Introducing December’s guest blogger

by Megan Stodel // 1 December 2016, 7:57 am

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horse-isabella-juskovaThanks so much to Jennifer Evans, who has been writing for us throughout November. You can follow her @todaysfeminist.

Now we’re in December and I’d like to welcome Emily Moore, our guest blogger this month. Here’s her introduction in her own words.

Emily is pansexual, non-binary, polyamorous and active in the BDSM community. An aspiring lawyer and keen horse rider she has been bemused from a young age by artificial constraints on gender, relationships and what is considered “normal”. With knowledge this confusion has evolved into feminist rage against the kyriachy which she channels into karate and taekwondo training, writing, knitting, baking and sewing.

Welcome, Emily!

The image is by Isabella Jusková and is used under a Creative Commons Zero licence. It shows a white horse eating grass on what appears to be a hill or mountain rising up into the clouds and mist behind it.

Got something to say? Say it as an F-Word writer

by Monica Karpinski // 30 November 2016, 1:00 pm

Female blogger

It’s that time again! The F-word is looking for monthly guest bloggers for 2017, which means that for a month, you’ll be able to blog to your feminist heart’s content on any feminist-related thing you like.

For that month, we’d love it if you were able to post at least once a week, but understand that this is a labour of love for everyone and that sometimes life gets in the way. Think of this as the opportunity to have a platform to say what you want to say.

You’ll get help and guidance from one of our blog editors, who you can bounce ideas off, who will sub-edit your work and give you constructive feedback.

We are particularly interested in views and positions that are under-represented on the blog, particularly intersectional perspectives. This could be older women, disabled women, working class women, sex workers, women of minority ethnicities (including Black, Asian, migrant or refugee women and women of dual or multiple ethnic heritage), trans* women, lesbian, gay, bisexual or queer women, male feminists and/or socialist feminists or just someone keen to write about a topic that you think we should feature more frequently.

We are also especially interested in reactive content that offers a feminist perspective to things happening in the news and popular culture.

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 alas at this point we can offer permanent volunteer roles only. We are not paid for our work either so there is no hierarchy or differentiation between paid and unpaid positions.

To apply please email guestposts@thefword.co.uk with a short introduction and some article ideas. Send along any examples of your writing if you’ve got them, but please note that this is not essential for you to be considered.

The deadline for applications is December 23rd, 2016.

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

Image by Tran Mau Tri Tam, from Unsplash. Used under Creative Commons Zero licence.

Image is of an Asian woman working on a Macbook. She is sitting on a bean bag and appears lost in thought.

Navigating feminist choice

by Jennifer Evans // 29 November 2016, 7:38 am

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I’ve not always known that I’m a feminist. When I worked for an organisation a few years ago that supports women through strong feminist principles and ethics, I finally realised I was home. I’d found my people. I jumped on my newly acquired ‘feminist’ label with all my might – finally finding a box that I was happy to fit into.

It’s fair to say I am still a relative newbie. I’m an entry level feminist, working out an approach that fits me and all of my beliefs as I go. That’s what fascinates me, I suppose. We all have a shared objective – women and girls to be treated equally in every aspect of life – but with our own understanding of what that entails and how to achieve it.

One thing I have struggled with, and am still debating day by day, are my thoughts about the portrayal of women choosing to present themselves in an overtly sexualised manner. This proves troublesome for me. I do accept that choice is a heavily burdened word. A woman may choose to portray herself in a certain way within a constricted environment that only offers her a handful of choices. Similarly a woman may be coerced into believing she is choosing but in reality her agency is limited. This issue aside (it warrants its own blog entirely) I have some further thoughts.

I want to avoid sounding judgemental, because I really do believe that women should express themselves however they choose, in a way that feels most comfortable to them. Take singer Tove Lo, for example. Earlier this week, the Daily Mail reported her reaction to the comments about her choice of outfit for the recent 2016 ARIA Awards in Sydney. Tove wore a short transparent orange dress with the shape of a uterus and ovaries depicted on the front. The article also outlines (and shows pictures of) one of her previous controversial outfits where she performs topless with what appears to be glittery cannabis leaves stencilled over her nipples and also features shots from her “sexually-charged short film” where she is shown “passionately romping in bed with a woman and a man”. Tove retaliated to the attention her dress received by stating, “I’m from Sweden where we don’t really censor at all… you’ve just got to say what it is… Didn’t Madonna do this 20 years ago?”

The Daily Mail’s choice of language is frivolous, provocative and indulgent, showing several pictures of Tove Lo in her videos and performances wearing very little. Comments on the article question Tove Lo’s reasons for wearing the outfit and speak about her in a fairly derogatory manner. There is a consensus in the comments that she has done something wrong, exploiting the system with her sexuality. But why are so many people reading this article to begin with? People want to look at her body, yet want to shame her into feeling guilty about showing it off. She can’t win.

So I have an affinity with her. She is a woman, in a world which expects her to behave in a certain way, and when she does so that world damns her. Nowhere in the article does it discuss her lyrics, her music career or her capability as an artist.

Then I find myself considering whether she has a responsibility of her own to the next generation of young women. But what a burden to bear; to think that our actions could impact another life. If my twenties were played out in the media I would be depicted in all sorts of derogatory terms, my choices as a young woman were sometimes destructive and unhealthy. I would not be advocating to my 11-year-old niece that she follows in, or even near, my younger self’s footsteps! The woman I have grown into is healthy, considerate and careful about looking after herself. I’m still the same me. So just because Tove Lo is the in the media, just because she is in the public eye, should I really make judgement about her choice of lifestyle, her choice of outfit, her choice of sexualised behaviour just because it doesn’t fit comfortably with my current own? I don’t think I should.

On the other hand I can offer many considerations for why the sexualised focus on women is problematic. When women are overtly sexual in the public eye does this enable us to move forward and move away from our bodies being our means of communication, our bargaining chips and our wealth? Are we just not regurgitating the usual trend of women being seen as sexual objects for the modern day?

To conclude, for me the jury’s still out. I can’t quite get my head around this issue. Yet while I know I have some conflicting views about the issue I also know that predominantly, fundamentally, my heart is with each and every woman making her own informed independent choice.

The photo is by Daniel Åhs Karlsson and is used under a creative commons licence. It shows Tove Lo smiling as she hold s a microphone, performing in Stockholm in 2014.

Weekly round-up and open thread

by Lusana Taylor // 28 November 2016, 8:09 pm

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

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.

White model apologises for her photo appearing on the cover of Blackhair magazine (Huffington Post)

The best ways to combat bias from Airbnb to eBay (Tim Harford)

Restricting niche porn sites is a disaster for people with marginalised sexualities (The Guardian CiF)

From the article: “What message are we sending to young women by criminalising porn that depicts a visual, undeniable representation of female sexual fulfilment? Do we really want girls to think that the way their bodies naturally respond to pleasure is obscene?”

Saudi Arabia bans transgender people (Planet Transgender)

No Asians, no black people. Why do gay people tolerate blatant racism? (The Guardian CiF)

Why Going to Parties Is Terrible (Transgender Universe)

From the article: “At this point, I turned around and walked away. My presence would only get in the way of a thoroughly good thought exercise by those who valued intellectual masturbation over people.”

How much are black ideas worth? (Stephanie Phillips at Media Diversified)

From the article: “After seeing Channel 4 use the now infamous phrase ‘on fleek’ I wonder if the black teenager who invented the phrase received any credit. I wonder if Channel 4 even know that it was a black teenager’s phrase. Culture is hard to pin down and can sometimes be even harder to source but in today’s world when you can google the answer to any question, such as who created the phrase ‘on fleek’, there’s no need for black people to go uncredited.”

The Loneliness of the Spinster (Vitae)

From the article: “It would be all too easy for me to bear the proud mantle of the workaholic who gave up love to devote herself to a life of the mind. But like Hopper, I “cling to the term spinster.” Why? Because, as she writes, “it serves as a challenge to the way our society still conflates coupledom with love, maturity, and citizenship, while seeing unmarried people as — to quote Justice Kennedy — ‘condemned to loneliness.’”

This failed activist is tired of being told what to do.* (Naomi Jacobs at Medium)

From the article: “I’ve gone on many marches that have harmed my body and helped no one. I’ve been to endless meetings that no one ever noticed. I did online action and people laughed at me. The world turned on, oblivious to all of us. The hegemony continued to be the hegemony. I will always be a failure at activism. And I secretly think that activism may be part of the problem.”

Everyone who can now see your entire internet history, including the taxman, DWP and Food Standards Agency (Independent)

The image is used under a creative commons license with thanks to aptmetaphor on Flickr. It is a black and white photograph of a person in profile. They have dark hair brushed over their forehead and they are wearing a veil or scarf over the rest of their head. They appear to be on a boat as a body of water is spread in front of them, with land in the distance.

travellingalone_fword-resized

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

This month’s comic depicts the shock of men on discovering that Silvia, like them, moved to the UK alone and frequently travels on her own

Little Red Riding Hood This is a guest post by Jane Buffham, a thirtysomething daydreamer. She lives in a small town in Oxfordshire twinned with Cranford circa 1840. She *really* likes to travel.

In the gleaming foyer of a resplendent – if not quite tasteful – Delhi hotel is a 7ft hoarding for Chanel. In contrast with the hurly-burly of the chaotic street outside, it is an unexpected image.

The advert depicts an artfully dishevelled Kristen Stewart, heavily made-up eyes tearing, her chest and midriff exposed. She is alone and distressed and yet, captured in her black and white melodrama, she is wantonly defiant. It is a complex composition that – at the heart of its sales pitch – shows a picture of ferocious female independence framed within a dark and angry hedonism.

More Premier Inn than premier league, I’m not accustomed to shiny, opulent hotels as a rule. Standing in front of Kristen in my sweaty jeans and plimsolls, the prospect of buying $10,000 clothes is no more realistic for me than for most. The actual market for such attire, like the clothes themselves, must be miniscule.

This is not a critique on the dichotomy of the haves and the have-nots in the country. India throws into sharp relief the disadvantages of the poorest in society, but then so too does Rotherham.

Rather this is about a billboard conveying an image of femininity that sits in shadowy contrast to that of the real country beyond the brass-plated doors. Official guidance from the UK Government issued to women travellers in India reads like a list of magical rules the heroine of a fairy story breaks at her peril.

Don’t travel alone.

Don’t use buses, or taxis or auto rickshaws.

Don’t travel the subway.

If you must travel the subway, stay in the women-only carriages.

Don’t walk alone.

Double-deffo don’t walk alone at night.

Wear a wedding ring (even if not married).

Don’t half-undress yourself like Kristen Stewart and hang out in louche poses on billboards. The subtext screams: pay heed to these warnings or Big Bad Wolf will get you. It shouts that just to be seen out in the world as a woman is a provocation that must be avoided.

India is a beautiful if culturally complicated country, especially for women. The rape and murder of Jyoti Singh on a public bus in Delhi in 2012 caused shockwaves around the world, creating a perception of India as a dangerous place for us.

On my every visit, I’ve been warned about the Danish tourist raped at knife point in Delhi, about an Irish woman raped in Kolkata. These are vile attacks on the individuals involved. But these tragedies seem to have become appropriated as cautionary tales for all women to heed, as if a woman’s behaviour can invite or prevent an attack. The perception overshadows the fact that reports of rapes perpetrated by a stranger on foreign women, though horrifying, are extremely rare. Rape in India, as is the case in Europe and the US, is most often carried out by partners, friends or acquaintances of the victim. According to India’s National Crime Records Bureau, 98% of reported rapes in 2013 were carried out by someone the victim knew.

In India, I have never been cavalier about my safety, have never knowingly sought danger, and been cautious not to be provocative or disrespectful. And yet, upon retrospectively reading the UK Government’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office website, I have trespassed against every rule for women in the book.

I have wandered alone in night markets, searching out souvenirs and musical instruments I will never learn to play.

I have haggled ham-fistedly in craft shops with skilled salespeople who know how to exploit their advantage over clumsy British ‘politeness’.

I’ve ridden in perilous autos in traffic jams eight cars deep.

I’ve explored the steaming narrow lanes of old Delhi, eaten alone in Dosa restaurants, and made fast and fleeting friendships on street corners.

I have defended with passion my unmarried status while I’ve ogled a man with Bollywood good looks on a train.

I’ve been solicited successfully many times by beggars and street vendors, all of whom have made me appreciate my privilege with an honesty and clarity far greater than any pretentious hotel.

None of these things makes me a pin-up of female derring-do. I am the very picture of a spectacularly ordinary woman sampling a culture different to her own, anonymously and without glamour. There is nothing heroic in paddling in the shallow-end of independent spirit.

Big Bad Wolves clearly exist, but they do not lurk on every corner. Women won’t stop attacks on women by staying indoors or following contrived rules, nor will we defeat misogyny by simply stepping out on our own. But when we venture forth with independence, not boldly and dramatically like Kristen, dripping with mascara and smoking sexuality, but with ordinary human curiosity and common sense, perhaps we begin to strike back against those bad wolves, real and imagined.

Image is of a handmade Little Red Riding Hood figure. Courtesy of temaki on Flickr

The F-Word is recruiting new editors

by Shoshana Devora // 25 November 2016, 5:35 pm

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The F-Word is looking for UK-based volunteers to join our team of editors, with roles available for social media and visual arts/photography. These are both fantastic opportunities to play an exciting part in building a feminist resource and taking on an important role on the site.

If you’d like to take on either of these roles, we’d love to hear from you! Read on for more on what the roles will involve and how to apply.

Social media editor:

• promotes F-word content on Facebook and Twitter;
• forwards requests from social media to relevant team member(s);
• tactfully deals with questions and comments on social media;
• promotes feminist events on Facebook and Twitter;
• keeps social media updated with relevant content from other blogs/sites;
• explores the use of other social media (Pinterest, LinkedIn, etc.);
• works with the rest of The F-Word team where necessary;
• has the ability to work alongside another social media editor.

What you will bring:

• Enthusiasm about the role and the potential to publicise The F-Word content.
• Some time, energy and regular internet access.
• Commitment to the role for at least six months (with a minimum period of one month’s notice).
• Social media experience, ideally prior experience of promoting an organisation/event/initiative on social media.
• Ideally, some editing experience (as an editor/subeditor/proofreader), particularly experience of working with a set style guide.
• Familiarity with blogging platforms is an advantage here, as is at least basic HTML.

Visual arts / photography editor:

• sourcing ideas for features, reviews and interviews;
• commissioning features and reviews, with a focus on encouraging new voices from a range of backgrounds and diverse perspectives;
• responding to pitches and reviewing opportunities that come in through the submissions pile;
• editing features/reviews;
• posting features/reviews;
• moderating comments on published features/reviews;
• working with the social media editor to promote features/reviews;
• working with the other section editors and The F-Word team where necessary, including attending Skype meetings every two months.

What you will bring:

• You must be enthusiastic about the role and the opportunities to develop the the visual arts / photography section. This is a volunteer position, so some time, energy and regular internet access are all required.
• You must commit to the role for at least six months (with a minimum period of one month’s notice).
• Ideally you will have some editing experience, as you will be working with submissions from an extremely broad range of contributors; some whom have never written for publication before, while others are experienced journalists. Submissions need to be given a critical edit, making sensitive suggestions to the author and offering some guidance where needed. Submissions must also be edited in line with our style guide, so some experience in working with a house style is an advantage.

It is frequently reported that women do not put themselves forward for leadership roles as often as men do, despite extensive qualifications and experience. It is also reported by women who attain positions of power that they did not feel entitled to them until they ‘gave themselves permission’ or were given an opportunity by a more privileged male counterpart. Therefore we have taken the decision collectively to invite applications from self-identified women/genderqueer people/anyone who doesn’t define as male.

The F-Word is an online magazine dedicated to talking about and sharing ideas on contemporary feminisms from the UK and elsewhere. The collective goal for the site is primarily to provide a platform which welcomes and shares perspectives from writers representing intersectional feminisms through contributions from people who identify along all parts of the gender and sexuality continuums. This could be older women, disabled women, working class women, sex workers, women of minority ethnicities (including Black, Asian, migrant or refugee women and women of dual or multiple ethnic heritage), trans* women, lesbian, gay, bisexual or queer women and/or socialist feminists. This is not intended to be an exhaustive list – please don’t be put off from applying 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 alas at this point we can offer permanent volunteer roles only. We are not paid for our work either so 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 which role you would like to apply for, why you want to take on the role, how you would develop the role, and any prior relevant experience.

If you feel enthusiastic about any area of culture not listed here or already covered by The F-Word and would like to put yourself forward for the role of section editor promoting this area, please feel free to apply for that, telling us why we should have that particular section.

The deadline for applications is Saturday 24 December

The photo is by wocintech and shared under a creative commons licence. It shows a woman’s hands poised over the keyboard of an open laptop.

Weekly round-up and open thread

by Lusana Taylor // 21 November 2016, 4:42 pm

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

British prisons must now recognise gender fluid and non-binary inmates (The Conversation)

Dear Hillary, You Betrayed Me, But I Admire You (The Establishment)

Women Don’t Need More Protection, We Need Less (Role Reboot)

I assess if you are fit for work. I hate having to score your life this way (The Guardian)

Failing to hold working-class people to account when they’re racist or misogynistic is patronising and wrong (Independent)

From the article: “My parents deserved better from their peers. The only solace I can offer them is my love, my gratitude, my solidarity, my immeasurable pride in them and a solemn promise to fight on. Part of that fight is accepting what the working classes really are – often liberal, justice-loving people whose values set the foundation of the Labour movement which so many middle-class people have now joined.”

Give legal recognition to sex workers: Supreme Court panel (DNA India)

An 87-year-old Japanese grandmother is taking the best selfies in the world (A.V. Club)

Stay Out of Fat Girls’ DMs (The Urban Twists)

From the article: “I will always protect and defend us fat women because you ashy, inconsiderate, with nothing to offer but secret dick, assholes, are not entitled to our bodies. You are not entitled to fill our inboxes with hope, disappointment, and dick. You are not allowed to abuse, use, fetishize and demoralize fat women.”

Against proposals (Another Angry Woman)

From the article: “Getting married is a major life decision, and yet it is the only major life decision I can think of which involves a bizarre ritual in making the decision. We do not buy a ring while figuring out whether to go to university or not. We do not book a fancy restaurant to have a think about buying a house. We do not get down on one knee when deciding if we want to have children. We do not put a cute little question in a fortune cookie when working through the various treatment options for an illness.”

‘Extreme surveillance’ becomes UK law with barely a whimper (The Guardian)

Kimberlé Crenshaw: The urgency of intersectionality (TED talk, interactive transcript)

Domestic abuse could not be further from gender neutral. Wake up Britain (Telegraph)

World mourns 271 dead on Trans Day of Remembrance (Pink News)
Also see: https://tdor.info/

No more schmoozing with the enemy on TV shows (Stewart Lee at The Guardian)

From the article: “These aren’t the times for self-loathing liberals to seek to understand the leaders of the global far right, or their supporters. That ship sailed when Trump put Breitbart into the White House. We should be in crisis-management mode. It’s time to reassert a fundamental principle, namely that there’s no excuse for bigotry, whichever alt-right buzzword you get Boris or Steve Bannon to rebrand it with.”

U.S. Astronaut Becomes the Oldest Woman in Space (NBC News)

The image is used under a creative commons license with thanks to gaelex on Flickr. It shows four circular objects (possibly badges) side by side against a yellow background, each featuring a different feminist slogan: “Grrrl!”, “Revolution Grrrl Style Now”, “If I had a hammer … I’d smash the patriarchy” and “Riots not Diets”.

Woman looking worried

If you’re anything like me, right now you’re still reeling from the US election result. Politics aside, it is an emotional blow, to say the least, that a man who has bragged about being able to grab women “by the pussy”, amongst other sexist things, has just been elected the president of a global superpower. A democratic, economic powerhouse that is a key engine of global media and popular culture. How did this happen?

Well, 53% of votes from white women certainly helped.

At face value, this feels like a betrayal. Sisters, why did you vote for a man that has expressed what is at best disdain and at worst genuine hatred towards you? Where is your feminist rage?

The silver lining of all of this — and I promise, there is one — is that this result can teach us a lot about how we understand our sisters’ experiences, and offer guidance on how our rage can be used as a uniting force rather a divisive one.

Being white seems to have everything to do with this majority vote. Women of colour voted overwhelmingly for Clinton, with 94% of the black vote and 68% of the Latino vote. Critics and commentators have attributed the result to the tunnel vision that can result from racial privilege; racism is likely to be seen as not as big a deal to those who have never experienced it or have a limited understanding of it.

Racial privilege creates a view of the world that defaults to blinkered. Unless we know the blinkers are there, we won’t try to remove them.

It is wrong to explain the votes of this 53% of white women as pure expressions of racism, sexism or xenophobia. Yes, these were as much, if not more, a part of the campaign trail as the candidates’ policies. Visible and palpable, they invariably played a part in any woman’s decision-making process. Every woman will feel differently.

She will feel emotional about issues she experiences and the changes she imagines. Here is where the filter of racial privilege comes in and directs her thoughts a particular way.

The Guardian names Trump’s experience as a businessman as a strong drawcard for white female voters. Some felt that despite his sexist transgressions, he would still be able to put forward changes they wanted to see. These thoughts have sprung from a range of experiences that include, but cannot be limited to, racial privilege. There is work to be done in dissolving this filter.

These women are not immune to experiences of sexist discrimination. In 2015 the average gender pay gap for full-time workers in the US was 20%. The United States is the only other country besides Papua New Guinea that doesn’t guarantee paid maternity leave, according to the UN agency the International Labour Organization. 57% of women who are of reproductive age are living in a US state that is “either hostile or very hostile” to abortion rights.

Every iota of this discrimination is felt through the prism of these women’s identities: a woman, a woman of colour, a mother, a Muslim woman, a poor woman. Their experiences of sexism are just as poignant and intersectional as those felt here in the UK, only with different complexities.

It is perfectly likely that their votes were angry votes. They too were likely feeling rage at their situations, and willing to do what they felt would work best in making change. This rage, at this time, manifested into the idea that Trump might be able to do something about it.

Their rage should have been shared and actioned strategically in wider groups. It should have been better shared, understood, and channeled into collective action. If it had, maybe there would be been progressive, open discussion about better ways to use one’s vote.

Feminist rage sits within the beating heart of the women’s movement and is essential in shifting the balance of power. But the ways we need to fight have changed. Modern discrimination is subtle and nuanced. As well as pushes for particular legislation, women are largely fighting for social and cultural equity. Doing so requires a shift in collective consciousness, which is much more complicated to pull off than a good old-fashioned protest. There are times, however, when protesting is the way to go.

Women need a space for their anger but this election proves that aggression isn’t good enough. This election has given women so, so much to be angry about. But now more than ever it has warned us of the need for rage that is inclusive, smart and strategic.

When left unbridled, privilege can form a devastating eclipse over our perception, but privilege in itself doesn’t need to be something to be ashamed of if you take responsibility for it and use it as an organising force.

Image by Joe Gardner, from Unsplash. Used with Creative Commons Zero licence.

Image is of a blond, white woman who is facing the camera, but looking away as if lost in thought. She looks unsettled, and perhaps a bit worried.

A lesson in victim blaming

by Guest Blogger // 15 November 2016, 8:00 am

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lesson-in-victim-blaming-landscapeThis is a guest post by Laura Cooke, a journalist living in the South of England.

It is a sad, but unavoidable, fact of life – victim blaming is ingrained in our society. Unfortunately we are accustomed to seeing examples of it in our courts, our press, even our police forces – albeit not always intentional.

But to find an example in a primary school shows what a serious and deep-rooted problem it is. Recently on Mumsnet, a mother sought advice from other parents following an incident at her daughter’s school. A member of staff at the unnamed school had told the eight year old that she was not allowed on the bars unless she wore shorts under her skirt.

The reason? “The boys will see her knickers”.

Just drink that statement in for a moment – an innocent young girl is being told to cover up because otherwise she will potentially face bullying and teasing from her male peers. Victim blaming has become such an intrinsic part of our society that a child is being given the message by a trusted adult, someone who is supposedly responsible for her welfare, that what she is wearing, or not wearing, will bring about her own misfortune. It is reminiscent of the story in Charlotte Davies’ blog last month of the nine-year-old girl who wears cycling shorts to school under her tights so that boys can’t see her underwear when they try to take photos up her skirt.

Understandably, this whole episode has upset the girl and no doubt left mum with some difficult questions to answer. And what sort of message are the boys at this school getting? If this girl doesn’t heed the warning and continue to use the bars without shorts, does this mean she is fair game to be teased? Will the boys who would apparently tease her be dealt with appropriately, or will complaints just be met with a resigned shrug? Boys will be boys, after all, and she was told this would happen.

Now fast forward ten years, replace the words ‘boys’ with ‘men’, ‘girl’ with ‘woman’ and ‘tease’ with ‘harass’, ‘hassle’, ‘assault’…you get the idea.

Of course the fault doesn’t lie solely with the member of staff who spoke to the girl. He or she is part of a culture which blames victims for the coercive and abusive behaviour of others; we are surrounded by examples of this every day. No wonder this is reflected in schools, a microcosm of our society, and in other institutions that are supposed to protect us.

Last year one police force was forced to withdraw a rape prevention poster encouraging women to stick together during a night out. And the less said about Bristol Police’s ‘R U Asking 4 It?’ leaflets, given out during a talk to teenagers about consent, the better.

Of course this was done with the best of intentions, with the aim of protecting women from sexual assault. But this just demonstrates the problematic mindset of prevention rather than cure – that women should be taught how to protect themselves, by covering up or not walking alone at night, rather than turning the focus to men and teaching them about acceptable behaviour.

Some argue that the police are facing an uphill struggle, as ‘de-programming’ adults of long-held beliefs or views is not necessarily an easy task. Which is why educating children about consent and respect is so important. And that education should begin in the classroom.

Sadly, a quick scan of Mumsnet shows that being told to wear shorts for cartwheeling is not something new, suggesting that schoolgirls across the land are being taught that they are responsible for the unacceptable actions of others. If our education system is giving out messages like this, then we will remain stuck in this vicious cycle of victim blaming, where society looks at a woman’s clothing choice and says “well, we did warn you”.

Photo courtesy of Eamonn Byrne Landscape Architecture

Photo of a primary school playground with girls and boys in school uniform playing together

Weekly round-up and open thread

by Lusana Taylor // 14 November 2016, 9:06 pm

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Well … a lot has happened this week and, as can be expected, the majority of the links chosen for this round-up are US-election based. If you feel we’ve missed any important pieces on the subject, please let us know in the comments below.

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.

Women swear as much as men: so here’s to equal-opportunity cursing (The Guardian)

In 2016, ‘Election’ Is Spelled M-I-S-O-G-Y-N-Y (Huffington Post)

Why do successful women like Hillary Clinton get under so many people’s skin? (The Guardian)

On “Woke” White People Advertising their Shock that Racism just won a Presidency (Medium)

Dear Fellow White Women: We F**ked This Up (Huffington Post)

Mariah Carey wants $50m from her ex – and it only makes me love her more (The Guardian)

Hands off our haberdashery, John Lewis. Waxing is no replacement (The Guardian)

I’m a Coastal Elite From the Midwest: The Real Bubble is Rural America (Roll Call)

If You’re A Minority In America, The Terror Of This Moment Is Overwhelming (Huffington Post)

When Your Abuser Is Elected President (The Establishment)

WTF White feminism? Why did so many White women vote for Trump? (Daily Progressive)

Lots Of Women Plan To Get IUDs Before Trump Makes It So They Can’t (Huffington Post)

My Mother’s Jewish Family Fled Tsarist Russia, And She’s Terrified Of Trump (The Establishment)

The Silver-Lining Myth:Stop kidding yourself. Music isn’t going to get better under Trump (MTV)

From the article: “When people suggest that punk, or rock, or music itself, will finally ‘start reacting’, what is really being said is that things will be so bad that straight white people will start noticing and doing something because the floodwaters have reached their door. People have been singing their struggle since the dawn of recorded music in America; we just chose not to listen, or got tangled up in some bullshit hand-wringing over whose music was ‘real’, whose experiences we were willing to take in.”

Introducing Post Trump Europe (This Political Woman/Flavia Dzodan at Medium)

As a woman of colour I foresaw Trump was going to win (The Pool)

White tribalism was not made by Trump. It already existed in America as it does in Britain (Media Diversified)

Coeducation At University Was – And Is – No Triumph Of Feminism (The Establishment)

On the election of Donald J Trump (New Statesman)

The image is used under a creative commons license with thanks to G. van der Stelt on Flickr. It is a close-up photograph of a person’s face. The person has dark hair and eyes. They have their lips slightly pursed and their eyes fixed on something outside of the frame of the photograph. A tear runs down their face, creating a pale ‘track’ on their cheek.

What’s gay got to do with it?

by Jennifer Evans // 12 November 2016, 11:05 am

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Jennifer Evans is our guest blogger for November. You can follow her on Twitter @todaysfeminist

I identify as a feminist is because I believe there should be equality between people regardless of sex or gender. Indeed, I think there should be equality between everyone. My experiences as a lesbian directly influence this as I navigate my way through a world peppered with individuals who make otherwise easy aspects of life very hard for me.

Take for example the hazards I encounter when meeting new people. The introductions that people in mixed gender relationships encounter are very different to those I have to put up with. I started a new job last month. “Do you have a boyfriend, Jenny?” one new colleague asked. “No, I have a wife,” I replied.

“Oh… sorry!” was their flustered response. “Well, have you ever been with a man…like, how do you know?” My response was assertive – shutting the conversation down with a razor sharp quip or two that meant that this particular individual has not asked any further about my current or previous relationships.

Rarely would a heterosexual woman be questioned about her sexual preferences within a first meeting with a stranger. This is not the first time it has happened to me. I have a ball of anxiety in the pit of my stomach when meeting new people. Although it has diminished tremendously over the years, it’s still there and flares up from time to time dependant on who I find myself in conversation with. It’s an annoyance. It is an irritation that I try hard to supress.

I am far more confident within my own identity these days and therefore it’s easier to out myself confidently within these first meetings with new people and happily, it makes little waves with the vast majority. Conversation continues and people, whether they are or not, seem mostly unaffected. But then there are always those few that ignite that ball of stress and consequent anger in my gut with their assumption that I will answer their ill-informed, perverse or blatantly rude questions.

My second encounter with ignorance was a mere few days later with a different new associate. It was a male colleague this time and he was obviously too interested in how my wife and I met. I reluctantly but politely answered the questions that were put to me. I had a feeling the conversation was declining when he enquired, “Who wooed who?”

“So who had the hen do?” was the next question. “Who had the hen do and who had the stag do?”

To this I reminded him that clearly he was asking a silly question as my wife and I are both women. “One of you must be manlier,” was the response. One surefire way to see my angry side is to compare either me or my wife to a man. For this only a clear, direct reply was needed: a firm reminder that he actually can’t talk to me like that and the cocksure arrogance of an entitled middle-aged man shrunk into a snivel and a half-hearted apology. I feel sure that he would not have asked a new heterosexual colleague about her hen do. Neither would he have asked a heterosexual colleague how she got together with her partner. He would not have cared. What right do people have to treat me differently upon learning that the love of my life is a woman?

My feminist beliefs run deep, throughout all of my passions, throughout my core. It manifests itself in my support of the Black Lives Matter movement, my passion for ending violence against women and children and the importance I place upon rights for LGBTQ people. Where there is difference there is a need to be passionate. I know this because my differences create difficulty for me. Tensions, irritations, upset, fear. What feminism is about is equality between people. Feminists do not try to outdo men. Feminists do not hate men. Feminist women want to stand equally with fellow men who respect and encourage equality for all. What I also want, and categorically deserve, is to be treated with the respect and care that is offered so naturally to people in mixed gender relationships. I want not to be asked upon meeting new people about my relationship history. I want not to be made to feel like a subject of men’s perversion. I want to be me and not to have to explain myself. What I want and what feminism offers go hand in hand: equality for all.

The photo is by hansbenn and is in the public domain. It shows a young stag looking at the camera (somewhat suspiciously, in my opinion).

Models on the catwalk
This is a guest post by Sarah Jung, a British mum of two with an MA in Contemporary Cinema Cultures from King’s College London. She tweets about politics, women’s issues, veganism and parenting at @glitteryallsort

Let me confess: I love fashion magazines. I love beautiful clothes, pretentious clothes and ridiculous clothes. However, I have no time for the fixation that fashion magazines have with very thin models. The discussion has taken place many times and even models have spoken up about the damaging ways the fashion industry places expectations on the female body. Unrealistic body images in the media can perpetuate body dysmorphic disorder, eating disorders and low self-esteem. Yet, for some reason, the fixation with thinness continues.

So when it was announced that The Real Issue, British Vogue’s November issue would not feature any professional models in its fashion shoots my interest was piqued. Alexandra Shulman, who has been at the helm since the early 90s has been vocal about this decision; she expresses her desire that fashion be accessible to everyone and the difficulty in finding designer samples that could fit the frame of a someone who isn’t a model.

This is not entirely surprising. In 2009 Shulman wrote to major fashion houses complaining that the too-small sample sizes were forcing editorials to hire models with “jutting bones” and “no breasts or hips.”

If designer samples won’t fit the ‘larger’ models then what are the chances they will fit you and I? Slim to none, frankly. So at face value this idea of a model-free Vogue seems brilliant; almost radical. I found myself convinced it was a positive step towards promoting the true diversity of women’s bodies. Real bodies. But I realised I was making an assumption of how Vogue would define real. I was assuming that real meant a mix of short women, plus size women and women of colour. Then I found myself wondering: does this mean that models somehow aren’t real?

Once I looked through the issue I realised it was not as transgressive as I had hoped. Emily Blunt looks radiant on the cover but admits it took over three hours to make her camera-ready. I can’t help but notice that Blunt (who for the record I think is awesome) seems to be a US 4 which would make her a UK 8. While that isn’t teeny tiny it’s a far cry from the average size of a British woman which is supposedly a size 14. Blunt may not be a professional model but she has been the face of YSL’s Opium and a cover girl for more than a dozen magazines including Harper’s Bazaar and Esquire. In short, Blunt gracing the cover of The Real Issue doesn’t quite set the tone of a magazine celebrating ‘just like you and me’ women.

Inside isn’t much different. The magazine is littered with adverts for designer products and these images are full of models. Magazines rely on these ads to survive so you literally have to flick through pages and pages before you reach a real editorial section. While none of the fashion from the designer shoots may have been worn by models, the designers involved nominated the women who would wear their clothes. This isn’t quite the same as using women who happen to walk past the office at lunch.

They chose women who seemed creative, intelligent and unique, who were all rather striking with slender frames, which is perhaps not surprising given the problem with designer samples. This seems hollow and suggests Vogue are just trying to pay lip service to the idea of being truly progressive. As plus-size blogger Bethany Rutter notes, “Any kind of special edition, or short-term tick box exercise ends up maybe being worse.” It feels like a token project that lets fashion magazines say “We did it, now leave us alone”. The status quo remains unchallenged.

So was it disingenuous for Vogue to proclaim the issue a model-free zone, even if only because of the heavy presence of sponsored adverts? The truth is that this was always going to be a mammoth task for Shulman’s team. Fashion magazines are bound by the grip of designer houses and it can be almost impossible to break free.

Shulman took a risk for which she should be commended. Another editor walked this path before and it didn’t end well. Lest we forget that Liz Jones was effectively sacked from Marie Claire because she was unwilling to keep using bulimic models in the magazine and spoke up about it, much to the chagrin of the industry. Shulman is one of few voices who is speaking up against the nature of fashion sizing and she should be applauded for staying true to her principles. The problem is that until the majority of editors and designers start to trumpet her cause it will be difficult for her to break ground.

Image by Kris Atomic, from Unsplash. Used under Creative Commons Zero licence.

Image is of a line of models walking away from the camera down a catwalk, all dressed in a variety of similar dark blue and black dresses. The models furthest away from the camera are wearing bright orange.

Emma Rice, the new Artistic Director of the Globe Theatre. She takes up her new position on April 23rd 2015 straight after her predesessor Dominic Dromgoole steps down. NO EMBARGOOne of the main pieces of theatrical news over the last month has been Emma Rice stepping down as Artistic Director of Shakespeare’s Globe. There’s clearly a lot going on here, and I think we almost certainly don’t know the whole story, but it’s hard not to think there’s been a touch of misogyny somewhere down the line. I didn’t love Rice’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream (the video at the link is unsubtitled) when I saw it, but I didn’t hate it either, and it was great to see a fairly diverse cast on stage; it felt like the Globe had come a long way from the huge number of all-male, all-white productions it routinely produced when it was first built. There’s a couple of good articles about the gendered criticism that’s been made of Rice here and here, both of them written before the announcement from the Globe’s Board.

Moving on to some of the performances and events that might be of interest to feminists in November and beyond:

Hackney Showroom have a couple of interesting events coming up. Tonight they have a USA Election Night Comedy Special, Make America Slaaay hosted by US comedian Megan Ford with special guests Bisha K Ali, Desiree Burch, Sophie Duker, Ahir Shah & Joe Sutherland. Tomorrow, Wednesday 9 November, they have a work-in-progress performance exploring size, power, gender and poverty, Fat from Gaggle (who we most recently reviewed in 2015).

Written by poet and playwright Sabrina Mahfouz and inspired by a survey of over 1000 teenage girls, Layla’s Room explores the disturbing prevalence of sexual harassment in our schools. Aimed at teenagers aged 14+ and currently touring schools and venues throughout the UK until later this month, Layla’s Room hopes to capture the authentic voice of what it’s like to navigate the boundaries of friendship, fear and feminism. It has public performances tonight at The Dukes in Lancaster, tomorrow 9 November in Leicester at Upstairs at the Western and in London at Stratford Circus on 22 and 23 November.

On the 11 and 12 November at the Blue Elephant Theatre in London Gracefool Collective will be performing This really is too much. This dance theatre work reveals the downright absurd realities of what it means to be a 3-dimensional, high definition, water-drinking, salad-eating, moisturising woman in modern society. The show will also be performed at Yorkshire Dance, Leeds on 26 May 2017.

janet-suzman-in-solomon-and-marion-pic-2-by-ruphin-coudyzerHampstead Theatre will be hosting the second year of the Women Centre Stage Festival, run by Sphinx Theatre, from 14 to 20 November. The festival begins with four workshops exploring how women can claim more space within the arts before culminating in a day of performances and debates on 20 November. Four leading playwrights, Rebecca Lenkiewicz, Howard Brenton, Charlene James and Vinay Patel, are each being given 24 hours to write a play responding to that day’s news stories about women. The programme also includes new work by established and emerging playwrights.

On 22 November at the Salford Museum and Art Gallery there will be Cells – A Body Of Work from Proud and Loud Arts, a live art installation created by 10 artists with disabilities from across Salford and Manchester to inspire change and challenge everything normal. The installation has been created in response to a Manchester Evening News report in October 2015 which described a 140% rise in reported hate crime incidents against people with disabilities. Admission is free.

louise-orwin-by-field-and-mcglynn_02-extra-colour_sml1At the Pleasance Theatre in London, Louise Orwin will be presenting A Girl & A Gun on 24 and 25 November. Back in 2015 Mary Paterson for The F-Word reviewed the show, describing it as “a two-person show – with highly stereotyped roles named simply Him and Her – presented in a cinematic experience on stage. Multiple cameras feed three screens, which show different angles of the live event. These projections perform the alchemy of the lens, heightening the difference between the sweaty, fulsome bodies onstage and their cropped, glistening images on screen.”

Theatre-maker and poet Hannah Silva will be performing her one-woman show Schlock! at the Rosemary Branch Theatre in London until 26 November. In search of alternative models of sexuality, Schlock! brings to life the final years of radical feminist writer Kathy Acker, ‘the high priestess of punk’, in an enthralling and atmospheric whirl of words.

And finally Eliza Power’s modern reworking of Tereus, Procne and Philomena from Ovid’s Metamorphoses, Feathers is on at the Hen & Chickens Theatre until 27 November and has an all-female creative team. Sex, lies and black comedy permeate Feathers, blending mythological symbolism and contemporary dialogue to create a dark tale of two sisters bound together by a past neither can escape.

That’s all from me for this month. There may not be a blog post for December depending on how much is going on, so if not I’ll be writing another round up in early 2017, see you then!

Image 1 is a photograph of Emma Rice when she was the new Artistic Director of the Globe Theatre. It is courtesy of Shakespeare’s Globe and was taken by Sarah Lee. Rice is standing in a gallery of the wooden Globe theatre and is looking straight at the camera.

Image 2 is a photograph of Janet Suzman in Solomon and Marion by Ruphin Coudyzer. A woman wearing a blue dressing gown and with a grey blanket wrapped around her shoulders sits at a table. A cigarette droops from her lips as she looks out and to the right. On the table in front of her are candles and a glass of water. Behind her we can see a fridge and kitchen shelves holding tins of beans, plates and a bottle of wine.

Image 3 is of Louise Orwin in A Girl & A Gun by Field and McGlynn. Orwin sits on some packing crates holding a pink plastic imitation machine gun. She wears a bright blue dress and a red beret. She is against a bright yellow background.

Weekly round-up and open thread

by Lusana Taylor // 7 November 2016, 4:10 pm

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16611725176_5149dfb6ea_zWelcome to another weekly round-up, where we share (what we see as) the most interesting and important articles from the previous seven days. We’d love to hear your thoughts on any of the issues covered in our chosen links, which include everything from cleavage to Michael Moore!

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 problem with that equity vs. equality graphic you’re using (Cultural Organizing)

What Michael Moore’s Tweet Gets Wrong About Women And Feminism (The Establishment)

Tippi Hedren: Alfred Hitchcock sexually assaulted me (The Guardian)

Is My Job Forcing Me To Tell A Happy Story About Rape? (The Establishment)

Muslim women ‘used as political footballs in sharia court debate’ (The Guardian)

Bono has been named Glamour’s woman of the year, for his work campaigning for gender equality (BBC)

Asking for ‘Angela’ at the bar is a code word to get women out of unsafe situations (Refinery 29)

America’s Conversation On Sexual Assault Is A Failure If It Ignores Native Women (The Establishment)

Vogue declared that cleavage is “over” (The Independent)

From the article: “No, having a cleavage doesn’t mean you’re ‘showing off’ or making a comment about ‘sexual empowerment’, any more than a woman wearing shorts in hot weather means she’s ‘flaunting her long pins/pert bum/sexy new beach-ready body’, no matter what the sidebar of shame or any company advertising protein shakes might tell you.”

Thousands of ‘Fancy Women on Bikes’ defy intimidation to claim the streets of Turkey (Women in the World /NY Times)

Royal Variety Show books more men in drag than actual female comedians (Chortle)

Cover story: Adele (Vanity Fair)

From the article: “I ask if Simon Konecki (her boyfriend of five years and the father of their four-year-old son, Angelo) minded her unshaven legs. ‘He has no choice,’ she says. ‘I’ll have no man telling me to shave my fuckin’ legs. Shave yours.'”

People of colour are painfully absent from our museums. Let’s change that (Lola Okolosie at The Guardian)

International Trans Fund (Astraea: Lesbian Foundation for Justice)

From the article: Calling trans activists! The International Trans Fund (ITF) is excited to announce three opportunities to get involved in the ITF. We are recruiting two full-time staff positions, a director and a program officer. We are also seeking members to join our Steering Committee and Grantmaking Panel. Deadline 9 December!

…The working mission of the Fund is to create sustainable resources for strong, trans – led movements and collective action, and to address – and ideally eliminate – funding gaps impacting on trans groups across the globe.”

Some Important Lessons for the Tabloid Journalists Treating Trans People as Punching Bags (Paris Lees at Vice)

Special Snowflake: The Transphobic Slur (Living Queer)

Gina Miller subjected to online abuse after Brexit legal challenge victory (The Independent)

Why the male ‘pill’ is still so hard to swallow (The Conversation)

The image is used under a creative commons license with thanks to greenzowie on Flickr. It shows the Northern Lights, appearing as shafts of rainbow light across a deep blue, starry sky. Dark clouds hang low over the landscape, which appears mountainous. It is also possible to make out a road where cars are driving with headlights on.

mean-girls-smallerThe author of this guest post has elected to remain anonymous to avoid the identification of her team and company. She works in media and advertising, and her interests include reading, box-sets, baking and board games.

I work in a department made up entirely of women. The rest of the company is a gender mix, so we are an anomaly; thirteen women headed up by a female director.

I told a friend in finance about my single-sex environment. She was shocked. “I could never work in a female team,” she said. I asked her why not. “Too bitchy. And women are too emotional.”

This surprised and angered me. I was sure my successful friend did not spend her day spreading rumours or gently weeping at her desk. So why would she expect wildly different behaviour from others of her sex?

There are a lot of negative preconceptions about women working together, and some of our new joiners admitted they were hesitant when discovering there were no men in the department. All-male teams raise no eyebrows, but groups of female professionals are often expected to be catty and two-faced. This is hard to disprove. As one of my colleagues told me, “When I say ‘my team aren’t bitchy’, my friends just say ‘well, not to your face…’”.

Female stereotypes can be used in conflicting ways to prove every argument – women love teamwork but they’re bitchy, they’re in tune with others’ emotions but they cry all the time, they’re caring but also manipulative.

We’ve come quite far in avoiding and, when necessary, calling out these assumptions for individuals, so why do they exist for female groups?

Many of those quick to make pronouncements on teams of women referred to school friendships. Between childhood experiences and popular culture we’ve been given a wealth of clichés in this area to draw from – mean girls, queen bees, catfights, stares in PE lessons.

People probably revert to this imagery because, historically, female teams have been a rarity. Even now we mainly see female-dominated environments occurring at the bottom of business structures, rather than at the top. While 57% of entry-level workers in my industry are women, this drops to just 25% at the most senior levels.

Other traditional female environments include the ‘Five Cs’ (caring, cashiering, cleaning, catering, clerical) and often the skills required for these are valued less. Do we devalue them because they’re considered ‘feminine’, or have women been encouraged to take lower-status ‘suitable’ positions?

Female sports teams are lauded maybe once every four years at the Olympics. In between we see very little promotion of these role models – barely any money or broadcasting space is spent on them. In over 50 years of the BBC Sports Personality Team of the Year Award only three teams have been all-female.

If we only have stereotypes about schools, ‘C’ jobs and entry positions to guide our assumptions then it’s no wonder views can be negative. They link women to youth, inexperience, undervalued abilities and unprofessionalism.

I love working with my team, and there is no cattiness, just support. When I gave a talk in front of 200 people my colleagues were in the front row, and a manager nominated so many of us for awards that she won one herself for citizenship.

I don’t believe that my gender has a monopoly on effective teamwork. But female departments can show positive traits without the connected ‘bitchiness’ that generalisations would have us expect. Also, without men there’s no pressure to label behaviours as ‘masculine’ and ‘feminine’. People can be assertive or unassertive without either being deemed a gender issue. Women can give orders without being ‘bossy’, or be quiet without being told to ‘lean in’.

My team is a spectrum of personalities, and we debate and sometimes disagree just like any other group of people working together in close quarters. Some of us wear makeup, some don’t; some run marathons, others prefer shopping. We are a spread of drivers, amiables, analyticals and expressives. Being all female doesn’t mean that we’re not a mix.

I often forget we’re all women. It’s only the gasps from others that remind me of how unusual our situation is. We’re often asked “what have you done with the guys?”. No, we haven’t consumed them with our vaginae dentatae or removed their heads post client discourse, it’s just that our specific discipline receives more female applicants.

But the shock of strangers does raise the issue of completing our diversity. Every environment benefits from a broad range of perspectives, and ours is lacking in one key area. Does my team prove how easy it is to settle into and perpetuate gender exclusion? We need to be careful we’re evening out the scales, and not weighting them the wrong way.

Ultimately I worry that myths about teams of women could put off applicants or hinder women’s progression to senior roles. Hopefully they can be overcome through visible positive examples, challenge and discussion. Personally, I’m happy with the wonderful women I work with. A team is good when its people are good, regardless of gender.

Image courtesy of Ilona Gaynor on Flickr

Photo is a still from the film Mean Girls and depicts three teenage girls sitting in a school cafeteria looking sullen

Mrs & Mrs

by Jennifer Evans // 5 November 2016, 8:09 am

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Jennifer Evans is our guest blogger for November. You can follow her on Twitter @todaysfeminist.

My wife takes the bins out. She plays rugby, drinks Guinness and hasn’t worn heels since 1998. It’s fair to say she does not fit the feminine stereotype of a woman, or, for that matter, a wife. On the other hand, while I have been known to venture out of the house without my face done and in a joggers / trainers combo, this is predominantly for the purposes of dog walking; I love nothing more than a visit to my beautician or a new shade of nail varnish.

This is us. Luckily, we are OK with that. To set a good example to the next generation it’s important for adults who fall outside of the white, cis, hetero umbrella to be happy with who they are. Of course this isn’t always easy, but exuding confidence and comfort helps others to realize that they, too, are OK. I have to consider this when supporting the young people I work with. If I am embarrassed, awkward or fearful of my identity then what does this say to them if they are questioning theirs?

In fact, my wife is also ever so partial to a pedicure and a glass of ice cold prosecco – we don’t have a simple divide of gendered activities. But a woman / wife is free to be whatever she chooses, in theory. I am an advocate for this as I am for women’s rights.

But as my wife and I have had our share of homophobic rubbish thrown our way over the years, I think the perception vs reality of our union is one to be explored. So, in our newly equal, feminist, free thinking partnership, how do we discover our very own marital bliss?

We only viewed one wedding venue. On our second visit our genuinely attentive host carefully shared his knowledge of LGBT nuptial history, legalities and all, with us, his first ever same-sex couple to go the whole hog. He was able to guide us through the never-ending list of choices, offering advice that spanned sexuality, merely giving his opinion of the most stress free experiences – all of which were gratefully received and mostly acted upon. We had a lovely time. There are moments, though, that I regret some of the choices we made.

Although we did not incorporate a religious element into our celebrations, we did take on board some of the traditional elements of a heterosexual marriage. The cake cutting, walking down the aisle, top table and so on. Why we adopted these traditions I am not wholly sure. Swept up in the routine of it all and a little overwhelmed with the choices we had to make, it could be argued that we simply rolled over and indulged that hetero mimicry. But then on the other hand, why the hell shouldn’t we? I suppose the point of argument is formed by an individual’s understanding of the point of marriage. If your marital belief system is hinged upon the religious blessings bestowed upon a man and a woman then your acceptance and understanding of my marriage may be compromised. If, like me, your understanding of marriage is more about a declaration of love between two people, creating an emotional, financial and practical security and starting a journey together regardless of sex or gender, then our set-up won’t be so hard for you to grasp.

Some of you may be rolling your eyes in frustration with my musings. I know we are a more progressive society than we once were. For the heterosexual couples who enter into domestic bliss equally, the stay-at-home dads and the pro-feminist man, I know you are out there and I celebrate and welcome your choices. Women and men who are in couples together who do not identify with chauvinistic gender stereotypes are ploughing forward setting sterling examples to the next generation of young people trying to work out their roles within relationships, regardless of their sexuality or gender.

I suppose this relates to my original point, to live honestly and genuinely, to set a truly positive example to our children and the young people in our communities, all we can be is what we are. Being happy in our own skin, in our own life choices and our own everyday reality is powerful and important. If the next generation of brides and grooms are to have successful, happy marriages, surely being confident about their own identities will go a long way towards enabling this. I think so. With that final thought I must dash – the wife’s due home shortly and her pipe and slippers need arranging.

The photo was taken by the author. It shows her wedding cake, which has white icing and is decorated with pink ribbon, lace and wool. On top there is a decoration that reads “Here come the brides”.

Sorry pranksters, women’s bodies aren’t playthings

by Guest Blogger // 3 November 2016, 1:00 pm

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Youtube pranksters
This is a guest post by Sarah Jung, a British mum of two with an MA in Contemporary Cinema Cultures from King’s College London. She tweets about politics, women’s issues, veganism and parenting at @glitteryallsort

Infamous celebrity “prankster” Vitalii Sediuk has received much media attention for his attempts to manhandle celebrities. Perhaps most famously, he attempted to kiss Kim Kardashian’s rear as she exited a vehicle at this year’s Paris Fashion Week. He literally picked up model Gigi Hadid during Milan Fashion Week and he attempted to crawl under America Ferrera’s gown during the 2014 Cannes Film Festival.

At best Sediuk has attempted to invade the personal space of famous women but at worst his actions could be seen to border on assault, something he strenuously denies.

This phenomenon, if it can be called that, is not exclusive to America and glitzy film premieres nor is Sediuk alone in his proclivities. In the UK we are increasingly seeing self-styled pranksters document and share their actions, only without celebrities or red carpets. Instead, these young men are using hidden cameras in their homes and on the streets to record the reactions of their partners or other unsuspecting women.

Brad Holmes is one such man who has found YouTube fame through pranking. Holmes pranks his girlfriend Jen and records her distress on camera. Earlier this year Holmes rubbed a chilli on Jen’s tampon and waited for the inevitable chaos to ensue. Holmes may have deleted his video and made a sheepish apology but it is hard not to see his actions as anything other than a violation of Jen’s body, a woman he loves and has a physical relationship with.

His fellow YouTuber Julius Dein filmed himself pushing his girlfriend Amber into a river and also tipped a bowl of raw chicken hearts over her on Valentine’s Day (who says romance is dead?).

The most notorious example, however, is Sam Pepper who caused controversy with a video in which he appeared to be pinching women’s bottoms without their consent while pretending to ask for directions. After a huge outcry Pepper also deleted his videos and later claimed his online persona was fake, and that all his videos had been staged for the sole purposes of making money and increasing views. Irrespective of whether this is true or an attempt to deflect blame, this and all the examples mentioned above lead us to question why these young men view women’s bodies as theirs to toy with.

Historically the media has enforced the notion that women’s bodies are for public consumption; women’s bodies are discussed and dissected every day in the tabloids and used to sell anything from cars to cigarettes. It is to be expected that social media would follow suit in embracing this. Feminist author Caitlin Moran said that “A woman’s body is public property to a certain extent” at a 2015 Stylist Live event. While she was referring to the wider set of pressures women feel in ensuring their bodies fit a certain ideal, her words resonate.

The pranksters are using their partners’ bodies to orchestrate a performance. They remove their partner’s agency by carrying out their actions without their partner’s consent. The lack of consent is key here: when a man touches any woman without her permission he does so because he feels entitled to. Nico Lang calls this an act of toxic masculinity. In all of these situations, the word prank is deeply misleading. It suggests mirth and an element of harmlessness in its nature as if this is nothing more than youthful high jinks. This is where things can become dangerous.

In Kat Banyard’s book The Equality Illusion, she notes that one of the reasons rape myths are so prevalent is because “they are broadcast to literally millions through newspapers, TV and the internet.” Repeated viewing or hearing of a trope or myth somehow normalises these preconceptions and they permeate our culture, along with the way in which we discuss them. A similar process takes place over social media.

Between them, these men have millions of followers and it stands to reason that by watching these videos many of those people, namely the younger men, may start to think that not only is this behaviour funny but that it is acceptable and normal. This behaviour, therefore, has the potential to become part of the everyday sexism and microaggressions that many women face.

The message is that women’s bodies don’t belong to them, female agency is limited or non-existent and consent doesn’t matter. We shouldn’t accept this and we must not. There is something wrong if young women feel that by simply existing they invite this conduct.

Women’s bodies are not objects to be used for other people’s entertainment especially when consent is not given.

Prank? Hardly.

Image by Seth Doyle, from Unsplash. Used under a Creative Commons Zero licence.

Image is of a man pointing a video camera directly at the viewer. His face is mostly obscured from view. He wears a blue long sleeve shirt and appears to be standing in front of a white wall inside a house.

Sizing up

by Zoe Russell // 2 November 2016, 7:01 am

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I am a size 16, which makes me basically average for a woman in the UK. I really like my body, but I’ve still been in low level denial for a few years that I’m not magically going to drop down to a size 12 again.

I’ve been occupying a paradoxical space where I simultaneously prefer how I look now but also think I should be the size I was before. There’s a complete disconnect between the confidence that I feel most of the times I look at my body in the mirror or get naked with someone for the first time and the worry I feel when I think about actual numbers. That’s why I’ve clung onto buying size 12 clothes for way, way longer than they’ve been the best fit.

So I’m now at that stage where I’m getting real about the fact that trousers I can’t yank over my arse are not, realistically, worth hanging onto, and it might be preferable for me to actually try on some clothes that might possibly fit me. They could be comfortable. They could complement my figure. Imagine that.

But when I say I’m a size 16, let’s be clear. That means basically nothing. One of the reasons I’ve been able to be in denial for so long about changing sizes is that manufacturers are making it up as they go along.

After a particularly frustrating afternoon trying to shop, I decided to find out how different sizes could be. I was vaguely aware there would be variation, but I was surprised by how much there was.

I looked at the size guides for 15 high street and online womenswear shops to see what their measurements were for size 16. There wasn’t a very sophisticated selection process – I simply looked up the ones I am most aware of. A few didn’t make the list because they don’t use UK women’s dress sizes, didn’t have a size guide available online or their clothing ranges don’t go up to size 16 (again, the average size for women in the UK).

These are the results.

ShopBust (cm)Waist (cm)Hips (cm)
H&M9680104
Forever 2196.577.5100.5
Next9984110.5
Zara10282110
Topshop10284.2106.5
Dorothy Perkins10284110.5
Miss Selfridge10284106.5
Marks & Spencer102.586110
ASOS10385108.5
River Island10384110
Peacocks10386111
Warehouse10384109
Evans10487111
Fat Face10485111
New Look10586111

Look at bust size. There is a 9cm difference between H&M and New Look. Stop and think about what 9cm looks like and what your boobs would look like if you added that on. It’s not insignificant. There’s an even bigger difference between Forever 21 and Evans in terms of waist measurement. And there is more than 10cm between Forever 21 and the four shops that jointly give the largest measurement for hips: Peacocks, Evans, Fat Face and New Look.

If you comfortably wear a size 16 in New Look, you would need to wear a size 20 from H&M. That’s what this comes down to. You can walk from one shop to another and go up two dress sizes.

There are some advantages to this. The main one I can think of is that because different shops have different ratios of bust, waist and hips, there’s a bigger chance that there’ll be one that works for you. A more standardised measurement might erase this variation.

Despite this, I can’t help being frustrated. Women and girls are constantly showered with messages telling us that we should be smaller. Whether it’s big red circles around celebrities’ perfectly innocuous body parts in magazines, the brisk conveyor belt of fad diets, smiling models photoshopped away in billboard ads or even the drip drip drip of casual chats with colleagues, friends and family, it’s hard to escape the pressure.

Meaningless clothes sizes exacerbate this because it’s something you are confronted with when you might otherwise be fine. You might have no problem with the way you look but feeling an item of clothing in what you think is your normal size pinch or stretch forces you to think about it.

I already have movies, magazines and my mum telling me I’d look better if I was smaller. It’s not true. I wish that now I’ve realised that, I didn’t have to keep being reminded of my latent insecurities. It’s not as simple as recognising that I love my body and saying the size on the label doesn’t matter because the size on the label keeps changing.

The photo is by Marcy Leigh and is used under a creative commons licence. It shows a pink measuring tape coiled up on a vibrant blue background. It is unwinding slightly and the numbering of the first four inches can be seen.

Weekly round-up and open thread

by Lusana Taylor // 1 November 2016, 9:22 pm

Tags:

9149880913_b2902bab41_z

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

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.

If Dove expects women to cheer up, it hasn’t been paying attention (the Guardian)

From the article: “It would be easy to think of Dove as the male colleague who periodically tells you that you could go far if only you looked a little more enthusiastic in meetings, but really what woman doesn’t look better when she smiles?”

Women in Iceland protest country’s 14% pay gap by leaving work 14% early (NY Times)

Male contraceptive jab almost as effective as female pill, trial shows (The Guardian)

What it’s like to have an illegal abortion (Vice)

Gender pay gap could take 170 years to close, says World Economic Forum (The Guardian)

How ‘neurosexism’ is holding back gender equality – and science itself (The Conversation)

From the article: “But as easy as it is to blame the media or marketing industry, this kind of neuro-trash is often sustained by the neuroimaging community itself. Researchers often fail to take sufficient care to acknowledge the role of wider variables in designing a study or selecting participants. Terms like “fundamental” or “profound” are often found in the abstracts of sex difference studies, even when close inspection of the data tables reveals tiny effects or statistically insignificant results.”

New survey reveals that 41% of women expect to experience discrimination at work (The Guardian)

Feminist Comic Book Author Quits Twitter Amid Storm Of Abusive Tweets (Huffington Post)

Twenty Years or More From Stardom (Media Diversified)

From the article: “I want to play a game. Close your eyes, relax your mind and trust me. There’s a star onstage. A rebellious star, a captivating star, a rock star. When your eyes meet, you’re so breath taken by their presence that it feels like a weight has been dropped on you from above …”
[By Stephanie Phillips of Don’t Dance her Down Boys, who has also written for The F-Word]

In excruciating pain. Unable to sleep. Yet John is still ‘fit for work’ (The Guardian)

How to be an intersex ally (Diva)

How To Talk About #NoDAPL: A Native Perspective (Transformative Spaces)

The reality of being black in today’s Britain (The Guardian)

Facebook Lets Advertisers Exclude Users by Race (Pro Publica)

The rhetoric around obesity is toxic. So I created a new language for fat people (Charlotte Cooper at The Guardian)

Why I Decided To Become A “Death Doula” At 33 (Refinery29)
CN: Grief and illness
From the article: “In a culture where ageism is rampant, Numen has found that learning about the end of life has actually made her less apprehensive of getting older — and the inevitable end.”

Victims of rape by strangers to have identity protected under new bill (The Guardian)

The image is used under a creative commons license with thanks to Bobby McKay. It shows a red stalk running for the entire length of a photo, with droplets of moisture hanging off it. The droplets look almost like pearls.

November’s guest blogger

by Megan Stodel // , 7:32 am

Tags:

Charlotte Davies has been writing for us throughout October; thanks, Charlotte! You can follow her @cv_davies.

As November begins (how is it already November?) I’d like to welcome Jennifer Evans, our guest blogger this month. Here’s her introduction in her own words.

Jennifer is thirty years old and lives in the West Midlands with her wife, their two young labradors and a twenty-something tabby cat. Having moved around a little over the past few years Jennifer finally discovered her love for writing when living in rural Herefordshire in 2014. There she started writing a blog and for several online publications. Her writing focuses strongly, as do her ethics and values, on social inequalities and feminist issues alongside documenting her journey of recovery following her mother’s death in 2013.

A graduate of the University of Derby, Jennifer is an experienced youth and community worker, currently working with young people living in residential care settings. Her previous work includes working for many years in a young person’s drug and alcohol team and also working for an affiliated branch of Women’s Aid, supporting women and children in refuge environments. Contributing to ending violence against women is something that is particularly important to Jennifer.

A house move and a new job this summer have meant that Jennifer has had far less time for writing than usual. She is thrilled to have the opportunity to be a guest blogger for The F-Word and is itching to get started! Connect with Jennifer @todaysfeminist.

Thanks, Jennifer, we look forward to reading your posts this month!

The photo is by Hannah Morgan and is used under a Creative Commons Zero licence. It shows a traditional ferris wheel with mutlicoloured carriages. The sun is shining through the structure.

trans-kids-landscapeThis is a guest post by Mia Violet. She describes herself as a twenty-something trans woman and total geek. You can find her on Twitter at @OhMiaGod, where she talks about life, trans issues and comic books.

When I was a kid I desperately wanted to join the girls. Unfortunately, I was attending a painfully gender-conscious Catholic school. Boys and girls were seen as very separate from one another, expected to dress and behave differently. I was a boy, or assumed I was. I didn’t know the words to use or have enough sense of safety to share what I really thought. So I stayed silent, feeling like a misfit with a dirty secret, cringing every time I was called a “quiet boy” or a “sensitive boy” for not fitting in.

That was 20 years ago. Today we’re thankfully seeing a rising level of acceptance of gender nonconformity in children. Television adverts depicting a boy in a dress or a girl in a super hero outfit are praised as progressive and welcomed. Parents and children are beginning to understand what it means to be transgender, allowing the kids to more freely explore who they are and seek out help if they require it.

But the media frequently paints this in the most sensational and negative light they can manage – sometimes even crying out that this is child abuse. I’d wager that in the last year you’ve seen a provocative headline about how young children are seeking help for gender identity issues at scandalously tender ages.

Just last week there was a story about a child removed from their mother’s care due to the emotional harm apparently caused by the mother’s claim that the child identifies as a transgender girl. The judge in the case criticised social workers’ ready acceptance of this. He also spoke out against the fact that as the litigation progressed the child was referred to predominantly as ‘she’, despite being ‘only’ between four and six years old. Without the details available it is impossible to know all of the factors affecting this case, including the child’s own perspective, and of course child abuse takes many forms. However, it’s interesting to analyse the language around the case and the arguments brought forward.

Stories such as these often depict the parents as controlling or neglectful, urging the public to condemn the family. Meanwhile everyone from Jeremy Clarkson to the Pope have weighed in, saying that children are being unfairly exposed to transgender ‘doctrine’, corrupting and confusing their young minds.

All of this is done under the guise of protecting children, but it’s woven into a dangerous and incorrect assumption: that kids cannot be transgender, or have any sense of their own gender whatsoever.

Transgender children exist – I know because I was one. There are thousands in schools all over the UK right now, many of them too afraid to tell us. The ones brave and lucky enough to have come out and found acceptance are now being carelessly depicted as deluded cis children or even pawns of pushy parents.

The notion that all children are cisgender and heterosexual is nonsense. Queerness doesn’t arrive at puberty, ready to transform a teenager from a well-behaved kid into a queer deviant. Many trans teens find puberty the scariest and most uncomfortable time of their life. They deserve to be protected, supported and most of all believed.

The sad truth is trans people are criticised whatever age they come out. As children they’re apparently too young to know how they really feel. As teenagers, they’re often accused of just wanting to be part of a trend and trying to stand out from their peers. Then as adults they’re told they waited too long and should have known earlier if they were really trans.

The core problem that all of this faux outrage and public discourse is dancing around is this: some people do not want anyone to be trans. They want transgender people to disappear into the background; they do not want the concept to become part of everyday life. By forcing children to conform to heteronormative cisgender standards, they believe they can stop those kids from coming out as trans. It is violent erasure and completely unacceptable.

What we need to do is change the narrative. We need to encourage the mainstream media to understand that being transgender isn’t self-destructive and certainly isn’t a choice. We need to destroy the stigma of being transgender as a horrible, doomed, salacious existence. You cannot punish, suppress, convince or ignore someone out of being transgender – it’s simply who they are, children included. Analysing, judging and interrogating trans children is only going to make them feel even more exposed and alone. The only way to truly protect those kids is to listen to them and let them be who they are.

Photo by Kim Siever

Image of three bath toys on a shelf – an elephant, a crocodile and a duck

That’s not an ally

by Megan Stodel // 27 October 2016, 9:01 pm

Tags: , , ,

Huh.

It’s weird, because when I was a child, teenager and young adult, I didn’t feel like David Cameron was a friend to people like me. This is a man who opposed the repeal of Section 28, a piece of legislation that banned the “promotion of homosexuality” and had particularly damaging effects in schools, where teachers feared even mentioning the existence of LGB people. This is a man who viciously attacked Tony Blair for “moving heaven and earth to allow the promotion of homosexuality in our schools”.

This is a man who voted in favour of a bill that would have banned two women or two men in relationships from adopting children together. This is a man who opposed women receiving IVF if they couldn’t name a father figure.

So when Pink News think it’s fit to award David Cameron their Ally of the Year Award, I’m left puzzled.

It’s true that while he was Prime Minister, legislation that enabled equal marriage was passed. But is this enough to warrant the award? It’s a bit of a push to suggest that this happened in the last year – the relevant act was passed in 2013. Is it seriously the case that there is literally not one heterosexual cisgender person who has done anything at all to benefit the LGBT community in the past 12 months?

Benjamin Cohen, who is chief executive of Pink News, defended the award:

The point of activism and the LGBT movement is about convincing people who oppose our rights to become our allies. The reason we have so much progress in this country is that people who questioned it and were opposed to it have changed their minds

I can’t help but doubt Cameron’s influence in changing anyone’s mind. His equal marriage bill was opposed by most of the Tories who voted. Of course, Cameron didn’t whip his party on matters of conscience, which are somehow distinct from matters of equality and human rights. The real advocates were among the Labour and Liberal Democrat MPs. And yes, perhaps it is difficult proposing legislation that sees your party divided. But public opinion was on his side, which probably had a lot more to do with civil partnerships brought in by the Labour government, and the fact they didn’t lead to the apocalypse.

And it isn’t as if Cameron’s time in office was sheer heaven for LGBT people. After all, he resigned following the results of the Brexit referendum, which will almost certainly have a negative impact on us, as discussed previously and shown through the worrying rise in homophobic attacks since the referendum.

Austerity was a major theme of Cameronian government, which is pretty crap for everyone. For LGBT people, it means cuts to vital services that address our needs specifically – from housing to health services – on top of the unemployment, benefit cuts and increasing inequality that is spread around more widely. Did you know a quarter of homeless young people identify as LGBT? What do cuts in services do for them? Meanwhile, forget the Big Society, one of Dave’s pet projects, if you can remember that far back: LGBT organisations and charities have taken big financial hits.

If you do want to know what being a good ally looks like, we’ve written on the topic a few times.

But it doesn’t look like an ultra-privileged master of distraction who has made LGBT people suffer through his policies and vilified them through his words, even if three years ago he recognised a pro-equality movement that had broad support others had worked for decades to build.

The photo shows David Cameron’s face as he gives a speech. It is used under a creative commons licence.

Sanitary napkins and tampons on white background

This is a guest post by Hayley Smith. She is the Founder of the @Flow_Aid campaign, providing free sanitary products to homeless women. She can be found tweeting at @officialHayleyS and also owns London-based PR company @BoxedOutPR

In the UK, sanitary products have a 5% luxury tax attached to them, also known as the tampon tax. Women use approximately 16,800 tampons and sanitary pads in their menstrual lifecycle and rely on these items to ensure that they don’t bleed all over themselves each month. But according to “meninist” Ryan Williams, women who have periods have been doing it all wrong.

Williams took issue with the campaign against the tampon tax, Tweeting:

We have been spending hundreds and hundreds of pounds on sanitary products when we could have simply been holding it in all along! This revelation was produced by a 19-year-old Essex boy, but it is ok, he has a girlfriend, so he knows exactly how periods work.

So it was no wonder that after his comments were published in the Daily Star he was shocked and surprised that he received some angry and negative responses. These women were clearly all on their periods at the same time. Gosh, us females really need to get it together sometimes!

On his Twitter profile, Williams describes himself as an “avid meninist” — a member of an anti-feminist movement that is thought to be satirical. Following the backlash he Tweeted: “Yo I’m so lucky my girlfriend isnt crazy like these feminists and she never bleeds lol always clean [sic].” Sadly, nothing about Williams seems vaguely satirical.

Tampons are so luxurious that I give mine nicknames like Porsche and Ferrari. I am going to keep them in diamond-encrusted trinket boxes because now that I don’t have to spend my money on sanitary products anymore I can definitely afford to do this. A 2015 study found that women in the UK will spend as much as £18,450 on their periods during their lifetime, including sanitary and pain relief products.

Williams has a girlfriend, so he presumably has sex and uses condoms. If we’re talking about involuntary bodily excretions, ejaculation is something that comes to mind. Perhaps this is something he also feels he can hold in, as he adds, he doesn’t believe condoms should be free, either:

Surely, that moment, just before, it can be held in? Either way, condoms are free from the NHS and don’t have VAT.

Condoms are great because they prevent STIs. Tampons are also consequential where it comes to women’s health. Nothing important, anyhow, only the smallest of things: the risk of death. Prolonged use of a tampon can cause toxic shock syndrome, which can be fatal. That doesn’t sound like something we’d risk to use a product that is essentially unnecessary.

But women shouldn’t sweat it. Ryan is probably enjoying his houseboat moorings, crocodile meat, jaffa cakes and bingo, all of which are considered essential. Meaning they are exempt from the luxury tax. Also, as according to Ryan (who knew one person would know so much about bodily fluids?) it’s up to us to control our bladders, shouldn’t people who need to go to the toilet just be able to hold it in? But yet, incontinence products don’t have a luxury tax and I would say that they are just as important as sanitary products. Oh, and the bladder is a different part of the body; we do not bleed from there.

Us women love having our bodies talked about, especially by men we don’t know. And we are thrilled that Ryan Williams, who we have never met, has decided to take ownership of our bodies and tell us how they should and shouldn’t work. And I am so glad that he has started a Crowd Funder to raise money for his biology lessons (I for one will be making a hefty donation – of knowledge). I only hope that they don’t have a luxury tax attached, I would hate for him to pay extra for something he clearly needs.

Popular to contrary belief, women who have periods do not bleed at the same time every month (though, wouldn’t that be fun). And we will be amazed to hear that we no longer have to worry about acquiring sanitary products anymore: we can just hold it in!

Image by Colour59, from BigStock. Used with extended licence.

Image is of seven white tampons in a pile, on top of a selection of sanitary pads. The sanitary pads are either in pink or purple packaging.

Weekly round-up and open thread

by Lusana Taylor // 24 October 2016, 10:34 pm

Tags:

14549589734_f6fb697a3c_z
Welcome to another weekly round-up, where we share (what we see as) the most interesting and important articles from the previous seven days. We’d love to hear your thoughts on any of the issues covered in our chosen links, which include everything from IVF to Poldark.

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.

Extending anonymity to sexual crime suspects is a bad idea – here’s why (The Guardian)

Royal Military Police formally apologises to family of late Corporal Anne-Marie Ellement for failing to properly investigate her allegation of rape (Liberty)

Ken Loach is not exaggerating (Independent)

From the article: “This system is supposed to care for us at a time of greatest need. That’s why the welfare state was created, to recognize that any of us could fall victim to circumstances beyond our control. Yet the shame heaped on benefit claimants now shouts loudly in our collective faces that poverty is somehow a “lifestyle choice”. That need and illness and disability and circumstance are all something to be ashamed of.”

Why We Must Not Go Gently Into The Night (Gimpled)

From the article: “Most of all, it is hard to explain how we are devalued and treated as ‘less than’. And as an activist who fights against violence, abuse and neglect of disabled people, I have hundreds of examples where disabled people have been murdered, where their perpetrators have walked free, sometimes into paid interviews. Where our deaths have been described as mercy killings and our lives have been described as ‘burdensome’…

…Why not everyone? I asked. If it’s about helping people to die, why not make it accessible to everyone? Silent Witness star and Not Dead Yet campaigner Liz Carr uses the example of a person on a bridge, ready to jump. Do you help them jump, or extend your hand to save them? she asks. Would you do a different thing if they were disabled? And if you would, should you not ask yourself why?”

Australia: Liz Carr speaks about euthanasia and assisted suicide (Not Dead Yet)

[contains captioned video of British actor, Liz Carr, speaking about this issue]
From the video: “Let’s stop this kind of glamorising of assisted suicide as the new and only way to die; we’ve been doing death for a long time and we kinda know how to do it. What we don’t do very well is support people at the end of their lives. And we need to get better at that.”

‘Her Job Is Not to Make Herself Likeable’: Adichie’s Powerful Essay on Raising a Feminist Daughter (Vegabomb)

The Dangerous Exclusivity Of Spaces For ‘Women’ Sexual Assault Survivors (The Establishment)

Birthplace of feminism and old Brighton among historic sites at risk (The Guardian)

New Instagram project #girlgaze wants to bring more women into photograph (BBC)

Four myths about IVF in older women (The Conversation)

Feminism isn’t for sale – so stop trying to flog it! (The Pool)

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, feminist, new face of No.7 (BBC)

What men would do to fix the workplace equality gap (The Conversation)

From the article: “Lack of gender parity is influenced just as much by what men are doing as what women are doing. And yet male voices have been quiet, or not listened to, while initiatives focus on things like mentoring female employees to be more assertive – in effect “fixing the women” to fit in with how things are done.”

How To Tell The Difference Between Me And The Only Other Black Girl Here (Buzzfeed)

Porn Didn’t Ruin Your Sex Life. Sorry (Kitty Stryker at Medium)

From the article: “I’m tired of being in an industry that’s blamed for ‘ruining sex’ by a society that discourages sex for fun and refuses to offer comprehensive sex education. Porn didn’t fuck up your sex life. Your selfish, focused-on-his-orgasm boyfriend did.”

Riders and Fans React as La Course Moves from Paris (Total Women’s Cycling)

Can we stop talking about our bushes now? Feminists are needed elsewhere (The Guardian)

From the article: “Donald Trump is running for president. A rape complainant’s sexual history was pored over. Domestic violence shelters are closing. Bikini waxes seem somehow insignificant.”

Why Wonder Woman is Not the Problem When It Comes to Sexism At the United Nations (The Mary Sue)

Prettifying the Poldark rape doesn’t make it OK. Elizabeth said no (The Guardian)

The image is used under a creative commons license with thanks to Ric Lander on Flickr. It is a photograph showing two people with long brown hair standing opposite each other with their lips pursed. In between them is a pinwheel. Behind them, a group of protesters stand, carrying signs which read “Wind Power not Wind Bags”. Accompanying the words are images of Donald Trump.

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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