Since 2011, the Home Office has been using incorrect information about Albania that may have led to the deportation of lesbian, gay and bisexual (LGB) asylum seekers. The expert evidence they have been using was ruled as impermissible almost six years ago, but has been used continually since then.

It’s disturbing to think that people persecuted for their sexuality may have been driven from safety to harm, but unfortunately not surprising. Theresa May, as Home Secretary between 2010 and 2016, oversaw an asylum system that made it almost impossible to claim asylum on the basis of sexual orientation, while keeping people in horrendous detention conditions.

Information used by the Home Office to determine whether any individual country is a risk for LGB asylum seekers comes from their country of origin information (COI). In the case of Albania, it seems like required updates were excluded. However, for many other countries, COI is not good enough either.

There are 72 countries where it is illegal for a woman to have sex with a woman or a man to have sex with a man, as well as others where it is technically not a criminal act but still receives harsh social punishment. A cursory glance at the COI used by the government reveals there are only 40 countries that warrant any information, some of which are not places where being LGB is dangerous. This alone suggests that the Home Office is not fully informed.

Alternatively, the Home Office is not transparently publishing all their COI. In Cameroon, it is illegal for a woman to have sex with a woman or a man to have sex with a man. The government will be well aware of this, as it was the country of origin of one of the defendants in a landmark case in 2010 that meant the Home Office could no longer reject cases on the basis that people should be able to hide their sexual orientation by being discreet in their home countries. Despite this, the COI for Cameroon does not include a section relating to sexual orientation. However, when I checked this in 2013 as part of a research project, this section did exist. At the time, it had last been updated in 2008. I therefore believe that only COIs that have been updated very recently are available online, which disguises the fact that in many cases, the government is relying on information that is very old and potentially outdated.

Looking at the COI that exists, 21 countries have sections relating to sexual orientation and gender identity. Not all the countries that criminalise men having sex with men or women having sex with women are among these; Angola, Egypt, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kuwait, Libya, Myanmar, parts of the Palestinian territories, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen all have COI available that lacks a section on sexual orientation.

The issues faced by women and men can be quite distinct. The barriers women face can include:

  • being under particular pressure to get married or have children (and therefore not being believed in claims about their sexual orientation)
  • holding less autonomy over their movement or being unable to live alone (and therefore not being able to relocate internally to escape socially-led persecution locally)
  • being treated differently by the law (and therefore being perceived as less at risk)
  • However, 17 of the 21 existing sections do not have specific passages relating to barriers and harms that are gendered. Where this distinction is not made, the information often reads with an assumption that men are the primary focus or primarily using sources that relate specifically to the experiences of men.

    Where there are separate sections concerning women and men, the section relating to women is often shorter. For example, the section relating to women in the Afghanistan COI is roughly quarter the length of the section relating to men. The section that is specific to women is titled “Lesbians”, bluntly erasing the lives and experiences of bisexual women and other women who have had sex with women. Half of this short section is dedicated to whether or not lesbians exist at all in Afghanistan; luckily, it does concede that “their presence was confirmed in an October 2016 article by the BBC”.

    It is shameful that the government has been using information about Albania that was known to be inaccurate. The Home Office should take this opportunity to review how it records, updates and uses COI when considering cases relating to sexual orientation across the board, as Albania may be just one example of a much wider problem.

    The image is by Hanna Sörensson and is used under a creative commons licence. It shows a close up of part of an illuminated globe, which glows warmly orange. The background to the picture is darkness.

    Weekly round-up and open thread

    by Lusana Taylor // 15 May 2017, 10:56 pm

    Tags:

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

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

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

    Study on HIV & pregnancy preventing vaginal ring launched (New Vision)

    From the article: “Reported in Uganda publication New Vision. The success of this study could mean a massive reduction in the transmission of HIV – Experts say over 500 girls get infected with HIV every week and that the teenage pregnancy rate is very high.”

    Global contraceptive drugs and devices market to surpass US$ 35.7 billion by 2024 (Crossroads Today)

    The Girls’ Soccer Team That Joined a Boys’ League, and Won It (NY Times)

    When you say you’re trans, the constant refrain is ‘Can’t you just not be?’ (CN Lester at The Pool)

    A healthy baby isn’t the only important outcome of birth. A healthy mother is too (Sydney Morning Herald)

    2017 Power Part Time Top 50 (Timewise)

    From the article: “This year’s Power Part Time List of outstanding business leaders includes nine job shares, and over half the people on the list were actually hired on a part time basis, from day one in the role. Proof that employers are getting more creative in shaping roles to attract the talent they want.”

    What We Mean When We Say “Femme”: A Roundtable (Autostraddle)

    From the article: “I want to be the one who gets to ride on the horse and “save” the princess, and I want to do it in a skirt that does the Thing when I spin around.”

    Believe it or not, but the Tories are running an energetic election campaign – you just can’t see it (New Statesman)

    From the article: “The precise message is tailored to target voters. It also remains safely hidden from the scrutiny of the national media, on citizens’ computers and in their local press.”

    Killing the mammy myth: SheaMoisture needs a reminder that black women built its success (Bitch media)

    From the article: “Black women’s uncomplaining fealty is so taken for granted that Black women are expected to operate outside the basic tenets of America’s one true religion—capitalism. We alone are supposed to reward brands with our dollars whether or not they target or value us as consumers. The free market isn’t supposed to be for the likes of us.

    The irony of this situation is that SheaMoisture created the now-infamous ad to woo a non-Black customer base – namely white women. No one expects these women to purchase beauty products that do not center them. A brand has to demonstrate that it recognizes and can fulfill white women’s beauty needs…”

    Sex Work Is Inherently Traumatic… but not the way you think it is, and if you’re a civvie it’s probably partially your fault (Kit Snicket at Medium)

    From the article: “People think that the emotional pain that comes from sex work is the emptiness that must come with offering your body up to strangers, but it isn’t. Clients come and go, if all goes well they leave no mark. The pain comes from others. Being reduced to nothing but your job by somebody you thought was a friend is some real fucking emotional pain. Never being just Kit, but being Kit the whore, is pain, especially when you’re constantly bombarded by messages saying that your labor makes you different, even subhuman. Especially when you’ve been hearing that hookers aren’t the same as women since before it occurred to you that you might not be able to make it as a ballerina or a princess or a painter.”

    9 Ways You Don’t Realise You’re Being Internally Misogynistic Towards Your Mom (Buzzfeed)

    If you’re interested in the above article you might also like to check out Hannah Murden’s piece for the F-Word: Can mum be the word when it comes to modern feminism?

    Nicola Sturgeon: I have a ‘girl job’ – it’s called running the country (inews)

    To The Woman Who Talked Me Out Of Having An Abortion (Taryn de Vere at Medium)

    Tesco replaced their Merseyside model’s voice with a “posh” woman – why? (The Pool)

    From the article: “It’s as if we’re only allowed to be visible as women if our voices imply a certain level of wealth, education and class. We all know that feminism has a privilege problem, and that it’s the women who have the most who are most likely to speak out and be listened to.”

    COMMENT: Places that are still safe if you are white (Nayuka Gorrie at NITV) [Satire]

    From the article: “In a bold move of ‘reverse racism’ last week Narrm based blak arts collective, Real Blak Tingz exhibited “Unnaturalized”, as part of Yirramboi festival. Part of the work has drawn criticism from noted supporters of Aboriginal people, including the Herald Sun.”

    The image is used under a creative commons license with thanks to vonguard on Flickr. It shows a person in a pink patterned vest top, black trousers and sunglasses stood in front of a wall covered in street art. The most prominent image on the wall is of a person with a bandana wrapped around their hair. They have one fist raised in the air; their mouth open as if perhaps chanting at a protest. The person in the foreground is mirroring the pose, with one fist raised high in the air.

    This is a guest post by Jackie Thomas. She is a feminist, a Francophile and lectures at university. She loves the analysis of painting and film, and has never been a supporter of referendums

    Like half a million women in the UK, my late mother was diagnosed with dementia. Dementia affects 46 million people worldwide, of which 58% live in emerging economies. This figure is expected to rise by 2030, particularly in Asia due to the ageing populations of China and India. Although it is a disease that potentially affects us all, the impact of dementia on women is significantly higher. In the UK alone, 61% of those diagnosed are women, and as a result dementia is considered to be the leading cause of death among our female population.

    In addition to this, the caring responsibilities also largely fall upon women, who provide over two and half times more care than men, often sacrificing their careers for part-time employment, family and social relationships. Given how dementia affects women, either directly in the latter stages of their lives, as carers of elderly parents or as employees of healthcare providers, why are we so slow to acknowledge the need for a gender-specific approach to tackling the problem?

    When my mother, a long-serving NHS employee, was diagnosed with vascular dementia and Alzheimer’s I read up on the disease and its treatment. Although I had studied psychology I knew very little beyond the broader label, nor had any clear idea of how to care for her. And despite living in an area which provides outstanding NHS health facilities, frankly no medical professional spelled it out to me in a way that was helpful. Although accompanying my mother on her journey with the disease was one of the most loving mother-daughter experiences I will ever go through, it was also a minefield in terms of diagnosis and health monitoring, and emotionally stressful and physically demanding.

    As with their male counterparts, loss – of the person, their lifestyle and their capabilities – is one of the main features of the disease and the quicker both the person affected and their carers face this the better they can adapt to the challenges and navigate the turbulent road ahead. However, unlike their male counterparts, women’s lives are far more greatly affected by the consequences of the disease.

    For women with Alzheimer’s the loss of memory is crippling, as research shows that they experience a far more rapid decline in their cognitive functions than men. But even worse still is their experience of the disease itself, as a significant number have poorer access to health care in comparison with men. Moreover, women are more likely to be placed on medication for much longer periods which can often affect their physical well-being and how they experience dementia.

    It goes without saying that while we choose as a society not to adopt a more gender-specific approach to dementia treatment, unlike some of our European neighbours, we risk subjecting women at their most vulnerable to poorer health conditions. By not taking women’s particular needs into account or acknowledging the increased power imbalances at play, we leave them susceptible to further gender discrimination. People with dementia are often subject to abuse due to their condition, but this problem for women can be compounded by their gender. We are continuing to fail women in sickness as in health.

    Female carers are exposed to these very same risks. In order to meet the demands of dementia care, many face losing their jobs, missing out on promotions, earning less, as well as the loss of their support and social network. Considering that more than 70% of female carers of people with dementia in the UK are unpaid and fail to receive adequate support, they are also economically disempowered and themselves at risk of poor health and well-being, isolation, depression and eventually dementia itself.

    Although it remains unclear whether dementia was the main cause of my late mother’s death, there is little doubt that the disease took a considerable toll on her body and mind within less than a year of diagnosis. I have lost count of the number of healthcare professionals whom my mother had seen throughout the course of her illness. However, I can certainly count on one hand those who were attentive to my mother’s experience of the disease and how this had potentially been exacerbated by the current gender-neutral approach to her treatment. Dementia receives nowhere near the same level of attention as other life threatening diseases, which without wanting to point the finger do actually affect far fewer people.

    Dementia affects more than twice as many women as any other medical condition. During Dementia Awareness Week (14-20 May) this year we need to see widespread acknowledgement of the disease as a women’s issue, we need to see women’s experiences being incorporated into research in order to improve treatment, and a more person-centred approach to care which takes gender into account.

    Image of an older woman’s hands being held by a younger woman’s

    Courtesy Bournemouth Borough Council on Flickr

    Welcome to this month’s stage blog. We’ve published some great reviews since my last blog in April so check them out if you haven’t already. They’ve been on Oh Yes On No at Camden People’s Theatre, All The Little Lights at the Drum and RUN at The Place.

    At the Royal Court in London Manwatching begins tonight. It is a funny, frank and occasionally explicit insight into heterosexual female desire, read out by a man. The show begins with a male comedian being given a script they have never seen before. They read the script out loud, sight unseen, in front of an audience. This is a show about what one woman thinks about when she thinks about sex with men.

    There are a couple of interesting spoken word shows coming up at the Roundhouse which are part of their The Last Word festival. Firstly there is Francesca Beard’s How To Survive A Post-Truth Apocalypse on 31 May. On this journey the audience will explore make-believe in its many forms – from political spin: “We live in a meritocracy”, to polite half-truths: “Thank you Grandma, I love this cardigan” to our formative memories and our consensus reality. Secondly there is Testament’s The Privilege Show on 7 June which is being created over the next year. Testament has made theatre shows and had his poetry on Radio 4. He thinks he’s a right-on kind of guy. And then his daughter is born and he starts to see the world through her. Maybe what he understood about equality and privilege isn’t as clear cut as he assumed.

    In dance, following a successful international and UK tour, dancers Eleanor Sikorski and Flora Wellesley Wesley, AKA Nora, return to Sadler’s Wells in Lndon on Thursday 1 and Friday 2 June. Nora Invites is a programme of specially commissioned duets by renowned duo Jonathan Burrows and Matteo Fargion, up and coming French choreographer Simon Tanguy and the provocative Liz Aggiss. It should be a thoughtful, engaging programme that brings a distinctive feminist voice to Sadler’s Wells.

    At Soho Theatre from 15 – 17 June will be standup show Rose Matafeo is Finally Dead. Join Matafeo as she commemorates the end of existence while she’s still there to enjoy the party. Expect visits from her mother, impressive lip-syncing, and intern Stephen making his mark on the biggest day of her (after)life.

    At Theatre by the Lake they will be reviving Handbagged on various dates between 16 June and 3 November. Moira Buffini’s sensational comedy looks behind the closed doors of the palace to speculate what really happened when two of the most powerful women in the world clashed. Handbagged will be captioned on 22 August and audio-described on 16 September.

    Flare International Festival of New Theatre in Manchester has just launched its programme for 4 – 8 July. Shows in the listing that leapt out at me were Beauty and the Beast: “Let’s talk about gender baby, let’s talk about you and me… Go crazy and celebrate your dreams and your differences, through the body of a real live superstar. Inspired by the freak shows of the 19th century, this show twists and dissolves body norms and gender binaries” and Actresses Always Lie: “A performance exploration, using the stereotype and universe of ‘the actress’ as a springboard to talk about a wide range of subjects, from gender to trade and precariousness.”

    The National Theatre will mark the 50th anniversary of the partial decriminalisation of homosexuality in England and Wales by staging its first Queer Theatre event series from 6 – 10 July. A group of actors and directors will look at how theatre has charted the LGBT+ experience through a series of rehearsed readings and post-show discussions in the Lyttelton Theatre. Sarah Frankcom, who is one of my favourite directors, will be directing Neaptide, which was astonishingly the National Theatre’s first full-length play by a female playwright in 1986. 1986!

    Registration for the Funny Women Awards 2017 has just opened. You can apply whether you’re a standup, sketch group, script writer or just like making funny YouTube films with your mates and audience members can also nominate their favourite comedy shows too.

    F-Word favourite, Sofie Hagen, will be on tour again between October 2017 and February 2018 after the Edinburgh Festival Fringe this August with her new show Dead Baby Frog. Once again she will be attempting to make the tour anxiety safe by offering accommodations to audience members who get in touch and the toilets will be gender neutral.

    And speaking of Edinburgh, I’m beginning to plan for this year’s festival. If you might like to write for us this year please join the theatre Facebook group, comedy Facebook group or email me. Please also get in touch if you’re going to Edinburgh this year and you’d like us to review you!


    Image descriptions and credits

    Image 1 is a photograph of Francesca Beard by Suzi Corker. Beard is perched on the floor against a wide white background. Her weight is balanced on her crossed legs and her hands which are placed just behind her. She looks straight at the camera and her long dark hair hangs down either side of her face. She wears dark clothes and white trainers.

    Image 2 is of Nora in Bloody Nora by Liz Aggiss. The photograph was taken by The Other Richard. Eleanor Sikorski and Flora Wellesley Wesley are on stage, both wearing strange red outfits which are reminiscent of old-fashioned swimming costumes. They are standing right next to each other, but facing slightly away and pointing at the audience in front as if they are asking them a question.

    Image 3 is of Beauty and the Beast at the Flare Festival and was taken by Marcos Angeloni. It is a photograph of what appears to be a male figure who is naked apart from a scarf around his neck. He is squatting down slightly, facing to the side and holding a microphone up to his mouth with one hand while his other hand is lifted in the air. It is a black and white photograph with strong contrast.

    Weekly round-up and open thread

    by Lusana Taylor // 9 May 2017, 4:37 pm

    Tags:

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

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

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

    It’s a scandal that the Bank of Mum and Dad funds a quarter of property transactions (The Pool)

    The alt-right hates women as much as it hates people of colour (The Guardian)

    Women accuse DVLA of sexism over ‘Mrs’ on driving licence (Evening Standard)

    From the article: “Ms Roberts, from Newcastle-Upon-Tyne had tweeted the DVLA account, writing: ‘Just received my new licence and it is wrong. I asked for no title on but it has come back with one on it. Can this be changed?’

    The DVLA twitter account responded: ‘Hi, the purpose of the title is to allow the system to determine the male or female format of the driver number. I’m afraid it can’t be removed.’”

    How a Frog Became the First Mainstream Pregnancy Test (The Atlantic)

    The Forgotten Story Of The Radium Girls, Whose Deaths Saved Thousands Of Workers’ Lives (Buzzfeed)
    CN: Graphic descriptions of the effects of radium poisoning.

    Nadia Rose’s ‘Skwod’ used to ward off fascists in London (Dazed)

    Resistance: Thank people for their work (This ain’t livin’)

    From the article: “Thanking people for their efforts — from the person who posts a daily list of action items for you to follow to the volunteers who help your organisation function — means a lot, and can help people feel more engaged and committed to a mutual effort of interest or concern. It’s unreasonable to expect people to commit to unpaid labour without any kind of acknowledgment of their work, almost as though ignoring their very existence and focusing on their product will allow you to dodge the question of whether they should be paid. To the contrary, it just makes people feel prickly, unpleasant, and used.”

    More from BADD2017:

    Able Bodied People You Are Not Entitled To Know Details Of Our Disabilities. #BADD2017 (Life Through The Disability Lens)

    Stop Lying To Me About Accessibility (That Crazy Crippled Chick)

    Blogging Against Disablism: Racialised disability employment numbers (This ain’t livin’)

    Dear Science (The one-handed activist)

    From the article: “You want to make the world a better place. This I know. This is why I love you. But in this pursuit of ‘better’, maybe you should consider how you treat the patients you claim to care for.”

    BADD2017: Dehumanization of the Disabled: An Exploration of Fear (So Much Stranger, So Much Darker, So Much Madder, So Much Better)

    From the article: “I believe that the dehumanization of disabled people stems, at least in part, from fear. There is, of course, the fear of what is different from oneself as well as the fear of the other. Yet, I think the biggest fear that contributes to our dehumanization is the fear of mortality. Disabled people are walking (or rolling or however you get around) reminders that our bodies can and will break down and that one day we will all die. People with mental illness or I/DD are reminders that our minds are fragile things that can break down and that one day we may be left as shells of our former selves due to diseases like Alzheimer’s or dementia. We are feared because we remind people that they are not invincible. They see our “broken” bodies and minds and they are reminded that one day they too will have their bodies fail them, that they too may have their minds become foreign.”

    BADD 2017: Ableism – The overlooked bigotry at the root of social injustice (Notes, Notings, and Common Refrains)

    From the article: “Disablism, in other words, is what leads to sympathetic treatment in the media of parents who murder their own disabled children, because of course, they were too heavy a burden to care for. And ableism is what leads to Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA) – which forces autistic children mimic neorotypical people (often through electric shock and withholding food) – to be considered “therapy” rather than torture. Like the filling and bread of a sandwich, the two ideas are not exactly the same, but neither can they exist in isolation.”

    Thanks to the awesome Tara for the following links:

    The Overlooked, Radical History of Black Women in Art (Artsy)

    From the article: “While the show raises timely questions about intersectional feminism, female representation, and gender inequalities—all urgent themes in Trump’s America—perhaps most pertinent is the show’s insistence on reminding us that black women have long faced the perils of a world in which their voices are silenced.”

    Turner Prize: Black painting pioneers break award age barrier (BBC)

    15 Men React To The Idea Of Taking Their Wife’s Last Name After Marriage (Thought Catalog)

    Artemis Is the Queer Girl Goddess BFF of Your Dreams (Autostraddle)

    Woman found guilty and faces year in jail for laughing at Jeff Sessions (Independent)

    Protester featured in iconic Ferguson photo found dead of self-inflicted gunshot wound (St. Louis Post-Dispatch)

    On The Realities Of Being A Black Woman With Borderline Personality Disorder (Fader)

    10 Real Laws Straight Out of The Handmaid’s Tale (Gizmodo)

    The image is used under a creative commons license with thanks to Rita on Flickr. It shows two sunflowers against a blue sky which is slightly overcast with white clouds.

    Weekly round-up and open thread

    by Lusana Taylor // 1 May 2017, 10:43 pm

    Tags: ,


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

    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 ‘body positivity’ lost its true and radical meaning (Dazed)

    Lush might care about the environment, but they don’t seem to care about fat people (The Pool)

    ‘Hundreds of us will die in Raqqa’: the women fighting Isis (The Guardian)

    Theresa May Refuses To Accept Government Responsible For Nurses Using Food Banks (Huff Post)

    Denmark Place arson: Why people are still searching for answers 35 years on from one of the biggest mass murders in our history (Independent)

    Serena Williams calls Ilie Nastase comments ‘racist’ and backs investigation (BBC Sport)

    Dyke Life: An Interview with Eileen Myles (Ray Filar at Verso)

    Bristol’s Colston Hall to drop name of slave trader after protests (The Guardian)

    Labour will block the sale of weapons to repressive regimes if it wins the election (Independent)

    Can’t be bothered to vote? If you’re young, you simply can’t afford not to (Guardian)

    You Aren’t Imagining It, ‘Wonder Woman’ Really Isn’t Being Well Promoted (Uproxx)

    The Dax J incident shows just how insensitive dance music can be (Mixmag)

    Laverne Cox: Trans People Shouldn’t Have to Blend In (Elle)

    Death and terror for LGBT community in Chechnya (Philippa Willitts at Global Comment)

    From the article: “Members of the LGBT+ community in Chechnya are being held in concentration camp-like conditions, and at least four have been killed. Ramzan Kadyrov, the country’s president, has vowed to ‘eliminate’ all gay men by the end of May.”

    How Netflix’s ‘Hot Girls Wanted’ series exploits sex workers in the name of exposing… how sex workers are exploited? (Babe)

    From the article: “…The real names of the sex workers, who go by aliases on the internet, were released and footage of their performances have been streamed to a global audience of millions.”

    Queer Muslim Sex Worker: A documentary (Vada)[Interview with Amy Ashenden, producer of both The Gay Word and new podcast documentary Queer Muslim Sex Worker.]

    From the article: “The world needs to start listening to people like Maryam – we could all learn a lot, the queer community included.”

    Maxine Peake: ‘I’m a Corbyn supporter. We need a coup’ (The Guardian)

    From the article: “What does she think of Theresa May? ‘A terrible politician. How can you like her? And I can’t buy into this thing, “Oh, but she’s a woman.” I don’t care.’ What upsets her about May’s politics? ‘Her lack of care. I mean, we’re talking about another £30 being cut off disability benefits. I cannot believe the callousness. Why are we not in the streets rioting? Why are we not in the streets going, ‘You cannot treat people in this country like that’? It’s absolutely distressing when you go to Manchester and see the homeless people on the street. Every time I go back, there’s more.'”

    Trans Women Don’t Have ‘Male Privilege’ — We Have Something Way More Complicated (Sam Riedel at The Establishment)

    From the article: “Whether you know you’re trans or not, society has many ways of making sure you know the consequences of straying outside your prescribed gender.

    The same hand that extends an invitation into a “man’s world” also shoves these ideas down our throats, so that our sense of identity and self-worth is chiseled away. When we talk about “male privilege,” that’s what we’re really referring to: the demonic barter millions of people have had to make in order to stay alive in a culture that, unconsciously or not, wants them dead or silent.”

    11 remarkable women to celebrate Lesbian Visibility Day 2017 (Pink News)

    BADD 2017- Six ways disablism makes it harder to live with chronic pain (The Goldfish)

    From the article: “We shouldn’t go through what we do – the scrutiny and doubt, the trick questions, the sense of having to justify our existence. But nobody should go through this. Nobody should enter into any process under the working assumption that they are trying to commit fraud. There is nothing special about physical pain.

    All games of legitimacy are disablist games which hurt other disabled people. But they can also effect our own relationship with pain and impairment. If we believe that any functional limitation we have – the inability to work, the need to use a wheelchair or any other kind of assistance – needs to be justified not just with difficulty but with suffering, it becomes extremely easy to start second-guessing ourselves. So we’re in pain, but are we really in that much pain? Could we push ourselves a little harder? If we are enjoying life at all, does that mean we’re not truly suffering and cannot ask for any accommodations?”

    DH Kelly also writes for the F-Word. Here is another recent piece for the F-Word in honour of Blogging Against Disablism Day: Imaginary families and the Social Care crisis

    The image is used under a creative commons license with thanks to Guilhem on Flickr. It is a photograph of street art. A person stands inside a set of concentric circles. The person is dressed in robes and has their hair covered with a scarf or a veil (that doesn’t cover the face). The image is depicted on a plasterboard wall.

    Louisa Adjoa Parker was our guest blogger for April

    The plethora of crime dramas and real-life crime documentaries suggests that we can’t get enough of murder. I enjoy a good whodunit as much as the next woman, but I’m sick of seeing so many – real or fictional – women’s murdered bodies on TV.

    I’d long been conscious that this made me uncomfortable, but it was only when watching BBC4’s O.J.: Made in America that I became distressed. The documentary continuously showed pictures of Simpson’s ex-wife Nicole’s murdered body. It simply wasn’t necessary to keep showing this image. Whenever it came on the screen I covered my eyes and shouted at the TV: “Have a bit of respect!”. I should have stopped watching, but I was fascinated by the story: an interplay of celebrity, ‘race’, media and gender that could only have happened in America.

    I don’t know if Nicole’s family had to give permission for the images to be shown. Whatever the legalities, it felt wrong. If I was killed, I wouldn’t want images of my brutal death on screens across the globe.

    Showing her body on primetime TV was unnecessary. Of course it’s important to expose violence against women. But there are other ways this can be done. Nicole deserved respect in death as she did in life. Her children didn’t need to see their mother reduced to a broken body lying on the floor.

    A friend recommended Spiral recently. The programme began with a murdered woman whose face had been smashed to a pulp. “I expect she was beautiful,” a pathologist said. “That’s why he did this.” So what? I thought, I don’t need to see this misogynistic crap, and turned it off.

    So why do TV producers feel the need to show so many dead women? It’s as though female murder has become ‘sexy’, and it’s a certain type of woman – young, beautiful, white, thin – who is the typical victim. (This in spite of the fact we know that women from all backgrounds can be murdered). We are all too familiar with the stylised image of pale flesh covered in bright blood, the glimpse of a nipple or pubic hair, splayed limbs, long hair fanned across the bed (because all murders take place when a woman is naked in bed, right?).

    There’s nothing sexy about a man (and it’s always a man) ending a woman’s life. The images reduce women to nothing more than bodies, and we have enough of a problem with objectification of women’s bodies already.

    There has been criticism of the high female body count in British TV drama from those within the industry. Helen Mirren told the Observer that she agreed with David Hare’s statement on the bloodthirsty nature of crime drama, and that there was a clear sexual divide with the corpses.

    So what effect can this have on us? Research has shown that watching violence on TV can affect children’s behaviour. Dr Gail Gross writes in the Huffington Post: “There is a chemical change in the brain, similar to that which is seen in post-traumatic stress disorder; if enough violence is viewed, the brain reacts as if the person has actually been abused.” I would imagine this is similar for adults. After watching The Fall I was checking under beds and in wardrobes. It was the same with Luther – friends who are far less anxious than me were checking under their beds after one particular episode. As Alison Graham argued in the Radio Times: “Violence against women in the real world is all too disproportionate and vivid. We don’t need any reinforcement from dramas.”

    These programmes confirm our fears that the world is unsafe for women, and can make us feel that our lives are expendable. They’re not based on reality: it is widely acknowledged that we are far more likely to be murdered by someone we know than by a stranger.

    An example of a detective drama which avoided the portrayal of dead women was ITV’s The Level, starring Karla Chrome who played DS Nancy Devlin investigating the death of a corrupt businessman.

    We need more shows like this – with strong female leads, and interesting stories that don’t have a poor, dead, conventionally beautiful young woman at the centre of them. Killing women isn’t sexy, and the sooner TV producers realise this, the better.

    Image courtesy Austin Chronicle on Flickr

    Image is of a framed photograph of Laura Palmer, the murder victim from TV show Twin Peaks, with candles on each side

    Today is Bloggging Against Disablism Day 2017, a day where disabled and non-disabled people around the world blog about disability discrimination.

    Social care in in crisis. Last year, Age UK reported that 1.2 million older disabled people were not receiving adequate care. This crisis is often presented an inevitable effect of an aging population rather than systematic underfunding by the Conservative and coalition governments.

    In January, MP David Mowatt spoke to the the House of Commons’ select committee on communities and local government, passing the buck onto the family members of care-users;

    “…no one ever questions that we look after our children – that is obvious. No one says that is a caring responsibility, it is what we do. I think some of that logic […] will have to impinge on the way that we think about caring for our parents. Because it is a responsibility in terms of our life cycle which is similar.”

    Disabled adults of all ages are missing out on Social Care (or Independent Living as we used to call it), but most are older people and most of them are women. Women also make up the vast majority of carers and PAs, both unpaid within families and underpaid professionals. Social Care is a feminist issue and the Conservative government’s idealisation of families where women are available, capable and willing to take on any unpaid care work needs to be put to bed with a nice cup of cocoa.

    There are two problems at the heart of the Social Care crisis. One is money; we live in the age of austerity and there are important missile programmes which have to be paid for from somewhere. The second is the Charity Model of Disability; the idea that disabled people exist as objects of charity, for the generosity and warm-fuzzy feelings of non-disabled people. The value of a disabled person is measured by our appeal as a charitable cause; we have to be prove ourselves innocent victims of tragedy, deserving of compassion and it helps if we’re cute. Disabled people’s needs are then met through kindness and compassion and everyone feels good.

    The Charity Model works well if a six year old needs a new wheelchair; folk can put their hand in their pocket, sit in a bath of cold baked beans for an hour and the gratitude in the smiling eyes of that poor wee child makes it all worthwhile. Disabled adults have much less appeal, but our culture still expects our needs to be met this way. Carers – both professionals and unpaid family members – are often portrayed as acting out of kindness, as modern day saints.

    It would be vulgar to talk about money in relation to saints – knowing that they’re doing good is surely reward enough for such people. Carer’s Allowance – awarded to people who perform at least 35 hours a week care without pay – has just gone up by 60p to £62.70 a week. Professional carers are often paid only Minimum Wage, sometimes zero hours contracts, and often paid only for the time they spend with clients when much of their working day is spent travelling between jobs.

    It would be insulting to talk about abuse in relation to saints, despite the fact that carers often yield dangerous levels of power over disabled people, half of all disabled women experience domestic abuse at some point and over half a million older people are abused each year.

    Disabled adults are not like children. While children require guidance in all things, disabled adults need to be allowed to organise our own lives. We need more space, are more cumbersome to move and require considerably greater privacy and autonomy. Even when unexpected, babies usually provide at least a few months warning, while illness and impairment can arrive, or a manageable condition deteriorate, at any time. Few people can organise flexible working hours and a ground floor spare room just in case Granny – who is independent just now – needs live-in assistance.

    People largely choose to have children but nobody chooses to have the parents they have; if people have a poor relationship with their parents, it is of benefit to no-one to place older disabled people in the hands of family members they don’t get along with. Meanwhile, there are plenty of folk who just don’t have any blood family, or any in the country, or any who aren’t already laden with responsibilities.

    This is not the first time that the Conservative administration has implied that everyone has a supportive, geographically close family with a lot of spare rooms, but Social Care requires much more than even those things. I have experienced the gap between deep love and the capacity to help from both directions: I have performed care for others but lacked the physical capacity to do it well. I have had family members do their very best for me while lacking the temperament or patience required. The very best of intentions are not enough.

    We need decently paid professionals funded by the state and real support for those caring for family members. We need this not because we have sympathy for older disabled folk, but because we respect their right to live with dignity, make choices about their lives and continue to contribute to communities around them.

      
    [Image is a photograph of a black woman with grey hair. She is learning against the back of a seat, resting her chin on her hand and looking thoughtfully from a window. This photograph is by Rhoda Baer and is in the Public Domain.]

    Introducing May’s guest blogger

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

    Tags:

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

    In her own words:

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

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

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

    Welcome, Madeleine!

    Featured image by Cody Geary, from Flickr

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

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

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

    Welcome, new editors!

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

    Tags:

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

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

    Sophie Jackson (features editor, working with Pooja Kawa)

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

    Contact Pooja and Sophie with pitches for features at features@thefword.org.uk

    Erin Aniker (visual arts editor)

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

    Contact Erin with pitches for visual arts reviews and section-relevant features at art@thefword.org.uk

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

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

    Image description and credit:

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

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

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

    Mixed race friends

    Louisa Adjoa Parker is our guest blogger for April

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    *name has been changed

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

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

    Weekly round-up and open thread

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

    Tags:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Anyone but the Tories.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Because really…

    Anyone but the Tories.

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

    Courtesy Angie Muldowney on Flickr

    Weekly round-up and open thread

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

    Tags:

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

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

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

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

    Not Now, Not Ever (Fat Heffalump)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Huck Magazine article on indie porn (Pandora Blake)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Being Kinky Doesn’t Make You Queer (Autostraddle)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Reframing sexual violence

    Louisa Adjoa Parker is our guest blogger for April

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Heterosexual civil partnerships

    This is a guest post by Hannah Westwater.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Weekly round-up and open thread

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

    Tags:

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

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

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

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

    18 Powerful Tweets For Transgender Day Of Visibility (Refinery29)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Click here for your spring 2017 playlist.

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

    Introducing April’s guest blogger

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

    Tags: ,

    April guest blogger The F-Word

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

    In her own words:

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

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

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

    Welcome, Louisa!

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

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

    Weekly round-up and open thread

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

    Tags:


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

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

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

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

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

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

    Africa deserves better from Comic Relief (The Guardian)

    Laying Bare (Professionally Resting)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    The comic strip: gender assumptions

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

    Tags: , , , , , ,

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

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

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