Introducing March’s guest blogger

by Amy Grant // 1 March 2017, 7:30 am

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As we say a big thank you to Emma Hamilton for her thought-provoking pieces in February, we move forward to welcome Sally Parkin, our guest blogger for March.

In her own words:

“Born in Leicester, Sally Parkin graduated with a degree in Creative Writing and English Literature, and has worked to support children and adults with additional needs before giving birth to her daughter last year.

Sally is a writer and poet passionate about creative expression and fun education. Her love of literature started as a child with trips to the library and she now enjoys collecting children’s books from charity shops and attending open mic events.

As a new mum, Sally is currently immersed in writing about parenthood and the challenges, pressures and joys that parents face, as well as her own experience of raising a daughter in a capitalist, image-conscious, patriarchal society.

In her spare time Sally paints, reads, plays local league basketball, swims and snorkels, plays the piano and enjoys walks in nature with her partner.”

Welcome, Sally!

Image of a bundle of pencils and pens

Image courtesy Thomas Kristensen on Flickr

Welcome to another (slight 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.

Reflecting On One Very, Very Strange Year At Uber (Susan J. Fowler)

Gluing your labia shut during your period is a bad idea (Dr. Jen Gunter)

on Milo, the limits of free speech, and who gets thrown under the bus (Whipping Girl – Julia Serano)

From the article: “…If we are going to take an unwavering stand against speech acts that we feel may harm, injure, or silence some vulnerable group (e.g., teenage boys), then we should also be willing to admit that we are not standing up for everyone.”

On Milo Yiannopoulos, and the difficulty of activism (OKWonga)

From the article: “I wonder whether part of the current revulsion at Yiannopoulos is due to the fact that, as a gay man apparently approving of sex with underage children, he has reawakened in some minds the barely-hidden conflation of homosexuality and paedophilia. Yiannopoulos often used his sexuality as a shield; he could be as homophobic as he liked, falling back on the defence that he could not be prejudiced since he himself was a gay man. Ironically enough, he may find that – in the bitterest of ironies – his unique brand of identity politics may be used against him.”

Pseudo-Feminist Trolls Are Still Trotting Out Tired, Anti-Trans Ideology (Village Voice)

From the article: “It’s true that many people designated female at birth are largely disenfranchised by a society that at best ignores and at worst reviles things like menstruation, pregnancy, birth, and childcare. Advocating for legislation and direct action that supports people around these experiences is a good thing. But it’s possible to hold these two truths while also understanding that ‘woman,’ as a gender identity, may be influenced by these experiences while not being entirely defined by them. After all, the experience of being a woman involves much more than bleeding — or so I would hope, being a cis woman myself who enjoys a rich and exciting life outside of menstruation and contraception.”

For Trans Students Everywhere (Janet Mock on Facebook)

PHOTO ESSAY: Permanent Reflections of Femme and Genderqueer People of Color (Autostraddle)

Why I Can’t Get on Board with ‘Embracing Differences Between Men and Women’ for Feminism (Everyday Feminism)

From the article: “…It’s no problem for women to have “feminine” traits themselves and be proud of them. But attributing them to women as a group limits people of all genders and furthers the oppressive system that led to those generalizations.

All the good things that come out of embracing differences and femininity can still be retained when we admit gender is a social construct.”

Career Tips for Anti-Socials (42Hire)

From the article: “Since I wasn’t born independently wealthy, I spent most of my life working at jobs NOT because I loved takin’ shit from ‘the man,’ but because I had to.

Over the years, I took several jobs (lots ’n lots) that I didn’t want, but that I thought I should want… or that I thought I should want to want…because it might look good on my résumé so that I could eventually get another job I didn’t really want but was paid substantially more to do.”

Helen Bailey and the lethal darkness behind this ‘middle-aged woman’ myth (The Guardian)

From the article: “Must we really believe that, at 47, a woman is going to grasp at whatever excuse for romance she can get, whatever the dark danger it may lead her into? It seems that we do. Sections of the media seem perfectly willing to use Bailey’s murder as an opportunity to reiterate that the grand old age of mid-40s renders women sad creatures who are pitiful and spent, almost inevitably unlovable and easy prey for psychopathic fantasist conmen.”

Liberal Democrats move to quash all historical sex-work convictions of prostitutes and punters (Independent)

The image is used under a creative commons license with thanks to Florent on Flickr. It is an artistic black and white photograph that is the result of several different photographs being overlaid on top of each other. The ‘bottom’ scene is a landscape image of a clearing in a forest or wood. There is an image of a door overlaid on this that appears to open out into the sky. Central to the image is a shadowed figure in a ballet position – leg stretched almost up to head and one arm held aloft.

The comic strip: limited feminism

by Guest Blogger // 28 February 2017, 7:00 am

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

This month’s comic depicts a woman reluctant to add another woman’s issue to her neat pile as it doesn’t affect her directly, makes the pile ‘unstable’ and she might not have time to think about it

This is a guest post by Sophie Mayer, the author of Political Animals: The New Feminist Cinema (IB Tauris, 2015)

There are some excellent films that address rape and remain feminist while doing so. On the Farm (Unclaimed) (2016), directed by Rachel Talalay, tells a composite story based on the lives and deaths of the First Nations women in Vancouver, Canada, murdered by serial killer Robert Pickton. The killer never speaks in the film and the central performance is from Blackfeet/Sami filmmaker Elle-Máijá Tailfeathers as Nikki Taylor, a woman who survived to testify against him. In Esther Rots’ Can Go Through Skin (2009), Mareike is raped and nearly drowned by a pizza delivery man. When he is only given a short sentence, she moves to the countryside to get away from him and fantasizes about violent vengeance; you feel with and for her. Sabiha Sumar’s Silent Waters (2001) works through Pakistani villager Ayesha’s memories, from the present back to the partition of India and Pakistan, and Ayesha’s rape (when a young Sikh woman in India) by a Muslim man who then marries her, converts her and moves her to Pakistan.

Long before that, there was Ida Lupino’s bold 1950 drama Outrage: after Ann is assaulted by a street food vendor, both she and the viewer become aware of how many men invade her space in small ways every day. In 1968, Yoko Ono and John Lennon challenged film aesthetics and ethics with the bluntly-titled Rape. In what appears to be a documentary, a cameraman relentlessly pursues a random woman through the streets of London and into her flat.

You’ve probably never heard of those films – but you’ve almost certainly heard of Elle, the new film by Paul Verhoeven that has caused critical controversies and raptures since its premiere last year. Michèle, played by Isabelle Huppert, is raped in her home by a masked intruder, revealed later to be someone she knows, and subsequently pursues a relationship with him. In a thoughtful article, Miriam Bale describes the film as Michèle’s “intellectual examination of her rape and rapist.” Bale’s reading differs from the dominant hot take from Cannes calling the film a “rape comedy,” but agrees with the consensus that the film demands attention. First, because of the performance by Huppert which, Bale argues convincingly, is tantamount to co-authorship; secondly, because it is a serious film about rape.

But serious texts about rape (often about punishing women for being raped) permeate Eurowestern culture. William Shakespeare’s Titus Andronicus may not be the first but might be one of the best known, not least from the 1999 film directed by Julie Taymor but produced by white supremacist Puppetmaster-in-Chief Steve Bannon. It’s only of late that the idea has formed that depicting rape de facto makes a text “feminist,” as doing so busts taboos and tells important truths. This argument names as “feminist” TV detective shows that repeatedly foreground explicit and exploitative images of violated female victims and insist that female detectives are also threatened with rape.

The same logic is at work in most reviews of Elle as a “feminist film”: Michèle, it is said, doesn’t fit the stereotype of a rape survivor.The tortuous argument is that this stereotype is the product of some “feminazi” insistence that sexual violence damages survivors, rather than of patriarchal legal and judicial culture that demands rape survivors follow a “script” in order to be taken seriously and heard in court.

For me, a feminist film about rape is one that – like Silent Waters – address the use of rape as a weapon of war and its slow-burning political and personal consequences. In Can Go Through Skin it is clear that rape is a crime of power and not, as in Elle, a crime passionel and that the so-called justice system can re-traumatise survivors, turning them into victims. There are documentaries such as The Invisible War (rape in the US military) and The Hunting Ground (rape on US college campuses), both by Kirby Dick and Amy Ziering, which address the larger social and political aspects of rape culture, including a lack of access to care, support and justice for survivors. Alas, few feature films are interested in the banal, everyday aspects of sexual violence, which are political and economic and so don’t make for sexy, controversial thrills performed by A-list stars.

It’s time there was a major fiction feature, widely distributed and critically acclaimed for being about the backlog of untested rape kits in the US, or the defunding of domestic violence shelters in the UK, or the increased risk of rape faced by men with disabilities, or police abuse of sex workers. Or even one that – like Ono and Lennon’s Rape – reflects on and makes visible the media’s complicity (including the complicity of film critics) in the framing of rape culture and rape narratives. It’s not enough for a film to be about rape or a rape survivor; it needs to call rape culture to account.

The picture is a still from Dick and Ziering’s documentary The Hunting Ground, used under fair dealing. It shows protest in solidarity with rape survivors, referencing Emma Sulkowicz’s Mattress Performance. Protesters support three mattresses with lettering “Stand With Survivors” and carry placards reading “Rape is rape”, Silence is violence” and similar.

two women

Emily Chudy is an LGBT journalist, food blogger, and intersectional feminist living in Paris. Follow her on Twitter @EmilyChudy

You can probably think of at least five friends, family members or celebrities that identify as bisexual but cast your mind over your Netflix queue and I bet you’ll find it difficult to remember a TV series or film that included a really brilliant bi character… without falling into a few offensive stereotypes.

Rather annoyingly, the media seems to be a bit behind when it comes to representing this community.

A spokesperson for LGBT+ charity Stonewall said:

Bi erasure and biphobia are still commonplace in UK media. Bi characters are often portrayed as ‘greedy’ or ‘confused’, perpetuating damaging myths that bi activists have been trying to dispel for decades.

Visible role models help ensure that all people see themselves represented in the media, and this is particularly important for marginalised groups like the bi community. We must see the industry hire more bi writers and directors, as well as actors, to get this right for film and television.

In a quest to seek realistic, three-dimensional, non-stereotyped bisexual characters on screen, I took a break from binge-watching Freaks and Geeks and sought out these wonderful characters.

Black Mirror S3E4: San Junipero (2016)

You may have heard people raving about Black Mirror’s San Junipero this year, and for good reason. The hour-long episode depicts a gorgeous, nuanced relationship between two women named Yorkie and Kelly, as well as touching upon themes of loneliness, death and sci-fi.

The episode – one of six stand-alone episodes in the series – is utterly mesmeric and touching, and (without giving away many spoilers) Kelly’s character and relationships both with men and women are discussed with true weight and compassion.

Best enjoyed if you fancy a good happy-cry over some cracking ‘80s outfits.

Appropriate Behaviour (2014)

Appropriate Behaviour tells the tale of Shirin, a young, witty, bisexual Iranian-American woman who has trouble navigating both her tangled love life and cultural identity in Brooklyn.

The film balances silly humour and poignant sincerity very well — Shirin is presented as both a deeply flawed and highly relatable character who the audience grow fonder of as the plot goes along.

This gem is best watched on a movie night with friends or when mourning a break-up with gallons of ice cream.

Grey’s Anatomy (2005 – present)

Callie Torres is a bisexual icon and she’s vocal and proud of it on Grey’s Anatomy.

The awesome quote below is from series 11 episode five but the whole show is brilliant so it’s worth watching the entire thing.

I’m bisexual. So what? It’s a thing! And it’s real… It’s called LGBTQ for a reason. There’s a B in there and it doesn’t mean badass. Okay, it kinda does, but it also means bi.

Sunday Bloody Sunday (1971)

Sunday Bloody Sunday was, incredibly, the first British film ever to show two men kissing, so be sure to watch this if you’re in the mood for an inspiring piece of history.

The BAFTA-winning movie tells the story of a bisexual male artist who starts two simultaneous relationships with both a man and a woman. Considering that same-sex relationships were barely legal at the time this film is a wonderfully positive portrayal of bisexuality.

The Color Purple (1985)

Okay, so it’s a little long, but The Color Purple is a complete classic and well worth settling into your sofa for a whole evening to watch.

The film tells the story of a young African American girl, Celie, and explores the problems women faced during the early 20th century, including domestic violence, incest, poverty, racism, and sexism.

The relationship between Celie and Shug Avery is much clearer in Alice Walker’s novel but the film is still a gorgeous and heartbreaking adaptation you should definitely see.

The Comedian (2012)

The Comedian is a gritty, touching, and vastly underrated British film that follows the life of Ed, a horribly insecure aspiring comedian.

The main character – in a sweet and beautifully crafted scene – falls for a man he met on a night bus after a dreadful gig, before realising that he might have complicated feelings for his flatmate.

This film is a must-watch if you’re going through a mid-20s career crisis and are looking for something arty to capture your predicament.

Kinsey (2004)

This film is the true story of Professor Alfred Kinsey, the scientist who researched the sexual histories of hundreds of thousands of Americans and developed what we now know as the Kinsey scale. The film explores his work as well as his personal life and sexuality.

As well as being an important part of the history of the bisexual community, Kinsey is a beautifully touching and really fascinating film that is well worth a watch on a rainy Sunday evening.

LGBT History Month runs throughout February in the UK. This year’s theme is Citizenship, PSHE and Law.

Image by Tracy Thomas, by Unsplash. Used under Creative Commons Zero licence.

Image is of a stack of vintage televisions, cassette tapes, and speakers.

Weekly round-up and open thread

by Lusana Taylor // 21 February 2017, 10:15 am


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.

Are we in danger of designing public spaces that favour only non-disabled men? (Fawcett Society)

I’m so glad to spoil this film for you (The Guardian)

Pro-Choice Campaigners Say It’s “Extremely Worrying” That Anti-Abortion Protesters Used Facebook Live Outside An Abortion Clinic (Buzzfeed)

Alice Lowe: ‘It wasn’t part of the plan to direct while pregnant’ (The Guardian)

How did ‘Playgirl’ magazine go from feminist force to flaccid failure? (Fusion)

​Women and desire: the six ages of sex (The Observer)

From the article: Six women across six decades talk about how their sex lives and sensuality have changed, and what they’ve learned about the politics of pleasure

If Equality is Not the Goal, the Goal is Supremacy (Bullshitist)

On Adele, Beyoncé & Solidarity (Black Girl Dangerous)

From the article: “I’m not naïve. I don’t expect people to make those kinds of sacrifices. Few people do. I didn’t expect Adele to and I’m certainly not surprised that she didn’t. What I’m saying is that…well…she didn’t. And we shouldn’t pretend that she did.”

Black Female Guitarists Get Real About How the Music Industry Views Them (LA Weekly)

Doctor who defined narcissistic personality disorder: Calling Trump mentally ill is an insult to mentally ill (The Hill)

From the article: “‘Most amateur diagnosticians have mislabeled President Trump with the diagnosis of narcissistic personality disorder. I wrote the criteria that define this disorder, and Mr. Trump doesn’t meet them. He may be a world-class narcissist, but this doesn’t make him mentally ill, because he does not suffer from the distress and impairment required to diagnose mental disorder.'”

These Sex Workers Are Using Theatre to Fight for Their Rights (Frankie Mullin at Vice)

Why Men Aren’t Funny (Or, How Spectacularly Wrong Christopher Hitchens Was About Women and Comedy) (Flavorwire)

The image is used under a creative commons license with thanks to Nana on Flickr. It is a black and white image of a stalk of delicate cherry blossom.

I hope February has found you well and excited by some of the comedy and theatre that’s happening across the UK and further afield. As ever, if you’d like The F-Word to cover something, please email me at or and I’ll do my best.

Let’s begin! The VAULT festival is currently happening in London. Within comedy, on 15 February Eleanor Conway will be performing her show Walk of Shame which we described in 2016 as “shocking, poignant and undeniably funny” and on 17 and 18 February the US political comedian Megan Ford will be performing her show FEMINASTY which in 2015 we reviewed as “a funny and biting critique of all aspects of the media”.

There’s also a really interesting sounding play at the VAULT festival, Puppy, about two women who meet and fall in love while dogging, and set up a feminist porn company together. Puppy has performances on 23 February and 2 March.

There is, as always, lots going on at Soho Theatre that is worth checking out. They are taking a couple of exciting shows out on tour:

Panti Bliss will be touring her show High Heels in Low Places which has performed to rave reviews and chock-a-block houses across Ireland, England, Paris, New York, Melbourne and Sydney. This is the final spin for the show and you can see it in Glasgow on 10 March, Cardiff on 1 April, Soho Theatre 5 – 8 April and Manchester on 25 April.

Ursula Martinez will also be taking Free Admission to the Dublin Project Arts Centre on 9 and 10 June, Colchester Arts Centre on 14 June, Birmingham Rep – The Door from 15 – 17 June, Reading South Street Arts Centre on 21 June before coming back to Soho from 26 June until 1 July. We’ve previously reviewed Free Admission and said that “Martinez deftly weaves her narrative, showing, not only telling, us how personal experiences melt into larger themes.”

Lucy McCormick: Triple Threat will be making its London premiere at Soho from 28 March until 22 April. Our reviewer was blown away by it at the Edinburgh Fringe and I already have my ticket!

Anita and Me which is adapted by Tanika Gupta from the book by Meera Syal opens at Wolverhampton this week (where it will be captioned on 15 February and audio-described at the matinee on 18 February) before going on to Cheltenham (captioned 1 March, audio-described matinee 2 March), Blackpool (captioned 8 March, audio-described 10 March), Nottingham (captioned 15 March, audio-described matinee 18 March), Bradford (captioned 22 March, audio-described matinee 25 March) and Edinburgh (captioned 29 March, audio-described and BSL interpreted matinee 1 April). Anita And Me paints a comic, poignant, compassionate and colourful portrait of village life in the era of flares, power cuts, glam rock, decimalisation and Ted Heath. In each venue the professional company will perform alongside eight actors drawn from the local community.

At the Orange Tree Theatre in Richmond from 16 February until 25 March is Low Level Panic. They describe it as a timely play about three twenty-something women figuring out how they really feel about sex, their bodies and each other, interrogating the effects of society’s objectification of women. Low Level Panic will be audio-described on 11 March at 2.30pm and Tue 14 March at 7.30pm, and captioned on 22 March at 7.30pm.

There are a couple of performances happening in early March which are related to International Women’s Day:

Pandora from Etch Theatre will be at the Pleasance Islington from 7 – 11 March. The play unpicks ancient stories of blame, strength and control that still shape attitudes towards women today. The story follows character Helen as she works to free herself from an abusive relationship. Her story both collides with and is born from the ancient myths that have shaped women’s experience in the world for thousands of years.

In Scotland at the Traverse Theatre in Edinburgh will be Girls Like That from The Lyceum Youth Theatre from 9 – 11 March. The play is a pertinent story that explores gender inequality in the digital minefield of young people’s online lives and will be performed by a cast of twenty young women. Girls Like That will be presented as a double bill with brand new short plays written by the Traverse Young Writers group.

And finally performer Liz Aggiss piece Slap & Tickle will be at The Lowry on 9 March. There’s a trailer for the show here (unfortunately it isn’t subtitled but it is soundtracked with an orchestral version of The Flight of the Bumblebee with very occasional snatches of Aggiss speaking to the audience, she says things like “tip top, tip top!” and “look, John, look!”). Slap & Tickle is part of the SICK! Festival and can also be seen elsewhere. Aggiss describes her latest piece as a “feminist soup” and is vocal about the importance of ageing female bodies on the stage.

Image credits and descriptions

1. A photograph of Megan Ford by Christa Holka. Ford looks at the camera with an expression which might indicate she is at the end of her tether. There is a blue background, she has long dark hair and intense eyes.

2. A photograph of Shobna Gulati who plays Daljit in Anita and Me. It is a simple black and white headshot in which Gulati is smiling straight into the camera.

3. A photograph of Grace Chilton in Pandora. Chilton is looking upwards. You can only see her neck ad head, she is to the left of the photograph against a pale pink background. Her hair is in a bob and she has stud earrings. There is a microphone in front of her.

Weekly round-up and open thread

by Lusana Taylor // 13 February 2017, 8:29 pm


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

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

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

White Women: This Is Why Your Critiques Of Beyoncé Are Racist (The Establishment)

From the article: “Black women do not have the same relationship with maternity as white women do. Why? Years of systemic racism, chattel slavery, and white supremacy, and because negative portrayals of black motherhood are pervasive in American culture.”

How the art world airbrushed female artists from history (The Guardian)

From the article: “Female artists account for just 4% of the National Gallery of Scotland’s collection; 20% of the Whitworth Manchester’sand 35% of Tate Modern’s collections. Only 33% of the artists representing Britain at the Venice Biennale over the past decade have been women.”

Why We Have to Fight for Access to Theory: Judith Butler and the UCL Lecture (Lighthouse)

Hen dos are a deeply sad and conservative tradition – like marriage itself (The Guardian)

‘Feminism for the 99 Percent’: Lessons for the Women’s Strike on March 8 (Broadly)

Why You Should Stop Calling Donald Trump “Crazy” (Bustle)

Emma Watson: the feminist and the fairytale (The Guardian)

The grass is always bloodier: what will it take for us to acknowledge violence against black people in Europe? (Media Diversified) CN: rape

Eating Toward Immortality (The Atlantic)

From the article: “The act of ingestion is embroidered with so much cultural meaning that, for most people, its roots in spare, brutal survival are entirely hidden. Even for people in extreme poverty, for whom survival is a more immediate concern, the cultural meanings of food remain critical. Wealthy or poor, we eat to celebrate, we eat to mourn, we eat because it’s mealtime, we eat as a way to bond with others, we eat for entertainment and pleasure. It is not a coincidence that the survival function of food is buried beneath all of this—who wants to think about staving off death each time they tuck into a bowl of cereal? Forgetting about death is the entire point of food culture.”

The death of the 40-hour week is killing us (Financial Times)

From the article: “The TUC has coined the phrase “Burnout Britain” to describe the long-hours working culture. Its study of Office for National Statistics data found that the number of people working more than 48 hours per week had risen by 15 per cent since 2010 to 3,417,000.”

Milo Yiannopoulos Thinks Homosexuality Is Wrong (Patheos)

Why did Oxford circulate a criminalised image of me – because I’m a black man? (The Guardian)

‘Lifesaving’ women’s rights bill Philip Davies tried to block hangs in the balance, campaigners warn (i news)

Jess Phillips: ‘I never felt scared in my old job. As an MP, I feel it every day’ (The Guardian)

The image is used under a creative commons license with thanks to artjouer street art. It shows street art, painted on a wall. It is a close-up image of two people holding hands tightly. The hands are so tightly clasped together, it is difficult to tell whether it is a tender or aggressive action. In the image, the force or energy behind the gesture has produced a crack from which spills a vibrant rainbow pattern. The sky behind the wall is bright blue and there is a stop sign in shot.

The F-Word is looking for UK-based volunteers to join our team of editors. We have two roles available: features (co-editing with Pooja) and social media. Both positions offer an opportunity to play an exciting part in building The F-Word as a feminist resource.

If you’d like to take on either of these roles, we’d love to hear from you! Here are some details about what the positions involve and how to apply:

Social media editor

For this role, your main duties will be:

  • promoting F-word content on Facebook and Twitter
  • forwarding requests from social media to relevant team member(s)
  • tactfully dealing with questions and comments on social media
  • exploring the use of other social media (e.g. Pinterest and LinkedIn)
  • working with the rest of The F-Word team, where necessary
  • attending Skype meetings every two months.

What you will bring:

  • enthusiasm about The F-Word
  • awareness of tools and apps for publicising site content
  • some time, energy and regular internet access
  • social media experience, ideally in promoting an organisation/event/initiative
  • commitment to the role for at least six months (with a minimum period of one month’s notice).

Familiarity with blogging platforms, some editorial experience and at least basic HTML skills would also be an advantage.

Features editor

For this role, your main duties will be:

  • responding to pitches and reviewing opportunities (including spotting and avoiding spurious content)
  • sourcing ideas and commissioning features, with a focus on encouraging new voices from diverse perspectives
  • working with a broad range of contributors, from those who have never written for publication before to experienced journalists
  • editing and posting features, in line with our style guide
  • moderating comments on published features
  • working with the other section editors and The F-Word team, where necessary
  • attending Skype meetings every two months.

What you will bring:

  • enthusiasm about The F-Word and developing our features section
  • some time, energy and regular internet access
  • ideally, some editorial experience (particularly in terms of adhering to a set style guide)
  • the ability to give submissions a critical edit, making sensitive suggestions to the author and offering guidance, where needed
  • familiarity with blogging platforms and at least basic HTML skills
  • a willingness to work in a team, alongside another features editor
  • commitment to the role for at least six months (with a minimum period of one month’s notice).

It is frequently reported that women don’t put themselves forward for leadership roles as often as men do, despite extensive qualifications and experience. Along with this, we’ve seen women who attain positions of power saying they did not feel entitled to them until they ‘gave themselves permission’ or were given an opportunity by a more privileged male counterpart. This has led us to collectively take the decision to invite applications from self-identified women/genderqueer people/non-binary people/those who do not define as male.

The F-Word is an online magazine dedicated to talking about and sharing ideas on contemporary feminisms from the UK and elsewhere. The collective goal for the site is primarily to provide a platform that welcomes and shares perspectives representing intersectional feminisms through contributions from a diverse range of women and non-binary people. This includes writers and editors of minority ethnicities (including Black, Asian, migrant or refugee people and individuals of dual or multiple ethnic heritage), along with those who are disabled, LGBTQ, older, sex workers or working class. This is not intended to be an exhaustive list, so please don’t be put off from applying if you’re interested but don’t identify with the perspectives above, particularly if you feel your own is currently under-represented in the feminist blogosphere.

Please note that The F-Word is run entirely online by unpaid volunteers. We are aware of current discussions around the politics and ethics of expecting people to work for free, but can unfortunately only offer permanent volunteer roles. The fact nobody involved in the site is paid for their work here means there is no hierarchy or differentiation between paid and unpaid positions.

To apply for either of the roles: please email us ( with a brief message setting out a) which one you would like to apply for and why you want to take it on, b) how you would develop this area of the site and c) any prior relevant experience.

The deadline for applications is 19.00 on Saturday 11 March.


Please note that we still have yet to find a visual arts editor and also have gaps to fill in terms of coverage of comics and games. We don’t currently have the capacity to recruit for more than two roles simultaneously, but hope to start work on recruitment in these areas as soon as we can. Watch this space!

In the meantime, please feel free to get in touch informally if you would like to put yourself forward as a potential section editor in either of these areas.

The picture is by #WOCInTech Chat and shared under a creative commons licence. This shows a person with long braided black hair, typing on a laptop while seated on a leather chair in front of a window. She wears two gold nasal piercings (right nostril and septum), horn-rimmed tortoiseshell glasses and a black and white patterned dress.

Understanding trauma: how women’s distress is wrongly medicalised

by Guest Blogger // 10 February 2017, 12:15 pm

woman pensive

Emma Hamilton is a Northerner who aspires to live in a warmer climate, spending her time writing and walking barefoot on sand

Emma is our guest blogger for February

Borderline personality disorder (BPD), also known as emotional unstable personality disorder (EUPD), is a mental health condition most commonly (about 75%) diagnosed in women.

I have seen both during my career as a social worker and in my personal life that this particular diagnosis is highly stigmatised both within and outside of mental health services. It is constructed around a narrative of impulsive, self-destructive behaviour; unstable mood; difficulty in relationships and dissociation, a process whereby a person disengages from themselves and the present. This is a coping mechanism that protects them from perceived or actual pain in their life.

BPD was long thought of as a lifelong condition; one that didn’t respond positively to treatment. Therefore people with the diagnosis were “historically confined…to the margins of healthcare systems”.

More recent research around the condition has reported a 75% rate of childhood sexual abuse in BPD patients. Would it not seem logical that a young child who has been abused will later have trouble trusting people, causing difficulty in their relationships? Would it not be logical that they experience mood changes if triggered by something that reminds them of those experiences? Would it not cause patterns of behaviour where a child may blame themselves for how they are feeling and therefore feel the need to punish and hurt themselves?

The difficulty with our healthcare system is that the field of mental health is dominated by the medical model. This model is essentially reductionist in that it evaluates the set of symptoms a person is experiencing and then labels them as a problem within that individual. There is little acknowledgement of environmental and personal experiences that may cause particular symptoms. Essentially, the patient is blamed for not being able to cope.

So why are so many women being diagnosed with this stigmatising label? Is it because women are more likely to come forward for help? Is it that more girls than boys experience childhood abuse? Or is it that there is a bias within the mental health field to more readily diagnose women with a personality disorder rather than, for instance, post-traumatic stress disorder?

I believe it’s a combination of all those factors.

A BPD diagnosis can be a very depressing label. To be told you have a disordered personality — that you are not “normal”— can be life-changing. I have known many women diagnosed with the condition and there are common threads throughout their experiences: doctors not enquiring about or listening to their life stories, being told they need to change their behaviour and then everything will resolve itself and being treated as a drain on resources because they present in highly-distressed states which the clinician believes they should just manage themselves.

All these experiences compound the feeling that these women are not worthy of care; are not people in their own right beyond their diagnosis. That must be a very familiar feeling for those who have experienced trauma at the hands of someone more powerful than them.

To add to this stigma, women with this condition find their chances in life curtailed. Nicola writes on The Time To Change blog:

Since the age of 18, I have always worked or been in full time education, or both. I am an exemplary employee – never take a sick day, I can interact with people in a professional manner, I have a wealth of knowledge, skills and experience which makes me invaluable – and yet, in the past 6 months, my employer has banned me from taking any shifts and the university where I was undergoing teacher training has informed me that I am not allowed to continue on my course because of this condition

Is this not societal oppression of women who have experienced trauma in their lives? If the healthcare professionals we all turn to when in need are framing a set of coping mechanisms used by these women as permanent and inappropriate, is that satisfactory? I think not.

Thankfully, the effects of trauma are being now beginning to be recognised as research is done and campaigners and activists work to highlight the issue. But is medicine catching up? Is the medical model of mental health best serving those diagnosed with EUPD/BPD, or would a more holistic model offer more hope?

It’s time to build on the recent work around understanding the effects of trauma. It’s time to move away from the victim-blaming model of psychiatry. It’s time to support vulnerable women who are simply using maladaptive coping techniques because they have never been valued and supported to create ways of coping with life stressors in a more constructive way. If we recognise that childhood abuse and trauma at any stage of life can be overwhelming then we can — as a society — begin to create more nurturing, inclusive models of support: models that do not confine survivors to the lifelong stigma of a psychiatric diagnosis.

Image by Isaac Holmgren, from Unsplash. Used under Creative Commons Zero licence.

Image is of the back of a woman’s head as she looks out the window onto a carpark. The scene feels moody and pensive.

Are we really so empowered? On post-feminism and mental health

by Guest Blogger // 7 February 2017, 12:00 pm

Woman of colour sadEmma Hamilton is a Northerner who aspires to live in a warmer climate, spending her time writing and walking barefoot on sand

Emma is our guest blogger for February

When you’re sitting in A and E at 3 o’clock in the morning, does it matter if you define yourself as a feminist? Amongst other sick and vulnerable people, what does your gender or age, race, sexuality or level of ability matter?

I ask this particular question because I’ve been in A and E departments a lot. Not for myself, but for my daughter. A young woman with multiple health needs who now, due to those needs, is no longer here. She died 10 months ago on 12 March, 2016. Her story is one of inspiration, determination, hope and ultimately, great sadness.

She defined herself as a feminist although never used that word. That word can be exclusive, divisive and nebulous and those are things my daughter would never have wanted to be associated with. When I was growing up it was a word that meant empowerment, equal rights and social justice. Now, it can evoke negative images: those of victimhood, indulgent ‘first world problems’ and whinging.

So now we, the collective group of self-defined feminists, have to be more astute, more thoughtful and sophisticated in our approach to ourselves and our wider communities. We have to now battle the assumptions made on the back of the feminist movement: that all young women are empowered, live in a more equal society and enjoy the benefits brought about through the work of generations of women before them.

There are still many overt and covert ways our gender affects how others see us. As a young woman with both physical and mental health problems, my daughter encountered this on a daily basis. Her primary psychiatric diagnosis went even further in shaping how others saw her. It was a diagnosis more commonly associated with young women than men. It is a very stigmatising diagnosis, and as with all psychiatric diagnoses, could ultimately be reduced to a social construct.

It was a stigma within a wider stigma — that of having mental health issues in the first place. And it is still a common experience of women today. Oppression upon oppression; layer upon layer of discrimination. Perhaps now though it could be argued as more insidious because of where we are in 2017.

If a woman now argues from a feminist ideology she can be dismissed by both men and women as whinging rather than raising legitimate issues for the individual and the collective. And I saw this, time and time again, in how others perceived and interacted with my daughter.

When she or I would argue for sensitive treatment from health professionals, we were often met with the same, oppressive narrative: young women have more rights, more power and more benefits than previous generations. Words such as hysterical, needy and attention-seeking were common in the framing of my daughter’s difficulties. The power of the construct that her difficulties were self-induced and perpetuated was an often impenetrable force. I say “often”. In reality, it was 90% of the time.

I was also labelled hysterical and unrealistic in my ambitions for my daughter. My daughter was seen as damaged goods by health professionals. Even though she contributed to her community and society with regular and often high-profile voluntary work in the mental health field, attended university and lived her life with the care of others as a priority, according to the healthcare system her quality of life was not expected to be high.

She was ultimately being told she should go away, care for herself and not expect services (society) to care about or for her. She was a young woman who, in today’s post-feminist society, should have been able to meet her own needs because those before her had empowered her. If she couldn’t help herself it was a weakness in her, not a community issue.

For my daughter, the continued fight to be seen as an individual was too much. The lack of support and damaging experiences she faced on a regular basis in A and E, community services and inpatient wards took its ultimate toll. She died by her own hand if you reduce the circumstances right down to the facts of her death. But in my mind, the cause of her death was not that simplistic.

The repetitive experience of having her needs rejected on the basis of collective assumptions about the quality of life young women have today killed her. She was not weak, but she was seen as such — apparently unable to draw on the benefits and change feminism has brought. But collective benefits do not always translate into individual benefits. She tasked herself with the job of self-sufficiency, not just because she blamed herself for her individual “flaws” but also because she was repeatedly pushed that way by state services. If she had been seen as an individual, perhaps her life and death would have been different. I will never know.

Image is of half of a woman of colour’s face. She is looking down and appears sad and thoughtful. Most of the frame is taken up by her thick, dark hair.

Image by Joshua Newton, from Unsplash. Used under Creative Commons Zero licence.

Weekly round-up and open thread

by Lusana Taylor // 6 February 2017, 3:54 pm


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

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

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

A woman vilified on the front pages today was actually a grieving mother (The Pool)

From the article: “The tabloids are crying “health tourism” over a woman who lost two babies when she went into labour prematurely mid-flight. When did we lose sight of all empathy?”

Gay people are still being locked up in Britain. What use is this pardon to them? (Huck)

Meet the First Woman to Win the “Nobel Prize of Mathematics” (Mother Jones)

From the article: “On Wednesday, Maryam Mirzakhani became the first woman in 78 years to be awarded the prestigious Fields Medal, considered the highest honor in mathematics. She was selected for ‘stunning advances in the theory of Riemann surfaces and their moduli spaces.'”

#DressLikeAWoman: Twitter backlash over reports of dress code for Trump staff (The Guardian)

From the article: “The claims that Trump expected his female staff members to wear stereotypically feminine attire drew ire on Twitter. Users responded with the hashtag #DressLikeAWoman.”

Glenda Jackson: ‘Theatre still doesn’t think women are interesting’ (The Stage)

5 Reasons Why the Pressure to Have Clear Skin Is a Feminist Issue (Everyday Feminism)

Your defense of immigrants is fucking colonialist (The Bridge to Texangeles)

From the article: “Yeah your great grandpa was 1/8 Hungarian or something, but unless Trump signed a ban on travelers from your country OR your family is here due to the U.S. bombing your country, please kindly stop appropriating the experiences of people who are actually suffering. ‘We are all immigrants’ is cute in theory, but it completely erases the role white supremacy plays in specifically targeting Latinx, South Asian, African, and Middle Eastern immigrants.”

Utopian thinking: how to build a truly feminist society (The Guardian)

Easily-Triggered, Privileged People Have Turned Society Into Their Own Giant Safe Space (Huffington Post)

From the article: “The truth of the matter is that privileged people have all of society as a safe space; our culture and even our laws are formed around their comfort. The most unequal laws of history have existed to protect the safe space of those in power  —  a space safe from abortions, from queer marriages, from black people and women voting, from anything that challenges their supremacy. Many of the people catered to by the entire setup of society are the same ones who would claim that life never gave them a ‘safe space.'”

People are asking how they can become a ‘professional anarchist’ (Indy100)

Why most of the lawyers you see battling Trump’s immigration order are women (Quartz)

Article 50 Brexit vote: Full list of MPs who backed Theresa May starting official EU negotiations – and those who voted against (The Independent)

Everyday pricks distance themselves from Trump (The Daily Mash) [Satire]

From the article: “Tom Booker, who owns 400 buy-to-let properties and drives a Jaguar with a customised hood ornament, said: ‘I am a prick. I have a number of blinkered views and am generally hostile towards the underdog in any situation.

‘However Trump is taking prick behaviour too far, something I never thought was possible.'”

16 Acts Of Self-Care To Get You Through 2017 (Buzzfeed)

The image is used under a creative commons license with thanks to Liz Lemon on Flickr. It is a photograph from the DC Women’s March. It is an image of a hand holding up a bright pink sign which reads: “I lift my lamp beside the golden door” – a quotation from Emma Lazarus’s poem, ‘The New Colossus’.

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 the different criticisms of the Women’s March, some of which are more constructive than others

Muslim woman

Rabiah Hussain was born and bred in East London and her family are originally from Pakistan. She studied Politics and English Literature at undergraduate level and has an MA in Global and Comparative Politics. She freelances as a digital marketer to pay the bills but is a poet and playwright first and foremost.

As a guest blogger for The F-Word in January, she is writing about the importance of intersectional feminism and how the current political climate is affecting women of colour. She wants to highlight why mainstream feminism needs to be more inclusive and why we must listen to the voices of marginalised women.

Her other interests include films, books and taking lots of naps. She also makes great Halloween pumpkins. She tweets @hussnr

As a British-born Pakistani woman of colour from a Muslim family, there are certain assumptions I face by people who make judgements about my life simply by looking at me or knowing the basic facts about who I am. Here are some of the statements (not questions) that have been said to me over the years, mainly by those who are not of my background.

My brown skin has led to many drawing the conclusion that I must know how to cook. The truth is that I don’t know how to cook and do not have any remote interest in learning.

Knowing that I grew up in a Muslim family, people make me an object of sympathy because that means it must be really difficult for me to fight for my rights. The truth is that yes, I may have had some trouble with faith, but neither has it been a hindrance to me nor been imposed on me by my parents.

Along with this, I’ve been told many times that I’m really different because I don’t agree with suicide bombings or extremist views of any kind. Being a British-born Pakistani has led to people believing that I would have an arranged marriage by a suitor my parents choose, in which I’ll have no say since I am most likely to be a timid, quiet and delicate flower. The reality is that I am married to someone I met through a friend and who is of a different Islamic sect to me. I have no fear in defending my own choice of partner.

Trying to fit into the white, middle-class world of work has led me to swing around from feeling inferior and isolated while suffering from internalised racism that took a long time to shed.

Coming out on the other side, I’d like to put forward an observation: the bodies of Muslim women seem to send out signals that make people feel they have the right to stamp stereotypes and political ideologies onto them. This is a reflection of a broader mindset that female bodies can be used as some sort of battleground by people across the political spectrum.

Last year, headlines reported the burkini ban across many European countries, with people such as France’s minister for women’s rights drawing a parallel with “American negroes who accepted slavery”. This is a clear example of white feminism ignoring the voices of minority women.

The same can be said for groups such as Femen, who seem to believe themselves to be the liberal saviours of Muslim women without bothering to understand what these women stand for themselves. Ever since Brexit and Trump there have been multiple reports of the hijab being pulled off the heads of Muslim women by racists who prey on those they believe are unable to defend themselves.

The deputy leader of the far-right party, Britain First, was convicted of religiously aggravated harassment for abusing a Muslim woman in a hijab. All the while their website and rhetoric accuses Muslim men and Islam of subjugating Muslim women. The irony of this is certainly lost on them.

Nigel Farage has never shied away from calling a ban on the burqa due to it being ‘oppressive’ while using his politics to promote Islamophobia across the UK. Across the world, there are radical groups who seem to be an authority on what Muslim women should and should not wear, even if these women have never asked them to be.

By no means exhaustive, this list demonstrates the ways in which the bodies of Muslim women are used in a political tug-of-war without ever giving them the platform to speak for themselves. Muslim women have been painted as victims and therefore they are easy subjects used to further the political stance of whomsoever desires. With these prejudices so deeply entrenched in our societies, progress will always be denied to Muslim women unless we realise that they can speak and make decisions for themselves.

I know fiercely independent and successful women who choose to wear the hijab as a symbol of faith and identity, not because somewhere in the background a man has ordered them to. The burkini is no different to choosing the kind of attire you feel the most comfortable with at the beach – be that a bikini, a one piece or a wetsuit. As with women of colour in the west, Muslim women in Islamic countries are navigating the fight for equality by balancing their culture, religion and individuality and do not need white women to bare their breasts on their behalf. This is nothing more than white saviour complex.

At a time when the political climate is increasingly hostile toward Muslims, the fight to protect the bodies of Muslim women from the opportunistic politics of all spectrums of society needs to come from Muslim women themselves. They have beliefs, passion and voices and they need to be heard.

Image is of the back of a Muslim woman’s head and shoulders as she carries her child. She appears to be wearing a hijab. The image is black and white.

Image is from Pixabay, used under Creative Commons Zero licence

Kitty Jansz-Moore is a researcher living in London. She loves board games, opera, podcasts and decorating cakes

My adult love of board games started innocently. A few family rounds of Articulate, The Game Of Life with housemates and nostalgic sessions of Cluedo in coloured outfits.

Then I progressed through the gateway games, getting in deeper: a New Year’s Eve with Cards Against Humanity, an obligatory dabble with Ticket to Ride, my first foray into solo play with Forbidden Island – which was when I realised it might be more than a social habit.

Next came the illicit trips, first to Toys “R” Us, skulking childless among suspicious parents in the games aisle, then to specialist shops. The rules got more complicated and the sessions got longer – Risk Legacy across many months, multiple expansions of Lord of the Rings, nights with friends becoming orgies of card swapping and drunken strategizing and the tapping of meeples on wood. At 2am of a Sunday morning, a Cthulu Starspawn in my hand, I knew I was committed.

At first I felt ashamed of my new hobby. Geekery had always felt male somehow. Board games seemed linked with computer games, a pastime of gamer-gate Twitterstorms and whispers of dark web misogyny. Where did feminism or femininity fit into any of this?

But now I think of board games as fantastically ‘equal’ spaces.

You sit as yourself at that table. Your decisions are your own, you talk and act as you, or as characters you choose to inhabit (a Mysterium ghost, a FunEmployed applicant). It’s your own voice with your own gender (or lack thereof), race, body and personality.

The board of a game is an equal playing field – sometimes you literally start from the same square as your competitors. There is nothing integrally weighted towards men in the gameplay.

Video games are different because you typically play a stylised avatar with its own version of masculinity or femininity and preset vocal responses, and you can be among the untested attitudes of strangers. It’s not a space everyone feels safe in. With board games you often use genderless meeples (Carcassonne) or genderless cards (Seven Wonders, Jaipur) and compete against friends away from misogyny. Unless you have horrible friends.

As a feminist, I want games to show that women are welcome. If genders are specified then ideally there should be an equal ratio of male and female characters, just like in real life, and the women should be well-rounded. By ‘well-rounded’ I don’t mean ‘big circular breasts’, but with abilities to rival the male characters and job roles beyond ‘nurse’ or ‘victim’.

Luckily there are some fantastic representations of women to be found. The most useful character in Pandemic Legacy is the female quarantine expert. Above and Below and Battlestar Galactica have a good mix of genders. Even Lord of the Rings (that famed sausage fest) dredges up female characters with fully competitive abilities and uses. I have put on a play with an all-female cast in Shakespeare, stolen jewels as a female burglar (Burglar Bros), run around Lovecraftian mansions as a female athlete (Mansions of Madness) and battled against zombies in an apocalyptic winter as a female pilot (Dead of Winter).

It’s not totally there yet though. A 50/50 gender representation in some games would be welcome (for example in the very entertaining but only 25% female Mechs vs Minions). And the bloggers of ‘Shut Up & Sit Down’ recently challenged a developer who admitted they hadn’t noticed or considered the game ratio of 82 men to 0 women in Istanbul. Not all commenters agreed this was a problem.

Similarly, while some games depict a mix of races and a diverse set of characters, others can have colonialist overtones (Archipelago), all-white avatars, or even ambiguous references to slavery (Five Tribes, Puerto Rico). And I’ve yet to see any games that incorporate trans or disabled characters in any way.

But this resurgence of tabletop gaming is still in its infancy, and as more people play and comment and create, we will hopefully get closer to a fully equal and representative space. I’d love to see more female board game developers producing titles, as it’s still a male-dominated field.

In some ways games recapture a past when I felt unaware of any real difference between the sexes; when my brother and I were equal heights and equally dangerous in physical fights. Before puberty came and made it clear exactly who was a girl and who was a boy and what that was supposed to mean. Board games were a neutral place where pink and blue couldn’t segment us.

In fact, recent survey data showed that 40% of women play board games, compared with 32% of men. And it’s not all mums playing happy families with children – among those without kids in the household it still stands at 36% vs 30%.

Sounds like I’m preaching to the choir. Why have board games done so well recently? I’d argue it’s partly because of their equality and a whole hidden swathe of keen women alongside me.

Photo courtesy David Goehring on Flickr

Image depicts a woman holding a hand of cards and grinning excitedly

Introducing February’s guest blogger

by Monica Karpinski // 3 February 2017, 11:00 am


As we thank Rabiah Hussain for her brilliant writing in January, we move forward to welcome Emma Hamilton, February’s guest blogger.

In her own words:

“Emma lives in the north of England and is an ex-social worker, having worked with vulnerable families for many years. She has never written publicly before but is writing from both personal experience and broader takes on social issues. She lost her beautiful daughter Katie last year to mental health problems and wants to shine a light on the challenges women with mental health difficulties face.

Emma loves to read, craft and be by the sea.”

Welcome, Emma!

Image is of a room stacked full of different coloured books.

Image by Eli Francis, from Unsplash. Used under Creative Commons Zero licence.

Weekly round-up and open thread

by Lusana Taylor // 31 January 2017, 6:03 am


Welcome to another (slightly short and subdued) 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.

Mother courage: swapping pregnancy in exchange for help (The Guardian)

Girls lose faith in their own talents by the age of six (BBC)

Feminists should face their own flaws, not sneer at Melania Trump (The Guardian)

Russia parliament votes 380-3 to decriminalize domestic violence (USA Today)

UK accused of failing to defend rights of Yemeni children against daily violations (The Guardian)

High heels and workplace dress codes: urgent action needed (

How to Come Off As Complex Without Seeming Too Complicated (Reductress) [CN: Satire]

Fat acceptance activists explain why body positivity is becoming meaningless (Revelist)

From the article: “‘Body positivity is no longer synonymous with fatness and while it’s amazing that all bodies are able to feel included within a movement, I think the original intention has been lost,’ [Stephanie Yeboah] said. ‘Body positivity was a movement to celebrate bodies that fell outside the realm of what was considered attractive within society, however the media now seem to exclude and isolate the very bodies that created the movement in the first place.'”

On gender essentialism and magic in western canon (This ‘Aint Livin’)

Suddenly, Muslims are America’s untouchables (Nesrine Malik, The Guardian)

The image is used under a creative commons license with thanks to Sara Kelly on Flickr. It is a photo of some striking street art depicting a person in a hijab. The person’s expression is serious, and they have their hand raised, covering one eye, appearing to be in the process of pulling their headscarf further down around their face. The art appears on a board stuck to, what seems to be, a red metal gate.

Squeezing this in just before the end of the month, here’s a brief round-up of what’s happening in the worlds of theatre and comedy early in 2017. If you’d like us to cover something you’re doing or know about, please do comment or email me at or

To begin, Escaped Alone is back at the Royal Court in London before going to New York and then Salford, Cambridge and Bristol. Here’s Pooja Kawa’s review of the play from February 2016.

From Tuesday, Letters to Windsor House, a show with songs, politics, dodgy landlords and detective work, from Sh!t Theatre will be at Soho Theatre before going on tour to Ipswich, Reading, Sheffield, Aldershot, Bristol, Nottingham, Manchester, Derby, Norwich, Newcastle, Colchester and Harlow. Here’s what The F-Word had to say about a previous show from Sh!t Theatre, Women’s Hour a couple of years ago.

From 9 February until 4 March, Villain will be at the King’s Head Theatre in London. Developed through interviews with social workers and research into real-life cases, Villain places a spotlight on the growing pressures on social care agencies with the growth of child poverty, and how social media allows the general public to be judge and jury through the safety of a screen.

As you’ll know Hull is the UK City of Culture in 2017 and there’s a lot going on there for the whole of this year. Coming up in February there are a couple of shows that will be of interest to The F-Word readers. First up there’s Weathered Estates, a contemporary retelling of Euripides’ Women of Troy by Zodwa Nyoni, telling the story of four women whose homes are no longer safe spaces. The reimagined Greek tragedy will be brought to life by Hull-based company The Roaring Girls, in collaboration with the University of Hull. And secondly we have JOAN performed by drag king champion Lucy Jane Parkinson, which is part of Back to Ours. The play unravels the intricacies of Joan of Arc’s defiance and subsequent demise, with Lucy Jane Parkinson morphing into the men that put her there. The performance of JOAN on Saturday 25 February will have captioning through The Difference Engine app developed by Talking Birds.

From Tuesday 7 until Sunday 12 March the WOW – Women of the World festival will be back at the Southbank Centre. Alongside the debates and discussions there are also a few shows: The Game, a performance which aims to give audiences an insight into sex work, Adventures in Menstruating with Chella Quint, a comedy for menstruators and non-menstruators of all genders, Offside, a work in progress about four women from across centuries who live, breathe and play football and Foreign Body, a liberating and life-affirming story about healing after sexual assault.

To finish, check out this song by The Ruby Darlings who we reviewed in Edinburgh last year.

Image courtesy of Sh!t Theatre. It shows Louise Mothersole and Rebecca Biscuit on stage both standing in front of microphones. They both have painted white faces. Mothersole on the left is wearing a blue shirt, has black make-up in a strip over her eyes and is holding a beer bottle. Biscuit on the right wears a red shirt and has red make-up in a strip under her eyes. Biscuit is speaking and gesticulating with her hands.

Rabiah Hussain was born and bred in East London and her family are originally from Pakistan. She studied Politics and English Literature at undergraduate level and has an MA in Global and Comparative Politics. She freelances as a digital marketer to pay the bills, but is a poet and playwright first and foremost.

​As a guest blogger for The F-Word in January, she is writing about the importance of intersectional feminism and how the current political climate is affecting women of colour. She wants to highlight why mainstream feminism needs to be more inclusive and why we must listen to the voices of marginalised women.

Her other interests include films, books and taking lots of naps. She also makes great Halloween pumpkins. She tweets @hussnr

A few years ago, while working in an office, an older colleague posed the question “Why aren’t women good at football?”. When there was little response from the others around me, I forced my opinions into the discussion, adding some references to modern-day feminism. Once he left, my female colleagues admitted they weren’t sure exactly what feminism was. Once they looked up the definition, they all said that, of course, they agreed with what it stood for. Their perception of feminism up until that point had not been one of gender equality but of man-hating, shaven-headed, shouting lesbians.

This, unfortunately, is an issue feminism has faced for as long as it has been around. Belittling or stereotyping feminists is a key tactic used by patriarchy to keep progress at bay and feminism hasn’t been able to wholly defend itself in the face of this. However, at a time when true activism is needed, feminism also has an opportunity to truly redefine itself. But this redefinition needs to include the voices and experiences of all marginalised groups. If feminism is to respond adequately to current issues, it must be intersectional. To put it bluntly, mainstream white feminism needs to re-evaluate itself.

Last weekend, a universal display of solidarity against the election of Donald Trump gave us something positive to hold on to in these bleak times. Women from all over the world rallied together to send out a simple but important message to the new President and his ilk: women’s rights are human rights. If ever there was a time to come together, it is now. Feminists will surely find themselves at the forefront of the fight against regressive policies and sexism at all levels of society in the next few years.

But if the Women’s March highlighted unity in the face of patriarchy, it also pointed to a very bitter truth that must be confronted if we are to react to the current climate. The mission of the organisers of the march was to defend the most marginalised in society. What became clear in the narrative responding to this was the offence taken by many cis white women to being asked to recognise and stand up for minority groups. As women of colour asked for their voices to be heard, they were accused of being divisive. Asking white women to check their privilege became somehow disruptive to the entire movement.

Statements like “Not all white women” and “We are all women first” risk leaving behind a large population of women who simply cannot identify with feminism as it currently stands. Feminism cannot be based on the myth that the experiences of all women are the same and that every woman faces just one type of discrimination.

Let’s take the Trump presidential campaign. Trump not only showed utter disrespect for women, he also offended people of colour, Muslims, disabled people, immigrants and LGBTQ communities. His various policies on policing, healthcare and immigration particularly affect minority groups and, when your identity intersects along these lines, you are doubly impacted as a woman. That is not to say that straight cis white women cannot also be disadvantaged by these policies. But it highlights the problematic nature of asking for all women to be united. Because let’s face it, the problem doesn’t simply come from the outside. Mainstream feminism hasn’t always acknowledged the complexities of intersecting identities and Black feminism arose to address this.

A large percentage of support for Trump comes from white men and white women, and his election has highlighted the emergence of white supremacy from the shadows. We simply cannot fight the so-called ‘alt-right’ that Trump’s presidency has empowered without acknowledging that whiteness is a problem. Not because all white people are racist, but because whiteness affords a certain privilege that isn’t bestowed on minority groups. Minorities are still fighting for a place at every level of society. Women of colour and LGBTQ women are misrepresented in the media. Women of colour earn less than their white counterparts. Black women experience particular prejudice and violence from police officers. The fight over the bodies of Muslim women leaves them vulnerable and fearful. This list can go on.

As women, we are facing scary times. But let’s not forget that for minority women, the world has always been a scary place. The fight against patriarchy today simply cannot be won if mainstream feminism continues to marginalise. If we are to come together, feminism must be intersectional. Or else it will surely fail.

Image courtesy of Lindsey Jene Scalera on Flickr

Image depicts diverse women at the Women’s March on Washington on 21 January 2017

Nazmin Akthar-Sheikh is the Vice-Chair of Muslim Women’s Network UK, a national charity which works on issues such as discrimination, Islamophobia, violence against women and mental health matters

Dame Louise Casey was recently questioned by the Communities and Local Government Committee on her report about social integration, the Casey Review, which published in December. Although the Review mentions various communities, there is a clear emphasis on Muslims. Issues including religious conservatism, segregation and inequality in Muslim communities are cited as barriers to cohesion in Britain.

These problems do exist, and organisations such as Muslim Women’s Network UK have been working on them for a number of years. There are some Muslim women who are told what to wear, or who are stopped from pursuing further education or employment. This is completely unacceptable and we must all stand together to oppose it. However, there are also many Muslim women in the UK who are doctors, lawyers, accountants and teachers. So while religious and cultural conservatism presents a problem for some of these women, there are also many others who are actively engaged in and part and parcel of British society.

Moreover, much of the inequality faced by Muslim women comes from outside of their communities. Earlier this year the Women and Equalities Committee found that Muslim women encounter triple discrimination when trying to enter into the workplace as well as when in employment. They face a penalty for being a woman, for being from an ethnic minority background, and for their religion. Why are women from Muslim communities who do take steps towards integration punished for doing so?

Another central argument of the Casey Review is that “Too many public institutions… have gone so far to accommodate diversity and freedom of expression that they have ignored or even condoned regressive, divisive and harmful cultural and religious practices for fear of being branded racist or Islamophobic”.

Although this is a relevant concern, there are many other factors at play. Apathy, ignorance, a lack of understanding of the issues and, sometimes, a desire to maintain the support of certain, usually male, community members (irrespective of their views) are also reasons for inaction. Quite frankly, it is shocking that some institutions think they can use alleged fears of being called racist or Islamophobic as a defence for not taking any steps and expect sympathy and understanding. And, if this was the real problem, how do we explain the triple discrimination that happens as much in the public sector as it does in the private? How do we explain the continued existence of misogyny and unequal position of women in mainstream society?

In addition, the Casey Review expresses concerns that Muslims make up around 85% of the local population in some areas of the UK. However, is this really about Muslims choosing to segregate and isolate themselves? There are also areas predominantly populated by Sikh, Hindu, Jewish or White British communities. Some may have chosen to live near people of a similar cultural or religious background, but this is not true of all. Others may have had their choice made for them due to their socio-economic circumstances, or had to choose a particular area for convenience, such as being near relatives, their place of worship, or places to buy groceries. But that does not mean that they are segregated and not interacting with others outside of their communities in their day-to-day lives.

During the examination session with the Committee, Dame Louise defended her recommendation to require immigrants entering the UK to swear an ‘Oath of Integration’ and pledge their allegiance to British values. She said that integration was “not a two-way street” and that the mistake Britain has made is to end up with “more give on one side [British nationals] and more take on the other [immigrants]”.

A week after the Casey Review was published, we heard about a knifeman who stabbed a passenger at Forest Hill train station while allegedly shouting “death to Muslims”. Shortly after, a Muslim woman was assaulted and dragged across the ground by her hijab. Aside from not being clear on what ‘British values’ are (particularly since discussions on the topic lead us to universal values rather than those that are specifically British, and which underpin various faiths including Islam, Judaism and Sikhism), the question is – would the Oath have stopped these assaults? Isn’t this just another case of victim-blaming? Asking immigrants to recite a few words once in their lives is a very simplistic way of trying to solve a very complex problem.

There are lots of different barriers to integration in Britain, many of which were not adequately addressed by the Casey Review. The blame for the current lack of community cohesion in some parts of the UK must be shared between employers, institutions and individuals, and each must be part of the solution.

Photo (c) Image & Design Ian Halsey MMXI

Image depicts a diverse range of people at a busy market in Walsall

Weekly round-up and open thread

by Lusana Taylor // 25 January 2017, 6:46 am


Welcome to another (slightly late) weekly round-up, where we share (what we see as) the most interesting and important articles from the previous seven days. We’d love to hear your thoughts on any of the issues covered in our chosen links which range, this week, from clean eating to Melania Trump.

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

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

Watching porn in public is not OK. It’s harassment (The Guardian)

First Class Racism (Jamelia)

Men explain things to me: examples from 2016 (Girl on the Net)

To the First Lady, With Love (New York Times)

From the article: “All women struggle to reconcile the different people that we are at all times, to merge our conflicting desires, to represent ourselves honestly and feel good about the inherent contradictions. But Michelle manages to do this with poise, regardless of the scrutiny. That, to me, is the best thing for feminism. Her individual choices force us to accept that being a woman isn’t just one thing. Or two things. Or three things.”

Confessions of a former clean eater (The Pool)

From the article: “Don’t get me wrong, their recipes aren’t harmful. It’s perfectly OK to eat their food and to eat healthily and no one is saying we shouldn’t eat a few more veg and a little less meat. But encouraging people to demonise certain food groups long-term (unless they are medically diagnosed as intolerant) and adding a sharp edge of guilt to food is not OK.
For me, my clean eating romance ended quickly, and all I now have to remind me of that time is a cupboard of cocoa nibs and a silly amount of spiralisers. However, for impressionable teen girls and for people seeking to feed an already skewed relationship with food, it can be more than a “phase” and can breed inflexibility, anxiety and confusion.”

Whispers (Medium)

From the article: “This is a message, or a reminder, for cis men activists. The trans/cis women and non-binary people you organise with are talking about you behind your backs. We send Facebook messages, emails and Twitter DMs. We arrange to meet for a cup of tea between meetings. We run errands together so we can talk privately. We know what you’re up to, and we want our sisters and comrades to know too.”

Turnout For Women’s March Exceeds Attendance At Trump’s Inauguration (NCRM)

Dear Hot Men Who Love My Body As It Is: IDGAF (Bustle)

From the article: “But despite all of that, I reject your approval, no matter how glowing it might be, in favor of my own self-assessment. I officially take the onus off of you to confirm or deny whether or not I’m beautiful — and you’re welcome, because in this world, claiming that your fat body is beautiful is hard effing work.”

Government accused of using Trump inauguration to sneak out controversial tax credit ‘rape clause’ (The Independent)

The Missy Elliott Project (Selina Thompson)

From the article: “Are you a person of colour, aged between 14 and 16? Are you a young woman, or young person who identifies as Femme?… Are you dreaming of a future when all of us are free?”

We should be kind to America’s First Victim — Melania Trump (New Statesman)

From the article: “Imagine being in her position. Imagine being married to that man, having to live with him, back him up, soothe his ego, deal with his tantrums. Her marriage will be under relentless scrutiny for the rest of her life, just as her body has been since she did her first catwalk at the age of five, but if anyone raises the alarm, we’ll be told it’s music and ordered to dance. Do we think that the ham-faced, race-baiting, woman-hating monster about to waltz into the White House respects his third wife as a person? This is a man who slut-shames and humiliates any woman who stands in his way, who is on record boasting about ‘grabbing women by the pussy’, whose first divorce was granted on grounds of ‘cruel and inhuman treatment’.”

The image is used under a creative commons license with thanks to M. McIntyre on Flickr. It shows a white-washed wall in what appears to be a ruined or abandoned building; there is a door to the right of the photograph with no door frame and the general scene is one of neglect and disrepair. On the wall, somebody has painted an avocado motif – the avocado is cut in half with its stone visible and is surrounded by a (painted) ‘burst’ of yellow light.

Anna Reeve works and volunteers in London and has recently started blogging about Women of Will

Music, singing, dancing, shouting and a sense of community permeated the Women’s March in London. It almost felt and sounded like a festival. But the party atmosphere was also clearly underscored by a shared and deep-felt anger. The volume and diversity of issues at stake in this new world order were on show everywhere you looked. Signs, banners and placards cried out for reproductive rights, safe havens for immigrants, an end to fake news and media bias, support of vulnerable groups, control of women’s bodies and freedom of choice. Some of these are new; others we thought had been ticked off the feminist ‘to do’ list years ago.

This was my first protest and I’m not ashamed to admit that the weight of these issues, and the sense of solidarity to tackle them, set off an emotional response. My mum was at my side and we talked about how she and her friends feel deeply frustrated and saddened at the erosion of progress they’d seen over the past 50 years. We talked about why people of privilege and power continue to fear equality. We admired the creativity of those who had crafted humorous, meaningful and thoughtful placards to demonstrate their personal response to Trump and his allies. We absorbed the scale and peace of the event and felt proud to be standing with so many who got off their sofas to fight for each other’s rights.

The crowd far exceeded the numbers that anyone had anticipated. But we must remember that the number of people who didn’t march is even greater. There are so, so many who don’t understand the purpose of yesterday. On social media we can easily find those who declare that feminism is emasculating men, or that women already have ‘enough’ rights. During the march, a young woman angrily passed through the crowd, trying to continue her shopping, and some of us laughed at her expression of disgust at the protestors blocking her way. We can dismiss her and the vitriol of those online as naïve or wilfully ignorant. But we ignore it at our peril. The last few years have taught us the dangers of sitting comfortably in our echo chambers. The US election shows us what happens when we dismiss the power of others who won’t see what we see, and don’t believe what we believe. We must never again be complacent.

We must also remember that this wasn’t just a protest against a single man – odious as he may be – but against a worldview that allowed him into high office. It wasn’t an attempt to solve or resolve problems, but it showed our strength, our voice and our resilience. It loudly proclaimed that we will not be intimidated, we will not be misled by rhetoric that attacks the vulnerable. We will not shrink away.

So, what next? Take comfort from the diversity, scale and energy of the crowds pouring through the city streets. But do not rest. Take heart from the solidarity we witnessed. But do not sit back. Look for a way to make a difference in your communities – local, national and global. Find a cause that ignites you and lend it your skills, talents and energy. Discover organisations that need support and volunteer your time to them. Talk calmly with those who question the motives of marchers and remain graceful in the face of confrontation. Make an effort to better understand the global and local problems we face. Discover how small changes in your everyday behaviours can impact social, ecological and political justice. Challenge the tone of misogyny and discrimination every time you see it. Continue to be brave and outspoken. Remember this day and all those who stood alongside you. Never again feel that you are just one person unable to enact change.

This must be the beginning of a recognition that we will not move forward without direct involvement and conscious action. Each and every one of us now needs to pledge our own contribution. We owe it to the feminists who went before us, the feminists we stand alongside, and the feminists who will follow in our footsteps.

In the first hour of the London march, we made slow progress. The tiny streets of West London couldn’t accommodate the sheer size of our movement. We’d inch forwards, then stop again. For me, this is a symbol of the blockades we face on all sides and that can hold us back. But with patience, perseverance, determination, and the support of those around us we surge onwards. We will reach our destination. And we sure will have some fun on the way.

Photo by Anna Reeve, used with permission

Image is of a crowd of women at the Women’s March on London, some holding placards

Weekly round-up and open thread

by Lusana Taylor // 16 January 2017, 4:40 pm


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

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 Five Women in Space Changed Gender Norms Forever (AnOther Magazine)

Where do you buy exercise clothes when you’re size 16 and over? (The Pool)

IUD Demand Is Up 900% at Planned Parenthood (Motto)

Labour demands urgent action to close gender gap at top of civil service (The Guardian)

Do allegations of sexual harassment mean Casey Affleck’s work should be avoided? (The Pool)

Renewable Sources of Memory: Speech, Silence and Structure at the Gender and Medieval Studies Conference in Canterbury (Jeanne de Montbaston)

How an EU gender equality ruling widened inequality (The Guardian)

Is it OK to watch porn in public? (BBC)

How the Shutdown of Backpage Disproportionately Affects Trans Sex Workers (Vice)

Men confess what feminine things they’d do if stereotypes didn’t exist (The Pool)

From the article: “For a while, the thread is quite entertaining. While it’s laying the restrictive stereotypes out plainly for all to see, it’s also light-hearted. There’s an enlightening conversation about quilting and how lovely it is to give a quilt as a gift, swiftly followed by a discussion on laser hair removal to tidy up a hairy bum. Apparently the vast majority of men are taken with the idea of snuggling up in yoga pants and leggings. But some things are more difficult to say…”

Jamelia shocked at ‘racist’ train incident – but she got her own back (Birmingham Mail)

A bill to decriminalise some forms of domestic violence has passed its first reading in Russia’s lower house, Duma, sparking anger among women’s rights advocates (BBC)

Sex and the middle-aged woman … a groundbreaking BBC drama tells it like it is (The Guardian)

From the article: “We wanted to put out something that looked at women of that age but wasn’t incredibly objectified and that tackled the way that female confidence can sometimes be seen as an invitation when it’s just simple happiness – that idea that just walking down the street feeling good about yourself can actually be seen that way.”

The problems with erotica (The Times Literary Supplement)

CN: references to graphic sexual violence

From the article: “Internalized misogyny is a complex chasm that women receive little encouragement to haul themselves out of. It is an hourly, daily, endlessly exhausting fight against the subliminal, and the overt, sexism of Western culture. Our history of practical suffrage is short. We do not have generations of freedom, respect and equality to live up to or fall back on in difficult times. Our literature is still building itself even as we continue to excavate and re-evaluate the contributions and achievements of generations past. Our relatively recent, and very imperfect, emancipation is often portrayed as a gift rather than the inalienable right of every woman in a democratic society.”

Serena Williams may now be world no2 but she is as dangerous as ever (The Guardian)

The image is used under a creative commons license with thanks to EM on Flickr. It shows a snowy scene from a hillside.

Is celebrity feminism hurting the women’s movement?

by Guest Blogger // 13 January 2017, 12:35 pm

Celebrity feminism

This is a guest post by Rachel St Clair, a Glasgow girl living in Brighton. She’s a performance artist, currently moonlighting as a flight attendant.

Feminism is in right now. Taylor Swift knows it, Beyoncé knows it and so do Jennifer Lawrence and Emma Watson. This list of celebrities who have used the word feminist to define themselves recently is not exhaustive. It seems that feminism has become quite the buzzword in Hollywood.

Of course, the identification of oneself as a feminist is nothing to be suspicious of. After all, each of these women are wholly entitled to their opinion and to identify as feminist. But should we perhaps be wary of those who use the word feminism as part of their branding strategy? Andi Zeisler notes:

Emphasising the personal empowerment of individual actors, comedians and pop stars – whether for itself or in relation to others – only serves to pull focus from the ways in which their industries make money from stereotyping and devaluing women

Do the efforts of said celebrities to include feminism as part of their aura dilute and mask the grassroots efforts of more diverse groups of, well, non-famous women?

One might argue that celebrity feminists make the women’s movement more palatable by giving feminism a pretty face. But it doesn’t look like many are listening to what they have to say. A study carried out over two years examining the relationship between celebrity feminists and our perception of the women’s movement found that celebrity involvement may actually be hindering the cause by making it appear trivial.

To boot, despite a celebrity’s ability to reach a wide audience, just 20% of people said that celebrity involvement made them care more about gender equality issues. Taylor Swift was named specifically as a key reason for this: 30% said that because of her, they care less about feminist issues.

This may be because it is difficult to take a celebrity seriously when we know, ultimately, that their main goal is to support and promote their own brand.

It may be that Taylor Swift’s own take on feminism doesn’t come across as very genuine. After all, as Rebecca Bohanan points out, despite the image Swift has created of her working with women there were no female producers on stage with her as she accepted the Grammy for Album of the Year in 2016.

However, despite this lack of sincerity from Swift, perhaps one thing can be said for her involvement in feminism: she stands to serve as a role model for a group of young fans that without her may never have a stepping stone into the world of women’s rights. In this instance, Swift acts as an excellent gateway for young women to further explore issues relating to their gender.

In 2014, Emma Watson made headlines when she was appointed as a UN Women Goodwill Ambassador and began the HeForShe campaign, which called on men to become a part of and support feminism. The campaign highlighted the ways in which the patriarchy had not only failed women, but also men. This sentiment was widely celebrated for its ambition to make feminism more inclusive. I would argue that feminism should not need to be made more inclusive for men but rather that men should be more accepting of it.

As best put by Rosie Fletcher:

If a man can hear that 85,000 women are raped in the UK each year and only care when this is labelled FOR MEN like a horrifying statistical Yorkie, he probably isn’t that much use to the feminist cause in the first place

So while it may be that Watson’s intentions were good, she seems to be somewhat missing the point.

Ultimately, the fact remains that if feminism is so trendy at the moment, why aren’t we seeing more meaningful change in discrepancies such as the gender pay gap or women in senior and leadership roles? Why are we still fighting battles for cultural and social equity if the celebrities can help us turn the tide of popular opinion?

The answer is simple — these high profile, glamorous celebrities do not represent the pressing issues facing women every day. The attention and limelight they are given in the media is almost a slap in the face for the many women fighting day in and day out to have their voices heard.

Image is of Taylor Swift wearing a black hat and red lipstick. She is smiling, and facing the camera but looking slightly past it.

Image Taylor Swift RED tour 2013 by Jana Beamer, some rights reserved. Photo has been cropped at the bottom.

Men need to do more to end FGM, says new campaign

by Guest Blogger // 10 January 2017, 12:45 pm

Men Speak Out Press Conference at the House of Commons

Gabrielle Pickard Whitehead is a freelance journalist located in the Peak District. Gabrielle has been reporting on human rights topics since 2006. She is passionate about raising awareness about pressing and under-reported human rights issues through the written word. You can find Gabrielle tweeting @GabsP78

Female genital mutilation (FGM) is typically characterised as something that happens in Africa but is far from contained to African soil. FGM and the misery it causes is a global problem. It is one that is rife here in the UK and Europe.

Defined by the WHO as a deliberate mutilation of female genitalia for non-medical reasons, FGM is a widespread practice today, affecting millions of girls and women around the world.

In the UK, 137,000 girls and women are living with the consequences of FGM, marking the highest incidence in Europe. Figures from the Health and Social Care Information Centre show that a case of FGM is reported every 109 minutes in England, with no area of the country immune from the practice. Experts warn that this shocking number of FGM incidents could be just the “tip of the iceberg”.

As best put by the Royal College of Midwives in their Tackling FGM in the UK report:

There is a growing consensus that the system is failing to protect girls from FGM and more needs to be done in the UK to intervene early in a child’s life, and to safeguard those girls at risk

Men Speak Out, a project aimed at engaging men in the process of putting a stop to FGM and on a broader scale ending violence against women, found that men have a key role to play in ending FGM but are failing to assume it.

The research asked men for their views on why they thought FGM happened. As well as being practised for cultural and religious reasons, the responses found that FGM is carried out for sexual purposes — as a means of controlling female sexuality and making women “better wife material”.

The project also found that some men are for FGM but more are against. Either way, though, they are predominantly remaining silent on the issue.

Men are the husbands, brothers and fathers of the victims of FGM. Men might not be subjected to the atrocity themselves but they can be affected by the crushing physical and psychological effects FGM has on its victims, who are members of their family and community. Solomon Zewolde, a researcher for campaign and support organisation FORWARD, says that there are men in the UK whose relationships are negatively affected by their partner having undergone FGM.

On Thursday 8th December 2016, a crowd gathered in the Jubilee Room in the House of Commons, London, to listen to the preliminary research results of the Men Speak Out research.

It wasn’t all bad news. As well as discussing male responsibility in ending the practice, it was clear that inroads are most certainly being made to raise awareness of FGM through education in schools.

FORWARD’s Student Awareness Sessions aim to teach young people about the various roles they can play in ending FGM. In 2015, a total of 384 school sessions were held on the topic, comprising 10,614 students and staff members. Of these, 677 were in primary school.

At Durand Academy in Stockwell, south London, efforts are being made to help safeguard pupils from FGM. All teachers and teaching assistants complete an annual training session on FGM, which includes looking for signs that girls could be being subjected to the practice.

While it is crucial that women lead the charge in educating and informing people about FGM, a greater number of men need be involved if we are going to stamp out the atrocity for good. Whilst it was refreshing to see male faces both on the panel and in the audience at the Men Speak Out event, it would have been more invigorating if the room had a more even gender split. The lack of men in the room was a testament to the gender inequality that colours the quest to end FGM.

For decades, women have been leading this crusade. The late Efua Dorkenoo, OBE, founder of FORWARD, activists Leyla Hussein and Fahma Mohamed are just three leading female names associated with ending FGM.

Statistics reveal that in July 2013 over 125 million girls and women in 29 countries across Africa and the Middle East had endured FGM; over the next 10 years, 30 million more are at risk.

As we can see from the exertions of FGM awareness groups and charities and the growing prevalence of FGM education in schools, progress is being made to end this abhorrent practice. To completely obliterate it, the whole of the community needs to be involved. Male participation in the fight against FGM is essential.

Image taken by the author at the Men Speak Out press conference in December, 2016. Used with author’s permission.

Image is of a conference taking place in an ornately-styled room in the House of Commons. There is a panel of six people facing the camera and addressing the audience.

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