Weekly round-up and open thread

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

Tags:


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Disability Paradox (Philippa Willitts, Global Comment)

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

Them Too (Re-reading the second wave)

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

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

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

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

Weekly round-up and open thread

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

Tags:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The age advantage (Sonia Zhuravlyova, Positive.News)

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

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

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

On Solidarity (Ami Rao)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rose McGowan & Unintersectional Feminism (Danielle Dash)

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

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

Content note: discussions of sexual abuse

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The F-Word team update

by Joanna Whitehead // , 10:05 am

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

In their own words:

Nicholl Hardwick

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

Christina Carè

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

Kristel Tracey

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

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

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

Weekly round-up and open thread

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

Tags:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The speculum finally gets a modern redesign (Wired)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And now let’s move on to the shows!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Until next month.

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

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

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

Pelvic mesh exposes misogyny in medicine

This is a guest post by Kate Harveston

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Introducing October's monthly blogger

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

In her own words:

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

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

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

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

Weekly round-up and open thread

by Lusana Taylor // 3 October 2017, 6:51 am

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It’s time for another weekly round-up where we share (what we see as) the most interesting and important articles from the previous seven days. We’d love to hear your thoughts on any of the issues covered in the articles we’ve picked. The beginning of October saw the start of Black History Month so any suggestions for topical reading material would be much appreciated!

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.

Free Porn Is Probably Not Feminist Porn—No Matter What It Looks Like (Glamour USA)

From the article: “It’s important to note that many feminist and other ethical porn makers who produce content with nonmale audiences in mind choose not to partner with free porn streaming sites, since many allow stolen content. The fact that Bellesa sold itself as a feminist entity while blatantly stealing the fruits of female labor and profiting from them made this free porn site a particularly gross offender.”

There is nothing radical or feminist about transphobia (NUS Connect)

Mother, may I? No (Bitch media)

‘Sexists need not apply’: publisher refuses to look at manuscripts addressed to ‘Dear sirs’ (The Guardian)

From the article: “‘Sexists need not apply’ to the ‘dreaded women’ who run Tramp Press, say the trail-blazing Irish independent publisher, which has announced it is closing its doors to ‘overtly sexist’ submissions from writers who address them as “Dear Sirs”, or list only male influences.”

Croydon mum sets up taxi company where all the drivers will be women (Croydon Advertiser)

Hugh Hefner: Abuser And Civil Rights Advocate (They Can Coexist) (Ravishly)

From the article: “Hugh Hefner is not a problematic fave; he was extremely problematic. Even in the days that Hugh Hefner and Playboy had their heyday, there were women exploring sexuality without relation to men. There were women and people in liberal discourse and left discourse bringing forward some of the journalistic and cultural content that Playboy is somewhat known for being quite positive and forward in. I understand why there are a lot of people recognizing that Hefner and Playboy have some cultural significance, but here on the left in the feminist movement, it’s more important for us to highlight those more marginalized voices in that era and today’s era than it is to celebrate Playboy.”

Hugh Hefner Didn’t Start the Sexual Revolution—He Profited from It (Marie Claire)

From the article: “Part of doing justice to someone’s legacy is telling the truth about them. So let’s be honest: Hefner didn’t start the sexual revolution—he profited from it.”

Can you see me now? The fragility of maternal transition (Bitch)

From the article: “It starts the minute a woman announces that she’s pregnant. Her body becomes something that belongs to everyone else but herself. Her belly is touched without even asking. Strangers and friends alike monitor what she eats, drinks, does: “Are you walking enough? Are you walking too much? Maybe you shouldn’t be eating that? Eat this, not that. Drink this, not that. Your feet are swollen, you’re doing too much. You need to sit.” The pregnant woman is rarely asked what it is she needs, or how she really feels.”

Hugh Hefner Damaged Countless Women’s Lives—Let’s Not Pretend Otherwise (Alternet)

Women aren’t nags-we’re just fed up (Harpers Bazaar)

From the article: “If I were to point out random emotional labor duties I carry out—reminding him of his family’s birthdays, carrying in my head the entire school handbook and dietary guidelines for lunches, updating the calendar to include everyone’s schedules, asking his mother to babysit the kids when we go out, keeping track of what food and household items we are running low on, tidying everyone’s strewn about belongings, the unending hell that is laundry—he would take it as me saying, ‘Look at everything I’m doing that you’re not. You’re a bad person for ignoring me and not pulling your weight.'”

British bobsleigh driver attacks decision to cut funding for women’s team (The Guardian)

From the article: “’I’ve asked why fund three men’s crews and no women’s and the answer I get is that the men are a medal focus,’ McNeill said. ‘You can use that excuse on one sled or even two but the
fact that it’s three and still calling it a medal focus is confusing for me.'”

Saudi Arabia lifting the driving ban is little more than a glitzy distraction from its continued geopolitical problems (Independent)

You Can’t Get Addicted to a Vibrator (Vice)

Ireland to hold abortion referendum weeks before pope’s visit (The Guardian)

Dads are super-cute while mums are simply discriminated against (Lynn Enright, The Pool)

Paraguay’s Sex Workers Demand Better Health Services (TeleSUR)

Feminist, lesbian, warrior, poet: rediscovering the work of Audre Lorde (Jackie Kay, New Statesman)

Sex Work: In praise of older women artists (Financial Times)

From the article: “All are women, none are young. Marilyn Minter, at 69, is the baby of the group; three are over 80. These artists are survivors. Kicking against the sometimes prudish aspects of sexual politics, they proved too raunchy for museum shows — thus, as the years went by, they were often left out of the narrative even of radical feminist art.

“This injustice is something curator Alison Gingeras aims to put right. She sees artists such as Renate Bertlmann, Penny Slinger, Betty Tompkins and the others as pioneers rather than outliers, unrecognised rather than marginal. And indeed they look especially relevant right now, when questions surrounding feminism’s relationship to pornography are being newly explored.”

New research: Millennials passionate about feminism (Women’s Media Center)
From the article: “Recent media takes of the feminist movement have criticized young women for their superficial attachment to the politics of the movement and their seemingly naive preoccupation with the identity—debating who is feminist—over substance.

“Yet new research suggests the opposite: that young women not only have a deep personal commitment to feminism as expressed and lived in their daily lives, they also have a profound intersectional understanding of feminism that is evident in their coalition work and broad dedication to social justice.”

A TV reporter in her 40s was twice passed over for younger applicants. So she sued (The Washington Post)

The Digital Human (BBC Radio 4)

The above is an episode of The Digital Human, which is concerned with people who have the job of being comment moderators/digital janitors for tech companies, removing illegal and offensive content. It’s about the long term psychological impact of doing the job of being a modern day ‘Sin Eater’.

The image is used under a creative commons license with thanks to Usanto BDE on Flickr. It shows two people facing away from the camera. Both of them are wearing head scarves which are tied into knots at the top or round the back of their heads. The person closest to the camera is wearing hooped earrings. The background of the image suggests that they might be in a conference or meeting room of some kind and their expressions suggest they are listening intently to something.

Happy Black History Month! In the UK, October is a month to remember, reflect and celebrate the achievements and experiences of black people. With this in mind, I wanted to include a very small selection of the incredible black women who have made, and are continuing to create, a wealth of diverse and exceptional music. Never forget that it was a black woman – Sister Rosetta Tharpe – who created rock’n’roll, not Elvis.

I wanted to begin with someone who’s currently making waves for all the right reasons: Princess Nokia. Named “after the brand of cheap “Obamaphone” she was eligible for as a low-income earner”, she identifies as a queer, feminist tomboy, describing her music as “bringing punk energy to hip hop”. Her most recent album 1992 Deluxe, an extension of last year’s EP, is another paean to New York, her home city, and covers hair touching, blackness and identity. ‘Tomboy’ with its refrain of “with my little titties and my phat belly” is a glorious celebration of self-love and pride. The accompanying video is also a joy:

Princess Nokia also appeared in conversation at Brown University as part of their Women’s History series, the entirety of which you can watch here. Amongst other things, she discusses religion, identity, spirituality, gender, heritage and how feminism is “a birth right”. Credit to her for going into such a traditionally exclusive environment and being honest and real. Read more about her here.

Despite working primarily in the 1980s and 1990s, Whitney Houston remains one of the best selling musical artists of all time. At the beginning of her musical career, she was also one of the first women of colour to grace the cover of the popular American magazine Seventeen. Houston was the first African-American woman to secure heavy rotation on MTV, opening up her work, and black music more generally, to a wider audience and has been cited as a major influence on artists such as Mariah Carey, Beyoncé, Alicia Keys, Britney Spears and Ariana Grande. More recently, the renowned documentarian Nick Broomfield released Whitney: Can I Be Me, which uses archive footage to look at her life and tragic death at the age of 48 in 2012.

Trying to pick just one track from Santigold’s landmark self-titled 2008 debut is nigh on impossible. If you haven’t listened to it already, check it out ASAP. You’re in for a treat.

I was lucky enough to chat with Eno Williams from Ibibio Sound Machine last year about her musical influences and inspirations. Check out my interview here.

On a more serious note, I’ve included Billie Holiday’s classic ‘Strange Fruit’ who first sang and recorded it in 1939. The song was actually written by a white, Jewish high school teacher from the Bronx named Abel Meeropol, who had written it “as a protest poem, exposing American racism, particularly the lynching of African Americans.” This song never fails to give me chills – and so it should.

While we celebrate the work and achievements of black people, we need to stay focused on how much work there is still to do. In the last few months alone, we’ve seen one person dead and many injured after white supremacist riots in Charlottesville, the first far-right party (AfD) winning a seat in German parliament in nearly 60 years, Piers Morgan arguing that white people should be able to say the “N-word” and Trump looking the other way while people of colour’s lives are decimated following a lack of funding and support following natural disasters. We cannot be complacent. These are issues affecting people 365 days a year.

I also wanted to draw attention to this short film made by Imkaan and End Violence Against Women which features young BAME women talking about their experiences of sexual harassment in public places and how it is often combined with racism.

Enjoy the music!

The image at the top of the page is the album cover for Whitney Houston’s self-titled debut album, released in 1985. The picture of Whitney is an upper-body shot of her wearing a a draped peach dress, a pearl necklace and her hair pulled back from her face. She appears to be in a garden and the photograph is surrounded by an orange border. She looks like an absolute goddess.

The first video – ‘Tomboy’ by Princess Nokia – shows Princess Nokia and her pals strutting around her local neighbourhood, such as the basketball court, what appears to be her living room and smoking in the stairway of her housing block. Nokia and her crew ride around in a car, kick a ball about, skateboard and generally have fun with each other. She has so much swagger, it’s amazing, and all her mates look like people you would definitely wanna be friends with.

The second image is the album cover of Santigold’s self-titled debut album. It shows Santigold seated at what appears to be a mirrored table. She wears a white vest and has her hands between her thighs. Her chin is slightly dropped, but she is looking up at the camera behind her thick black fringe and shoulder-length hair. From her mouth, a large area that resembles a speech bubble has been covered and filled with gold glitter.

The second video at the bottom of the page features interviews with a range of BAME women, who are talking about their experiences of sexual harassment and racism, interspersed with classic shots of London, such as Piccadilly Circus and Big Ben from across the Thames. It’s a powerful film.

All images shared under a Creative Commons licence.

Welcome Emily!

by Joanna Whitehead // 1 October 2017, 5:57 pm

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I’m delighted to welcome Emily Zinkin to the team as our new comics editor! Emily is a real comics fan and has lots of exciting ideas and comics-related content planned that I’m looking forward to reading about on the site.

In her own words:

Emily Zinkin

Emily first became an active feminist at university where she was on the leadership team of the UoN Feminists. The roots of her feminism can be traced back as early as primary school, where she indignantly asked why there were only three women to 25 men to choose from for the class science project (she chose Marie Curie). When Emily isn’t obsessing over media representation and superheroes (and talking about it at anyone who will listen), she can be found making truly exceptional cups of tea. Follow her on Twitter: @EmilyZinkin

Contact Emily with pitches for comics at comics@thefword.org.uk

The image at the top of the page is taken from the DC comics first ever edition of Catwoman. It shows a long, black-haired woman leaping out towards the reader, brandishing a long whip in her right hand and a menacing look on her face. This woman is not to be trifled with! She appears to be in a dimly lit museum and you can see dinosaur skeletons in the background. Images shared under a Creative Commons licence.

Weekly round-up and open thread

by Lusana Taylor // 28 September 2017, 12:52 pm

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

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

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

Uber Apologises For ‘Let Your Wife Take A Day Off From The Kitchen’ Promotion (Huff Post)

The grooming of girls in Newcastle is not an issue of race – it’s about misogyny (The Guardian)

From the article: “The idea that Muslim immigrants and their families have brought sexual abuse and violence against women to our shores is an insult to them, as well as to the generations of women and sexual abuse victims who have lived among us for centuries and whose suffering had no name or voice.

Nor does it help safeguard our children. In the north-east it would appear that the majority of those convicted of online grooming are white men. Should we be teaching our children to beware of white men online and Muslim men offline? Does that mean abuse by black Christian men is ignored? We know that the most likely perpetrators of child abuse are family members. Should we be attacking the family unit? Stereotyping does not safeguard the vulnerable, it merely makes them more vulnerable.”

We Are The 50%: The Truth Behind the Supposed Decline of the Guitar (She Shreds)

“For those of us guitar and bass players who identify as women, femme, or gender-conforming, the dearth of acknowledgment for the talent amongst us has been just as glaring as the intensely bro-centric representations of guitar culture that do permeate our society, from testosterone-soaked music festivals to glossy, misogynistic magazines. Some of the worst perpetrators have been guitar brands, with archaic marketing strategies ranging from companies like Gibson hiring booth babes to lure people who fall for that kind of thing at the annual National Association of Music Merchants conference to Dean Guitars posting a photo on social media of a naked model licking a new guitar.

“Fifty percent of all buyers of new guitars in the last five years have been female,” Jones tells She Shreds. That’s right: According to Fender’s research, the future of the guitar industry is gender-diverse, playing the instrument for fun rather than in pursuit of guitar herodom, and is less obsessed with specs.”

An Apology to Green Street (GAL-DEM)

From the article: “Implicitly, my issue was with the people who occupied the spaces, created the scents and existed visibly and vibrantly. People who were no different from me and my mother, both first generation immigrants from Bangladesh. Yet my egotistical snobbery wanted to separate myself from the very people whose relentless labour built up a safe community in which we could exist in a country that aggressively attempts to erase us.”

A short history of slutshaming, after a woman told my employers I was a ‘SLAG’ (i news)

From the article: “Ladies, if you attempt to shame and diminish another woman because of her sexuality, you are seriously letting the side down. (And if you find yourself hacking another woman’s photo album and stealing her photos, you’re really letting the side down.)”

Happy Bi-Visibility Day (Switchboard)

An Open Letter to Everyone I’ve Confused With My Bisexuality (Medium)

Andy Murray: Tennis women make the same sacrifices as men (BBC)

Being a Second Lover Means Loving Yourself First (Bitch Media)

From the article: “For some people, second can be an intimacy preference. I really enjoy being the other woman in a transparent scenario. I love doing my own work all week and having someone show up to romance and touch me and then go home. I love knowing my lovers have stability and support and home, that I am only responsible for my/our pleasure. I love having abundant nonstop sexy time for a few days and then not having to worry about anyone else’s needs until the next visit.”

Celebrating Bi Visibility Day: Eight novels with bisexual protagonists (The National Student)

Does Gay Porn Have Us Rethinking Masculinity? (Advocate)

Amsterdam ‘pee in public protest’ cancelled, too many women want to attend (Dutch News NL)

Are we OK? The performance of emotional labour in queer spaces (The Queerness)

From the article: “Consider the question “Is everything OK between us?,” said by someone who is masculine (and I am using terms like masculine and feminine in a very loose way here) to someone who is not. As a sidenote, part of who has privilege and is heard in our society is how close to, or far from, masculinity they are. The question might make the questioner feel like a good feminist man, or a good ally; they are open, and checking out their behaviour. However, if we consider it deeply, it shows the refusal to reflect, to do the emotional labour. If you ask someone else to explain to you whether things are OK, you have already sensed things are not OK, but are unwilling to do the work involved with finding out why. Instead, you are putting the burden of the labour onto someone else, expecting them to expend the energy, not only in working on their “not okness” but then in reflecting back to you how it is not OK, and usually how it can be fixed.”

Laura Kuenssberg hiring a bodyguard was depressing. Then it got worse (The Guardian)

Why Aren’t Mothers Worth Anything to Venture Capitalists? (The New Yorker)

The way we speak about Meghan Markle is demeaning – and sadly unsurprising (The Pool)

Roxane Gay Made Me Realize My Body Image Issues Are Kind Of Bullsh*t (Ravishly)

From the article: “I don’t have a so-called “unruly body,” as Gay calls it. Therefore, my body still plays by the societal rules and meets the expectations of what a woman “should” look like. I’m not saying women who look like me (or who are thinner than me) should not be part of the body positive movement. We’re all invited, and there’s enough room for everyone. But we need to be mindful of the messages we put out there.

Are we being honest about our privileges? Are we being authentic? Are we being inclusive? Are we buying into the commercializing and trending of “body positivity”? Are we doing more damage when we pretend our “healthy” lifestyle is anything other than dieting? I mean, c’mon. Yes, kale quinoa bowls are healthy, but for many people, kale quinoa bowls are barfy and indeed dieting. If given the choice based solely on taste buds, who the fuck is honestly choosing kale quinoa anything over a slice of pizza or a taco?”

Esme Allman And The Failure To Protect Black Female Students In UK Universities (Black Ballad)

Let’s Stop This Offensive Term From Making A Comeback (Refinery 29)

From the article: “The word ‘caste’ has multiple meanings, none of which is good. The ‘caste’ with which we’re probably most familiar in the UK is the stratified class system of India that created segregation and disadvantage for centuries. But the root of ‘half-caste’ is the Latin word ‘castus’, meaning pure, and its Spanish and Portuguese derivative ‘casta’, meaning race. So ‘half-caste’ means impure, it means white is pure and anything else just muddies the blood.
I explained that calling anybody half of anything was dehumanising and derogatory. If we are half, then is everyone else whole? And when us halves have kids, what will they be?”

The image is used under a creative commons license with thanks to Alex de Haas on Flickr. It shows somebody with long, curly hair stood on stage in a spotlight with their back to the camera. They appear to be singing into a microphone and playing a guitar.

Iris Prize film festival

Suryatapa Mukherjee is a freelance writer originally from Kolkata. She is now based in Cardiff and a graduate of Cardiff University’s School of Journalism

The Iris Prize Festival is a six-day celebration of LGBT+ filmmaking in Cardiff, often described as the “Academy Awards of queer cinema”. This year, between 10 and 15 October, 35 international short films will compete for the prize — the world’s largest for a short film — which allows the winning filmmaker to produce another short film here in the UK.

I first heard about the Iris Prize Festival five years ago while still in university and I sincerely thought everyone was talking about an Irish film festival. I went along to this ‘Irish’ film festival and you can imagine my surprise when it turned out to be something completely different!

This happened at a crucial point when I was coming out, so it was surreal seeing stories and experiences I recognised up there on the screen. I came out properly some months later when I published an article on one of India’s leading LGBT+ websites, but looking back I realise that the festival was one of the many things that helped me make that leap into the unknown. It creates a platform for LGBT+ experiences to be articulated in various languages and across various cultures, and this year the programme seems particularly diverse in terms of representation. There is even a film from Ireland!

As well as the 35 shorts competing for the main prize, there are 10 feature films and a separate category of 15 short films competing for Best British Short. Among the features, I’m really looking forward to the Israeli film In Between, directed by Maysaloun Hamoud; the story of three very different Palestinian women sharing a flat in present-day Tel Aviv.

There’s also Signature Move, co-written by its star, the Pakistani-Canadian comic Fawzia Mirza. Mirza’s character is a Muslim lesbian struggling to come out to her desi mum while falling in love with a Mexican-American woman and the art of lucha libre wrestling.

The Book of GabrielleThe Book of Gabrielle

Then there’s The Book of Gabrielle, written and directed by Lisa Gornick, about a lesbian who strikes up a curious professional relationship with a straight man. It’s Gornick’s response to Philip Roth’s controversial novel The Humbling, in which a lesbian falls in love with an older man – a book Gornick found infuriating.

Gornick is also an artist and a performer, and will be performing her ‘live drawing’ show What is Lesbian Film? during the festival and signing copies of her book, How to do it, which is featured as a plot device in The Book of Gabrielle.

SununuSununu

This year’s Best British category is dominated by female filmmakers (a first, so I’m told). Olivia Crellin’s documentary Sununu: The Revolution of Love follows Ecuadorian transgender couple Fernando Machado and Diane Rodriguez as they balance parenting and political activism. Another favourite is Dionne Edwards’s We Love Moses, about a teenage girl’s first crush. Edwards says that the lack of stories featuring young, black, female protagonists inspired her to make the film.

We Love MosesWe Love Moses

I’ve not yet seen all of the international short films (there are 35 of them, after all) but I’m especially looking forward to Manly Stanley Takes New York, Shelby Cole’s documentary about Edith Woolley, aka “drag king” Manly Stanley. There are a number of great documentary shorts this year, and Jari Osborne’s Picture This follows self-described “queer cripple” Andrew Gurza as he organises a sex-positive play party, which the international media all-too-predictably label a “handicapped orgy”.

Leandro Goddinho’s film Pool is a captivating story that follows a young woman, Claudia, as she researches her grandmother’s past. During her investigation she meets Marlene, an older woman who has transformed an empty swimming pool into a place of memories. Goddinho wrote this film for the LGBT+ victims of the Holocaust.

This year’s festival also includes four panel discussions on various topics relating to queer cinema, including a talk chaired by Carrie Lyell, editor of DIVA magazine, on sexism in the film and media industries. Cornish filmmaker Joan Beveridge, herself shortlisted for the inaugural Iris Prize in 2007, has been conducting research into why a greater number of female filmmakers don’t make the jump from short films to features, and her findings will play an important part in the discussion.

This year’s festival ends with a one-day carnival of food and live music (including an appearance by M People’s Heather Small!), and let’s not forget the awards show where we’ll find out who has won the all-important Iris Prize itself. I can’t wait!

Visit the Iris Prize website for more information about this year’s festival

All images courtesy of Iris Prize Festival. Image descriptions:

Featured: Image is a still from the film Signature Move. Two women sitting opposite each other rest their foreheads together, sharing an intimate moment. They are sitting outside in front of a beautiful city skyline at night. One woman cradles the other’s face in her hands.

1. Image is a still from the film The Book of Gabrielle. Two women face each other, the one on the left grabbing the other’s chin affectionately. They appear to be mid-conversation.

2. Image is a still from the film Sununu. A transgender couple smile while looking over a small baby they are holding between them. The shot is framed as if they are a happy family.

3. Image is a still from the film We Love Moses. The camera is positioned as if facing a door that is slightly ajar. A black woman peers straight through the opening and into the camera. Her face is partially obscured but her right eye is the focal point of the picture.

Annie Nightingale is a true musical legend. Starting out as BBC Radio 1’s first woman DJ back in 1969, she has been at the forefront of new music ever since and has continually championed new artists and emerging genres. She used to hang out with The Beatles, The Rolling Stones and The Who and is now affectionately known as the Queen of Breaks, due to her love and promotion of breakbeat. She is Radio 1’s longest serving broadcaster and the only woman DJ in the world to have been awarded an MBE. In addition to her many achievements and accolades, the one she is most proud of is the ‘Caner of the Year’ gong awarded to her by the now defunct dance music magazine Muzik in 2001. She presented the Old Grey Whistle Test, the classic and influential music show from the 1970s and 80s. The radio critic Gillian Reynolds described her as, “the first on the floor and the last to slide under the table”. Her life has been one of progression, parties and pioneering graft. In addition to her 3-5am Friday morning show on Radio 1, she began a four-week takeover of BBC 6 Music last Sunday. The woman is 77-years-old.

Nightingale was a patron of Sound Women, a collective set up in 2011 with the mission to, “build the confidence, networking and leadership skills of women in radio and audio”. A Sound Women report found that women made up only 10 per cent of studio operators, one per cent of editors, that only 16 per cent of women working in radio were living with dependent children and that after the age of 35, women left the radio industry “in droves”, while 60 per cent of men working in the field were over 35-years-old. Sadly, Sound Women folded last year, but its impact is still being felt within the industry.

To mark 50 years of Radio 1, Nightingale has been talking recently about her experiences of life at the station and in music, more generally. She has spoken about the rampant sexism she experienced at Radio 1 in the early days, such as being told that women’s voices lacked the “required authority” and being initially rejected for a job because male DJs existed as “husband substitutes for housewives at home”. Despite these hurdles, she has not only survived, but thrived.

Which is why it’s so disheartening to read the following comment she recently made to i newspaper:

I’m really pleased now we have Clara Amfo, Lauren Laverne and may [sic] brilliant female DJs. But I’m not for a 50/50 gender quota. I want to be judged on my ability to do the job. I don’t think I was taken on because I was a woman or just to tick boxes

Based on the opposition she faced back in the 1960s and her incredible musical talent and knowledge, I agree that it seems unlikely that she was taken on simply because she was a woman. Nightingale has proved her worth tenfold. What I disagree with is the suggestion that quotas have to necessarily mean a drop in quality.

Disclosure: I am in support of quotas. Our government, public bodies and entertainment industry need to be representative, which means embracing diversity. In almost every sector, with the exception of fashion modelling and sex work, women are underrepresented in either pay or visibility. We continue to be judged on our appearances in a way that men are not, subject to sexual harassment, discriminated against or even sacked for becoming pregnant and still bear the dual burden of paid work, housework and childcare. If you are a BAME woman, lesbian, bisexual, trans, disabled or older, the challenges you face are likely to be even more acute.

When people state that they are opposed to quotas, it seems that what they’re really saying is that there is insufficient talent within a particular group and that recruiters will invariably have to compromise on skills in order to ‘tick a box’. Either people need to look around, broaden their horizons and explore the many gifted people out there, or they need to seriously reflect on their own internalised misogyny, racism, transphobia, ageism, homophobia, biphobia and ableism.

Nightingale also stated that she wants to be, “judged on my ability to do the job”, a commendable view that I think many people would share. In order for this to happen, however, we need to get that foot in the door. At the current rate of play, full equality remains a long way off.

The image at the top of the page is a black and white shot of a record deck and a mixer. I searched far and wide for an image of Annie Nightingale that we could use under a Creative Commons licence, to no avail. Sad face. Picture taken by D. Sinclair Terrasidius and shared under a Creative Commons licence.

Woman on computer
Tilly Grove is September’s monthly blogger

Everyone knows you’re not supposed to read the comments. It’s my job, so I don’t have much choice, but I can at least say with certainty that the adage is correct. Society’s most hateful certainly seem to reside below the line where content ends and comments begin: where those viewpoints you thought were outdated or completely out of line seem alive and well.

Earlier this month, Amnesty International reported that in the run-up to the June 2017 election, Diane Abbott received more than half of all abuse aimed at female MPs. Abbott has detailed the kinds of messages she receives online, and having moderated countless political discussion boards, I’d say it’s really the tip of the iceberg. Unfortunately, no one is moderating the tweets she is sent but I can at least delete comments calling her a variety of racist slurs, insulting her appearance and generally dehumanising her.

Some people who dislike Abbott, like Mark Wallace of the ConservativeHome website, have dismissed the idea that racism is why she receives so much criticism, instead branding her “incompetent”. It’s not untrue that she did make some mistakes in the run-up to the election, for example, giving an interview where she got figures relating to Labour’s proposed increase in police numbers wrong and appearing unfamiliar with a report being discussed with Dermot Murnaghan on Sky News.

Abbott has since said that her performance in the election campaign was affected by her health — Abbott lives with type 2 diabetes and faced six or seven consecutive interviews without having eaten enough food.

These slip-ups could certainly be considered embarrassing and she should be held accountable for them like every other politician. However, the vitriol she received for relatively minor infractions just doesn’t add up. A white male politician like Boris Johnson is well-known for his “gaffes“, even though in practice they have sometimes been examples of racism.

Even a white woman like Theresa May doesn’t seem to receive the same levels of hatred, when she has been under fire for wrongly deporting thousands of overseas students and gay asylum seekers, and allowing wide-scale abuse of women in Yarl’s Wood to continue. It is not a reach to suggest that the same people who despise Diane Abbott don’t hurl the same levels or same type of abuse to such politicians with far worse records.

Women of colour have been telling us about the rampant bigotry they face both online and off for years so if white people are shocked, we just haven’t been listening. And as much as you should avoid reading the comments, they can teach us a lot about the kinds of views that still persist.

Jacob Rees-Mogg has caused outrage recently by discussing his staunchly anti-abortion views on ITV’s Good Morning Britain. His belief that abortion is never acceptable, even in instances of rape, has been branded unacceptable and archaic, and anyone who believes in the right to bodily autonomy will agree with that. But spending any time in comments sections makes it apparent that, to some, this isn’t actually all that controversial an opinion to hold.

I’ve seen countless comments calling abortion murder and insisting that women should just keep their legs closed if they don’t want children. More than that, though, abortion is still criminalised under the circumstances of rape, incest and fatal foetal abnormalities in Northern Ireland. In England, abortion is legal up to 24 weeks under the Abortion Act 1967, but many women around the UK still face barriers in being able to get one.

We don’t live in anywhere near the kind of progressive society that we might like to think we do. Though online commenters might be just one type of person and from one section of that society, and though some of them may just be trolls, the people who think using racist slurs or that women should be imprisoned for getting abortions are still very much there.

It’s tempting to just ignore them and carry on avoiding the comments but, ultimately, that doesn’t make them go away. Comment boards are a breeding ground for hate and without people wading in to battle those abhorrent views, they go unchecked.

Even if just one person thought these opinions and behaviours were acceptable, we should still be challenging them rather than brushing these instances aside as extremist views.

Unless we acknowledge and address these viewpoints as part of the society we’re trying to make better, our plan of action will always be fraught and unfinished.

Image by Sergey Zolkin, from Unsplash. Used under Creative Commons Zero licence.

Image is of a woman using a laptop. Only her hands and forearms are visible in the picture and the laptop appears to be resting on her legs. The picture is in black and white.

Nasty Women UK is an intersectional movement that aims to bring together people of all genders, races, faiths and LGBTQIA identities through the platform of the arts. This coming weekend they will be running an art exhibition and weekend of events that celebrate the diverse artistic achievements of creatives from across the UK in support of gender equality. The exhibition can be found at Stour Space at 7 Roach Road, Hackney Wick E3 2PA and is open from 6.30pm until late today, Friday 22 September, and from 9am until late tomorrow and Sunday.

This Saturday 23 September will be the final performance of Siân and Zoë’s Sugar Coma Fever Nightmare at the Aces & Eights in Tufnell Park in London. Their show will be at 9pm following anther alt-sketch group Sam and Tom. They say that they will immerse you in a series of darkly sweet sketches: a Scrabble board haunted by an inadequate demon, a pair of mariners fishing with dreamcatchers, a toddler’s trip to the abattoir, and why you should always put your gumshield under your pillow for the gum fairy. You can read our review of Siân Docksey’s Edinburgh show here.

At Trafalgar Studios in London is Alexi Kaye Campbell’s Apologia which passes the Bechdel Test and raises topical issues surrounding the second and current waves of feminism. The play centres on Kristin (Stockard Channing) an eminent art historian and 1960s political activist who has recently published a memoir causing tensions within the family which comes to a head at her birthday dinner. The production runs until 18 November.

2Faced Dance Company presents Outlands which will tour in autumn 2017. This brand new triple bill of contemporary dance showcases and celebrates some of the best up and coming female choreographers from India and the UK. Outlands features three world premiere works by choreographers Hemabharathy Palani and Ronita Mookerji from India and Emma Jayne Park from the UK. It can be seen at DEDA in Derby on 27 September, Kala Sangam Arts Centre in Bradford on 28 September, mac birmingham on 29 September, Salisbury Arts Centre on 30 September, The Place in London on 3 October, The Lowry in Salford on 4 October, Swindon Dance on 6 October and The Courtyard in Hereford on 10 October.

The Fierce Festival in Birmingham is committed to showcasing the best international live art across Birmingham city centre. This year’s festival will explore topics such as clubbing, mental health, fandom and queer culture through live art, theatre, dance, music, art installations, activism, digital practices and parties. The festival runs from 16 to 22 October 2017. Ahead of the festival Fierce will also be presenting Boner Killer by alt-cabaret star Erin Markey in a double bill with GETINTHEBACKOFTHEVAN’s Frankenshowat at The Yard in London from 3 to 14 October. They say: “Driven by Whitney Houston’s lesbian mythologies, Europe™, and a Pretty Woman accident, Markey sacrifices her own life to transform humiliations into feminist hope.”

The Secret Keeper by Angela Clerkin opens in October in London before going on tour. It’s a Gothic fairy-tale for adults with a political heart, about secrets, collusion, whistle-blowing and collective responsibility. It’s at Ovalhouse in London from 11 to 21 October followed by Milton Keynes, Coventry, Greenwich, Oxford, Plymouth, Leicester, Sheringham and Newbury up until 10 November.

And lastly, a group of female theatre-makers are in the middle of making a new piece of feminist theatre, Unsung, exploring the untold stories of four inspirational and pioneering women from UK history. Its development began in March 2017 at the Holbeck Underground Ballroom in Leeds and it will undergo further development this autumn at Square Chapel Centre for the Arts in Halifax before touring regionally in 2018. Check out their (subtitled) trailer here:


Image one is of Erin Markey in Boner Killer. Markey leans in to an audience member with an intense expression on her face which could be a smile or a grimace; you can see a lot of her teeth. She holds a microphone up to her mouth with one hand and holds a baby doll with the other. Her hair is in a high ponytail.

Image two is of 2Faced Dance’s Outlands and is courtesy of Hemabharathy Palani. It shows a dancer lying on the floor with her back arched and twisted and her arms held aloft. Her face is turned upwards. She wears a delicate brown and green/yellow costume.

Image three is of The Secret Keeper. A woman wearing a old-fashioned dress with lace around the neck holds a dollhouse. She is lifting the roof of the dollhouse and looking in. Light is shining out of the dollhouse windows while smoke comes out of the chimney. A darkening sky and trees can be seen behind her.

The video is a trailer for Unsung. Vox pops with the actors are interspersed with footage from an early performance and post-show discussion shot in a theatre and outside.

Sex worker rights

Tilly Grove is September’s monthly blogger

At the 2017 Trades Union Congress (TUC), a motion was presented in support of the decriminalisation of sex work.

For sex worker rights activists, many of whom are sex workers themselves, this issue is at the crux of their movement.

Whether or not sex work should be considered a job or a form of violence against women is a question that has featured in feminist debates for decades. Those who fully advocate decriminalising sex work do so because they believe that granting sex workers the support, labour rights and legal protections of any other type of employment is the best way to help them stay safe.

As the TUC, the Labour Party and left-wing movements more generally seem to be more attentive to the needs of marginalised groups and those that have experienced discrimination, you would think that supporting a policy of decriminalisation — which is advocated by many organisations such as UNAIDs and the World Health Organization, to name a few — would follow. Indeed, when asked about his stance at a talk, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn did voice support for decriminalisation.

However, Corbyn’s comments were met with criticism from other MPs in his party, who argued that his views were not official Labour policy. In fact, neither Labour nor the Conservatives have a stance regarding sex work in their manifestos. The Liberal Democrats and the Green Party have both committed to full decriminalisation in theirs.

Unsurprisingly, then, the motion at the TUC conference was rejected. In response, Harriet Harman, Labour MP for Camberwell and Peckham, tweeted that only “pimps and punters” benefit from sex work.

Harman is an advocate of abolishing sex work, alongside some women’s rights groups like Equality Now and feminist writers including Julie Burchill and Kat Banyard. Those on this side of the argument feel that no woman would ever choose to have sex in return for money. They believe that sex work is violence against women, both individually and by promoting the subordination of women, and as such dispute calling it work at all.

Others support policies like the Nordic model, commonly used in Nordic countries like Sweden and Norway, which decriminalises sex workers but makes paying for sex a crime.

Sex workers and decriminalisation activists argue that criminalising any part of the industry necessarily causes harm to workers, whatever the intention. As in the case of criminalising abortion, it simply forces the work further underground, as well as inviting police surveillance of vulnerable women and leading to increased violence against workers: since the Nordic model was passed in Northern Ireland, there have been increased reports of attacks on sex workers. In Norway, Amnesty International reports that sex workers who are immigrants have faced deportation.

Even in England, where sex work itself is not a crime, sex workers are raided and arrested for working together — which is often done for safety. This is classed as brothel-keeping, which is considered a crime, even though the workers are simply operating from the same building. If the sex workers are migrants and found to be guilty of these crimes the consequence could be deportation.

When Banyard wrote an article claiming that legalising prostitution — which is not what is being advocated — requires accepting “industrialised sexual exploitation”, Labour MPs including Harman, Diane Abbott and Naz Shah retweeted it. A legalisation model of sex work, as seen in the Netherlands, makes sex work legal only in specific conditions controlled by the state. These conditions may include registering yourself with the police, undergoing weekly health checks and only operating in designated areas. If a worker fails to do this, they could be arrested. Decriminalisation is favoured by sex workers because although sex workers and businesses must comply with the law, they cannot be prosecuted for being sex workers in any circumstance. This distinction is vitally important.

Abuse may occur within the sex industry, but it occurs in every industry, and it’s widely accepted that employment rights and protections are the most effective way to tackle this. Just because a sex worker is being paid doesn’t mean they automatically lose their right to consent to carrying out the work. If sex workers aren’t ever believed to have consented to doing their job, it can become trickier to identify actual abuse and coercion.

Support for the decriminalisation of sex work and listening to what sex workers want is directly aligned with the beliefs of left-wing and feminist ideology. Sex workers want better working conditions and protection from abuse and violence. To support them, we must accept that they know what they need to achieve that better than anyone.

Image Nicolas Ladino Silva, from Unsplash.

Image is of a woman sitting with her legs crossed on a bench, against a brick wall. The photo is in black and white. Only her bare legs are visible in the frame and they are the focal point of the shot.

Weekly round-up and open thread

by Lusana Taylor // 19 September 2017, 6:40 am

Tags:


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

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

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

Why women are better off single (The Sydney Morning Herald)

From the article: “Women, by contrast, learn from an early age that love is work. That in order to be loved, we will need to work hard, and if we want to stay loved we will need to work harder. We take care of people, soothe hurt feelings, organise chaotic lives and care for men who never learned to care for themselves, regardless of whether or not we’re constitutionally suited for such work.”

Tories defeated on NHS pay rise motion after DUP backs Labour (Independent)

Parents Pull Son From School Because of Transgender Classmate (Brittney McNamara at Teen Vogue)

From the article: “According to the Independent, Nigel and Sally Rowe have taken their 6-year-old son out of a Church of England school after one of his classmates came out as transgender. The parents said they plan to homeschool their son so he avoids the ‘political agenda’ they believe is in place, and because they think identifying as transgender breaks some sort of social contract.”

TERFs are using Nazi tactics. Don’t let it work. (Another Angry Woman)

From the article: “What the transmisogynists want more than anything in the world right now is to stop talking about their repulsive ideology and their repugnant tactics, and talk about the merits and drawbacks of political violence. They want to draw sympathy from the gullible centre, who uncritically lap up victim-playing rhetoric, because centrists dislike impoliteness far more than they reject hate.”

Are You Living Authentically, Or Are You A Female Lead Sprung From The Imagination Of A Young Male Auteur? (Reductress) [Satire]

From the article: “Whenever Jake isn’t with me, I just sit in a dark room and wait for him to call me. One time I told Jake I wanted to run away to Morocco to start anew and just be, but I wouldn’t actually do that without him. Jake is the only one who could ever really ‘awaken’ me.”

These Badass Indian Women Change Tyres and Sweep Patriarchy Under the Rug (Manasi Nene at The Ladies Finger!)

From the article: “The titles that Bhanot gives her paintings are clearly reflective of her characters. For example, her paintings have delightful titles like ‘Not Your Mom’s Bahu’, ‘Talking Back With The Selfie Gaze’ and ‘Sweeping Patriarchy Under The Rug’.”

A momentum shift against assisted suicide (Washington Examiner)

From the article: “In our profit-driven healthcare system, where care is expensive and assisted suicide is cheap, patients with terminal illnesses, people with disabilities, the elderly, and the poor are in grave danger of being pushed towards a death-too-soon.”

How the female Viking warrior was written out of history (The Guardian)

Why we need to celebrate ordinary women of colour’s successes (Metro)

One PR campaign, 32 photographers, no women. Nikon has an optics problem (The Guardian)

Lena Waithe and Donald Glover Both Made History at the 2017 Emmys (Slate)

“Talented triple threats Lena Waithe and Donald Glover made Emmy history on Sunday night, becoming the first black woman and first black person respectively to take home awards in their categories. Lena Waithe became the first black woman to win an Emmy for Outstanding Writing for a Comedy Series (along with Aziz Ansari) for the “Thanksgiving” episode of Master of None.”

The image is used under a creative commons license with thanks to Χάρης Κλέντος on Flickr. It is a photograph showing somebody outside at sunset. The person is silhouetted against what appears to be a mountainous or moorland landscape – there may be the sea or a river in the background. The sun is setting and the sky is pink and deep blue. The person is standing with their head inclined upwards. They have what appears to be a bunch of wild flowers in their hand and they have these held in a way to suggest they are sniffing them.

Weekly round-up and open thread

by Lusana Taylor // 12 September 2017, 11:37 pm

Tags:

It’s a bumper round-up this week due to staff holiday where we share (what we see as) the most interesting and important articles from the previous fortnight. 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.

Some women need a hysterectomy after sterilisation device Essure (BBC)

From the article: “In 2015, a study published in the British Medical Journal (BMJ) suggested that women who had a hysteroscopic sterilisation were 10 times more likely to need follow-up surgery than those who had a traditional sterilisation – 2.4% of those surveyed, as opposed to 0.2% amongst those having a standard sterilisation.
In the US more than 15,000 women have reported problems to the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), including pain, allergic reactions and “migration of device”. Carl Heneghan, from the Centre for Evidence-Based Medicine at Oxford University, has criticised the regulator’s failure to act on such findings. “How much evidence do you need to say let’s withdraw this from the market?” he asked. Victoria Dethier is angry that she and so many other women feel they have been ignored. “No-one is listening to us,” she said. “There are many women coming forward… we need to be acknowledged.”

Usborne apologises for puberty book that says breasts exist to make girls ‘look grown-up and attractive’ (The Guardian)

I never thought I’d have to get an abortion as a Muslim woman – until the day I did (the Tempest)

How White People Subtly Reinforce White Supremacy When They Laugh at Black Names (Everyday Feminism)

Why Men Don’t Believe the Data on Gender Bias in Science (Wired)

From the article: “Scientists are supposed to be objective, able to evaluate data and results without being swayed by emotions or biases. This is a fundamental tenet of science. What this extensive literature shows is, in fact, scientists are people, subject to the same cultural norms and beliefs as the rest of society. The systemic sexism and racism on display every day in this country also exist within the confines of science. Scientists are not as objective as they think they are. It is an extremely destabilizing realization for someone whose entire career has been rooted in the belief in human objectivity.”

Rebecca Solnit: if I were a man (The Guardian)

From the article: “The phrases sometimes used for men who partner with successful women – taking it in his stride, not put out by, OK with, dealing with, cool with – are reminders that female success can be regarded as some kind of intrusion or inappropriate behaviour.”

The Anti-Fascist Sex Workers Who Were Institutionalised for Challenging Mussolini (Vice)

From the article: “If these women ever acted out of turn for any reason, they would be arrested and accused of “violating public decency”. And then, once they were arrested, they would often make their predicament worse by calling the fascist regime out. When they did that, the eventual punishment was very harsh.”

Cycling magazine apologises over ‘token woman’ picture caption (the Guardian)

L’Oréal firing Munroe Bergdorf isn’t championing diversity, it’s centring white fragility (Huck Magazine)

Boots cuts price of morning-after pill after weeks of controversy (The Guardian)
From the article: “It also emerged on Thursday that Boots had issued the British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS), a charity that advises women on their reproductive health, with two legal threats over its campaign for the firm to reduce its prices for the pills. It hired Schillings, the London law firm used by many celebrities, to write to the BPAS accusing it of harassing senior executives by running a campaign that encouraged those opposed to Boots’s behaviour to contact them. The charity said that ‘people writing to Boots senior executives through the BPAS campaign for more affordable contraception included women who needed to use EC [emergency contraception] in a range of circumstances, from being the victim of sexual assault to having missed a pill, as well as pharmacists, GPs and other healthcare professionals who had seen women with unwanted pregnancies s a result of struggling to access EC, and also lifelong customers.’ Clare Murphy, BPAS’s director of external affairs, said: ‘We are pleased to see that in future Boots will be providing a cheaper emergency contraceptive product across its stores nationally. We are extremely saddened that Boots feels the need to resort to legal warnings against a charity representing the concerns of women in the process.’”

In the midst of a disaster zone, why are we judging women on their shoes? (The Pool)

From the article: “The reaction to her footwear choice is wholly, madly, deeply disproportionate to its importance in the narrative, which should first and foremost be focusing on the fact that 30 people lost their lives and 17,000 are currently sleeping in makeshift beds, their homes and livelihoods devastated.”

Rock’s not dead, it’s ruled by women (The New York Times)

Vagina is not a dirty word (The Pool)

While you celebrate the third royal baby, remember all of the women in Britain who aren’t allowed a third child (The Independent)

Banning size zero models is small fry. What fashion needs is diversity (The Guardian)

2017 in Review: The Lot for Female Playwrights Worsens (Victoria Sadler)

From the article: “And, men, if you think women aren’t writing interesting enough plays, maybe its because they’re not writing for you. Challenge your own perspective on the world and consider that those stories that don’t speak to you, well, they may well speak to the other fifty percent of your audience.”

Privileged kids like Hetty Douglas need to stop fetishising working class culture (Huck Magazine)

Why must girls’ school uniforms be less practical and less comfortable simply because they have a vagina? (Times Educational Supplement)

From the article: “We are physically constraining our girls in so many ways. We are telling them they should be display items, not amazing kinetic contraptions of wonder. We’re hobbling them with skirts and tights and shoes and then wondering why they feel self-conscious, weak and are sometimes shying away from physical activity.”

Let’s stop laughing at dangerous men like Jacob Rees-Mogg (The Pool)

Out of the closet and into bookshops: where are all the queer books? (The Bookseller)

Proposals to increase number of female MPs in Commons rejected (The Guardian)

Can thrillers really be feminist? (The Pool)

How the role of nuns highlights a low view of women’s work (The Conversation)

We need to put an end to fatphobia in woke spaces (Melissa Toler)

From the article: “This fatphobic culture has given folks the green light to treat fat as a condition to be avoided at all costs. We act like we’ve been given a permission slip to treat people in larger bodies with disrespect and deny their humanity.

“And once someone is considered to be less than human, exclusion, marginalization, and abuse become easy next steps.

“I have no doubt that fat liberation should be included in our work towards social justice. It makes sense that the work to eliminate dehumanizing policies and practices based on color, gender, ability, and sexuality should extend to body size.”

Rap and the gender gap: why are female MCs still not being heard? (The Guardian)

The Men Who Left Were White (Josie Duffy at Gawker)

From the article: “…There’s a history of abandonment in America, a history of leaving black women and black children, and it did not start with black men.”

When free speech means bullies yelling over bigots (Louise McCudden at The Queerness)

From the article: “Only yesterday, the model Munroe Bergdorf was attacked by a furious Piers Morgan on the very same show for expressing her own right to free speech. Munroe Bergdorf, however, has not been able to make a richly-paid career out of saying “controversial” things, as others have done. Nor is she able to carry on in her profession, as this doctor is presumably doing. And yet, Munroe Bergdorf has done exactly what these tedious, insufferable bigots think they are doing – and the exact opposite of what they are doing in reality.”

Don’t Ask Your Girlfriend’s Dad if You Can Marry Her (Jill Filipovic at US Cosmopolitan)

From the article: “There are few things that demonstrate less respect for an adult woman than asking her dad if she’s allowed to make one of the biggest decisions of her life. In an attempt to “respect” a woman’s father, you’re disrespecting her.”

Why it’s best to leave contraception to those who need it (The Guardian)

Channel 4’s The Undateables asked Scots Paralympian to recruit disabled people for the reality TV show (Sunday Herald)

From the article: “I have so many qualities that make me undateable and none of them are to do with my disability. I am proudly unapologetic for these things because, although there are many people who would find me undateable, there are also a lot who can’t help but fancy the cycling bibshorts off me.”

Here’s Everything That’s Wrong With Jim Carrey’s “Meaningless” NYFW Comments And The Sexism They Represent (Bust)

Girls’ school shoes are hobbling their chances in life (The Guardian)

The image is used under a creative commons license with thanks to Bethan on Flickr. It shows somebody sitting on a fence with only the lower half of their body visible – they are wearing jeans and blue pumps. Their hands are folded in their lap. The fence is wooden with wire netting in the middle, through which can be vaguely seen a green countryside landscape, which is slightly out of focus.

Why we need to stop feeling guilty around sugar

by Guest Blogger // 2 September 2017, 9:00 am

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Catherine King was August’s monthly blogger

I am in a long-term relationship with chocolate. It has been a deliriously happy partnership with relatively few arguments and if deprived too long from my soulmate I can literally swallow a Toblerone bar whole. I absolutely adore the stuff and being a non-smoker and non-drinker, I consider it to be my one vice. My ‘guilty’ pleasure, as it were.

In her piece for The Pool, Roisin Agnew focuses on the idea of ‘unhealthiness’. She expresses her dismay that, “we don’t appreciate how our worst and least healthy behaviours often bring about our moments of greatest happiness.” While noting that labelling foods as ‘healthy’ or ‘unhealthy’ may not be helpful I lean towards this view.

Now, more than ever, in the midst of the ‘clean eating’ frenzy, I steadfastly refuse to stop eating my sugary sources of joy. It is one of my greatest passions. One of my earliest memories is of three year old me watching my chocolate ice-cream slowly melt before slurping it straight from the bowl in sheer ecstasy. Even now, my heart skips a beat when I catch sight of a Ben’s Cookies sign anywhere in London. So this idea of ‘guilt’ about joy such as this – or, even worse, my most loathed phrase ‘guilt-free’ used in connection with any sweet treat – is nonsensical to me.

Yet I do appreciate the positives in an eating programme that encourages more fruit and vegetables. Clean eating guru Madeleine Shaw, for example, makes sure to use “healthy fats” and “no refined sugars” in her recipes; her food is brimming with a splash of coconut oil here, a heap of avocados there and, of course, let’s not forget the almond butter. Through her food suggestions, Shaw wants her followers to “get the glow” – the same “glow” that she now feels after turning to this way of eating and transforming her previous poor health. Terminology such as this will always make me cringe, but Shaw does often appear to be healthy and revitalised.

Surely there is some validity then to something that makes people feel genuinely good and well. A friend of mine expresses similar fondness for a healthy eating programme she joined in 2013. “The principle of Weight Watchers is portion control,” says Grace. “It teaches you balance but it also teaches you restraint in a healthy way”, adding that “nothing is forbidden … it doesn’t make me feel bad about myself.”

An end to a fun, albeit uninhibited, time at university coincided with a doctor’s warning that she was at risk of diabetes, sparking both a newfound health kick and an unexpected love for cooking. Four years later, sharing her recipes on Instagram has now not only garnered her a significant following but Weight Watchers themselves have also expressed their interest in her recipes. I can also attest that her food is pretty fantastic.

Through her success however, Grace has seen a somewhat darker view of the social media side of clean eating: “Sometimes people are so negative on Instagram … the whole reason I joined was to find people who wanted to eat what I love to eat too.” The perfectly angled shots of plant-based meals combined with the opinionated comment sections can, Grace says, “fuel self hate” when ultimately “it’s not real … you are putting some filter on your food to make your Weetabix look good.”

Similarly, in her recent Guardian piece ‘Why we fell for clean eating’, Bee Wilson questions the contradiction behind the label: “A movement whose premise is that normal food is unhealthy has now muddied the waters of ‘healthy eating’ for everyone else, by planting the idea that a good diet is one founded on absolutes.”

Clean eating is certainly experiencing a backlash, Wilson’s article being one of many examples. The question now then, is where to go from here? While hilarious Instagrammers like Deliciously Stella act as constant reminders that there is no one way to eat, we still need to go further. Because guilt runs deep, and we absolutely must stop some types of food being synonymous with this word.

Instead, I suggest a new word, let’s say a ‘consciousness’ around eating, an ‘awareness’ of what we put into our mouths. Unless medically advised to do so, self-imposed deprivation of gluten or dairy won’t necessarily benefit your body but rather could detract from your contentment with eating. And the events of 2017 have already proved the old cliché that life is indeed too short.

If you want to have that chocolate cake, please, please do. Balance, variety and moderation are key and good knowledge about the benefits of different foods is essential. Eliminating your favourite treats forever, is not.

Image is of some green Hass avocados from the Max Pixel site and is used under a Creative Commons licence.

F-Word monthly guest blogger

As we ease into autumn it’s time to welcome Tilly Grove as September’s monthly blogger.

In her own words:

“Tilly is a writer and social media moderator based in London. She has been blogging about feminism and social justice since she completed her war studies degree at university and ended up doing her final year dissertation on the intersection of gender and war.

A lot of her work and activism now is centred around sex worker rights and she is a passionate advocate for the decriminalisation of the sex industry. She speaks openly about mental health, especially in regards to her experiences having borderline personality disorder and the stigmatisation thereof.

Moderating comments online exposes Tilly to some of the most challenging views and individuals in society but this serves as inspiration to keep challenging harmful narratives that are still prevalent. When she’s not getting angry about something online, she can probably be found watching a documentary about Princess Diana or listening to a podcast about female serial killers. She realises this combination of hobbies may seem fairly concerning.”

Image by Karim Ghantous, from Unsplash.

Image is of a row of books with an artistic focus on how the spines are lined up. The camera focuses on the titles in the middle of the frame and artistically fades out as we move towards the edges of the frame.

Weekly round-up and open thread

by Lusana Taylor // 29 August 2017, 3:11 pm

Tags:

It’s a short and sweet round-up this week 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.

Journalist Kim Wall Remembered As A “Badass” By Her Friends (Buzzfeed)

On Beauty, or Why Zadie Smith’s Comments Aren’t About You (Feministing)

False rape allegations are rare – rape is not. Stop using the case of Jemma Beale to discredit all women (Independent)

From the article: “It doesn’t matter that thousands upon thousands of rapists lie about rape without a single judge opining on how damaging this is to the real victims of false accusers. Beale must stand, potentially, for all women who accuse any man of rape, because that’s what the rape culture narrative demands. If Beale didn’t exist, the patriarchy would have to invent her (and most of the time it does).”

When Your Hair’s Not 3B: Unachievable Natural Hair Goals (Ninette Iheke, gal-dem)

From the article: “Now that I’m quite old in the natural hair game, I realise just how unachievable and quite frankly ridiculous my expectations were. In the grander scheme of things it makes sense when you take into account the fact that the natural hair community, for the most part, champions those of 3a – 3c hair textures. There is very little representation of women who find themselves on the kinkier and coarser side of things, sporting 4a – 4c textured hair.”

The Bi Eye: Male Gaze, Female Gaze, or Something In Between (Robin Jeffrey, The Mary Sue)

World’s least self-aware human makes a website explaining why you should date him (The Daily Dot)

The image is used under a creative commons license with thanks to chandlerchristian. It is a ‘diptych’ like image showing half of the same person’s face with two different facial expressions. In the first image, the person has their hand resting on their face, chin slightly raised and eyes cast downwards. In the second image, they are looking directly at the camera with a neutral expression – perhaps a vague smile. The person has dark hair and eyes. They also have orange and pink flowers entwined in their hair.

[Content note for sex, brief references to sexual violence, food.]

Every few years there is a study in human sexuality which claims that women’s sexual orientation is nothing like they claim it is. The latest one from Cornell University in the US is reported in Broadly under the headline Straight people don’t exist, new research says. Straight women were asked to watch pornographic videos featuring only women while their eyes were observed for pupil dilation. Both the Broadly article and the study’s director treat bisexuality rather as if it has only just been discovered but might be applied to almost everyone.

The idea that “everyone is a bit bisexual” was one I often encountered when I began to come out in my early twenties, a fact I was reminded of when Jennifer Hughes recently described the sense that she was maybe causing a fuss by coming out. Of course, all those who assured me that “everyone is bisexual” would, in all other circumstances, describe themselves as straight. One of the friends who insisted on the universality of my sexuality wound up, within the same conversation, declaring that the idea of kissing a woman made her queasy.

This is not to say that my friend’s pupils wouldn’t have dilated while looking at a pornographic video featuring a woman.

Pupil dilation is one possible indicator of sexual arousal, but it may also indicate other states of excitement, such as fear or disgust. Arousal is not the same as an emotional drive such as desire; in sexual violence, a victim’s body may exhibit various physiological signs of sexual arousal, which have precisely zero relationship to how an individual feels about what’s happening to them. This is one reason why those studies which suggest that vehement homophobia indicates latent homosexuality are pretty ropey as well as offensive.

Meanwhile, genuine sexual arousal (involving mind, brain and body) is not the same as sexual attraction. If we could somehow prove that a video of a woman masturbating (for example) caused a straight woman sexual arousal, it would be unclear whether she’d be thinking “I would like to have sex with that lady!” or “That looks like a fun thing to do!”. In our culture, women are asked to see ourselves in sexualised images of other women every day.

When last Christmas, I saw an advert for bacon and banana trifle, my stomach rumbled loudly. I did not want the trifle, but the advert had successfully triggered my brain and body’s general enthusiasm for eating. Horror remains a popular date movie genre, not because people normally find violence and gore sexy, but because fear and sexual excitement are physiologically similar and once the credits roll, there’s nothing to fight or run away from.

Of course, large numbers of straight women may, in fact, experience some degree of attraction to other woman. Indeed, we know a minority of straight women will have had same-sex sexual contact at some point in their lives. However, they are still straight women. Why? Because they say they are. Because however they experience sexual attraction, they understand themselves as being straight.

The labels we use to discuss sexual orientation are imperfect and very much of our time and culture. Some people may reject them altogether, while others may find themselves moving between them. Being straight does not necessary mean never looking twice at someone who isn’t a man, just as being a lesbian doesn’t mean never looking twice at someone who isn’t a woman. Being bisexual doesn’t mean you have to find men, women and non-binary people equally attractive, all the time. Other labels suit other people, including those on the asexual spectrum.

These labels deserve our respect. People lie about sex, no doubt – one reason why the estimated percentage of LG and B people varies wildly according to how, when, where and exactly what question is asked. Yet what people say about their identities and their desires is still going to be far more accurate than any quantitative measure available to science.

It is especially important that women are listened to on this stuff; of all the ways in which culture polices women’s sexuality, our sexual desires and expressions, being told that what we really want isn’t what we say we want is one of the most sinister aspects of this oppression. It is the one most often used to justify sexual violence.

The Broadly article concludes with a quote from the study’s director, Ritch C. Savin-Williams:

“If you look at women, the self esteem of lesbian women tends to be higher than that of straight women,” Savin-Williams explains. “Maybe they feel like they have more freedom [to be who they really are]. Granted, society may not always like it, but it is your own authentic self.”

Unfortunately, bisexual women (who also definitely exist) generally have even lower self-esteem than straight women. Someone who thinks that straight women are lying about their sexuality might imagine that bisexual women are our most “authentic” selves, but our sexuality is routinely dismissed by articles such as these. When not being told that everyone is bi, we are told that we don’t even exist – that we are straight women trying to seem more interesting or lesbians with one foot in the closet.

It’s really important to talk about sexuality as a spectrum or perhaps more accurately, a scatter diagram. The unwavering binaries of heteronormative culture do harm straight people with the idea that men and women are so different they’re practically incompatible but are still irresistibly and exclusively attracted to one another.

However, this conversation does not begin with telling people that what they know about themselves is incorrect.

 

 

[Image is a photograph of part of a feminine face. The face has light brown skin, black hair and brown eyes and is wearing large glasses. The eyes are staring ahead and the vague reflection in the glasses implies that this person is looking at a screen.

This photo was found on Pixabay and is in the public domain.]

For my first F-Word playlist as your new music editor, I find myself thinking about the state of mind of the UK in 2017. I am trying, as I often do, to make sense of life through music. It’s often not possible to do so, but I like to try anyway.

Before we go any further, please let me issue the following warning: this playlist contains a number of songs that feature the occasional use of the other F-Word. There is also one particularly choice use of the word ‘bollocks’, so you might find it unsuitable for work.

Effectively, this is a playlist of four acts that is a kind of sonic brooding on life in the UK over the past four months. Because of this, it’s made up of mainly new music, with most of the songs being tracks that have been released in the past year. Similarly, most of the artists featured are UK artists, but not all. We go in hard, with Noga Erez, Kate Tempest, and Speech Debelle and friends, then reflect in the middle with Jane Weaver, Overcoats, Connie Constance and London Grammar, and finish fiercely and loudly with Honeyblood and Gossip.

It’s been a rough few months, in a rough year, with even the usually restrained Economist newspaper observing in July that “Britain is having a very public nervous breakdown”. They were talking about the Brexit negotiations, but as a comment it could be seen to have wider connotations: The General Election, Grenfell and its fallout, for example.

In the final act of the playlist, we move into something that could be called a spirit of defiance and solidarity. In part this is because this summer has seen the 50th anniversary of the Sexual Offences Act of 1967, which decriminalised (in certain contexts) male homosexuality in the UK. In a related note, this playlist is launching the same weekend as Manchester Pride. It seemed fitting then, given that all of this is taking place at the end of a summer of violence within a year of growing intolerance, that both Pride and the anniversary of the Sexual Offences Act be musically marked.

I’ve also been writing a lot about women and music festivals this summer (both here and on my blog) and, as such, feel a strong need to share the following clip with you of Gossip performing at T In The Park back in 2007. Beth Ditto is owning that stage. She may be flying solo these days, but that should hardly preclude her from a headline slot at a festival sometime in the future.

Picture of bee decoration hanging against window by Cazz Blase. All rights reserved. Image shows a round glass window decoration depicting a bee against a yellow glass background hanging against a window. A back lawn, grey concrete of a carpark, greenery of gardens and red brick of buildings can be glimpsed through the window that the decoration is hanging against.

Video One: Georgia, Feel It: This video is made up of a number of women and girls of a variety of ages and ethnic backgrounds, all playing Georgia’s drum kit in a variety of styles and settings with various intensities of expression and technique. They range from an asian girl, who appears to be about eight or nine, to a black lady who appears to be in her 40s. Georgia also features. She is the one with long brown curly hair and a red plaid shirt.

Video Two: Natasha Kmeto, Pour Down: The words ‘Pour Down’ are in white against a backdrop of nightclub style slowly flashing lights of different colours, a series of flowers then appear alternately against the flashing lights, and these are then intercut with shots of Natasha Kmeto performing the song against the same background of lights. These then give way to shots of Natasha performing the song from different angles with a range of different coloured lights and lighting effects being used to frame her face.

Video Three: A sweat soaked and ebullient Beth Ditto leads Gossip and a very boisterous crowd at the T In The Park festival through a sing a long rendition of the bands anthemic ‘Standing In The Way Of Control’. Beth is running amok on stage and exhorting the crowd, generally owning the stage.

#ThatsHarassment campaign

This is a guest post by Kate Harveston

Many of us think we know what sexual harassment looks like. Sometimes this causes more subtle, everyday instances of harassment to go overlooked — you know, situations that feel so familiar that we don’t even notice when things go awry?

These are the moments actor David Schwimmer and director Sigal Avin want to bring our attention to in their series of videos titled #ThatsHarassment.

Each of the campaign’s six videos explores a different ‘everyday’ circumstance in which women experience harassment. Each one is also based on real incidents that have happened to women.

While these videos may not come as a shock to women who have experienced the scenes they depict, they’re extremely eye-opening for those who haven’t or perhaps never thought of what it might be like to feel unsafe in these spaces.

The Co-worker

Much like a recent SNL sketch, this video showcases the ‘faux feminist’ man. He pretends to be super supportive of women, but only to boost his social credentials. This guy literally says he’s “The biggest feminist there is” after inappropriately touching his co-worker without her consent.

He even says if anyone makes her uncomfortable, he’ll take care of it. Yet he’s participating in the very behaviour he’s criticising. He tries playing the protector role — but instead is a thinly-veiled predator.

The Actor

Celebrities shouldn’t get away with harassment just because they’re famous. A woman working as a stylist asks the actor she’s dressing to make a video for her niece’s birthday, but by the end of their conversation is no longer interested in it.

The actor exposes himself for what he is by the middle of the video. He thinks he’s irresistible because of his status as a prominent actor — but she’s not buying it. It can be a punch to the gut when you find out your idol is a creep and it’s heartbreaking to see the woman’s face as she realises this actor her niece loves is a scumbag.

The Boss

The scenario in this video is probably a lot more common than some people think. A 2015 survey found that one in three women have been sexually harassed at work. If the harassment comes from an employer women can feel pressured to avoid speaking out from fear of losing their job.

The boss in this video really preys on that fear by telling his female employee that they had been looking for someone older and with more experience for the job, but that he was glad that they had chosen her.

He also exhibits characteristics similar to the co-worker, but instead of faux feminism, he’s trying to make sure she feels ‘comfortable’ at the company — while becoming the one who makes her uncomfortable. When she rejects his kiss, he makes her end on a hug so he “knows everything is good between them.”

The Doctor

We put our trust in healthcare professionals to give us the care we need, so it really makes your skin crawl to witness someone abusing that trust. In this video, a patient goes in for sinus issues, and that somehow leads to her undoing her shirt buttons.

He then gives her a ‘breast exam,’ letting his hands linger and very obviously making her uncomfortable. He tells her that she has sinusitis, which she expected from the beginning, and which he could’ve easily diagnosed without groping her.

The Politician

Unfortunately, a predatory politician isn’t something that really surprises the world anymore.The journalist in the video has to continually shut down the politician’s advances just to get her interview.

The Photographer

This one might be the most disturbing of all the videos. Not only is a photographer taking advantage of a young model, but at the end, we see there’s a room of people just watching it happen. We want to believe someone would stop this behaviour if they saw it but this video shows how damaging and consequential bystander apathy is.

This campaign is extremely important in showing people subtle, everyday ways sexual harassment can present itself. It also helps validate victims’ experiences by letting them know they weren’t out of line in thinking someone’s behaviour was inappropriate.

Image from Youtube, by #ThatsHarrassment. Used under Fair Use.

Image is of a male politician and a female journalist in a comfortable-looking office. The camera looks through at the pair from behind blinds as if spying. The female journalist wears a smart blue dress and the male politician wears a black suit. The journalist is conducting an interview. The pair sit on black leather couches, facing each other.

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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