by Megan Stodel // 27 October 2016, 9:01 pm
It’s weird, because when I was a child, teenager and young adult, I didn’t feel like David Cameron was a friend to people like me. This is a man who opposed the repeal of Section 28, a piece of legislation that banned the “promotion of homosexuality” and had particularly damaging effects in schools, where teachers feared even mentioning the existence of LGB people. This is a man who viciously attacked Tony Blair for “moving heaven and earth to allow the promotion of homosexuality in our schools”.
This is a man who voted in favour of a bill that would have banned two women or two men in relationships from adopting children together. This is a man who opposed women receiving IVF if they couldn’t name a father figure.
So when Pink News think it’s fit to award David Cameron their Ally of the Year Award, I’m left puzzled.
It’s true that while he was Prime Minister, legislation that enabled equal marriage was passed. But is this enough to warrant the award? It’s a bit of a push to suggest that this happened in the last year – the relevant act was passed in 2013. Is it seriously the case that there is literally not one heterosexual cisgender person who has done anything at all to benefit the LGBT community in the past 12 months?
Benjamin Cohen, who is chief executive of Pink News, defended the award:
The point of activism and the LGBT movement is about convincing people who oppose our rights to become our allies. The reason we have so much progress in this country is that people who questioned it and were opposed to it have changed their minds
I can’t help but doubt Cameron’s influence in changing anyone’s mind. His equal marriage bill was opposed by most of the Tories who voted. Of course, Cameron didn’t whip his party on matters of conscience, which are somehow distinct from matters of equality and human rights. The real advocates were among the Labour and Liberal Democrat MPs. And yes, perhaps it is difficult proposing legislation that sees your party divided. But public opinion was on his side, which probably had a lot more to do with civil partnerships brought in by the Labour government, and the fact they didn’t lead to the apocalypse.
And it isn’t as if Cameron’s time in office was sheer heaven for LGBT people. After all, he resigned following the results of the Brexit referendum, which will almost certainly have a negative impact on us, as discussed previously and shown through the worrying rise in homophobic attacks since the referendum.
Austerity was a major theme of Cameronian government, which is pretty crap for everyone. For LGBT people, it means cuts to vital services that address our needs specifically – from housing to health services – on top of the unemployment, benefit cuts and increasing inequality that is spread around more widely. Did you know a quarter of homeless young people identify as LGBT? What do cuts in services do for them? Meanwhile, forget the Big Society, one of Dave’s pet projects, if you can remember that far back: LGBT organisations and charities have taken big financial hits.
But it doesn’t look like an ultra-privileged master of distraction who has made LGBT people suffer through his policies and vilified them through his words, even if three years ago he recognised a pro-equality movement that had broad support others had worked for decades to build.
The photo shows David Cameron’s face as he gives a speech. It is used under a creative commons licence.
by Guest Blogger // 25 October 2016, 1:13 pm
This is a guest post by Hayley Smith. She is the Founder of the @Flow_Aid campaign, providing free sanitary products to homeless women. She can be found tweeting at @officialHayleyS and also owns London-based PR company @BoxedOutPR
In the UK, sanitary products have a 5% luxury tax attached to them, also known as the tampon tax. Women use approximately 16,800 tampons and sanitary pads in their menstrual lifecycle and rely on these items to ensure that they don’t bleed all over themselves each month. But according to “meninist” Ryan Williams, women who have periods have been doing it all wrong.
Williams took issue with the campaign against the tampon tax, Tweeting:
Tampons should not be free, why does everyone keep saying they should be?? if u can't control ur bladder then that's not taxpayers problem!
— Ryan ø (@ryanwilliams97) October 16, 2016
pay for ur own tampons if u can't hold it until u get to a toilet. I don't urinate everywhere and expect free nappies #selfcontrol
— Ryan ø (@ryanwilliams97) October 16, 2016
We have been spending hundreds and hundreds of pounds on sanitary products when we could have simply been holding it in all along! This revelation was produced by a 19-year-old Essex boy, but it is ok, he has a girlfriend, so he knows exactly how periods work.
So it was no wonder that after his comments were published in the Daily Star he was shocked and surprised that he received some angry and negative responses. These women were clearly all on their periods at the same time. Gosh, us females really need to get it together sometimes!
On his Twitter profile, Williams describes himself as an “avid meninist” — a member of an anti-feminist movement that is thought to be satirical. Following the backlash he Tweeted: “Yo I’m so lucky my girlfriend isnt crazy like these feminists and she never bleeds lol always clean [sic].” Sadly, nothing about Williams seems vaguely satirical.
Tampons are so luxurious that I give mine nicknames like Porsche and Ferrari. I am going to keep them in diamond-encrusted trinket boxes because now that I don’t have to spend my money on sanitary products anymore I can definitely afford to do this. A 2015 study found that women in the UK will spend as much as £18,450 on their periods during their lifetime, including sanitary and pain relief products.
Williams has a girlfriend, so he presumably has sex and uses condoms. If we’re talking about involuntary bodily excretions, ejaculation is something that comes to mind. Perhaps this is something he also feels he can hold in, as he adds, he doesn’t believe condoms should be free, either:
and just for the record, I don't think condoms should be free either… close ur legs and hold ur bladder, end of discussion
— Ryan ø (@ryanwilliams97) October 16, 2016
Surely, that moment, just before, it can be held in? Either way, condoms are free from the NHS and don’t have VAT.
Condoms are great because they prevent STIs. Tampons are also consequential where it comes to women’s health. Nothing important, anyhow, only the smallest of things: the risk of death. Prolonged use of a tampon can cause toxic shock syndrome, which can be fatal. That doesn’t sound like something we’d risk to use a product that is essentially unnecessary.
But women shouldn’t sweat it. Ryan is probably enjoying his houseboat moorings, crocodile meat, jaffa cakes and bingo, all of which are considered essential. Meaning they are exempt from the luxury tax. Also, as according to Ryan (who knew one person would know so much about bodily fluids?) it’s up to us to control our bladders, shouldn’t people who need to go to the toilet just be able to hold it in? But yet, incontinence products don’t have a luxury tax and I would say that they are just as important as sanitary products. Oh, and the bladder is a different part of the body; we do not bleed from there.
Us women love having our bodies talked about, especially by men we don’t know. And we are thrilled that Ryan Williams, who we have never met, has decided to take ownership of our bodies and tell us how they should and shouldn’t work. And I am so glad that he has started a Crowd Funder to raise money for his biology lessons (I for one will be making a hefty donation – of knowledge). I only hope that they don’t have a luxury tax attached, I would hate for him to pay extra for something he clearly needs.
Popular to contrary belief, women who have periods do not bleed at the same time every month (though, wouldn’t that be fun). And we will be amazed to hear that we no longer have to worry about acquiring sanitary products anymore: we can just hold it in!
Image by Colour59, from BigStock. Used with extended licence.
Image is of seven white tampons in a pile, on top of a selection of sanitary pads. The sanitary pads are either in pink or purple packaging.
by Lusana Taylor // 24 October 2016, 10:34 pm
Welcome to another weekly round-up, where we share (what we see as) the most interesting and important articles from the previous seven days. We’d love to hear your thoughts on any of the issues covered in our chosen links, which include everything from IVF to Poldark.
As always, linking to articles does not mean endorsement from the F-Word and certain links may be triggering. We welcome debate in the comments section and on Facebook/Twitter but remind readers that any comments containing sexist, racist, homophobic, transphobic or disablist language will be deleted immediately.
If you notice that we’ve missed out any important articles from the past week, feel free to let us know.
Ken Loach is not exaggerating (Independent)
From the article: “This system is supposed to care for us at a time of greatest need. That’s why the welfare state was created, to recognize that any of us could fall victim to circumstances beyond our control. Yet the shame heaped on benefit claimants now shouts loudly in our collective faces that poverty is somehow a “lifestyle choice”. That need and illness and disability and circumstance are all something to be ashamed of.”
Why We Must Not Go Gently Into The Night (Gimpled)
From the article: “Most of all, it is hard to explain how we are devalued and treated as ‘less than’. And as an activist who fights against violence, abuse and neglect of disabled people, I have hundreds of examples where disabled people have been murdered, where their perpetrators have walked free, sometimes into paid interviews. Where our deaths have been described as mercy killings and our lives have been described as ‘burdensome’…
…Why not everyone? I asked. If it’s about helping people to die, why not make it accessible to everyone? Silent Witness star and Not Dead Yet campaigner Liz Carr uses the example of a person on a bridge, ready to jump. Do you help them jump, or extend your hand to save them? she asks. Would you do a different thing if they were disabled? And if you would, should you not ask yourself why?”
[contains captioned video of British actor, Liz Carr, speaking about this issue]
From the video: “Let’s stop this kind of glamorising of assisted suicide as the new and only way to die; we’ve been doing death for a long time and we kinda know how to do it. What we don’t do very well is support people at the end of their lives. And we need to get better at that.”
The Dangerous Exclusivity Of Spaces For ‘Women’ Sexual Assault Survivors (The Establishment)
Four myths about IVF in older women (The Conversation)
What men would do to fix the workplace equality gap (The Conversation)
From the article: “Lack of gender parity is influenced just as much by what men are doing as what women are doing. And yet male voices have been quiet, or not listened to, while initiatives focus on things like mentoring female employees to be more assertive – in effect “fixing the women” to fit in with how things are done.”
Porn Didn’t Ruin Your Sex Life. Sorry (Kitty Stryker at Medium)
From the article: “I’m tired of being in an industry that’s blamed for ‘ruining sex’ by a society that discourages sex for fun and refuses to offer comprehensive sex education. Porn didn’t fuck up your sex life. Your selfish, focused-on-his-orgasm boyfriend did.”
Riders and Fans React as La Course Moves from Paris (Total Women’s Cycling)
From the article: “Donald Trump is running for president. A rape complainant’s sexual history was pored over. Domestic violence shelters are closing. Bikini waxes seem somehow insignificant.”
The image is used under a creative commons license with thanks to Ric Lander on Flickr. It is a photograph showing two people with long brown hair standing opposite each other with their lips pursed. In between them is a pinwheel. Behind them, a group of protesters stand, carrying signs which read “Wind Power not Wind Bags”. Accompanying the words are images of Donald Trump.
by Guest Blogger // 22 October 2016, 12:00 pm
This is a guest post by Rashida Islam.
Additional editorial note [edits made at 15.40 and 19.00, 22 October 2016]: This blog post is an opinion piece, reflecting the view of the author.
Every year in the UK on average 85,000 women and 12,000 men are victims of the most serious offenses of rape or sexual assault. In 2013, only 1,070 rapists were convicted of their crime. The UK has amongst the lowest conviction rates for rape across Europe.
This is partly because the number of attacks reported is low as many women feel shame and fear of reprisal in coming forwards. The burden of proof placed on the complainant only exacerbates this and is acknowledged by the Crown Prosecution Service as to why many rape cases fail. The sheer length of time taken for a case to be resolved also forces women to relive trauma over a period of years. The Ched Evans case has illustrated the problems with legal and cultural institutions that foster an unsafe environment for women.
The footballer was convicted of raping a 19-year-old woman in 2012 and then acquitted this year after new evidence of her sexual history was brought into court.
Let’s clarify: a ‘not guilty’ verdict does not mean a defendant is innocent. Not guilty means there is insufficient evidence of outright guilt. Ched Evans’ acquittal of rape by using the complainant’s sexual history to discredit his conviction, however, sets a dangerous precedent for future cases.
Whilst lawyers have not been permitted to cross-examine complainants’ previous sexual history since 1999, an exception was made in this case. In response, Police Commissioner Vera Baird has said this case has “set us back 30 years” and “could open the floodgates” for others.
What this precedent achieves is the erosion of legal protection for potential victims. It undermines their confidence in the criminal justice system, reinforces the culture of victim blaming and acts as a potential deterrent to abuse being reported in future.
There is also the campaign Evans’ supporters and his family waged outside of court in order to gather testimony (apparently accompanied by an alleged financial incentive of £50,000) from the men who gave evidence in the retrial.
It’s clear to me that women lack confidence in the criminal justice system – which isn’t surprising to hear when persons connected to the defence case can offer a financial incentive that could usurp the legal process.
Rape and sexual assault occur at an alarming rate in British society but the vast majority of these crimes remain unreported. The fear and shame many women feel in reporting rape find their roots in a culture that embarks on a misogynistic witch hunt against women for daring to seek justice. Victims remain silent because they fear the intense public scrutiny and blame that often follow being named in the media. This atmosphere of shame, silence and fear of reprisal demonstrate that when it comes to rape, society continues to condemn women.
The Ched Evans case triggered backlash against his complainant, forcing her to move and to change her identity five times, thanks to a barrage of online abuse from many of Evans’ fans, smearing her as a “little slut”and identifying her despite her entitlement to anonymity. While the complainant has been subjected to an inordinate amount of abuse, trauma and stress, Ched Evans, by contrast, has now been acquitted and awarded a lucrative contract with Chesterfield FC. If violence against women is tacitly condoned and with no recourse to justice, misogynistic attitudes and behaviours will continue.
In this aspect, mainstream media plays a role in normalising sexual assault: misleading narratives are often enforced, such as “she was drinking”, “she was wearing revealing clothing”, or “she is promiscuous”, as ways to justify rape. This negates the experiences of those who are harmed by sexual violence. For example, Research by the ONS confirms the weight these narratives hold in collective belief: more than a quarter of the public believe that if a victim was drunk, they are at least partly responsible for being raped or sexually assaulted.
In 2015, the Crown Prosecution Service saw the highest ever number of cases concerning violence against women, including rape and sexual abuse, while the rate of rape convictions in the UK has fallen. With this in mind, campaigners have warned that the Ched Evans case could deter women from reporting rape and undermine legislation designed to protect victims. Ched Evans’ conviction for rape should never have been overturned if the evidence was acquired by excavating the complainant’s sexual history. For women to truly feel safe, we have to challenge misogyny at every level of society. This includes reframing the narrative that women are objects for men’s consumption.
And while leading legal figures have questioned the retrial, some have accepted the excavation of the complainant’s sexual history as within the law. The law is clearly not working for women.
Editor’s note: after much internal discussion within the F-Word team, the words “victim” and “accuser” have been removed from this piece when referring to the complainant, out of concern for the implication of guilt.
Image by Lisa Davies, from StockSnap. Used under a Creative Commons Zero licence.
Image is of a woman’s eye up close. She has bright blue eyes and appears to be sad or pensive. She is looking away from the camera.
by Charlotte Davies // 21 October 2016, 9:12 am
The findings of the recent report by the Women and Equalities Committee on sexual harassment in schools leave us in no doubt that we face a crisis that requires urgent attention. In 2014, 59% of girls reported experiencing some form of sexual harassment at school or college in the last year.
One of the most harrowing findings of the report is that it’s considered “normal” and “accepted as part of daily life”. Meanwhile, “teachers [are] accepting sexual harassment as being ‘just banter’”, in a chilling echo of Trump’s “locker room banter” which hit the headlines last week. From the school playground to the political playground: is no space safe for women and girls without the insidious threat of harassment? This culture of permissiveness has been publicly legitimised by the recent overturning of the original guilty verdict in the Ched Evans rape case. It’s been a bleak fortnight in the media for women and girls, with misogyny top of the news agenda and public slut shaming par for the course.
The report makes shocking reading, yet somehow it’s not a surprise – we know how we got here. Hardcore porn is in the pocket of every boy and girl with a smart phone, a click away. We have not effectively managed this explosion of instant access to images that are often violent, humiliating, degrading to females and have confusing messages on consent, boundaries and sexual pleasure.
It’s not just teenagers and secondary school children who are being exposed to these images and acting out the messages that are presented to them. A colleague has a nine-year-old daughter who wears cycling shorts over her tights to school every day. This is so boys can’t see her underwear when lifting up her skirt or trying to take photos up her skirt. She won’t go to school without her cycling shorts on. A friend is a primary school teacher and recently dealt with an incident where intimate photos were being shared on phones between children aged ten.
Because our society doesn’t help model healthy attitudes towards sex, it pushes children’s burgeoning sexuality underground. Instead of having their natural expression and development openly and safely encouraged, boys and girls look to the messages the media and pornography are giving them to claim their sexual identities and mirror feelings, sensations and emotions they may not understand. We need to help children own their sexuality – particularly girls, who are growing up thinking that it’s normal for sex to be painful and that their pleasure is secondary, if not obsolete. Our boys too are at high risk of having their sexual development warped by toxic messages.
The time of being coy and evasive about our human bodies and sexuality is long over. This crisis demands that children are given sensitive, age appropriate sex education by well-trained professionals in schools and that this is reinforced and reflected in the wider world by parents and relatives.
The Women’s Equality Party is calling on Theresa May to take urgent action on sex education in schools – you can email as part of their campaign here.
The photo is by Miika Silverberg and is used under a creative commons licence. It shows a birdseye view of a child sitting at a desk with their hand on a computer mouse. Their face cannot be seen.
by Guest Blogger // 18 October 2016, 7:18 pm
This is a guest post by Emily Clark, an aspiring political writer and author of read-whine.blogspot.co.uk. She can be found tweeting at @EmiC16 and would welcome any wine suggestions, invites to visit parliament or freelance work
Earlier this month, the UK government’s newly-formed Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) published a report which sought to establish whether or not a relationship existed between ambition of SME leaders and their business’ future growth.
After re-surveying respondents from a 2012 study, which focused on finding determinants of growth ambition among SME leaders, one of the conclusions of this new study was as follows:
Stated ambition is positively related to subsequent growth for male SME leaders and negatively related to subsequent growth for female leaders
You can see the tabloid headline now: ambition breeds failure for female entrepreneurs. Is this really fair and can we genuinely stand to believe that ambition in women is a hindrance when it comes to starting a business?
Another government-run survey published in May 2016 found that 21% of SMEs were majority-led by women. Looking more in-depth at the data we learn that only 15% of medium-sized businesses were run by women, and 21% of small and micro businesses.
Is the fact that women predominately run smaller-sized business yet more evidence of female entrepreneurs lacking growth ambition?
The odds are stacked against women in business, but surely there is a bone to pick with this aggregation of selective statistics. What’s the real story behind the raw data?
In direct contrast to the government reports above, the 2016 BNP Paribas Global Entrepreneur Report found women to be slightly more successful than their male counterparts, with 61% of female entrepreneurs expecting profits to rise over the next year compared to an average of 58% across both genders.
The Burt Report, published back in February 2015 stated quite explicitly that female entrepreneurs were an “under-utilised economic resource” in the UK economy, supporting this claim with findings from The European Institute for Gender Equality who agreed that an increase in female business owners would add to the quality of the business population.
The Federation for Small Businesses (FSB) also voiced support for women in business, in April this year releasing their Women in Enterprise: The Untapped Potential report which outlined key recommendations designed to encourage female entrepreneurship.
The report effectively concluded that not enough data is being gathered relating solely to the gender gap in business ownership. This is hindering policy makers from making fully-informed decisions when it comes to encouraging female entrepreneurship. If we had studies which were directly aimed at analysing gender disparity in this area policy makers would be better resourced to make informed decisions rather than inferring findings from other reports on general business population and growth statistics.
So if the data collected by the BEIS is unfit for purpose in terms of analysing gender differences among business owners, what does this all mean in terms of the negative ambition and business growth relationship they then identified?
Whatever the government report concluded, ambition cannot be positioned as a gender-specific characteristic and therefore should not be used as a differentiating factor when it comes to business growth.
There may seem a direct correlation on paper in particular studies, but this does not mean that ambition can be singled out as a reason for lower growth rates among female SME leaders compared with their male counterparts.
Admittedly, the report does not make that claim but it does infer that ambition is a meaningful factor in business growth. In fact, it notes that the proportion of male-led and female-led businesses that have grown in sales and size was practically identical. Ambition is however inferred as a gendered concept, though the report offers the explanation that questions may have been answered differently between men and women, but also between different groups of women, who experienced different socialisation of gendered expectations.
Looking at the data more closely, and supported by ONS Labour Market statistics gathered back in 2013, we find that female-led businesses tend to sit in the health, social work, community and personal services sectors. Women are also more likely to head up a charity (51%). These sectors are ones which tend to have lower levels of business growth, regardless of who runs them. They also tend to have smaller turnovers.
By contrast construction, transport and communications businesses tend to be male-dominated, and they also tend to boast higher levels of growth and profit. This is not because they are run by men but because this is inherent in the nature of those industries.
So why are women underrepresented in industries which boast higher growth rates and turnover? That is a different question which is better answered in terms of education and the encouragement of women to study STEM subjects. For now though, we can conclude that it is not the want of ambition holding women back.
Women should not be afraid of showing ambition. It shows an inner strength and confidence that their business idea is a good one. Drive, determination and ambition are buzzwords in almost every business guru’s vocabulary, and with good reason. Ambition is necessary for success, whatever your gender.
Image by Nick Karvounis, from Unsplash. Used under a Creative Commons Zero licence.
Image is of two women, one brunette and one blonde. Both are working together at a computer screen, with concentrated expressions.
by Lusana Taylor // 17 October 2016, 3:03 pm
Welcome to another weekly round-up, where we share (what we see as) the most interesting and important articles from the previous seven days. We’d love to hear your thoughts on any of the issues covered in our chosen links, which include everything from pink sweets to Donald Trump.
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.
From the article: “A bit later, his studies paid off, and he became a math teacher. And then something weird happened. It was like the volume on his otherness had been abruptly turned down and something else had been turned up. Abusive comments became less frequent. Hassle evaporated. He became respected, almost revered. He always swears that even the bricks and mortar of our little semi-detached house seemed to take on new meaning. ‘Some foreigners live there’ became ‘a teacher lives there.'”
From the article: “Everyone has Google, but not everyone has been given the tools to educate themselves. You might have missed the memo on the ins and outs of intersectionality if you didn’t have an expensive private education.”
From the article: “Diaspora communities tend to hold on to customs stubbornly, and we want them to analyse the gender bias in them.”
Why I’m Scared Of White Women (The Establishment)
From the article: “Living most of my life as a Black boy, raised by Black women, I was instilled with an appreciation and respect for women. I was never taught there was something a woman could not do, nor was there anything I should not be expected to do as a boy. Gender equality never felt like a hard thing to wrap my head around. But in the popular conversation, gender equality and feminism are so geared toward white sensibilities that people like me are not only marginalized as allies, but actively endangered.”
Gender pay gap is widest during workers’ 50s, analysis shows (The Guardian)
Gina Miller: the woman taking on Theresa May over article 5 (The Guardian)
Justice should never be done like it was in the Ched Evans rape trial (The Independent)
From the article: “Ched Evans was found not guilty today, but the wave of misogyny that was unleashed by his supporters across social media didn’t make me feel optimistic about society. Nor did I find it heartening that the court case involved discussion of the woman’s sex life, given by two people she’d had relationships with in the past.”
Miscarriage And The 12-Week Rule: Carrying Grief Alone (Scary Mommy)
From the article: “Often times, it is death that only one person feels or even knows about, and carries alone. That would be thanks to the 12-week rule our culture embraces.”
Why Celebrate World Mental Health Day? (Feminism in India)
Where is the love? (The queerness)
From the article: “Romantic orientations are as complex and diverse as sexual orientations. Our language needs to include that and one basic step would be to acknowledge the fact that not all homosexual people are homoromantic, just as not all bisexual people are biromantic, pansexual people panromantic, asexual people aromantic, and heterosexual people heteroromantic and so forth.”
I’m childfree, and I don’t mind sitting next to your baby on a plane (Last year’s girl)
What’s Really Behind Trump’s Obsession With Clinton’s ‘Stamina’? (The New York Times Magazine)
The image is used under a creative commons license with thanks to New Women New Yorkers on Flickr. It shows some street art; an image of a person wearing a veil which covers their hair. Their expression is a bit wistful, but a slight smile plays across their lips. Above them it reads ‘Love People’ (with a heart used in place of the word ‘love’).
by Guest Blogger // , 10:35 am
This is a guest post by Jill Wells. Jill is a lifelong feminist and reader of books. She works for a charity and lives in the North West. This article was inspired by two common occurrences. First was an astonishing NHS poster with the tagline “Yummy Mummy” suggesting that free breast milk leaves more cash for accessories (the picture was of a pair of very high, very red, so-called “killer” heels). The second was a plethora of stories local to Jill suggesting women should cover up when breastfeeding.
I’m angry about breastfeeding.
I’m angry that breastfeeding has become a stick to beat women with.
I’m angry that women who struggle with breastfeeding are made to feel they aren’t trying hard enough, aren’t persisting and want an easy way out. The assumption that it can work for everyone, if only they found the right latch/position/supporter. If only they’d given it another week. Not everyone has another week to give.
I’m angry that women who happily breastfeed their children are told to cover up or hide in toilet cubicles. How have we come to this place where a mother and her baby come second to someone else’s unjustifiable indignation?
I’m angry that the NHS thinks pointing out that breastfeeding is free so women can use the money to buy shoes is an acceptable public health campaign. It’s not. It’s misogynistic, and quite frankly incomprehensible. I doubt any mother is motivated by shoes when working out how to feed her hungry infant.
I’m angry that women who breastfeed for more than a few short months start to be seen as strange, somehow deeply unsavoury, as though there was some perfectly timed cut-off point at which all babies were ready to stop.
I’m angry that after several days of trying and failing and trying and failing in hospital to breastfeed my distressed new born I was the one who had to say “stop”. I was the one who had to say “bottle” because I was frightened the professionals might never call for it and that my daughter would shrink away.
I’m angry that I still feel I have to qualify this by explaining that I expressed milk for weeks and that my baby was tongue-tied. As though bottle-feeding needed an explanation, an excuse, because it can’t ever have been a positive choice made by loving parents.
I’m angry that we live in a culture where it’s acceptable to use breasts in images all over our public spaces, to sell everything, but it is not acceptable to accidentally flash a nipple on the way to a baby’s mouth. Where our female bodies are so completely sexualised that using them for the function of sustaining life is viewed as unnatural.
I’m angry that women have to get angry to claim their right to inhabit public spaces while breastfeeding, rather than expecting it as a fundamental right. Women shouldn’t need to spend time writing complaints and getting apologies after being shamed and humiliated for public breastfeeding.
I’m angry that some women take each other down over this issue, rather than building each other up because motherhood is hard enough without every choice being wrong.
I’m angry that women feel they are failing.
I’m angry that, after feeling so much guilt and frustration and envy, women’s decisions on breastfeeding can be met with a shrug as though it wasn’t that important in the first place.
I’m angry that our societal response to breastfeeding is so confused and contradictory that no wonder some women feel a sense of conflict.
I’m angry, yes. But much more than that, I’m proud.
Of women taking decisions that support their children and protect themselves. Of women persevering in the face of pain and exhaustion. Of women doing what they feel is right and standing firm. Of women who try and sometimes fail. And of women who succeed. What a beautiful and courageous thing to have so much love.
Jill has previously blogged for The F-Word (Being a feminist parent of a disabled child).
Image by Mothering Touch under Creative Commons License.
Image is of a mother breastfeeding.
by Guest Blogger // 14 October 2016, 2:00 pm
This is a guest post by Sarah Jung, a British mum of two with an MA in Contemporary Cinema Cultures from King’s College London. She tweets about politics, women’s issues, veganism and parenting at @glitteryallsort
When one thinks of unlikely pairings, pigs and flying come to mind. Or perhaps Donald Trump and advocacy. Until recently I would also have included the words Playboy and hijab. This is no longer the case. Noor Tagouri, a 22-year-old Muslim journalist and motivational speaker, has been featured in the October 2016 issue of Playboy, titled Renegades. While she isn’t the first Muslim to appear in Playboy (the German-Turkish actress Sila Sahin posed nude for it in 2011), she is the first hijab-wearing woman to do so.
According to Playboy, these renegades are “unconventional men and women who aren’t afraid to break the rules”. Tagouri fits that bill. She is a popular reporter for Newsy and an activist who created a clothing line to tackle sex trafficking. She has also experienced political Islamophobia firsthand when she was harassed for attempting to record a court hearing in Tennessee. Clearly she is a woman who’s showing the world that Muslim girls can be educated, opinionated, strong and, well— anything they might want to be. She is proud of her femininity and also of her faith. One needs look no further then her YouTube vlogs and Instagram feed to see how she merges the two.
Perhaps this exposure for Tagouri is a good thing. She’s showing a new audience that Muslim women are complex, intelligent and powerful, rather than simply being passive and subdued.
Here is where I think things get complicated. While Playboy no longer has fully nude centrefolds, it still shows women wearing very little and often in sexualised poses, photographed for the heterosexual male gaze. That hasn’t changed. Playboy still presents women as beautiful, sexy commodities for men to look at, and it continues to make money from the way in which it objectifies women. Tagouri may be wearing jeans but she’s in an edition which features other women’s topless bodies, and those women are still presented as objects not subjects. Playboy is, for want of a better word, still Playboy.
There is also the issue of female representation. Tagouri is pulling faces and posing defiantly in the shoot but she is a stunning woman with immaculate makeup and styling. Playboy is telling us she is worthy of reader attention because she is smart and eloquent but also because she’s beautiful; she has in their own words a “beauty-ad-campaign look”. There it is! Her worth appears intrinsically bound to her beauty.
This in turn raises the idea of normalising one appearance of the Muslim female Other. Tagouri wearing a biker jacket and skinny jeans, and standing in front of the US flag is safe. The message is that “she’s not dangerous, she wears converse! She’s not like ‘them’”. The implication is that those who cover up in a more conservative or less fashionable way than Tagouri are incompatible with wider ideas of what is accepted by Anglophone culture. She looks fierce and epic because she is, but her appearance is far more polished than your average hijab-wearing woman. One form of hijab becomes acceptable while others subsequently do not.
That said, I am appalled with the attacks on Tagouri from my fellow Muslims calling her names on her Facebook page, to non-Muslims commenting under the Playboy article, outraged that a brown woman wearing a scarf has been made visible to them. As a hijab-wearing Muslim myself I don’t think it is fair to say she is immoral or a sell out. She wanted to reach a different audience and she has. She wanted to show a positive representative of Muslims in a widely-read publication and maybe that has happened. There is validity in critiquing whether this was such a progressive move, and in starting a discussion whether Muslim women can reach wider audiences and present positive representations of ourselves without having to engage with a publication which has historically denigrated women.
Playboy might not be the ‘nudey’ magazine that boys used to pass around in school, but its core values haven’t changed. It still commodifies women and, let’s be frank, the decision to remove fully nude images was a pragmatic one (the desire to attract a younger reader who didn’t want to pay for pornography because it so freely available online). The lack of a topless centrefold doesn’t change the fact that Playboy still makes dollar from selling women. That’s why Tagouri being in there is a sore point for me. She’s not being provocative but this still isn’t progress. She ends her interview with this point: “We can continue to break barriers and glass ceilings and reclaim our power.” No one can argue against her ability to do that. Her appearance in Playboy was groundbreaking in a sense, yet I’m not convinced it should be celebrated.
Image from Instagram. Used under fair use.
Image is of a Noor Tagouri wearing a hijab, a black leather jacket and black jeans, against a wall full of graffiti. She is starting at the viewer and making a playful snarling face.
by Megan Stodel // 13 October 2016, 10:22 am
Earlier this week, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) released its latest data on sexual identity. That’s the cue for all corners of the media to start drawing all kinds of conclusions, including which part of the UK is “the least gay, lesbian or bisexual area of the country”, that bisexual identity has overtaken gay and lesbian identity and, simply enough, that one in 60 people identify as LGB.
While the sexual identity stats are very interesting, they tell us far more about the acceptability of being LGB than how many of us there actually are. When articles talk about, for example, 1.7% of people identifying as LGB, they really mean identifying as LGB in this survey.
An incredibly pertinent bit of information is that a much larger percentage of people – 4.1% – don’t know or refuse to answer the question, while an additional 0.4% define themselves as a sexual identity other than heterosexual/straight, gay/lesbian or bisexual, the three named options given to respondents.
This sort of survey question can be tricky because it’s about something so personal and often private. People who may identify as LGB may not do so openly. It’s an identity that can lead to discrimination and persecution; being open about it is something that will be carefully considered rather than automatic. The Annual Population Survey (APS), which is where these figures come from, is undertaken face-to-face or over the phone – which is to say, whoever is responding is doing so to a real other person. They could plausibly be doing it within earshot of someone they know. There are methods the face-to-face interviewers use to try to make it easier for people to feel comfortable answering, but it’s not going to be the case that these work for everybody. So I’m fairly sure that LGB people will be disproportionately likely to refuse to answer the question. At the same time, it also seems certain that some people who identify as LGB to themselves might feel so uncomfortable or concerned about outing themselves that they say they are heterosexual.
Therefore, the figures for LGB people in the UK are undoubtedly underestimated.
I think this follows through when looking at the figures by age group. The youngest age group asked (16-24) were much more likely than the oldest (65+) to say they were LGB: 3.3% compared with 0.6%. I’ve heard someone suggest that this is because being LGB is “trendy” for young people, implying that as they age, they’ll grow out of their faddy ways and settle down into cosy heterosexuality. Hmmm. I think it might be rather more likely that society has been becoming slowly more progressive and accepting and therefore the younger you are, the more likely it is that you have understood your identity in the context of civil partnerships and equal marriage coming into existence, seeing LGB people on TV and in movies and a monumental shift in attitudes towards sexual relations between adults of the same sex. There is definitely further to go to challenge homophobia and biphobia – we aren’t in a sexual paradise yet – but think about how hard it must be for somebody to be open about being LGB if they remember sexual acts between men being a criminal offence.
There’s also a difference when it comes to women and men: 1.5% of women identify as LGB in the survey compared with 2% of men. Again, this isn’t surprising when you think about the messages we all get about our sexuality. Women’s sexuality has historically been very controlled, and expectations of women leave less wiggle room for exploring sexual identity. On top of that, LGB women and our interests are incredibly underrepresented. Many LGB events and venues focus on LGB men, explicitly or implicitly, while many of the gay and bi celebrities who are role models to young people connecting with their own sexuality for the first time are men. If you’re an LGB woman, people you might identify with are far scarcer.
The ONS figures are useful and I’m glad there are serious attempts to understand the LGB population of the UK. This is a fairly new project, with the question only asked since 2012, and comes ahead of potential inclusion of questions around LGBT identity in the next census.
But it’s important to be aware that these figures don’t straightforwardly tell us how many people in the UK are LGB. Higher numbers don’t mean more people are somehow becoming LGB. When we see the numbers increase, that will be evidence of a fairer, more open society where telling a stranger your sexual identity isn’t a big deal for anyone.
The image is by Kaddy Beins and is used under a creative commons licence. It shows a close up of two women’s faces as they appear to be about to kiss. They are both smiling widely. The photo is cropped so only the lower half of the woman on the right’s face is shown while the other woman tilts her head up towards her. They are outside, though details are indistinct.
by Guest Blogger // 11 October 2016, 8:04 am
This is a guest post by Sue Black, computer scientist, academic and social entrepreneur. She was the founding chair of the British Computer Society specialist group BCSWomen and is the founder of social enterprise #techmums.
My mum died when I was 12. I left home and school at 16, married at 20, had three kids by 23 and got divorced at 25 after my ex-husband became violent. Me and the kids ended up in a women’s refuge for six months. At 26 I found myself on a council estate in Brixton wondering how on earth I was going to give the kids the start in life that they deserved. We were living on benefits. I had no family to turn to, no high earning career to go back to, no savings, no money, nothing.
I decided that education was the answer. I’d loved Maths at school, left with five O-Levels and worked in accounts before my maternity leave; I wouldn’t have been far above minimum wage if I’d gone straight back to work. I couldn’t have made enough money to feed a family of four plus pay for childcare.
I went along to the local college and talked to them about studying there. The teacher told me about the fast-track course they ran: the equivalent of two A-Levels in Maths in a year, only six hours a week in the classroom and 20 hours a week of study at home. It sounded perfect.
I walked into the first class. I was 26, had dyed black bushy, curly hair, wearing black DMs, a red mini skirt, black leggings and a black leather biker jacket. Nearly everyone else in the classroom was a white male in a suit. I pretended to be confident while, inside, feeling like I was almost having heart failure. It actually turned out to be a great year of becoming a slightly more confident person, realising that I wasn’t just a mum – I was smart and loved Maths too. I applied to study computing at South Bank University, and was accepted.
There were 83 of us in my class, just eight women and 75 men, most of them 18 years old. I was the third oldest in the class. It was tough to start with, but after four years I made it through: I got a 2:1, then a PhD position and started teaching part time. Finally I had enough money to feed and clothe my family. It was a great feeling.
I’ve now had a successful 20 year career in computing.
Sadly, I’m in a minority as a woman in tech, but my experience has made me passionate about supporting and encouraging other women in the industry and into the industry. Although there are currently some high-profile women heading up computer companies and startups – Marissa Mayer, Jacqueline de Rojas and Alex Depledge – they only represent around 1% of all Chief Executives in tech. This problem starts early on, as only 17% of computer science students are female.
The reasons for this are varied and sometimes complex, including stereotypes of the ‘computer geek’, a tendency in schools to push boys rather than girls towards science, tech, engineering and maths (STEM) subjects and a feeling that women don’t ‘fit in’ when it comes to overwhelmingly male tech start-ups. It’s also about the lack of female role models showing women they can have confidence in their own ability.
I decided to use my own experience to do something about this. I now run #techmums, a social enterprise that teaches tech skills to mums in disadvantaged areas. I want to empower women – particularly those who had been out of the workplace for a while – and their families and communities through technology. We aim to take the mystery out of technology, showing mums how to use social media and keep their kids safe online. We also teach skills like web and app design and coding, offering them a window into the opportunities the tech world provides and bridging the growing knowledge gap between them and their kids.
Our mums go on to get jobs, go back into education and improve their work and home lives during the #techmums programme. One of our recent graduates Lisa signed up to do a Maths GCSE and afterwards got a job. She said “#techmums changed my life. It made me realise that I’m not just a mum”.
There is no better feeling in the world than seeing that you have helped create positive change in someone’s life. Helping women to see what they can achieve and seeing so many get the tech ‘bug’ makes all of my personal struggles worthwhile.
That is why it is so important to have Ada Lovelace Day – to remember the huge contributions made by Ada herself, the first computer programmer, Grace Hopper, and countless other women. But it’s sad to think how many potentially revolutionary ideas are being lost due to the lack of diversity in computing.
A recent study has shown the huge difference that women make in the workforce, increasing vital qualities like team confidence and group experimentation. When it comes to innovation, technology needs women as much as women need technology.
Photograph courtesy of Sue Black.
Image of five women with their arms around each other, smiling and wearing t-shirts that say “I’m a #techmum”.
by Guest Blogger // , 8:00 am
This is a guest post by Molly Freeman, Artistic Director of the Smoking Apples Theatre Company.
History is full to the brim with exceptional women in science. Women who have made ground breaking discoveries. Women who have bravely pioneered change. Women who have shaped the world that we live in today. Champions of chemistry, physics, biology and mathematics and all too often relegated to the footnotes of history as someone’s colleague, wife or girlfriend.
And it’s not just history that’s the problem. Currently, in the UK, women make up just 12.8% of those in science, technology, engineering and mathematics jobs. In 2014 78.9% of the students sitting their A Level Physics Exams were boys. Last year Nobel Laureate and biochemist Tim Hunt said at the World Conference of Science Journalists: “Let me tell you about my trouble with girls. Three things happen when they are in the lab: you fall in love with them, they fall in love with you, and when you criticise them they cry.”
There are many obstacles to the advancement of women and girls in science, including maintaining a work-life balance, a lack of role models and unconscious bias all neatly stacking up and seemingly refusing budge all the way from school level to postgraduate and beyond.
To counteract all this today is Ada Lovelace Day, a day marked out to both celebrate Lovelace (known as the “first computer programmer” or, rather wonderfully as “the Enchantress of Number”) and showcase all the fiercely smart women working in science past and present to the female scientists of the future.
So, with this in mind, let me introduce you to Lise Meitner.
Born in 1878 in Austria, Meitner was a naturally curious, highly intelligent child, keeping records of her research on reflected light under her pillow at night. Throughout her education, she continued to smash through the gender barriers raised against her, proving her worth as a scientist. In 1905 she received a doctorate in physics and in 1926 she became Germany’s first female physics professor.
Meitner’s Jewish heritage and the rise of the Nazis forced her to flee Germany and, in doing so, she lost her lab and much of her ongoing work, losing contact with her students and colleagues. But she did not lose her passion for the “battle for ultimate truth”, which is how she viewed physics. While in exile in Sweden, she received a letter from long-term scientific collaborator Otto Hahn, explaining that he had achieved the seemingly impossible, to split apart a uranium nuclei with a single neutron.
Meitner pushed this discovery further and, following many debates with her nephew Otto Frisch, concluded that the loss of mass that occurred from this process was due to the creation of energy, something undetected by everyone except Meitner. Nuclear fission was born, the basis of the devastating nuclear weapons dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August 1945 and nuclear energy today.
Meitner was a key part of the team behind one of the most ground-breaking and impactful scientific discoveries of our time, yet in 1944 the Nobel Prize in Chemistry for Nuclear Fission went solely to Otto Hahn.
As nuclear fission began to be harnessed as a weapon of war, Meitner distanced herself from the infamous Manhattan Project, declaring: “I will have nothing to do with a bomb!” Her research led her to help develop one of the first peacetime nuclear reactors. Her headstone reads “Lise Meitner: a physicist who never lost her humanity”.
I am not a scientist. I make theatre for a living and to make a piece of theatre from scratch you require unflinching determination, total unwavering passion, a good deal of perspiration and, most importantly of all, inspiration. (Actually maybe science and making theatre aren’t so different after all.)
Lise Meitner is the inspiration behind my theatre company’s latest show New Clear Vision. It tells the story of ‘Kate’ an ambitious, brilliant, young nuclear researcher in the 1980s. As Kate delves deeper into her research she is confronted by an atmosphere of ‘nuclear fear’, the moral dilemmas of her potential discoveries and the sacrifices she will have to make to achieve them. We have an all female cast. We have a prototype puppet. We have a scene where we throw balloons at each other to the Eurythmics.
Devising a piece of theatre is a bumpy road and it’s still early days. One thing is for certain, however: this show will be a celebration of women’s achievements in science and an opportunity to shine a light on the challenges they face in our modern world.
Lise Meitner once said: “In nuclear physics we have experienced so many surprises that one cannot unconditionally say: it is impossible.” This is something for us all to remember, both my company, as we head towards opening night, and all the female scientists of the future.
You can read more about the devising process for New Clear Vision HERE and follow the company on Twitter @smothingapplesth
Image 1 is a black and white photograph of Lise Meitner which is in the public domain. She is standing in front of a lot of exotic plants in a hothouse. She wears Edwardian dress with a hat perched on top of her head. Her hands are clasped in front of her and she looks up and to the right.
Image 2 is another black and white photograph of Lise Meitner and Otto Hahn in their laboratory which is in the public domain. They both lean against a bench in a turn of the century laboratory. Hahn is closer to the camera and is writing in a notebook. Meitner is little further away and holds a piece of equipment in her hands. They are both wearing overalls.
Image 3 is a colour photograph from Smoking Apples Theatre company and shows a life-size human puppet, Kate, sitting on a chair made out of cardboard boxes. She has her legs crossed and looks as if she is relaxing. She wears a white lab coat.
by Lusana Taylor // 10 October 2016, 10:28 pm
Welcome to another weekly round-up, where we share (what we see as) the most interesting and important articles and essays from the previous seven days. We’d love to hear your thoughts on any of the issues covered in our chosen links, which include everything from Cable Street and contraception to Elena Ferrante and Kim Kardashian.
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.
Pepper to throw at fascists: the forgotten women of Cable Street (New Statesman)
From the article: “And I wasn’t the only one: it seemed the whole world had a delayed reaction. There seemed to be more of a concern of what this was doing for Kim Kardashian West The Brand, rather than Kim Kardashian West, the human being. Was it a publicity stunt? Then, nastier reactions: the NRA used her attack to sneer at anti-gun lobbyists. An ex-bodyguard has already piped up to say he’s ‘certain’ it was an inside job. Finally, the victim-blaming quadrant of the internet ushered themselves into the ring, the voices that said: well, if you will flaunt your wealth on Instagram, what do you expect?”
The Unmasking of Elena Ferrante (The New Yorker)
What To Know About That New Study Linking Birth Control To Depression (The Establishment)
Polish women strike over planned abortion ban (The Guardian)
How anonymity protects against female writing stereotypes (The Conversation)
Proportion of female judges among lowest in Europe (The Guardian)
Why I Argue With People on the Internet (Marcy Hogan at Medium)
From the article: “It’s hard to think in the heat of the moment, when you’re each firing responses back and forth. In the moment I was just like every other clueless ‘well-intentioned’ white person unable to see her privilege. The discussions sure didn’t seem ‘productive’ at the time. But often, after sitting on what was said over a few hours, a few days, maybe even weeks or months, I eventually realized that I was wrong, that I had been ignorant. Their point would finally sink in. I finally ‘got it.'”
What is ‘porn’ according to MindGeek (Girl on the Net)
From the article: “It’s no longer enough to debate whether ‘porn‘ is a good or bad thing. It’s no longer enough to wave a flag for the occasional independent producer, or virtuously declare that we don’t watch PornHub. We need to start scrutinising porn the way we would any other genre of media. We need to question the motivations of powerful ‘entertainment media’ companies like MindGeek, in the same way we’d scrutinise news outlets and influential aggregators like Google. These companies do more than just reflect society’s tastes: they shape them.”
Virginia introduces law to stop 12-year-old girls getting married (The Independent)
Trump’s Latest Comments About Women Are Rape Culture In A Nutshell (Huffington Post)
From the article: “And therein lies the rub: the idea that women should only have terminations for reasons someone else finds acceptable. How about if a woman feels too young to have a baby, or too poor, or doesn’t want to be tied to the man she conceived with for the rest of her life, or she doesn’t want a third baby, or any baby at all – are these permissible reasons for a termination? They are all pretty common ones. Or is it just a Down’s syndrome diagnosis that is deemed an unacceptable cause for an abortion? In more controversial areas, such as sex-selection abortion, the correct approach is to tackle the attitudes behind it, not ban abortion per se. Similarly, with Down’s syndrome screening what needs examining is the image around the syndrome and the way doctors discuss it, not the screening itself. It’s the attitudes, not the science, that’s the problem. Science is what gives women the choice.”
You can also read Huma Munshi’s interview with Ikoko for The F-Word HERE.
What Makes Call-Out Culture So Toxic (Films for Action)
From the article: “It isn’t an exaggeration to say that there is a mild totalitarian undercurrent not just in call-out culture but also in how progressive communities police and define the bounds of who’s in and who’s out. More often than not, this boundary is constructed through the use of appropriate language and terminology – a language and terminology that are forever shifting and almost impossible to keep up with. In such a context, it is impossible not to fail at least some of the time. And what happens when someone has mastered proficiency in languages of accountability and then learned to justify all of their actions by falling back on that language? How do we hold people to account who are experts at using anti-oppressive language to justify oppressive behaviour? We don’t have a word to describe this kind of perverse exercise of power, despite the fact that it occurs on an almost daily basis in progressive circles…”
Women ‘may understand concept of models’ (The Daily Mash)
*Misogynoir vs. The New Politics (Media Diversified, Author: @Mayagoodfellow)
The image is used under a creative commons license with thanks to clogsilk on Flickr. It is a photo showing the vibrant mural that depicts the Battle of Cable Street in 1936 between the British Union of Fascists, anti-fascist groups and the police. According to the photographer, the image was captured during a Derelict London walking tour of Wapping and Shadwell.
by Guest Blogger // 7 October 2016, 2:06 pm
This is a guest post by Ellie Hutchinson. She is the Director of The Empower Project, a Scottish-based organisation working with communities to educate and prevent violence against women and girls. She’s also a mum who enjoys talking about sex and relationships, and watching awful action films. Find her at @elliehutch_.
This week Netmums published a ‘light-hearted’ take on sex after kids. The article, ‘35 things mums think about during sex’, featured low-level bantz about bikini lines, locked doors and squeaky beds. Fair play. But in amongst the lolz lay some seriously dodgy ideas about heterosexual sex and relationships.
We would be rightly appalled if, say, Buzzfeed released a list called ‘35 things teenage girls think about during sex’ and it featured lines such as “it’s a great time to get on with that maths homework” or “at least it’s a lie down”. We would, of course, call it out for such reductive, dangerous and retrograde ideas about sex. The Netmums article is all of those things – and it’s important to call it out, to raise a fuss and to talk about mum sex.
With most of the 35 points focusing on hurrying up, putting the bins out and catching up with relatives, this Netmums article is actually a pretty depressing reflection of just how normal crap and obligatory sex is for so many straight adult women. Of course sex and relationships change after kids, of course the way you think about your body changes and of course libido peaks and troughs because, hello, we are human and not existing in some made-for-TV movie. But recognising this, and being honest about how we do parenting, relationships, sex and life shouldn’t descend into advice to simply lie back and think of casseroles.
The reason this article is so depressing and worrying is that it is part of a broader cultural norm that tells women it’s better to regularly look at the cobwebs on the ceiling than it is to have sex for pleasure when you actually want to.
Rape culture is a complicated mess of societal attitudes about gender and sexuality – but put simply it’s based on the idea that men are entitled to women’s bodies at all times and it’s our job to shut up, put up or defend ourselves from men and all their rapey urges. All of this is of course heterosexist nonsense; men are no more rape robots than women are sexually submissive. But rape culture reduces us all to weird stereotypes, victims and villains. It permeates our legal institutions (low prosecution rates, anyone?), our culture, our relationships and our sense of self. It is insidious.
Couple this with how mothers are supposed to behave – self-sacrificing and sexless – we are left with a bleak picture of what a post-baby sex life is ‘meant’ to look like, which is why articles like this are so problematic.
The opposite of rape culture isn’t just about conviction rates and justice – that is part of how we get there of course – but a world in which sex and relationships are fun, safe and fulfilling. Where no-one wants to have sex with an unwilling partner. Where we choose to have sex in ways that are based on pleasure, not obligation.
Most people can agree that we need to be honest and open with young people about sex and relationships, and invest time and money in proper Sex and Relationships Education in order to move away from the taboos and myths. Sex is fun! Relationships should be fulfilling! Yes means Yes! These are absolutely the cheers we should be hammering home to young people. But they’re also the cheers we should be hammering home to all of us – mums included.
Adult sex education isn’t something that can be taught in schools, but it can be discussed, supported and promoted in our social and cultural spheres. Being a mum in patriarchal capitalistic society is hard, hard work, and that’s why it’s so demoralising when spaces that attempt to understand motherhood put out such tired, retrograde and dangerous ideas. Mums deserve much more than this – we deserve good sex too.
Image courtesy of Classic Film. Published in Redbook magazine, May 1977, Vol. 149, No. 1
Image is of an advert for Campbell’s soup from 1977, featuring four women smiling and holding casseroles in dishes
by Charlotte Davies // 6 October 2016, 7:11 am
What does it mean to be working class today? I spoke to several young women who defined themselves as working class and feminist.
Victoria felt it was more than a socio-economic thing – being working class is more a question of culture, politics, what interests you and how you spend your time than how well off you are. Hannah thought it was about permission, entitlement, confidence and how various factors can conspire to narrow the horizons of and constrain the working classes. Chloe said being working class meant not being able to afford to go on holiday or have a car.
The term “working class” seems outdated, a throwback from an industrial age that has now come to represent something different to everyone. But while it is hard to pin down, it still has a power to conjure strong feelings.
It would be nice to think that in 2016, class has become more fluid – a permeable membrane through which people, ideas, culture and music move freely. Yet instead of moving forwards we’re hurtling backwards.
It’s dizzying. The rhetoric around Brexit is creating the equally ugly images of pompous London-centric metropoles protesting into their ‘liberal’ right-on echo chambers on social media, in opposition to the red-faced, UKIP proles dragging their knuckles and dribbling into their Stella. This is coupled with a Tory government aiming to bring back grammar schools (make ten-year-olds sit exams that will define their entire future prospects and self esteem – nice!). Despite the social mobility protestations, this ultimately invests in those who are already more advantaged. On top of this, there are unaffordable university fees, an increasing prevalence of unpaid internships and nauseatingly high rent prices in our cities, all of which are pricing young people from lower income backgrounds out of the best opportunities.
“We’re all middle class now,” sang Labour, with their shiny faces in 1997. Jump forward and the yawning fat cat gap is widening like never before.
Although the incredible work by Everyday Sexism, UK Feminista and He4She as well as US big shots Lena Dunham, Sheryl Sandberg and the rest cannot be dismissed, working class women’s voices are missing from these feminist dialogues that get all the column and TV inches. Are feminist voices really reaching the people that arguably need them the most? Are they even relevant if they do?
Of the feminist megastars, our working class hero could be Caitlin Moran. Brought up in in a low income family in a council house in Wolverhampton, she injects a lot of fun and wanking into demystifying capital F Feminism, but as more eloquently explained by Laurie Penny, her story is a specific one that might entertain and inspire, yet is limited in scope and resonance. Her audience is primarily the largely white, middle class, hardback book-buying and Times online-subscribing public. Her megawatt-charisma generates a faithful legion of middle class (often teenage) fans who adore her.
The gobby, knockabout, hand-me-down, cosy camaraderie of Moran’s youth doesn’t ring true with growing up working class today. There is a loss here for working class women and girls.
I spoke to Mica who was living in a temporary accommodation, a hotel, while waiting for news on a council flat or room share. Born and bred in London, on an estate in Kensington and Chelsea, she has been priced out of the private rental market in her home borough by the mind-boggling cost of property in our capital. Her voice was strained and she was angry. She’s 26. She spoke of friends who had been relocated to council housing in other parts of the country – arbitrarily having to up sticks and move a moment’s notice, away from family, friends, community and everything they’ve ever known. If you have kids, she says, there’s no choice but to go.
Mica spoke about the gender pay gap debate dominating the feminist agenda and how this only applies if you’re earning a salary. If you’re working for the minimum wage, there is no unjust discrepancy between men and women to be re-addressed.
When you’re struggling to feed your family and visiting food banks because your tax credits have been cut, you’re not thinking about body shaming and the pornifcation of our culture.
When you stay with an abusive partner, because women’s shelters and services have been closed and you can’t afford to live independently, the Bechdel Test and gendered toys aren’t going to be at the top of your list.
Moran was recently interviewed by multimillionaire and Ivy League-educated actor Emma Watson. I dearly wish she’d been interviewed by Mica. What a powerful message that would have been.
The photo was taken by Judy Seidman and is used under a creative commons licence. It shows a poster designed by Anita Wilcox during the Great Depression in the USA in order to express solidarity with the the struggles of workers. The poster is yellowed and torn at the edges. It is a coloured drawing of a crowd of people seemingly marching together, with one near the front turning back and encouraging others, and someone else holding a flag of the USA. A stylised mountain and sun are in the background. At the top some writing reads SOLIDARITY FOREVER.
by Monica Karpinski // 5 October 2016, 1:03 pm
What springs to mind when you think of Sweden? Perhaps smart, less-is-more fashion; clever minimalist architecture; or maybe the nation’s reputation as being progressive where it comes to gender equality. And the facts add up: since the inception of the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap report in 2006, Sweden has never finished lower than fourth. The official Swedish government website notes that Sweden has the world’s first feminist government.
Sweden is also the place where last week, a Muslim woman left her job after being pressured to shake hands with a male colleague. Fardous El-Sakka, a supply teacher for an independent school in Helsingborg prefers instead to put her hand over her heart and bow in the way of a greeting. One of her male colleagues took offence, and El-Sakka was told she needed to conform to the school’s core values if she wanted to continue working there. She chose to leave.
“The school doesn’t differentiate between people or treat them differently,” school principal Lidija Münchmeyer told Swedish newspaper Expressen. “That’s what we advocate from our students, so the staff also have to do that.” It’s a valiant sentiment, but in reality suggests that equal treatment is only available to those who fit the cultural bill.
Truly treating everyone equally is impossible, until markers such as race, gender, religion and beliefs aren’t things that count towards experiences of discrimination. These markers have a very real and often subconscious impact on the way a person is perceived. Ignoring or universalising them is to ignore the complete complexity of a person’s identity and experience.
Enforcing a structure where people are treated on a surface level in the same way provided they follow a set of rules — no matter how ‘equal’ they might sound — normalises the privilege held by the dominant group in making those rules. Behave in these ways, and you’ll be treated as an equal part of the community. At least in principle.
Of course, there is something to be said for upholding shared values where they maintain human rights, including safety and the right to work. But beyond that, the details — such as the right to refuse a handshake — are being used against El-Sakka as a scapegoat to maintain the status quo.
It is also impossible for a woman to discriminate against a man on the basis of gender within a patriarchal society.
In May this year Muslim schoolboys in the town of Therwil, Switzerland, asked to be exempt from shaking a female teacher’s hand on the grounds of it going against Islamic teachings. They were told they would either have to shake her hand or have their parents pay up to CHF 5,000 (just under £4,000).
The school allowed the exemption on the condition that the pupils wouldn’t be allowed to shake either male or female teachers’ hands. In this case, male students refusing to shake a female hand also enforces patriarchal power structures: something impossible for El-Sakka to do through the pure fact of her being female. The boys were granted their right to choose their own means of greeting. El-Sakka left her job.
In Therwil, public discussions that followed focused on the perceived threat to Swiss culture. “Today’s it’s the handshake and what will it be tomorrow?” asked Felix Mueri, a member of the Swiss People’s Party, in an interview with news site 20 Minuten. Swiss Justice Minister Simonetta Sommaruga echoed the sentiment, telling broadcaster SRF that “We cannot accept this [the exemption] in the name of religious freedom. The handshake is part of our culture”.
The handshake in both these situations is being used as a scapegoat to hide the wider fears of the unknown; of losing control over ‘the way things are’. This faceless threat is what allows unequal power structures to remain as they are for as long as it takes to dissolve them.
Change is inevitable when working towards equality for minority groups. Things like a child or an adult woman having the right to decide whether they’d like to shake someone’s hand or not is one of these minor things that might change. This choice may affront those who value handshakes, but opens up possibility to engage in new cultural dialogues; to work towards making words like ‘intersectional’ a given, rather than a goal.
Fardous El-Sakka being told she needed to compromise her values to keep her job is a feminist issue. It is also a religious and cultural issue. The fact she is a Muslim woman who refused to shake a man’s hand is not an inconsequential detail of what was perceived an offhand act of rudeness. The man’s privilege in calling her up and ultimately pushing her to leave indicate really, how much work there is still left to do: even in Sweden.
Image by Nicole Mason, from Unsplash. Used under a Creative Commons Zero licence.
Image is of a woman of colour staring through glass at the viewer, whose eyes are obscured by a splash of white paint.
by Lissy Lovett // 4 October 2016, 8:00 am
Last month I had the pleasure of attending the opening night of Calm Down Dear, Camden People’s Theatre’s festival of feminist theatre. Snuff Box Theatre’s Blush powerfully explored the causes and effects of revenge porn with a cast of two and simple but effective staging. I was slightly less convinced by Olly Hawes The Absolute Truth About Absolutely Everything which I thought was making too many simplistic assumptions about what I as an audience member might think about feminism and porn, and didn’t exploit the form which it had chosen quite enough. However all in all it was a great night celebrating feminism and theatre.
From 11 to 13 October, Camden People’s Theatre will be showing Tanja from Strawberry Blonde Curls. Tanja has been on tour around the UK and will be at the Arc in Stockton on 20 October. The play is about “another asylum seeker now held at Yarl’s Wood Immigration Removal Centre; Britain’s best kept secret. With immigration issues reaching fever pitch, this is the story of one woman’s bravery in the midst of prejudice and abuse.”
Neither victims nor villains but everything in between, See Me Now challenges the stereotypes and stigma around sex workers
At Hackney Showroom from 19 to 22 October there is Starting Out; five plays which explore the human stories behind issues of zero hours contracts, lone working, glass ceilings, internships, female unemployment and examine what it is that give some women a better start than others.
In Edinburgh Blow Off by Julia Taudevin will be at the Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh 12 – 13 October (as part of the Dario Fo Festival) and Paisley (The Spree) on 22 October. This is described as explosive new guerilla-gig-theatre exploring the psychology of extremism with haunting melodies and progressive punk riffs.
Looking further ahead See Me Now, a collaboration between Young Vic, Look Left Look Right and HighTide, shares the true stories of sex workers. Neither victims nor villains but everything in between, See Me Now challenges the stereotypes and stigma around sex workers and celebrates the group of performers who share their stories on stage. See Me Now will be at the Young Vic from 11 February to Saturday 4 March 2017. There will be an audio described performance on Saturday 4 March at 2.45pm and a captioned performance on Tuesday 2 March at 7.45pm.
Within the world of live art, Walking:Holding invites you to walk hand in hand with a series of different local strangers around nearby streets, parks and alleyways. It is a participatory performance for one audience member at a time, offering a gentle meditation on identity, touch and intimacy in urban public space. It will next be performed in Leeds on 11 and 12 November. Check out the Compass Festival website for details of how to participate. Walking:Holding is access friendly; it accommodates wheelchair users and has in the past included people with disabilities.
Moving to comedy and Funny Women have announced their winners for 2016. Harriet Braine won the coveted Stage Award, Carolyn Goodyear won the Comedy Shorts Award, Anna Morris won the Best Show Award and Carol Walsh won the Comedy Writing Award. Well done to all the winners and finalists!
From 20 to 30 October in Manchester is the Women in Comedy Festival in its fourth iteration. There are a huge number of female comedians taking part and a new comedy writing competition. If you’re planning to attend any of the events please let me know how you found it (and if you’d like to write a review for The F-Word even better!)
Four Femmes on the Thames are performing their original musical comedy at the Hen & Chickens Theatre in London on Friday 14 October, Friday 28 October, Friday 11 November and Friday 25 November. The Femmes will perform an hour long set of original Musical Comedy featuring hits such as ‘Woman Up’ named the “sweary feminist anthem of the year“.
Finally I’ve been sent this video called Slutwalk: The Musical. The makers are Kiwi intersectional feminists, it’s subtitled and it made me smile. Enjoy!
CN: one mention of disabilist language early on, discussion of rape and rape culture throughout.
Image 1 is of Julia Taudevin in Blow Off, taken by Niall Walker. The majority of the photograph is taken up by the head and torso of Taudevin. She is singing or chanting into a microphone with her arms held up beside her head. She wears a red t-shirt underneath a black dress. Behind and to the left of her is a man playing a guitar wearing a patterned red shirt and black shorts.
Image 2 is from Rosana Cade’ Walking:Holding. It shows two figures walking away down the street holding hands. There are lots of bright colours: the garages that the figures walk beside are painted yellow, blue and red and the walkers are wearing coloured clothing, one in a purple raincoat and one in a green raincoat with patterned trousers and wellingtons. There is a large puddle at the bottom left of the photograph which reflects the walkers and garages.
Video is from Flat3 Productions. It begins with a group of women meeting at night in order to go on a walk to raise awareness of rape culture. They cross paths with a group of men who are out on a stag night and the two groups end up singing and dancing to a musical-style number.
by Lusana Taylor // 3 October 2016, 7:45 pm
Welcome to another weekly round-up, where we share (what we see as) the most interesting and important articles and essays from the previous seven days. We’d love to hear your thoughts on any of the issues covered in our chosen links – there are loads this week!
Pandora Blake Fights Censorship Of Fetish Porn (The Establishment)
Who Gets to Write What? (NY Times)
From the article: “You become the manic pixie dream girl; your sickness gives the guy’s life a sense of meaning and depth, which is exactly what he craves, granted you’re not too overbearing and, you know, he actually has to look after you too much.”
From the article: “This week the Prison Reform Trust and Women in Prison published a new report. It found that a chronic shortage of safe and stable housing for women leaving prison is leading to more crime, more victims and greater use of unnecessary and expensive imprisonment. Six in ten women leaving prison may not have a home to go to on release, and recent prison inspectorate reports suggest that the situation may be getting worse.”
Watch: a history of men talking over women (Matador Network)
Glass ceiling/corporate feminism doesn’t reach most women (The Guardian)
Imagine if Donald Trump were a woman. You simply can’t (The Guardian)
From the article: “But imagine it wasn’t Trump who was the conduit for this anger. Imagine it was a woman. Picture a woman up there on the podium last night shouting over her rival, jabbing her finger in the air, denying she’d said things there was ample evidence of online that she had said. Imagine a completely inexperienced woman insisting she had better political nous than someone who had been at the forefront of politics for decades. And, of course, you can’t: it is, literally, beyond imagination.”
UK is failing girls with sexism in school and catcalling on the streets (Huffington Post)
No scrubs: how women had to fight to become doctors (The Guardian)
Don’t Fall For The New H & M Campaign (Global Hobo)
From the article: “Earlier this year, a report compiled by the Asia Floor Wage Alliance found that the fashion giant was routinely exploiting its employees. Based on 251 interviews with garment workers, the report alleged that staff from 11 out of 12 Cambodian supplier factories claimed they had witnessed or experienced employment termination during pregnancy. It also claimed that every single one of the 50 staff surveyed in India said that women were often fired when they fell pregnant. In a predominately female industry, this is a colossal problem, particularly when coupled with the workplace sexual harassment that was also reported as commonplace.”
Middle-aged women can enjoy sex more as they get older, study finds (The Independent)
Willow Smith: Girl Almighty (Dazed)
Mental illness soars among young women in England – survey (The Guardian)
Medieval Embroidery, ‘Proper Art,’ and the V&A’s ‘Opus Anglicanum’ exhibition (Jeanne de Montbaston)
From the article: “This is a really fascinating period for the textile trade in general: English weaving, for example, is just beginning to shift from being a craft carried out by women on a small scale, producing fabric from their own looms, to a more lucrative business on a larger scale, using a bigger, fancier loom, and dominated by … yes, of course, men.”
The return of SQIFF (Eye for Film)
From the article: “Casting trans people in trans roles might not sound revolutionary, and some trans actors are wary of being pigeonholed that way, but it’s important in a context where trans actors often struggle to get work at all, and concerns have been raised around the fact that casting men as trans women in films like Dallas Buyers’ Club and The Danish Girl sends the message that trans women are really men, reinforcing prejudice that too often leads to violence. Jeffrey Tambor, star of Amazon’s Transparent, recently said that he hopes he will be the last man ever cast in such a way.”
In defense of feminine men (Fusion)
From the article: “The vast majority of popular culture’s male femmes are presented as jokes or villains, with an entire catalogue of Disney villains reinforcing the message that male femininity is inextricable from depravity—a tradition upheld with Harry Potter’s Lucius Malfoy and The Hunger Games’ President Snow. When the characters are more aspirational, they either overcompensate for their femininity with a dash of aggressive masculinity, like the flamboyant Captain Jack Sparrow from the Pirates of the Caribbean series, or their effeteness itself is played for humor, as with the Crane brothers on the long running series Frasier.”
Amanda Knox, Netflix and the making of white innocence (Flavia Dzodan at Medium)
Feminist art of the 1970s: knives, nudity and terrified men (The Guardian)
Middle-class white folks laugh it up as they mock Britain’s most prominent black MP on live TV [VIDEO] (The Canary)
The image is used with thanks to Feral78 on Flickr. It shows a brick wall with the words “Revolution Grrrl Style Now!” written across it in white paint.
by Megan Stodel // 1 October 2016, 7:37 am
Our monthly bloggers have been having a break for a few months but now as we move into October, we have Charlotte Davies blogging for us.
Originally from the Midlands, I work in the entertainment industry (for want of better description) in London. I grew up in Derby in a single parent family of four, studied at University of Hull (City of Culture 2017!) and moved to London on graduating 13 years ago.
I’m writing about feminism and working class women and girls for The F-Word over the next month – lots I’d like to discuss, including the prevalence of middle class ‘echo-chamber’ voices in feminism, accessibility of feminist ideologies to groups and organisations, relationship with the media and the beauty industry, slut shaming and more…
Other interests alongside Strident Feminism include running half marathons, walking up mountains, waking up without an alarm, drinking nice beer and eating scotch eggs.
Thanks for joining us, Charlotte – I look forward to reading your posts this month!
Although we’ve selected all the monthly bloggers for the year, there are still lots of ways to contribute, with blog posts, features or reviews. We have some wonderful new editors who I’m sure will be delighted to hear from you!
The photo is in the public domain. It shows a pint of amber beer on a picnic table outside, with the sun shining onto it.
by Lusana Taylor // 26 September 2016, 7:16 pm
Welcome to another weekly round-up, where we share (what we see as) the most interesting and important articles and essays from the previous seven days. We’d love to hear your thoughts on any of the issues covered in our chosen links!
Longing for the Male Gaze (NY Times)
From the article: “I watch men on the street. I will watch a man visually or verbally harass women who pass him. I am invisible enough to do this. Sometimes men look at me, but the reaction is different. There seems to be some level of shame or confusion mixed with the lust in their eyes. Does this mean that I am lucky? Am I blessed to be sexually invisible and given a reprieve from something that has troubled women for centuries?”
The following is a response piece to the NY Times article above:
From the article: “Calling out the male gaze for erasing certain body types is crucially important. Pop culture loves to forget that being conventionally attractive — like being disabled — is neither your fault nor your achievement. But basing your body image activism on your personal insecurities earns you at best political solidarity and at worst pity. It doesn’t make people find you attractive.”
From the article: “When young girls are being married off at a heartbreakingly young age because it’s seen as their greatest chance of survival; when women are miscarrying on the side of the road in an unfamiliar country; when mothers are forced to send their children unaccompanied on dinghies in the dark, unconvinced they’ll ever see them alive again; when women are reaching the UK and being abused and degraded, or detained while pregnant for the crime of seeking refuge: these are feminist issues. Urgent, desperate, outrageous feminist issues. And, as feminists, we must act.”
One woman’s pain is not another woman’s joy (Harper’s Bazaar)
From the article: “The self-satisfied-Aniston memes might be funny, but they play into a concerning narrative about how we still portray women in these situations. Namely, that we are pitted against each other in an endless cat-fight for dominance and attention.”
From the article: “In some ways, I shudder at my youthful sense of entitlement. Yet, I wish my twenties had been more positive and optimistic, and I don’t think there was anything wrong with my original set of expectations. Every single person in the world should be able to look forward to job satisfaction and security, safe housing and starting a family, if that’s what they want.”
Fiona Vera-Gray has previously written for the F-Word. You can read her article ‘The hidden work of being a woman in public’ HERE.
From the article: “The 20-year-old had chosen not to shake hands with her male colleagues and instead preferred to put her hand on her heart and bow as a greeting. But when one of her male colleagues took offence, Ms Sakka was ordered to go to a meeting with the principal and told she must conform to the institution’s ‘core values’ if she wanted to remain working there.”
From the article: “‘I don’t want to sound bitter, but I’ll do a comedy, meet a guy who’s got two lines, and then see a show on TV by him. And it’s like, where did he come from?'”
25 famous women on being alone (NY Times)
No, White Women, Betty Shelby’s Manslaughter Charge Is Not Unfair (The Establishment)
From the article: “First of all, let’s be crystal clear here: Betty Shelby is not the first police officer to be charged in the killing of an unarmed Black person. Nor will this be the first indictment of its kind, should it even come to that. And this is a really important (and easily Google-able!) fact, because when white women take this lie and use it as an example of sexism, what they are actually doing is making Betty Shelby into a victim, whether they intend to or not.
To do so is a straight-up act of violence against Black people, and it’s a narrative that is sure to be scooped up by her most fervent and violent supporters any minute now. Again, let me be really clear: Betty Shelby is not the victim here, not by any stretch.”
Understanding the roots of sexual violence and lad culture on campus (The Conversation)
The numbers Labour did NOT want you to see on TV this morning – and why (The SKWAWKBOX Blog)
From the article: “It is the hundreds of thousands of people that make up the new mass membership of the party that can have the biggest impact. It is they, more than anyone, who now have the means to change the country. And they can get started on it straight away.”
6 Ways Your Social Justice Activism Might Be Ableist (Everyday Feminism)
From the article: “From ableist slang, to the nasty ableism of the anti-vaccination movement, to insensitivity around disability in right-to-die debates, there are countless arenas where activists accidentally show their privilege by ignoring or decentering those without it.”
From the article: “It’s easy to laugh at incidents like these. Too easy. Because while we’re having our fun – and I’ve certainly had much mileage from them both as IT writer and as stand-up – Facebook continues, out of sight, to impose its own version of middlebrow frat boy liberalism on the rest of the world, erasing minority and national cultures, with nary a squeak of protest from those who should be speaking up on our behalf. Take its ludicrous nipple policy. Male nipples are OK, female aren’t, and transgender – well, it depends how they identify! Or look at the company’s ongoing beef with breastfeeding. Or its obsessive categorisation of precisely what bodily fluids may be depicted and how.”
Jane Fae has previously written for the F-Word. You can read more of her writing HERE.
The image is used under a creative commons license with thanks to theaucitron on Flickr. It shows a landscape image of vibrantly blue sky with fluffy white clouds. Underneath is a field of golden corn.
by Joanna Whitehead // , 6:15 am
Greetings, listeners! It’s been a long time (we shouldn’t have left you), so I’m delighted to return with a seasonal playlist, for your listening pleasure.
With the autumn equinox occurring on 22 September, we’re officially into the season of falling leaves, cooler weather and shorter days. Despite the passing years, I always associate this time of year with starting school and the mixed feelings of excitement and dread that this often entailed. In the southeast, we’ve been fortunate enough to have a fair amount of sun this summer, so I’m about ready to get the woolly jumpers and scarves out and get cosy indoors. It’s also a time to recover and take stock after the busy summer months. For this reason, autumn’s playlist is relatively restrained, gently easing you into the months ahead.
Autumn’s soundtrack includes a track from the self-titled debut album of supergroup case/lang/veirs. The combined talents of these three talented artists (Neko Case, k.d. lang and Laura Veirs) are not to be dismissed lightly and the album delivers with aplomb. Lang’s soothing tones, warmth and flawless pitch remain as sublime as ever and the three artists compliment each other beautifully. Read about the challenges and rewards the project presented here. Falling into the category of Americana, this album should ideally be listened to whilst sitting on a porch in a remote cabin, in North America, with a setting sun and a whisky in your hand. And, I don’t even like whisky. Recommended.
Despite selecting 312 tunes (and counting) for The F-Word’s playlist feature, I’m still staggered at the artists I’ve previously neglected. No ABBA, Donna Summer or Roxette?! Heresy! Released in 2008, Santigold’s debut album, Santogold (Santigold eventually changed the ‘o’ in her name to an ‘i’), is one of my favourite albums, with every track an absolute banger. If you’ve never heard it before, it’s well worth checking out. Why I’ve never included any of her tracks before in earlier playlists remains a mystery. Although I love some of more high-energy tracks, such as ‘Say Aha’, ‘Unstoppable’, the Switch and Sinden remix of ‘You’ll Find a Way’ – damn, all of the tracks are killer! – ‘Anne’ is a more subtle and mature track. I hope you like it as much as I do.
Dolly Parton’s ‘Jolene’ is also a glaring omission from previous playlists. How?! Other classic tracks for autumn include Fleetwood Mac’s ‘Gold Dust Woman’ and Mike Oldfield’s ‘Moonlight Shadow’, sung by Maggie Reilly. St Vincent’s ‘Prince Johnny’ is absolute perfection. When this was first released, I wasn’t wild about it, but the more I listen to it, the more I appreciate Annie Clarke’s artistry. What a woman. As for Alex Party’s ‘Don’t Give Me Your Life’… it’s all about the LOLs and I challenge you not to sing along, whilst also attempting poorly executed vogue hands.
Click here for your autumn playlist. Enjoy!
The image is close-up shot of Annie Clark of St Vincent. She appears to be onstage and holds a red guitar. Cables are around her and she looks deep in concentration. Picture by Joshua Smelser, shared under a Creative Commons licence.
by Editor // 24 September 2016, 10:33 pm
If you’ve looked at our About us page recently, you may have noticed there are seven new names and faces there.
This is the result of the recruitment drive we ran back in July. (We still have visuals arts to fill and – resources permitting – will be advertising for this position again at a later point.)
We were first of all joined by Harriet Kilikita, our new fiction editor, who I am introducing somewhat belatedly, as she has been with us since late August. Harriet has been followed by Yasha Gosrani (TV), Pooja Kawa and Aisling Twomey (features), along with Monica Karpinski, Dawn Robinson and Amy Grant (guest content on the blog).
Please join me in giving them all a warm welcome!
Here are some more details about our new editors, in their own words:
Harriet Kilikita (fiction editor)
As a bookworm and feminist, Harriet has a particular interest in feminism within the world of literature and theatre. She really hit her feminist stride at university, getting into rants about gender inequality over pizza and wine. She can often be found eating something new, musing on her PhD, cooking up a storm or facing the wrong way in a Pilates class. For more food, books and feminism follow her @HKilikita.
Contact Harriet with pitches for fiction book reviews and section-relevant features at firstname.lastname@example.org
Yasha Gosrani (TV editor)
Yasha first realised she was a feminist when she did a school project on the Suffragettes at the age of 14, and has been fighting for women and girls ever since. She is passionate about the power of education and information in transforming the lives of women and girls everywhere. Until recently, she has been working as a corporate solicitor in the City. In her spare time, Yasha enjoys yelling at the TV, gin, buying vintage furniture for her home and making things.
Contact Yasha with pitches for TV reviews and section-relevant features at email@example.com
Pooja Kawa (features editor)
Pooja Kawa is an intersectional feminist, Londoner and lover of history. Having a British-Indian background, Pooja has tried to reconcile two entirely different identities and cultures, and has had differing experiences of feminism and perceptions of the woman between both communities. She has written on aspects of women’s history in India, Nigeria, Britain and the USA, which has triggered her interest in global feminism and long histories behind them. Pooja also loves theatre and has written reviews in this area for the F-Word. She makes a living working in universities. You can find her on Twitter @pooja_kawa.
Aisling Twomey (features editor)
Aisling was born and raised in Cork, Ireland, but now lives and works in London. She holds a BCl (Hons) and LLM (Criminal Justice) from University College Cork. She has worked in communications and media for politicians and human rights organisations. She has also been a freelance writer and editor for nine years.
Aisling loves fitness and reads many, many books. She is currently training to be a yoga teacher (but also loves cheeseburgers). You will never find her ironing, because she flat-out refuses.
Contact Pooja and Aisling with pitches for features at firstname.lastname@example.org
Monica Karpinski (guest content editor)
Monica is a feminist writer and editor who loves nothing more than excellent conversation. A firm believer in the power of language and good media to make change, she is particularly interested in media representation and reportage of gender and sex. Originally from Melbourne, Australia, Monica loves exploring East London’s nooks and crannies by bike and taking any chance possible to travel. By day, you’ll find her heading the content channel of a digital marketing company. She still isn’t used to English winter.
Dawn Robinson (guest content editor)
Dawn does things in fives: degrees, children, decades… and is currently the jam in the sandwich, like many other mid-years women. As a child, Dawn found page 3 in her father’s newspaper offensive and therein started a lifelong interest in women’s rights. She not only remembers second wave feminism, she lived it, doing the second shift while absorbing and teaching feminist theory and wondering why her own practice didn’t add up!
Having completed many years of the 9-5 (yeah, right) in education and publishing, she now spends her time writing, copy editing and occasionally playing with paint, by the sea in North Cornwall/Devon. Her interests are eclectic from football to politics, through literature to film, especially social realism. She feels that one day everything will make sense – but not yet.
Catch her on twitter @jeeznotuagain.
Amy Grant (guest content editor)
Amy is a publications editor for a national equality body where she produces guidance for people on their rights and blogs about the importance of diversity. She first identified as a feminist when a wonderful English teacher showed her how differently men and women use language. When she isn’t harnessing the mighty powers of writing and editing to tackle discrimination, Amy is obsessing over black holes and gravity, watching roller derby and looking at pictures of French Bulldogs. She tweets @amoirh.
Contact Monica, Dawn and Amy with pitches for one-off or occasional guest blog posts at email@example.com
For the full list of our section-related addresses, click here.
[Image description and credit:
Close up of a fountain pen’s nib, with an out of focus page in the background, showing typed words with handwritten annotations. By Nic McPhee, shared under a Creative Commons License.]
by Selina Robertson // 23 September 2016, 2:09 pm
Looking for something feministly exciting to do this weekend in London?
As part of the 50th anniversary celebrations of the London Film-makers’ Co-op (LFMC), Tate Modern and LUX are hosting From Reel to Real: Women, Feminism and the London Film-makers’ Co-op, an unmissable weekend of film programmes and panel discussions showcasing the unique and under-explored histories of the women filmmakers associated with the LFMC in the years of its activity (1966-1999). This is the first comprehensive survey of those experimental and/or feminist filmmakers and many of them will be present to discuss their work.
Independent scholar and curator Maud Jacquin has programmed seven screenings with more than 40 films, both single screen and expanded, by 25 filmmakers. Her aim is to show the astonishing diversity of practice by women filmmakers, linking the personal, the political and the formal on film, video and via expanded cinema. Their sources of inspiration include the events of1968, left politics, the Women’s Liberation Movement, Greenham Common, feminist psychoanalytic theory, as well as structuralist, poststructuralist and postcolonial theories.
What is super-exciting about From Reel to Real weekend is that a great number of films will be experienced, for the first time in decades, in their original 16mm format. It is a rare opportunity to see these films projected in the way the filmmakers intended, especially at a time when the idea of showing film on film is holding on by a delicate thread in London.
Highlights include Sally Potter’s early experiments on Super 8, with a three-minute silent film Jerk (1969) exploring the shifts of power in the gendered gaze, interesting to watch as a precursor to her seminal radical feminist films Thriller (1979) and The Gold Diggers (1980). Gill Eatherley’s expanded 16mm cinema performances (Hand and Sea Film and Lens and Mirror Film) will be projected on double and triple screens. In the 1970s Eatherley was part of Filmaktion, a group of LMFC filmmakers including Annabel Nicolson (whose work is also being shown) whose expanded cinema performances showed across the UK. Expanded cinema involves the projector, the filmstrip, the screen, the auditorium and the spectator and is truly captivating to experience collectively live. Tina Keane’s rarely screened Faded Wallpaper(1988), inspired by Charlotte Perkins Gillman’s proto-feminist short story ‘The Yellow Wallpaper’(1892), finds Keane skilfully turn the screen into an analogue wallpaper, inserting fragments of female bodies trying to break free of the material – and patriarchy.
Keane is a co-founder of Circles, a women’s film and video distribution network that was set up in 1980 by some of the LFMC women filmmakers who broke away from the LFMC because of their growing engagement with feminism and especially ideas around language, literature and activism. This rift was made obvious in 1979 at the Hayward Gallery’s Film as Film exhibition, where the women curators/artists refused to show their work in the gallery because they felt that the history of women’s experimental film was being marginalised. No doubt, this particularly fractured time for the LFMC will come up in discussion over the weekend as history is contested and memory revisited.
Throughout the 1980s and 1990s a feminist presence continued to flourish within LFMC and filmmakers such as Jeannette Iljon, Cordelia Swann, Anna Thew and Sarah Turner were actively involved as LFMC cinema programmers, workshop organisers and distribution officers, as well as making and distributing their own films through the LFMC. Sandra Lahire, another key LFMC filmmaker from this period, had a direct engagement with radical lesbian feminist politics and 80s anti-nuclear activism. She made astonishing 16mm films (using the LFMC’s optical printer) that reflected ideas on the vulnerability of the female body and its relationship to its social, psychic and material surroundings.
Other filmmakers whose work you can see include Sarah Pucill (who has a new film on Claude Cahun in the London Film Festival, Confessions to the Mirror), Tanya and Alia Syed, Lis Rhodes (co-founder of Circles) and Ruth Novaczek (also with a new film in the London Film Festival, A Woman Returns from a Journey). There will be key feminist curators, academics and programmers present, including Lucy Reynolds, Felicity Sparrow and Helen de Witt.
The weekend promises an explosion of film screenings, counter-histories and passionate debate. It will be a time to stop and explore London’s feminist cultural memory through which audiences, curators, programmers and practitioners can celebrate the rich history and contemporary relevance of LFMC and investigate how its moving image practice intersected with feminism.
Sarah Wood, co-founder of Club des Femmes, is participating in a panel after the programme ‘Woman Tiger, Woman Dove’(Sunday 25 September) exploring the legacies of Greenham and women’s direct political engagement and activism for peace and justice throughout the 1980s.
Selina Robertson is co-founder of Club des Femmes, a queer feminist film curating collective. Club des Femmes’ next project is with the Photographers Gallery: ‘Feminist Avant-Garde of the 1970s: Works from the Verbund Collection’ 7 Oct – 15 Jan 2017
The picture courtesy of Tate Modern.
It is a composition looking like a human face, with two blue eye-shaped holes and drawn red lips on the greenish oval background.
This article was amended on 23 September 4:53pm to say Tina Keane is a co-founder rather than founder of Circles and to add the titles of Gill Eatherley’s films.
by Lusana Taylor // 19 September 2016, 10:16 pm
Welcome to another weekly round-up, where we share (what we see as) the most interesting and important articles and essays from the previous seven days. We’d love to hear your thoughts on any of the issues covered in our chosen links! There’s lots to read this week as we now have a fantastic bunch of new editors choosing their favourite links too :)
Teachers ignoring sexual harassment in schools (The Independent)
From the article: “There are people, Jamie, who don’t or can’t have five children named after English flowers. For reasons that life has thrown at us, or for decisions we have made, we are not all parents – but neither are we heartless politicians…”
Food Trauma, Gentrification, and Asian Food for White Folks (still in sirsasana)
From the article: “I’ll bet every Asian in America has been othered by their family foods, and has hidden it, been embarrassed by it, and internally experienced it as shame. But suddenly, it’s adopted by white people, who triple the price while halving the portion, top it with a sprig of cilantro, and serve it in a chic setting in a gentrifying neighborhood.”
The Very Black Body (gal-dem)
From the article: “I’ve learned to sit very still in public, and limit my movements to make people comfortable and unafraid, but even then the fact that I can’t count how often I’ve been confused for a sculpture, even in the middle of a supermarket, means that people aren’t expecting a thing as black as me to be real and human.”
The Queer Poor Aesthetic (The Hye-Phen)
From the article: “Mara Wilson is used to people recognizing her — in fact, in college, she had a one-woman show called “Weren’t You That Girl?” As a child, she starred in classic ‘90s movies including Mrs. Doubtfire, Miracle on 34th Street, and, possibly best known of all, Matilda. But as a young teen, Mara quit acting — and went on with her life, attending boarding school, then NYU, then entering the world of professional writing and storytelling.”
The Long Read: Typecast as a Terrorist (The Guardian)
From the article: “As a minority, no sooner do you learn to polish and cherish one chip on your shoulder than it’s taken off you and swapped for another. The jewellery of your struggles is forever on loan, like the Koh-i-Noor diamond in the crown jewels. You are intermittently handed a necklace of labels to hang around your neck, neither of your choosing nor making, both constricting and decorative.”
The Families Of 5 Child Rape Survivors In India Share Their Heartbreaking Stories (Huffington Post)
CN: rape/sexual assault/child sexual exploitation
UK immigration and asylum tribunal fees to rise by 500% (The Guardian)
From the article: “”The government is to press ahead with increases of up to 500% in court fees for immigration and asylum cases, despite a consultation in which all but five of 147 responses opposed the move.”
Megan Stodel has recently written about immigration and asylum tribunal court fees for the F-Word: If they don’t listen, shout louder
From the article: “From the beginning of her career in the public eye, Clinton has been dogged by questions about her interest in homemaking – despite her own successful career. The queries gradually became more subtle, but the concern of her interviewers was often the same: is this woman ‘womanly’ enough?”
The image is used under a creative commons license with thanks to Manoj Damodaran. It is a striking photograph entitled ‘In the dark’ and shows a person with their face half in shadow, half in light. Their expression is reflective, perhaps slightly sad. They appear to have their eyes turned down to the ground and their mouth is turned down at the corners.
by Megan Stodel // 16 September 2016, 1:49 pm
A few months ago, a consultation came out about new proposals to increase court fees for asylum and immigration tribunals by over 500%. At the time, I wrote about it, encouraging people to respond to the consultation to let the government know how outrageous and unjust it would be to increase fees from £140 to £800 for a full hearing in the first-tier tribunals, for example.
I was therefore delighted to read that the consultation received 150 responses, of which the vast majority opposed the fees. For example, 142 out of the 147 people who responded to the question about raising fees in the first tribunal opposed the proposition. That’s a phenomenal level of opposition! Considering how hostile attitudes towards migrants and asylum seekers can be, this really underlines how unjust these proposals are. This is a meaningful show of support to those struggling to gain recognition, safety and stability.
However, this delight is completely undermined by the fact that the government is paying approximately zero grams of attention to these responses. So if things go ahead as proposed, somebody going through the entire process could now be charged £2,115: an eye-watering increase from £140.
The one defence the government offers is that those who are “destitute” or entitled to legal aid are exempt from charges. Firstly, it’s incredibly likely that at least some people entitled to these exemptions will not be familiar enough with the details of the fees or have the support available to press for their rights. But it’s also disingenuous to suggest that £2,000 is an accessible amount for the large proportion of applicants who wouldn’t be eligible for these exemptions. Could you find £2,000 for court fees, on top of legal fees? How about if you had to miss work to see through your case? And what if you weren’t even allowed to work, which is the case for asylum seekers? It’s an outrageous and likely insurmountable barrier.
The government response really makes for incredible reading. I cannot work out what the point of holding a consultation was if they are prepared to so lightly ignore the stated concerns of the vast majority of people who responded.
It’s important that this isn’t overlooked. Do what you can to tell people that this has happened. Spread the word that the government has actively sought our opinion and then deemed it irrelevant.
And the next steps? Well, to start with, don’t let this put you off responding to consultations. What we have here is proof that we have been disregarded; this in itself is valuable.
But also be as active as you can as an advocate for the rights of migrants and asylum seekers. If you are based in or near London, you could attend the Refugees Welcome Here march tomorrow (Saturday 17th September), organised by Solidarity With Refugees. Find other events or groups in your area that allow you to amplify your collective voices in support. Respond to negative portrayals of or attitudes towards migrants and asylum seekers, challenging prejudice and hate.
While the government has shown scant regard for our voices so far, it expects us to back down. Don’t.
The image is by Haeferl and is used under a creative commons licence. It shows a home-made placard reading “Refugees are human beings” in black paint on a white background; there is a red heart with a black outline in the bottom left corner. It is outside with buildings and a blue sky in the background. The back of a few people’s heads are at the bottom of the image. It was taken at a demonstration in Wien, Germany, called “Gleiche Rechte für alle” (Equal Rights For All).