img071The Edinburgh Festival Fringe starts in just under a week. The F-Word will be there with our reviewing team of Rosy Candlin, Rachel Cunningham, Flora Herberich, Lauren Hossack, Lissy Lovett and Megan Stodel, bringing you as much feminist-related comedy and theatre news as we can.

In the meantime, here are some of the shows and performers that The F-Word has previously reviewed, which might give you some ideas for acts to see if you’re visiting the Fringe this year. (Please note, not all shows are playing all dates, so do check the listings too.)

Austentatious: An Improvised Jane Austen Novel (Comedy) 5 – 21 August, 13:30, Underbelly, George Square. The F-Word wrote about Austentatious in 2013.

Bridget Christie: Mortal (Comedy) 5 – 29 August, 11:00, The Stand Comedy Club. We’ve reviewed Christie’s shows A Bic for Her (twice) and A Book For Her as well as her book.

Desiree Burch: This is Evolution (Comedy) 6 – 29 August, 21:30, Heroes @ Bob’s BlundaBus. We reviewed Burch in Tar Baby in Edinburgh in 2015.

Jayde Adams: 31 (Comedy) 6 – 28 August, 22:30, Voodoo Rooms. We reviewed an early preview of this show back in April.

Juliette Burton: Decision Time (Comedy) 3 – 28 August, 16:30 at Gilded Balloon Teviot. We wrote about one of Burton’s previous shows, When I Grow Up in 2015.

Katherine Ryan: Work in Progress (Comedy) 4 – 13 August, 16:05, The Stand Comedy Club 5 & 6. We reviewed Ryan’s show Kathbum both at last year’s Edinburgh Fringe and later on tour.

Kitten Killers: Stallions (Comedy) 3 – 29 August, 21:30, Underbelly, George Square. We reviewed the Kitten Killers in a previous show earlier this year.

Letters to Windsor House (Theatre) 3 – 28 August, 13:35, Summerhall. We reviewed Sh!t Theatre’s show Women’s Hour at Edinburgh in 2015.

Mae Martin: Work in Progress (Comedy) 4 – 28 August, 21:15, Laughing Horse @ City Cafe. We wrote about Martin in Slumber Party back in 2013.

Rachel Parris: Best Laid Plans (Comedy) 3 – 28 August, 18:50, Pleasance Dome. We wrote about Parris in 2013.

Savage (Comedy) 21 – 28 August, 12:30, Laughing Horse @ City Cafe. We reviewed this show last year.

Shazia Mirza (Comedy) 4 – 13 August, 18:15, The Stand Comedy Club 5 & 6. We reviewed Mirza last year at Edinburgh.

Sofie Hagen: Shimmer Shatter (Comedy) 6 – 28 August, 19:50, Liquid Room Annexe. We reviewed Hagen’s Foster’s Best Newcomer Award-winning show, Bubblewrap in Brighton at the end of last year.

Susan Calman: The Calman Before the Storm (Comedy) 3 – 28 August, 18:20, Pleasance Courtyard. We wrote about Calman in Edinburgh in 2013.

Two Man Show (Theatre) 6 – 27 August, 20:15, Northern Stage at Summerhall. We’ve reviewed RashDash twice before: The Ugly Sisters in 2013 and Oh I can’t be bothered in 2014.

Zoë Coombs Marr: Trigger Warning (Comedy) 4 – 28 August, 18:50. We reviewed Coombs Marr’s show Dave at Edinburgh last year.

Are you going up to the Fringe? Let us know if you’ve got any tips for great feminist comedy and theatre in the comments.

The photograph is © Edinburgh Festival Fringe Society. It shows three people standing on a windswept beach, all looking to the right of the photo and holding a copy of the Edinburgh Fringe Festival Programme so it can be seen by the camera. They are wearing grey t-shirts and each one has an elaborate face decoration on the right hand side of their face. The woman in front has multicoloured polka dots across her cheek, forehead and hair. The woman in the middle has bird feathers around her right eye. The man at the back has three small spikes stuck to his right cheek and a piece of blue cloth across his right eye. The Fringe programme itself has a pink cover with the word “fringe” in white and a photograph of an owl in a full leather and spikes outfit on the front.

This is a guest post by Chelsey Lang, a writer and content marketer from Southampton, passionate about tech, fashion, feminism, and the Oxford comma. Tired of always being That One Feminist Friend, she took to the internet, where she occasionally takes time out from watching cat videos to write about feminism and pop culture, most recently for Fanny Pack

Whether you’ve seen it or not, it’s likely you’ve heard all about the new Ghostbusters film. It’s Ghostbusters…. but with women?!

Much in the same way certain areas of the internet were outraged over the newest Star Wars movie featuring both a female lead and a black man as a stormtrooper, there was an outcry over this sequel/reboot of the 1980s classic: “How dare they remake a classic film like that, with women now playing the main roles? Feminist agenda! Political correctness gone mad!”

For the record, despite the apparent sacrilege of an all-female Ghostbusters, the film has opened to both box office and critical success.

One of the arguments thrown about multiple times during protests was that a reboot with changed genders was wrong because it would never happen the other way around. You’d never see them remaking a female-led movie with male leads, right?

(Right. Maybe. But let’s face it, all other implications aside, they’d be limited in choice. Just 12% of protagonists in Hollywood films are women, and only 30% of speaking roles go to women.)

All of this horror culminated in this truly inspirational Tumblr post by vistakai:

People keep saying, “what if men did what you did to ghostbusters but the other way around!!!!!” but 1) You can’t. There isn’t one major blockbuster from the past 30 years with enough girls to do that with, and 2) Don’t assume that I wouldn’t completely support an all male cheetah girls reboot.

'A Bigger Splash' Cast At Villa Laguna - 72nd Venice Film FestivalAnd so, for all the Ghostbusters haters, here you go: Three movies that should get the “reverse-Ghostbusters” treatment.

Charlie’s Angels

Take three incredibly attractive, athletic men and make them complete excitingly dangerous missions in increasingly impractical outfits. Let’s nominate Chris Evans, Channing Tatum and Godfrey Gao as our angels. Their missions require a lot of undercover work, of course. They need to pose as strippers, probably, maybe firefighters. There are a lot of uniforms involved.

They’re led by a mysterious woman whose face we never see. Let’s say Tilda Swinton is our ‘Charlie’: there’s a woman who could inspire men to risk their lives on a daily basis for her!

Black Swan

We know that Brad Pitt and Edward Norton can do the mindfuck thing. Fight Club is a masterclass in how to portray a slow slide away from reality – as is Black Swan.

Let’s bring the two actors back. Only this time, we’d actually get the sex scene that Fight Club so inexplicably denied the world.

Coyote Ugly

Coyote Ugly is the story of a wannabe songwriter who ends up working at a bar where there’s just as much dirty dancing as there is drink serving. Friendships are made. Revelations are had. There’s a nice background relationship.

You could argue that, in a way, we already have this. Replace “bar” with “strip club” and you have something close to Magic Mike.

But why stop there? Magic Mike, while an enjoyable film, isn’t particularly renowned for its plot. Coyote Ugly, while not necessarily groundbreaking in its writing either, does bring the viewer a wider variety of relationships, as well as the conflict of a father-daughter relationship under the combined strain of a daughter moving away and a father with health problems.
In this case, both films could learn from each other. Specifically, though, that sexy dancing and emotional fulfillment aren’t mutually exclusive.

All those movies where a woman struggles to “have it all”

A career and a relationship? Wait, and a family? All together? At the same time?
Not if you’re a woman! There are countless films out there where the conflict revolves around the lead female character trying to juggle her work (always demanding), her husband (generally useless) and her kids (nightmares).

By this point it’s practically a genre in itself, with titles like I Don’t Know How She Does It built entirely on the premise that she shouldn’t do it, because that’s not the rightful order of things.

Not so for the male characters. Where’s I Don’t Know How He Does It, where our stylish leading man is balancing a career and a family, with the implication that at some point he’ll have to pick between the two? Come on, men. Stop tricking yourselves into believing you can have it all.

So there you go, Ghostbusters naysayers. There are some you can have for free.

Picture of Tilda Swinton by Annalisa Flori/Getty Images.
Tilda Swinton attends the Villa Laguna during the 72nd Venice Film Festival at Hotel Villa Laguna on September 7, 2015 in Venice, Italy. She has short blonde hair, sunglasses and is wearing an oversized offwhite suit jacket, her mouth is ajar. There are some people in the background.

Weekly round-up and open thread

by Lusana Taylor // 25 July 2016, 10:30 pm



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

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

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

How ‘Political Correctness’ Went From Punch Line to Panic (The New York Times Magazine)

What The Housing Crisis Looks Like For These Women (Refinery)

I Am A Transwoman. I Am In The Closet. I Am Not Coming Out. (Medium)

What Lady Ghostbusters Have In Common With 17th-Century Nuns (The Establishment)

From the article: “The new female Ghostbusters have inspired outrage from the moment their movie was announced. To give women the power of exorcism is to give women agency without constraint or necessary subterfuge, to make them unequivocally the heroes in a story, maybe even to imply that it was always theirs to begin with. If women are no longer objects to be possessed by demons or by men, then maybe they belong to themselves.”

Corrina Antrobus has written a Ghostbusters’ review for the F-Word which you can read HERE.

The problem with Disney’s new Latina princess: one size doesn’t fit all (The Guardian)

Twenty-four hours inside Sisters Uncut’s East London occupation (Huck Magazine)

Why? Should I go see it? (Medium)

From the article: “From the article: “Wait, let me repeat this: she’s a main character, an action hero, AND there’s no sexy impossible back bending moves in the scene that show off a tight catsuit or cleavage or the silhouette of her toned butt. She is not leaping all over the screen just to fuel all the fanboy’s fantasies later at home. She is not wearing sexy make up and she does not even have long hair that blows in the wind, still curled, after she defeats the bad guys. Kate McKinnon’s character saves the world in a dirty, baggy MTA jumpsuit.”

Two white women launch ‘White Nonsense Roundup’ to unburden people of color (Egberto Willies)

I’m With The Banned (Laurie Penny at Medium)

We Must Not Become Clinton Apologists (The Establishment)

How technology disrupted the truth (The Guardian)

From the article: “Algorithms such as the one that powers Facebook’s news feed are designed to give us more of what they think we want – which means that the version of the world we encounter every day in our own personal stream has been invisibly curated to reinforce our pre-existing beliefs. When Eli Pariser, the co-founder of Upworthy, coined the term “filter bubble” in 2011, he was talking about how the personalised web – and in particular Google’s personalised search function, which means that no two people’s Google searches are the same – means that we are less likely to be exposed to information that challenges us or broadens our worldview, and less likely to encounter facts that disprove false information that others have shared.”

Why Everyone Can’t Be Queer (Slate)

From the article:
“Queer … always assumes a rejection of heteronormativity—the desire to assimilate and be like ‘normal’ heterosexuals—because that very normalcy requires that some people, somewhere, be judged for their consensual sexual practices. For some to be sexually ‘normal’, after all, others must be sexually deviant. Queer is the battle cry of deviancy.

When we remove the focus on stigmatization from the word queer, we evacuate it of the only thing that made it a coherent identity in the first place. By focusing instead on inclusivity, Wortham’s article actually does the very thing it worries about: It depoliticizes the word. Queer goes from being a label that allowed the development of community across sexual identities to one that disavows that community. It is the difference between ‘I am a lesbian who is against the oppression of sexuality generally, therefore I identify as queer,’ and ‘I identify as queer because it does not pin me down or connect me to any group of people or actions…'”

The Twitter hate Ghostbusters’ Leslie Jones faces shows why representation matters (The Pool)

From the article: “In my view, and in many ways, Leslie Jones was the star of this film. And the recent attacks on her are because of this, not in spite of it. The world cannot see a black woman succeed. For when they do, they try to break her. To force her back into her shell, to make her invisible again. The world works to instil fear in us, so that we do not ever try again …”

Calypso Rose: ‘I’m fighting for everyone, regardless of sex’ (The Guardian)

The oldest library on Earth was started by a woman, and finally everyone can visit it (Quartz)

“Founded by a Muslim woman, the University of Al Qarawiyyin in Fez, Morroco, opened its doors in 859. Its library has been restored during the last three years by another woman, Canadian-Moroccan architect Aziza Chaouni. A wing will be open to the general public later this year…”

Sex workers continue call for decriminalisation at Aids conference (News24, South Africa)

From the article:
“A panel of delegates made up of Sex Workers Educational Advocacy Task Force (Sweat) director Sally Shackleton, South African National Aids Council director Dr Fareed Abdullah, Deputy Justice Minister John Jeffery and others addressed a crowded hall of media, sex workers and activists on the issue of decriminalising sex work, the high HIV transmission rates and the laws surrounding the buying and selling of sex in SA and around the world.

Jeffery was booed by the crowd when he said there were some organisations and officials who thought sex work should not be decriminalised. The deputy minister demanded that he be allowed to talk, to which a sex worker in the crowd replied: ‘If you are allowed to talk, we should be allowed to work’.”

The time has come to #FaceHerFuture (Fawcett Society)

From the article: “The decision to leave the European Union was met with mixed emotions and arguably says as much about the disaffection many people feel with the political process, and how much they desire change as it does about the EU itself. The desire among leave voters for more control over their lives, more of a say on political issues has repeatedly come through. We can choose to respond negatively, to resist the decision or we can choose to positively engage with it and help to shape what comes. I always prefer the positive.”

Read Megan Stodel’s “next steps” for after Brexit on the F-Word HERE.

Jack Monroe: ‘I want to be treated as a person, not as a woman or a man (The Guardian)

My love affair with Foley (WFTHN)

Hunger Makes Me (Hazlitt)

From the article: “Women talk ourselves into needing less, because we’re not supposed to want more—or because we know we won’t get more, and we don’t want to feel unsatisfied. We reduce our needs for food, for space, for respect, for help, for love and affection, for being noticed, according to what we think we’re allowed to have. ”

The image is used under a creative commons license with thanks to chicanerii on Flickr. It shows a night-time scene. Five bare trees are silhouetted against the sky, their branches twisted up into odd angles. The sky itself is scattered with stars. The far horizon is yellow, perhaps showing oncoming dawn or dusk. In the background is, what looks to be, a mountainous landscape.

This is a guest post by Osha Al-Mossallami, a British-Egyptian freelance journalist currently studying MSc International Politics at the School of Oriental and African Studies. She tweets her feminist and political thoughts at @osha001

Theresa May visits Al Madina MosqueThe UK recently found itself with its second female Prime Minister. Since then, some have heralded this to be a feminist-coup-d’état of some sort. Perhaps, if you are an austerity-loving-white-feminist – but for everyone else, we’re waiting on Malala’s FaceTime to confirm this is one big failed ploy.

Before going any further – and mainly to stop the ‘Why are you feminists never happy with anything?’ comments – let us get one thing straight: Is it a success to see a woman in this position of power?

Well, yes and no. Yes, if what constitutes your definition of a “feminist success” is merely symbolic. Yes, if you want to celebrate this woman for her gender and not her politics (ironic). And yes, if you want evidence that a woman can inflict the same gendered and racist policies that disproportionately hit women, minorities, and the less advantaged in society as her male predecessors. (Yeah, I lied, it’s mainly no).

Since May has become Prime Minister, I have become concerned with how desperate we must be to celebrate women if we are to herald this as a success. True, in May’s first statement in the role, she appears to be more socially conscious but her track record as Home Secretary makes me sceptical. Let’s not forget that this is the same woman who fed into the UK’s anti-migrant sentiment by literally getting vans to drive around telling immigrants to “go home”. The same woman who wanted the UK to leave the European convention on Human Rights, which not only protects victims of domestic violence, but also protects individuals from abuses of state power. The same woman who is refusing to reveal the extent to which refugee women have been sexually abused by the staff at the inhuman women’s detention centre in Yarl’s Wood. And the same woman I am now to celebrate as a triumph for feminism? No thank you.

We need more than someone who just looks the part. It is no good to be a woman in power if you are not going to help the women out of power.

Let’s be clear, we do need more women in politics. On a national and international level, the lack of diversity is shocking. But it is no good having diversity if the policies are as unjust from a woman as they are from a man. Pretty sure being told to “go home” as an EU national post-Brexit is going to suck whether it’s Cameron or May who delivers the news (although, you don’t have the solace of making a pig related quip with the latter).

But the idea that May’s appointment will now signify that politics is open for all women is superficial and flawed. Just recently, Nicola Sturgeon proudly tweeted a picture of herself with Theresa May with the comment:

My initial reaction when I saw this was “Yes, if you’re white!” This is the issue with celebrating the mere image. It not only omits May’s track record for austerity, which disproportionately impacts women meaning that it’s at the very hand Sturgeon is shaking that many girls won’t be able to achieve their ambitions. More so, the idea that this photograph can act as a universal galvaniser of confidence for all women, to me, reeks of white feminism. If you want all women, including women of colour, to feel like politics is for them, you should make sure your cabinet reflects that. As it stands, there are more men called David in May’s cabinet than there are MPs who are not white (there are three Davids, in case you were wondering). The image is not enough.

I don’t blame May for this – well, not entirely anyway. Instead, this lack of diversity has to be understood as a consequence of the manner politics is currently conducted. What would be a true feminist success is to not only see more women in politics, but more types of women in politics.

As it currently stands, women are only let into this “boys club” once they have been checked and screened. And when I say checked and screened, I don’t mean after they’ve downed a pint in 10 seconds and are seen as worthy enough to join the lads (although I hear this is one of the more elementary Tory initiations). Rather, I mean women are only supported and allowed to excel within politics once they have been certified as someone who will not upset the status quo – a status quo that was crafted within a context where only those who could afford to be MPs were, as it wasn’t until 1911 that MPs received a salary. Yet, this image of privilege has pervaded politics through acquiring other characteristics, namely male, white, Eton/Oxbridge-educated etc. For women to be respected, then, it has meant embodying characteristics and “speaking” the language of masculinity – something that was quite literal for Margaret Thatcher who infamously undertook speech lessons to deepen her voice.

This is not to insinuate that May has not worked hard to get to where she is, but to point out that politics currently operates in a way that keeps women who aren’t like May away from reaching top jobs.

It’s important that we recognise that. If part of the reason for your success stems from the comfortable assurance that you will continue to privilege the privileged, then there really is nothing feminist about you.


[The first image is a photograph of Theresa May, a middle-aged white woman standing and speaking. Looking on beside her sit two younger women wearing headscarves and a bearded white man. This photograph was taken by Daniel Leal-Olivas, is the property of i-Images and can be found on the Home Office Flickr stream. It is used under a Creative Commons License.

The image featured in the embedded tweet is of Theresa May and Nicola Sturgeon, two white women, smiling and shaking hands on the doorstep of a grand looking building.]

This month, our guest blogger is Nicola; you can find her personal blog here and her Facebook community here

As a mixed race woman, whenever I come across articles by monoracial parents about their mixed race children, I tend to get a cold feeling of dread of inside. These articles seem to be in abundance these days in mixed race online communities. It’s very rare that I read one that doesn’t bring up numerous red flags, regardless of the race of the parent who is writing. I do seem to come across more articles written by white mothers, interestingly; however, this only increases my discomfort because as white people don’t experience racial oppression the scope for mistakes automatically broadens in these articles.

Parents of mixed race children tend to write as though they are authorities on mixed race identity, when in most cases it’s obvious they haven’t done any research outside of their own personal (often biased) observations of their children. They often feel they can speak on behalf of their children regarding experiences they simply haven’t had themselves and therefore don’t fully understand. These articles can be full of misplaced assumptions and ignorance wielded as wisdom and I can’t help but wonder why some parents are writing them, centring their own voices, when they are frequently uninformed from the perspective of mixed race readers. I’m not saying monoracial parents can never accumulate any useful knowledge about mixed race identity and experiences but they will always be on the periphery and limited in awareness because of this. I also think it’s great if parents of mixed race children want to get involved in discourse and share experiences. It just seems like there could be a little bit more humility in it. Maybe it’s hard for parents to admit that actually they have no idea about the issues they are dealing with and are not experts.

Alternatively, if they don’t play the expert, parents sometimes acknowledge that actually the child is the expert on what it means to be mixed race so they feel they can’t do anything but sit back and let their child figure things out for themselves. My parents tended more towards this attitude. They didn’t see themselves as experts so they left me and my siblings to fend for ourselves in navigating our mixed race identities. I learned about my black identity and my white identity but not about what it meant to exist successfully incorporating them both. As much as I love my parents I see this as negligent. Just because the child is the ultimately the expert it doesn’t mean parents get out of educating themselves and offering any guidance whatsoever to their children. And of course, there are the parents who neglect to think about mixed race identity in any meaningful way whatsoever.

For white parents the first thing they need to do is to acknowledge the racial privilege that they have in comparison to their child and learn about what white privilege means. They need to accept that their child will live a life outside of their own range of experience. They also need to develop a thorough understanding of white racial framing and how this plays out in the present day. I have met white parents who have done and are continuing to do this work but not many when considering the number of white parents of mixed race children I have met. Many mixed race children grow up in the face of continuous racial micro-aggressions from well-meaning white parents which can have impact on self-esteem and self-understanding. I love my mum but I have to admit that this was my own experience. In most cases this will be to some extent inevitable but white parents can help themselves by doing some reading and listening instead of writing about mixed race issues of which they know little. At the very least if they must insist on writing they would be better off writing about their own experiences rather than trying to speak for their mixed race children.

For parents of colour they may still have a lot to learn if they are not mixed race themselves (and maybe even if they are and haven’t thought much about their own identity). It’s still quite possible that they can bombard their mixed race offspring with racial micro-aggressions and misunderstanding. It’s also possible that they may not understand white racial framing and its impacts sufficiently. Again I would recommend reading articles and books by mixed race people about their experiences and listening to mixed race people talk. There are a lot of great resources out there for parents who are willing to look rather than simply relying on their own self-perceived expertise.

The image is by skyseeker and is used with permission. It shows two figures, one adult and one child, standing on what appears to be a slighlty pitched roof, looking out away from the camera. There are trees next to the building. Everything is silhouetted against a yellow/orange sky.

Ghostbusters reboot answers the call

by Corrina Antrobus // 19 July 2016, 11:56 am

Tags: , ,

Ghostbusters is here and praise be it’s not shit. Heaven forbid a female reboot of a big film cherished by the little boy in so many grown men be anything less than its current 75% “fresh” rating on Rotten Tomatoes and drawn in $45m at the box office or director Paul Feig may have blown it for the female washes of so many more reimaginings to hopefully come.


In a world where little pity is given to the financial failure of women-centric films, the opening week’s box office is important in beating down the path. That is why, as transparent as the strategy may be, we should applaud the marketing tactic of a Monday, rather than Friday, release (the film opened last Monday, 11 July). Those four days extra box office will have no doubt helped stack up the chips and given them time to lodge a gristly giant Stay Puft marshmallow man into Waterloo station, making the lunchtime nip to M&S that bit more entertaining.

Need proof of the pathetic willingness for the movie to fail? Google “Ghostbusters 2016 is…” and the suggestions you get are: “going to fail”, “going to bomb” and “is bad”. Thankfully, a chorus of praise for this giddy gal gang blockbuster emerges through the snarky tired remarks, especially from women who have rated the film considerably higher than men.

Simply put, this is good old-fashioned candy-flossed fun. There’s eye-boggling action, fanny fart humour and a placating soundtrack that’s a notch too high and a trumpet too much. It’s like standing in line for an Alton Towers ride knowing the 90 minute wait will lead you to a fast and easy thrill. But gents, fear not. There are ample nods to Ivan Reitman’s 1980s Ghostbusters and each one of the original cast, including Sigourney Weaver, pop up in winking cameos.

These 80s references are respectful but there’s refreshment in the nuance. The film is self-aware enough to know that 30 years on, the price of a disused fire station would make you choke on your Marathon bar. Reverse sexism at the expense of airhead receptionist Kevin (played by good sport Chris Hemsworth) can and will be used as an ebb of comeuppance for Dr. Peter Venkman’s slimier than Slimer hounding of Dana Barrett in the 1984 version.

Once again Paul Feig and comrade writer Katie Dippold provide a cast of women who sparkle with silliness, imperfection and hilarity. They have brains and balls and refreshingly, there’s no romance lurking in the plot beyond the platonic love between old best friends. Kevin’s ridiculousness far outweighs how beautiful he is and unless you’re the kind of person who gets turned on by pugs, an actual romance with this guy is laughable; the fair assumption that Kate McKinnon’s mesmeric Tank Girl-esque Jillian Holtzmann character is a lesbian isn’t given plot prominence either as guess what: who cares when there are ghosts to bust out there?


Spice World it ain’t. Fist-pumping feminism is thankfully missing and instead we’ve got a sci-fi action romp with an underscore of a buddy movie that happens to have women as the leads. However, there are recognisable themes scattered within the narrative that women have often had to tackle: it’s exhausting watching how much time the team spend on trying to prove themselves – even after saving the city from a supernatural invasion. Melissa McCarthy and Kristen Wigg, who were once best friends united by their ghost geekdom, find themselves shrouding their beliefs in order to be accepted to the educational establishments they work in – and both of them have men as their superiors (played by Charles Dance and Steve Higgins).

They also eventually cave to their name of Ghostbusters (what self-respecting group of women would actually call themselves that?). They cringe at the name the media has slapped on them them but as the name sticks, they own it – something of a familiar turn for any group of people who’ve found empowerment in their derogatory monikers.

Gender politics aside (and can we please have a world where an all-female lineup doesn’t scream “OMG! Women Are Taking Over The World!”), the new oestrogen-pumped Ghostbusters is this summer’s blockbuster. And if summer only really starts when Hollywood’s tent pole biggie is plastered on the side of the 73 bus, then Melissa McCarthy, Kristen Wiig, Kate McKinnon and Leslie Jones are standing by a picnic blanket stirring a jug of Pimm’s.

Ghostbusters is on general release now.

Both pictures courtesy of Bechdel Test Fest.
First picture shows four women in khaki-and-orange uniforms and sturdy boots standing in front of a white car with Ghostbusters logo on it. On the left there is a tall Black woman with cropped hair and a shorter white woman with glasses and her hair in a bun, on the right two more white women, first one with red hair and a fringe and the other with blonde hair and yellow tinted glasses. They look fierce and have some equipment on their backs.
Second picture is a portrait of a white blonde woman with yellow-tinted goggles pulled on top of her head, she’s drinking through a straw from a white patterned cup and smiling.

Weekly round-up and open thread

by Lusana Taylor // 18 July 2016, 2:47 pm



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

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

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

I love how she shakes her booty (while looking for vinyl): some thoughts on sexism in music (Dummy Mag)

Popcorn With a Side of Racism & Sexism (Genevieve Richardson)

Sexual Assault Cases Are Our Modern-Day Witch Trials (The Establishment)
CN: violence

From the article: “To prevent women from rioting against rising costs of food, and in retaliation against their effects to organize together, men at that time might accuse them of witchcraft. If crops went bad, it was because an old beggar woman who was jealous of the wealthy cast a spell. If a woman did not have children, was a lesbian, or was unmarried, her punishment for not fitting into the heteronormative ideal was to be persecuted as a witch.”

So the U.K. has its second female prime minister. What policies put more women in power? (Washington Post)

Why I’m a Racist (Beyondtheglasswall)

From the article: “… While I am very uncomfortable when forced to confront a terrible reality that I can generally avoid, my friends and neighbors of color are forced to confront it every day. Consequently, they have formed a thicker skin to the subject and are more free to discuss it. This can easily be misunderstood as being rash or aggressive because it creates an uneasy feeling in me. Let me put it this way: we all have that person in our lives who always manages to say the one thing that makes everyone in the room uncomfortable. Maybe it’s a friend or coworker, maybe it’s your cousin or your sister-in-law; whoever it is, our attitude is generally that it is their problem. We feel like they are doing something to us, because we are feeling uncomfortable with what they are saying or doing, rather than taking responsibility for our own feelings. Until I can acknowledge that I feel more uncomfortable talking about racial inequality than people who have been forced to deal with it every single day of their lives, I will never be able to get over myself enough to be a part of the solution. And if I’m not a part of the solution, I’m a part of the problem.”

How receiving vile homophobic abuse on a Bristol bus changed me, a straight man (Bristol Evening Post)

Qandeel Baloch murdered by brother in Multan: police (Dawn)
CN: forced marriage, honour killing

Theresa May Might Become PM, But This is not Revolution (Media Diversified)

Teenagers disgusted by police giving out ‘RU asking 4 it?’ leaflets at sexual consent talk (Bristol Evening Post)

Why I’m Fed Up Of The Way TV Portrays Sex Workers (Refinery)

From the article: “When you work in an industry as stigmatised as the sex trade, jokes which dehumanise workers and normalise violence have a considerable impact. As long as the viewing public continues to get a kick out of tropes such as “dead hookers in the boot of a car”, the violence some of us encounter at work will be seen as inevitable, and, worse still, unchangeable.”

Time to change attitudes (Sarah Bronzite at

From the article: “Chaya’s experience of being shamed for her childlessness is, unfortunately, not out of the ordinary. Being a Jewish woman without children is still considered unusual, and in some parts of the community virtually unacceptable. Society expects women to have children. And it’s hard for them if they don’t.”

Viv Albertine protests punk exhibition in the most punk way imaginable (The Pool)

Read Viv Albertine’s 2015 interview with Cazz Blase for the F-Word HERE.

Qandeel Baloch and the silencing of Desi Women (gal-dem)

The Sun struggles to understand why Channel 4 News reporter Fatima Manji covered some news (New Statesman)

From the article: “For someone so apparently concerned about Muslim women’s welfare, it seems strange that MacKenzie chose to attack a role model for visibly Muslim women in the media. Not only is Manji clearly not a ‘slave’ but a professional journalist with a track record of balanced coverage, she was a panellist at a conference on Breaking Into Journalism, where she noted, ‘male voices are often the ones that get heard’,and that, ‘there is a lack of confidence among women and minorities’.”

The image is used under a creative commons license with thanks to Giorgio Violino on Flickr. It shows a dandelion ‘clock’, very sharply in focus and turned slightly away from the camera.


It seems like a really busy time in theatre and comedy at the moment, so this is a bumper blog post. Before I start, did anyone else see The Hamilton Complex at the Unicorn Theatre for LIFT? I’m still thinking about it. There are a couple of good reviews here and here.

Let’s begin with some comedy and the Funny Women Festival in London which has already been running for more than a week and goes on until 27 July; the festival features acts which will shortly be going up to the Edinburgh Fringe. Tomorrow, Saturday 16 July, Rosie Wilby will be performing her show, The Conscious Uncoupling at the Southbank Centre as part of their Festival of Love – however, if that’s just too short notice, don’t worry as it will also be at the Camden Fringe (see below).

Staying at the Southbank Centre, they’re midway through their run of KlangHaus: On Air, which deconstructs and reinvents the idea of a rock gig as a site specific promenade theatre/live art experience. It’s led by visual artist Sal Pittman and singer/musician Karen Reilly, and both production managers (Rosie Arnold and Alex Lingford) are also women. It runs until 29 July (There will be two Relaxed Performances at 3:00pm tomorrow, 16 July and 8:30pm on 21 July).

We’re also halfway through the run of Invisible Woman, a comedy which is part of Women and War, a multi-discipline festival that examines women’s experiences in war. It’s on at So and So Arts Club until 31 July. Keeping with the theme of things that are already running, one-woman show CUT is at the Vaults in London until 31 July; CUT is a Lynchian dream that transports an audience deep into the heart of 21st century fears.

It is about adults’ fear of talking about children and sex in the same breath. And it’s about sweating profusely and hurling bodies about to music

There are a couple of interesting theatre shows coming up in the next few weeks in London:

Watching Glory Die takes us on the riveting journey of three women bound together in impossible circumstances. Inspired by the real-life case of Ashley Smith, who was initially incarcerated at age 15 for throwing crabapples, the play takes a bold dramatic leap from the news headline. It’s at The Cockpit Theatre in London from 19 – 23 July.

Bitches runs at the Finborough Theatre between 16 – 20 August as part of the National Youth Theatre’s 60th anniversary season. Bitches focuses on the experience of being young, black and female, following two young female vloggers talking about racial, political and popular culture in a remorseless online world.

Hester Chillingworth has been announced as the recipient of Chisenhale Dance Space’s Small Spaces Commission. The description of her project sounds amazing: “The starting point for Chillingworth’s selected, and as yet untitled, Small Spaces Commissions project is to create a drag persona who is a child, gender unreadable. It is about adults’ fear of talking about children and sex in the same breath. And it’s about sweating profusely and hurling bodies about to music, like she did when she was young.” There will be public performances at Marlborough Theatre, Brighton on 8 September and Rich Mix, London on 2 October. Let me know if you’re planning to go, the description of the performance reminds me a little bit of The Hamilton Complex which I mention above.

Looking even further into the future, the Royal Court production Escaped Alone which we reviewed in February will be returning to the Royal Court in January (captioned performance 8 February, audio-described performance 11 February) and then will be going on tour to the Lowry, Cambridge Arts Theatre and Bristol Old Vic in the spring before going to New York.

Press Image 1I’ll be putting up an Edinburgh Fringe preview post in the next couple of weeks, and there are a couple of other really exciting festivals happening August (I’m sure there are others, let me know in the comments about what I’ve missed).

Theatre N16 in Balham in London are holding a Herstory Festival on 6 and 7 August. It will be a chance for up and coming playwrights and artists to tackle important issues surrounding feminism and by doing so creating a platform for discussion and an opportunity to instigate change. During the two days of the festival Theatre N16 will be full of varied acts, from new writing to devised theatre and performance art. The line-up has yet to be announced but you can find out more here.

The Camden Fringe is on 1 – 28 August. Of particular interest this year is:

  • RADIATOR which explores the line between reality and imagination and delves into the bizarre world of loneliness, friendship and… plumbing. It’s on at the Tristan Bates theatre in Covent Garden at 6pm from 2 – 6 August
  • Rosie Wilby’s The Conscious Uncoupling is on at Camden People’s Theatre at 7.15pm from 17 – 21 August
  • The Real Girl a new one woman comedy-cabaret-performance from Cherise Cross and it an examination of the things that some people consider important to their own identity. It’s on at the Tristan Bates theatre in Covent Garden at 6pm from 16 – 20 August
  • Syd: A one-woman drag show about street harassment with cheesy one-liners, gorilla impersonations and raps about street harassmet over classic karaoke backing tracks. It’s at the Canal Cafe Theatre at 9:30pm on 3 August and 17 August (not inclusive).
  • CTRL+ALT+DELETE, a play that examines domestic abuse and its reflection on our society, will be at Camden People’s Theatre from 8 – 16 August.

I think that’s enough for this month! I’ll probably be skipping this blog in August as we’ll have plenty of Edinburgh Fringe coverage, but I’ll be back in September.

In closing I’d like to pay tribute to Caroline Aherne who had the ability to make me laugh like a drain and then cry my eyes out, often in the same scene. The Royle Family was absolutely genius television and she will be sorely missed. You can read obituaries for Aherne here and here.

Image one is of Kate Cook in Invisible Woman. She holds a toy Spitfire plane up to the camera. The plane is in focus and the image of Cook is blurred behind. She has dark curly hair and her mouth is wide open.

Image two is of Claudia Jefferies in Syd. It is of a young woman in a sequinned top and false moustache staring sullenly at the camera. The image is blurred, with three or four images superimposed on each other.

The editor rotates, again

by Ania Ostrowska // , 8:25 am

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Bristol_graffitiTime flies.

As hard as I find it to believe it’s already been a year since Megan handed over The F-Word’s rotating editorship to me in July 2015, that is actually the case.

It’s been a busy year for the site: before I took over, our team grew by five new editors in March 2015 and then expanded even more with two additional members in June 2015. Since then, some left to pastures new while others changed focus to do what they feel most passionate about. Megan is now looking after our monthly bloggers and she was replaced as a theatre editor by Lissy, who also looks after comedy. One of our permanent bloggers D H Kelly has been doing a great job in the features section, alongside writing engaging blogs and features. As I’m vacating the rotating editor position, we are in the middle of another wave of recruitment: watch this space. You can always find out what The F-Word team members currently do on the About us page.

In July 2015 we migrated from our antiquated and no longer supported CMS to WordPress: thank you for bearing with us through all small bumps on that road. In related news, we would love to change the site’s look and feel in the near future: if you are a designer, developer or digital consultant with a feminist conscience, feel free to get in touch (editor[at] to recommend people who could help us do it by giving advice and/or preferential quotes.

I am leaving The F-Word’s behind-the-scenes machinery in the capable hands of Holly, who has been involved with the site from as early as 2002. She will be the rotating editor for at least six months from now. All the best, Holly!

The picture was taken by Ania in Bristol on Saturday 9 July 2016.

It’s a piece of graffiti on Wilder Street, showing a person, probably a woman, with pinkish lips and a beauty spot above her lips, wearing a colourful party mask covering the upper half of her face. It’s green and blue and pink and is shaped perhaps after bird’s feathers. The person’s eyes are bulging and toxic green, she (?) has plug earrings with skulls and more reddish/yellow feathers/hair in the back of her head. There is a tag “Clandestine” in the bottom left corner, no copyright infringement intended.

This month, our guest blogger is Nicola; you can find her personal blog here and her Facebook community here

A New York Times article called ‘How Wall Street Bro Talk Keeps Women Down’ interested me recently because it’s the first time I’ve come across discussion of bro talk and its impacts. Bro talk is described as when men talk about women in objectifying and degrading ways. It is commonly viewed as a way for men to bond with one another. It got me thinking about my own brushes with it.

The effects of bro talk can be far-reaching and incredibly damaging for women, from making them feel uncomfortable and unwelcome to creating cultures where women’s actual safety is threatened. The article argues that bro talk allows men to dehumanize women through conversation and that this opens a gateway for other kinds of dehumanization and objectification. The article explores how bro talk can also cost women particular opportunities and be harmful in terms of their careers. It’s hard for women to survive and be successful in environments where being degraded is the normal state of affairs. It would be interesting to know more about the psychological and emotional impacts of bro talk for women.

When I look at my own personal experience I was first exposed to bro talk at school but as I knew little about sex, I was more curious about it than offended. As I got older I began to find it more personally distressing. My first serious boyfriend when I was in my early twenties was terrible when it came to bro talk. Whenever I was with him and his friends the conversation would diminish into the routine objectification of women. Even when we were alone, he consistently talked about other women in objectifying ways. The conversation was usually about famous women rather than women that we knew but the impact on me was still negative. It made me feel uncomfortable and less like a human being myself hearing women constantly reduced to body parts and sex. I also felt that this objectification tipped over into our relationship and the way he treated me. Eventually the way he spoke about other women and objectified me personally resulted in me strongly disliking him and the end of our relationship. When I had challenged him about the way he spoke he tried to make out I was a prude or jealous. The problem wasn’t his misogyny, according to him, it was my attitude.

I have also had the unfortunate experience of dealing with bro talk at work. When I worked in the finance sector a few years ago I found myself mainly surrounded by men and one way my male boss used to try to bond with the guys in the team was by talking about women as sexual objects. I remember a particularly upsetting meeting where there was a discussion about how sexy Emma Watson was as a child in the Harry Potter movies. At the time I had just sat in stunned silence feeling sick to my stomach. When I had first started the role I had made a complaint about a colleague who was sexually harassing me and would not take no for an answer when he asked me out on dates. Although management took the complaint seriously and did speak to this colleague it soon became obvious that sexism was deeply entrenched in the office culture. Some of the women in the office complained about it constantly amongst themselves but really felt powerless to do anything about it. Some other women seemed to misunderstand the objectification as a form of flattery. Rather than fighting it eventually I found another role. Luckily it was not my personal goal to have a career in finance with the company I was employed by but what if it had been?

In my experience bro talk is seen as normal and just ‘boys being boys’. Both men and women need to start calling out bro talk for what it actually is – sexism. We also need to educate men and boys about the impacts it has on women. Men also need to stop waiting until they have daughters to have empathy for women. I was annoyed that the final line of the article I read on bro talk is the author saying we need to make a world where it’s not scary to have a daughter. He was completely thinking from his own position as a man and seeking us to empathise with him and make the world safer for him as a parent. How about empathising with women, not as anybody’s daughter but as people in their own right and creating a world where it’s not scary to be one of us.

The image is in the public domain. It shows the body of a person in a suit and tie from the neck to waist, facing the side, holding one hand in front of them with their thumb down.

Girls of summer

by Joanna Whitehead // 12 July 2016, 8:03 pm

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Searching for women talking about, making and playing tunes this summer? Look no further!

On Saturday 16 July, Scotland will host its very first female-positive music festival, Pandora Fest, which aims to celebrate women artists of all genres and give them a larger platform in the festival scene. Pandora Fest takes place at Duncarron Medieval Village near Stirling. To find out more, check out their website, Twitter or Facebook pages.

In London, gal-dem zine presents Bridging the Gap: Women in Music, which takes place at Rich Mix in Shoreditch on Friday 29 July. This is a free event incorporating a panel discussion, performance and networking which aims to celebrate the leading women in the music industry right now. Find out more here. I’m gutted to be missing this.

Some regular nights taking place in London and Brighton, as sourced by Cassandra Fox, are listed below:


Loud Women is a punk, pop and riot grrrl event, taking place on multiple dates at multiple venues. A festival featuring 25 acts is planned for September and the line-up so far includes Vodun, Desperate Journalist, Dream Nails, Louise Distras and Grace Petrie. Find out more at their website, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram pages.

Blue Monday is a monthly acoustic night for LBQT women, taking place on the second Monday of the month at The Boogaloo in Archway, north London. The event is inclusive and those not identifying as LBQT are welcome. Find out more at their Facebook, Twitter and YouTube pages.

Girl Power London is a party night featuring R&B, hip-hop and pop music from the 1990s to the present day. It takes place on the last Saturday of every month at The Macbeth in Hoxton, east London. Find out more on their Facebook and Twitter pages.


FemFriday takes place on the first Friday of every month at Artista Studio in Brighton. An eclectic night featuring folk, rap, punk, blues, jazz and rock. Find out more at their Facebook page.

Girls of summer. Their love for you will still be strong.

Image one is a black and white shot of two women playing guitar, from the band Skinny Girl Diet. Picture by Akbar Ali.

Image two shows Tegan Christmas (what a name!), of the band The Ethical Debating Society, a woman with fabulous red hair singing into a mic, in front of an audience at Loud Women. © Keira Anee, 2015.

Image three shows a woman with fabulous purple hair on the decks at the Girl Power London club night. She is sticking her tongue out whilst a crowd shimmies before her. Woman and photographer unknown. Please get in touch for credit where it’s due!

Weekly round-up and open thread

by Lusana Taylor // 11 July 2016, 10:14 pm

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

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.

Let’s talk about discharge (The Pool)

A Professional’s Perspective On Sexism In The Music Industry (Huffington Post)

Eating Gives Me Anxiety and Not Eating Gives Me Anxiety (Vice)

The quiet woman and why we’re so harsh on her (The Pool)

From the article: “Even if you’re not being rude and judgmental, it’s widely assumed that quiet people don’t exactly help get the party started, and they’re bound to screw up a carefully calibrated seating plan thanks to their inconveniently crippling anxiety. Unless, of course they’re male, in which case they tend to get a free pass on being tongue-tied and get lumped in with the Mr Darcys of this world – whether they look good in a lake-soaked shirt or not.”

Jeremy Corbyn Labour coup designed to stop him ‘calling for Tony Blair’s head’ after Chilcot report, says Alex Salmond (Independent)

Transcript of Andrea Leadsom’s interview with The Times (ITV)

From the article: “‘I am sure Theresa will be really sad she doesn’t have children so I don’t want this to be ‘Andrea has children, Theresa hasn’t’ because I think that would be really horrible but genuinely I feel that being a mum means you have a very real stake in the future of our country, a tangible stake. She possibly has nieces, nephews, lots of people, but I have children who are going to have children who will directly be a part of what happens next.'”

A turning tide for sex workers?: The home affairs committee report (Salvage)

From the article: “There has long been a David and Goliath quality to the politics of sex worker rights: Feminists join forces with both church and state to ‘tackle’ the issue of prostitution in blogposts, conference keynotes and bill proposals, whilst many actual, working prostitutes keep well away from anything that puts their privacy at risk. To stick one’s head up above the parapet, to agitate for better working conditions is to risk the attention of the police, social services, the home office, colleagues and family.”

How to handle a racist in public (Uditi Shane)

Bring the Dallas murderers to justice. And the killers of black people too (Gary Younge at The Guardian)

From the article: “Black Lives Matter did not make black people upset; video footage of black people being shot dead in cold blood and broad daylight did that. Black Lives Matter was brought into existence in response to state violence; it does not have a monopoly on the grievances and pathologies that emerge as a result of that violence. It can only seek to direct the resentment in constructive ways. Given the considerable anger at the relentless exposure of police brutality, its work on that front has been commendable.”

Are all-male bands who use female names alienating women in music? (Stephanie Phillips at Get into this)

Why Alton Sterling and Philando Castile Are Dead (The Nation)

Mapping police violence

The above link is some visual representations of data in the light of the US police killing at least 346 black people in 2015 and 187 in 2016 so far.

A Comprehensive Guide On How To Really Turn A Woman’s ‘No’ Into A ‘Yes’ (Ravishly)

A capable band of women (Arts Professional)

From the article: “Here are three examples of the comments we receive:
“When are the men getting here to move the set for you?”
“Do you girls do all of this yourselves? Isn’t it really heavy?”
“That’s a big van for a young lass like you to be driving.”

Lissy Lovett’s review of Becoming Hattie (the play mentioned in the above article) can be found HERE.

The image is used under a creative commons license with thanks to Solarisgir

postcards1This is a guest post by Flora Herberich. Flora has worked in circus in a range of roles from performer to producer; she’s currently circus associate at Jacksons Lane

Sawdust and sisterhood: I’m shamelessly borrowing my title from a new book with a very similar name by researcher and author Steve Ward. The book examines how traditional circus empowered women way before the suffragette movement, allowing them to achieve the extraordinary in an otherwise male-dominated world.

At the end of the last century, new circus began to emerge as an art form, with strong women again playing a key role. The early pioneering companies in the 1980s and 90s, for example Circus Oz and Vulcana Women’s Circus, often played with gender norms and expectations in their shows.

The physical strength of women who train in circus is a really important element in defying expected gender roles. Women’s bodies aren’t often portrayed as being strong and too often in our society have to conform to notions of elegance and beauty, qualities which rarely question the viewer, but can merely be judged by them. The aerial artist Ellie Dubois comments on this phenomenon in her show Ringside: a close up, one-on-one experience, where the viewer and artist confront each other and the viewer’s perceptions are challenged.

And what about other contemporary sisters of circus? As circus is becoming more embedded in our cultural landscape and more accepted as an art form as well as an entertainment, is it conforming more with the dominant male gaze, following the stereotype of the artist as ‘male genius’? And therefore: are female circus creators as successful as their male counterparts? Can they be?

I’ve worked in circus for the last 15 years in a range of roles both on and off stage. In recent years, along with a lot of the rest of the industry, I haven’t been able to help but notice that a lot of successful touring shows, especially on the international circuit, have become quite male-dominated. We’ve had the likes of Racehorse Company with their shows Petit Mal and Super Sunday, Cirkus Cirkör’s Underman and Barely Methodical Troupe’s Bromance – all (big) successful shows, and there really hasn’t been a female-led show of an equivalent size and success level.

In response, some Nordic artists have recently been making all-female work like Vixen by Tanter, Mad In Finland or the slightly awkwardly-titled Gynoides Project. Here in the UK we have two very notable female-led companies, Upswing and Mimbre. Mimbre in particular have recently produced an outdoor show with quite a strong feminist take on a day in the life of an ordinary woman (catch it at the Milton Keynes International Festival on 17 July).

Whilst it’s obviously great that artists have responded to this male-dominated time in circus with female-led work, I think there’s a danger of falling into a trap of ‘othering’: whilst the male work speaks of the human condition – being made by (white, straight) men and therefore occupying the centre ground – the female work concerns itself with the female condition, i.e. not being male.

What to do? Personally I’d love to see more circus artists making work where female performers and artists can make statements and express their opinions and physicality in a less gendered way, but is this possible? Will we ever arrive at a stage where work by women can be shown without being labelled as being “by women”, but simply as work. Does this really still need to be an issue? Or, conversely, does the work itself have a certain bent that means that the label women-led is helpful?

I currently work as an associate producer at Jacksons Lane, North London’s hothouse of new circus. We have a festival coming up in July, Postcards, which features a range of fantastic work – some of it created and performed by circus artists who also happen to be women.

I’d highly recommend the following:

  • Flappers: a mixed bill cabaret hosted by the wonderful and award winning Sh!t Theatre
  • And the little one said: a one-person darkly comic sideshow carny experience
  • A Night with our associate artists Alula: expect Cyr wheel mastery, explosive tumbling and beautiful live music
  • Selfie with Eggs: mind blowing hand-balancing skill, vogueing and eggs … quite a lot of them!
  • But check out the rest of the programme too, there will be something for everyone.

    The festival is PWYD (Pay What You Decide) so don’t be scared and bring your (male, female and LGBTQI) friends along.

    Image courtesy of Flora Herberich. It shows four female acrobats hanging off a frame for playground swings outside a block of flats. In the middle one woman is balancing on a hoop, with her back arched and her face to camera. Above her another woman sits cross legged on the hoop. On either side two woman hang from the frame with their arms with their legs bent and their toes pointed.

    This month, our guest blogger is Nicola; you can find her personal blog here and her Facebook community here

    Content warning: discussion of domestic abuse and victim blaming.

    “We must always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor never the tormented.”
    Elie Wiesel

    Elie Wiesel recently died on 2nd July 2016. He is a Nobel Prize winner who was an activist, writer, professor and Holocaust survivor. The above quotation is well-known in activist circles. I heard it mentioned in a feminist group recently in connection with Amber Heard who has made allegations of domestic violence against her husband Johnny Depp this year. There was a recent post on The F-Word which stated that we must all side with Amber and believe her accusations against Johnny Depp without question, because women are rarely believed when they come forward with claims of abuse they have suffered at the hands of men. My purpose with this post is to highlight that in such cases, where there is a victim and an oppressor, neutrality is often not achieved anyway. If all such cases were always met with neutrality, women would not have the continuous issue of not being believed when they make abuse claims. The problem isn’t neutrality; it’s the automatic reflex of siding with the oppressor (because they hold the societal privilege) that is the real problem and this happens all too frequently. Neutrality would actually be a step forward in these scenarios.

    Much of the publicity around Amber Heard has blamed her for any abuse or attempted to discredit her allegations. This is hardly staying neutral. I have read countless articles siding with Johnny Depp by painting Amber as too masculine (and hence deserving of any abuse), too happy to have recently been abused, a liar and a gold-digger among other unflattering depictions. The negative depictions of Johnny Depp have been strikingly fewer in comparison. This is the typical pattern when a famous woman speaks up about domestic abuse. I’m not proud to say that at first I even found myself siding with Johnny Depp. I had to analyse some of the thoughts that came up for me around the situation and admit that yes, some of them were biased due to the influence of living in a patriarchal society.

    This pattern extends beyond Hollywood and domestic abuse however. It happens wherever there is a victim and oppressor. Black men are blamed for what they were wearing when they are shot and killed by the police. Women are blamed for rape because of how much they were drinking and what they were wearing. Victim-blaming is a pervasive culture that affects us all. I have only once ever raised an issue in the workplace about racial prejudice and interestingly a similar process emerged. Although I was assured the matter would be dealt with neutrally by my managers, what actually happened was that they sided with my oppressor. It was made very clear to me that my allegations were not believed because of the language used to describe the issue between me and my work colleague. The issue was consistently described in terms which were anything but neutral such as “a personality clash”, “a misunderstanding”, and “a disagreement”. I was even made to feel that I “just couldn’t let it go” and was causing extra work. This was deeply upsetting for me as it made me feel as though my ability to assess prejudice and my own experiences was not valued. I didn’t expect that management would automatically believe my allegations but I did expect neutrality and fairness. Ultimately I didn’t receive either of those.

    Where there is a victim and an oppressor the loss of neutrality tends to happen unconsciously and frequently works in favour of the oppressor. The victim is aware of this every time. Why is it so difficult to achieve neutrality? The truth is many people are not interested in neutrality because if it was achieved it would be a threat to the status quo. Is the answer to always side with those who say they are victims in attempt to make society fairer? I struggle to wholeheartedly embrace that. I’m a counsellor and I feel in situations where we don’t know someone and have access to the facts there can be great value in being non-judgmental in order to support the emergence of the truth (having said that counsellors do have a responsibility to report risks to clients’ safety and I can’t imagine not believing a client about abuse). At the very minimum though we should all be calling out situations where neutrality is broken in favour of alleged oppressors, whether this is in the media, in the workplace or at home. Neutrality is often an illusion; what is really there is support for the alleged oppressor.

    The photo is by heartlover1717 and is used under a creative commons licence. It shows a close up of a spirit level, with the bubble in between the lines indicating the tool is level.

    Weekly round-up and open thread

    by Lusana Taylor // 5 July 2016, 1:41 pm



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

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

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

    The Reluctant Memoirist (New Republic)

    From the article: “By casting my book as personal rather than professional—by marketing me as a woman on a journey of self-discovery, rather than a reporter on a groundbreaking assignment—I was effectively being stripped of my expertise on the subject I knew best. It was a subtle shift, but one familiar to professional women from all walks of life. I was being moved from a position of authority—What do you know?—to the realm of emotion: How did you feel?”

    Coming Full Circle With Fat Phobia, Anne Wilson, & Self Hatred (Bust)

    Theresa May and the love police (openDemocracy)
    Content warning: suicide, mental health, violence, abuse

    If the above article was of interest to you, you might also be interested in reading Zoe Russell’s piece for the F-Word – ‘How to choose our political leaders‘.

    The media: tired of Theresa May’s shoes, now reporting on her cooking instead (The Pool)

    A note on The Toast (The Toast)

    The Humiliating Practice of Sex-Testing Female Athletes (New York Times)
    Content warning: misgendering

    The EU referendum has caused a mental health crisis (The Guardian)

    From the article: “Anything connected with borders brings with it an association to the body, and the boundary between inner and outer. This elicits primitive anxieties, the fears of both annihilation and colonisation. Such fears are heightened in relation to the EU, which carries associations with our biggest cultural trauma, that of the world wars.”

    Staying alive through Brexit: Racism, Mental Health & Emotional Labour (BDG)

    This isn’t Labour vs Corbyn, it’s the Establishment vs Democracy – and it’s time to pick a side (The Canary)

    From the article: “Given the Brexit vote, there is also a real need to have a clear alternative voice. A voice which stands up for worker’s rights, human rights, environmental protections, the funding for our poorest regions, and all the other safeguards which Europe provided us with. A centre-left/Blairite party will only enable the Tories to decimate the rights we have left.”

    Why don’t we stand with Turkey, like we did with Paris and Orlando? (Independent)

    From the article: “…The persistence of tribal thinking about identity, and the indifference it produces in our news coverage and politics – even in the face of great misery caused by the current wave of Islamist terrorism – is a grim symptom of our political underdevelopment.”

    Punk gave me confidence as a young Black woman to break the mould (Chardine Taylor-Stone at Roundhouse)

    From the article: “Today, those scenes I grew up in where I was often one of the few Black faces are now seeing an influx of kids from different racial backgrounds with Afro Punks, Taqwacore kids and young people who equally love David Bowie as much as they do Stormzy. The notion of a defined subculture has shifted in the age of social media, scenes are now global.”

    #SafetyPin: The simple way to show solidarity with the UK’s immigrant population (Independent)

    Decriminalisation of sex workers in England and Wales backed by MPs (The Guardian)

    Red Cross Apologizes For ‘Super Racist’ Pool Safety Poster (Huffington Post)

    Caroline Aherne: tributes pour in for creative force behind The Royle Family (The Guardian)

    Euthanasia as a Dutch neoliberal success story (Flavia Dzodan at Medium)

    From the article: “The underlying message, one where a life outside the capitalist system of production, a life that requires care (and a budget allocation) is a life that has outgrown its usefulness. The “soft death”, in its pastel colored rhetoric, presented as the lesser form of suffering, the individual triumph over the inevitable. However when all options of care and support are removed, is there really any choice left? When the State insists that the care for those in need should be left in the hands of unpaid neighbors and strangers, the “soft death” for a “completed life” is obliquely presented as the best viable alternative. The supposedly non violent “soft death” as a mask for the violence brought upon by endless budget cuts.”

    UK in breach of international human rights (The Centre for Welfare Reform)

    If you’re interested in the above, you might also like to read Megan Stodel’s recent piece for the F-Word – ‘Challenging austerity’.

    If you didn’t vote to leave the EU (ifyoudidntvotetoleave)

    Women up! In praise of Nicola Sturgeon (language: a feminist guide)

    From the article: “During the General Election campaign it was a constantly repeated truism that women are less competitive and more ‘civilised’ debaters than men: allegedly they do more listening and less interrupting or talking over others. The women who participated in the national TV debates (Sturgeon, Leanne Wood and Natalie Bennett) were repeatedly praised by media commentators for their kinder, gentler approach. But in Sturgeon’s case this was wide of the mark. She was actually the most frequent interrupter in both debates, and the vast majority of her interruptions were challenges to the speaker she was interrupting.”

    Think your child is fat? Well keep your opinion to yourself (The Guardian)

    From the article: “Would you say it to someone you’re not related to? A neighbour? An employee? A passing bus driver? Why are we so much more likely to make rude, upsetting personal remarks to people we care about than people we don’t? So much unhappiness and pain could be avoided if we all tried to treat our families with just a fraction of the nervous courtesy we show everyone else.”

    The image is used under a creative commons license with thanks to quantum bunny on Flickr. It shows street art on a brick wall; a ‘stick person’-like figure with its head down and arms hanging limply, in an obvious state of dejection. Around the figure are various other graffiti words, spray-painted in white.

    This month, our guest blogger is Nicola; you can find her personal blog here and her Facebook community here

    I’ve been thinking a lot about bullying over the last five years. I’ve found myself in two jobs where bullying has been an issue within this period of time, so unfortunately I’ve had plenty of incentive to meditate on it. It’s worth it for everybody to think about what bullying is and what it looks like in the workplace so they have the awareness to know how to spot it and prevent it.

    Bullying tends to be commonly discussed with regards to children but research shows that bullying among adults in workplace environments in the UK is actually quite high: nearly a third of people have been bullied at work at some point. Women are more likely to be victims than men regardless of the gender of the bully, which makes bullying in the workplace a feminist concern. In most cases the bully will be a manager, but a co-worker can also be a perpetrator. My own personal experience includes both a bullying manager in one role and a bullying colleague in another.

    In my first experience of bullying at work the manager fit the description of the stereotypical bully people tend to think of; he made unreasonable demands, was authoritarian, aggressive, overly critical, verbally abusive, threatening and had obvious problems managing anger. As a large man he was also physically intimidating. He was an overt bully who targeted many individuals, although some worse than others. As long as people didn’t question him about anything and were always compliant, it was possible to stay in good favour with him. There were many who complained within the team about his managerial methods and we all witnessed his outbursts. As far as I know no formal complaints were made about him, however, and he was promoted within the company while I worked there. Some of my male co-workers obviously admired him. This is the real problem with bullying at work. In many organizations it is allowed to not just survive but to flourish. It is the victims of bullying who are most likely to face harm to their lives and careers. I ended up leaving this job but not before having to take time off work due to stress and having to start taking anti-depressants to help me to cope.

    In my second experience of bullying at work it was much harder for me to realise I was actually being bullied. My work colleague seemed on the surface to be the least likely person to ever bully anybody. She was, to all appearances, friendly, chatty and quite gentle in her demeanour. She was also quite a lot younger than me and physically significantly smaller which made it more difficult for me to think of her as a bully. Her tactics were covert and included things like not giving me information I needed to do my job, not supporting me on certain tasks when she was supposed to, criticising me behind my back and attempting to use others to isolate me. Due to its hidden nature covert bullying is not easy to prove and is likely to leave a victim feeling confused and paranoid. Again when this happened to me I had to leave my job because I had no concrete evidence of what was happening. I just knew that I was too miserable to stay where I was and that something was really wrong. It was only after I had put in my notice in that I had a colleague confirm all of my suspicions and admit to me that she was a witness to my bullying. I never asked her to speak up for me though because I knew if I did, she would probably become the next target of the bully herself. Covert bullying is more likely to be perpetrated by women and is also commonly described as “relational aggression”. This is not to say women never use overt bullying methods; in some cases they do.

    Bullying is able to thrive in workplaces because they often adopt anti-feminist principles such as a focus on competition, individuality over community, status and materialism. In addition, some people are not sure what qualifies as bullying.

    Bullying can be connected to ‘difference’, which leaves those from minority groups particularly at risk. For women, it can frequently focus on issues related to physical appearance and popularity.

    As feminists I feel we all have a responsibility to educate ourselves on bullying and support victims, regardless of gender, when we witness it. We also have a responsibility to check (being completely honest) if we are using any bullying behaviours at work ourselves. If we are, then we need to make serious efforts to learn how to empathise with others and change our ways.

    The photo is by Quinn Dombrowski and is used under a creative commons licence. It shows a banner being held up, which reads “STOP WORKPLACE BULLYING / FREE YOUR SPEECH / SPEAK YOUR MIND / WITH NOT FEAR / STOP POLICE VIOLENCE / SCHOOL FOR ALL / PRISON FOR NONE”.

    Introducing July’s guest blogger

    by Megan Stodel // 1 July 2016, 7:23 am


    Thanks so much to the A Level students who have been blogging for us throughout June; if you’ve enjoyed their posts, you can follow their teacher-coordinator @msnotmrsormiss.

    Now as we move into July, we have Nicola blogging for us. Here’s her introduction:

    Nicola is a 35-year-old mixed race woman of white British and black Jamaican and Nigerian descent. She has recently qualified as a therapeutic counsellor and enjoys writing on feminist and social issues. She is particularly interested in writing on gender and race. She has a personal blog and a feminist community on Facebook.

    I can’t wait to read Nicola’s posts this month!

    Although we’ve selected all the monthly bloggers for the year, there are still lots of ways to contribute, with blog posts, features or reviews. We’re also currently hiring for new editors. Get in touch if you’re interested!

    The photo is in the public domain. It shows four deckchairs on a rocky beach facing the sea; three are green and white striped, one is blue and white striped. They are shot from behind. Four seagulls fly low over them.

    Let’s get something really clear. Having women in positions of power is not always good for all women.

    I support having more women involved in politics. The fact that we are so underrepresented in parliament is a problem. Generally speaking, women are better-placed to debate issues that affect women disproportionately or differently and more likely to raise these issues in the first place (which is also an argument for more diversity and a more representative parliament in general).

    I stand by that. But this is a trend, not an absolute rule. Our predictions on how people behave are honed by the information we hold. If I have a 20-year-old friend living in Bristol who’d voted in the referendum, I’d probably guess they voted to remain in the EU, given that both their city and their age group went this way, but if they’d told me they were looking forward to taking back control, I’d re-evaluate my opinion. New information changes things. Probabilities fluctuate.

    It worries me to see, in articles, blog posts and my social media feeds, some people considering the Conservative leadership race and coming to the conclusion that we’re on track for a woman to be Prime Minister, which will be good from a feminist perspective.

    The thing is, we know more about Theresa May than her gender. We know that she would like to see us withdraw from the European Convention on Human Rights (though since announcing her leadership bid she has said she will not continue campaigning for this). We know that one of her first acts as Home Secretary was to ensure public bodies no longer had to actively try to reduce inequality. We know that she has a fierce anti-immigration stance and allowed “the state-sponsored abuse of women” at Yarl’s Wood, a detention centre primarily for women waiting to be deported.

    Are we seriously suggesting that May will be a champion for women’s rights? Do we really believe that any concern will stretch to the most underprivileged and marginalised in society?

    Unfortunately I’m not in a position to advise you on a serious feminist contender in this race. I’m certainly not advocating any of the alternatives, who include opponents of gay marriage and who all voted against accepting unaccompanied child refugees from Syria. I just need to point out that, if we know that somebody has acted in a way that suggests they would not protect women’s rights, we cannot expect their election will bring unstinted joy. We had Margaret Thatcher; we know it’s not a given that women Prime Ministers will strive for equality or even promote other women into their cabinet.

    I concede that there is one argument that remains standing after this. There’s this idea that one reason why it takes so long to get representation is because we learn from the structures we see; if we never see women in positions of power, then we don’t have the same aspirations as men to reach those positions. Obviously, this is complex, but I do think it is important to have role models.

    Putting aside the fact that we might not want our children to aspire to be exactly like Thatcher, this is still a problematic consideration in the current climate. Implementing Brexit and dealing with the aftermath is likely to be a thankless task. With the economy in peril and uncertainty about the deal that could be on the table, whoever is the next Prime Minister is likely to be one of the least popular ever.

    I can certainly envisage the commentary on this as a woman steers the country; despite the inevitability of a bad outcome, she will be blamed, and I’d be prepared to bet that some of that blame will circle around women not being cut out to be leaders.

    Again, that doesn’t mean we should cynically reject the idea of having a woman lead us at this point. It just means that if the only reason we are backing her is because she can be a positive role model, our reasoning may be flawed.

    I desperately want to see a more representative parliament. I believe in the collective power of women to change discourse and improve the lives of people in the UK. But we are in danger of overlooking facts that should be key to deciding our leaders if we prioritise electing a woman regardless of their relevant track record.

    The photo is by Policy Exchange and is used under a creative commons licence. It shows Theresa May from the shoulders up in front of a banner that reads “Policy Exchange” all over it.

    Challenging austerity

    by Megan Stodel // 29 June 2016, 6:44 pm

    Tags: , , , , , ,

    At the moment, the UK is still part of the United Nations (although who knows what Nigel Farage will set his sights on next after he’s finished reeling off supervillain soundbites to the European Parliament and realised that achieving his life’s ambition could make him obsolete).

    Therefore, we should pay lots of attention to its decision that the UK’s austerity policies put it in breach of its human rights obligations. The concluding observations of its report notes that:

    – the UK’s tax policies, which often penalise the poorest and reward the richest, inhibit equality;
    – austerity measures have had a disproportionate negative effect on more marginalised and disadvantaged citizens;
    – restrictions to legal aid are inhibiting access to justice;
    – the Equality Act 2010 has not been fully enforced and is not applicable at all in Northern Ireland;
    – asylum seekers are not supported and are overly restricted by not being permitted to work;
    – migrant workers in particular are more likely to work in abusive working conditions;
    – violence against women and girls with disabilities is not being addressed;
    – the gender pay gap is significant;
    – the National Living Wage is not sufficient;
    – zero hours contracts are disproportionately impacting women;
    – there are high levels of homelessness;
    – more needs to be done to reduce reliance on food banks.

    That’s just a taster. As you can see, it’s quite wide-reaching. But what I see here, broadly, is condemnation of an approach to running the country that does not consider that damage done to marginalised groups and is content to pay lip service to important principles while acting in a way that undermines our humanity. The UN is warning us about this. It is recommending that our government reviews its policies and works to limit the harm they are causing already disadvantaged groups.

    This was published the same day that we heard the results of the referendum. These findings are, obviously, relating to a pre-Brexit UK. I wrote very recently about my concerns around leaving the EU, some of which related to a possible recession leading to more, deeper austerity and the removal of existing regulations to promote businesses’ interests over those of their workers.

    When George Osborne finally emerged, a few days after the value of the pound fell off a cliff, he was as predictable as I’d feared.

    Firstly, he took the opportunity to congratulate himself on the very measures that the UN is criticising. Thank goodness, he told us, that we had endured years of painful austerity (which some people probably found more painful than others, though he didn’t say that). This meant we were ready for economic catastrophe (such as, presumably, the downgrading of our credit rating, the very thing we’d been told we were having the cuts to avoid, yet the ratings were quick casualty of the market’s uncertainty about the UK).

    And then he warned us: “It will not be plain sailing in the days ahead.” Unlike, presumably, the calm cruise we’d been enjoying on our diamond-studded yachts up until this point.

    Later, he confirmed his expectation that the next Prime Minister will have to take further austerity measures to cope with the referendum fallout.

    No. Nope. This isn’t good enough. Years of austerity have had a lasting impact. We’ve seen the slow continual crushing of a disempowered population, with a devastating swipe every now and then to a disadvantaged group, while the richest individuals and companies are appeased with tax cuts. And given that the referendum result is a strike against the status quo, some of the votes are likely to have been influenced by the effects of austerity.

    We’re in danger of austerity becoming seen as the only way of dealing with economic downturns. Yet as the UN points out, the path that the UK has been going down is exacerbating inequalities and causing real hardship.

    The photo is by Clayton Shonkwiler and is used under a creative commons licence. It shows graffiti stencilled onto a wall, reading “FUCK AUSTERITY”, with a star with an upwards arrow going through it underneath.

    Weekly round-up and open thread

    by Lusana Taylor // 27 June 2016, 11:33 pm



    No matter where you are on the political spectrum, you’ll no doubt agree it’s been a pretty eventful week. This round-up is already quite Brexit-heavy, but please also take the time to read Megan Stodel’s piece on “the next steps” after the referendum result. With incidents of racial abuse reportedly on the rise, a particularly useful article from the selection below is the one from United Against Racism which gives you tips on what to do if you witness this sort of abuse in a public place.

    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 have read any articles on these important topics that you think we’ve missed out, please let us know in the comments section below or on Twitter/Facebook.

    Funding cuts could leave victims of domestic violence with nowhere to go (The Conversation)

    I want my country back: the country of Jo Cox, not Nigel Farage (New Statesman)

    Why I will be leaving Brexit Britain (The Guardian)

    This country is no longer safe for immigrants (The Independent)

    Whose women? (language: a feminist guide)

    From the article: “Writing in the wake of the Charleston shootings, the sociologist Lisa Wade characterised these references to ‘our women’ as ‘benevolent sexism’—treating women as precious but fragile creatures who depend on men to protect them. I’m familiar with this concept, but I’ve never been keen on the term. When men say ‘our women’ they are staking a claim to ownership, treating women not merely as men’s property, but as the exclusive property of men from a particular racial, ethnic or national group.”

    Gendervague: At the Intersection of Autistic and Trans Experiences (National LGBTQ Task Force)

    London as a separate city-state? The capital needs to check its privilege (The Guardian)

    On being a brown-skinned Brit in a post EU referendum world (The Pool)

    The Flaws in Literally Checking Your Privilege (Crippled Scholar)

    Interview With a Woman Who Recently Had an Abortion at 32 Weeks (Jezebel)

    WHO, IF NOT YOU? How you can intervene when witnessing racist assaults (United Against Racism)

    These are scary times for people of colour. It’s time for a big conversation (The Guardian)

    The image is used under a creative commons license with thanks to M Reza Faisal on Flickr. It is a landscape image of a lake in the evening time. The sky is deep blue and there are some stars visible in the right hand corner of the photograph. Land across the lake is blanketed in shadow and reflected in the water. There are wisps of cloud still in the sky, as well as a streak of yellow just on the horizon.

    Yesterday, the UK voted to leave the EU. Today, we need to start thinking about what that means and make sure we are as ready for it as we can be.

    It’s very early days and there’s a phenomenal amount that we don’t know yet, from timescales to leaders to which countries will make up the UK in future. However, leaving the EU will almost definitely lead to some scenarios that have the potential to be awful for women’s rights and equality more broadly. This post is not about getting scared, although I recognise and defend our right to voice our fears in an uncertain time. I want to start identifying risks so we can act sooner to defend ourselves.

    I wrote earlier in the week about important legislation and regulation that we owe to the EU, which includes broad anti-discrimination laws as well as specific directives on things like equal pay, part-time workers and maternity leave, and important case law relating to LGBT and disability rights. In some cases these are also enshrined in British law; in some cases they are not. We need to make sure that we receive the same rights and protections when the UK comes to the point of redefining itself by working through which EU laws to keep and which ones to ditch. Given that much has been made of the ‘unnecessary’ level of EU regulation in this campaign, including criticism of some of these very protections, it is far from guaranteed that everything will be copied over. And even things the UK (sometimes grudgingly) adopted itself through EU influence might not be secure. Expect loud announcements about cutting red tape for businesses for the good of the economy to have limitations of workers’ rights in the small print.

    And the economy is likely to be an issue. You don’t have to know much about it to feel a chill when you see a graph that shows the value of the pound freefalling. It’s hard to know what the future will bring, but it seems likely that the question will be how much damage there will be rather than if there’ll be any. Forget about the £350 million that the Leave campaign said could go the NHS instead of the EU; Nigel Farage admitted it was a mistake to claim that almost as soon as the votes were counted. The reality is the UK will be poorer from this decision.

    With a recession a possibility, we know that the people who can afford it least are often the worst hit by economic unrest. This comes through job losses, elimination of much-needed benefits and a reduction in funding for vital public services, which this time will also be damaged by the removal of EU funding. We also know that women are disproportionately harmed by austerity. According to the House of Commons Library last year, 85% of cuts up to that point had been at the expense of women, who are often primary caregivers and lower earners.

    Meanwhile, people are already sensing that they live in a less tolerant society. Across social media, there are reports of racist and xenophobic incidents and comments to people who are from the EU originally, but also people from other countries and people of colour from anywhere including the UK. Although we are constantly reminded that not all Leave voters would share these sentiments, it is all too clear already that this vote has given some the feeling that they are free to abuse others based on a spurious sense of ‘Britishness’.

    This is all terrible. I may be missing things; I may be unduly pessimistic. But to have any meaningful impact on these sorts of issues we need to start planning and acting soon. As changes in government occur, we need to be mindful of who might be our allies in positions of power and how best to engage with them. We need to be alert to proposed legislation and the process by which the UK decides on which bits of EU law to keep. We need to write to our MPs and media before the bad shit is announced, before it’s decided, and advocate for a process that is aware of the impact on groups that are discriminated against or are particularly vulnerable. We need to call for a gender audit of any cuts that meaningfully influences their direction or calls into question their necessity, and indeed call for measures that fall disproportionately on the richest and most able to cope, rather than the poorest. We need to ensure those that represent us know that they need to prove that our departure from the EU won’t be representative of an acceptance of xenophobia, rather than just claiming it.

    In fact, although the level of uncertainty is daunting, it also shows how little has been decided at this point; this makes for a real opportunity to have some impact before everything is in ink. We’ll do all this better in groups, if we come together and focus on making sure these outcomes aren’t inevitable.

    Let’s start now.

    The photo, in the public domain, shows a European Union flag (dark blue with a ring of yellow stars), torn at the edges, fluttering on a flagpole against a cloudy sky. Coniferous trees edge the picture.

    This month, our guest bloggers are several A level students, coordinated by their teacher. They tweet @msnotmrsormiss

    The writer of this piece, JN, is 17 and studies French, German, English language and sociology.

    Content warning: this post contains examples of homophobic language.

    The UK is, generally speaking, one of the best places to be gay in the world. Despite this, and the supposedly large amount of work being done to eliminate homophobia within schools, there is still a large amount of prejudice, not only directly towards the LGBT community, but those who fit the stereotypes of gay men and women, particularly concerning perceived masculine and feminine traits. The words “gay” and “queer”, used as pejorative terms, are still part of the lexicon of many young people. In 2012, Stonewall published a report of research undertaken by Cambridge University, which found that 55% of all lesbian, gay and bisexual young people experienced regular homophobia, and 99% of those interviewed had heard the word “gay” used as a pejorative adjective. This can also be seen when it comes to women who are perceived to have masculine traits, and are therefore labelled as “dykes” or “lesbians”. This supposed offence against gender normativity is used as a vehicle for hatred in our society.

    This study mirrors my own experience. I have witnessed, occasionally, my heterosexual classmates become abusive and rude when an LGBT person so much as looks at them or talks to them. Some of my fellow students feel that it is acceptable to use the terms “gay”, “queer” or “faggot” in everyday situations, without directly alluding to the LGBT community at all.

    This is due to the lack of education surrounding the LGBT community in schools and how to act respectfully around people. I have never had a single lesson on how to respect the LGBT community, which I believe would be beneficial for the whole school as it will vastly improve the school lives of those students who are discriminated against based upon their sexuality. This is because queer politics has never been included as part of the exam syllabus – even in current affairs-based subjects like politics and sociology. Teachers who are increasingly under pressure by our education system to help their students attain higher and higher grades will never teach extra subjects that will not appear in the exam; this incudes gay rights. But as feminism has retained its place in the A-Level politics courses, why shouldn’t gay rights and queer politics be included? Both movements are concerned with equality and gender roles, and as feminists dispute the link between biology and destiny, LGBT people are harmed by society forcing gender roles and heteronormativity upon them. Gender roles are often enforced by wider society on same-sex relationships: think of all the people who say to same-sex couples, “Which one of you is the man/woman in the relationship?” This is down to an ignorance in our society, caused by a lack of education.

    Should schools put education in place against homophobia and transphobia, it will also help those who are struggling with issues of sexuality to feel more comfortable, and those being bullied, as the stigma around being gay would lessen significantly.

    The image is by David Morris. It shows an anti-LGBT bullying poster on a wall. At the top it reads “Every year thousands of students in colleges and universities are bullied for being lesbian, gay, bisexual or trans”, followed by four photographs of people’s faces, followed by text reading “STAMP BULLYING OUT!”. The poster is green and black. It clearly continues and only the top part is shown.

    Weekly round-up and open thread

    by Lusana Taylor // 22 June 2016, 11:41 pm


    4846004753_d0f01fce99_zA slightly late round-up this week (apologies!) and a somewhat somber set of news stories. If you have read any articles on these important topics that you think we’ve missed out, please let us know in the comments section below or on Twitter/Facebook.

    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.

    Biphobia and the Pulse Massacre (Elle Dowd via Medium)

    From the article: “Being bi comes with the double edged sword of ‘passing.’ Because I’m married to a man, and because of my high femme gender presentation, most people will assume I am straight. I do not have to worry that when I hold my spouse’s hand in public that someone will beat me. I do not worry about the state refusing to recognize my marriage. I do not worry about losing my job for being queer. I do not worry that a car driving by will roll down the window and scream slurs at me about my orientation.

    But the horrible thing about ‘passing privilege’ is the closeting, the erasure. And never have I felt that so keenly as I feel it today while I mourn Orlando.

    ‘Passing privilege combined’ with bi erasure and femme invisibility means that unless I tell someone ‘I’m queer’ they will probably assume I’m straight. It means that when I come out to people, they don’t get it, I don’t fit the narrative they are used to hearing…”

    LA Weekly Music Columnist Writes About Sky Ferreira In A Really Gross, Sexist Way (laist)

    How I learned to stop worrying and empty my shelves (Literary Hub)

    From the article: “I regularly encounter the idea, both explicitly and implicitly, that a large personal library indicates far more than a disposition toward collecting and displaying books. Bookshelves double as lifestyle objects, visual shorthand for a certain intellectually oriented way of being in the world that all should aspire to and that writers especially ought to adopt. Owning books from an unwritten list of acceptable and admirable texts is not just a signal of one’s literary interests but of their values, their character, and even their erotic potential. The director John Waters is frequently credited with the warning, “If you go home with somebody, and they don’t have books, don’t fuck ’em!” Physical evidence of a love of reading is seen as a moral good. To be bookish is to have an elevated understanding of the universe itself, a special deal with what we might have called the holy in another time.

    While calling something a ‘lifestyle object’ can run the risk of appearing to disparage it as frivolous or somehow inauthentic, I disagree. Everything from an Amazon Echo to a religious symbol worn around the neck can be seen as a lifestyle object: a material thing that signals a more significant meaning about the life of its owner than its exclusively decorative or functional purpose…”

    Why is no one talking about Mexico’s gay bar massacre? (Dazed Digital)

    From the article: “… The Mexican government initially dismissed the killing as a “territorial fight over drug sales” – though LGBT activists in the country have apparently disputed those claims. According to them, the authorities are ignoring the “homophobic aspect” of the attack: a theory that’s supported by the heightened risk of violence faced by many in the queer Latinx community.”

    This Father’s Day, I’m giving my dad the gift of feminism (Independent)

    Sayeeda Warsi quits leave campaign over ‘hateful, xenophobic’ tactics (The Guardian)

    EVENT: Pride is a protest! – The radical roots of Pride, 18:30, 23 June (THIS THUR)

    Pimp State: Sex, Money and the Future of Equality by Kat Banyard – review (The Guardian)

    Don’t preach to prostitutes, says Charlotte Shane (The Spectator)

    Jo Cox was working on report on anti-Muslim attacks before her death (Guardian)

    The image is used under a creative commons license with thanks to likeaduck on Flickr. It shows small yellow flowers. One is sharply in focus and in bloom in the foreground and others appear in the background, closed and slightly blurred.

    This week

    by Megan Stodel // 17 June 2016, 7:42 pm

    Tags: , , , , , , , ,

    As I sit down to write, I don’t know exactly what this post is going to do. I don’t have answers. I don’t know how we should respond to this. I don’t know what action we need to take. But I have to write something, even if it is emotional, incoherent, lost. The only thing I can hope for is that what I’m writing mirrors what some of you are feeling and we can feel some sort of recognition in a world that I don’t understand.

    Less than a week ago, we learnt of the horrifying mass shooting in Orlando, a homophobic attack in a gay club on a Latin Night that claimed the lives of at least 49 people. We saw hatred manifesting itself in the senseless murder of innocent people. The feelings after this are a paradox. An overload of emotions that leaves numbness. The shock and denial, the disbelief, and yet, for so many LGBT people, the recognition, the knowledge we hold with us that there are people who hate us, who would harm us if they could. I have cried more in public in the last week than I probably have in my adult life, with despair and fear and anger. But I have also felt the most profound, overwhelming sense of love for the LGBT people in my life, so diverse and individual, from my closest friends and my family to people I’ve worked with, people who I only knew online but were part of my support network when I was 14, people I’ve met once at a club or LGBT event. I desperately want all of them to be safe. I don’t know how to do that.

    While many of us were still trying to comprehend the news from the USA, yesterday, Jo Cox, Labour MP for Batley and Spen, was murdered before her constituency surgery. These events are not directly related, but this, too, seems motivated by hate. I have long admired Jo’s work, as an MP and before, with her advocacy on behalf of refugees, her firm belief in gender equality and the humanity with which she approached everything. While there is still much that we do not know about the attack, there is mounting evidence that it will have been an attack on her values – the values that many of us will share and hold to tightly. Many of the articles I have read about Jo have focused on her position as an MP, which is important, but this act of violence terrorises beyond the political. The targeted values are intensely personal as well.

    For both of these events, I can’t write beyond emotion. I know I should be using this space to urge you to do this or think that or to criticise the media or society at large or my social media feeds. But I can’t do any of that. It’s too early for me to fight. All I can do is affirm how wretched things are and hope that we find a way to make sure this week never repeats itself.

    In recognition of the lack of direction in this post, I am using this space to share some of the posts about Orlando and Jo Cox that I have seen over the past several days. I don’t know if I support everything in all of them, but I hope that some of you may find something in these that resonates with you and helps you see your way forward.

    In no particular order.

    Love is losing (Medium)

    To my heterosexual friends: this is why Orlando hurts (John Peart)

    Fuck Your Prayers for Orlando (Medium)

    Orlando (Blillies)

    Here Is What LGBT Muslims Want You To Know After The Orlando Shooting (Buzzfeed)

    We are Not Orlando: Spurious Community Building and the Failure to Name the Problem (Reading Medieval Books)

    Thoughts: What can I do about #Orlando? (London Queers)

    Kissing my girlfriend at the Zodiac: gay bars are everything straight people take for granted (The Guardian)

    A day of infamy (The Spectator)

    The Politics of Hate (London Review of Books Blog)

    On Jo Cox, The EU Referendum And British Identity (Rife)

    Jo Cox: The language of hate has no place in politics (Newsweek)

    This is what a fascist looks like (Media Diversified)

    The murder of Jo Cox (My Elegant Gathering of White Snows)

    If you have other articles you have found helpful, please post them in the comments.

    The image by Fibonnaci Blue is used under a creative commons licence. It is a photo taken at a vigil to unite in the wake of the Orlando Pulse shooting in Minneapolis, Minnesota. It shows a crowd of people outside, with a rainbow flag held by someone flying in the wind.

    Looking different

    by KS5 PolSoc // 16 June 2016, 7:19 am

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    This month, our guest bloggers are several A level students, coordinated by their teacher. They tweet @msnotmrsormiss

    The writer of this piece, NHL, is 16 and studies Theatre Studies, Spanish and English Lit.

    A few months ago, I was shopping with my twin brother (big mistake) and a girl turned round and looked at what I was wearing. I didn’t notice but my brother did. He instantly told me what happened and asked me if I thought she was attracted to me. Now, I know my friends and I are constantly looking at other girls’ clothes and hair; however, it appears this ritual is absolutely unknown to boys. My brother just interpreted her checking out my clothes as her checking me out. It was not that she was interested in me but my clothes, yet he still didn’t really believe me and was unconvinced.

    The interaction between masculinity and sexuality for boys is overwhelming. I have noticed this increasingly by noticing the things I will do with my friends and the things he does not with his. For instance, when sleeping over with friends, we just all end up sharing four mattresses between the eight of us and no one blinks an eye because it’s just fun. My brother wouldn’t dream of doing in fear of being called “gay”, which is outrageous and upsetting because it must create boundaries between your friends due to weird concerns relating to masculinity. Boys really have to always to be on guard with how they present themselves. After asking him a few questions (for which I had to be nice to him for whole day in order for him to answer without being pissed at me), I soon discovered that even showing a slight sign of individuality is then followed up by being called “gay”.

    I have no clue if my brother enjoys fitting in with everyone else and finds comfort in this or if he is just going along with what he knows. In my town, most teenagers end up wearing the same thing, especially boys, and everyone appears extremely conformist. Sure, a lot of the girls also wear the same things, thanks to so-called fashion, however there are undoubtedly more girls that are wearing more unusual things, which they clearly like and want to wear because they make them feel more confident. These girls however are not called “gay”, but are even slightly admired because they aren’t afraid to wear a strange shaped hat. Where does this dislike of unusual things come from among boys my age?

    I believe that to some point the media may be to partly blame. When I think of celebrities that wear what they want, only female ones come to mind: Miley Cyrus, Rihanna, Charli XCX, Nicki Minaj and I am sure many more. These celebrities are idols of many and therefore encourage people to be themselves, complete individuals, weird and wonderful. Although there are male celebrities also who are willing to be out there, I don’t think they are as celebrated for this. This may be because boys don’t idolise people who aren’t afraid to be truly themselves; if this is true, I have no idea why. I would ask my brother but to ask that question I would have to be nice to him for a couple of weeks, like I did when I wanted him to unblock me from Instagram.

    This is why boys need feminism as well. Feminism is for everyone that wants an equal world where stereotypes do not stop people from doing what they want or, more optimistically, where stereotypes do not exist. It is extremely sad that boys may choose not to explore what their fashion style is because they don’t want to be called “gay”, and that this can be seen as an insult at all.

    The image is in the public domain. It shows lots of gummy bears in neat rows. All of them are the same translucent pale colour, apart from one red one.

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