Introducing May’s guest blogger

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


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

In her own words:

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

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

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

Welcome, Madeleine!

Featured image by Cody Geary, from Flickr

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

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

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

Welcome, new editors!

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


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

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

Sophie Jackson (features editor, working with Pooja Kawa)

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

Contact Pooja and Sophie with pitches for features at

Erin Aniker (visual arts editor)

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

Contact Erin with pitches for visual arts reviews and section-relevant features at

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

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

Image description and credit:

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

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

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

Mixed race friends

Louisa Adjoa Parker is our guest blogger for April

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

*name has been changed

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

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

Weekly round-up and open thread

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Anyone but the Tories.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Because really…

Anyone but the Tories.

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

Courtesy Angie Muldowney on Flickr

Weekly round-up and open thread

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


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

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

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

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

Not Now, Not Ever (Fat Heffalump)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Huck Magazine article on indie porn (Pandora Blake)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Being Kinky Doesn’t Make You Queer (Autostraddle)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Reframing sexual violence

Louisa Adjoa Parker is our guest blogger for April

An entry in my 1980s diary reads: “X tried to make me have sex with him again today… I had to fight him off, really hard!!”

I was fourteen. He was one of the local boys I’d ‘get off’ with. Sometimes I wasn’t entirely willing – as an insecure teenager of mixed heritage, I’d internalised racist and sexist beliefs to the point where any male attention felt flattering.

In my thirties I messaged X, mentioning the racist abuse he put me through. He said, “Sorry if I offended you”. I didn’t mention the sexual abuse because it was only in my mid-forties that I finally understood: he had attempted to rape me.

The realisation dawned after watching Louis Theroux’s documentary Looking back at Jimmy Savile. One of Savile’s victims only understood what had happened to her when she heard other victim’s stories. Another viewed the assaults as just “what men do”. I understood then that women sometimes don’t recognise sexual assault and tuck their experiences deep inside themselves.

I’m one of the lucky ones. I know women who have been raped and sexually assaulted and I don’t consider myself a victim. What happened to me seemed so much a part of everyday life that it only hurt when I reflected on it decades later.

In order to survive in a patriarchal society, we sometimes swallow toxic beliefs about ourselves. We are conditioned not to “make a fuss”. Girls are taught to avoid “creepy” men, to dress a particular way and not to be out alone at night. The responsibility is on us, because men, presumably, are wild animals unable to resist their desire for female flesh.

It can feel as though our bodies don’t belong to us: they are policed by men who rate our worthiness based on how they perceive our attractiveness. We are fat-shamed, slut-shamed and sexually harassed. It is understandable, therefore, that we might not recognise an assault for what it is or not tell anyone about it if we do.

According to Rape Crisis England & Wales’ headline statistics 2015-16, approximately 85,000 women are raped in England and Wales every year. One in five women aged 16-59 has experienced some form of sexual violence.

It is widely known, however, that sexual violence is underreported and crime statisticians estimate that the real numbers are about six times the amount reported to the police.

Conviction rates for rape are low: in 2015-16 just 7.5% of recorded allegations led to a conviction. A woman might go through the painful process of reliving what happened when coming forward but the perpetrator is likely to walk free. It might be easier to try and forget or even to not properly recognise the assault in the first place.

So how can we reframe sexual violence? We can run campaigns such as Reframe (Colorado State University, 2015) which aimed to get the community thinking and acting differently to help end sexual violence. We can teach young people about consent and provide people with skills to respond to problematic behaviours.

We can avoid language which underplays abuse such as “kiddy fiddling”, “perv” or “a bit rape-y” – this reinforces the idea that sexual assault is not worth taking seriously. “Date rape” implies that because the woman knew or willingly met the perpetrator, the assault was not as bad as stranger rape. Sexual assault should not be graded. We need to say it how it is, not shy away from uncomfortable truths.

Our stories can be shared safely. Last year in response to Trump’s “pussy-grabbing” recording, US author Kelly Oxford started the #NotOkay Twitter campaign, asking for women’s first sexual assault stories. She received over a million responses in one evening. Some of these women created new Twitter accounts to share their stories anonymously. As far as I am aware, this has not yet been replicated in the UK.

We need to have honest conversations about our experiences, even if this is painful. Sharing our stories and recognising that it wasn’t OK and wasn’t our fault can empower us and help us to heal. The only person responsible for a sexual assault is the person who commits the offence, but we can change the way we think about such violence and recognise it for what it is.

Image by Maja Karlsson, from Unsplash. Used under Creative Commons Zero licence.

Image is of a woman standing against a brick wall, slightly obscured by the shadow of a tree. She wears a black baseball cap that covers her eyes. She is looking to the right of the frame as if staring at something we can’t see

Heterosexual civil partnerships

This is a guest post by Hannah Westwater.

Hannah is a 22-year-old freelance journalist based in Glasgow. She’s interested in inequalities, politics and music, and believes that the best writing is the most vulnerable

Heterosexual couple Charles Keidan and Rebecca Steinfeld made recent headlines when their attempt to win the right to a civil partnership was ruled against by the Court of Appeal. The Civil Partnerships Act 2004 states that such unions may be extended to same-sex couples, but not to mixed-sex couples, and it’s on this basis that the couple claimed discrimination. The pair have launched a petition to campaign for same-sex couples’ right to a civil partnership that currently stands at over 76,000 signatures.

The reality of the issue is one of nuance, and while by general principle – that in pursuit of equality, all options should be open to all sections of society – they’re correct, their campaign and claims of discrimination are deeply misguided. To invest time, money (thousands of pounds crowdfunded, no less) and judicial resources into the implication that the system favours the LGBT+ community is a tone-deaf demonstration of privilege.

Keidan and Steinfeld say that marriage just isn’t for them – that it’s a patriarchal institution, the history and traditions of which don’t fall in line with their own values. Their stance on the roots of marriage is fair, with echoes of its problematic past still commonly found in contemporary unions. The mandatory inclusion of fathers’ names and occupations on a marriage certificate in England and Wales, for example, is tangible evidence of a practice which should be changed.

It’s true that while many of the more palpable traditions associated with marriage are now less frequently embraced, it still exists as a practice stemming from the historical oppression of women. The institutional passing of women from man (father) to man (groom), dowry practices, and the union’s religious background all result in some viewing marriage as a fossil formed in sexism. Gender stereotypes don’t come much more salient than those attached to married heterosexual couples – a feature of the wider patriarchal society, to whatever extent individual couples do or don’t flout them.

It’s understandable, then, that many may wish to avoid participating in this institution. That’s why the inherent nature of Keidan and Steinfeld’s position is entirely reasonable, but their preoccupation with heterosexual victimhood is deeply troubling. It would appear that their understanding of the cultural context in which their relationship exists is surface-level; telling us that as white, middle-class, educated people, their claims of discrimination are rooted in their lack of access to civil partnerships – something that is at best a stop-gap in the struggle for LGBT+ marriage rights.

To hold civil partnerships up as a bastion of equality, a kind of institutional relief from symbolic patriarchy is a blatant demonstration of ignorance. The couple claims that the historic trimmings of marriage render it unsuitable for their needs, yet show no recognition of the salient and recent realities of civil partnership.

Civil partnerships are a relic of the government’s grudging concession to growing calls for civil rights. There are legal boundaries written into the contracts — for example, that they can’t be nullified as a result of adultery, unlike in a marriage — which demonstrates the way in which they were brought in as a half-measure prior to the introduction of same-sex marriage; progressive in appearance but also appeasing the conservative right.

This variation between marriages and civil partnerships is problematic when one considers the long-standing stereotype of LGBT+ people as promiscuous and the possibility that this ever-prevalent prejudice sees a legal reflection.

Objectively, civil partnerships can’t be separated from a narrative of oppression.

Current civil partnerships aren’t the ideal quick fix in achieving true, pragmatic equality. Campaigns like these should seek an alternative form of union introduced from the start as a solution for all sexual orientations and gender identities, rather than an adaptation made to a milestone in LGBT+ struggles.

This is why Keidan and Steinfeld’s plea garners little sympathy from some and feels like a slap in the face to others in the LGBT+ community. That they feel their chosen cause — lobbying for heterosexual rights — is so culturally significant to justify such fanfare is, at best, naïve and lacking in self-awareness. Rather than claiming that freedoms taken for granted are evidence of discrimination, the conversation must be an inclusive one which projects the voices of the most marginalised first and foremost.

Image by Emma Frances Logan Barker, from Unsplash. Used under Creative Commons Zero licence.

Image is of the legs and feet of a man and a woman in a forest. They appear to be leaning together playfully. The woman is wearing brown sandals and a bright yellow dress, while the man wears brown lace-up shoes and jeans

Weekly round-up and open thread

by Lusana Taylor // 5 April 2017, 7:10 am


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

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

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

Pregnant Syrian-American Woman Debuts Fire Rap Video ‘Hijabi’ (Huffington Post)

18 Powerful Tweets For Transgender Day Of Visibility (Refinery29)

Anger as tampon tax is used to help fund anti-abortion group (The Guardian)

Amy Bleuel, Founder of Project Semicolon, Passes Away at 31 (The Mighty)

Men, FYI, Your Dicks Don’t Taste Like Ice Cream (Kitty Stryker at Medium)

Rape victims to be spared ordeal of cross-examination in court (The Guardian)

Millennials aren’t coddled—they just reject abuse as a management tactic (Canadian Business via Daily Inequality)

From the article: “For decades, otherwise mild-mannered and amiable individuals have had to train themselves to behave differently at work: to be harder, colder, less polite. (You can actually take courses on this kind of thing.) In some workplaces, making a colleague cry is considered a sadistic rite of passage. In the culture of commerce, behaviour that would be inexcusable in pretty much any other context is not only tolerated, but rewarded.”

Why Kendrick Lamar’s take on “natural” women doesn’t matter (Wear Your Voice)

From the article: “Oh, so you’re cool with stretch marks on black women now? How about armpit hair? How about leg hair? For cishet men, “natural” is conditional and has to come in bite-size and easily digestible chunks. But we’re tired of waiting for you to be cool with the varying levels of what makes black women comfortable and happy.”

The image is used under a creative commons license with thanks to trasroid on Flickr. It is a photograph of a field of pink tulips. Most of the image is slightly blurred, but one tulip stands very sharply in focus at the front of the shot.

Spring has officially arrived, signifying renewal and new beginnings, so what better time for some new and wonderful music in your life?

Marie Davidson is a Canadian spoken-word poet and electronic artist, who is half of duo Essaie Pai. Adieux Au Dancefloor is her third solo album and combines techno beats with her voiceover. I’ve really enjoyed this album, which aims to explore the negatives and positives of club culture. Read about Davidson’s creative process here.

Those horns in ‘+1’ by Zebra Baby are just ace, as are their dirty, queer rhymes. Zebra Baby’s internet presence is practically non-existent, however, so it’s really hard to tell you more about them, sadly. The most I can find is an old Twitter account, which hasn’t been active for over three years. If you know more, please comment below.

Syd is an alternative R&B and neo-soul singer, songwriter, producer and DJ from Los Angeles. That voice! You might recognise her from her previous incarnation as Syd Tha Kyd with The Internet. Fin, her first solo album, was released last month to universal acclaim. She plays London’s Scala on April 9, 10 and 11 next month, so get your tickets while you still can. Read more about her musical journey here.

Ibibio Sound Machine’s second album Uyai was released earlier this month. According to Eno Williams, front woman with the band, a key theme in the creation of this album was “empowering women”. I was fortunate enough to speak with Williams last year – check out my interview here.

Over three years of playlists and I’ve never included any Abba. What a joke! I must confess to being an Abba naysayer until relatively recently, which may explain their omission. Thankfully, I’ve seen the light and included ‘S.O.S.’, which is definitely in my all-time top five Abba tracks. Dance like no-one’s watching, kids.

Click here for your spring 2017 playlist.

The image is an upper-body shot of Mitski onstage. She is wearing a blue denim jacket and holds a pink bass guitar. She has a serious expression on her face, which is partially concealed by her long, dark hair and is looking down towards her guitar. Picture taken by Courtney Emery and shared under a Creative Commons license.

Introducing April’s guest blogger

by Monica Karpinski // 1 April 2017, 1:10 pm

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April guest blogger The F-Word

It’s a brand new month, which means that we’re pleased to introduce you to our next monthly blogger: Louisa Adjoa Parker.

In her own words:

“Louisa is of Ghanaian and English heritage and has lived in the rural South West for over 30 years. She was the single mother of three daughters for many years, and is also a grandmother. Louisa is a freelance writer of poetry, fiction and black history.

She began writing while studying Sociology as a mature student, to explore feelings of being ‘different’ and to express her experiences of racism and growing up with domestic violence. Louisa has long been interested in the ways different forms of oppression can intersect, before she even knew what intersectionality was! She has belonged to various marginalised groups over the years, and hopes through her writing to represent those who are traditionally excluded from the media and literature.

As well as ‘race’ and gender, she has a strong interest in mental health, as she lives with MH conditions and has worked in this field. Louisa draws on personal experience and her perspectives on social injustice to create poetry and fiction, and (more recently) opinion journalism pieces.”

Welcome, Louisa!

Featured image by Simson Petrol, from Unsplash. Used under Creative Commons Zero licence.

Image is of many small stacks of books, each tied up in parcels with string. The books are in a vintage-style white shelf.

Weekly round-up and open thread

by Lusana Taylor // 29 March 2017, 4:34 pm


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

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

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

How do you remember a rock god? The complicated legacy of Chuck Berry (Sydney Morning Herald)

From the article: “While some musicians, such as Chris Brown and Ike Turner, have been held to account for violence they have committed against women, there is a clear racial element to this. Similar acts are minimised in collective memory when white rock gods are involved.

Even in the most horrible of cases, our culture strives to protect the reputation of men who are seen as creative geniuses. A 2016 mini-series, Soundbreaking, gave extended coverage to the career of Phil Spector, praising his innovation and skill in the studio, while completely omitting his extensive history of violence (not only towards women) and the fact that he actually murdered actress Lana Clarkson in 2003. (This type of treatment is not only found in music; Roman Polanski is a similar case in point in the film world).”

Africa deserves better from Comic Relief (The Guardian)

Laying Bare (Professionally Resting)

From the article: “But what angers me more than the nudity, the lifelessness, is that they’re still, so often, required to be beautiful. Even in death, even after unspeakable murder, she must still remain magnificent. She is a woman, and even on the mortician’s slab or dragged into a ditch, she must fulfil her duty as stunning set dressing.”

The everyday trauma of childbirth made me stop at one child (The Guardian)

From the article: “I have glimpsed that other country, that scary Handmaid’s Tale one, where women are nothing but vessels and slaves. I have experienced unkindness of the sort only doled out to third-class citizens. I may be a lucky mother of a happy child, but I have glimpsed what lies beneath our civilised veneer and it frightened me enough to be a factor in stopping at one child.”

What Racial Terms Make You Cringe? (New York Times)

From the article: “’People of color’ is too close, in my mind, to ‘colored people,’ just a small grammatical shift away from a term tainted by the ugliness of segregation. I know it’s now commonplace, and that it’s used with the noblest of intent. But white is a color too so everyone is technically of color, right?” – Marc Lacey, National Editor

Gender quotas and the crisis of the mediocre man (LSE Business Review)

From the article: “A common criticism against gender quotas is that they are anathema to meritocratic principles. This research on Sweden shows that the opposite can be true: Quotas actually increased the competence of politicians by leading to the displacement of mediocre men whether as candidates or leaders. The results may also be relevant for judging gender quotas in business.”

TLC ‘No Scrubs’ writers finally credited for Ed Sheeran’s ‘Shape Of You’ (Afropunk)

Shana Grice: Ex-boyfriend found guilty of murdering teenager after police fined her for wasting their time (Independent)

Fearless female filmmakers tell us how they boss it (BBC)

Intersex Activist and Writer Hida Viloria on Being ‘Born Both’ (Rolling Stone)

The image is used under a creative commons license with thanks to skepticalview on Flickr. It is the close-up photograph of a green succulent plant.

Sally Parkin is a writer, poet and new mum who is passionate about creative expression and raising her daughter as a feminist. Sally is our guest blogger for March

It was thanks to my step-dad that I got into basketball and, despite my brother growing to be 6’6, it was I who continued to play after leaving school. My passion for the sport has seen me captain my university team, play for national and local league teams and even fly to Barcelona to play in a European tournament. I love this game.

But apparently I am in a minority. According to the Government Equalities Office: “Year 3 (7-8 years old) is a critical age in keeping girls motivated to play sport. Beyond this age, girls become more self-conscious, lose confidence and many stop participating in sport”.

At high school I didn’t feel different from the boys in strength or ability. The only thing that obviously set us apart was our uniform. The girls’ P.E kit consisted of tight cycling shorts, and skirts for hockey – practical! In a society that puts so much emphasis and pressure on body image, it is no wonder a lot of the girls dreaded playing sport.

The Government Equalities Office also claims that: “…by Year 6 girls are doing significantly less and this gap grows in the years that follow”.

At my sixth form college there was no basketball team for girls. Instead I was ‘allowed’ to play with the boys. At practice I was always picked last for teams. Automatically because I was a girl, it was assumed that I wasn’t talented and it took courage, patience and determination to turn up at training each week.

When girls take part in sports, there are already assumptions that they won’t be any good: ‘You throw like a girl’.

As I got more into basketball, I started going to scrimmages at the park. These were 100% male. During the session, the men spent more time arguing over fouls and who was subbing off than playing. Those that weren’t confident players were picked last for teams or left on the sideline, ignored.

While the women I’ve played basketball with have been competitive and physical, they have also tended to be less judgmental of others, more accepting of beginners and more patient. They are more willing to give others the opportunity to play and they waste less time arguing over individual calls.

This was not, however, the experience of Women’s National Basketball player Candice Wiggins. In an interview with the San Diego Union-Tribune, Wiggins talks about the “very harmful” culture of the WNBA: “I had never been called the B-word so many times in my life.” She describes how the women “mirror the men” in how they play, look and behave: “Many people think you have to look like a man, play like a man to get respect”.

Wiggins’ story really reminded me of my own battle to prove that I was ‘one of the guys’. I would play overly physical so as not to seem weak and talked trash to appear confident. I wouldn’t give up my spot on the court, otherwise I would spend the rest of the session sat on the side, begging for a sub.

As I improved as a player and became known to those I played with regularly, I was no longer last to be picked. But instead of acknowledgement of my ability, this was seen as a big disrespect to those men who got picked after me, because they must be terrible! I was good ‘for a girl’ but I couldn’t be a good basketball player in my own right. This lack of recognition was frustrating and disheartening.

At university, however, I thrived as captain of the women’s team. But still the difference in numbers of male and female students each year at the basketball try-outs was noticeable. The men formed a second team because there were too many wanting to play. We struggled to get enough women to play full-court games at practice.

I was fortunate enough to go to Madison Square Garden to watch the New York Liberty play the Minnesota Lynx – two of the best teams in the WNBA. We had courtside tickets; it was a dream come true. If we had gone to see the male equivalent, the New York Knicks, we’d be seated so far up you’d need binoculars to see who had the ball. Candice Wiggins says: “Nobody cares about the WNBA…They give away tickets and people don’t come to the game”.

We must recognise that the constant need to control and emphasise the way women look and behave, and the treatment of women’s leagues as secondary to ‘the real thing’, is having a serious impact on girls’ participation in sport. From humiliating hockey skirts to empty stands: we deserve better.

Image depicts a close up of three women playing basketball, courtesy of Don Voaklander on Flickr

Sally Parkin is a writer, poet and new mum who is passionate about creative expression and raising her daughter as a feminist. Sally is our guest blogger for March

Not long ago my partner and I saw a little girl walking along the road pushing an empty toy buggy and absolutely loving it. It prompted the discussion of whether or not we wanted our daughter to have dollies and prams. Would acting like a mother take away from her childhood? Would playing with baby dolls as a child increase the likelihood of her getting pregnant in her teens? Would we be promoting traditional gender roles instead of getting her a toy car as a rebellion against the pink/blue divide?

But the question that intrigued us most was: why do lots of little girls want to play with prams?

The simple answer is that young children want to do most things they see their parents doing. They see mum or dad pushing the stroller and they want to do it too.

Then there’s advertising. When I think about my own childhood, I remember the many adverts for dolls on TV, and embarrassingly can even sing the tune for ‘Baby Wee Wee’. Girls fed and dressed dolls while boys zoomed toy cars around tracks and blasted things with their Power Rangers. My younger brother didn’t play with a baby doll or a pushchair.

But these factors aside, is it possible that young girls are just interested in babies?

Recently at the library we met a little girl who was totally besotted with our daughter, who is five months old. The girl, who we guessed was about four years old, kept coming over with books for our baby, holding her hand and stroking her head. Her mum looked at us apologetically and said: “She loves babies!”

Another example is my cousin from Hong Kong – she’s five. When she came over for Christmas last year, she told us she has ten babies and proceeded to pretend to breastfeed them!

Is there anything inherently wrong with little girls liking babies or being encouraged to play with them?

Our concern was that this would make our daughter want to grow up too fast. That she might rush towards relationships, a house and marriage without much consideration of the alternatives. But as a proud mum, am I saying that motherhood is an unreasonable ambition? Of course not. In fact I strongly believe that the role of parent, especially the stay-at-home mum, deserves more positive recognition. And why should it be a bad thing to raise our children to be nurturing and kind to others?

The real danger is that we aren’t acknowledging little boys who want to play this role, or showing them that this is an option. Children’s toys are so incredibly gender-specific. Why are boys not encouraged to play with baby dolls? When shopping with our little girl we need to be conscious of the overwhelming pink and blue aisles. It is important we enable our children to choose freely and support their interests even if these fly in the face of typical ideas about gender.

I know that seeing me pushing the pram or doing laundry will make my daughter want to do those things. But she will also see me playing basketball, gardening and doing DIY. She will know that pushing prams and washing clothes isn’t the definition of being a mum. And that being a mum doesn’t define me.

Ultimately I believe that playing parent teaches children about responsibility, empathy and caring for others, which can only be a good thing for society. So if my daughter chooses to push an empty pushchair around the shop or pretend to change nappies then that’s fine by me.

Image depicts two little girls, one of whom is pushing a pink pram with a doll in it, courtesy Maxim Zolotukhin / World Bank

The comic strip: gender assumptions

by Guest Blogger // 25 March 2017, 12:53 pm

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

This month’s comic depicts someone assuming that a woman is talking about a man when she refers to a doctor, a CEO and a chef

This is a guest post by Beth Leslie. A full-time writer and adoptee Londoner, Beth can usually be found debating politics in quirky bars designed to look like laundromats. You can follow her on Twitter @bethanygrace92

A CEO and a secretary walk into an office. She picks up a file, and he takes a seat. Picture the scene, then riddle me this: is it the secretary or the CEO who is currently standing up holding the document?

The answer is that it’s impossible to tell with the information provided. We know the woman isn’t seated, but not what her job title is. Those who thought they knew probably made an assumption based on the only fact they had: her gender. A quick straw poll of my nearest and dearest reveals the unsurprising – people were far more likely to assume the woman was the secretary than the CEO.

Confession time: I did exactly the same thing.

Not with the above example, admittedly, but with this riddle about how a boxer can win a match where ‘no man throws a punch’. I consider myself a fully paid-up member of the feminist club. I constantly push back against latent sexism from friends and family. But when it came to envisioning a female pugilist, I fell shockingly short.

Perhaps I’m just a bad feminist. Or perhaps such gendered assumptions have become so ingrained in our collective psyche by patriarchy that we all cannot help but occasionally be susceptible to them.

I doubt many of us would have to think hard to recall a real-life instance of gender-assumption. My particular bugbear was being mistaken for a male colleague’s PA if I answered the phone in his absence. My partner recently offered to introduce a client to the (female) director, only to have the client respond that they’d be delighted to meet ‘him’. And my best friend, an economics editor, is constantly dealing with confused writers who assume she must be a man.

Yet most of these assumers are not explicit sexists. The Fawcett Society has found that over two-thirds of Brits support gender equality in principal, and consequently I doubt many of them believe that women could or should not be executives, directors and economists. So what’s going on?

Psychologists talk about something called ‘adaptive unconscious’; the part of our brain that makes decisions or snap judgements without our conscious mind being aware that it is doing so. The adaptive unconscious is actually pretty useful from an evolutionary point of view (it’s the process that underpins Malcolm Gladwell’s famous book Blink), but it also has a nasty habit of reacting off any innate prejudices, including those we may not even realise we have.

For as long as the society we grow up in is inherently patriarchal, the adaptive unconscious means that even the most enlightened of us have to make a deliberate, concerted effort to reassign our assumptions about men and women. Unfortunately, effort is something that humans tend not to be fond of. So whenever we’re tired, or in a hurry, or distracted, or under pressure, we find ourselves falling back on the same stereotypes.

For me, a writer and self-confessed logophile, the obvious focal point in this phenomenon is gendered pronouns. When these come into play, everything from occupations to personality traits becomes assigned to a male or female subject.

In an equal world this wouldn’t matter, because the distribution would be roughly even. But in an unequal world like ours, the male/female assignment is so strongly skewed to one gender that we begin to see the two words, and therefore concepts, as inextricably linked. I write careers advice for a living, and I can tell you that phrases such as ‘he was the receptionist’ have come to sound so incongruous that some editors have kindly ‘corrected’ them for me.

To the Richard Dawkins of this world, the gender assigned to a hypothetical administrator may seem relatively unimportant. But, as anyone who has watched a Derren Brown show knows, human beings are highly susceptible to the power of suggestion. If you are a woman who sees over and over and over again that powerful people are male, you start to believe that power is beyond your grasp, as this article from TIME shows: “[Millennials] are fame-obsessed: three times as many middle school girls want to grow up to be a personal assistant to a famous person as want to be a Senator… four times as many would pick the assistant job over CEO of a major corporation”.

The fact that TIME didn’t even notice that these ‘fame-obsessed’ girls didn’t aspire to be the famous person, but only their assistant, points to the second danger of implicit sexism: its implicitness. Calling a female director ‘sir’ or using a picture of a woman to depict an assistant seems so minor, so insignificant, that it slips under the radar. But, like all microaggressions, it adds up.

Indeed, innate assumptions about gender are the very foundations upon which patriarchy is built. Without ripping them out completely, we cannot plant a fairer and more equal society in its place.

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

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

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

Police in Northern Ireland are raiding women’s houses for abortion pills (The Debrief)

Meet the woke misogynist (Fusion)

The invention of ‘heterosexuality’ (BBC Future)

From the article: “Until this point in our Earth’s history, the human species has been furthered by different-sex reproductive intercourse. About a century ago, we attached specific meanings to this kind of intercourse, partly because we wanted to encourage it. But our world is very different now than what it was. Technologies like preimplantation genetic diagnosis [PGD] and in vitro fertilisation [IVF] are only improving. The first human to be born by IVF turned 25 years old last year. In 2013, more than 63,000 babies were conceived via IVF. In fact, more than five million children have been born through assisted reproductive technologies. Granted, this number still keeps such reproduction in the slim minority, but all technological advances start out with the numbers against them.”

A 13-year-old girl can not have a “lover” (The Pool)

The queer life of chronic pain (Dazed)

Clementine Ford: The problem with rewarding men who support feminism (Stuff)

From the article: “So forgive me for not really caring all that much about the sudden “wokeness” of boys who categorically are not forced to suffer the same backlash that their female peers are just for speaking to their actual experiences.”

A new wave of feminist manifestos address women and power (New Statesman)

Why ‘inclusivity’ in feminism isn’t always a good thing (Huck)

From the article: “It’s in the interests of these for-profit corporations to make these messages as bland and uncontroversial as possible. In doing so, they can avoid alienating potential customers, but this limits their political usefulness. When “inclusivity” involves placing marginalised women (such as trans women or women of colour) at the centre of a movement, attempting to make feminism more “inclusive” is clearly a good thing. Watering down rhetoric so that almost everyone agrees with it however is a different matter entirely.”

‘We Need To Talk About Race’: Solidarity Movements In Uncertain Times (gal-dem)

Carnage, review: Simon Amstell has made the world’s first pro-vegan comedy that is actually funny (Independent)

The image is used under a creative commons license with thanks to Renee Hawk on Flickr. It shows delicate white snowdrop flowers, perfect for the Spring Equinox!

Weekly round-up and open thread

by Lusana Taylor // 15 March 2017, 6:22 am


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

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

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

This guy did an email experiment to find out how women are treated differently to men. The results were fascinating (The Poke)

Margaret Atwood on What ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ Means in the Age of Trump (New York Times)

Look Out 10s, a 5 is Coming: On the Power of Unattractiveness (Kayleigh Anne at Medium)

Sex Wars Revisited (Aperture)

From the article: “Held within lesbian sex cultures of the 1980s are the kernels of the ongoing struggles for recognition—of trans folk, sex workers, fat activists—that continue to unsettle feminism today.”

Feminism And Nudity: Why Are The Two Still At Odds? (Reni Eddo-Lodge at British Vogue)

From the article: “Ivy League-educated, demure, socially conscious, white and pretty, Emma Watson fits perfectly into to the category of the woman whose breasts we are not supposed to see. In the binary of virgin and whore, she is firmly in the former camp. It is this that has upset the critics of her photoshoot, because there is an idea that nudity of any kind is for women of a lower class.”

Sex Work, Unpaid Labour, and the Strike (Margaret Corvid at Novara Media)

From the article: “Much of our reproductive labour is done during our ‘free time,’ but we are born into a system that doesn’t give us much of a choice about what kind of people we want to create ourselves as. Whether we want to or not, we send our children to schools that inculcate them with ideas that equip them for their roles within an oppressive system; if we want to teach them how to resist, we must teach them that ourselves. Reproductive labour is work, but neither employers nor the government pay us to do that shift. Instead, capitalist society pressurises women in particular to love and care for our families and households out of the goodness of our hearts.

And that’s why sex work grinds capitalists’ gears — whether it’s right wing moralist capitalists or ostensibly liberal feminists, they all hate us. Sex and intimacy and the emotional labour around sex are the most sacrosanct of work that we are supposed to perform for free, and when we charge for it, society is horrified.”

The “real” issue (Fae rising)

From the article: “The same trope – purity masquerading as reality – turns up time and time again in respect of race and nationality – from Nazi attempts to define Germanity according to the size and shape of one’s nose to South African laws that sought to define race according to family tree. Appallingly we are having a similar debate in the UK as to whether someone who was born, grew up, and lived all their life here – but with some suspiciously muslim-coloured skin tones – is as “real” a Brit as someone who emigrated to Australia at the tender age of 25.

And of course, the ‘real’ question gets asked all the time of people with any sort of impairment, physical or mental. Is she ‘really’ disabled? Does she deserve the courtesy of being treated as someone who needs assistance to cope with the demands placed on them by everyday society? Or is she really some sort of scrounger, who should be summarily stripped of every benefit going, from blue badge to living allowance?

No. The ‘real’ issue is one I have little time for. For while it is all too frequently posed as innocent question, it is just as often disingenuous assertion, by those with privilege, defending their privileged position: or, othertimes, by those with less privilege, scrambling to hold on to what little they have.”

Here Are Some Ways To Help Build A More Intersectional Feminism (Fader)

SME leaders share their views on workplace inequality (The Telegraph)

Sister Sledge singer Joni dies at 60 (BBC)

Why did people assume an Asian woman in BBC viral video was the nanny? (Helier Cheung, BBC)

Still Think Trans Women Have Male Privilege? These 7 Points Prove They Don’t (Everyday Feminism)

From the article: “Cis boys generally do not question or feel discomfort with the way that society treats them. They are able to accept and enjoy their privilege, usually without even noticing it.

Being called boys, for them, is not accompanied by fear, self-doubt, or the feeling that there is something deeply fundamentally wrong with them.

Young trans girls, on the other hand, tend to experience being treated as male as disorienting and terrifying, because it teaches us that our identities are revolting to society.

Male socialization, for us, is actually a coded message: You’re not who you think you are. If you try to be anything other than what we say, you’ll be punished.”

On the frightening realities of being a woman in 2017 (Billie Loo)
CN: Contains graphic descriptions Of misogynistic violence.

From the article [not describing the violent incident]: “At first I described what happened to me as a reality check – that I wasn’t invincible and it’s just the way it is, that there are men out there who will try hard to hurt you and make you feel small and it’s safer to shut your mouth and be amicable than to speak up and put yourself in harms way. The fact of the matter is, sometimes, for your own safety, you do have to let things go in moments of conflict. But fuck knows I will advocate and scream from the rooftops and protest and march and lead by example in every way I possibly can.”

Life at the sharp end: Jessie Knight, Britain’s first female tattoo artist (The Guardian)

The image is used under a creative commons license with thanks to Nana on Flickr. It is a photograph of delicate white blossom hanging from a tree branch. The blossom is very sharply in focus in comparison to the rest of the background, which is extremely blurred, but the green hues would suggest the backdrop is a wood or forest.

Sally Parkin is a writer, poet and new mum who is passionate about creative expression and raising her daughter as a feminist. Sally is our guest blogger for March

It’s August and I’m eight months pregnant. BBC’s Woman’s Hour is on the radio and the topic is ‘Underwear: what do we wear and who is it for?’. Jane Garvey has been sent for a bra fitting with Claire at Selfridges. In the changing rooms, Claire tells Jane: “Everyone we get…from a size 6 to…18 say exactly the same things about their bodies […]. Women need to be a bit kinder to themselves”. My ears prick up.

The discussion continues and another guest, writer and former bra fitter Bridget Minamore, describes how “every single person [she] fitted apologised as they entered the room”. She explains: “All these women hated some part of their body”.

Having always had smaller boobs, bras have never played a big role in my life – other than in the changing rooms at school, where inferior crop-tops and peer pressure made it seem like they should. In fact in my early twenties, I embraced the freedom of not having to wear a bra. It wasn’t until after I gave birth to my daughter in September last year that I suddenly found myself with enormous milk-filled grown-up woman-breasts and so braved it and booked my first fitting.

On the day of the fitting my partner and our brand new baby come along for support. I don’t change in front of them – instead I hide behind the cubicle door in shame. In the mirror is a body I don’t recognise. When I was pregnant, I lost my slim sporty self and embraced the bump, but now I have neither and feel weighed down by new heavy boobs and sore leaky nipples. The unfriendly rush-rush approach of the fitting assistant who seems totally oblivious to my embarrassment makes my experience even more unpleasant.

After the news of my new size sinks in, I feel I am surely at the fun bit: choosing my bra. Disappointment punches me in the chest as I’m directed to a small and uninspiring selection, all in horrible shiny black, white, or a nude exclusive to one type of skin tone. Was this the bland palette of motherhood? Had I lost my identity somewhere in a shopping basket under maternity pads, breast pads and paper knickers?

I settle on the most imaginative design, a white bra with black polka dots. The straps are thick and practical. It costs eighteen pounds, which feels expensive for something so necessary. I buy two. “It’s quite pretty,” I tell myself (if only because the other choices are so hideous).

I question whether my experience of a fitting would have differed if I’d been shopping for a regular bra without my swollen mum breasts. Unfortunately I can say with confidence that I would still have felt saddened by the reflection I saw in the mirror. I imagine the only difference would be that I would have thought that my boobs were ‘too small’ as opposed to ‘too big’.

I do think, however, I would have had a wider choice in bra design. It seems that since having our daughter, my breasts have become purely functional – and so has my underwear. Breastfeeding can sometimes make you feel like you’re a milk-machine. My daughter is five months now and I still find it difficult to admit I’m a stay-at-home mum, brainwashed into thinking I need a job to have my own identity. Often my passions of reading and painting and drawing are forgotten under piles of dirty nappies and a stack of washing up in the sink. For a period of time I was bleeding, milk was leaking out of me and I felt shattered, fragile and emotional. I needed a self-esteem boost. I still wanted my partner to find me attractive and I wanted to feel good about myself.

And feeling good about ourselves after having a baby isn’t easy in a society that wants us to buy products to get rid of our stretch marks, lose our baby weight (quickly) and get back our pre-pregnancy bodies. It is unrealistic and unreasonable.

I strongly reject the label ‘yummy mummy’. The pressure of maintaining the roles of devoted mother and sex goddess simultaneously is wrong and an arguably impossible ask. I have found it very difficult switching between feeding our baby to being intimate with my partner. The feeling of lying in between them, with both wanting me physically, has made me feel torn down the middle and like my body isn’t my own.

So no, I’m not asking for sexy nursing bras with nipple tassels and matching stockings (although maybe some mums are and are equally disappointed by what’s on offer!). As a new mum I definitely want to be comfortable, but I don’t want to be a ‘Mum-bot’. Is it too much to ask for a fun, functional nursing bra that I like and that makes me feel good about myself?

Image courtesy rosefirerising on Flickr. Image depicts racks of colourful bras in a shop

Earlier this week I had the pleasure of attending the press night of the stage adaptation of the film The Diary of a Teenage Girl at the Southwark Playhouse. It’s a really enjoyable show, with a great cast and excellent use of projections. I’ve never seen the film, so I can’t tell you how it compares, but reading Mercedes McGrath’s review of the film for The F-Word, I agree with the writer that it’s fantastic to see a younger female character who is interested in sex and has agency in her life. The play is on until 25 March.

The WOW – Women of the World festival will be running in Hull this weekend as well as London as part of Hull 2017. Hull-born comedian Lucy Beaumont will be opening the festival with a live restaging of her Radio 4 comedy series To Hull and Back with her on-radio mum Maureen Lipman and will also be inviting the people of Hull to a comedy workshop during the weekend. At the heart of the festival will be a series of panels inspired by the series of conversations held across the city with the women of Hull last autumn, including issues such as domestic abuse, inequality in the performing arts, equal pay, body image and championing care. Some events will have live subtitles or British Sign Language interpretation.

Coming up at Hackney Showroom on 27 March is Femme Feral’s THERESAMAYSMACKDOWN, a wrestling show that is also a queer, feminist, anti-fascist, noise-driven, ferocious, fight-based riposte to Theresa May’s pronouncement “In tough times everybody has to take their share of pain” which looks brilliant. It’s part of a festival of cultural activism called Joy & Dissent.

Catherine Hoffmann is going to be on tour with her autobiographical piece Free Lunch With The StenchWench. Charting the drive for survival and fitting in, the StenchWench shares stories of growing up as one of the feral underclass whilst precariously existing in Austerity Britain today. Hoffmann will be in Leeds on 22 March, Camden People’s Theatre from 30 March – 1 April, Glasgow on 7 April, Norwich on 19 April and Colchester on 26 April.

Next month Fancy Chance will be at Soho Theatre from 25 – 29 April with her show Flights of Fancy. A globe-trotting, time-traveling mini-spectacle with turbulent polemics and unexpectedly poignant stop-offs, Flights Of Fancy tells the true story of the artist’s journey from Korean refugee to international cabaret performer. Fancy Chance has previously written for The F-Word about her experience of growing up in a mainly white community in the US and how romanticised portrayals of Asian women have affected her life.

Soho Theatre has a few more things coming up that we reviewed at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe last year: Emma Sidi: Telenovela (16 – 18 March), Expensive Shit (4 – 22 April), All The Things I Lied About (18 April – 6 May) and CUNCRETE (18 – 22 April). Expensive Shit will be audio-described on 18 April and captioned on 19 April.

Sara Pascoe has added some extra dates to her tour of Animal beginning with Lincoln on Saturday. The full list can be found here. These dates follow the publication of Pascoe’s debut book which was reviewed for The F-Word by Lauren Hossack.

The National Theatre’s production of Hedda Gabler will be going on tour at the end of this year. It will be going to Plymouth from 2 to 7 October, Edinburgh from 17 to 21 October, Leicester from 23 to 28 October, Salford from 30 October to 4 November, Norwich from 7 to 11 November, Hull from 13 to 18 November, Aberdeen from 21 to 25 November, Northampton from 28 November to 2 December, Wolverhampton from 23 to 27 January 2018, Nottingham from 5 to 10 February, Newcastle from 12 to 17 February and Milton Keynes from 27 February to 3 March. Many of these venues will be including assisted performances as part of the show’s run.

A new version of Laura Wade’s Posh will be presented at the Pleasance Theatre in London from 29 March until 22 April. Posh is a riotous story of an Oxford student dining club, a fictionalised version of the infamous Bullingdon Club, and I loved it when I saw it at the Royal Court back in 2010. This version is all-female which should shed an interesting light on the class privileges that feature so much in the play.

I should mention that this production has come under some criticism for not paying its cast and crew Equity rates. Writing as I do for a volunteer-run website, and working in my day job for an Arts Council funded organisation I often find the question of how and when people get paid for their work difficult to navigate. I think it’s fine for me to choose to write this article for fun for example, but I’d never dream of asking one of my company’s performers to work for us for free, and in the unfunded fringe those questions get even harder. What do you say, feminist readers? Is working for no or low fees the only way that some non-mainstream work will ever get made, or is this too much of a barrier to participation for those from less privileged groups in society? Let me know what you think.

And lastly Francesca Marie Claire and Katy Poulter and have launched a new comedy YouTube channel, We Don’t Hate Men, with this parody of Stormzy’s single Big For Your Boots as a salute to mums across the globe, also known to them as ‘The Mumdem’. Most of the lyrics are subtitled, but not all I’m afraid.

Image 1 is a photograph of THERESAMAYSMACKDOWN. It is a close-up black and white image of two people wrestling and is a little blurry. One is wearing bra and knickers and the other is wearing fishnet tights and a leotard. The person wearing underwear’s face can be seen, and their head is thrown back with their mouth wide open.

Image 2 is a photo by Sin Bozkurt of Fancy Chance. Chance is walking down the aisle of a venue wearing a flight attendant’s uniform including scarf and hat. Her arms are bare and her right arm is tattooed. Some members of the public are around her, and it looks like three of them are laughing at her. Chance is looking directly at the camera with a tight smile.

The video is a parody of Stormzy’s grime song Big For Your Boots, and shows a number of women and a few men and children in a variety of ‘normal’ locations like a children’s playground and a kebab shop. The two women singing dance while singing straight to the camera and trying to look hard.

Sally Parkin is a writer, poet and new mum who is passionate about creative expression and raising her daughter as a feminist. Sally is our guest blogger for March

In a world with a heavily sexualised music industry, should I be surprised if the video for the UK’s Christmas number one last year featured a half-naked pole dancer? Probably not. So what is it about this that has angered me enough to write about it?

‘Rockabye’ by Clean Bandit has had lots of success, dominating the single charts for nine weeks. The video has had over 300 million views on YouTube.

Mark Savage from the BBC describes the song’s concept as “a single mother struggling to provide for her child”. says that the Mum is “…working hard to give her son opportunities she never had.”

So far, so good.

Oh, and in the video the mum is pole dancing. Great. But hey, I shouldn’t assume. People do pole dancing classes. Some people describe it as an art form.

But, wait – it’s the mum’s job. And she has to do it, to provide for her son. She has no choice.

Am I in the minority of people who don’t have single-mum friends who work as pole dancers? In what reality is becoming a pole dancer the only choice for single parents?

So maybe she is choosing to earn money as a pole dancer. Is that wrong? Maybe not. Why is she choosing this vocation? Who is she doing it for? Does she enjoy her work? Is being a pole dancer an acceptable job? Is it a safe profession where employees are treated with respect? Is it something we would want our children to aspire to? It’s all about the context.

The video is set in a dark, dingy pub. Older men sit drinking while a young woman in underwear (the mum) writhes seductively on a pole. We see very little of her face, but the video doesn’t show the woman enjoying herself. The camera pans through a window and we see mum dancing on a pole on a cliff-top with views of a beautiful beach. This doesn’t last long and we soon return to the smoky pub.

In order to cope with her unhappy, degrading occupation, mum imagines herself dancing in paradise, for her own pleasure. The fact that she daydreams sends out a clear message: there is no escape from her reality. How dangerous is that message to vulnerable people? In times of struggle, misery and abuse, just close your eyes and pretend you are elsewhere.

Jack Patterson of Clean Bandit wrote the song with Ina Wrolsden about her son. Wrolsden, may I point out, is a singer-songwriter – not a pole dancer in a bar. Sean Paul, who stars in the video, says: “It was just very close to home. My mum was a single parent [because my father went to prison]”. Indeed, Paul was raised by his mother, a well-known painter and backstroke swimmer – not a pole dancer in a bar.

The lines “Call it love and devotion/Call it the mum’s adoration!/A special bond of creation!” normalise her seemingly abusive situation as something any mother would do for their child, and suggests the natural bond of mother and child as a biological excuse for absent fathers.

There is something to be said about the song’s popularity. Reading through the YouTube comments, many people seem to identify with the lyrics. The reality is that there are single parents – mums and dads – working damn hard for their kids. Am I saying that they should be alienated? Of course not. That music shouldn’t be written for them? Of course it should.

All parents need support, appreciation and empowerment. So why didn’t Clean Bandit show a strong, successful, happy single parent in their video? Why didn’t they show a single mum working hard in a job that doesn’t objectify her and make her miserable? Where is the woman serving dinners at her kids’ school? Where is the parent balancing childcare with getting an education and working part-time?

She doesn’t exist in the world of mainstream music videos. She doesn’t have sex appeal.

Grace Chatto of Clean Bandit obviously doesn’t worry about the implications of the video. In an interview in The Telegraph, she says: “When something sounds good, I don’t think any of the connotations matter”. But the connotations do matter. With over 300 million views, not only does this video contribute to the continued sexualisation of women; it offers little hope for single mothers.

But my biggest frustration is the suggestion that the mum’s job won’t have a negative impact on the child: “your life ain’t gonna be nothing like my life”. As parents we are our children’s biggest role models. Young children want to be like us and do as we do. We must feel good about our own choices and be happy for our children to walk in our footsteps.

Image depicts a woman pole dancing on top of a cliff with the sea in the background. Still taken from the video for ‘Rockabye’ on YouTube

Weekly round-up and open thread

by Lusana Taylor // 6 March 2017, 10:15 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 the articles we’ve picked.

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

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

I’m Tired of Being the Angry Trans Woman (Mia Violet)

From the article: “I’m tired of being told by bigots that they aren’t actually bigots, just because they’re not outright calling trans people degenerates or predators this time. They’re only saying our identity is a sham, peddling a gentler and apparently more understanding kind of transphobia. They just claim that we belong in a strange sub-level of human identity, somewhere for us gender freaks to sit outside of respectable types who don’t rock the boat. A type of existence that can be present in society, but never be respected or even humoured.”

You can also read Jo Whitehead’s response to Jenni Murray’s Sunday Times’ feature piece here: “I’m not a TERF, but…”

Spitting out the Red Pill: Former misogynists reveal how they were radicalised online (New Statesman)
CN: accounts of misogynistic/homophobic language used in forums and descriptions of threats of violence

Gloria Steinem: ‘I shouldn’t have been a Playboy Bunny – even to write an exposé’ (The Guardian)

For more on Gloria Steinem, you can read Lissy Lovett’s review of her book, My Life on the Road: A life well lived

Nastazja Somers: ‘Everyone blames the big guys but diversity has to start on the fringe’ (The Stage)

Hating Comic Sans Is Ableist (The Establishment)

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie: ‘Can people please stop telling me feminism is hot?’

From the article: “This idea of feminism as a party to which only a select few people get to come: this is why so many women, particularly women of colour, feel alienated from mainstream western academic feminism. Because, don’t we want it to be mainstream? For me, feminism is a movement for which the end goal is to make itself no longer needed. I think academic feminism is interesting in that it can give a language to things, but I’m not terribly interested in debating terms. I want people’s marriages to change for the better. I want women to walk into job interviews and be treated the same way as somebody who has a penis.”

There’s a sexual harassment “epidemic” at UK universities (The Pool)

6 Good Reasons Why Some People Don’t Go To Protests (Everyday Feminism

The Provocateur Behind Beyoncé, Rihanna, and Issa Rae (The New Yorker)

From the article: “Beyoncé considers herself a feminist, but for black women feminism can be a tenuous balancing act—advocating for women’s rights while supporting black men against racism. Black feminists have often been forced to pick between being politically black or politically female. ‘It’s an unfair struggle that only black women can understand and relate to,’ Matsoukas said. With the ‘Lemonade’ album, Beyoncé was publicly calling out the men in her life, an unexpected and, to her fans, thrilling decision.'”

Those Who Dared To Discover: 15 Women Scientists You Should Know (A Mighty Girl)

International Sex Workers Rights Day – 3rd March (Global Network of Sex Work Projects)

From the article: “This day’s history goes back to 2001, when over 25,000 sex workers gathered in India for a festival despite efforts from prohibitionist groups who tried to prevent it taking place by pressuring the government to revoke their permit. The event was organised by Durbar Mahila Samanwaya Committee, a Calcutta based group that has over 50,000 sex worker members, and members of their communities. Sex worker groups across the world have subsequently celebrated 3rd March as an annual, international event, as International Sex Workers’ Rights Day.”

Merely Films 21 I Missed Out On At BFI Blackstar (Queer Black Femme Lens)

The image is used under a creative commons license with thanks to Jeanne Menjoulet. It is a photograph of a wall with an intricate street art design of a cat on it. Beside the wall, a bicycle is propped up. You can see people sat in an outdoor seating area to the side.

This is a guest post by Jennifer Hudson, freelance writer, non-profit communications professional and global feminist

In recent years, no story has haunted me more than that of Anne-Marie Ellement, the soldier in the British Military Police who was bullied after she reported being raped by two colleagues, and subsequently took her own life. With support from Liberty, Anne-Marie’s family used the Human Rights Act to demand a fresh inquest into her death after the first investigation resulted in the two corporals being cleared of all charges. Details of extreme harassment emerged, with the Royal Military Police forced to admit their mistakes and apologise unreservedly. This is just one example of why we should be terrified by Theresa May’s plan to abolish the Act.

Replacing the Human Rights Act with a British Bill of Rights and Responsibilities was a Conservative manifesto pledge in 2010 and 2015. According to their 2014 proposal ‘Protecting Human Rights in the UK’, our human rights are not currently ‘credible’, the Act is ‘Labour’s Human Rights Act’ and we need to ‘restore common sense and put Britain first’. And yet 164 organisations, including barristers’ chambers, NGOs and charities, are so worried that in December they sent an open letter urging May not to go ahead with the proposal.

May is also determined to remove Britain from the European Court of Human Rights. Dr Tobias Lock, Senior Lecturer in EU Law at Edinburgh University, thinks the reason for this is to make sure people whose cases are not supported by the new British Bill of Rights are not then able to take them to the European Court and win. All this is going to kick off in 2020, when May campaigns for re-election.

There has been absolutely no discussion so far about how the new British Bill will support women, with a focus instead on ‘limiting the use of human rights law to the most serious of cases’. What qualifies as ‘serious’? Do bullying, sexual coercion or abuse count?

In these instances, it is in the perpetrator’s interest not to get caught, so they often manipulate people and lie. Strong human rights law can help people get to the bottom of what is really going on, as in the case of John Worboys, who was secretly raping as many as 100 women under the very noses of the police. Article 3 of the Human Rights Act was used to hold the Met liable for not believing the women who reported him. Currently, 65 women victims of the vile sexual grooming in Rotherham are using the Human Rights Act to argue that officers ignored what was happening in the town.

The state of women’s rights in the UK is terrible. Only 5.7% of rapes result in a conviction. One woman is killed every three days by a current or former partner. In December, a report revealed that 436 allegations of abuse of authority for sexual gain have been made against the police. Less than half of the cases were reported to the Independent Police Complaints Commission.

And then there’s Yarl’s Wood. The widespread abuse of women at this immigration detention centre was revealed in 2015 by Channel Four’s undercover reporting and the HM Inspectorate of Prisons report. Today, up to 400 women are held there and complaints range from invasions of privacy and routine humiliation to allegations of rape and sexual assault. Article 5 is currently being used to argue that one woman has been unlawfully detained. She was abducted, raped and tortured in Democratic Republic of Congo before arriving in the UK, yet was monitored by a male officer in Yarl’s Wood without any assessment of her mental health, and was also accused of lying.

436 allegations of abuse of power for sexual gain. 65 women victims in Rotherham. 400 women detained in Yarl’s Wood. These are not small numbers. The Human Rights Act has come to the rescue of countless women and has the potential to support thousands more. Getting rid of it for a bill we know nothing about is alarming, to say the least.

According to May our new rights will be uniquely British. But the recent women’s marches showed that global feminism can be incredibly powerful and many issues, such as sex trafficking and immigration, cut across borders. The vote in favour of the Istanbul Convention last week is a big step forward and demonstrates that many MPs are prepared to work with Europe to tackle violence against women. But there is still a long way to go.

It amazes me that in this climate May is putting Britain not women first. We need to start asking questions now and put any further detailed proposals under the spotlight. We also need to shout about how the Human Rights Act has been a lifesaving piece of legislation for so many. After all, 2020 is only three short years away.

Image depicts a sign saying ‘Girls just wanna have fundamental human rights’. Courtesy Mikeledray/

Further Reading

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

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