Weekly round-up and open thread

by Lusana Taylor // 7 August 2017, 7:26 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 Veganism Doesn’t Care About Black Lives (gal-dem)

Call Me By My Names: A Story of Shame, Trauma, and Liberation in a Chinese Name (Zine)

From the article: “For twenty-two years I had been conditioned to regard my Chinese identity—starting with my name—as a source of embarrassment and inadequacy. Now, choosing to introduce myself with my Chinese name as an entry to reclaiming this identity was, and still is, a sorely vulnerable act.”

We wrote about women’s health not being taken seriously & your stories came flooding in (The Pool)

We don’t need ‘macho’ stereotypes to entice boys onto the dance floor (The Conversation)

Using a fitness app taught me the scary truth about why privacy settings are a feminist issue (Quartz)

We need to talk about digital blackface in reaction GIFs (Teen Vogue)

From the article: “[To] be looped in a GIF, to be put on display as ‘animated’ at the behest of audiences,” as Monica Torres describes for Real Life, is an act with racial history and meaning. These GIFs often enact fantasies of black women as “sassy” and extravagant, allowing nonblack users to harness and inhabit these images as an extension of themselves. GIFs with transcripts become an opportunity for those not fluent in black vernacular to safely use the language, such as in the many ‘hell to the no,’ ‘girl, bye,’ and ‘bitch, please’ memes passed around. Ultimately, black people and black images are thus relied upon to perform a huge amount of emotional labor online on behalf of nonblack users. We are your sass, your nonchalance, your fury, your delight, your annoyance, your happy dance, your diva, your shade, your ‘yaas’ moments. The weight of reaction GIFing, period, rests on our shoulders. Intertwine this proliferation of our images with the other ones we’re as likely to see — death, looped over and over — and the Internet becomes an exhausting experience.”

Facebook’s complicity in the silencing of black women (Ijeoma Oluo at Medium)

Of Course Abortion Should Be a Litmus Test for Democrats (New York Times)

From the article: “Nineteen hyenas and a broken vacuum cleaner control the White House, and ice is becoming extinct. I get it. I am desperate and afraid as well. I am prepared to make leviathan compromises to pull us back from that brink. But there is no recognizable version of the Democratic Party that does not fight unequivocally against half its constituents’ being stripped of ownership of their own bodies and lives. This issue represents everything Democrats purport to stand for.”

I deleted my baby apps when I realised how much they fetishise motherhood (the Guardian)

What happens when you track down your online trolls (The Debrief)

From the article: “When I eventually tracked down my Keyser Soze, I was even angrier to find out he was a ‘normal’ person. An adult man who holidays with his girlfriend in Italy, shares videos about dogs being saved from floods on Facebook and, apparently, has an alter ego for sending women they’ve never met ‘I know where you live’ messages. After finally keeping him on the phone long enough to read what he’d sent to me back to him, I was taken aback by how distraught he was and yet completely unsympathetic.”

Documentary on Swedish kids growing up without rigid gender roles (boingboing)

I had a shit birth. Here’s six reasons WHY I really want others to know (Every Mum Should Know)

Not here to make friends (Anne Helen Petersen)

From the article: “Writing about those stars often makes me melancholy, less because of their personal decisions, and more because of what those decisions reveal about the resilience of the image-flattening machine.

“Which is why it’s always such a delight to look into a star archive — like Theron’s, or Kidman’s, or Witherspoon’s — and find these moments of resistance and weirdness. Of course, all three of those women have survived in Hollywood because of their whiteness and their beauty. But that survival is also a testament to their stubbornness, their talent, their bitchiness, and their insistence that they are far more complex, far more worthy of your time and consideration, far more than the sum of their exquisite parts than the publicity world would have you believe.”

Police accused of threatening sex workers rather than pursuing brothel thieves (The Guardian)

From the article: “Women’s safety is being [compromised]. It goes against the home affairs committee’s call last year for women sharing premises to be decriminalised. The police are permitting a terror campaign against sex workers. Even having a key [to enter the premises] is deemed to be assisting in running a brothel.”

State pension reforms hit women for £5.1bn ‘substantially’ increasing poverty, major IFS study finds (Independent)

From the article: “Proportionally, we find a larger reduction in household income for lower-income women, with the reform increasing the measured income poverty rate of women aged 60 to 62, who are now under the state pension age, by 6.4 percentage points.”

The reason why straight men are having sex with other men, according to a sexologist (Indy100)

From the article: “If you look at this belief that women’s sexuality is more receptive – it’s more fluid, it’s triggered by external stimuli, that women have the capacity to be sort of aroused by anything and everything – it really just reinforces what we want to believe about women, which is that women are always sexually available people.

“With men, on the other hand, the idea that they have this hardwired heterosexual impulse to spread their seed and that that’s relatively inflexible, also kind of reinforces the party line about heteronormativity and also frankly, patriarchy.”

Dear Christian Men in Tank Tops (Krysti Wilkinson)[Satire]

Experience: I am a professional mermaid (The Guardian)

Meet The Disability Rights Campaigner Whose Shock Election Win Saw Him Topple Nick Clegg (Buzzfeed)

PETITION: Demand Property Mogul lifts ban on domestic abuse survivors renting a home (Care 2 Petitions)

True crime makes great TV. But must it linger on women’s corpses? (The Guardian)

For Black Women, The Wage Gap Can Be A Matter Of Life And Death (The Establishment)

The image is used under a creative commons with thanks to Victoria Pickering on Flickr. It is a black and white photograph of what appears to be a protest taking place at night. The protesters are facing away from the camera towards a row of lit up shop fronts. Part of a placard one of the protesters is holding can just be read from the angle and it says: ‘The revolution has always been in the hands of the young.’

Jordan King is a freelance writer, focusing on intersectional feminism and fiction. She is studying English Literature and Journalism full time, and feels very odd about referring to herself in the third person. When she’s not playing with words and trying to be a serious writer, she’s unhelpfully spilling chocolate somewhere on her clothing and most likely embarrassing herself.

“I was going to get my tubes tied, but as a woman there really is something in your body that will make you wake up one day and suddenly need a baby.” It surprised me to hear these words coming from the woman I was talking to. Granted, we were at a five-year-old’s birthday party, but she seemed an unlikely candidate for a ‘women are made to be mothers’ endorsement. However, this would not be the last time my binary ideas about ‘types’ of women would be challenged. My categorisation of ‘motherly’ women and ‘non-motherly’ women was soon to come crashing down, along with my separation of ‘liberated’ women versus the opposite.

In the gap between leaving one university and starting at another, I took a job as an au pair. I wanted to see a new place and to make some money. I enjoyed the job and learned a great deal, but in the second week I came to the realisation that absolutely nothing about childcare comes ‘naturally’ to me.

I was good at the playing part – being a hyperactive person came in useful here. But I didn’t know how to deal with “I don’t want to brush my teeth” as an argument and, to my own surprise, I struggled with being affectionate. Don’t get me wrong, I ended up adoring the child. But I had to put sticky notes up in my brain that said “caress hair in motherly way”, “tend to every level of ‘wound”, “hold her hand – yes, even just to the next room”, and so on. It also felt very overwhelming to have to think of every little thing for another human being. I had to focus really hard on remembering that the kid needed me to tell her to wipe her face, even though she can see and even feel exactly what I can.

I am not against the idea of having my own children one day, but my current focus is academia and my career, and I foresee this being the case for a very long time. So when this lack of motherly ability affected me so badly emotionally, I couldn’t explain why. I started to devalue everything I was good at, because I wasn’t good at this one thing that every woman is supposed to be able to do. I knew what was happening in my head but I couldn’t understand why. I am an educated, well-read, supposedly liberated feminist who knows that my worth is not determined by my mothering ability.

I would even lie to my best friend about my days with the child so that he didn’t know I wasn’t so great with kids. I wanted him to think that I wasn’t the motherly type because I chose not to be, not because I couldn’t be. I was worried that this guy who knows me well, is a radical feminist himself, has great politics and who loves me dearly, would see me as ‘less’ because motherly affection and softness weren’t among my defining characteristics.

Moreover, I became extremely disappointed in myself for feeling and thinking this way. I felt that I had failed as a feminist, that I couldn’t possibly believe all the things I wrote about if I wasn’t buying into them. I felt that I had not successfully liberated myself and the powerlessness this delivered was staggering.

This anecdote is nothing profound; it merely serves as yet another example of the patriarchal pressure women experience to fit into a certain male-approved version of how we should be. Furthermore, it proves that we’re all affected by it. The ‘woke’ ones, the socially aware ones, the feminists, the writers, the scholars, everyone. And this is important to realise. We have to allow ourselves the time and the resources to process our feelings and their origins.

It took a very emotional, very confusing experience for me to realise that recognising and resisting sexism does not constitute an impenetrable shield against internalising it. And that in fact, internalising it does not make me a bad feminist – it makes me a person who cannot help be influenced by the myriad manifestations of patriarchy.

In all feminist spaces, we need to ensure that we support each other to work through this internalisation of oppression rather than expect knowledge and understanding of sexism to cancel this out. And as I see myself as guilty of this expectation, this is my first attempt to infiltrate feminist media by merely offering recognition of anything you are feeling and solidarity for its impact on you. You have not failed in your activism because you find yourself affected by the society you live in, whether through feeling insufficient because of an absence of motherly instinct, or something completely different. As an activist, you need to fight for your own right to be human, too.

Vintage typewriter
With the three or so weeks of British summer behind us, it’s time to look forward to August and welcome Catherine King, our new monthly blogger.

In her own words:

“Catherine King is a television worker based in south-east London. Her passion for writing truly began during her studies as an English Literature undergraduate in London; being exposed to a wide range of both old and contemporary writers in one of the greatest cities in the world really does create an insatiable hunger for words! Having been a regular contributor to her university newspaper and publishing various freelance pieces since then, she is excited to now be writing far more regularly.

Catherine is continually impassioned by the ways women are oppressed in a patriarchal society with a particular interest in how sexism affects women both professionally and personally. Alongside this, she also has a keen interest in female body image, mental health and the importance of reminding the world that funny women do exist and are not an alien species.

As well as being a television fanatic — from reality nonsense to gritty crime dramas — she also enjoys reading anything concerning bargain furniture buys or how to wear culottes correctly.”

You can follow her on Twitter @SupahGinjaNinja

Welcome, Catherine!

Image by Cliff Johnson, from Unsplash. Used under Creative Commons Zero licence.

Image is a close-up of a vintage typewriter. Some rows of keys and the top of the typewriter are in the frame, along with two watches that are artfully resting on the keys. The typewriter is a rich brown colour, whose keys have a bronze trim.

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 music festivals doing enough to tackle sexual assault? (The Guardian)

Stop supporting & protecting abusive men (The Fader)

From the article: “I am so tired of teaching men. I am tired of being patient with men. I am tired of spending time making men better. Sometimes I feel like, if men are as smart as they have convinced the world that they are, why can’t they do the work themselves? The same is true for white people. At some point, we have to take the training wheels off.”

Your fat friend wants you to read the comments (Medium)

From the article: “When we talk about what it’s like to be fat, you tell me about body image and self esteem and confidence because those are your struggles. But they aren’t mine.

Where your challenges are deep-rooted and internal, mine are external. As a fat person, the world refuses me at nearly every turn, rejecting my body like a bad organ transplant. Doctors refuse to treat me, and some refuse even to touch me. Strangers regularly mock my body publicly, shouting insults openly, and no one responds. Even loved ones assume that I am constantly trying, and failing, to win the body I was meant to have. That I am shirking a responsibility to achieve a more acceptable body — one like yours.

No, mine aren’t issues of body image or self esteem, they’re issues of concrete exclusion. The world I walk through begins the moment that good, thoughtful people abandon reason and compassion. Mine isn’t a challenge of not thinking well of myself. Mine is a challenge of external harms born of external pressures.”

Saggy boobs matter (The Slumflower)

From the article: “If you are having trouble accepting your body, please look at mine and look at how socially unacceptable my boobs are. But also look how bossy, snatched and GLOWY I look! I’m living my best life and my boobs aren’t going to stop me from meeting someone amazing. They’re literally gland sacks. And they’re actually pretty awesome. Shout out to my boobs.”

The Inking Woman: Paula Knight – Showcasing the Artists of the Latest Exhibition at London’s Cartoon Museum (Broken Frontier)
Please note: The Inking Woman exhibition is now closed.

Study Finds People Are Morally Outraged by Those Who Decide Not to Have Kids (Vice)

I am the sex worker who took a selfie with Corbyn – this is my side of the story (Independent)

From the article: “When Jeremy Corbyn speaks in our favour he’s demonised and when he’s pictured with one of us he’s demonised. Every interaction a politician has with a sex worker or any statement that one makes which isn’t imbued in negativity or ‘savior’ rhetoric is met with disgust.”

So you don’t enjoy penis-in-vagina sex? You’re not alone (London Central Counselling)

From the article: “As I said above, PIV is a cultural mainstay of heterosexual life. There is still pressure on a vagina-owner to ‘submit’ to being penetrated (showing that they like it but not too much and not having opinions about what the sex should be), and that they must be entered only after protracted negotiation (if they give it up too easily they are a slut).”

Government considers reforming gender identity rules (Channel 4)

The Men Who Never Have to Grow Up (New York Times)

From the article: “Matthew Klam’s ‘Who Is Rich?’, one of the summer’s best-reviewed novels, stars the fabulously immature 42-year-old Rich, who teaches cartooning at a workshop on a college campus, where he reflects on his thwarted ambitions and desires.

“‘Where were the cuties of my youth?’ he complains. ‘Women in their 40s had replaced them, hunching toward the grave.’”

Can assisted suicide ever be safe when disabled people are so unequal? (Philippa Willitts at Global Comment)

Anne Dufourmantelle dead: French philosopher who wrote book on risk-taking dies rescuing children (Independent)

Don’t call them riots. That dismisses the anger over Rashan Charles’s death (Franklyn Addo at The Guardian)

The image is used under a creative commons license with thanks to Tortuga Music Festival on Flickr. It shows people at a music festival behind a stage barrier. Two people at the front of the audience have noticed the camera and are pointing towards it. One of the people has long-ish brown hair, is wearing sunglasses and appears to have their face painted with a blue design. The other person is wearing a baseball cap backwards on their head and is holding what appears to be a pink mobile phone in the hand they are using to point.

The F-Word is recruiting!

by Joanna Whitehead // 28 July 2017, 7:00 am

Tags: , ,

The F-Word is looking for UK-based volunteers to join our team of editors. We have two roles available: features (co-editing with Sophie) and guest blog content (co-editing with Monica). 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:

For both roles, your main duties will be:

  • responding to pitches and reviewing opportunities (including spotting and avoiding spurious content)
  • sourcing ideas and commissioning features/blog posts/reviews/interviews, with a focus on encouraging new voices from a range of backgrounds and 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
  • 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 and blog sections
  • 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 (recruitment@thefword.org.uk) 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 1900 on Sunday 27 August.

Please note that we will shortly be recruiting for a fiction editor and a social media editor. 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 image at the top of the page is an aerial shot of a black woman’s arms typing on a computer with a blue keypad on a round, white table. The person is wearing a black, long-sleeved sweater and a gold watch. Picture taken from WOCin Tech Chat and shared under a Creative Commons licence.

In 2013, we began using a rotating editor system. Rather than having one person as constant editor at The F-Word, we decided to share the role within the team, with a new person coming into it every six to twelve months. This has given us a chance to share the admin load (hint: there’s a lot!*) and also gives different people the chance to inject new life into the site.

After the site’s entrepreneurial founder Catherine Redfern and talented journalist Jess McCabe had spent 12 years (over six years each!) laying the groundwork, our first rotating editor was regular blogger and brilliant music writer Helen G. Helen was followed by theatre editor, recruitment ace and now blogger/reviewer Megan Stodel. We then had a stint from our longstanding film specialist and editor Ania Ostrowska.

And, as I’m the one writing this now, you know the rest!

So here we are, another year later, and I am excited to tell you that our super clued-up music editor Joanna Whitehead took over from me last Saturday. I won’t put Jo under pressure by turning this post into a long lecture arguing exactly why I reckon she’ll be great, but I know she will be. (The fact I think she is bang-on about so many feminist issues definitely helps!)

Jo will temporarily hand over care of the music section to punk expert Cazz Blase, who some of you will already know from her work as a music editor from 2011 to 2013. Cazz will be filling in that role for at least six months and then, possibly, the full year. She has carried on occasionally writing for the site since her previous music editing term ended, so I imagine we may well see her again after this one.

There have lots of goodbyes and new additions to the team over the past year. Last August, Harriet Kilikita joined us as fiction editor and very quickly settled in to deliver regular, reliable and high-quality editing. She will sadly be leaving us, after a year of excellent work, next month. Harriet, you will be missed!

Also missed is Shoshana Devora, who left her social media role on the site back in February, after a two-year stint of tireless input. Shoshana also happens be an insightful and switched-on writer, so we hope it’s not goodbye forever.

Harriet’s August 2016 arrival was followed a month later by a total of seven other new recruits: features editors Pooja Kawa and Aisling Twomey, TV editor Yasha Gosrani and guest content editors Monica Karpinski, Dawn Robinson and Amy Grant. Then, in April 2017, we were joined by features editor Sophie Jackson and visual arts editor Erin Aniker.

Each of our new editors has done some great work. For example, Yasha has not only developed the TV section, but also teamed up with Ania in March to amalgamate it with film. Meanwhile, Monica is exactly what I would hope for in a guest content editor: well-organised and good at engaging new writers. Both Yasha and Monica remain in these roles and are assets to the site.

Other examples of memorable work, for me, would be Pooja’s input during a later recruitment drive and Yasha and Aisling’s sharing of legal knowledge when we needed to navigate a difficult story in October. We only had the benefit of having Aisling on the team for a little while but I’m very glad to have met her. More recently, Pooja has also moved on from features but I’m pleased to say she’ll be staying on the team in an editorial capacity. We are also lucky enough to have Sophie Jackson in charge of the section. I’ve been excited to work with Sophie, as she has a strong intersectional approach and is good at dealing with difficult commenters. Oh, and she also does a cool podcast.

Along with the above, we’ve had changes within the guest content section, with a short stint from Dawn and then Amy more recently handing in her notice for the role to concentrate on other areas on the site and her writing. Alongside Monica, Amy has consistently sourced and delivered relevant and interesting content for the busiest section on the site (which is not an easy task), so I look forward to seeing what she does next. I’m also pleased to say I’ve stayed in touch with Dawn (enjoying a few witty quips from her on social media!) so I hope to see some of her writing on the site in the future as well.

Another major development this year has been that we now have a visual arts editor after a long gap in terms of content in that area. Illustrator Erin Aniker is very well-connected and knowledgeable in her field and recently co-curated the ‘We are Here’ exhibition. You can read her F-Word interview with the DIY Cultures 2017 festival founders, Hamja Ahsan, Helena Wee and Sofia Niazi, here.

I’m now over the line on the word count for blog pieces, so I won’t go ‘all in’ on any reflections on my rotating editorship, but I will say the tasks I’ve particularly enjoyed have been media work coordination (with the occasional opportunity to intercept dominant narratives in debates!), sending juicy intersectional round-up links to Lusana Taylor (who does a sterling job with the regular content on the site, as well as running the non-fiction book section) and getting stuck into adding burning items to make Jess’ already very useful internal F-Word style guide even better. (Adding entries on comma splices and the sexist term ‘catfight’ were gratifying moments!)

We’ve also made some great progress with our site re-brand (thanks to our awesome communications editor Lily Kendall and the hugely valuable Andrew Bowden for all their hard work in this area) and the image resource I set up (thanks to the aforementioned Amy Grant and our fantastic blogger D H Kelly for advice). If you’d like to join the group and share or suggest pictures, please click here.

Thank you everyone!

*Special thanks here to our theatre and comedy editor, treasurer and dependable numbers and spreadsheets whizz Lissy Lovett, for recently developing a rather nifty new second edit system for the team.


Image description and credit

A collection of brightly coloured, upright felt tip pens, including variations of red, purple, blue, green, brown, grey, black, yellow, orange and pink. By Nicki Dugan Pogue and shared under a creative commons license.

Have you read the response of Edward Hall, Artistic Director of Hampstead Theatre, to the accusation from a group of creatives that his theatre isn’t programming enough women? Here it is. He seems to be blaming everyone else but the theatre. I’m not going to pick apart his response here, but I will say this: if you’re complaining about the amount of Arts Council funding that you receive, which is essentially other people’s taxes that you get given so that you can do a job you love, then you should really take a long hard look at your sense of entitlement.

Now, on to the shows!

Camden Fringe is happening very soon. There will be lots of great shows, but I am drawn by Dos Mujeres Theatre Company’s description of their show The Second Sex: “Are you, or is a woman you love, a lost feminist? Join our rehabilitation centre! We help all lost feminists recover and return to society as fully functioning and obedient women.” I’d also check out Motherlogues from Forked Theatre which “[covers] all personal aspects of motherhood, whether it [is] being a mum, not being able to be a mum, or losing a mum”.

The Space in east London have announced their summer season which looks great. It includes all-female company VOLTA presenting the sexually liberated Freak and Eclipsed from FilthyCOW theatre company which is set in a Penitent Magdalen Laundry.

The Space is also one of the venues for this years work from the National Youth Theatre, who seem to have so much going on that it’s very hard for me to get my head around it all. Included this year is a new female-led adaptation of Jekyll and Hyde that puts women centre stage where they are completely absent in the novella (Jekyll and Hyde is being performed at the Ambassadors Theatre in London which isn’t the most accessible of West End theatres – those using wheelchairs need to transfer to seats with arms I’m afraid). They’ve also got a production of Blue Stockings which I loved when I saw it a few years back, that one’s at the Yard Theatre which is much more accessible.

Lastly here’s a character sketch from Jenna Bosco combining two things she loves: Game of Thrones and Women’s Health. What if a copper IUD was actually a knight in shining armour?

I don’t have time to write a list of F-Word recommendations for this year’s Edinburgh Festival Fringe, but take a look at Bechdel Theatre‘s instead. It’s a good list and I think The F-Word will be reviewing a few of them. There’ll be no blog next month as I’ll be focusing on Edinburgh coverage, but see you in September.

The image is a publicity image for The Second Sex at Camden Fringe. It is a photograph of five people standing in a shop between aisles of food. The figures stare straight ahead vacantly and are dressed in what looks like hospital clothing, loose smocks and pyjama trousers.

How travelling alone can help you become a better feminist
Charlotte is July’s guest blogger

Each week in July, Charlotte will discuss a different item in the ‘toolkit’ she uses to navigate the world as a young feminist. This week, Charlotte looks at how solo travel can teach self-sufficiency and confidence

I spend a lot of time alone but wasn’t always comfortable doing so. I believed that spending time by myself in public made me look pathetic or lonely; that I was edging ever closer to all those Bridget Jones stereotypes that I’d been taught to fear emulating.

Now, I relish my alone time, particularly when travelling. Last September, I visited Shanghai and Hong Kong by myself. While I was there to visit friends, they were working during the day and I kept myself entertained by taking in the sights. Each morning, I decided how I would fill my time and what I would see. I could get lost in each city, wandering through the lilongs of Shanghai, escaping the heat in shady side streets or taking the Star Ferry to Kowloon, gazing at the Hong Kong skyline. I spent each of the 12-hour flights completely alone. And it was bliss.

In a world where women are faced with so much pressure to behave and appear certain ways, spending a few days or weeks completely on your own agenda is incredibly freeing. Having internalised the patriarchal narrative that I must be accommodating as a woman, I found that this manifested as me being unable to say no to doing work while away. Two weeks in China where I couldn’t access email because of the Great Firewall gave me some much-needed perspective and I was better at saying no and more likely to delegate when I returned to the office.

When you are completely alone you are forced to confront any gaps or hiccups in your planning and solve them yourself. You have to be the person to book the restaurant, to check the flights, to complain at baggage claim and to make sure you’ve packed everything. There is no one else who will do it for you. This also means that you can cancel any bit of it whenever you feel like it. Don’t fancy going to the gallery today and would rather lounge by the pool? Done. Want to take a day trip specifically to eat in an excellent restaurant à la Master of None? Do it. You don’t need to compromise or negotiate with anyone, which should be treasured in a world where women always seem to have to compromise or negotiate simply to take part.

This brilliant self-reliance can give you strength and resolve to better navigate our patriarchal society on your own terms. The confidence I have gained from travelling alone has translated into my daily life. I am much more comfortable not always being nice and accommodating; to complain and question behaviours that make me feel uncomfortable and, ultimately, take charge of my life.

Travelling alone also massively highlights how ingrained sexist attitudes can be via encounters with service staff. While I spent my two weeks in China, one of my best friends had booked a two-week solo trip to Majorca. We were each travelling alone and were staying in hotels by ourselves. We were asked exactly the same question checking in: “Just you?” And “Who will be paying?” when checking out.

Wait, what?

The booking is under my name, I checked in by myself and now at the end of my stay, you’re going to imply that someone else is going to pay? While this was a very jarring experience and I’m sure it has not happened to my male friends, it did make me appreciate the fact that yes, I was the one paying for it all. To (mis)quote Destiny’s Child, “The room I stayed in? I bought it.”

Image by Suhyeon Choi on Unsplash. Used under Creative Commons Zero licence.

Image is a perspective shot of someone looking down the aisle of an aeroplane. Rows of seats line the left and right-hand sides of the shot. A member of airline staff appears as a blurred figure at the end of the aisle.

Weekly round-up and open thread

by Lusana Taylor // 24 July 2017, 5:08 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.

His-and-hers advert ban as TV pulls plug on gender stereotypes (The Telegraph)

Maryam Mirzakhani’s success showed us the challenges women in maths still face (The Conversation)

Black Pride, Non-Black Allies (gal-dem)

This piece was written by Shoshana Devora who was previously social media editor for The F-Word and has also written for the site. You can read more from her HERE.

Sarah Reed’s mother: ‘My daughter was failed by many and I was ignored’ (The Guardian)

The predictable double standards of the tabloids turning on Louise Redknapp (The Pool)

Woman who laughed at Jeff Sessions gets conviction thrown out (Independent)

R. Kelly and America’s record of protecting celebrity sex offenders (Shannon Lee at The Lily)

From the article: “It has been nearly two decades since veteran music journalist Jim DeRogatis first broke the story of R. Kelly’s sexual assault allegations. After spending years investigating the R&B star for the Chicago Sun-Times, he confessed to a Village Voice reporter:

“‘The saddest fact I’ve learned is nobody matters less to our society than young black women. Nobody.’”

Theatre company advert asks if millennials understand ‘real world’ (BBC)

From the article: “Theatre company Creative Electric tweeted: ‘Dear Tea House Theatre, it’s never good to advertise that you’re entitled, patronising and abusive. Love Millennials x'”

Why do we find it so hard to ‘play the dating game’? (Louise McCudden at The Queerness)

From the article: “The thought of getting angry over the ‘friendzone’ is amazing to me. If I’m attracted to someone and she wants to be my friend, it makes my day. I’m overjoyed that she likes me and wants to be my friend, even if she doesn’t feel exactly the same thing I do. If anything, I tend to assume she’s being polite by offering friendship; she’d probably much rather tell me to leave her alone, but she’s been taught that she mustn’t, because that would be rude.”

New sex robots have ‘frigid’ setting which allows men to simulate rape (The Independent)

The image is used under a creative commons license with thanks to Tim Evanson on Flickr. It shows two people, shirtless and wearing sunglasses, with rainbow coloured chains around their necks. One of them has their arm raised as if greeting or pointing towards someone or something. Behind them other people can be seen waving rainbow coloured flags, giving the impression of a Pride march.

The Thirteenth Doctor

by Guest Blogger // 22 July 2017, 8:00 am

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Amy Roskilly is a primary school teacher and has moonlighted as a freelance writer for the past 10 years after starting out as a reporter in London. She now lives in Wales teaching, writing novels and keeping a blog following her adventures raising a feisty limb-different daughter

I was disappointed when they announced the new lead actor in the decade-defying cult TV show Doctor Who earlier this week.

I should probably start with the caveat that I am not a fanatical Dr Who fan. As a child, it used to be the heart-pumping highlight of my week, but when the programme was relaunched in 2005 I just didn’t get on the bandwagon. Aside from a bit of passive viewing while my husband had it on, I’ve neither watched it religiously nor had an opinion on the timeless ream of new actors taking on the role.

Until this week, that is, when I did a triumphant air punch in celebration as the BBC announced their 13th Doctor. I surprised even myself at how much I cared. Two things were different this time. Firstly: I have a daughter now. She’s rapidly approaching her first birthday and since her birth I’ve found my inherent feminist principles becoming more and more prominent; they’ve been finding their voice in defence of my daughter’s future. Secondly, of course, the 13th Doctor is a woman.

Of course, the announcement that Jodie Whittaker (of Broadchurch fame) was to become the latest eccentric Time Lord didn’t disappoint me, but the reactions I saw across social media afterwards most certainly did. Mere seconds after the news, anti-female complaints were popping up like weeds all over the place. I get it, I really do – people feel very passionately about Dr Who and who should or should not be able to play The Doctor. But this felt like more than that.

“Filming of the next season of Dr Who is delayed because the new Doctor had difficulty parking the Tardis.”

“What’s the betting the new Doctor will disappear on maternity leave within a year and then come back demanding flexi time!”

Or an image of a crashed Tardis with the caption: “She’s only had it a few hours FFS…”

What year is it? I had to check, but nope, it’s definitely not the 1900s anymore. As far as I was aware, women are able to vote, to work in positions of power and even (gasp!) to drive.

Yet, despite this, many still seem to think that simply by virtue of having a penis you are somehow better at, well, life. Apparently it is without doubt that if you are a man you’re a better driver and needless to say you would never have a day off work to procreate (could be a short reign for the misogynists).

I suspect many would say that it was just light humour, so get over it. But just because it has always been does not make it right, as history has taught us time and time again. Men are not more qualified to vote than women. Men are not more able to drive than women and men certainly don’t hold the monopoly on time travel.

It’s time these archaic ‘jokes’ are considered for what they are: manifestations of deeply discriminatory attitudes against half of the population. Discriminatory against my daughter, and every girl and woman on the planet. Girls should be growing up into a world where they are seen as equal. They shouldn’t feel that they are inferior to their male peers, that they somehow aren’t good enough to take part in certain activities by virtue of their sex.

But now, thanks to the BBC’s latest casting choice, half of the population have been given a new role model to look up to and aspire to, one who was never accessible to them before. They can drive the TARDIS, they can travel time and they can sure as hell change the world.

If you think this somehow emasculates you then I’d invite you to get into your own bloody TARDIS and take a trip back to the 1950s or beyond. Educate yourself on how far we’ve come, and how far we still have to go before women are truly equal. Just be careful how you park it.

Image courtesy Mr. Evil Cheese Scientist on Flickr

Image depicts the TARDIS from Doctor Who travelling through space and time

The comic strip: Stereotype bags

by Guest Blogger // 21 July 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 someone trying to force a woman to wear differently labelled bags on her head according to the stereotype they think fits her best. None of them are a comfortable fit because, for example, although she is a woman, she also likes sports and wears masculine clothing. The person then can’t decide whether to replace the ‘woman’ bag with ‘lesbian’ or ‘man’. The woman rejects all of the bags.

The Feminist Library - Anaïs Charles

Anaïs Charles is a passionate feminist and storyteller beginning a career in filmmaking and journalism. She graduated from Lancaster University with a degree in politics and is currently based in London. The Feminist Library is her first short film

Can we know where we’re going as feminists if we don’t know where we’ve come from? That’s the question that I faced head-on when I made my first documentary (now on YouTube), a collaboration to celebrate the work that The Feminist Library in London has been doing for decades.

The Feminist Library is a treasure trove of feminist history, documentation and literature. Founded at the beginning of the Women’s Liberation Movement in the 1970s & 1980s, it remains a hub of feminist activism. Being entirely dependent on donations, however, its future is constantly in question.

My good friend and co-filmmaker Lucile Smith came across the library in early 2015. When she suggested we make a film about it, I jumped at the chance.

During the early days of the women’s movement, and pre-internet of course, the library was an especially precious resource for women wanting to educate themselves on the issues they faced. It was also an invaluable place for these women to find others who’d embarked on the same journey that they had. It was a time of discovery, community activism and consciousness-raising groups.

What about now? As Jalna Hanmer, a women’s studies professor and leading voice on gender-based violence, says “Young women don’t know anything about the women’s liberation movement. So it’s really hard to keep women’s history alive.”

We interviewed some of the founding members of the library collective, such as Gail Chester, who still runs the library today. “There are articles about consciousness-raising groups, there are articles about the small group process. I think a lot of that work is really in danger of being lost – in the sense of acquainting younger women with that history, which is really important for informing their activism,” she said. The library’s first employee, writer Zoe Fairbairns, told us that the library “was about simply setting the record straight and restoring women back to the mainstream of which we are half.”

Each and every woman we spoke to buzzed with passion as they recounted their involvement with the library. I often left these interviews shocked that I hadn’t learned this history at school and embarrassed that this was the first time I was showing the women who came before me the gratitude and respect they deserved. Why hadn’t I known all this before?

As Alice Wroe, founder of feminist project Herstory, says in the film: “…these women had literally paved the way so that I can live the life that I do now. I felt really inspired first … and then I felt really upset and angry that my education had let me down, that I’d got to this point and no one had ever told me about these women.”

The filmmaking process

Feminism continues to evolve to better include non-white and non-cisgender identities, although there is still a way to go before these groups are fairly represented. This was reflected in the filmmaking process; I have spoken about this in more depth in an interview with She Translates.

As a filmmaker, this experience has taught me that I have a duty not to let that history disappear; to fight for the herstory of women to be considered on a par with the history of men. “When we’re taking a book off the shelf [here] for instance, it’s not just a book” says library collective member Yula Burin. “We’re holding knowledge that’s born out of the real intricacies and difficulties, the joys and the pains, the sorrows and struggles of women.”

We are empowered when we know where we’ve come from. When this knowledge is integrated into who we are today, we know what’s at stake and understand ourselves more deeply than ever before. This, I hope, is what viewers will take from my work.

The Feminist Library is available on YouTube

Image is of the film poster for The Feminist Library, courtesy of the author.

The poster features the words ‘The Feminist Library’ in colourful speech bubbles, with each bubble attributed to a different woman. The women are drawn in a colourful cartoon style. At the bottom of the poster there are a group of activists holding signs in support of the library.

Weekly round-up and open thread

by Lusana Taylor // 17 July 2017, 2:12 pm


Welcome to another weekly round-up, where we share (what we see as) the most interesting and important articles from the previous seven days. We’d love to hear your thoughts on any of the issues covered in the articles we’ve picked, which include some links for International Non-Binary People’s Day which took place on 14 July.

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.

Angela Rayner’s accent is not up for scrutiny (The Pool)

From the article: “Shock, horror – woman born in Greater Manchester, representing seat in Greater Manchester, has a broad Manchester accent.”

Why are we so unwilling to take Sylvia Plath at her word? (Lit Hub)

An open letter to Glastonbury, from a victim (Life on Laura Lane)

From the article: “This is a story about a girl who contacted a giant festival who cater for hundreds of thousands with a request for help and was met with compassion, love and overwhelming acts of kindness.”

How I deal with nasty comments online (inews)

If anonymous social media accounts are banned, it’s women who will suffer most (Blasting News)

From the article: ” Preventing women from being anonymous online exposes them to either real threats of violence that all too often come true, or isolates them from humanity, locking them in a high tower of protection from abusive men, rather than tackling the abusive men in the first place.”

The dangerous hollowness of Netflix’s eating-disorder drama, To The Bone (The Pool)

From the article: “Collins’ character, Ellen, is the anorexic you never were, but always dreamed you could be: cool, quirky, beautiful, she never throws full-on tantrums in the middle of McDonald’s because she’s convinced they’ve swapped her Diet Coke for the sugared version. She never shits herself in public due to a mistimed laxative dose. Hell, even when she’s spitting out food, she manages to make it look kinda sexy.”

Celebrating What It Means To Be Black And British, Parts 1-4 (The Voice)
A series of Q&As with black British artists who took part in the ‘We Are Here’ Project, which was co-curated by our visual arts editor Erin Aniker:

http://www.voice-online.co.uk/article/celebrating-what-it-means-be-black-and-british-part-1 (Joy Miessi)

http://www.voice-online.co.uk/article/celebrating-what-it-means-be-black-and-british-part-2 (Kariima Ali)

http://www.voice-online.co.uk/article/celebrating-what-it-means-be-black-and-british-part-3 (Freya Bramble Carter)

http://www.voice-online.co.uk/article/celebrating-what-it-means-be-black-and-british-part-4 (Dayo Adesina)

From Part 4 (Dayo Adesina): “I think for every young girl dealing with identity is tough, but there is a specific inner turmoil that forms around having to figure out who you are when issues of race and gender come into play. I walk through the world with a multifaceted sense of self. Some days I feel so sure of my identity, like my life is up to me and other days I am in a state of crisis. My work helps me to explore these feelings.”

Excommunicate me from the church of social justice (Autostraddle)

From the article: “I self-police what I say in activist spaces. I stopped commenting on social media with questions or pushback on leftist opinions for fear of being called out. I am always ready to apologize for anything I do that a community member deems wrong, oppressive, or inappropriate- no questions asked. The amount of energy I spend demonstrating purity in order to stay in the good graces of fast-moving activist community is enormous. Activists are some of the judgiest people I’ve ever met, myself included. There’s so much wrongdoing in the world that we work to expose. And yet, grace and forgiveness are hard to come by in these circles. At times, I have found myself performing activism more than doing activism. I’m exhausted, and I’m not even doing the real work I am committed to do. It is a terrible thing to be afraid of my own community members, and know they’re probably just as afraid of me. Ultimately, the quest for political purity is a treacherous distraction for well-intentioned activists.”

Maryam Mirzakhani, first woman to win maths’ Fields Medal, dies (BBC)

The 4 heroes of the Stonewall riots you didn’t learn about in history class (Gay Star News)

Man’s girlfriends find out he’s cheating – and start dating each other instead (Pink News)

Jodie Whittaker: Doctor Who’s 13th Time Lord to be a woman (BBC)

‘I had two children adopted without my permission’ (The Guardian)

From the article: “‘I’m very angry,” says Amy. ‘I genuinely think they had it planned all the time because it’s easier to take a child into care than it is to support a family. It’s affected my whole life. I’ve had mental health problems because it’s very difficult to lose two children. I don’t think I’ll ever get over that pain. And I don’t have the ability to trust anybody – especially anybody in authority – any more.’”

Feminist publisher Urvashi Butalia wins the prestigious Goethe Medal (Scroll.in)

From the article: “Butalia, based in New Delhi, co-founded India’s first feminist publishing house, Kali for Women, in 1984. She is currently the publisher of Zubaan Books, which focuses on socially conscious, culturally relevant books for adults and children that challenge various social taboos and gender cliches.”

14 July was International Non-Binary People’s Day:

Listen to us (Emma Rose Kraus at The Gayly)

This Vogue Cover On The “New” Gender-Fluid Trend Is Really Pissing People Off (Buzzfeed)

From the article: “The cover story discusses how Malik and Hadid are “part of a new generation embracing gender fluidity.” In one passage, the author says the couple have a “blasé attitude toward gender codes” because they share clothes.”

the south african modelling agency responding to the real world with a non-binary board (i-d)

Debates About My Gender Have Convinced Me Of One Thing: It’s Time To Get Louder (Let’s Queer Things Up!)

From the article: “As a non-binary writer, I’ve personally felt the cultural backlash against non-binary people as we’ve made real strides in visibility. As someone who has published a lot of written work around gender and non-binary identity, I’ve been the recipient of harassment and abuse from total strangers who take issue with how I define my own experiences. I’ve also watched as other non-binary folks in my community have had to endure the near-constant pain of erasure, invalidation, and even violence.

“But these aren’t the conversations that cis people want to have. They want to have the ‘is he or isn’t he lying about his identity’ conversation, the ‘let’s turn your lived experience into a fun intellectual exercise’ conversation, or my personal favorite, the ‘I see no problem with suggesting you don’t exist’ conversation.”

Is He A Neoliberal Sellout Or Just Cheating On You? (Reductress) [Satire]

Banal sexism (language, a feminist guide)

From the article: “Sexism also has ‘hot’ forms, and those are the ones mainstream discourse finds it easiest to recognise and condemn. The western media have no difficulty in recognising the sexism of the Taliban and Boko Haram; the more liberal parts of the western media have no difficulty in recognising the sexism of Gamergaters and Donald Trump. But what you might call ‘banal sexism’—ordinary, unremarkable, embedded in the routines and the language of everyday life—is a different story. It does often go unnoticed, and when feminists draw attention to it they’re accused of taking offence where none was intended or embracing ‘victim culture’. These knee-jerk defences are often delivered with an air of surprise—as if the people responsible hadn’t realised until that moment that anyone could possibly dissent.”

To hell with sympathetic sexism. ‘Busy mums’ don’t need your patronising help (Sian Townson at The Guardian)

From the article: “Women and girls are often exposed to such questions as: does your father help your mum with the cleaning? Or statements such as: girls can like Lego too; or, if my wife needs me to take the kids, she only has to ask. We might think critically about an obviously biased or malicious statement – but against this kindness we are more defenceless.”

Black Female Feminists: Historians of the Future (Women’s enews)

Ecuador Launches National Plan to Combat Violence Against Women (Telesur)

The image is used under a creative commons license with thanks to Eric Parker on Flickr. It shows a person with a bright green dyed mohawk. They are wearing glasses, a black vest-style top, a black choker and black ripped up jeans. There are piercings in their ears and they also have septum and lip piercings. They are positioned so that their profile faces the camera, their expression thoughtful and their eyes looking off into the distance. They are holding onto a black backpack with a number of badges pinned to it.

Josephine Tsui was a regular contributor to The F-Word between 2010 and 2015

Bubble tea has been sold in Bristol for decades by East Asian restaurants and East Asian women. It brings about satisfaction as an interesting drink that combines fresh fruit, tea and tapioca balls. Recently, the tapioca balls have evolved to jelly, which can be flavoured with aloe vera or lychee. When I drink bubble tea, I feel lucky to be Asian and able to experience it. It truly adds a little sparkle to my day when I have one.

In the past, I have brought my Bristolian friends over and many times they have found the whole experience odd. One commented that it was confusing to have to drink and eat at the same time. The thick straws are used to suck up the tapioca balls but also drawing liquid to my mouth. For me, this is part of the fun of drinking bubble tea: a sweet refreshing drink interrupted occasionally with a nice tapioca ball. I haven’t pressed my friends to join me in the future.

Last year, a new independent bubble tea shop set itself up in Quakers Friars near the Apple store. I was pleased because I always welcome access to my favourite drink. However, this place is designed differently from my frequent haunts. Based in a newly painted hipster container, there are chairs outside so you can enjoy your drink in the sunshine. The massive selection of flavours has been whittled down to 12 already selected favourites to choose from. A white Bristolian woman is managing the booth.

Last weekend, I passed by the stall again. It was a hot summer weekend and the queue outside of the painted container was long, containing Asians and non-Asians alike. Suddenly the issue of drinking and eating at the same time didn’t seem to be so much of a problem. It was as if bubble tea had been discovered by the owner of this stall.

There was never a queue like this at the other bubble tea shops I’d visited. Why was this one doing so much better than the other ones? I thought of all the times I tried to introduce bubble tea to my friends only to be met with resistance. I would never consider having my own bubble tea stall because it didn’t feel there was enough demand. However, I now realise perhaps there isn’t enough demand to sell bubble tea because I’m an Asian woman. There is plenty of demand for bubble tea if it is repackaged to be sold in their neighborhood by a white woman. Who gets to define what is “hip” and popular?

This experience reminds me of the new fad in coconut water. The South East Asian community has been selling coconut water for decades in Britain. Then comes along Vita Coco, making it “the best drink for rehydration after yoga”. White women all over Britain are now buying Vita Coco and paying £2.50 for 500ml, as Asians wonder “What is in all the hype?” We never believed in all the magical properties of coconut water because we’ve been drinking it forever. If coconut water did really contain magic, wouldn’t it be in your best interests to go to the Asian supermarkets where you can buy it much cheaper? Each can is sold for under £1. White women’s preferences are changing the landscape of coconut water, and Asian shops are not benefitting.

I don’t have a problem with anyone’s food preferences. Love bubble tea or don’t love bubble tea; it doesn’t matter. This is about institutional preferences, not individual ones. The debate on cultural appropriation is long. Looking back at the bubble tea stall, I wonder who is capitalising on the rise of bubble tea in Bristol? it certainly isn’t the Asian women.

Image description and credit:

An out-of-focus woman of East Asian appearance in a white scarf stands in a car park, holding out a plastic cup containing pink bubble tea, which is fully in focus. The cup has “Fresh tea” and “Fresh made” written on it. By Daniel Lee, shared under a Creative Commons License.

Having compassion online can make you a better feminist

Charlotte is July’s guest blogger

Each week in July, Charlotte will discuss a different element of the ‘toolkit’ she personally uses to navigate the world as a young feminist. This week, Charlotte looks at the importance of having a nuanced, compassionate perspective when online and taking time to reflect before having a knee-jerk reaction

I don’t know about you, but I feel I’ve lived several lifetimes between the beginning of May and the end of June in 2017 alone. Having reinstalled the BBC News app after deleting it in a fit of pique in January, my body instantly tenses every time I see a notification. I feel I’m not alone when I say the past few months have caused me to live my life with a sense of constant background panic.

It is so easy at times like these for us to hide in the corners of the internet where everyone has the same opinion as us and view any opposing viewpoints as either dangerous or ignorant. We pick our sides and draw lines in the sand. This is dangerous not only for ourselves but hinders wider efforts to change things for the better.

In 2016, I found myself repeating one key phrase: “I think it’s a lot more nuanced than that”. Maybe I had watched too much Crazy Ex-Girlfriend for my own good, but I think it was mostly because 2016 was the year I realised that I didn’t hold the definitive opinion on anything.

Yes, it took 27 years for me to realise that I don’t always have the answer.

This isn’t to say that I don’t feel very strongly about things. There have been many major injustices in the past few years and I am definitely ill at ease with the current state of global affairs. Anger and bile are ever-visible in the mainstream media and have engulfed Twitter.

Online, the world is evoked and expressed simplistically so as to distill it into 140 characters or to fit the demands of the 24-hour news cycle. It is easier to conclude that something is bad or impossible if it does not fit into your worldview. It is a lot more difficult to consider that maybe you do not have all the information at your disposal; that another person’s viewpoint is characterised by their unique experiences. We fight on digital battlegrounds, howling that our experience must be the only one that matters because we alone are witness to our unique view of the world.

Social media can be used to mobilise a movement, as seen by the Women’s March in January. It can also be used to instantly broadcast our hurt and pain or our seething resentment or our anger. This doesn’t always allow space for one to decide how they really feel about an issue. It can feel like there is not enough time to read the context and to look at all sides and evaluate.

This nuanced, compassionate perspective is particularly important for young feminists. A couple of years ago, I went to the Feminism in London conference and was struck by how many differing opinions there were in the discussions. Naively, I assumed everyone was going to have the same opinion on certain issues as me and it did take me a minute to properly listen to these viewpoints and reserve my judgement. I found this was the case in particular for the older generation of women at the conference, whose experiences growing up were so very different to my own. I still didn’t necessarily agree with everything that was said, but it made me appreciate that while there are certain issues that universally matter to women, the order of priority wildly varies from person to person based on their own unique set of experiences and perspectives. And that is something to celebrate rather than condemn.

The journalist and activist Naomi Klein recently spoke about her experience helping to create The Leap Manifesto, aimed at combatting climate change and fighting for Indigenous rights in Canada, saying that if you agree with every opinion in a room, you haven’t got enough perspectives involved. In order to address any issue and actually make substantive change, we have to allow all perspectives to have their say and listen openly.

I’m still going to add my voice to the crowd when I feel passionately about an issue. But I’m also going to take a minute, breathe and try to look at the issues from all sides.

Image by Andrew Worley, from Unsplash. Used under Creative Commons Zero licence.

Image is of a silver keyboard being held out to the camera against a blurred yellow brick wall. Only the forearm and hand of the person holding the keyboard is visible. The person has a colourful tattoo on their forearm.

Weekly round-up and open thread

by Lusana Taylor // 10 July 2017, 3:41 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.

Media Reacts To Blac Chyna With Slut-Shaming, But Stays Silent On Abuse Allegations (Ravishly)

From the article: “These reactions to Chyna on social media feel rooted in misogynoir: the people perpetuating them seem to believe that Chyna’s only objective has been to ‘trap’ Rob with a baby, out of spite. This narrative continues to vilify Black women; it suggests that Chyna couldn’t possibly have been capable of a loving relationship. As a Black woman, she was merely an angry and vindictive Jezebel so hellbent on her own revenge that she needed to create a human life with an abusive partner.”

‘I don’t Bocat’ – Fighting Cunnilingus Stereotypes (Gal-Dem)

From the article: “Is it really emasculating to put your head between a woman’s thighs and focus solely on her pleasure? Or perhaps women are too embarrassed to confess that they are not receiving oral sex? But why would anyone not want give pleasure to the person they are sleeping with?”

The gender wars of household chores: a feminist comic (The Guardian)

We Need To Talk About Johnny Depp (Huff Post)

From the article: “We didn’t want to talk about how a beloved public figure might be capable of abuse. But this is a conversation we need to have. Because while public opinion of this case might change, the memory of the mistrust, of the victim blaming, and the vilification of Amber Heard will remain.”

The Woman Whose Powerful Grenfell Speech Went Viral Has Been Removed From Facebook (Buzzfeed)

How to Mentor the Less Experienced Man You’ll Eventually Work For (Reductress)[Satire]

On “Person-First Language”: It’s Time to Actually Put the Person First (Radical copyeditor)

From the article: “When a language rule—which was created specifically to respect people’s agency and personhood—gets in the way of actually respecting the person in front of you, it’s time to ditch the rule.”

Dear White Writers, Please Stop Doing These Things (Submittable)

ACTION ALERT! Seventy year old woman facing trial for brothel keeping (English Collective of Prostitutes)

SERF ‘n’ TERF: Notes on Some Bad Materialisms (Salvage)

From the article: “The claim of this declarative ‘gender-abolitionism’ is self-contradictory. Take Sheila Jeffreys, ever a quotable exemplar. ‘You can’t create a hierarchical sex caste system if you don’t know who is female and who is male’, she says. So, not knowing would be good, right? Wrong. It seems we have to double down on the knowability of femaleness and maleness created under that very system.”

Call to action: release the women! No arrests, no deportations! (Sex Worker Advocacy and Resistance Movement (SWARM))

From the article: “On the 29th of June, police raided houses in Swindon. As a result of these raids, three migrant sex working women are in custody and are due to be deported. They were arrested as a result of the UK’s brothel-keeping laws, which criminalise women working together in a shared space for safety. These laws push sex workers into working alone, making us vulnerable to violence. The raids were done under the guise of “safety”, but arrest and deportation is violence at the hands of the state.”

This New York man is all your dating nightmares made real (The Pool)

From the article: “What a bloody hero he is, throwing precious scraps of his time on a woman he doesn’t even want to bang before trashing her in a magazine for notoriety.”

Is Phoebe Waller-Bridge really the new face of Doctor Who? (The Guardian)

Dog Found Alone At Airport With Heartbreaking Note From His Owner (the dodo)

From the article: “The whereabouts of the woman who had been forced to leave Chewy behind aren’t known, but Gilliam hopes that by sharing their story, it will help other people with pets in abusive situations. If escaping with a pet isn’t possible, local animal rescue groups can provide care for them in the meantime so both can make it through. Shelters will often assist in finding a way to keep pets and their owners together in these cases, too.”

The image is used under a creative commons license with thanks to Dominique Darcy on Flickr. It is a photograph of a wall of street art. The image is a person’s face looking directly forward at the viewer, very intently. The person has reddish coloured hair or may be wearing a red headscarf or veil. The main image is surrounded by swirls of blue, green, purple and pink.

Rows of books at a market

As we move into July it’s time to welcome this month’s guest blogger: Charlotte Wylie.

In her own words:

“Charlotte Wylie is a legal editor based in south-east London. Originally from Scotland, she graduated with a degree in Chinese Studies, studying one year at Peking University in Beijing.

Charlotte’s interest in other languages and cultures has grown into a life-long love of learning and search for new experiences. As a writer, she is interested in different perspectives and interrogating the behaviours developed as a result of patriarchal values, be it a lack of nuance in the media or internalised misogyny.

She is currently in the process of launching a blog that questions whether there is a ‘right’ way to grieve and how grief is portrayed in the wider world.

In her spare time, Charlotte tries to travel as much as possible but failing that, enjoys art galleries, reading and film.

You can follow her on Twitter @LottieWylie.”

Welcome, Charlotte!

Image is by Freddie Marriage, from Unsplash. Used with Creative Commons Zero licence.

Image is of various boxes of books laid out next to each other along a table, that appear to be for sale at a market. Various rows of books are leaning against each other in different directions, giving the photo an artistic effect.

Hope springs

by Guest Blogger // 5 July 2017, 3:49 pm

Tags: , , , ,

This is a guest post by Holly Donovan. She is an actor and producer and has spent the last five years working in the theatre industry in London. Her credits include numerous classical plays, as well as new writing. She is currently producing No Place Like Hope at the Courtyard Theatre with the help of a Kickstarter campaign.

My name is Holly and I am an actor. I graduated from drama school in 2012, full of hope for a career that would be incredibly successful and exceed all my dreams. Although this was a little too positive and very naive, I did not at that time realise that my career would actually be grossly sexist and that my opportunities would be shockingly few and far between.

At drama school no one warned me that there would be little to no parts for women. My boyfriend graduated with me, and as we worked together in the industry I began to notice that for every one opportunity that I had, he had 10, even though we were with the same agent. I took work at the agency to see what was really out there for young actors; I was right, for every one casting that came into the office for a female role, there would be at least 10 for men.

What was even worse was that the one opportunity for a woman usually involved very few lines and more often than not some nudity. I was disheartened to find out that I didn’t really have much hope in the industry, as even when I got a part I was normally merely a plot device for the four men on stage around me.

I once went for an audition for a classical play. Usually the women in classical plays have decent roles even though they are always outnumbered by the men on stage. I was excited for this audition and worked my socks off for it and I was lucky enough to get a recall. After many hours of preparation for this all-important second audition, I turned up ready and raring to go.

However, to my dismay, at the beginning of the recall we were asked by the male director to raise our hands if we had a problem with nudity. I looked around me to see if any of the other women attending dare raise her hand; no one did. Were we all OK with being naked on stage? Even though it wasn’t mentioned in the initial advert and it certainly wasn’t in the script!

I asked why there needed to be nudity. The male director and theatre company founder told us that actually the female lead needed to be totally naked for many scenes. I said I had a problem with it. I didn’t get the part.

Things gradually got worse. I went to an audition for a commercial. It was to sell a beauty cream. My audition was three minutes long and I was told that I was too fat and that they were looking for smaller builds. I spent the next six months desperately trying to become thinner in the hope that would help me get a part.

I had more horrible experiences: I was duped into performing in an unpaid film where there was no crew, just a sole man filming scenes of me changing outfits and refusing to let me eat food. My agent asked me to send in a self-filmed tape of a scene from a film where a woman is performing a blowjob. There was a play where at the last minute I was expected to wear a see-through nightie.

This culture begins with the writers, then is perpetuated by producers and onwards into the industry. More female parts need to be written and then produced in theatre, TV and film. Until we start seeing female leads, surrounded by other women in balanced casts, nothing will change. Having one strong woman surrounded by four men doesn’t count as being equal.

I’ve stopped moaning and I’m doing something about it. I am now producing a play. It has two incredibly strong female leads and a majority female creative and technical team, only the writer is a man. This project is taking everything I have: all my savings, all my time and pretty much all my soul!

We have to stop accepting the status quo that we see in the theatre, film and TV around us. It does not represent real life, and it creates a horrible, sexist industry. I don’t want to women to think they don’t have a hope in the arts; I want to stand together and change it. Let’s get the balance right.

You can read more about No Place Like Hope and its Kickstarter campaign here.

The image is a photo from the campaign. It shows an actor looking directly at the camera with a serious expression. Underneath her face are the words “Let’s get this balance right.”

Weekly round-up and open thread

by Lusana Taylor // 4 July 2017, 1:33 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.
New measures on violence against women to be put in domestic abuse bill (The Guardian)

From the article:”New measures to protect women and girls from crimes committed overseas will be included in legislation on domestic abuse, the government has said.

The new legislation would allow the UK to ratify the Council of Europe’s convention on preventing and combating violence against women, known as the Istanbul Convention.

Laws to be included in the bill will allow certain offences committed by British citizens anywhere in the world to be prosecuted in UK courts.”

London Pride insults the people it’s meant to celebrate (Dazed)

This excellent piece is by our very own features editor Sophie Jackson!

From the article: “Instead, #LoveHappensHere erases the reality of LGBT+ lives and replaces it with a prettier narrative. London is painted as a liberal haven free from homophobia and transphobia, and allies don’t feel any pressure to change their behaviour, or take any real steps to support the LGBT+ community. There is no space at this Pride to discuss what it is really like to live as an LGBT+ person in London, because ‘allies’ are shouting over us.”

Northern Irish women win access to free abortions as May averts rebellion (The Guardian)

From the article: “Mara Clarke, director of the Abortion Support Network, which offers financial assistance to women in need of abortions said: “This is an incredible step forward. Anyone travelling for an abortion will save a minimum of £330, thanks to today’s announcement. However, they will still have to pay for flights and accommodation, childcare and time off work.

“And there will always be women who cannot travel. Women who don’t have someone who can watch existing children, or women made pregnant by controlling or violent partners. And no one should have to travel. We rejoice today – but the work will still be here tomorrow.”

Have you heard the one about the dead hooker? (The Howl Sanctuary)

From the article: “In terms how the general populace views whores (incidentally, at this point in time, the word ‘whore’ is like the ‘N’ word, in that I’m allowed to use it but you’re not); we’re still in the dark ages. Imagine back to the time that Oscar Wilde was obliged to hide his sexuality in plain sight whilst being persecuted by the law and you’re getting close.”

The state of women in comedy (Chortle)

Being Pretty Is a Privilege, But We Refuse to Acknowledge It (Allure)

From the article: “Here’s the math: If I did not look the way I do, then I would not be on TV or on two book covers. I would not have a beauty column or an Instagram with more than 100,000 followers. This does not mean that I have not put in work and effort and done my job well, but my beauty is not something that I earned. I did not work for it, yet it has opened doors for me, allowing me to be seen and heard. And for me to pretend that it does not exist denies the ways in which being perceived as pretty has contributed to my success and made the road a bit smoother.”

Facebook’s Secret Censorship Rules Protect White Men from Hate Speech But Not Black Children (ProPublica)

After Everest: can mountaineering tackle gender myths in Sri Lanka? (openDemocracy)

A hundred shades of Pride (Meghna Majumdar at The Hindu)
[About Chennai’s ninth Pride march]
From the article: “Another group of allies were a group of staid elderly ladies strolling by calmly. Dressed in a kurta and palazzos, with her grey hair in a bun, one of them looked as if she had walked right out of a charity get-together photograph from the Society pages.

“‘We are sex workers,’ she says. ‘Some of us have attended this march before, but this is the first time we are attending this together, as a collective of sex workers from Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra, Punjab, Karnataka and other states. Hence, the red umbrellas,’ she points them out with a smile, ‘In solidarity.’”

London’s Pride Posters, Ranked by “What the Fresh Hell Were They Thinking?” (Autostraddle)

Is the saccharine message of #Loveislove really what Pride is about? (The Guardian)

From the article: “The old Queer Nation chant – ‘We’re here, we’re queer, get used to it’ – may now sound aggressive and disruptive to our diplomatic, assimilating 2017 sensibilities, but it’s never been more relevant. Forget tolerance or acceptance: they’re outdated concepts that suggest we’ve something to be sorry for. Being ourselves is our right. #LoveIsLove, yes – but it will never be enough.”

A man said Johnny Depp physically abused Amber Heard, so finally she is believed (The Pool)

Where are you really from?: The hidden lives of PoC in rural Britain (Skin Deep Mag)

Despite Legacy Of Racism, Black Women Rock On (The Establishment)

Let’s Not Mistake The Dickies’ Onstage Warped Tour Rant for Anything but Misogyny (Noisey)

“Sorry for bothering you!”: the emotional labour of female emails (New Statesman)

Watch Wimbledon for great tennis – with a side serving of sexism (The Guardian)

From the article: “Give the men better billing than the women, structure the event so that the men’s singles is treated as the main event and the women’s as a sideshow, and then act surprised when the casual tennis fan is more familiar with the men’s game and holds it in higher esteem. It’s worked for Wimbledon for 130 years, and it creates a feedback loop between the media and the public (or the media’s perception of the public) that leads to a situation in which the hour-long review of the 2016 championships broadcast by the BBC can cover all four women’s quarter-finals in 43 seconds while devoting over nine minutes to the men’s.”

Butch is not a Dirty Word: 12 Stunning Portraits of Women who are Pround to be Masculine (The Independent)

The message from Jay-Z and Beyoncé is not feminist (The Guardian)

From the article: “But the saga of Jay-Z and Beyoncé is familiar for all the wrong reasons. It’s the same script shared by women such as Sylvia Plath, Frida Kahlo and Hillary Clinton: powerful, talented women whose partners should be proudly elevating them but instead humiliate them with public affairs.”

We Are Here exhibition explores “what it means to be a British BME woman today” (It’s Nice That)
This exhibition is co-curated by our visual arts editor Erin Aniker and also features some of her work! This link appeared in the last round-up but we have decided to include again as a reminder. We Are Here opens 6–9 July at Alev Lenz Studio, 73 Kingsland Road, London. Panel discussions and workshops will also take place across the weekend. For more information check the Facebook event page.

The image is used under a creative commons license with thanks to Gael Varoquaux on Flickr. It shows a person with curly dyed blue hair standing in front of Monet’s famous ‘water lilies’ painting; a striking canvas daubed in soft blues and greens.

Blonde woman thinking

This is a guest post by Kate Harveston

In a perfect world, women would not be judged on their appearance.

There is a chance to change the tide and some women have led the charge by demonstrating that they can feel confident in their skin, despite not meeting conventional beauty standards.

Still, these leaders — think models Iskra Lawrence and Ashley Graham, singer Demi Lovato and movie star Jennifer Lawrence — have yet to completely dismantle widely-held patriarchal ideals that women need to look a certain way to be accepted and called beautiful.

Shockingly, only 20% of women in the UK say they have high body esteem, according to the 2016 Dove Global Beauty and Confidence Report. Body esteem refers to how someone evaluates their own body and appearance.

Over 10,500 women from 13 different countries were surveyed and their responses don’t get much better.

Globally, 85% of women and 79% of the girls quizzed reported opting out of social activities at least once due to perceived insecurities about the way they looked at the time.

Overall, nine in 10 women and seven in 10 girls said that they had stopped themselves from eating or otherwise put their health at risk. Six in 10 women believe social media encourages women to look a certain way, while seven in 10 women and girls believe that the media and advertising set an unachievable beauty standard for women.

These are global results, despite different countries having their own ideas about what constitutes beauty. It seems that women all over the world are affected in similar ways by the pressure to appear a certain way.

In 2015, Superdrug created a project called Perceptions of Perfection. They sent the same image to designers in 18 different countries, asking each to photoshop the image to reflect the country’s ideal beauty standard.

The UK’s ideal body image model has thinner legs and arms and a flatter stomach than the original image, in a similar vein to a handful of other countries.

The model from China has been made rail-thin, while countries like Peru, Colombia and Spain seem to have tampered less with the original image.

How can women strive to love their bodies and appreciate them for all they do in a world that’s constantly telling them to strive for an ideal that’s clearly inconsistent?

Learning self-love is a personal journey and everyone’s path will be different. Some might feel strong from steering clear of media that promote an unattainable body image. Others might enjoy leaving positive messages on Post-it notes on their bathroom mirror.

What’s clear is that the ideal body women are pressured to aspire to is a construct that depends on where you live. This knowledge in itself may be enough for some women to start questioning their own standards of beauty.

Many women are already doing this, with movements going on all over the world that strive to help people become more confident in their skin. Some of these movements expand to include support for low self-esteem and discussions about the standards of masculinity.

The Body Positive is a movement started by activists Connie Sobczak and Elizabeth Scott, following Sobczak’s own experiences with an eating disorder and the death of her sister. It primarily focuses on young adults and while it has a stronger female following, it is designed to be helpful to anyone struggling with body confidence.

Another great initiative to look into is Body Image Movement. Founded by Taryn Brumfitt, the movement centres on the idea that everybody deserves to love their body rather than see it as an ornament. Brumfitt is the director of Embrace, a social impact documentary on body image.

Many of these movements don’t just encourage body positivity — they’re actively working to make changes to the way the media presents models of beauty. Do some research — we can and will make a difference if these issues are spoken about widely.

No matter how you handle it, one thing is for sure: it’s time to get on board with the body-positive way of thinking. Women should be happy and proud of the skin they’re in.

Image by Ilya Yakover, from Unsplash. Used with Creative Commons Zero licence.

Image is of a woman with dark blonde hair, staring directly into the camera. Her hands are pressed together and are covering her mouth and nose, as if she is thinking. The lighting of the shot is moody. She wears a black sleeveless dress and black nailpolish.

Weekly round-up and open thread

by Lusana Taylor // 27 June 2017, 3:59 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.

Tate Britain displays work of Khadija Saye, artist lost in the Grenfell fire (Evening Standard)

Trans woman: Police pinned me down and pulled off my bra (Gaystar news)

Women writers’ work is getting lost in translation (The Conversation)

MPs to argue Northern Irish women have right to abortion on NHS (The Guardian)

From the article: “How can it be right that if a Northern Irish woman comes to England and needs her appendix out, as a UK taxpayer we don’t charge her, but if she needs an abortion we do?” she said.

“Challenging the government’s decision to continue charging women for this service isn’t about the ability of the Northern Irish assembly to make decisions on matters like abortion rights, but how we treat all our citizens fairly when they are here on our shores.”

Feminist body hair is rarely an option for middle eastern women (i-D)

From the article: “The connotations of body hair among brown women are remarkably different than what they are for white women. ‘Our discomfort with the body hair, especially that of black and brown women is not just influenced by patriarchy but is also a remnant of colonialism,’ Naz Riahi, the Iranian-American founder of Bitten said. ‘This is a system in which we were taught that fairness, lightness, whiteness and all the comes with it – blue eyes, blonde hair, less body hair – is more beautiful, appealing, better.'”

Why A Pro-Life World Has A Lot of Dead Women In It (Harper’s Bazaar)

Orange Is The New Black Mirror? We’re Here For It (Bust)

How do we build an inclusive culture for disabled cyclists? (The Guardian)

Tory Government’s benefit cap is unlawful and causes ‘real misery for no good purpose’, High Court rules (Independent)

We Are Here exhibition explores “what it means to be a British BME woman today” (It’s Nice That)
[This exhibition is co-curated by our visual arts editor Erin Aniker and also features some of her work!]

A Simon Cowell charity single is not what the victims of grenfell tower need (i-D)

From the article: “Do you understand the scale of this? Let me give you some more context. Personal context. My people were in that building. Two friends, who I considered family, and three relatives. I emailed and called the RBKC (Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea), the KCTMO (Kensington and Chelsea Tenant Management Organisation), and hospitals across west London for three days straight, begging for information on the hundreds still missing. They told me nothing. To this day, nothing.”

Jesus College to discipline students accused of shouting woman-hating, rape-inciting chants (Cambridge News)

Finnish citizens given universal basic income report lower stress levels and greater incentive to work (Independent)

Love the idea of a universal basic income? Be careful what you wish for (Ellie Mae O’Hagan at The Guardian)

The Dark Genius of My Best Friend’s Wedding (Vanity Fair)

Festivals dominated by male acts, study shows, as Glastonbury begins (BBC)
[Via Cazz Blase]

What it’s like to be a Muslim woman with an eating disorder during Ramadan (ABC)

The image is used under a creative commons license with thanks to Charlotte Cooper on Flickr. It shows a placard being held aloft at a pro-choice rally which reads ‘If you’re against abortion don’t have one’.

Feminist Fightback

Vanessa Griffin is a member of Feminist Fightback. You can follow Feminist Fightback @femfight

The personal is political. Talking to other women about our experiences and making choices about how we engage in relationships and relate to our minds and bodies is incredibly important.

As feminists, we know what it means to be treated as if we are less than others. This means that we need to show solidarity to other people who are oppressed. We have a particular responsibility to other women who are engaged in struggles in areas where feminist arguments are especially urgent, like sex work, reproductive rights and low wages for work typically gendered female, like cleaning. This is why Feminist Fightback supported the recent strike action by cleaners at the London School of Economics (LSE).

Feminist Fightback is an anti-capitalist feminist collective that was started following conferences in 2006 and 2007. Inspired by the politics of a range of anti-capitalist feminist struggles, we believe that no single oppression can be challenged in isolation from the other forms of exploitation that intersect with it.

More recent activity has focused on reproductive rights: actions to stop pro-life groups harassing women outside abortion clinics, disrupting the 2017 March for Life in Birmingham with direct action and campaigning against denial of NHS maternity care to those who can’t show a UK passport. Feminist Fightback supported the TFL cleaners’ strike with direct action in 2008. We still see fighting for work that is traditionally done by women to be properly valued as a feminist issue.

It was the sixth day of ongoing strike action by LSE cleaners. I left the house at 5:15 am for a 6 am arrival at the picket line, which is harder when it’s still dark outside. Cleaners start their shift at 6 am every day. Despite the time of day, the atmosphere on the picket line was great. Cleaners and union organisers from United Voices of the World union (UVW) rallied some inspiring speakers and there was frequent dancing to Shakira between 6-8:30 am. Some of the best slogans were “We are not the dirt we clean” and “London School of Exploitation”.

The London School of Economics includes specialist institutes for both inequalities and gender yet outsources cleaning to a private contractor. This allows cleaners to be employed on different (significantly worse) pay and conditions than other LSE staff when it comes to sick pay, annual leave, pensions and maternity/paternity leave.

The cleaners, who are all migrants and/or black and minority ethnic also had problems with the way they have been treated by their managers, including harsh discipline and a lack of respect. Cleaners voted to keep striking one day a week until LSE agreed to offer them the same basic conditions as other LSE employees. Mildred Simpson, one of the cleaners who has been at LSE for 16 years said: “We want equality — nothing more, nothing less.”

London university cleaners in smaller, more radical unions have won strikes over the past few years including at King’s College London, Senate House and Guildhall over pay and conditions and to receive the London living wage. The LSE cleaners fought not just for themselves but on behalf of their colleagues and other workers. They risked the loss of earnings, further victimisation by bosses and ultimately risked losing their jobs, but as one of the union organisers said, this was always a fight they had a good chance of winning.

On June 8th, we learned from the UVW that the LSE cleaners won their strike. From spring 2018, all cleaners at LSE will be brought in-house, meaning they will receive the London living wage and the same annual leave, sick pay and pension as others employed by the university.

This will not be the end of the fight for better working conditions for university cleaners and for women more broadly. UVW say this has set a precedent for outsourced workers at universities, and it looks likely that catering staff at SOAS will soon follow suit. Maybe we will see you on the next picket line?

Image courtesy of author, used with permission

Grenfell Tower has become a symbol of systemic, institutional and structural inequality. It represents the ignored, the marginalised, the vilified, the misrepresented, the misunderstood and those who are too often the victims of discrimination and prejudice. The victims of this horrifying disaster are a direct legacy of a political system, fuelled by a right-wing media, bent on stirring up division and hate, which has, for too long, dehumanised and disregarded vast swathes of our society.

Under the Tories’ leadership, cuts to public services have been unprecedented, disproportionately affecting the poorest and most vulnerable in our communities. The housing crisis has reached a critical epoch, particularly in London, where social cleansing, under the guise of ‘urban regeneration’ is removing established social housing tenants from their homes in order to sell these on to private companies. Profit is being placed before people and an elite minority are benefiting to the detriment of a significant majority.

The staggering disregard for certain lives is embodied in Grenfell Tower. Some effort has been made to address safety measures for council houses and privately rented properties, however. According to Channel 4, “Labour have put two pieces of legislation before Parliament on this issue since 2015”. Last year’s attempt was defeated, with all 309 Tory MPs in attendance voting against this. This is unsurprising when you consider that a staggering 39% of Tory MPs top up their income as private landlords, renting out at least one property. As Dawn Foster correctly asserts in The Guardian, this matters because “it means that housing legislation is being formed by people with little personal connection to the housing crisis”.

When you look at the names and faces of the “missing” people from Grenfell Tower, it’s clear that significantly large proportions are BAME. The man in the video below argues that a tragedy of this magnitude simply would not have happened had the tenants been “blonde haired and blue eyed”, i.e. white.

I would agree. This is no coincidence. BAME people, at every level of society, are more likely to suffer disproportionately, in all aspects of private and personal life. Looking specifically at housing, research conducted by the Institute for Race Relations shows that overcrowding is most commonly experienced by Black African and Bangladeshi groups. Bangladeshi households are 63% and Black African households 75% more likely than White British households to suffer ‘housing deprivation’ (indicators of which include overcrowding and an absence of central heating). Race continues to be a key factor in how people live in contemporary Britain.

I recently went to see Reni Eddo-Lodge, author of the recently published Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race, speak at the Emerald Street Literary Festival. She described researching the “big data” about race and life chances in the UK through statistics published by governmental organisations such as The Department for Education, The Department for Work and Pensions and the NHS. She found that a black boy is three times more likely to be excluded from school than the rest of his classmates. That job hunters with ‘white-sounding names’ are called to interview far more often than those with African or Asian sounding names. That black people receive harsher sentences for the possession of drugs, even though they use drugs at a much lower rate than their white counterparts. Education, employment and the criminal justice system are institutions, Reni argues, that we cannot avoid interacting with.

What Reni is describing is institutional and structural racism. She feels that we cannot live in this country without being realistic about the UK’s racist legacy and the fact that racism continues to lie at the heart of our culture. Reni stated that “history is written by the winners” and mentioned learning about only a handful of black historical figures in Black History Month, but never as part of the mainstream curriculum. She is not the first person to acknowledge this.

By ignoring this part of our history, Reni argued, we cannot expect to have “an accurate perspective of racism and inequality right now”. She rightly acknowledged that the past shapes the present and that it was unhelpful to be obtuse about this. Reni also felt that, for some white people, being associated with racism is worse than actual racism.

This feeds into a larger discussion about how privileged groups and individuals often centralise themselves when marginalised people try and talk to them about how their language or behaviour hurts them. The existence of the hashtags #notallwhitepeople or #notallmen speak volumes about the failure of privileged groups to simply listen when questions are being asked or concerns raised. Rather than putting aside their own feelings and ego, privileged people often make this about their hurt or angry feelings, rather than focusing on the bigger issue.

White people: we need to stop doing this.

No-one likes to be told that something they’ve said or done is hurtful or offensive, but privileged folks need to hear this in order to amend their behaviour. Rather than relying on BAME people or other marginalised groups to do this, however, it’s up to white people to educate and inform themselves and those around them about the racism that continues to permeate our culture. Having a black or Asian partner, child or friend does not make you immune to racism.

White people: we need to think about the privileges we enjoy because of our skin colour. If you’re not sure about what these might be, ‘White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack’ is a good place to start. We need to challenge racism where we see it and within ourselves. Stating that you “don’t see colour” denies the very real and painful discrimination that many BAME people face every day. Think about how you can be a better ally to BAME people. Buy Eddo-Lodge’s book. Support BAME businesses. Read this ‘Syllabus for White People to Educate Themselves’. Stop appropriating BAME culture. Consume the incredible breadth and diversity of BAME culture. Ensure that BAME people are represented in positions of power and influence in your organisation.

We now know that the residents of Grenfell Tower made a number of efforts to raise their concerns with their housing provider and local council, to no avail. This is because poor people, BAME people, older people, LGBT people and disabled people are easier to dismiss as an irritation or as trouble-makers than white, middle-class folks who broadly possess more money, power and influence. We know that these groups are more likely to be living in poverty than white people and austerity measures brought in by the current government have exacerbated this to a horrifying degree.

Theresa May’s initial failure to speak with the victims and families involved in this tragedy is no surprise. How can she look these people in the eye when her party and policies are responsible for so many of the ills that poor and BAME people disproportionately suffer?

I view the Grenfell Tower tragedy as a direct result of a racist and classist society. We cannot view this case as an isolated incident. It is a part of a much broader, embedded ideology of prejudice and discrimination. For things to change, it is vital that we recognise this.

The image at the top of the page shows two women on a busy street holding a banner which reads ‘Greed Kills’. It forms part of a series taken by Wasi Daniju of people on the streets following the Grenfell Tower tragedy. Picture shared under a Creative Commons license.

The video embedded in this article shows a black man wearing sunglasses, a baseball cap and a white t-shirt. He is speaking in a crowded street, following the Grenfell Tower tragedy, and speaks directly to the camera.

Weekly round-up and open thread

by Lusana Taylor // 20 June 2017, 10:17 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. The past week has seen the horrific (and heartbreakingly avoidable) fire at Grenfell Tower in Kensington as well as the terrorist attack at Finsbury Park Mosque. We have included some articles about both of these events in the round-up.

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.

The Universal Phenomenon of Men Interrupting Women (NY Times)

From the article: “The fact that women are outnumbered in every room puts them in a position where they’re often coming up against gender-based stereotypes,” said Deborah Gillis, president and chief executive of Catalyst, which works for women’s advancement in business. “Women are too hard, too soft, but never just right. What that means is that women are seen as either competent or liked but not both.”

Dear Non-Fat Friends (McCormCorp)

Please Stop Commenting On People’s Bodies. You Don’t Know Sh*t (Scary Mommy)

From the article: “Fuck it all, for real. We deserve to exist in whatever form we wish. You can think whatever the hell you want about that, but you need to keep it to your damn self. Do not project your bullshit onto others.”

White Men Of Academia Have An ‘Objectivity’ Problem (HuffPost)

We owe it to the residents of Grenfell Tower to politicise this tragedy (The Pool)

From the article: “This is in the context of a government that has repeatedly rejected improved housing regulation as ‘unnecessary red tape’ and even voted against a law requiring landlords to make homes fit for human habitation. (72 of the MPs who voted against the measure are landlords.)

“When Grenfell Tower residents repeatedly pointed out their concerns, no one in power listened to them. The poor, it seems, are easily ignored. It’s hard to imagine this being the case if, rather than social housing tenants, they were barristers and bankers. It’s been reported people in Grenfell Tower wanted to take on the landlords over their fears of the building’s fire risk but they couldn’t afford it and – due to government cuts – there’s now no legal aid to help them.”

Two women feared dead in Grenfell Tower were ‘threatened with legal action’ for questioning fire safety (Independent)

“Mariem Elgwahry, 27, and Nadia Choucair, 33, reportedly received letters ordering them to stop their campaign for improved safety.

“Both women were fighting the Kensington and Chelsea Tenant Management Organisation for building improvements, with help from the Radical Housing Network, The Mirror reports.

“Pilgrim Tucker, who works for the group, told the paper: ‘The TMO’s response was to threaten tenants with legal action and send out letters. Nadia and Mariem would have received them too.'”

From King’s Cross to Grenfell Tower (Crooked Timber)

From the article: “I’m reminded of a distinctive moment in my younger life—not just King’s Cross, but also the fifty-six dead of the Bradford stadium fire disaster (11 May 1985), the one hundred and ninety-three who died on the Herald of Free Enterprise (6 March 1987), the thirty-five who were killed at Clapham Junction (12 December 1988), the ninety-six who were crushed at Hillsborough (15 April 1989), or the fifty-one who drowned on the Marchioness (20 August 1989). Perhaps it was coincidence that these catastrophes happened cheek by jowl, in a way that they just haven’t since. Or perhaps much of it was something to do with the ascendant political ideology of the time, that starved vital infrastructure of much-needed investment, and that celebrated the quick search for profit. One of the good things about living in England over the last quarter century is that this run of disasters came to an end, and things became quite a bit safer. But of course the predictable consequence of the politicians’ collective cchoice to embrace the economics of austerity over the last seven years—and even more so when it is conjoined with the Tory fondness for the execrable landlord class, a widespread dislike of safety regulations, the cuts in legal aid, and the politics of the majority on Kensington & Chelsea Council, especially when it comes to housing—is that we would regress in some measure to this second-half-of-the-1980s world, and everything that is coming out now about the Grenfell Tower saga suggests that we have so regressed.”

Exposing the copy n’ paste Tory lies about the Grenfell fire (Another Angry Voice)

From the article: “…So be careful what you believe on social media. If it’s not backed up by reliable sources then either disregard it, or search out the truth for yourself.”

The Classist, Racist Disorganisation at Grenfell Tower is Disgraceful (gal-dem)

Finsbury Park terror attack: one dead near north London mosque – latest updates (Guardian)

Imam from Muslim welfare centre protected Finsbury Park suspect from angry crowds (Metro)

‘We didn’t recognise that he was dangerous’: our father killed our mother and sister (Rossalynn Warren talks to Ryan and Luke Hart, Guardian)

From the article: “‘I was shocked at the ease with which others, sitting behind their desks, could explain our tragedy away within an afternoon,’ Ryan says now. ‘It was very difficult to read that they were sympathising with a man who caused Mum and Charlotte misery their entire lives. One writer even dared use the word ‘understandable’ to justify why they were murdered.’ This second Daily Mail article, a column by psychiatrist Max Pemberton, argued that a man killing his children ‘is often a twisted act of love’. The article was later removed from the site.

“’You’re reading it and thinking, ‘”This is bollocks,”’ Ryan says. ‘But you know people around the country are also reading it, and those ideas are being driven into their minds. It reinforces in the abuser’s mind that what they’re doing is OK.’”

Mormon girl, 12, is stopped from speaking as she explains why she is gay to church (Independent)

10 great documentaries about iconic musicians (Stephanie Phillips)

‘Cruel and humiliating’: Bad Feminist author Roxane Gay calls out treatment by Mamamia (Sydney Morning Herald)

Woodland Mall apologizes for kicking shopper out over her summer outfit (Michigan Live)

Amber Rose Brings Back The Bush And Schools Piers Morgan On Feminism (Bust)

From the article: “Rose put Morgan in his place but he still didn’t seem to understand anything she stands for. He illustrated this by saying, ‘Shall we have a cup of tea instead & discuss where you’re going wrong re feminism?'”

White feminism doesn’t know what to do with Amber Rose (Zoé Samudzi at Black Youth Project)

From the article: “Given mainstream feminism’s genital fixation since the beginning of 2017, this hypocrisy is confusing. Women should reclaim their bodies and feminists should be in support of women’s bodily autonomy, yet Amber Rose is a ‘bad feminist’ for having a feminism centered on reclaiming her body and sexuality?

“These misogynistic respectability politics also take on a racial element when it’s clear and observable that many of her most vocal critics are white, and are not making critiques of the substance of her feminism, but rather her nude selfies. While the likes of Emma Watson can take a slightly racy photograph “for fashion” and not get her feminist credentials revoked, and Lena Dunham can toy with nudity as a comedic prop and be the feminist voice of our generation, Amber Rose is painted as almost incapable of having the ability or intelligence to use her own body to put forward a feminist politic.”

Teenage girl charged with murder after killing man who allegedly tried to rape her (Independent)

The Data That Proves the Myth of the ‘Absent’ Black Father Is a Total Lie (Everyday Feminism)

The 11 stages of Ramadan … as told by Chandler from ‘Friends’ (Step Feed)

NI women could get free abortions in Scotland on the NHS (Irish News)

Megan Stodel has recently written on this subject for the F-Word HERE.

JK Rowling is asking how the Finsbury Park attacker was radicalised (Independent)

From the article: “Those who dehumanise & stereotype muslims have no moral high ground from which to deplore demonisation of secular westerners by Islamists.”

I believe Bill Cosby (Vox)

The image is used under a creative commons license with thanks to ChiralJon on Flickr. It shows a tribute at the site of the Grenfell Tower fire; a wicker heart hung from a wall, surrounded by handwritten tributes and photographs.

Just before I head off to Glastonbury Festival for a few days (where I will definitely not be going to see Johnny Depp) here’s the June stage round-up.

Marisa Carnesky will be at the Udderbelly South Bank from tonight until Sunday 25 June with Dr Carnesky’s Incredible Bleeding Woman. Here’s Carnesky’s showreel (the showreel is soundtracked by Peter Pan from Armando Sciascia Orchestra a film tune from the 1950s but has no text.)

Between 22 and 24 June alternative standup comedian Siân Docksey is hosting a mixed bill of comedy previews at The Glory in Haggerston. Promising politics, videogames, whoopass, lemons, gay lemons, surrealism, avocados and more lemons I’m sure they’ll be fun evenings. The other acts are Eleanor Morton, Joe Hart and Sophie Duker.

This Friday 23 June Funny Women are holding a charity comedy gala in support of Brighton Women’s Centre. The show is at the Assembly Hall, Worthing Theatres and features Kerry Godliman, Felicity Ward, Lucy Porter, Ellie Taylor, Desiree Burch, Ayesha Hazarika, Kelly Convey and Harriet Braine with Zoe Lyons hosting.

Judith Lucy and Denise Scott will be at Soho Theatre from 27 June until 7 July with their comedy show Disappointments; Soho guarantee that this show will make you feel better about your lives or at least help you accept the rut that you’re in, which sounds like quite a promise!

Next month Greater Manchester Fringe is happening. Events that appeal to me include S/he/it Happens, All I Want is One Night, Wood, Katharine Ferns is in Stitches and Samantha Pressdee.

Coming up at the Blue Elephant Theatre in south London are Escape 2 on 7 and 8 July from LCP Dance Theatre which tells the emotional journey of a refugee using innovative aerial dance and multimedia; The Break-Up Monologues on 19 July hosted by Rosie Wilby, a themed comedy, storytelling and spoken word night which looks back at some best and worst relationship breakup stories and Here Comes Trouble on 27 July from Keira Dance, a personal investigation into womanhood and Keira Martin’s individual identity.

I quite like the look of everything at the Postcards Festival at Jacksons Lane in north London in July too. I enjoyed Boys Club when I saw it, plus Sarah Blanc’s It Started with Jason Donovan and Tanter’s Vixen sound great.

Hopefully not featuring any known domestic abusers in their lineup, Latitude Festival has some really good things this year. My favourite show from last year’s Edinburgh Festival Fringe, Hot Brown Honey; Sh!t Theatre with DollyWould, a riotous and challenging work on the iconic image of Dolly Parton and all she embodies; new one-woman show Hear Me Raw by Daniella Isaacs; Gagglebabble, The Other Room and Theatr Clwyd will join forces with Sinners’ Club which is based on the life of Ruth Ellis, the last woman to be hanged in the UK and Vanessa Kisuule will come to Latitude with Sexy which presents a conflicted women who loves poetry and smashing the patriarchy with a well-timed slut-drop. If you’re going to be there, let me know what these are like.

Katherine Ryan is going on tour between September and November this year as well as also being at Latitude.

And lastly a couple of things to watch and listen to:

  • A video of Fiona Shaw reading Shakespeare’s Sister, part of the essay A Room of One’s Own by Virginia Woolf (subtitled).
  • Breaks by Bez Kinte Theatre Company in a podcast from Ireland’s RTE (unfortunately not transcribed).

Image is courtesy of Marisa Carnesky and shows the performer standing on stage with the two halves of the box used for the ‘woman sawn in half’ trick either side of her. Someone’s head is sticking out of the half of the box on her right as if, indeed, that person had been lying in the box before Carnesky cut them in half. Behind and to the left is a figure wearing glittery knickers and a bra top as a showgirl might but looking very bored.

Further Reading

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