career Dolls series, they are “horrifyingly-proportioned”. In 2015, The F-Word wrote that while it might be empowering for Barbie to have a new wealth of career options, the unrealistic body image she promotes remains essentially harmful.

Much criticism was directed at the Frida Kahlo doll in the Role models series, particularly over social media:

Facebook comment Frida Khalo Barbie doll

This was mirrored by Kahlo’s great-niece, whose lawyer said that the doll should “match what the artist really was”.

Another critic on Twitter slammed the brand for paying lip service to feminism while still enforcing dangerous beauty standards:

However, the unrealistic body type promoted by Barbie creates its own unachievable image for young girls to aspire to. According to an infographic based on research conducted by Rehabs.com, a Barbie doll’s waist, which is smaller than her head, could only have “room for half a liver and a few inches of intestine”. Her ankles are too small to hold her body weight and she would be forced to walk on all fours.

Having grown up in the era dominated by leggy blonde Barbies, witnessing these developments is heartening. Regardless of whether it is simply a marketing strategy, Barbie is endorsing positive role models and promoting careers beyond those traditionally associated with women and femininity.

There are also a range of other companies that are producing body-positive and empowering dolls for young girls. For example, Australian mother Sonia Singh’s ‘Tree Change Dolls’ have become an internet sensation. Singh repurposes old Bratz dolls by removing their makeup, repainting their faces and sewing on clothes that are more realistic for the dolls’ supposed ages, presenting a more authentic image for young girls. ‘Lammily’ is another doll that presents a more realistic body image, with accurate bodily proportions and including stretch marks, scars, freckles, acne and casual clothes. These projects reflect the hard work of many individuals to present a healthy and positive image of women to today’s youth.

Featured image courtesy of Mattel

Featured image is of two of the dolls in Barbie’s latest ‘Role Models’ collection: one depicting Frida Kahlo and the other Katherine Johnson

Weekly round-up and open thread

by Lusana Taylor // 17 September 2018, 9:12 pm


It’s time for 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.

42nd Street performer becomes first in West End history to job-share (The Stage)

From the article: “Ford said producers had initially met her with resistance because they wanted 42nd Street to be performed by the same company, eight shows a week.

‘We all know that never happens, due to holiday and illness. So I was like: “I am fighting this” – that reason alone was not good enough. My costumes were still there, and financially it wasn’t going to cost the producers any more, so I knew I had to fight it, and I dug my heels in,’ she said.”

Women are edited out of TV panel shows, says Sandi Toksvig (Aamna Mohdin, Guardian)

The Serena cartoon debate: calling out racism is not ‘censorship’ (Gary Younge, Guardian)

From the article: “And so it is that we once again enter the culture wars, stage right, with aggressors posing as victims, bigotry masquerading as satire, free speech condemned as censorship; and any calls for sensitivity, historical context, moral responsibility, equality, accuracy, decency, fairness or accountability dismissed as “political correctness”. Rhetorical straw men are pummelled to within an inch of their lives and, in this case, a real black woman is deprived of her dignity.”

Exclusive: Les Moonves Was Obsessed With Ruining Janet Jackson’s Career, Sources Say (Yashar Ali, Huffpost)

From the article: “A major point of controversy, particularly among Jackson’s black fans, was that the reaction to the wardrobe malfunction fell solely on Jackson’s shoulders, even though Timberlake was the one who actually pulled off the fabric to reveal her breast. While Jackson’s career was significantly damaged, Timberlake’s flourished. CBS insiders who spoke to me felt strongly that Moonves played a large part in how Jackson was perceived by the public.”

Why PayPal’s crackdown on ASMR creators should worry you (Violet Blue, Engadget)

From the article: “Youtube and PayPal have long-held reputations of discriminatory practices around LGBT people and sexuality — and still do. It’s worse now with FOSTA, the law telling internet and online payment companies that practically anything can be considered sex work, and that sex work is “trafficking” — code for child prostitution. So this kind of targeted harassment suits anti-sex conservatives just fine, because it does the work for them of having to censor things that challenge their agenda. And again, these ASMR videos don’t even have nudity, simulated sex acts, erotica or anything we’d consider even borderline porn. It all boils down to women as sex objects (whether they like it or not) and an unhealthy fear of the sexual unknown.”

Davina Ayrton and prison rape (Karen Pollock, The Queerness)

Content note/standfirst: The argument around allowing self identification when it comes to gender has led to a new, disturbing version of bathroom panic. Karen pollock explores the issues around rape, prison and transphobia…

The image is used under a creative commons license with thanks to bass_nroll on Flickr. It is a photograph that shows grey, low hanging cloud over a green field. There are slanted rays of sunshine breaking through the cloud. In the background of the shot, there are a number of trees.

women in prison mental health
Jennifer Richards is communications officer at women’s mental health charity Wish, who work with women in prisons, hospitals and the community

There are estimated to be 15.2 million women and girls with mental health needs in the UK, with Wish’s numbers identifying that between 2-6 million women have complex mental health needs. Even though the conversation around mental health seems to be finally opening up, something that’s rarely mentioned is what it means to be someone who identifies as a woman or non-binary within the mental health system.

Institutional sexism silences women in the workplace, the media and even in what are supposed systems of care such as the mental health system. That’s why it’s essential to support and implement gender-specific advocacy, which seeks to prevent women being labelled and boxed into services that don’t meet their needs. Women should be involved in decisions about their treatment and care and have a sense of control in an environment that they currently have little power in.

As a feminist mental health campaigner, it is vital to support all women in my work, including those who are often left on the fringes of the mental health system. With Wish, I work with women in prisons and those who have experienced the criminal justice system. Our work is often difficult to attract support for as the women we work with are frequently dismissed are ‘mad’ and ‘bad’ women, with women in the criminal justice system often being more harshly judged than men.

Almost two thirds of women in prison are on short-term sentences for non-violent crimes, while last month’s London Assembly Police and Crime Committee report found that many female prisoners have been victims of crimes themselves. It was also found that the reasons why women commit crime are often closely linked to problems like financial difficulties, drug and alcohol addictions and caring responsibilities.

It is vital to remember that women are often incorrectly placed in the criminal justice system and not given enough support for their mental health when in or leaving prison, with former female prisoners being 36 times more likely than the general population to commit suicide within a year of being released.

That’s why Wish began our Community Link Project in 2002, which supports women as they move from prison or a secure hospital into the community. This is essential when women are immediately released from prison, because as found by NIACE and SOVA’s 2007 report ‘Vision for Change’, one third of people reoffend within 48 hours if left without support.

One of the women we helped with this transition is Zahra*, who had spent time both in hospital and in prison for theft and burglary. She had schizoaffective disorder — a condition in which a person experiences a combination of schizophrenia and mood disorder symptoms — and had also been homeless for 25 years. It was important to have Wish fight in Zahra’s corner as professionals had expressed the opinion that she ‘wasn’t trying’. For someone who had been homeless for so long, it is very difficult to mentally shift from the state of living on the street.

A 2012 New Economics Foundation study of women’s community services, such as the Community Link Project, found that “Over a three-month period, 44% of women demonstrated a measurable improvement in well-being. The greatest increase in wellbeing was in the area of autonomy.”

Our latest project, the Women’s Mental Health Network, is also about giving women autonomy. We created the Network to address the lack of understanding of women’s mental health needs and to encourage a gender-specific approach. This particularly means looking at a woman’s past experiences and how they could have affected her — 53% of women with mental health issues have experienced abuse. In 2011, the Ministry of Justice found that a disappointingly low number of the offenders’ managers showed empathy for the women they supervised.

While the National Mental Health development unit in 2010 identified an urgent need to move towards provision of genuinely personalised services for women, just a third of NHS trusts said they provided gender-sensitive services.

We want to drive forward these gender-specific services to give women with mental health needs a voice, and to address institutional sexism by giving women autonomy within the mental health system itself.

As with all areas of feminism, it is often about ‘passing the mic’ to raise the voices of those more marginalised than yourself, and it is no different being a truly feminist mental health campaigner. We want the Network to give women with mental health needs a voice, and to campaign for the changes they most want to see in the mental health system. That’s why we are currently in the consultation stage of the Network, inviting women who have experience of the mental health system to identify the top three issues within service provision that need to change. Wish will then be developing user-led campaigns to improve these issues, which we will take forward at a national level.

If you would like to help us turn up on the volume on women’s mental health, please share our consultation to ensure that we hear from as many women who have experienced the mental health system as possible. You can find the consultation here.

*Name has been changed

Featured image by Jon Tyson, from Unsplash. Used under Creative Commons Zero licence.

Image is a crop of a larger wall mural, painted by British artist Banksy, protesting the incarceration of Turkish artist Zehra Dogan. The painting shows systematic rows of tally marks, with Zehra’s face appearing behind one set of marks as if they were jail bars. It is used here for illustrative purposes only.

Congratulations to Rose Matafeo for winning the Edinburgh Comedy Award. I didn’t run Emily Zinkin’s review of her show, Horndog in The F-Word’s coverage because of space limitations and as we covered her last year, so here it is now instead:

Rose Matafeo begins her show talking about being kicked out of a K-pop convention for making fun of teenage girls for putting their all into learning K-pop dance routines. She finishes by fake crying her way through the routine to the K-pop song ‘Russian Roulette’. That fact alone demonstrates how tightly put together her latest show Horndog is, and how self-aware and funny she is as a comedian.

Including a power point of 1990s word-art, dramatic readings from the comments on craft videos on Youtube and clips from Keane, Matafeo brilliantly weaves together an off the wall yet entirely relatable show about being a woman in your 20s today.

The Autumn / Winter Season, with 70% of shows written and directed by women, has begun at the Space in east London. Fleeced, a dark comedy exploring identities and how we construct them as part of a flock, opens tonight, and later in the season they’ll have an extended four week run of their adaptation of Little Women, Scary Little Girls’ The Full Bronte and lots of other exciting shows.

Damsel Production’s Fabric, which we reviewed in 2016, opens at Soho Theatre tonight in support of Solace Women’s Aid, a charity which works to bring an end to the harm done through domestic and sexual violence. It will then tour alongside a workshop programme on bystander prevention to four of Solace’s target London boroughs. Fabric gives voice to one woman’s experience of sexual violence and trauma.

Uniquely told from the point of view of the female characters, the world premiere of othellomacbeth sees the wronged women of Othello exacting their revenge in Macbeth. othellomacbeth opens at HOME in Manchester on 14 September and runs until the 29 September before coming to the Lyric in Hammersmith from 5 October until 3 November.

Sarah Blanc’s My Feminist Boner will be at The Place in London on 14 September. In the show, performer and choreographer Blanc playfully explores beauty industry pressure and how she developed her feminist consciousness via lots of props, physical comedy and dance.

A contemporary reimagining of Lord of the Flies where a group of schoolgirls find themselves stranded on a remote island following a crash landing, will be at Theatr Clwyd from 20 September until 13 October and at Sherman Theatre from 17 October until 3 November.

New Queers on the Block, showcasing international queer work from Rachael Young, Hester Chillingworth, Stacy Makishi and Marikiscrycrycry and hosted by Ophelia Bitz will be touring the UK this September and October. It begins at programmer and producer The Marlborough Theatre in Brighton on 20 September, before going to Coastal Currents Festival, Hastings on 21 September, Theatre in the Mill, Bradford on 10 October, the Grand Theatre, Blackpool on 13 October and Quarterhouse, Folkestone on 20 October.

In the semi-autobiographical Poet in da Corner poet, lyricist, and dancer Debris Stevenson explores how grime helped shape her youth. It opens at the Royal Court in London on 21 September. There will be four relaxed environment performances on Thursday 27 September at 2.30pm, Saturday 29 September at 7.30pm, Friday 5 October at 7.30pm and Saturday 6 October at 7.30pm. Each of these shows will have a pre-show touch tour with access to the set, instruments and costumes.

Fuck You Pay Me, which we reviewed in August, as well as some special guests, will be at Rich Mix in London on the 21 and 22 September. There will be warm up acts from cabaret performers and post-show discussions where you’ll have an opportunity to hear from members of the sex work community on the context surrounding the show.

Indian comedy star Radhika Vaz will be performing her one-woman comedy show Older. Angrier. Hairier. at the Soho Theatre on 25 September where she’ll talk of #MeToo, her decision to not have children and to age ungracefully.

This is a little expensive but I’ve no doubt it will be popular. This year marks the 20th anniversary of Eve Ensler’s The Vagina Monologues and its associated movement, V-Day, a global activist movement to end violence against all women and girls (cisgender, transgender and gender non-conforming). There will be a celebration, V20 London Rising, at Cafe De Paris in London on the 26 September. The evening will fuse music, theatre, dance, poetry, movement and film in a night of performance art celebrating women.

Camden People’s Theatre will also be touring their festival, Come As You Are, celebrating trans*, non-binary and gender queer identities. It will visit five venues in areas with high LGBTQI+ populations, who are committed to developing their relationship with LGBTQIA+ artists and audiences: Theatre Royal, Wakefield from 27 until 29 September; Derby Theatre from 12 until 14 October; METAL and Vivacity Key Theatre in Peterborough from 8 until 10 November; Exeter Phoenix from 17 until 18 November and Lighthouse Poole from 29 November until 1 December.

Performance artist, theatre-maker, comedian, musician and activist, Bryony Kimmings, will be at Battersea Arts Centre from 3 until 20 October with her new show, I’m a Phoenix, Bitch. Recent personal cataclysmic life events have led Kimmings back to her original solo practice, and I’m a Phoenix, Bitch combines personal stories with epic film, soundscapes and ethereal music to create a powerful, dark and joyful work about motherhood, heartbreak and finding inner strength.

To Have to Shoot Irishmen, a new play with songs, will be at the Omnibus Theatre in Clapham from 2 until 20 October before going on tour to the Liverpool Everyman; Marlowe Theatre, Canterbury; Theatre Severn, Shrewsbury; Mumford Theatre, Anglia Ruskin University, Cambridge and The Arts Centre at Edge Hill University, Ormskirk. To Have to Shoot Irishmen explores the events around Sheehy Skeffington’s death during the Easter Rising in Dublin in 1916 including the impact of those events on his wife and feminist activist Hanna.

Fran Bushe’s Ad Libido, which she wrote about for The F-Word in February, will be at the Pleasance London from 18 until 20 October. Ad Libido explores Fran’s own experience of Female Sexual Dysfunction.

Quite a long update this month. I wonder if I should be more choosy about what I include – but all of it sounds so interesting! See you in October.

Image one is the othellomacbeth publicity image by Mark Leeming. It shows two figures, a woman in a green dress and a man in a dark suit, in different places around an opulent bedroom. We can see them sitting on a sofa in the front of the photograph, sitting and standing on a bed behind, climbing or falling onto a table on the left and her leaning down towards him on the right. In each place their heads are blurred as if they were moving them quickly as the photograph was being taken.

Image two is a group image of the cast of Poet in da Corner by Romany-Francesca Mukoro. Three sit on chairs behind and two people are sitting on the floor in front. They’re all looking directly at the camera with a range of expressions on their faces.

Image three is the publicity image for Bryony Kimmings’ I’m a Phoenix, Bitch by Christa Holka. Kimmings looks as if she is underwater in the photograph; her long blonde hair and robes are floating around her. She is in a dynamic pose; one hand is held up in front of her and there seems to be a glow from it, while her other arm is out to the side. She looks straight at the camera and has blue makeup across her eyes.

Weekly round-up and open thread

by Lusana Taylor // 10 September 2018, 10:51 pm


It’s time for 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.

MPs are set to decide whether misogyny is a hate crime this week (Stylist)

Those ‘sexist’ BACP comments on women? They’re more nuanced than Twitter suggested (Amy Jones, The Pool)

From the article: “The sections screenshotted on Twitter are the ones where Barker is defining how women and men and trans, cisgender and non-binary people are commonly, socially and culturally understood, in order for those ideas to be later dismantled…”

Blessed is The Fruit Of Thy Womb, Or Why I Ran Out On My Moon Mother Workshop (The Establishment, via Medium)

Feminist Swearing Night – The British Library(The British Library, EVENT)

Making misogyny a hate crime might be a good thing, but we must be realistic about what this means (The Independent)

“Despite police protestations to the contrary, hate crime is often regarded as less serious than many other offences, which can mean that vital evidence is not gathered in a timely way and that victims are not treated sensitively and appropriately. Without key evidence, such as CCTV, the likelihood of cases reaching the courtroom is unlikely.”

The above article was written by The F-Word’s former rotating editor Joanna Whitehead. You can find more of Joanna’s writing HERE.

Lily Allen’s decision to hire an escort during her tour is nothing to be ashamed of (The Independent)

From the article: “I’m of the firm belief that sex work should be decriminalised, I think we should be more honest about our reliance on sex work, and in the same breath, maintain our right to privacy over our sex lives – it would be much more helpful to pay attention to the studies, activism and voices of sex workers all over the world who have long argued for the same result, for many a compelling reason. Reasons that serve to protect the people who know what it’s like to work in the industry in the first place.”

The Case For Renaming Women’s Body Parts (BBC)
From the article: “When it comes to science and medicine, men (and gods) have left their mark all over the place. They have stamped their names on thousands of creatures, from salmonella bacteria (after US veterinarian Daniel Elmer Salmon, though it was actually his assistant’s discovery) to the endangered grevy zebra (named after a former French president).”

“After all, until the last century, women were almost excluded from academic medicine. But the continued use of these mostly male eponyms not only reflects the gender bias in our medical knowledge base. It may continue to perpetuate it.”

The hidden, horrifying costs of being single (Emily Hill, Guardian)

From the article: “…The government is intent on creating an anti-single state. The most egregious example of this is council tax: on average – in a band D home – you must pay £835 per person if you are married, and a whopping £1,235 if you live on your lonesome. Tory governments, usually so in favour of cutting taxes no matter the social cost, just love keeping them high for singletons.”

Inside Russian Women’s Fight For Their Lives (The Establishment, via Medium)

Having the Wrong Conversations about Hate Activity (Longreads)

2018 Theatre in Review: Challenges for Female Playwrights Continues (Victoria Sadler)

From the article: “And when it comes to increasing that diversity, I want to see British women included rather than names from overseas. Now, I appreciate this is controversial – after all we don’t want to get all Brexit-y here – but where there is the rare glimpse of a non-white writer on British stages, it’s not uncommon for that writer to be from elsewhere (usually the States) rather than the UK. There are some incredibly exciting British-Asian and British-African women writers out there, amongst many other British women of colour, and we should want to see and hear from them.”

Subtle sexism in political coverage can have a real impact on candidates (Columbia Journalism Review)

India’s Supreme Court rules gay sex is no longer a crime in historic Section 377 judgment (The Independent)

Blatant sexism cost Serena Williams tennis title. Men are celebrated for much worse (USA Today)

Stuff Men Do on Public Transportation That’s Worse Than Women Putting on Makeup (Lauren O’Neill, Vice)

Further adventures in Cisland (Upside Down in a Cloud)

From the article: “I thought a bit about how much of a mission I felt to Spread Enlightenment. Once upon a time, people in academia were falling over themselves to find tame trans people to participate in their research for their PhDs. These days, of course, they just take the easier option and make things up, and then get them peer reviewed by their chums on Mumsnet.”

Woman behind 1967 Nobel work finally recognized as top scientist with Breakthrough Prize, awarded $3 million (Ashley May, USA Today)

From the article: “Jocelyn Bell Burnell’s male colleagues were given a Nobel in 1974 for her discovery of radio pulsars. Now, one of the world’s top scientists is receiving some retroactive respect: a Breakthrough Prize and nearly $3 million in award money.”

Feminist activists in the US are still dressing as Handmaids – and with good reason (Stylist)

The image is used under a creative commons license with thanks to Kikasz on Flickr. It shows some very autumnal looking leaves, which are brownish-orange and still attached to a tree.

Weekly round-up and open thread

by Lusana Taylor // 3 September 2018, 8:28 pm

Due to the bank holiday, this week’s round-up is a ‘bumper round-up’ where we share links that have caught our eye over the past fortnight. There are plenty of interesting articles to keep you reading and engaged until next week. Enjoy!

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.

Everything you need to know about London’s new feminist bookshop (Stylist)

Read my lips: the rise and rise of photo-editing (1843)

From the article: “Often these procedures merely necessitate more digital manipulation. Lip injections, for instance, can create the appearance of a moustache-like shadow when the upper lip is so full it flips upward toward the nose, and this, in turn, has to be amended. That doesn’t mean that these procedures are going wrong – simply that trying to attain a retouched look creates a vicious cycle, as the artifice becomes ever more artificial.

An anonymously run Instagram account @CelebFace documents the modifications celebrities make to their own images by finding the original version and juxtaposing it with the retouched image the celeb has put on their own feed. @CelebFace has spotted that Victoria’s Secret models routinely take in their waists, enlarge their eyes, make their hair fuller and smooth thigh bulges – supposed flaws that most of us would never have noticed. The account called out supermodel Bella Hadid for refining an already heavily edited May 2018 cover of Japanese Vogue. When Hadid blocked the account, @CelebFace posted a retort: “Hi Bella! [mouth emoji]” it read. ‘You were chosen for the cover of Vogue (this is every girl’s dream), but you are using Photoshop again.'”

Twelve Longreads for Aretha Franklin (Longreads)

Autism isn’t to blame for bad behaviour (The Nib, via Medium)

Instead of judging women who want a C-section, why not listen? (Rebecca Schiller, Guardian)

Abortion pill can be taken at home in England, under new plan (BBC News)

‘Staggering’ ESA suicide figures prompt calls for inquiry and prosecution of ministers (Disability News Service)

Ray BLK: “Getting into music seemed far-fetched because of my skin colour” (Stylist)

Mara Wilson star of ‘Matilda’ hits out at Graham Linehan trans tweets (Eve Hartley, Pink News)

The Big Bang Theory is ending – our long nightmare is finally over (Stuart Heritage, Guardian)

From the article: “It has always been markedly less smart than it thought it was; the TV version of someone wearing a ‘GEEK’ T-shirt because they liked a Facebook post about the moon once. Plus, it was packed to the gills with empty ‘hot girl’ characters, which often made it feel tawdry and regressive.”

Michael Kimmel, #MeTooSociology, and Feminist Betrayal of Sex Workers In Academia (Juniper Fitzgerald, Tits and Sass)

From the article: “In my dissertation, I interviewed 20 sex workers who were either students or faculty at an accredited university in the U.S. or U.K. Every single one experienced unwanted sexual attention in intellectual spaces—classrooms, offices, conferences, etc.—because of the lingering perception that sex workers are perpetually available. I also included my own experiences in academia as a once current, now former sex worker. I have been sexually harassed, sexually assaulted, and propositioned by no less than nine cis men in academic positions of power.”

Ace of Cups: the 1960s all-female band finally record their first album (Katie Bain, Guardian)

From the article: “Women our age are kind of invisible in the public sphere and in a lot of ways are told to retire and go crawl under a rock,” Kaufman says, “so it’s interesting to be out in public and getting this opportunity we didn’t get 50 years ago.”

What would cities look like if they were designed by mothers? (Christine Murray, The Guardian)
From the article: ‘Architects are overwhelmingly male and pale, young and privileged, and there are legitimate concerns about them designing our cities in their image. Fewer than one in every 10 architects is black, Asian or minority-ethnic, and less than a third of UK qualified architects are women. And the numbers are not improving.’

Caryl Churchill at 80 – celebrating UK theatre’s ‘ultimate playwright’ (The Stage)

No more excuses for male bias, say top playwrights including Timberlake Wertenbaker and Tanika Gupta (The Stage)

From the article: “Blue Stockings and Nell Gwynn writer Jessica Swale said: ‘As a female playwright, the wider problem is that, culturally, we sit in a male paradigm where plays by and about women are seen as ‘female plays’ or ‘feminist plays’. That is so reductive, and I have found that frustrating in my own career. There’s a much greater awareness of gender parity, but I don’t think that has manifested itself yet in actual change.'”

Severe PMS has stopped me from living my life to the full (Robyn Harris, Metro)

Islamophobia informed my mother’s silence on domestic abuse – and mine (The Establishment, via Medium)

Addressing Robert Glasper and other common misconceptions about me (in no particular order) by Ms Lauryn Hill (Medium)

Natural Cycles contraception app advert banned for being misleading (Stylist)

5 refugees reveal what they want you to know about life in the UK (Stylist)

US Open apologises after Alizé Cornet penalised for briefly removing shirt (The Guardian)

The Serena Williams catsuit ban shows that tennis can’t get past its elitist roots (Vox)

I look to a future in which Aimee Challenor being trans doesn’t matter (The Guardian)

From the article: “If an individual wants to present as a different gender to the one they were assigned at birth, they do not need to go through the self-declaration process to do so. In many of the instances about which there are concerns – for example, women-only spaces being abused – self-declaration will make no difference. Women are not asked to prove their gender when they access refuges or other domestic violence support services, and trans women are already able to access these spaces without any documentation whatsoever.”

Someone tried to slut-shame this politician – and she wasn’t having any of it (Stylist)

From the article: “It’s not hard to imagine a world in which the photos of Hundley in her underwear were blown up into a political scandal – because we have lived in that world for many years. It’s painfully easy to picture this bright, passionate woman being forced to apologise for having fun at a music festival, or being driven out of politics forever, simply because photos of her in her underwear were leaked online.

But, brilliantly, it seems as though we might be moving away from that world. In an unprecedented move, Hundley has hit back at the attempts to “slut-shame” her, posting a video on YouTube in which she refuses to apologise for the photos or drop out of the race.

‘Instead of challenging me on my votes, this website relies solely on unfounded accusations and slut-shaming,’ Hundley said in the clip.

Addressing the people of Sonoma, she described the website’s purpose as “to make me afraid, to silence another strong female voice by scaring me out of this election and denying you the right to make a choice.”

Jameela Jamil & toxic feminism (Danielle Dash)
From the article: “The policing of women whose sex and sexualities are part of their business is a mainstay of radical feminism and implies that if these women would simply close their legs and do their work with their clothes on men will give up patriarchy.”

Women On Tumblr Point Out The Most Common Mistakes In Female Characters Created By Male Writers (BoredPanda)

This Gorgeous Portrait Series Celebrates Older Trans And Gender-Nonconforming People (Sarah Karlan, BuzzFeed News)

NSPCC cancel Mumsnet child abuse live chat after flood of transphobia (GayStar News)

The true story of Fatima al-Fihri, the founder of the world’s first known university (Stylist)

The image is used under a creative commons license with thanks to Roger Meyer on Flickr. It’s a photograph of bunting (decorative triangular strips of multi-coloured material) against a clear blue sky.

The government is currently seeking the public’s views on how best to reform the Gender Recognition Act 2004. They say:

This consultation does not consider the question of whether trans people exist, whether they have the right to legally change their gender, or whether it is right for a person of any age to identify with another gender, or with no gender. Trans and non-binary people are members of our society and should be treated with respect. Trans people already have the right to legally change their gender, and there is no suggestion of this right being removed. This consultation simply asks how best government might make the existing process under the Gender Recognition Act a better service for those trans and non-binary people who wish to use it.

Following this consultation, there is potential for England and Wales (Scotland and Northern Ireland won’t be affected by any changes) to make a big step forwards in trans equality. It’s important that people who are trans* or have a non-binary identity, and those who support them, contribute their views.

You can find all the information about the potential reforms and how to respond on the governement’s website here.

Stonewall have also produced a really useful resource which you can use instead of the government website.

The deadline is 11pm on 19 October 2018.

Update from 6 September 2018, the Green party also have some useful suggestions for answering the questions here.

The image is a black and white version of the royal coat of arms of the UK. It shows a lion and a unicorn either side of a shield topped by a crown. Underneath them are the words “Dieu et mon droit”. The image is in the public domain and was sourced from Wikimedia Commons.

Join our team!

by Lissy Lovett // 31 August 2018, 3:33 pm

Tags: , , , ,

Are you a feminist who believes in the power of good media and excellent communications to make change? Does the idea of working with women across the UK to share their views and stories excite you? The F-Word is seeking two new volunteers: a guest post editor and a social media editor.

Guest post editor

Co-editing with Nicholl Hardwick, you’ll have a key role in shaping one of the busiest sections of the site while contributing to developing The F-Word as an inclusive feminist resource.

For this role, your main duties will be:

  • responding to pitches: being able to give constructive feedback to pitches that need some work, and knowing when to say no to pitches that don’t seem right for us
  • working with a broad range of contributors, from those who have never written for a publication to experienced journalists
  • editing submissions in line with house tone and values, including working with writers on necessary amends
  • sourcing ideas for new pieces, with a focus on encouraging new voices from diverse perspectives
  • posting and sourcing images for blog posts, with a focus on finding images that represent a diverse range of identities and experiences
  • working with other section editors and The F-Word team, where necessary
  • second-editing pieces from other sections, as per the team’s rota
  • attending Skype meetings every two months and contributing to site-wide decisions.

What you will bring:

  • enthusiasm for The F-Word’s mission and values
  • at least a few hours per week (on average) to dedicate to this section, along with regular internet access
  • confidence and sensitivity when giving submissions a critical edit, working hard to engage the author in a constructive way while retaining quality of content
  • ideally, familiarity with WordPress and willingness to learn some basic HTML skills
  • ideas and creativity for how we can develop the blog section
  • willingness to work as part of a team, alongside another blog editor
  • commitment to the role for at least six months, with a minimum notice period of one month.

Social media editor

The F-Word’s social media editor has an important role to play promoting the site’s content to new and existing audiences.

For this role, your main duties will be:

  • promoting F-Word content on Facebook and Twitter
  • forwarding requests from social media to relevant team member(s)
  • tactfully dealing with questions and comments on social media
  • exploring the use of other social media (for example Instagram and LinkedIn)
  • working with The F-Word team, where necessary
  • attending Skype meetings every two months and contributing to site-wide decisions.

What you will bring:

  • enthusiasm for The F-Word’s mission and values
  • awareness of tools and apps for publicising site content
  • at least a few hours per week (on average) to dedicate to the site, along with regular internet access
  • social media experience, ideally in promoting an organisation/event/initiative
  • commitment to the role for at least six months, with a minimum notice period of one month.

We invite applications from self-identified women/genderqueer people/non-binary people/ those who do not define as male.

Founded in 2001, The F-Word is an online magazine with a rich heritage of discussing key issues and ideas that impact, and are impacted by, contemporary feminisms from the UK and elsewhere. The site has developed alongside various conversations and societal shifts in the last 17 years, and seeks to welcome and share perspectives and experiences from a diverse range of women and non-binary people. This could include older women, disabled women, working class women, sex workers, women of minority ethnicities (including Black, Asian, migrant or refugee women and women of dual or multiple ethnic heritage), trans* women, lesbian, gay, bisexual or queer women, and/or socialist feminists.

This is not intended to be an exhaustive list – please don’t be put off from emailing us if you’re interested but don’t identify with the perspectives above, particularly if you feel your perspective is currently under-represented in the feminist blogosphere.

Please note that The F-Word is run entirely online by unpaid volunteers. We are aware of current discussions around the politics and ethics of expecting people to work for free, but can unfortunately only offer permanent volunteer roles. The fact nobody involved in the site is paid for their work here means there is no hierarchy or differentiation between paid and unpaid positions.

To apply for either of the roles: please email us (recruitment@thefword.org.uk) with a brief message setting out a) which role you are interested in and why, b) how you would develop this area of the The F-Word’s work and c) any prior relevant experience.

The deadline for applications is 10:00am on Monday 24 September.

We’ll be recruiting for more roles in the coming months, so please keep an eye on our website and social media.

The image is used under a Creative Commons licence. It shows someone’s hands typing on a laptop keyboard.

Working mothers

This is a guest post by Katie Dickerson

According to a recent study, nearly 30% of bosses wouldn’t hire a woman if they thought she was going to become pregnant soon, while 37% said that they would advertise positions only to men if the law allowed.

These sexist attitudes stem from two assumptions. One is that all women of prime baby-making age are just dying to push out a few kids, which couldn’t be more wrong. The other is that women are likely to take on the majority of childcare duties after having a baby and maybe even drop out of the workforce altogether — and unfortunately, they’re not completely wrong. Although according to the ONS, mothers with young children are more likely to return to or begin full-time work than 20 years ago, around 35% of UK mothers whose youngest child is a toddler aren’t in employment.

This isn’t because women are less dedicated to their jobs after giving birth. In fact, having a child can make women even more appreciative of child-free time in the office, where they can use their professional knowledge, talk to other adults and drink a cup of hot tea in peace. But outdated cultural attitudes towards working women and inflexible work arrangements can make getting the balance between work and home nearly impossible, which is why some mums may feel they have no choice but to give up on work.

That’s the bad news. The good news? There are things employers can do to retain hard-working mothers. And doing so is very much in their interest: businesses in the top quartile for gender diversity are 21% more likely to have above-average profitability than companies in the bottom quartile.

Make flexible working the norm

Do people need to be sitting in an office chair from 9-5? Probably not. Many jobs can be done from anywhere at any time, as long as you have an internet connection.

We need to start thinking about work as a thing you do, not a place you go. When employers offer flexible working options, staff have been found to be happier. Happier staff are more productive, and they tend to stick around.

So listen, employers: don’t make mothers choose between traditional office hours and family life. Find a schedule that suits both of you, because they’re worth it. These women didn’t lose their skills the second they produced a small human. Retaining their experience and knowledge of your company makes commercial sense.

There are lots of ways you can make your workplace more inclusive to mums, and if you do, you’ll be in good company. For one, Telecoms giant Vodafone offers 16 weeks maternity leave on full pay, while women have the option to work 30-hour weeks for six months when returning to work.

Stop assuming that women will be the primary caregivers

A significantly higher proportion of fathers with young children work than mothers: 93.2% of fathers with children aged three or four are employed, compared to 65% of women.

Part of the reason for this disparity is financial—the father is often the higher-earning partner, so it doesn’t ‘make sense’ for him to stay home. We have the gender pay gap to thank for that, along with the structural and social inequalities that make it harder to progress at work if you’re a woman.

There is also a danger of assuming that men will take a few weeks of paternity leave after their child is born and then get back to the office, because child rearing is the mother’s job, right? Employers may not consider the fact that fathers might need or want to share childcare responsibilities with their partner. A study by Timewise showed that 84% of men either already work flexibly or would like to, with the main reasons for workers wanting flexible work options including more opportunities to care for children.

The government introduced Shared Parental Leave to try to encourage a more equal division of childcare responsibilities between parents, but take-up among eligible couples is estimated to be as low as 2%. There’s still a cultural stigma about men taking time off from work, and many fathers fear that they will come across as less committed to their job if they ask to take leave, according to research conducted by law firm EMW.

But it doesn’t have to be that way. If employers start actively encouraging flexible working and shared parental leave applications from men as well as women, it could help fight the assumption that working part time or taking time off to be with your kid is a ‘mum thing’.

It’s not only up to employers, though. Fathers have a key role to play in changing the culture. If you’re a dad and want to work flexibly because you want to spend more time with your kid, be vocal about it. Challenge your employer and colleagues if they question your choice and work with your partner to try and define a situation that works for you both.

Female employees of a certain age might get pregnant. It happens. The human race has to go on and all that. Mothers can continue with their careers after giving birth and companies can continue to work with women who help their business grow and thrive.

The future is flexible. It’s time we embraced it.

Featured image by Nathan Dumlao, from Unsplash. Used under Creative Commons Zero licence.

Image is of a mother sitting at a cafe with her young son. She wears a smart, dark brown trench coat and sits up on a stool, watching over her son as he plays on the floor

It’s the August Bank Holiday weekend! Wooh yeah! It’s Manchester Pride! Double wooh yeah!

As such it felt only right to compile an F-Word music playlist where the main focus was on dancing, on going for it, on letting your hair down. It’s been a long, hot, somewhat intense summer and we’ve all earned ourselves a break.

I’ve sacrificed the new to a certain extent with this playlist, but there are some new, or newish, songs in there for you. From New York artist MARGOT and her assertive anthem ‘Space’, to London’s Dream Nails marrying science with punk rock, to Ms Mohammad’s boss anthem ‘Pandora’. There’s also the swoonsome Tancred, who will be touring the UK this autumn, Janelle Monáe at her sexy best, up and coming festival favourites Bang Bang Romeo, an earworm from Self Esteem, Becky and the Birds dreamy ‘Concept Store’, and a slice of post punk esque Turkish pop from Krista Papista.

In amongst all of that, we have a lot of music you can dance to of various stripes and flavours. Hopefully something for everyone.

Whatever you’re up to this Bank Holiday Weekend, have a good one.

Image is of Rachel A. Blackwell’s Rainbow Bee sculpture. It is a giant rainbow coloured worker bee, which is situated in Exchange Square, Manchester. Two people can bee seen walking past it. It is part of the Bee In The City exhibition. Photo by Cazz Blase, all rights reserved.

Weekly round-up and open thread

by Lusana Taylor // 20 August 2018, 6:01 pm


It’s time for 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.

Lauren Laverne to present 6 music breakfast show (BBC News)

From the article: “Laverne is one of the most popular presenters on the digital-only station, drawing 1.06 million daily listeners, only slightly behind Keaveny’s audience of 1.07 million. The star, who currently earns between £230,000 – £239,999 per year, also presents Late Night Woman’s Hour on Radio 4 and anchors the BBC’s coverage of Glastonbury, as well as running The Pool – a lifestyle website aimed at women.”

Has social media become a scapegoat for a lack of mental-health care? (The Pool)

From the article: “As pointed out by Andrew Przybylski at the Oxford Internet Institute in an interview with New Scientist, blanket-blaming social media means we are distracted from discussing the effect of more pressing and difficult topics. The most obvious of these is the lack of accessible mental-health care – between 2016 and 2017, services providing specialist physical treatments received a 6% increase in funding, compared with just a 2.5% increase for mental healthcare. How many more girls will be hospitalised before those much-needed and already strained services are bolstered?”

Why is depression during pregnancy on the rise? (The Pool)

From the article: “And Yasmin was tormented by the idea that young mums ‘have to have it all’. ‘We have to still appear youthful and attractive, to maintain a social life but be maternal, to manage work, motherhood, housework, friends, romantic relationships …’ she says … There’s a constant feeling of not being good enough, or not doing quite enough despite stretching yourself so thin. It’s not always easy to get support, either. Amy points to PANDAS, but says that ‘the majority of the time I didn’t feel like I could find anyone who understood or could rationalise how I was feeling.'”

How Aretha Franklin paved the way for powerful feminism (Stylist)

Boris Johnson’s white privilege: imagine he was a black woman (Gary Younge, Guardian)

I Am Fat. I Still Deserve Good Medical Care (Lesley Kinzel, Huffpost)

Transgender patients to get prescriptions from specialist GP (BBC Wales)

60 times Madonna changed our culture (various authors, New York Times)

From the article: “Madonna was a pioneer of welding her voice to her image, and in a culture consumed with critiquing how women look, and controlling how they use their bodies, she’s been on the front lines — a seductress and a battering ram. But as she’s continued to be a force while she deigns to grow older, she’s faced a new frontier of abuse. There has never been a pop star writing and performing at her level, and demanding a seat at the table, at her age. Why wouldn’t Madonna demand it?” (Caryn Ganz)

‘Mothers as makers of death’ (The Paris Review)

“No one had warned me that with a child comes death. Death slinks into your mind. It circles your growing body, and once your child has left it, death circles him too. It would be dangerous to turn your attentions away from your child—this is how the death presence makes you feel. The conversations I had with other new mothers stayed strictly within the bounds of the list: blankets, diapers, creams. Every conversation I had was the wrong conversation. No other mother congratulated me and then said: I’m overcome by the blackest of thoughts. You? This is why mothers don’t sleep, I thought to myself. This is why mothers don’t look away from their children. This is why, even with a broken heart, a mother will bring herself back to life.”

Being a woman means being bad-greedy or good-greedy (The Pool)

From the article: “Good greedy is a gelato cone as big as my head, held aloft in front of a tiled wall. Bad greedy is chain-eating three Magnums, thinking about the cool crack and slurp of the next one before I’ve even finished the last. Good greedy is to be a foodie, a cheerful bon vivant. Bad greedy is a binge eater. I am both, worst luck.”

The image is used under a creative commons license with thanks to Chiot’s Run on Flickr. It is a photograph of somebody holding an ice cream cone aloft. The background is out of focus but appears to be a street or road. Only the person’s arm is visible. They are wearing bracelets, a ring and a purple top. The ice cream in the cone is also purple.

Weekly round-up and open thread

by Lusana Taylor // 13 August 2018, 4:39 pm


It’s time for 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 is what happened when I wore my holiday wardrobe to the office (Stylist)

From the article: “It’s not just the colour. I embrace my body when I’m on holiday, as opposed to hiding it. Instead of my trusty denim jacket and midi length skirts, I wear sleeveless dresses with no regard for how much my arms jiggle or how much of my legs are on show, and I’m OK with it. Holiday me is essentially, an entirely different person. But why?

Maybe it’s because I’m lazy in my everyday dressing, or because I prefer to be inconspicuous in an industry where I’m already the anomaly. Or maybe it’s just because I live in fear of chafed thighs. But the more I thought about my split wardrobe personality, the more I thought: wouldn’t it be nice to wear both sides to the office?”

Tariq Ali says Bookmarks ransacking marks shift in fascist tactics (Tom Foot, CNJ)

The Terrifying Power of ‘Love’ – the Pressure Aromantic People Face (Steph Farnsworth, Stand up Magazine)

We’re treating friendships like transactions, and it’s ruining relationships (Ephrat Livni, Quartz)

From the article: “The way we talk about friendship paints an ugly picture of the new notion of relating—one that seeks maximum return on minimal investment, and outlines an exit strategy anytime a friend doesn’t fulfill our fantasies. These posts reveal more about the toxicity of our society than the negative people they’re describing. It’s friendship as a capitalistic exchange, instead of relationships involving people who care about each other, hanging out, and helping each other through life’s ups and downs.”

I am a female writer and I am tired of being asked to talk about my emotions (Alexandria Marzano-Lesnevich, The Pool)

‘Letterbox’ insults against Muslim women spike in wake of Boris Johnson comments (Lizzie Dearden, Independent)

Make-Believe Mutiny (Christina Cauterucci, Slate)

From the article: “…These statements from the women closest to Donald Trump are deliberate decoys meant to soften the president’s image, conferring him humanity by association. Melania has occasionally used her platform in this way, but it has been Ivanka’s entire raison d’être in the Trump cinematic universe. Throughout Donald’s campaign and presidency, she has lent legitimacy to his most punishing policies through her tacit approval, tempering his misogyny with her hollow empowerment rhetoric and convincing journalists that she’s secretly working behind the scenes on behalf of common decency. By making public statements that gently criticize her father, and by leaking through anonymous sources that she disagrees with him, all while continuing to stand by him in every way that matters, Ivanka has helped clear the way for her father’s agenda by showing his conservative skeptics how to question but support their president, how to appear humane while never really turning on the man doing those inhumane things.”

The image is used under a creative commons license with thanks to Jackie on Flickr. It is a close-up photograph of of several blades of green grass with water droplets attached to them, as if a rain shower had just occurred.

Weekly round-up and open thread

by Lusana Taylor // 8 August 2018, 6:39 am


It’s time for another (slightly late!) 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.

Somebody at Fitbit needs a lesson on the menstrual cycle (Caroline O’Donoghue, The Pool)

what does it mean to be butch in 2018? (Sophie Wilkinson, i-D)

From the article: “Can any woman truly say she hasn’t been denigrated, in some small and seemingly justifiable way, for failing to fit within the narrow confines that patriarchy built for us to live and die within? To have the strength to escape femininity on the daily, to wake up and not think about, or unthink, all of the ways in which femininity must be performed and adhered to – while still considering the needs of those who do still conform – is why butches must be treasured.

From Jameela Jamil to an 8-year-old activist: the women making waves this week (Hannah-Rose Yee, Stylist)

I was humiliated on TalkRadio for talking about my rape (Nichi Hodgson, The Guardian)

Britain’s treatment of disabled people reminds me of The Handmaid’s Tale (Frances Ryan, The Guardian)

Ellen Maud Bennett Obituary (Times Colonist, via Fat Heffalump)

From the article: “A final message Ellen wanted to share was about the fat shaming she endured from the medical profession. Over the past few years of feeling unwell she sought out medical intervention and no one offered any support or suggestions beyond weight loss. Ellen’s dying wish was that women of size make her death matter by advocating strongly for their health and not accepting that fat is the only relevant health issue.”

Tokyo medical school admits changing results to exclude women (The Guardian)

From the article: “The investigation found that in this year’s entrance exams the school reduced all applicants’ first-stage test scores by 20% and then added at least 20 points for male applicants, except those who had previously failed the test at least four times. It said similar manipulations had occurred for years because the school wanted fewer female doctors since it anticipated they would shorten or halt their careers after becoming mothers.”

The image is used under a creative commons license with thanks to Ana Li on Flickr. It shows a shady spot under a tree in a field.

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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