Mother and daughter

Laura Cooke is December’s monthly guest blogger

Amal Clooney, Georgina Rodriguez, Ferne McCann, Danielle Lloyd, Serena Williams, Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, Binky Felstead, Beyonce and Cheryl — what do these nine women all have in common?

The answer is that within the last three months they have all shown off/flaunted their incredible/sensational post-baby bodies. At least, that is, according to the Daily Mail.

But in amongst the seemingly endless celebrity baby-body stories on the Mail website, there is a feature about six women who talk candidly about their postpartum bodies, from stretch marks to saggy boobs. The headline reads: ‘What pregnancy did to our bodies: Six brave mothers reveal the toll having a baby has taken on their figures’.

I take issue with one word in particular in that headline — brave.

The use of the word brave in this context is so patronising it may as well be accompanied by a pat on the head.

I’m a stone and a half heavier than I was pre-pregnancy; I can’t pull my old jeans up much past my knees. Bits of me wobble that never used to wobble before. I am not brave. I have only done what hundreds of thousands of other women around the world do on a daily basis. I have had a baby.

And it’s not just the Daily Mail telling me what a brave little soldier I am. The mums recently featured in The Sun have been branded brave because they have dared to show their postpartum stomachs in a national publication. Meanwhile, The Metro had a good stab at a positive article about postpartum bodies, until the ‘b word’ rears its head a few paragraphs down and spoils things.

In comparison, none of the women mentioned in the list above are branded brave. The Mail enthuses over them, calling them sensational, a vision of beauty, ravishing, sizzling and so on. While this language sexualises and objectifies the celebrity mums, it’s a sharp contrast to us mere mortals being told that we are brave; our postpartum bodies are ‘nothing to be ashamed of’. It feels like participating in a school sports day and receiving a certificate for taking part.

Rather than empowering mothers by reassuring us that we are all normal, all these ‘positive’ postpartum articles do is provide yet another opportunity for people to pass judgement on women’s bodies. Having a body is something that really isn’t newsworthy. Or, at least in a perfect world, it shouldn’t be.

These two types of articles invite unfair comparisons. You cannot compare most women with someone like Serena Williams, one of the finest athletes of her generation. Most of us mums have never had the body of a grand slam winner pre-pregnancy, so we’re hardly likely to have one postpartum.

Comparisons like this create ideas of ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ post-baby bodies: the former of which some women might not ever have, for no reason of their own failing. Why should they be made to feel bad or guilty about it?

Right from the off, The Sun invites the reader to compare its group of mothers to one new celebrity mum with the headline: ‘We speak to four brave mums who proudly show off their post-baby tum just like Cheryl’. What follows is an image of a postpartum Cheryl, followed by a series of pictures of the ‘normal’ mums in the same outfit, recreating the same pose. It is impossible not to compare the two, which begs the question: what was the real point of this article if not to judge the women featured?

After giving birth, it can be difficult to get your head around what has happened to your body. Not only the obvious physical changes, but it can also feel like your body doesn’t belong to you anymore because your baby calls the shots. For nine months your body has been devoted to keeping your baby alive. Once they enter the world, your body is left with physical reminders of what happened that, in most cases, stay with you for the rest of your life. And if you are able to breastfeed, your relationship with your breasts changes because they suddenly serve a new purpose.

When a mother is possibly at a low ebb following the birth of her child, celebrity baby-body articles are great at feeding insecurities and have the potential to be particularly harmful if she is suffering from a mental health illness, such as postnatal depression.

But a ‘positive’ postpartum story, peppered with condescending language, can also be harmful as it implies that the average woman’s post-birth body is something out of the ordinary which needs highlighting and is worthy of comment. It isn’t. It’s just a body.

All women who have given birth — vaginally or by c-section — have done an amazing thing which will have affected their bodies to various degrees.

We do not need to be told we are brave for bearing the physical effects of childbirth and existing within those bodies afterwards.

Featured image by London Scout, from Unsplash. Used under a creative commons zero licence.

Image is of a mother and daughter on a city street. The mother crouches down to her child’s height and has her arms around her in a loose embrace. The child looks at the camera. Mother and daughter are both wearing smart white shirts and black skirts.

Inadequate pay and exploitation at work disproportionately affect migrant women. In the last 10 years, numerous stories have been uncovered about groups of migrant women being exploited to benefit large companies. In 2015, for example, groups of Polish women were found working at the rate of £6.50 a day for hospitality giant Hotelcare who required them to clean 13 rooms in eight hours, every day, five days a week.

Migrant women face difficulties such as feeding their families and are prevented from reaching their professional potential due to inadequate pay, excessive work hours and often difficult working conditions.

In 2016, Virginia Mantouvalou, reader in Human Rights and Labour Law and Co-Director of the UCL Institute for Human Rights, conducted an empirical study which included a series of interviews with 24 migrant women who arrived in the UK on a domestic worker visa. She found that “The workers interviewed recounted shocking stories of abuse and exploitation, fear and isolation”.

When being interviewed for Hidden Hope, a project by the charity Home Alone which fights to end domestic slavery, a migrant woman said that “There was a time I was about to kill myself because it really was too much stress and everything”.

Social mobility is on the decline in the UK, which means that escaping poverty is becoming increasingly difficult. If you are being exposed to multiple oppressions — i.e. gender, race, nationality — the opportunities to elevate yourself are even harder, especially when considering the negative attitudes the UK seems to be adopting towards migrants, refugees and people of colour. After Brexit, hate crimes spiked to 41%. Prejudice is growing and migrant women in the UK need legal protection now more than ever.

Poor pay is a huge part of this exploitation and traps many migrant women into poverty. Officially, on the UK government website, the national minimum wage and national living wage are set at £7.05 per hour for 21-24-year-olds and £7.50 per hour for over 25’s. Even in cases where migrant women are being paid these wages, neither can cover the actual costs of living when considering the rising costs of rent, food, household goods, services, transportation and any additional fees immigrants may have to pay the UK government or their employers.

At the beginning of November, the charity Living Wage Foundation set the real living wage at £8.75 per hour for anyone over 18-years-old, which rises to £10.20 for those living in London. This was independently calculated by both the Living Wage Foundation and Citizens UK, based on what people need to reasonably get by. This is the only wage rate that is based on what people need to live above the poverty line, dependent on the average cost of a basket of household goods and services. When compared to the government’s minimum and living wage, this makes a massive difference to someone’s quality of life.

Over 3,500 businesses around the UK are accredited real living wage employers, yet this positive engagement and respect for employees are not being given enough attention.

The state is effectively subsidising industries, enabling big business to provide low pay to increase profits whilst the taxpayer makes up the difference by contributing to benefit payments. Earlier this year, there were 360 businesses which failed to pay either the national minimum or living wage. Offenders included Subway, Debenhams and Lloyds Pharmacy.

The United Nations Fund for Population Activities (UNFPA) warns that Western governments are not doing nearly enough to protect migrant women from employment abuses, especially when, “more women are migrating on their own than ever before. Women now constitute almost half the international migrant population, and in some countries, as much as 70 or 80 per cent”.

Through encouraging businesses and organisations to adopt the real living wage, we can work towards ending poverty for those who are already being treated unfairly by society. I believe that if people were paid the real living wage the demand for benefits would undoubtedly decline.

A fair wage affords women the opportunity to provide for themselves and their family, and rely less on benefits, pay-day lenders or working excessive hours in bad establishments. It has been found to reduce absenteeism and brings a significant improvement in staff morale and the quality of work being produced.

Everyone deserves the chance to live with economic stability, no matter what our background. A person’s immigration status should not be something which businesses and governments use as a way to maintain cheap labour.

Featured image was found on the BBC Radio Five Live website and is used here under fair dealing.

Featured image is a pile of pound coins overlapping each other.

Weekly round-up and open thread

by Lusana Taylor // 11 December 2017, 4:14 pm

Tags:

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

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

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

Six-week consultation starts on new rules which allow UK state to spy on journalists and their sources (Press Gazette)

The afro is a great symbol. It speaks volumes but it doesn’t and can’t say everything about who you are and what you think. (gal-dem)

Transphobia is the latest weapon in a raging culture war (Red Pepper)

JK Rowling is complicit in domestic abuse (Another angry woman)

UK universities accused of complacency over sexual misconduct (The Guardian)

Doctor Who Showrunner Steven Moffatt on Why He Never Cast a Woman as the Doctor (The Mary Sue)

From the article: “This isn’t a show exclusively for progressive liberals.”

The Unbearable Whiteness of Indie (Pitchfork)

From the article: “Whiteness is the very ideal for which art is made in Western culture, be it the cinema of Wes Anderson or, say, the artists on Merge Records.”

Why You Should Think Again About Workless Young Women (Huff Post)

Douchebag Decree Kate Winslet, WYD? (Bitch Media)

From the article: “Winslet’s complicity is the worst kind: It’s the selfish and uncaring kind. In her choosing to do what’s right for her (work with an acclaimed film maker who is also a sexual predator), she is supporting Allen and his work. Winslet wants to be the self-protecting, ignorance-is-bliss star—the one who gets to separate the art from the artist, the work from the worker, the brilliance from the abuse. For survivors, no such separation is possible.”

A women’s refuge saved my family. Would we be given that chance today? (The Pool)

Ferris Bueller Confronts His White Privilege (Alison Lowenstein, McSweeney’s) [Satire]

Inequalities among older people, especially women, ‘shameful’ (The Guardian)

The Spirited Debate About Ghosting (Kitty Stryker, Medium)

This Co-Founder Walked Away From Her Conferences At Their Peak. Here’s Why (Girlboss)

Article standfirst:” If you’re a woman/non-binary writer, chances are you’ve heard of The Binders Facebook group. But growing it from a 40,000-strong online community to a nationwide conference and nonprofit? It wasn’t as easy as hitting “like,” that’s for sure…”

The woman behind ‘Me Too’ knew the power of the phrase when she created it — 10 years ago (Washington Post)

From the article: “Tarana Burke was watching as #MeToo became an Internet phenomenon Sunday. Soon, she started to panic. By the time celebrities were tweeting #MeToo, encouraging every woman who had survived sexual harassment or assault to do the same, Burke knew she had to do something. She didn’t know where to start.

“’If this grows big’, she recalled thinking at the time, ‘this is going to completely overshadow my work’.”

Most women in prison victims of domestic abuse (Russell Webster)

The Mail Online is asking if a six-year-old is “the most beautiful girl in the world” (The Pool)

The image is used under a creative license commons and was sourced through Flickr. It shows snow-laden tree branches.

Pregnancy should be about birth, not body hair

by Guest Blogger // 9 December 2017, 10:29 am

Tags: , , , ,

Pregnancy and body hair
Laura Cooke is December’s monthly guest blogger

“I’m thinking about getting waxed beforehand — how about you?”

My friend was talking about pubic hair, but she wasn’t thinking about de-fuzzing in preparation for a holiday. She was considering whether to wax her pubic hair just before she was due to give birth a few months later.

As the weeks of my own pregnancy ticked by, I had constantly worried about the labour and mine and my baby’s health, but concerns about the state of my own hair had never entered my mind.

A woman’s choice to have or remove her pubic hair is entirely hers, but becomes political and potentially problematic when removal is done to appease others. In this case, my friend didn’t want to appear ‘unkempt’.

For some time now, there has been an expectation that Western women, particularly younger women, should remove their pubic hair in order to be seen as sexually desirable.

Of course, types of mainstream pornography have a lot to answer for, with unnaturally hairless stars teaching a generation of men to expect minimum hair on their real-life partners, heaping pressure on said sexual partners to conform to these ideals.

Some cultures also have particular beliefs and practices where it comes to body hair that enforce certain codes of conduct. Writing for Vice, Busra Erkara describes her experiences growing up in Turkey, where women waxing their body hair is deeply entrenched within tradition. This throws Western society’s obsession with Brazilians and Hollywoods into sharp relief.

While the preoccupation with waxing for bedroom purposes is now fairly commonplace in the West, the fact that this has spilled over into the delivery suite is pretty depressing.

How has it got to the stage where some women feel they have to be immaculately groomed at a time when getting a razor anywhere near your vulva requires some serious bodily contortions?

Female body hair has become something that some people view as unnatural, ugly or disgusting. We feel obliged to be perfectly groomed when our bits are given a new ‘audience’ (in this case the midwives and doctors) to avoid evoking these feelings in others.

An extreme example of this is the case of Swedish model and artist Arvida Byström. Byström appeared in the recent Adidas Superstar campaign with visibly hairy legs and was met with a barrage of negative comments, including rape threats.

Model Amber Rose posted a semi-nude photo of herself on social media earlier this year to promote The Amber Rose Slutwalk, a festival dedicated to addressing and raising awareness of slut shaming, sexual violence, victim blaming, and more.

The image was censored by Instagram, as well as the various media outlets which reported on the ‘Rose bush’ story. This included The Sun, which, in a spectacular display of double standards considering its dogged defence of page three, pixelated Rose’s groin. However, it wasn’t just The Sun which chose to edit Rose’s picture. Even publications aimed specifically at women, like Cosmpolitan and Elle, didn’t feature the uncensored picture, despite writing glowing editorials about it.

The mainstream media’s reluctance to carry the uncensored image helps to reinforce the message that pubic hair is not just unsightly, it’s affronting to the point where people may feel entitled to threaten or harass others.

But with Rose’s rallying cry and other celebrities opening up about their personal grooming regimes, perhaps the tide is turning.

One can only hope this filters down to the delivery room, a place where birthing women often feel as if they have little or no ownership over their own bodies.

Pregnant women are put under enormous amounts of pressure to achieve the ‘perfect birth’ and often find themselves judged on everything from their choice of painkillers to method of delivery. Not to mention the huge amount of self-inflicted pressure to produce a healthy baby.

None of this pressure supports a woman’s health, happiness, or enhances her birthing ability. It attacks her sense of self and worth, telling her which is the ‘correct’ way to bring a child into the world. And worrying whether her pubic hair is unkempt can only add to this stress.

Featured image by Omar Lopez, from Unsplash. Used under creative commons zero licence.

Image is of a visibly pregnant woman holding her belly while standing in a park. Her eyes and below her knees are not visible in the frame, focusing the picture on her torso. She wears a pale blue and white striped dress and has thick brown hair.

Weekly round-up and open thread

by Lusana Taylor // 5 December 2017, 6:24 am

Tags:

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

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

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

Graham Norton’s rehabilitation of Mel Gibson is impossible to watch (The Pool)

From the article: “Mel Gibson’s prime-time appearance says a lot about who we’re willing to laugh with right now – and who we’re prepared to disregard in the process. Over the last fortnight, Graham Norton’s show has amplified certain voices at a time when women are still asking to be heard. For viewers like me, the symbolism isn’t just uncomfortable – it’s actually impossible to watch.”

“I’ve run out of tears”: inside London’s temporary housing crisis (The Guardian)

Where are the Female Music Producers? (Cuepoint, via Medium)

From the article:”Performer, writer, and producer Grimes went down a similar path, producing all her own music, after coming up against industry sexism. In an interview with Fader, she recounts how she had been infantilized by male producers who instantly doubted her chops. ‘Going into studios, there’s all these engineers there, and they don’t let you touch the equipment. I was like, “Well, can I just edit my vocals?” And they’d be like “No, just tell us what to do, and we’ll do it.” And then a male producer would come in, and he’d be allowed to do it. It was so sexist. I was, like, aghast.’ Like Lazar, Grimes decided to take control of her music by learning and undertaking every step of production herself.”

The ‘arm vagina’ – Hollywood’s latest form of female self-flagellation (The Guardian)

Cultural Appropriation in Alternative Subculture: Does it Matter? (Medium)

From the article: “Like the mohawk, some cultural elements have become associated with alternative people. In fact, subcultures form through cultural borrowing. European Lolitas followed the Japanese, who themselves were inspired by the 18th century European Rococo movement and the Victorian era. Where music is concerned, several metal bands name African American R&B musicians as their primary inspiration. Exchange is a natural part of growth. Without it, alternative culture would have no flow.”

Why is the #MeToo movement sending shockwaves through Sweden? (SBS)

I’m working on a new startup… for the 100 million women like me (Medium)

From the article: “Dammit — I used to be a punk rocker! I had purple hair and wore Doc Martens and raged against the machine! I used to have an entire “costume night” wardrobe that included vintage cocktail dresses, a Russian fur hat, gogo boots and a full dominatrix outfit with working utility belt! I will NOT go silently into the night…at Chicos…but finding my new and authentic ‘mature’ style is apparently not easy to do.”

Despite What You May Have Heard, “Believe Women” Has Never Meant “Ignore Facts” (Elle [This is a response piece to a New York Times piece entitled ‘The Limits of “Believe All Women”‘]

tove lo opens up about the culture of sexual abuse in the swedish music industry (Vice)

From the article: “Like most women, female artists, and most of my friends, I’ve been put into a situation or backed into a corner and had to make a choice. I’ve had to deal with the the consequences of not wanting to sleep with someone, or of how you reacted to someone putting their hand on your ass. It’s something that we’re taught how to avoid, but it’s not supposed be part of the job.”

Rape in the storage room. Groping at the bar. Why is the restaurant industry so terrible for women?​ (The Independent)​

“The body positive movement is being commodified. It’s time to fight back” (Stylist)

From the article: “And like feminism, any approach to body positivity that refuses to acknowledge hierarchies of privilege – that refuses to learn from those who are more oppressed, and that neglects to fight for those more marginalised – is missing something crucial.”

Has Hollywood changed? Mel Gibson’s bulletproof career would suggest not (The Guardian)

From the article: “Alcohol and drugs are seen by many, still, as incriminatory in a woman but exculpatory in a man: a woman who was drunk can’t be trusted if she says she was raped; but a man on the lash can’t possibly be held responsible for his actions. This partly explains the bizarre double standards [Winona] Ryder has endured in her career… It takes a hell of a lot for a straight white man to destroy his own career. And to be honest, it somewhat undermines all the promises I’ve read about the new no-tolerance attitude towards assault, claiming that men have “learned their lesson”, when Gibson is there, grinning unapologetically from my local multiplex.”

I Want A Wife – why a 46-year-old essay is still shockingly relevant (Daisy Buchanan, The Pool)

8 Things That Happened to my Body After I Stopped Shaving (Ella Mendoza, the body is not an apology)

Hey, It’s Me, a Woke Misogynist Sliding Right on into Your DMS (McSweeney’s) [Satire]

What I need from the men I love (Your Fat Friend, Medium)

From the article: “I need you to bear witness. I know this is nowhere in your training. I know no one has taught you to sit quietly, feel the texture and fullness of someone else’s pain. I know the itching impulse to argue, to debate, take the issues of the day head on. But this isn’t an issue debate. This is grief — slippery, messy, wily. Half the world is reliving wounds and losses. Offer us condolences. Don’t play devil’s advocate when there are devils all around us.”

Stop Demanding Women Fit Into a Feminazi/Forgiveness Binary (The Mary Sue)

From the article: “Ijeoma Oluo, editor-at-large at The Establishment, shared a Twitter thread earlier this week detailing a troubling conversation with a major newspaper, later revealed to be USA Today. Read through the whole thread here, but in short, the newspaper, with whom she had never worked, contacted her to write a ‘rebuttal’ to a piece they were planning to write. Their piece (now published here) argued that ‘it’s great that women are coming forward, but that we need to treat each case individually and remember due process’…”

Beam Is Like Kickstarter, for Homeless People (Vice)

From the article: “Years of austerity have stripped away the safeguards meant to protect society’s most vulnerable. Local authority budgets have been slashed, homeless hostels have closed and the benefits cap has plunged thousands into poverty and precarious housing situations … Now, crowdfunding is put forward as part of the solution. The state has failed and the people most savagely affected are invited to post the tragic details of their personal histories online, in an attempt to secure the help to which they should be entitled. Is this the future we want? A future where state support is non-existent and homeless people must compete for assistance like X-Factor contestants?”

The image is used under a creative commons license with thanks to Alexey Kljatov on Flickr. It is a close-up image of a snow flake.

F-Word monthly guest bloggers

The F-Word is recruiting a new crop of monthly guest bloggers for 2018. Each of our bloggers will have a monthly residency on our site, during which they will work with our team of editors and blog to their feminist heart’s content on any feminist-related things they like.

Ideally, we would love to receive one blog post a week, but understand that as this is a labour of love for all involved that isn’t always possible. The idea is more that each month, we welcome a new voice to share their views, thoughts, and perspectives.

We are particularly interested in views and positions that are under-represented on the blog. 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 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.org.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.

Featured image by rawpixel.com, from Unsplash. Used under Creative Commons Zero licence

Image is of a woman working on a laptop from a cafe. Her eyes are not visible in the shot. She wears a smart grey blazer, white blouse and a long, golden, beaded necklace

December monthly guest blogger The F-Word

As we race towards the end of 2017, it’s time to welcome Laura Cooke as this year’s final monthly blogger.

In her own words:

“Laura is a journalist, writer and blogger based in the south of England. Laura has been writing for local newspapers for 15 years and has developed a special interest in writing about women’s health, fertility, parenting and autism, particularly the issues faced by the parents of autistic children. Her work has featured in a number of national publications.

When Laura was chosen as a monthly blogger for The F-Word, she was coming to terms with her own infertility and the impact it had on her mental and physical health. Twelve months later, she is mother to a bouncing baby feminist and life has been turned on its head.

When she is not writing or changing nappies, Laura sits on the management committee at her local branch of Samaritans where she is responsible for fundraising. During her maternity leave, as well as discovering a renewed love of reading thanks to late night breastfeeding, Laura has also developed an obsession with Stranger Things on Netflix and she has yet to fully come to terms with the ending of feminist sci-fi drama Orphan Black. Laura loves going to gigs and travelling around Europe, and fully intends to continue doing so with baby in tow. Follow Laura on Twitter at @lauracooke21″

Welcome, Laura!

Featured image by All Bong, from Unsplash. Used under Creative Commons Zero licence.

Image is of three stacks of books that are leaning against each other for support, with an overall artistic effect. They appear to be in the display window of a shop

Weekly round-up and open thread

by Lusana Taylor // 27 November 2017, 5:59 pm

Tags:


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

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

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

My Life as a Little Brown Girl Growing up in Scarborough, UK (Dawn)

Trans women need access to rape and domestic violence services. Here’s why (The Guardian)

From the article: “But the reason I want to be able to access women’s spaces is because I now exist as a woman and I am treated as one in a misogynist society. Trans women are at least at the same risk as many other women from gendered violence. The tone of recent media coverage has erased this, suggesting that we simply want affirmation of our identity. I don’t care about affirmation of my identity – I care about whether I could go to a rape crisis centre if I had been raped. Or a domestic violence shelter if a boyfriend beat me up.”

The young women who refuse to stay quiet (BBC)

From the article: “It’s very similar to being a woman in any other industry. You have to push twice as hard for people to just listen to you, instead of looking for the man they assume is standing behind you. It maybe lonely at the start, you may annoy some people who don’t like to hear the word ‘no’ come out of a woman’s mouth, but you will find people who don’t just accept your independence but who support it and are motivated by it.”

Katie Hopkins leaves Mail Online by ‘mutual consent’ as column is axed after two years (Press Gazette)

Rape and no periods in North Korea’s army (BBC)

From the article: “Juliette Morillot and Jieun Baek say Lee So Yeon’s testimony accords with other accounts they have heard, but warn that defectors have to be treated with caution. ‘There is such a high demand for knowledge from North Korea,’ says Baek. ‘It almost incentivises people to tell exaggerated tales to the media, especially if that comes with nice pay cheque. A lot of defectors who don’t want to be in the media are very critical of “career defectors”. It’s worth keeping this in mind.’ Information from official North Korean sources, on the other hand, is liable to be pure propaganda. Lee So Yeon was not paid for her interview with the BBC.”

The Fragility of Body Positivity: How a Radical Movement Lost its Way (Bitch Media)

From the article: “Slapping a body-positive sticker on a capitalistic venture does not it make body positive if it’s not about upending the dieting industry or protecting fat, trans, and disabled people from discrimination, and instead recenters the very people who have always been centered. Body positivity can’t focus on thin, white women and simultaneously tackle discrimination against fat, trans, and disabled people. Expanding legal protections must be the focus, otherwise the outcomes of our lives will continue to be determined by fatphobia, transphobia, and ableism.”

‘You’ll never work again’: women tell how sexual harassment broke their careers (The Guardian)

From the article: “By removing talented, capable, willing people from the workforce, we are hindering our ability to capitalize on the full potential of our entire society. When large portions of the population feel unsafe or completely remove themselves or they’re involuntarily removed from the workforce, we’re limiting our potential. On a large scale.”

Historically, men translated the Odyssey. Here’s what happened when a woman took the job (Vox)

From the article: “Recent events have led to a widespread debate over how audiences should consume the work of people we know to be abusers of women. This is intertwined with the question of how we should consume art that has racist, sexist, or otherwise bigoted elements. Often elided from this conversation is the fact that people of color and women of all races have been consuming racist and sexist art in America for generations (in many classes on Western literature, for instance, they have had little choice), and developing their own responses to it, responses that are often deeply nuanced.”

“Middlemarch” is now a queer coming-of-age web series (i-D Vice)

From the article: “I think that a lot of my work stems from my frustration with the absence of or erasure of LGBTQ+ histories – pages torn out of diaries, poems destroyed before publication, sexualities conveniently left out of history textbooks, etc. I often find myself wishing for that whole world of LGBTQ+ images and stories and poems and films that should exist. When I catch myself feeling this way, I try to channel that frustration into making these films that, bit by bit, try to help fill up that gap.”

I wore a dress for the first time in 20 years (Buzzfeed) [Video]

From the video: Tan tries wearing a dress for the first time in 20 years: “It just reminded me how much of a performance clothing is.”

What do we do with the art of monstrous men? (The Paris Review)

Watch out, manspreaders: the womanspreading fightback starts now (The Guardian)

From the article: “It is something that I’ve been doing for years. After spending my childhood and teenage years being told to “sit properly, for God’s sake”, I decided to rebel by reclining in as unladylike a manner as possible. Ever since I left home, I’ve been sitting how I want to: legs wide apart, feet pointing out, and hands resting on my knees. It’s comfortable, it’s stabilising, and it makes me feel powerful in a way that crossing my legs never does.”

Former GQ reporter Rupert Myers writes in ES of help from Samaritans after media interest around his actions towards women (Press Gazette)

What I learned from a year of dumpster diving in Australia (Medium)

Girl Scouts Issues Bold Warning to Parents to Not Force Girls to Show Affection (Advocate)

From the article: “’Telling your child that she owes someone a hug either just because she hasn’t seen this person in a while or because they gave her a gift can set the stage for her questioning whether she “owes” another person any type of physical affection when they’ve bought her dinner or done something else seemingly nice for her later in life,’ the piece reads.”

I work with women facing domestic and sexual violence: it’s devastating to see how much progress is unravelling (The Guardian)

Nazis Are Just Like You and Me, Except They’re Nazis (The Atlantic) [Satirical response piece to an article appearing in the New York Times entitled ‘A Voice of Hate in America’s Heartland’]

From the article: “Steve Stevenson dispenses wisdom freely, though he is not a chef. He is 32 years old, and he drinks whole milk, and his tattoos are nonviolent. The kitchen spice rack contains only garlic powder. He wears jeans made of denim. The t-shirt on his back has a tag sticking out, and I read it as he leans in to eye the pot of water: ‘100 percent cotton.’
‘What can I say,’ jokes Stevenson, as he sees me taking note of the spice rack. ‘I like garlic powder.'”

Have we reached peak mansplaining? (Emily Baker, The Pool)

Now it’s official: the less you have, the more austerity will take from you (Frances Ryan, Guardian)

From the article: “I can’t decide what’s worse. That for the best part of a decade, this government and its predecessor have brought in a relentless string of cuts, and lined up the most marginalised members of society to take the burden; or that they are doing so while deliberately failing to monitor the damage it’s causing.”

Fuck that (The Overtake)

From the article: “For every teenage boy who is freely allowed to go about their daily business by society, there’s a teenage girl who gets pulled up every time she says ‘shit’, ‘fuck’ or in Millie Bobby Brown’s case ‘bitchin’. When she tweeted that word last week she was publically called out by Netflix’s official US Twitter account.”

We have another music video to include this week! Check out ‘Et2YT’ by Giant Kitty (YouTube via Amara)

The image is used under a creative commons license with thanks to Julien on Flickr. It shows small green shoots of a plant growing through wooden slats of what could be a bridge or a pathway. The background is out of focus but mountains and blue sky are visible.

Weekly round-up and open thread

by Lusana Taylor // 20 November 2017, 6:38 pm

Tags:

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

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

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

Saffiyah Khan: anger is an energy (Dazed)

Lady justice: is the judiciary ready for Brenda Hale? (Prospect Magazine)

How mid-2000s emo groomed underage girls and poisoned teen boys (Medium)

Lena Dunham & weaponised white feminism (Danielle Dash)

From the article: “The truth is Lena Dunham’s feminism is exclusively for white women and white men. When she tweeted back in August ‘things women don’t lie about: rape.’ she meant white women don’t lie about rape and furthermore white men don’t lie about not raping women of colour. Why else would she tweet so thoughtfully then, but today fix her Becky fingers to tweet ‘I believe in a lot of things but the first tenet of my politics is to hold up the people who have held me up…’? This sentiment would be all well and good if in upholding Miller, she didn’t shit all over Aurora Perrineau and expose her glaring hypocrisy. Murray Miller doesn’t need Lena Dunham’s support. Murray Miller doesn’t need Jenni Konner’s support. These two women thought so little of the wellbeing of Aurora Perrineau they weaponised their white feminism and targeted a woman who at this time requires either your support or for you to shut the entire fuck up. An opportunity to be quiet and mind her motherfucking business never passes Lena Dunham by without her failing to grasp them, and more often than not the least represented in society are the victims when her unseasoned, unfettered hot takes hit the fan.”

Women are happier being single than men because relationships are hard work (Rachel Hosie, Independent)

The Culture of Alcoholics Anonymous Perpetuates Sexual Abuse (Elizabeth Brown, Tonic, Vice)

The Production of Ignorance (CN Lester, A gentleman and a scholar)

Taking to Task Left Liberal Opposition to Greening’s Gender Recognition Reforms (Alex Shar, Inherently Human)

From the article: “In decades to come we will look back on this Governor George Wallace type moment and we will ask after those who opposed reform, including those on the liberal and libertarian left. What we now have is an opportunity to help history unfold in ways which contribute to human flourishing.”

Maeve Higgins 2016 Unedited – interview from Des Bishop [podcast]

Irish-American comedian, Des Bishop, interviews another comedian Maeve Higgins. During the interview he first of all disagrees with her view of the comedy world, and then becomes very defensive when she reminds him of a sexist thing he once said to her. It’s a very uncomfortable listen and includes him talking over her, gaslighting her and suggesting that she just didn’t get the joke. There’s no transcription.

Why Men Aren’t Funny (Lindy West for the New York Times)

From the article: “In his ‘apology’ he mentions his anatomy multiple times, but the words ‘I’m sorry’ not once. On the surface, he convincingly telegraphs contrition and a deep disgust at his own weaknesses, but disarming self flagellation has always been his art. The careful message is ‘I, one man, made one mistake,’ not ‘I, among many others, preyed upon vulnerable women in my industry, on purpose, because I am both a defender and a beneficiary of an entrenched system of oppression.’ It’s easier to get your old job back if the power structure that gave it to you in the first place stays intact.”

And to finish off our weekly round-up for this week, here’s a song by Dream Nails which feels particularly timely.

Dream Nails – Tourist (YouTube)

Lyrics to ‘Tourist’:
You’re just a tourist
Take your pictures and leave
You want somewhere to stay?
Stay away from me!

I’m not your story
I’m not your novelty
I’m not here for you to be a hero

I’m not your story
I’m not your novelty
I’m not here for you to be a hero

You’re just a tourist
Take your camera and leave
You only want
vulnerability!

I’m not your story
I’m not your novelty
I’m not here for you to be a hero

I’m not your story
I’m not your novelty
I’m not here for you to be a hero

You’re just a tourist
You’re just a tourist
You’re just a tourist
I hope you had a nice trip!

You’re just a tourist
You’re just a touri-ist
You’re just a tourist
You’re just a tourist!

I’m not your story
I’m not your novelty
I’m not here for you to be a hero

I’m not your story
I’m not your novelty
I’m not here for you to be a hero

The image is used under a creative commons license with thanks to Richard Walker on Flickr. It is a photograph of a small fishing boat out at sea, silhouetted against a beautiful golden sunrise.


Dr Emma Byrne is a scientist, journalist and public speaker. Her BBC Radio 4 ‘Four Thought’ episode was selected as one of the ‘Best of 2013’ by the programme’s editors. She has been selected as a British Science Association Media Fellow and for the BBC Expert Women Training, and is published in CIO, Forbes, the Financial Times and e-Health Insider. Swearing is Good For You is her first book

Content note: This article refers to Harvey Weinstein and Donald Trump, and misogyny in general. It also contains strong language (including several uses of the c-word in its unexpurgated form)

While I was doing the research for my book Swearing is Good for You I read so many papers that asked (in one case, right in the title) why women swear. The news from the last few weeks might go some way to answering what we’ve known for a long time: we swear because there’s a fuck of a lot to swear about. But what galls me is that in the approximately 600 papers I read on the subject, not a single psychologist or neuroscientist thought to ask why men swear. When it comes to words, male power and female purity are the unexamined norms.

In English-speaking countries at least, this naive belief about women’s language dates back almost entirely to one particular arsehole with one particular book. In 1673, the chaplain to King Charles II, Richard Allestree, wrote the patronisingly titled (and it goes downhill from there, frankly) The Ladies’ Calling. Drawing on his entirely empty reserves of medical and scientific knowledge, he insisted that women who swear undergo “a metamorphosis, becoming decidedly masculine”. According to Allestree, “there is no noise on this side of Hell can be more amazingly odious [to God than] an oath out of a woman.” A hungry child may cry or a sick person may groan. What really pisses God off is a woman using a four letter word, though.

Since that time, women have lost the knack of inventive swearing, which is a damn shame. Swearing has a huge emotional impact. And we know through research that swearing is just as likely to be used as the result of a positive emotion as a negative one: we swear just as much in excitement, elation or sympathy as we do in anger or frustration. If women curb their tongues, we lose the most powerful linguistic tool there is. It makes no sense.

I was trying to digest the misogynist censorship of Allestree and his adherents in the humanities reading room of the British Library and, given that leaping up on my table and yelling “Fuck this utter shit!” would probably have got me barred, I ended up writing the following to my editor:

It’s not men going through the rigours of pregnancy and childbirth (which, by definition, involve fucking, shitting and bloody cunts!) but we’re supposed to know nothing about bodily functions?

The joys of having a supportive woman as an editor – that rant made it into the book practically unaltered.

But, as I continued with the research, I realised that the c-word had started to take on shades of its American meaning. I’ve used it intimately, when writing erotica, when bemoaning the bloody irritations of menstruation. But in the United States, the c-word is almost exclusively used as a misogynistic slur. And the more women I’ve spoken to in the UK, the more it seems that the gynophobic baggage of that usage is creeping into our understanding of it too.

Nowhere is this more apparent than in the allegations from women in the film industry about the abusive behaviour of Harvey Weinstein. Kate Beckinsale, for example, relates how this petulant man, for all his power, would completely lose control when she said no to him: “[it] ended up with him screaming at me calling me a cunt.”

But it isn’t the c-word itself that is the problem. That arrangement of letters means what we, as a society, allow it to mean. And tellingly, that same meaning comes through even when the speaker can’t quite allow themselves to use the word. Like when Donald Trump called Hillary Clinton “a nasty woman” during the presidential election debates.

Because that is exactly what the c-word means when it’s used as a slur: nasty woman. Women who have found the resources not to silently acquiesce to the demands of some man for power, sex or position. When it’s used like this, the c-word is meant to shame us. To remind us who is meant to have the power.

Used like that, the c-word is thrown around by mewling gynophobes in an attempt to intimidate and silence women; particularly women who want to live in a world where it’s the perpetrators of sexual assault who feel shame, instead of their victims. It’s hurled at women who will speak out rather than remain silent when they see injustice. In the minds of these men, a cunt is a woman who refuses to put the insatiable needs of an entitled man ahead of their own. If that is what it means to be a cunt, then I’m a cunt and proud.

Swearing Is Good For You by Emma Byrne is published by Profile and is available to purchase in both paperback and eBook format from a variety of book retailers and eBook platforms.

The image is the cover of the book Swearing Is Good for You by Emma Byrne, used with permission. It is a simple cover with bright yellow background and block capital text. The title appears in black font, punctuated with asterisks and exclamation marks. The sub-title ‘The Amazing Science of Bad Language’ appears the same way except in pink font. There is also a quote from Lucy Kellaway, who describes the book as ‘a gloriously uplifting read’.

Weekly round-up and open thread

by Lusana Taylor // 13 November 2017, 4:33 pm

Tags:

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

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

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

The sexualisation of the Stranger Things kids needs to stop (The Pool)

80 books no woman should read (Lit Hub)

Brave enough to be angry (The New York Times)

From the article: “I did not call myself a feminist until I was nearly 20 years old. My world had taught me that feminists were ugly and ridiculous, and I did not want to be ugly and ridiculous. I wanted to be cool and desired by men, because even as a teenager I knew implicitly that pandering for male approval was a woman’s most effective currency. It was my best shot at success, or at least safety, and I wasn’t sophisticated enough to see that success and safety, bestowed conditionally, aren’t success and safety at all. They are domestication and implied violence.

To put it another way, it took me two decades to become brave enough to be angry. Feminism is the collective manifestation of female anger.”

Mum dies alone in her cold house – wrapped up in a coat and scarf (Liverpool Echo)

Johnson under fresh pressure over Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe error (The Guardian)

Louis C.K. Is Accused of Sexual Misconduct by 5 Women (The New York Times)

Reading ‘Girl, Interrupted’ on the Psych Ward (Electric Literature, via Medium)

From the article: “Kaysen’s account of her years spent in a mental hospital may seem like a strange choice for someone actually facing time in one, but to me it seemed like the most natural thing in the world. If I’d been traveling to Greece I would have brought a Lonely Planet guide or whatever, something that would give me the lay of the land and help me understand the local customs. Since no one has seen fit yet to print a patients’ guidebook to psychiatric wards, Girl, Interrupted — the first chapter of which is titled Toward a Topography of the Parallel Universe — would have to do.”

Drag Priti Patel for trying to fund genocide, not for being ‘diversity hire’ (gal-dem)

The bigoted British media is actively endangering trans people (Huck Magazine)

From the article: “The idea that being trans is easier in society than being gay is a total canard; neither is a walk in the park, homophobic violence is still common and largely unpunished by police forces that dismiss homophobic and racist violence, and any form of sexual assault. Being trans is far harder: it’s far more acceptable to be transphobic in modern Britain, the risk of physical violence is far higher, and even the most self-avowedly polite members of society will happily question and dismiss your life choices, gender presentation and right to self define, whether in the work place or in newspaper columns.”

Diana Nyad: My Life After Sexual Assault (The New York Times)

When Sia shared her own naked picture she made a stand for women everywhere – but she shouldn’t have had to (Pip Williams, Independent, (via Women’s Media Center))

Keep Your TERF; We’ll Make Our Own Movement (Steph Farnsworth, Stand Up Mag)

From the article: “It is not lesbophobic to support trans women. Transphobic feminists have co-opted the identity and oppression of lesbian women, who are targeted because of their exclusive attraction to other women. Lesbianism is a sexuality. It is not an ideology of hate. It does not deserve to be corrupted by those seeking to oppress other queer people. It’s a disservice to all lesbians in the queer community who simply want all queer people to be supported.”

Modest Dressing, as a Virtue (Naomi Fry, New York Times)

From the article: “Modest fashion might come across as a humblebrag: You have to be a pretty stylish, pretty good-looking woman to claim ownership of such radical dowdiness. (The style seems especially popular among women in their 20s and 30s — trumping the received wisdom that one should flaunt one’s body before it is marked by the supposed scourges of childbearing or menopause.) It can also sometimes seem like an elitist project of sociocultural self-positioning: By embracing the covered-up look, you declare yourself part of a particular psychographic tribe, one whose members don’t just dress for other women, but for a particular subset of other women — those who get it, who are sophisticated enough to understand that opting out of conventional beauty standards makes for its own kind of conceptual, better-than-thou fashion. It also, however, has the feel of a real dare.

“Observing this version of feminist signaling, which conflates the rebel, haphazard spirit of a Bloomsbury Group-like smockishness with traces of early ’90s grunge and a dash of post-bellum Sunday best, we might begin to ask ourselves: What happens when women start dressing in ways that are less than conventionally flattering? Why are they doing it? And what does it look like when fashion choices that might have been linked to female oppression perform in the service of liberation?”

No, Giles Coren, being overweight isn’t the worst thing in life (The Pool)

From the article: “I’m really bored of fatphobia. It still hurts initially, but eventually I just get frustrated that we’re still doing this. I’m bored of the arguments with strangers who feel they have the right to comment on my body and whether I have the right to exist in the same way a thin person does. I’m bored of meeting a new person or watching a new TV show/film and being hit by a joke about how fat people are lazy or unattractive within the first five minutes. And I’m bored of tired, stale rent-a-gobs like Giles Coren and Katie Hopkins making fun of fat people when they want attention but can’t think of anything original to say.”

Gender pay gap widening for women in their 20s, data shows (The Guardian)

The image is used under a creative commons license with thanks to Jill Bazeley on Flickr. It is a photograph of a beach scene, taken at sunset. The sun is hanging low in the sky and casting a yellowish-orange glow over the wet sand and rocks.

CN: Links to posts about sexual assault.

I suppose that I must start this month’s post by addressing some of the events in the comedy and theatre worlds that have followed on from the Harvey Weinstein horrors. I will admit to a certain amount of cynicism; the Old Vic signed this Joint Statement from the Theatre Industry and yet their old Artistic Director, Kevin Spacey, is one of first people to have accusations made against him. It is right that the Charity Commission are asking questions of the venue’s Board. And Spacey absolutely will not be the only Artistic Director of a major theatre or theatre company who has abused his power to abuse others.

However I am pleased about what Vicky Featherstone and her team are doing at the Royal Court. They have published a code of behaviour and a policy that won’t be perfect but are at least a start. What I particularly like about their suggestions are that they say there should be at least three structures for reporting behaviour and they recognise that for complainants “experiencing harassment can be complex and that thoughts and feelings around a particular incident may change during this process”. Both of these elements can be overlooked in company policies.

It will be interesting to see what, if anything, happens next.

Now let’s move on to the fun stuff, lots of which is happening this very week!

Damsel Develops is a new festival committed to helping emerging female directors develop work. It runs from Monday 13 until Sunday 19 November at the Bunker Theatre in London. Damsel Productions’ Artistic Director Hannah Hauer-King says: “The shift we’ve seen in the industry towards supporting female writers has been fantastic and we now want to see it opened up into all creative roles […] Our hope is that the pieces across the festival will have a future life and bring success and inspiration to the women involved.”

The Funny Women Awards are currently in process. There are still a fair few heats to come including this Monday 13, Wednesday 15, Monday 20, Wednesday 22 November at the Betsey Trotwood in London; Sunday 19 November at Phoenix Arts Club in London; Saturday 25 November at Komedia in Brighton and Saturday 2 December at the RADA Studios in London. They will be collecting for UN Women and the HeForShe movement on the night.

Diamond at Soho Theatre from Monday 13 to Saturday 18 November explores LGBT+ history spanning the 60-year period from 1957 to 2017 through the personal biography of David Hoyle. Mary Paterson wrote this cracking review for The F-Word of a previous show of Hoyle’s so this will definitely be worth a watch.

Also at Soho Theatre later in the month will be Wild Bore by Adrienne Truscott, Ursula Martinez and Zoe Coombs Marr. “Wickedly self-deprecating of their own avant-garde artistic practice and ready to throw some punches, the three have teamed up for the first time to delve into the torrent of critical fury that each have attracted throughout their careers, to prove they too are not afraid to talk out of their arses.” It runs from Tuesday 21 November until Saturday 16 December.

Marking the 100th anniversary of the Russian Revolution, Inside Pussy Riot, a new immersive production by Les Enfant Terribles at the Saatchi Gallery in London, encourages audiences to pull on the balaclava and stand up for what they believe in with themes including censorship, patriarchy and pollution. It runs from this Tuesday 14 November until Sunday 24 December.

HOME in Manchester has Hot Brown Honey from Tuesday 12 December to Monday 18 December. I cannot recommend this show highly enough; here’s what I had to say about it last August. They’re not wrong when they say: “this posse of phenomenal women smash stereotypes, remix the system and dare to celebrate our similarities and differences.”

And lastly, check out this episode, ‘Smile’, from Kate Jessop’s Tales From Pussy Willow, a satirical web series which combines animated cut outs with live actors. It really made me laugh.

There probably won’t be a blog post in December, but I’ll be writing again in early 2018. See you then!

Image one is Damsel Develops’ logo. The company’s name is in white capitals over an explosion of yellow powder.

Image two is the logo of Inside Pussy Riot. A stylised figure wearing a pink balaclava is on a yellow background. The words “Inside Pussy Riot” are overlaid in pink and black. Very faintly over the background the words “Hail Mary, Expel Putin”, the name of Pussy Riot’s punk prayer, can be seen. The whole image looks as if it has been crumpled.

Quentin Tarantino

Constanze Wilson is an intersectional feminist based in Cambridge. As someone with chronic health issues her particular interests include health as a social issue, especially the relationship between systems of oppression, physical/mental health and the stigmatisation of certain health problems

Following the recent stream of sexual abuse allegations against Harvey Weinstein, the producer of many Tarantino films, Quentin Tarantino relayed this message through actress Amber Tamblyn:

On reading this, I was incensed by the fact that Tarantino hadn’t automatically condemned what had been revealed as a decade-long affair involving more than 40 women. It also seemed problematic that his statement centralised his personal hurt over the issue itself.

I reminded myself that we didn’t yet know Tarantino’s position: part of me excused his statement on the premise that the idea of a close friend being a serial abuser must be highly distressing. But it turns out that this was not, in fact, new information to Tarantino.

In an hour long-interview with The New York Times, comments from which were published about a week after his by-proxy statement, he admitted to having been aware of Weinstein’s actions for decades. I expected the interview to serve as an public condemnation of Weinstein and an apology for Tarantino’s own lack of action, yet this didn’t happen. Rather than presenting himself as committed to improving the safety of women in Hollywood, he reveals the existence of a mindset underscored by the sexism he seeks to distance himself from.

From The New York Times’ article:

“I knew enough to do more than I did,” he said, citing several episodes involving prominent actresses. “There was more to it than just the normal rumors, the normal gossip. It wasn’t secondhand. I knew he did a couple of these things.”

The NYT then considers the true extent of this awareness and Tarantino’s willingness to confront it:

But Mr. Tarantino said he had failed to consider whether the women he knew were part of a larger pattern of abuse. Though he continued to hear alarming stories over the years, he proceeded to make film after film with Mr. Weinstein, his greatest champion — a decision he now regrets

I believe that this depiction of Tarantino as the unwilling bystander who failed to connect the dots somewhat obfuscates his complicity, taking away his responsibility for hearing story after story of abuse and refusing to see a pattern.

There were, however, some aspects of Weinstein’s conduct Tarantino was forced to engage with. Tarantino explains that he knew that his then-girlfriend Mira Sorvino had been a victim of Weinstein’s advances; he explains his shock but that he considered the problem “resolved” as he was dating her at the time: “I’m with her, he knows that, he won’t mess with her, he knows that she’s my girlfriend.”

As Sorvino was now “with” Tarantino, any further assault would be directly offensive to him as it would represent another man intruding on his property. He could see nothing wrong with her safety being directly dependent on the protection his power afforded as opposed to it being a function of the right to a safe existence.

Here, women are conceptualised only through their relationships to other men. Tarantino is himself guilty of perpetuating the systemic oppression that enabled and tolerated Weinstein’s actions.

At the end of the interview, Tarantino seems to ask the public to see his films as stand-alone entities, a privilege that has been granted to numerous other major players in Hollywood who have been involved in sexual assault allegations: Roman Polanski is still revered as a genius and Woody Allen’s films continue to attract well-known stars such as Elle Fanning. From the NYT:

Asked how the news about Mr. Weinstein would affect how the public views his own record and body of work, Mr. Tarantino paused. “I don’t know,” he said. “I hope it doesn’t”

If we, as a society, continue to give platforms to such individuals then we send the message that directorial vision can be placed above the bodily autonomy and safety of women.

However, hope may be gleaned from the fact the recent weeks have also been marked by collective social action. We’ve seen a clear backlash, especially in the #metoo campaign and in the vast numbers of individuals now empowered enough to speak out. The impunity granted to these men should not be inviolable. Tarantino and his colleagues would do well to take note.

Featured image from Wikipedia Commons, used under Creative Commons Zero licence.

Image is of Quentin Tarantino. He is looking slightly past the camera and appears to be laughing. He is wearing a green and black hooded sweatshirt

In a (sort of) continuation of August’s playlist, this month’s playlist began with an idea to mark the anniversary of the election of the 45th US President by exploring the reinvigoration of the protest song if, for no other reason, than him having inspired a lot of its most recent output.

Somewhere along the line, however, a newer and equally vital musical story reared its head, namely the simultaneous bemoaning of the death of rock by a number of key (largely male) sections of the music industry, and the accompanying rebuttal of such sentiments by a number of (largely female) musicians and critics.

As such, it seemed a good opportunity to shine a light on the likes of Lola Pistols, Rews, Skating Polly, Honeyblood, Pale Honey, Gothic Tropic, Miya Folick, Vagabond and EERA, to name a few. In a nod to both the protest arm and the guitar rock arm of this playlist, you will also hear HAWK’s harrowing take on Irish abortion laws, and at the poppier end of the protest spectrum, MALKA’s ode to the NHS. It also needs to be added, as in August, that this is quite a sweary playlist. You have been warned…

We begin with Those Darlins ‘Oh God’, a sentiment much in my mind on 9 November 2016. The song that follows it, Aimee Mann’s ‘Can’t You Tell?’ should really have been subtitled ‘The resistible rise of Donald Trump’. It was released prior to that November and is a well observed satire of the whole campaign. Will Varley’s thought provoking ‘To Build A Wall’ was also released pre November 2016, whereas both Arcade Fire and Mavis Staples’ blistering ‘I Give You Power’ and Allred and Broderick’s ‘The Ways’ were released on 20 January 2017: Inauguration day. There followed a series of songs released to raise money for Planned Parenthood, including Estelle’s excellent ‘Woman’s World’, which I wanted to include in the playlist but couldn’t make fit. There was also, more generally, the angst, anger and despair of Grace Mitchell’s ‘Kids (Ain’t Alright)’, a song that should have been subtitled ‘WTF just happened?!?’ Most recently there has been the brooding sonic introspection of EMA’s Exile In The Outer Ring.

The question of political pop is a complex and contentious one, much discussed, most recently by Dave Randall’s excellent book Sound System: The Political Power of Music, an imaginative, innovative and inspiring book that thoroughly explores the relationship between music and politics (for good or for ill) from every possible angle. His final chapter, written from his viewpoint as a musician and activist, is the ‘Rebel Music Manifesto’ in which he speaks directly to musicians, and fans, about their roles and responsibilities in 2017.

“My contention throughout this book is that culture matters” he writes

more than many people realise. But it does not change the world on its own. The more removed an artist is from other sites of political struggle, the less relevant their artistic output will be.

Similarly, the historian Carol Dyhouse, in her history of the moral panic from a female perspective, Girl Trouble, wrote in 2013:

The historian bent on taking the long view may discern clear signs of progress, but this is not in any way the surrender to complacency. For history also demonstrates the ever-present possibilities of backlash, reaction and new oppressive forces. Young women need feminism as much as ever, if they are to see their lives in context and to live them fully.

Dyhouse’s words feel very timely in 2017, and relate to the latest twists and turns in the women and rock debate as much as they do to the lives of women in Trump’s US. The surging flood of new protest music also seems to reflect this hard learned lesson, and to heed Randall’s message to the musicians of today.

Image shows a pair of flowery Converse trainers flanked (on the right) by Dave Randall’s book Sound System and (on the left) by Carol Dyhouse’s book Girl Trouble. Image by Cazz Blase. All rights reserved

Video is the fanzine/lyric video made to accompany Grace Mitchell’s ‘Kids (Ain’t Alright)’. The video begins with a group of unidentified young adults making a fanzine in what looks like a bedroom. The fanzine is called ‘Kids Ain’t Alright’ and the lyrics to the song are shown in the video using pages from the fanzine. There’s also inserts of kids skateboarding at night, setting fire to things, breaking bottles and generally running amok. Grace’s picture appears at the very end of the video, on the contributors page at the end of the fanzine.

Weekly round-up and open thread

by Lusana Taylor // 6 November 2017, 4:21 pm

Tags:

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

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

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

Tackling the ‘boys’ club’ of political cartoons (BBC)

Complicity in the sexual abuse of women is built in to the heart of our politics (The Guardian)

Women aren’t ruining food (Jaya Saxena, Taste)

From the article: “This isn’t the first time a pink beverage has been ruined, nor is it the first time a food or beverage has become so popular that it invites an inevitable backlash. This is how capitalism works: Consumers enjoy something, brands notice demand and turn the product into a lifestyle, and consumers dutifully recoil. But instead of being angry at the free market, the ire toward #rosé is directed at the population widely believed to be responsible for its downfall: women. It’s ‘lady petrol,’ according to BBC host Jeremy Clarkson. It’s ‘exhausting,’ according to Eater. It’s unsophisticated. It’s over.”

Speaker Bercow calls for zero tolerance of harassment (BBC)

This striking new zine is dedicated to normalising black art (Dazed)

Theresa May to crack down as sex harassment allegations grow (The Guardian)

Women don’t need to learn to take a joke – men need to stop acting like one (The Sydney Morning Herald)

From the article: “The reality of sexual harassment and abuse has also been absorbed into a cultural lexicon that has almost entirely allowed male creators to reflect their version of reality. We think women respond coquettishly and positively to the raffishness of these men because that’s what men’s stories have always told us. Where we are perhaps seeing the shift now is in how many women are taking back power when it comes to the portrayal of their own lives.”

19 Things Pop Culture Gets So, So Wrong About Depression (Buzzfeed)

Disability Should Be Integral to the #MeToo Conversation (Rewire)

Attitudes to same sex relationships around the world (The Economist)

From the article: “In the West, few civil-rights movements have prevailed so quickly and comprehensively as the campaign for gay rights. In America, support for same-sex marriage has shot up from 27% to 64% since 1996—faster than the rise in acceptance of interracial marriage beginning in the late 1960s. Ireland has gone from having few openly gay public figures to legalising gay marriage and having a gay prime minister. But what about the rest of the world? How do Chinese or Peruvian people feel about gay rights? For that matter, what about the inhabitants of Angola? The International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association (ILGA) has released some numbers that provide a tantalising hint, if not much more than that.”

Teacher who took “upskirt” photos of his students at a London school *might* face a ban (The Pool)

From the article: “Andrew Corish, a teacher from an all-girls school in Croydon, admitted he used his phone to film up pupils’ skirts and stored the images and videos for sexual gratification. As a punishment for preying upon young girls and taking advantage of his position as an assistant headteacher, he potentially faces a classroom ban. That’s it. That’s all. That is the full extent of his punishment. He will not go to prison, because what he did technically, incomprehensibly, does not constitute a criminal offence.”

A glossary of sexual harassment cliches – what does ‘good-natured groping’ really mean? (Arwa Mahdawi, Guardian)

Women of color have always had a place in punk. Big Joanie is here to remind you of that (Owen Myers, The Fader)

Jo Brand silences all-male panel on Have I Got News for You with perfect explanation of why sexual harassment isn’t funny (Harriet Agerholm, Independent)

I Tried Out Being A Stock Image Model (Sara Yasin, Buzzfeed)

The Big Picture: Confronting Manhood After Trump (Lisa Wade, Public Books)

From the article: ” If we’re going to survive both President Trump and the kind of people he has emboldened, we need to attack masculinity directly. I don’t mean that we should recuperate masculinity—that is, press men to identify with a kinder, gentler version of it—I mean that we should reject the idea that men have a psychic need to distinguish themselves from women in order to feel good about themselves. This idea is sexist on its face and it’s unsettling that we so rarely think of it that way.

In fact, we should be as suspicious of males who strongly identify as men as we are of white people who strongly identify as white. We should understand, in hindsight, that one of the reasons women were so keen to embrace masculinity in the first place was because it feels good to feel superior. And we should recognize, as well, that it is men’s belief that they should be superior to women and other men that is the cause of so much of their rage, self-hatred, and suffering.”

Fun Home creator Alison Bechdel on turning a tragic childhood into a hit musical (Rachel Cooke, The Guardian)

Men behaving inappropriately (language: a feminist guide)

From the article: “Recent media reports have been full of expressions which trivialise the issue of sexual harassment and–let’s not mince our own words here–sexual violence. ‘Sleaze’, for example. And ‘lewd’. But to my mind, ‘inappropriate behaviour’ is the worst, most insidious offender. Because it isn’t just a tabloid cliché. In fact it’s more like the opposite– a formula that makes its user sound educated, serious, and free from the combined prurience and moralism with which the tabloids approach anything to do with sex.”

We bailed out the bankers. And yet we’re ready to throw care workers to the wolves (Sonia Sodha, The Guardian)

However You Identify We Must All Be Trans Allies (Ruth Hunt, Huffington Post)

From the article: “Dressing ‘like a boy’, wearing a suit, having short hair, is my way of being a woman. It does not mean that I’m trans. Most people who are trans have an innate sense that the sex they were assigned at birth does not match their gender identity – it’s not about dressing like how you would expect a boy or a girl to dress, and frankly it’s insulting to suggest it is. In fact, what clothes you wear has nothing to do with your gender identity.

In recent weeks and months, we’ve seen endless headlines about trans people. Headlines that make ludicrous statements about how more people than ever are ‘turning trans’.

You cannot make someone trans any more than you can make them a butch catholic lesbian with dyslexia (I didn’t mention that in the opening paragraph, did I?). Being trans is an innate part of who someone is and what they know to be true about themselves. This is exactly the same thing as me knowing I’m not trans, and frankly it’s exactly the same for sexual orientation. People used to ask me how I knew I was a lesbian. My answer: how do you know you’re straight?”

The image is used under a creative commons license with thanks to “>Or Hiltch on Flickr. It is a photograph of heart-shaped biscuits which are lightly dusted with icing sugar and are placed inside, what looks to be, a red tissue-paper lined basket or tin.

Weekly round-up and open thread

by Lusana Taylor // 30 October 2017, 2:53 pm

Tags:

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

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

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

Following Channel 4’s My Week as a Muslim documentary, Sabeena Akhtar asks why we’ll go to such great lengths to avoid hearing from actual Muslim women (Media Diversified)

The Fashion Industry’s Complicity With Sexual Abuse Sucks (Refinery 29)

Men in the UK enjoy more leisure time than women, study shows (The Guardian)

British Theatre bosses condemn sexual harassment in the Industry (The Guardian)

Why you should give money directly & unconditionally to homeless people (New Statesman)

From the article: “The average life expectancy of a homeless man in London is 47. For women, it is 43. This is lower than the general life expectancy of any nation on the planet.”

If You’ve Ever Made a Fat Joke, Fattitude is the Documentary is For You (Observer)

Why Boko Haram uses female suicide-bombers (The Economist)

From the article: “The suicide-bombers sent by Boko Haram are, however, less lethal than those used by other groups, say Mr Warner and Ms Matfess. This is partly because around a fifth detonate their explosives when confronted by soldiers, killing only themselves. Yet still the group sends attackers to Maiduguri, the city where the insurgency began, to target the university, markets and camps for the displaced. It is no coincidence that its use of female bombers rose sharply after the kidnapping of the 276 “Chibok Girls” from their school in April 2014. Boko Haram realised the propaganda value of women: the use of supposed innocents as lethal weapons has a powerful shock factor. They arouse less suspicion (at least they did when the tactic was first deployed, if no longer) and can more easily hide bombs underneath voluminous hijab. And by sending women to blow themselves up, Boko Haram also saves its male fighters for more conventional guerrilla-style attacks.”

The Future Is Female: How ‘Blade Runner 2049’ Uses Gender (Collider)

Tom Hanks’s writing is yet another sad story of how men write women (The Guardian)

From the article: “Hanks is not a Harvey, but he’s from the same world. Just because objectifying women in fiction is at the less serious end of the sexist spectrum, doesn’t mean we have to put up with it. If Hanks wants to do better in his next collection, he would do well to put down the Hollywood scripts and read some women writers.”

The Women Who Designed Classic British Posters (Medium)

From the story: “Pick was a forward-thinking and enlightened manager who did not discriminate based on gender — he chose artists based purely on their talent and on their power to entice Londoners to use the Underground not just for business, but for pleasure, which became increasingly important for revenue.Pick commissioned the first female poster designer, Ellen Coates, in 1910 to create a poster for the Underground Group’s tram network. In 1922 the Central School won a commission to design posters for the LCC Tramways, which was a golden opportunity for budding designers like Freda Beard, who were often given their first commission under the scheme.”

‘Tear it down and start again’: playwright Elinor Cook on Sexism in British Theatre (The Guardian)

From the article: “I find it shocking that [the notion of a female playwright] can be seen as so out there. I’m white and privileged and straight, and if I’ve found it difficult to break through, how much harder is it if you’re not those three things?”

Why Brian Molko Was the 90s’ Ultimate Queer Icon (Another Man)

From the article: “Adamant that he was never out to invoke the kind of straight-up shock tactics that Marilyn Manson and other androgynous 90s stars relied on, Molko told Kerrang! this month that his cross-dressing was a largely political statement, aimed squarely at the homophobia that plagued in the music scene at the time. ‘Basically, I wanted anybody who was slightly homophobic in the audience to look at me and go, “ooh, she’s hot. I’d like to fuck her”,’ he explained, ‘before realising that “her” name was Brian, and then have to ask themselves a few questions about, shall we say, the fluidity of sexuality itself.’”

From tyranny to reality TV: Meet the celebrity defector women of North Korea (Medium)

From the article: “In recent years, North Koreans have populated a new wave of talk shows, reality TV programs and dramas — each of them promising viewers a thrilling glimpse of life north of the Demilitarized Zone. Often enlightening, sometimes tawdry (and occasionally both), these programs have proved highly popular. This is a media trend like none other. It wrings content from young women who’ve escaped the world’s most tyrannical regime. It sharply inverts the typical image of fly-nibbled refugees, replacing it with a new stereotype: celebrity defectors who are invariably young, female and attractive.”

How I learned to stop worrying and love Big Pimpin’—Amanda Barokh (Repeater Books)

From the article: “By way of explanation, I have to take you way back in time to my childhood in the late Eighties. Picture a little brown child with frizzy hair, a faint moustache and a monobrow sitting in the back of her dad’s (also brown) Ford Cortina, driving around the sterile streets of suburban north London. Her dad, an Iraqi, had a penchant for playing tunes from his homeland. The glove compartment of the Cortina was filled with tapes hand-labelled in a scrawly language the little brown child couldn’t understand. Her father would play the tapes loudly and sing along enthusiastically. The little brown child would cry, ‘Dad please turn that music off it sounds like a cat being strangled. I want to listen to Kylie.'”

Student target of online abuse over paper’s fake news fail (The Grio)

‘Hey dude, do this’: the last resort for female gamers escaping online abuse (Kate O’Halloran, Guardian)

Girl gangs and the “do-it-together” attitude in the DIY punk scene (Stephanie Phillips, Alternative Press)

How do women navigate sex and dating in the wake of #MeToo? (Joana Ramiro, Independent)

Toxic masculinity is everywhere. It’s up to us men to fix this (Jordan Stephens, Guardian)

Gitanjali Rao: Girl of 11 takes US young scientist prize (BBC)

When It Comes to Inclusivity in Publishing, Editors Also Play a Role (Jennifer Baker, Electric Lit)

From the article: “…The ultimate responsibility always falls on the creator, but the many people who see the book on its way to publication are culpable too. We’re here to aid writers, and in a sense that does mean protecting them. But protecting the writer also means ensuring the work works.

Understandably editors (and agents) are ‘worried about their clients.’ We’re worried about how things may be taken or dissected. I do wonder, though, if this concern stems more from the desire to protect the privileged masses over the marginalized ones. This can also be part of the inability (or unwillingness) to make the effort required to see inclusivity and parity come to fruition. It means that someone, possibly those of us in a position of power, will be uncomfortable and need to face that discomfort. Senior editor Kate Sullivan at Delacorte wrote about the need for editors to ‘check ourselves.’

Checking ourselves includes not prioritizing the white gaze; analyzing the prose at a micro not just macro level; and discerning why editors don’t connect with marginalized voices and do connect with white, socioeconomically well off, cishet ones. To not do any of these things under the guise of ‘protecting’ the writer or more so enhancing the work is a failure on our part.”

I lost my job due to mental health issues – and I’m far from the only one (Stylist)

The troubling ascent of the LGBT right wing (Arwa Mahdawi, Guardian)

From the article: “…Across the west there’s been a very calculated pink-washing of white nationalism. It’s OK to hate Muslims because Muslims hate gay people, we’re told by white people who also hate gay people – just not as much as they hate Muslims.”

How to Make Sense of the Radical Challenge to Sexual Harassment in Academia (Nehmat Kaur, The Wire)
[South Asia]

From the article: “Women have nothing to gain from naming powerful men who harmed them. In a culture of victim-blaming, they end up more emotionally, financially and professionally depleted after speaking up than they were before. They are also opened up to vindictive responses, so that making a complaint is often career suicide for women academics. If we choose to protect ourselves and not report, we feel guilty and cowardly for that too.”

Why I felt like I didn’t deserve to get involved with #MeToo (Independent Voices)

The image is used under a creative commons license with thanks to Hernán Piñera on Flickr. It is a photograph of five people standing in a row on what appears to be a stage. They are all wearing similar clothing, including white tights or leggings with white pumps or bare feet. They all appear to be slightly stooped over with their eyes to the ground, but there is a blur in the photo, suggesting movement – as if they were all in the process of standing upright.


At this moment when many people are realising the sheer scale of sexual harassment for the first time, some men have written about how these events have shaken them up and caused them to reflect.

Giles Coren, however, is concerned that putting “xx” kisses at the bottom of e-mails might lead to false allegations of sexual harassment – a tragedy that has befallen precisely no-one, nowhere. Yet I think Coren’s article demonstrates one reason why some men are distracted from the real problem of sexual harassment by the fear that a culture that increasingly listens to women will somehow get them into trouble.

Of course, a man may fear sexual harassment allegations because he sexually harasses people and a journalist in this position might use his platform to remind victims of his power, pre-emptively reducing any subsequent accusations in the public mind to “a few misplaced kisses”. Assuming Coren is innocent of this, he is doing a tremendous favour to abusers within his profession.

However, Coren believes the problem to be about his diminishing sexual appeal, explaining,

“It is a mistake that many men make as they get older, not noticing that they have become unattractive and that gestures which might once have been seen as charming have gradually become revolting.”

Our culture does not equip us to cope with unrequited desire towards women. We have plenty of stories where the hero pursues a uninterested sexy woman, but in the end he is always rewarded with her love and attention. Then there’s the villain of the piece, who also lusts after the sexy woman, but whose desires – as well as being unrequited – inevitably manifest in bad behaviour. In our stories, men who experience unrequited sexual desire tend to be monstrous.

Thus some men have been led to believe that, being good men, they are entitled to female attention and that it’s just a matter of time and persistence. These men are the absolute worst.

Then there are men who, like Coren, notice they are not Han Solo and imagine they must be Jabba the Hutt, forgetting that Jabba the Hutt’s offences weren’t so much about being enormous, weird and green, but rather chaining someone up in a gold bikini. I’ve noticed how often, in recent weeks, Harvey Weinstein’s weight is referred to as if the same behaviour from a slimmer man would be more acceptable. Coren laments,

“No more jokes. And no more half-smiles across parties that used (I think) to look beguiling, but now look like Fagin, ogling an unguarded farthing.”

And oddly, I empathise. As a teenager, that’s pretty much how I felt about my same-sex attractions; any boy I fancied would simply laugh at me but any girl who thought I fancied her would feel violated. I would become Ming the Merciless, the Sheriff of Nottingham or Prince Humperdinck. Of course this was about homophobia too; I was made to feel there was something creepy about the way my heart lifted when a certain girl smiled, let alone if I noticed anything about her body.

However, the fear of provoking violent disgust is very different from imagining that someone would, over a period of time, fabricate crimes I didn’t commit in an attempt to ruin my life.

The reason that false accusation was never on my long list of soul-crushing fears was not because I was a girl but rather because I had a better opinion of women.

Reporting sexual harassment or violence (to the police, to employers, even telling friends) is immensely costly to victims. We fear being disbelieved and humiliated. We fear being believed and held responsible. We fear a sympathetic response that treats us as broken. We even fear causing harm to the heroes, friends, partners and family members who have hurt us. There’s rarely anything much to gain, except in sharing an experience and finding we are not alone.

I’ve argued all this with people who believe false-reporting is commonplace and they’ve responded, “But you credit such women with thinking logically!”

And I don’t – that’s my point. I do however credit the vast majority of people with not acting dramatically against their own interest and without possessing the extreme and sustained malice required to falsely accuse someone of sexual violence. The evidence suggests that sexual offences are falsely reported at about the same rate as other crime; so roughly speaking, for every invented rape the police heard about last year, two people pretended to have their bicycles stolen and another seven lied about burglaries. All of those are extraordinarily strange behaviours and while people do behave very strangely and innocent people are harmed, it happens so rarely the rest of us can afford to worry about more common problems. Such as sexual harassment, which almost every woman has experienced and most of us on multiple occasions.

Giles Coren must have read enough about Weinstein to understand that his crimes go beyond unattractive in possession of a libido. None of those #metoo stories last week involved being smiled at by an unsexy colleague. But I think Coren has tapped into a problem in our culture which allows men to be distracted by their personal self-image and to perpetuate myths about the ambiguity of sexual crimes.

The answer is and always has been to listen to women.

 

 

[Image is an illustration from the fairytale Beauty & the Beast. The beast, who is a figure with a human-ish body and the head of some kind of hog, is lying on the ground with a woman kneeling over him as if concerned for his welfare. The woman wears an elaborate dress, perhaps 18th century in style, and a hat with a feather in it. Two characters with monkey faces and paws but wearing human clothes look on with concern.

This image was found on Wikimedia, where the original artist appears uncertain. It is in the public domain.]

Weekly round-up and open thread

by Lusana Taylor // 23 October 2017, 3:50 pm

Tags:


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

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

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

Mayim Bialik, if you think modest clothing protects you from sexual harassment, you need to listen to these Muslim women (The Independent)

What is it like to be a teenage lesbian in rural Russia? (Dazed)

Finally, we have the first-ever ad that shows period blood (The Pool)

The ‘Me Too’ Campaign Was Created By A Black Woman 10 Years Ago (Huffington Post)

From the article:”In a Tuesday morning interview with Democracy Now, Burke discussed the origins of the “Me Too” movement and why it’s still so relevant today. As a survivor of sexual violence herself, Burke said she used the “me too” phrase as a way to connect with other survivors, specifically young women of color.

“[I was] trying to find a succinct way to show empathy,” Burke said. “Me too is so powerful because somebody had said it to me and it changed the trajectory of my healing process once I heard that. Me too was about reaching the places that other people wouldn’t go, bringing messages and words and encouragement to survivors of sexual violence where other people wouldn’t be talking about it.”

No place of safety: The inside story of how women fleeing domestic violence lost their refuge (The Bureau of Investigative Journalism)

From the article: “The Bureau of Investigative Journalism has been following the stories of six of the seven women housed in that [domestic violence] shelter for the past three months as they have been buffeted around the social services system, from hotels, to council meetings, to lonely flats. The seventh woman has dropped off everyone’s radar.

We have also found that local authorities all over England have cut their funding for women’s refuges, by 24% on average. In Kensington and Chelsea, however, the cuts are even more stark, with refuge funding plummeting 45% over the same period.”

What can your period tell you about the state of your health? (The Guardian)

From the article: “Bodyform has broken convention: the feminine hygiene brand’s latest sanitary towel advert is the first to use red liquid. The fact that showing liquid that looks like blood to denote real blood counts as taboo-breaking is as ridiculous as the blue liquid inflicted on our fragile sensibilities for years. As Bodyform’s slogan declares: “Periods are normal. Showing them should be too.”

This is about more than advertising. Making periods visible – by using red liquid, but also in discourse – is good for your health. Women’s health is routinely underresearched, but you can learn a lot from the state of your period.”

Universal Credit Explained By The People On The Frontline Of It (Huffington Post)

Liberal men think they know feminism. They really don’t (The Guardian)

From the article: “Feminism should be a spiritual awakening for men; it should be a revelation of the ways they have participated in the oppression of women in both public and private spheres. It should show them the parts of themselves, their own feminine nature and their capacity for compassion and vulnerability, that they have dismissed as mere weakness, that need to be reclaimed. It is a psychological – even a spiritual – project, not merely a political one.”

FA apologises to Eniola Aluko over Mark Sampson’s racist remarks (The Week)

Ads featuring women in suits pictured beside naked men prompt fierce debate on gender roles (New York Times)

Jessicka Addams Of Jack Off Jill Accuses Twiggy Ramirez Of Rape (Bust)

From the article: “In 2015, while playing some reunion shows with the original line up of Jack Off Jill, Alternative Press Magazine asked me in an interview ‘What would older, wiser Jessicka tell her wilder, 19-year-old self?’ My reply was:

‘Don’t allow anybody—especially your current boyfriend—to verbally ridicule you, psychically abuse and rape you, fat-shame you, break your spirit, make you second-guess yourself and ultimately steal your identity. Don’t worry: He’ll get trapped in the green dress he stole. It becomes his curse rather than a gift, trust me.'”

Self-harm among girls aged 13 to 16 rose by 68% in three years, UK study finds (The Guardian)

From the article:”Self-harm reported to GPs among teenage girls under the age of 17 in the UK increased by 68% over just three years, research has revealed.

The study also found that self-harm among young people aged 10-19 was three times more common among girls than boys, with those who self-harmed at much greater risk of suicide than those who did not.”

Who am I supposed to tell when a man sexually harasses me in front of our friends? (The Pool)

From the article: “I always knew whatever shitty thing was happening to me was wrong, but I never had any idea who I could tell about it. Calling the police would have seemed over the top even if it had occurred to me and, most of the time, I had no clue whether what had happened was a matter for the law. All I could really do was try to make them stop – usually in vain – or wait until it was over, and then get out of there.”

It’s OK to be a “Messy” Bi Person (Damian Emba, bisexual.org)

From the article: “… I have to deal with the fact that by being as sexually open and free as I am, I can be perceived as reinforcing stereotypes about bi people. The best I can do is just remind folks that not all bi people are polyamorous or as sexually active as I am. You’d think it’d be obvious that bi people, just like gay and straight people, are a diverse group of people. We don’t all relate to people in the same way. Many bi people are monogamous. Some are even celibate. And, yes, some of us are polyamorous and sexually active. So what?”

Why I refuse to post “Me too” as my FB status, or: Why Harvey Weinstein is the least of my concerns (Heather Jo Flores, Medium)

Some victims stayed friends with Harvey Weinstein. I did the same with my rapist. Here’s why (Natalia Antonova, Vox)

Rose McGowan’s Controversial Tweet To Ellen DeGeneres Shows Exactly Why Intersectional Feminism Is So Necessary (Amy Roberts, Bustle)

The Disability Paradox (Philippa Willitts, Global Comment)

From the article: “Employers will say privately that they don’t want to hire people with mental health problems because they are unreliable, or people with physical health problems because they need too much time off; in the pub, the same people criticise those who are disabled or chronically ill for being scroungers and read tabloid newspapers that slate disability activists for being well enough to protest without being well enough to work.”

Them Too (Re-reading the second wave)

Why Do Women Point Fingers? The Rise of Victim-Blaming in a Country Under Assault (Caroline Orr, Playboy)

From the article: “Believing that sexual assault happens (at least in part) because of women’s choices provides a sense of security, albeit a false one, by conveying the notion that we’ll be safe as long as we don’t make those same “mistakes.” It tells us that sexual assault can be avoided by simply making better choices, as Bialik seemed to suggest in her NYT op-ed. It also lets us believe that the world is generally a safe place where bad things don’t happen to good people.”

A new film shows the heartbreaking reality of living with chronic fatigue syndrome (The Pool)

The image is used under a creative commons license with thanks to kryaaa_chet on Flickr. It is a black and white photograph of a table set for tea, with two cups and two teapots set on a floral table cloth. There are four chairs set round the table and light filtering through the window, casting shadows on the scene.

Weekly round-up and open thread

by Lusana Taylor // 16 October 2017, 10:53 pm

Tags:

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

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

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

Why women are more likely than men to die in natural disasters (NY Times)

From the article: “According to a 2008 study drawn from 141 countries over 21 years, more women die during environmental disasters than men. The 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami killed four times as many women as men. In some cases, women had stayed behind to search for children and relatives. In others, women had never learned to swim. And disasters’ disproportionate impact on women is not limited to the global south.”

Intersectionality? Not while feminists participate in pile-ons (The Guardian)

From the article: “For all its talk of intersectionality, mainstream feminism still cannot comprehend that racism and sexism are not experienced separately but simultaneously.”

Make Misogyny A Hate Crime [PETITION] (Action – Green Party)

How Men Like Harvey Weinstein Implicate Their Victims in Their Acts (The New Yorker)

From the article: “The allegations against Harvey Weinstein are a reminder that, when a young woman is treated like an object, she is placed within an old and sickening script, one that is incredibly difficult to escape.”

Rebecca Solnit on Harvey Weinstein and Extreme Masculinity… (The Guardian)

From the article: “…perhaps it’s an extreme version of masculinity that has always been with us in a culture that gives men more power and privilege than women; perhaps these acts are the result of taking that to its logical conclusion. There must be terrible loneliness in that failure to perceive or value the humanity of others, the failure of empathy and imagination, to consider oneself the only person who matters.”

The Party: how can gender affect autism spectrum disorders? – Science Weekly podcast (The Guardian)

Will 2017 be the year of Hollywood’s feminist reckoning? (Ms.)

As ‘the fathers of daughters,’ they were offended by harassment. But what did that really mean? (Washington Post)

Being fat is not a sign of mental illness (The Pool)

From the article: “Fat people are vulnerable in almost every situation they put themselves into, so to think that the professionals whose job it is to make them feel safe in the most vulnerable position a person can put themselves into is making a judgment before they open their mouths is horrifying. We are not temporary structures, we are human beings, and we deserve better.”

Today’s youth are caring, engaged political actors (Gayle Kimball, The Hill)

I’ve stopped saying ‘feminine hygiene products’. Here’s why you should too (Chella Quint, Independent)

Free Condoms Aren’t A Symbol of the Patriarchy (Liv Woodward, The Nopebook)

The age advantage (Sonia Zhuravlyova, Positive.News)

From the article: “When we use the term anti-ageing, we’re subtly reinforcing the message that ageing is a condition we need to battle.”

NZ grants residence to trans woman abused in UK (RNZ)

The secret pagan, pro-sex, feminine utopia hidden in France (Dazed Digital)

On Solidarity (Ami Rao)

From the article: “Without any meaningful explanation, I found myself shut out of the process, excluded almost entirely from the publicity and the PR surrounding the book. Instead Declan was sent forth “for the good of the book,” to do countless print and radio interviews where he spent large chunks of airtime expressing his disappointment that his partner in this collaboration was strikingly absent from it all.”

Ageing joyfully: meet the older people defying senior stereotypes (Sonia Zhuravlyova, Positive.News)

Hollywood and academia: is the problem the same? (The 1752 Group)

From the article: “Once you have chosen your research area then you will often be working with the same 50-100 people for the rest of your career and the perpetrator is often in a far more senior position from the get go. It doesn’t take much to destroy someone’s career in industries where junior members of the community are so expendable. After all there is no shortage of actresses desperate for a role and no end to the number of postdocs grasping for that all-important permanent position.”

Protected: an Open Letter to the UK Film Industry on Addressing Harassment and Discrimination (Raising Films)

Raising Films, a community and campaigning organisation working towards a more equal and inclusive creative industry in the UK, publishes an open letter calling for accountability of decision-makers and employers, and working towards elimination of unfair employment practices and harassment.

Why we shouldn’t accept James Corden’s weak, empty apology (Shortlist)

From the article: ““I am truly sorry for anyone offended, that was never my intention” is outright passive-aggression. According to Corden: it is your fault that you were offended, not his, because you have misunderstood the nuance of his joke about luring impressionable young women into very dangerous situations. That his audience – affluent, connected, and very Los Angeles – could have easily contained such victims was clearly not something he was interested in.”

Rose McGowan & Unintersectional Feminism (Danielle Dash)

From the article: “Black women live at the intersection of race, gender and some of us disability. We cannot choose our vaginas over our skin because we have both all the motherfucking time. And I’m tired of being polite and explaining this over and over and over again.”

The image is used under a creative commons license with thanks to Isabelle Gallino on Flickr. It is a black and white photograph of a person with long, dark hair. They have their hand pressed to their forehead in a gesture that would seem to suggest sadness or frustration. A pencil sticks up from between their fingers as if perhaps they had been in the middle of writing something.

Content note: discussions of sexual abuse

You may have noticed the #metoo hashtag doing the rounds on social media in the last 24 hours.

The campaign has arisen in light of the recent Harvey Weinstein accusations to demonstrate the scale and extent of sexual abuse and harassment that women face.

To those people participating in this campaign: you have my respect. I believe you. However, it’s important to note that you are not required to disclose painful information about your life, least of all on social media.

The extent of Harvey Weinstein’s abuse is staggering and many survivors of violence are struggling to contend with the daily onslaught of disclosures and incessant coverage of this. While those survivors deserve to be believed, respected and supported, it’s important to note that bearing witness to this rolling 24/7 coverage can be traumatic for many who may have experienced similar abusive behaviour.

Reminder: you do not need to participate in this campaign to show your solidarity. You do not and should not have to recount or disclose your own experience(s) if this has negative implications for you. You are not being a bad ally or a bad feminist if you choose not to join in. Survivors of violence should not have to suffer further in order to get men to listen to them.

While most perpetrators of violence are cis men, it’s also important to note that it’s not exclusively cis women who are the victims of their violence. Men and, in particular, trans women and, more specifically, trans women of colour, are also targets.

Be kind to yourself. Take a social media or news break, if you need to. Talk to friends. Seek specialist and professional support if you need it. Undertake the self-care you need in order to stay well. Do what feels right for you.

The image at the top of the page is a close-up black and white shot of a sign reading ‘private’. The sign is attached to a brick wall and appears to be in a residential area; you can see buildings in the background. Picture by Jeremy Segrott and shared under a Creative Commons licence.

The F-Word team update

by Joanna Whitehead // , 10:05 am

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I’m pleased to announce that we have three fabulous new editors joining the team: Nicholl Hardwick (guest posts), Christina Carè (features) and Kristel Tracey (features). Welcome! We were really impressed with the experience, knowledge and ideas for the site all three women had and I’m delighted they’re part of the team. Sophie Jackson, our existing features editor extraordinaire, will be taking a sabbatical, returning to the site in early February 2018.

In their own words:

Nicholl Hardwick

Nicholl is an intersectional feminist with a particular focus on popular culture and specific interests in comedy, music, the media and literature. Until recently, Nicholl was a Masters student, but now you can find her either writing scripts, volunteering, teaching creative writing workshops, drawing, or with her head nested firmly in a book. Nicholl strongly believes that discussions, listening and solidarity have the power to create progressive change within our communities.

Christina Carè

Christina Carè is a feminist, writer and editor based in London, originally from Sydney, Australia. Interested in relationships, art, language and class issues as they intersect with feminism, she will happily chat with you on anything from inequalities in aesthetic theories, to who is the best Marvel character. Furious collector of degrees, house plants, books and foreign languages, she reviews plays in her spare time but makes a living as a content strategist/writer for Spotlight. She tweets erratically at @christinacare

Kristel Tracey

Queen Nefertiti in a past life, reborn in Luton as a plebeian and reinvented as a too-much-to-say-for-herself Londoner and lover of the written word. A communications manager by day, by night you’ll find Kristel on her soapbox (or tapping away loudly on her laptop) about intersectional feminism, race and class inequality. Or watching something trashy on TV, because sometimes shizzle gets too real. She loves nothing more than a good book, good people and a good belly-laugh. You can find her on Twitter at @the_vajabond

To contact Christina and Kristel regarding any features content, you can reach them at features@thefword.org.uk. For guest content and the blog, you can reach Nicholl at guestposts@thefword.org.uk

The image at the top of the page shows the word ‘edit’ in large, orange letters against a black, crumpled background. The picture was taken by David Bleasdale and shared under a Creative Commons licence.

Weekly round-up and open thread

by Lusana Taylor // 10 October 2017, 9:24 pm

Tags:

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

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

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

FA manages to divide the room with its plans to restructure women’s football (The Guardian)

A former all-women college presented an all-male team on University Challenge (The Pool)

The Lesbian Vloggers Teaching Queer Teens How to Have Better, Safer Sex (Vice)

From the article: “There are good reasons for queer girls to talk about safe sex, too. Contrary to popular myth, unprotected sex between two women can still pose the risk of STI transmission. HIV can still be spread through vaginal fluids, and infections like HPV (which can lead to genital warts and cervical cancer) and herpes can spread through intimate skin-to-skin contact.”

Diverse Stock Photos Have Ushered in a New Era of Memeing (Vice)

What men and women think about their partners’ careers and help at home (The Economist)

Greater Manchester Chief Fire Officer announces retirement amidst continuing questions as regards the Fire Brigade’s “tardy response to the bombing faced by the city in May.” (Private Eye)

From the story: “A senior fire service officer told local press: “On the back of the Mumbai attacks [in 2008] it was recognised there was a need for firefighters in Greater Manchester who had advanced trauma skills, who could deal with gunshot wounds, and would be kitted out with body armour and trained in the rapid extraction of victims from dangerous locations.” In the aftermath of the attack, it emerged that not only were the specialist teams not deployed to the arena, normal fire crews were even held back from the scene for more than 90 minutes.”

Decades of Sexual Harassment Accusations Against Harvey Weinstein (The New York Times)

Travis Alabanza: The critically-acclaimed artist and performer talks harassment, visibility and perceptions of gender (QX)

From the article: “Diversity is the biggest capitalist venture right now for businesses. And what that means – and what Munroe was a harsh reminder of – is that these companies will capitalise on our identities.”

These Women Made Their Own Stock Images To Dispel Myths Around Domestic Violence (BuzzFeed)

From the article: “‘Whilst physical violence can be part of an abusive relationship, emotional abuse is always part of an abusive relationship,’ Jessie said. ‘There are a number of different controlling, humiliating, degrading tactics, and all of that can take place without a person raising a fist.'”

How daughters change the behaviour of influential men (The Economist)

The White Privilege of the “Lone Wolf” Shooter (The Intercept_Shaun King)

Sex workers’ rights are about more than just “happy hookers” (Frankie Mullin, New Statesman)

I Tied My Tubes at Age 31. And It’s Not Up for Discussion (Lauren Himiak, Rewire)

“Not only do I fear straight white working class blokes, I also fear the gay white men who populate bars in Soho.” (Queer performer, Scottee, Gay Times)

From the article: “You’d be wrong to think that this is just a scene issue. Unfortunately femme shaming, fat shaming and gay misogyny is rife throughout white gay male cultures . Us femmes are continuously desexualised and demonised for something that is considered to be ‘put on’ or performed; if effeminacy is performed, this would surely mean their cherished masculinity was also an act, wouldn’t it?”

I Know What Boys Like, I Know What Guys Want (Dances with Fat)

From the article: “I’m suggesting that if we work to dismantle a society where all women are encouraged to believe that we should base their self-worth on how attractive men find us – and where the way that we are treated depends on it in many ways – then each of us gets to choose how we determine our value.”

Model Arvida Byström gets rape threats after an advert featured her hairy legs (BBC Newsbeat)

Byström on Twitter: “My photo from the @adidasoriginals superstar campaign got a lot of nasty comments last week. Me being such an abled, white, cis body with its only nonconforming feature being a lil leg hair. Literally I’ve been getting rape threats in my DM inbox. I can’t even begin to imagine what it’s like to not posses all these privileges and try to exist in the world. Sending love and try to remember that not everybody has the same experiences being a person. Also thanks for all the love. Got a lot of that too.”

Meet the woman who takes selfies with street harassers (Independent)

The speculum finally gets a modern redesign (Wired)

From the article: “The current design of the speculum, fashioned by American physician James Marion Sims, dates back to the 1840s. Sims, sometimes called the “father of modern gynecology,” used the speculum to pioneer treatments for fistula and other complications from childbirth. But his experiments were often conducted on slave women, without the use of anesthesia. So to say that the speculum was not designed with patient comfort in mind would be an egregious understatement.”

Playing the Online Dating Game, in a Wheelchair (The New York Times)

From the article: “I started gradually, making references to my disability throughout my profile, then adding photos in which my wheelchair is clearly visible. I tried to keep things light and humorous. For instance, OKCupid asks users to list six things they can’t live without; one of mine is “the invention of the wheel.”

Mental health: why we’re all sick under neoliberalism (Ray Filar, Transformation, Open Democracy)

There may finally be a way to stop abuse by anti-abortion protesters (The Guardian)

The image is used under a creative commons license with thanks to Sarah on Flickr. It shows person, with their back to the camera, standing in the middle of a barren landscape. There are mountains in the distance and the person is standing with their head to the side as if braced against the wind.

I’m going to open this month’s blog post with a short rant about theatre captioning. I used to work for Stagetext, the national arts organisation that introduced captioning (or subtitling) for live performance to the UK. I believe theatre is for everyone and that organisations have an absolute moral and ethical duty to make their work accessible to the broadest range of people.

Last week the National Theatre announced that they were trialling new technology to make theatre captions available for every performance through special glasses. There are good things about this of course: new technology is always fun and having the choice of any performance is an option that’s not available at the moment. However I have a huge issue with the way that this project has been reported across many publications.

The BBC say that open captioning (showing the words on a screen to everyone) “can distract the audience”, the Stage reports that this scheme will remove the need for captioning screens in the auditorium as if that can only be a good thing and the National themselves described the glasses as “discreet”. All this is written from the assumption that showing captions to everyone is automatically a bad thing and isn’t it just lovely that we might be able to avoid it.

This is actually disgusting. The idea that it’s positive to hide the accommodation or adaptation that some audience members need so no one else is bothered is just dreadful. It shows a lack of imagination and empathy, and I don’t believe that such negative and selfish views are something that any of us should be indulging. I’ve never once been distracted by captions. Theatre should be inclusive.

And now let’s move on to the shows!

Ellie Taylor is taking her latest show This Guy on a 20 date, autumn UK tour which begins tonight in Sudbury. Married and in her 30s, Ellie has overcome the surprise of being in a dreadfully happy marriage only for society to test her with a new question – whether or not she wants to breed. If Ellie had been given a pound every time she’s been asked “Are you going to have a baby?” she could have bought a really expensive baby. The tour is also going to Brighton, Wenlock, Salford, Solihull, Bromsgrove, Maidenhead, Didcot, Glasgow, Newcastle, Hull, Leeds, Canterbury, Bordon, Crawley, London, Southend, Bristol, Newport and Norwich. Phew! Tickets can be bought here.

Next week a new production of Howard Barker’s The Castle opens at the Space in east London and runs until 28 October. It’s a rainy day in middle England and Stucley returns home from War to find his land untended, his sheep wild and his wife in bed with a witch. In the absence of men, a new way of life has emerged. No religion. No class. No hunger. The women are in charge now. They have their freedom and they’re not going to give it back.

Next week too is the start of a few performances of Strangers & Others, a new immersive and interactive piece from dance/theatre makers, H2 Dance. It will be in Woking on 10 October, Colchester on 18 October, Norwich on 24 October, Peterborough on 26 October and Nottingham on 2 December.

Major Labia are a Nottingham-based collective of witty women and will be performing a new sketch show at Curve in Leicester on Friday 20 and Saturday 21 October.

Homotopia, Liverpool’s LGBT+ arts and culture festival, will be running from 26 October until 1 December. There are a lot of events, but of particular note are Butch Monologues, at the Unity Theatre and Rachael Young presenting OUT, a performance about shape shifting in a bid to fit in – to be black enough, straight enough, Jamaican enough.

Soho Theatre in London have a season of Edinburgh Comedy Award Winners and Nominees coming up. Best Show Hannah Gadsby: Nanette will be on from 30 October until 11 November and Best Newcomer Natalie Palamides: Laid will be on from 6 until 18 November and then 22 December until 13 January 2018.

Jonny Woo’s Un-Royal Variety, an alternative alternative to the Royal Variety Performance will be happening at the Hackney Empire on 3 and 4 November. Accompanied by a big, brassy rock band and a 30-strong dance troupe of gender-fluid club kids, Woo will MC, sing, dance, conduct and tether together an evening featuring US sensation Christeene, award-winning operatic comic Jayde Adams and fresh from the success of Triple Threat, Lucy McCormick.

A little while ago Holly Donovan wrote for us about the objectification she had experienced in the theatre industry. Her play, No Place Like Hope will be performed at the Old Red Lion theatre in London in November where they will be raising money for the charity, Victoria’s Promise.

And lastly next month OperaUpClose will be at the Arcola Theatre in London with a chamber production of Tchaikovsky’s Eugene Onegin. The libretto is a new English version written by Artistic Director, Robin Norton-Hale, and has been approached from a feminist/political angle, transposing Tatyana’s sexual awakening to the 1960s, at the cusp of the women’s liberation moment. The creative team is female-led, and includes rising star Sonia Ben Santamaria as musical director. Here’s what reviewer Megan Stodel thought of their previous production, La Voix Humaine.

Until next month.

Image 1 is of Ellie Taylor. Taylor stands in front of a green background with her hands in the ‘thumbs-up’ position pointing to herself. She looks away from the camera. She has red lipstick and glossy long brown hair.

Image 2 is of Major Labia and is by Natalie Owen. Seven women stand in a row outside. They each have their hands in a triangle shape in front of themselves which is the British Sign Language sign for ‘cunt’ or ‘vagina’. They are all smiling broadly at the camera.

Image 3 is of Jayde Adams by Sian Stephanie Smith. Adams is wearing a black sparkly leotard and is looking thoughtfully away from the camera. She is in front of a blue background and there are a few light flares over the image. She has heavy makeup and blonde curly hair with dark roots.

Pelvic mesh exposes misogyny in medicine

This is a guest post by Kate Harveston

When the Mesh Oversight Group report was released earlier this year it exposed what was called the “most serious medical scandal since thalidomide”: the painful complications of thousands of transvaginal mesh implant procedures.

Pelvic mesh is used as a treatment for pelvic floor disorders in women and, after childbirth, is said to reinforce the vaginal wall to prevent pelvic organ prolapse. Many women have suffered severe complications from the implantation of vaginal mesh, finding themselves experiencing severe chronic pain that leaves them unable to have sex or, in some cases, to even walk.

NHS records found that of the 75,000 women who have had vaginal mesh implanted in the past 10 years, roughly 1 in 15 of them has had to have additional surgery to remove the implant due to complications.

Several companies that produce these mesh products, such as Johnson & Johnson, have been sued by women who have suffered their side effects. Worldwide, 100,000 women are thought to be affected. Instead of addressing the pain and difficulties these women are feeling, some doctors have made other suggestions.

A series of emails between Australian doctors in reference to a current pelvic mesh class action lawsuit have infuriated patients. Instead of coming up with solutions to the side effects that these women are experiencing, these doctors suggested that they become a little more adventurous in the bedroom — specifically, switching to anal or oral sex instead of vaginal intercourse.

This misogyny in medicine isn’t a new thing. Have you ever tried to talk to your doctor about a sexual problem, only to have them dismiss the conversation as if the problem is all in your head? Even female doctors can fall into this trap, transferring their own internalised misogyny onto their patients. One woman describes talking to her female gynecologist about painful intercourse and receiving the advice to “toughen up” and that sometimes that was “just the way things were.”

Just Googling the topic of doctors ignoring women’s pain will bring up countless anecdotes of women having their complaints, both sex-related and otherwise, misdiagnosed or ignored altogether. Medical professionals who genuinely care about the issue have confirmed this medical bias. One doctor admitted to a female patient that female sexual disorders are “wildly under-discussed” within the medical community.

Women are conditioned, even in the modern age, to believe their sexual pleasure comes second to that of men — and that belief is only reinforced by the type of behaviour demonstrated by the doctors in Australia. Instead of focusing on these women’s medical problems, these doctors are discussing their patients as nothing more than sexual objects; any orifice will do.

We still live in a society where many people consider female sexuality to be shameful, and we’ve been trained to keep our sexuality and any concerns with our sexual or reproductive health to ourselves.

Misogyny in medicine is a problem that affects women’s access to healthcare and their sense of self-worth. If your doctor brushes you off or makes light of your pain remember that you are your own best advocate, know best what you’re feeling and that you are not alone. There may be options for you to see another doctor or, it can help to do your own research around your symptoms and prepare a focused list of questions for when you next visit. There are also some support and discussion groups online for women experiencing certain conditions and symptoms that could provide a brilliant support network.

Featured image by Jordan Bauer, from Unsplash. Used under Creative Commons Zero licence.

Image is taken from the perspective of someone peering into a room where a woman is lying on the bed. Her expression suggests that she is in pain or processing some difficult information. Only the tops of her arms and part of her face are visible. The shot has a soft, emotional feel.

Introducing October's monthly blogger

It’s time to welcome Zamira Rahim as October’s monthly blogger.

In her own words:

“Zamira is a journalist based in London, who has written for TIME and CNN International. She’s reported on a range of feminist campaigns and is excited to write more about intersectional movements and on women’s equality in countries outside the UK. She’s particularly interested in how women can bridge divides in class and race and how feminism and religion can co-exist.

Zamira studied law at university, where a mix of feminist professors and the quirky world of student politics quickly shaped her interests.

Outside of writing she’s happiest with her nose in a book or when watching a play. She spends far too much time on Twitter and you can follow her at @ZamiraRahim.”

Image by Thought Catalog, from Unsplash. Used under Creative Commons Zero licence.

Further Reading

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