This is a guest post by Joanne-Aśka Popińska, a PhD student at the Polish National Film School who moved to Canada to pursue filmmaking and activism. With a Master’s Degree in sociology, she dedicates her creative vision to exploring the similarities between us, homo sapiens, and all other life forms we share this planet with: “rights” don’t just end with human rights. She is the former Artistic Director of the 3D IMAGE Film Festival in Łódź, Poland and is at the forefront of the bleeding edge of cinema and technology. She is the recipient of Toronto Arts Foundation The RBC Arts Access Fund Awards for newcomer artists

The Choice is a Virtual Reality experience inviting you to enter the digital consciousness of a virtual woman dealing with an unplanned pregnancy. It features holographic video interviews with women who share what shaped their decision to have an abortion. The main goal of the project is to influence empathy and understanding in a positive and constructive manner and to change how we talk about abortion.

As abortion rights in the United States are under attack from the current Trump administration, once again access to abortion has become a pressing public issue. Last weekend’s Women’s Marches that took place in major US cities gave us an idea of how people feel. I was motivated to make the movie due to situation in my home country, Poland, where the government is actively seeking to further restrict the already incredible limited access to abortion. Me and my team work in Canada where abortion also remains a complicated and controversial subject.

I want to create compassion. Not everyone can feel how it is to be pregnant: cis men are the obvious example but there are also women who cannot or don’t want to get pregnant. I want them all to be equal and supportive partners in this debate so I need them to understand even just a fraction of what it would feel like to be in this situation. I want The Choice to be the tool that gives them the opportunity to gain this perspective and I am using the newest cutting-edge technology to do it.

When you put on the VR headset, you “wake up” to realize that you are in someone else’s body – a woman’s body. You hear a voice inside your head: “How could this happen? What should I do?” These words float through the air around you, making you feel as though the thoughts are yours – that this panic is yours. As your mind searches for answers, real women appear in this space with you. They speak to you about what shaped their decision to terminate their pregnancy and the emotions they experienced. I interview women with different stories, diverse backgrounds and unique situations.

We’ve been working hard for the past year. Creating the technology to show those stories in an engaging way involved not only building the prototypes of the cameras, but also doing detailed research. The Choice is built inside a 3D game engine, combining video recordings with live rendered graphics so when the viewer enters the virtual world, they feel presence in it. Unlike in case of a traditional video, your natural movements are reflected in how your eyes and ears perceive the virtual world, allowing you to feel totally immersed in the fictional woman’s consciousness. Your mind feels as though the objects and people that appear before you are real, and the women you meet are also present with you in this virtual space.

VR gives us the opportunity to put viewers into situations they could not experience in real life. We do not know how we’d behave – we do not have a social script – most of us can never know how it feels to be a refugee, a blind person or a prisoner. Similarly, many of us will never know how it feels to consider having an abortion. Creating that situational empathy is the biggest goal of this project. The important aspect of using VR is also that with a headset on you are entering a unique, private space. There are no glances across the room from strangers, hushed whispers or nearby friends reading your face. Whatever your opinion on the topic of abortion, when you immerse yourself in The Choice you are free to share as much or as little about its impact as you want.

We’ve launched the Kickstarter campaign because we need support to move forward with the production. VR production is more expensive than traditional documentary. To produce the whole experience, we need around CA $100,000, and we’re looking to Kickstarter for the first CA $15,000 (£8,602). This jumpstart funds will allow us to build the pipeline and architecture that underpins The Choice as an application and to give it a solid framework for the documentary to be built upon.

We feel strongly about this subject and we believe that our creative concept and use of the newest VR technology offers an interesting approach to thinking about the right to choose. Contribute to our project and help us create this valuable tool for discussion, understanding and empathy.

Go to Kickstarter page to donate.

Images description:
1. Home screen of a VR project, lettering: “The Choice. A VR documentary about women’s right to choose”. It features five pixelated silhouettes of women against burgundy background.
2. A person with cropped blueish hair, blurred in the background, is being interviewed by someone with their back to us. The interviewer’s back and the preview of the recording are sharp in the foreground. It’s the director interviewing one of the contributors.
3.Black & white portrait of director Joanne-Aśka Popińska wearing a white Nike baseball cap, holding a camera.

Where has January gone? I have just about saved my blushes by posting this in the nick of time but it was a close-run thing!

I’m a huge fan of the RSC for lots of reasons but this month I am slightly scratching my head that it’s announcing “its first full-length Shakespeare play to feature a gender-balanced cast”. It’s 2018 and Sarah Bernhardt played Hamlet in 1899; has it really taken them this long? And I’m guessing it means that the rest of their season won’t be “gender-balanced” but this is apparently still unremarkable.

The Royal Court however continue to do an amazing job. They’re currently on a four-week secondary schools tour with Cuttin’ It which tackles the urgent issue of Female Genital Mutilation in the UK. Each schools visit will involve a pre-show workshop followed by a post-show Q&A with the pupils led by Young Court. They have worked with the organisation Solace Women’s Aid for training sessions on FGM and have also been supported by Louise Williams, Clinical Nurse Specialist at the women’s division of University College Hospital, in order to fully prepare for the workshops.

US comedian, author, and podcaster Jen Kirkman opens at Soho Theatre tonight with her latest standup show The All New Material, Girl Tour which runs until 3 February. Musical comedy duo Flo & Joan will perform their latest show The Kindness of Stranglers also at the Soho Theatre from 12 until 14 February. And later in the month Rose Matafeo will bring her latest show Sassy Best Friend, which I reviewed in August, to the same venue for a week long run from Monday 19 February.

The Vault Festival is underway in London. Half of the shows are by women. Here are just a few of them:

  • Double Infemnity, a stylish and gender-flipped crime noir, runs from 31 January until 4 February at 6pm, with a matinee on 3 February at 3pm
  • Bad Luck Cabaret showcases the best in alternative cabaret on 31 January at 6.10pm
  • WHITE by Koko Brown (who we interviewed), about identity, blending spoken word and vocal looping, is on 4 February at 3.15pm and 6.15pm
  • Mission Abort by Therese Ramstedt tells the story of one woman’s actual experience of abortion on 7 and 8 February at 6.15pm
  • Assmonkey: In Conversation, an honest, interactive and upfront comedy about anxiety, depression and wanking, runs from 7 until 11 February at 7.45pm
  • Elsa, a musical comedy that asks why we seek happiness elsewhere runs from 14 until 18 February at 6.15pm
  • The Vagina Dialogues, “feminist, humorous, grotesque and a bit nude in its approach”, runs from 14 until 18 February at 7.45pm
  • Amy Conway’s Super Awesome World, that explores, through the prism of gaming, what depression is like and what it is like to fight it, runs from 21 until 25 February at 6pm
  • ZINA, a radical exploration of female sexuality in its myriad forms, and the relationship between sex and religion, lust and convention, runs from 21 to 25 February at 9.30pm with a matinee on 24 February
  • Good Girl, a bold, provocative and darkly comic coming-of-age tale that interrogates the experience of a young girl growing up in the 90s, runs from 28 February to 4 March at 9.30pm, with a matinee on 3 March at 5pm
  • Foreign Body by Imogen Butler-Cole, about hope, healing and forgiveness after sexual assault, runs from 7 until 11 March at 6pm
  • Unburied by Hermetic Arts, a folk horror mystery, unearthed from our cultural past, runs from 7 to 11 March at 6.05pm
  • Pecho Mama‘s are presenting a gig-theatre show, Medea Electronica, at the Ovalhouse from this Tuesday until 10 February and are offering a 241 discount code for the first two nights to our readers with the code ELECTROFWORD. Medea Electronica is a compassionate and feminist re-telling of Medea, set in the 1980s, to a live soundtrack.

    The Host, which tells the story of a Syrian refugee who has recently moved to the UK and the impact of his arrival on a local family will be running at St James’ Church, Piccadilly from 1 until 3 February alongside a major art installation from artist Arabella Dorman.

    A new musical will be at the Palace Theatre, Manchester, on Wednesday 6 and Thursday 7 February as part of Queer Contact Festival 2018. Dancing Bear is a celebration and exploration of the joys and struggles between faith, sexuality and gender identity. The show will have integrated audio description and BSL interpretation but as far as I’m aware no captioning – it’s great that there are some accessible elements; there should be more of this kind of thing.

    It’s Not Cute Anymore runs from 6 until 10 February at Theatre503 in London. The one-hour long play explores themes of loss, entitlement and friendship as well as the dignity and relief that can come from giving up on your dreams.

    HOME in Manchester will be hosting a three-part large-scale fiction film installation, The Scar, by Noor Afshan Mirza and Brad Butler from 10 February until 2 April. It weaves together conspiracy, gangster, noir, politics, crash theory, fantasy and documentary into a disrupted narrative and genre exploration that ignites a gender revolution. Noor Afshan Mirza comments: “Inhaling patriarchy and exhaling wo(fem)inism, The Scar has definitely been the most ambitious, challenging and inspiring project for me as an artist.”

    Hear Me Raw will be at Arcola Theatre from 12 to 24 February. In an autobiographical story, Daniella Isaacs peels back the Instagram filter to reveal the dirty truth behind clean living.

    Duckie Family Legacy is at Rich Mix in London on Saturday 17 February from 8pm until 3am. It will be exploring the roots of Queer People of Colour and the legacy they have left and continue to leave, behind. Redressing the misconception that People of Colour have no LGBTQ+ history of their own. Family is a QTIPOC centred event originated and co-curated by Kayza Rose and Campbell X.

    BeautifuL is a new dance theatre work by Sweetshop Revolution encompassing movement and text, exploring love and sexuality from the point of view of women and will be at Hackney Showroom on Thursday 22 and Friday 23 February.

    And lastly, Funny Women have announced the Top 10 comedy shows as seen and voted for by the public in 2017. Three shows will go forward to the final which is in London on Monday 12 March.

    Image one is of Flo & Joan. Their faces are side-by-side and they both look seriously straight into the camera. There is a pink background behind them.

    Image two is of Symoné who will be performing at Duckie Family Legacy. She lies on her back with both legs up in the air. She twirls a hula hoop around one foot. Her eyes are closed and she’s smiling. She wears pink hot pants, fishnet tights, sparkly socks and a gold bra top.

    Weekly round-up and open thread

    by Lusana Taylor // 22 January 2018, 3:12 pm


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

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

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

    The YouTube star who fought back against revenge porn – and won (The Guardian)

    From the article: “Revenge porn – private sexual images or videos posted online in order to humiliate, degrade and discredit another person, often titled with their full name for maximum exposure – is a particularly modern form of shaming. But for Chambers, it was also a cruel inversion of the medium that had given her a career and a platform. Online videos had been the making of Chrissy Chambers. Now her image was going viral in a disgusting video over which she had no control.”

    Editor closed weekly Wales paper after conviction over article identifying sex offence victim (Press Gazette)

    “It’s not a criminal record, it’s a catalogue of abuse” (BuzzFeed)

    Newsnight’s Emily Maitlis tells of stalker’s effect on her work and family as he is jailed (Press Gazette)

    Babe, What Are You Doing? (Jezebel)

    From the article: “Because Babe did not have the range or depth to present Grace’s story for what it is—a starting point to discuss the ways consent can feel blurring, no matter how clear we might wish it were, and our lack of language to describe this—we all ended up opening up a conversation that did us no good at all. The story had the unfortunate effect of leaving the door a little wider for self-righteousness, allowing detractors to reiterate their shitty assumptions about millennial women and their motivations instead of questioning a set of injustices so commonplace that many people seem not to register them as injustices at all. And while Babe screwed up its execution of the story, it’s the grotesque priorities of the echo chamber that are really wronging Grace: once again, the comfort of the powerful remains, and the woman telling her story is reduced to a vessel.”

    #MeToo isn’t enough. Now women need to get ugly (The Guardian)

    From the article: “Now, all at once, women are refusing to accept sexual aggression as any kind of award, and men are getting fired from their jobs. It feels like an earthquake. Men and women alike find ourselves disoriented, wondering what the rules are. Women know perfectly well that we hate unsolicited sexual attention, but navigate a minefield of male thinking on what “solicit” might mean. We’ve spent so much life-force on looking good but not too good, being professional but not unapproachable, while the guys just got on with life. And what of the massive costs of permanent vigilance, the tense smiles, declined work assignments and lost chances that are our daily job of trying to avoid assault? Can we get some backpay?”

    The Black Woman’s Tale: Why Margaret Atwood’s Espousal of White Feminist Beliefs Shouldn’t Surprise You (Clarkisha Kent, The Root)

    The resistance is full of prudes: The Stormy Daniels scandal highlights how we still fail sex workers (Arabelle Raphael, The Outline)

    Last post…for now (Obesity Timebomb)

    Butch Women and Trans Men (A New Man)

    ‘This is a witch hunt’ says man who would have happily burnt women at stake 400 years ago (Daily Mash) [Satire]

    The image is used under a creative commons license with thanks to Mobilus In Mobili on Flickr. It is a photograph from the most recent Women’s March in Washington (according to information provided). It shows two people, in profile, holding placards. One of the people has long, curly hair and has a placard held high over their head and their mouth is open as if they are chanting or shouting. Their placard reads ‘Resist’. The other person has shorter hair, is wearing a pink sweater and appears determined. They have their arm held up as if they are also holding a placard which is just out of shot.

    Weekly round-up and open thread

    by Lusana Taylor // 17 January 2018, 12:49 pm


    It’s time for another weekly round-up where we share (what we see as) the most interesting and important articles from the previous seven days. Apologies that this is going up slightly late so it’s more of a ‘mid-week’ round-up! 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.

    What the Men Didn’t Say (The Atlantic)

    From the article: “At the 75th Golden Globe Awards, not one male award winner used their platform to mention the biggest story of the night.”

    Romance is not universal, nor is it necessary (Wear Your Voice Mag)

    From the article: “This belief that romantic relationships hold the highest social significance of all relationships, coupled with the pressure to get married—and the pressure to want to get married—allows for men to critique women who fall outside of their respectability politics. They attempt to scare us with threats of “no man will marry you” in efforts to police our emotionality, appearance, and sexual expression.”

    Catherine Deneuve, let me explain why #metoo is nothing like a witch-hunt (The Guardian)

    From the article: “Should it really have to be stated that – unlike the perpetrators exposed by #metoo – society’s ‘witches’ are never the powerful men with the property, status and advantages of a social order that protects, hides and excuses their crimes?”

    I Started the Media Men List My name is Moira Donegan (The Cut)

    I went on a date with Aziz Ansari. It turned into the worst night of my life (

    From the article: “But Aziz Ansari isn’t an 18-year-old. He’s a 34-year-old actor and comedian of global renown who’s probably done more thinking about the nuances of dating and sex in the digital age than practically anyone else. He wrote a book about it, “Modern Romance”, and it was a New York Times bestseller. Ansari built his career on being cute and nice and parsing the signals women send to men and the male emotions that result and turning them into award-winning, Madison Square Garden-filling comedy.”

    Can the Concept of Foreplay Just Die in a Fucking Fire? (Coffee and Kink)

    Content note: NSFW

    From the article: “Let’s break this down. ‘Foreplay’ implies that it comes before something – namely, of course, penis-in-vagina (hereafter PIV) sex. And this is problematic on a number of levels.”

    “First of all it’s heteronormative as fuck. Not everyone is straight and cisgender. Not every sexual pairing consists of one penis and one vagina. The implication here is that only heterosexual, cisgender people have Real Sex (TM) and everything else is ‘merely’ foreplay.”

    “Secondly, and this may come as a shock – not all straight, cisgender people like PIV sex! Even pairings of one penis-owner with one vagina-owner does not necessarily imply that PIV will be their favourite sexual activity or even part of their sexual repertoire at all.”

    Jokes About Being Trans — By Actual Trans People (Katelyn Burns, Them)

    From the article: “Look, some of my best friends are cis, but their trans jokes just aren’t funny. They’re at least 60 years old and play off the same tired tropes over and over and over again. From Ace Ventura to Naked Gun 33 ⅓ to NCIS to How I Met Your Mother, to Dave Chappelle, the joke isn’t new. So in the spirit of good comedy, I created the #translol hashtag to give my fellow trans people a chance to tell the trans jokes for a change. You know, the only jokes about us that are actually funny…”

    No place like home: raising children in unsuitable temporary housing (Jess McCabe, Inside Housing)

    From the article: “Ms Williams, a governor of a nearby children’s centre, started the Magpie Project after noticing so few of the mums in temporary accommodation locally were accessing their services. They weren’t able to engage with the children’s centre because their most basic needs weren’t being met, Ms Williams says. Among these needs, she says, are ‘having somewhere to cook, being able to keep themselves and their children clean, feeling safe, and also just having the information or being mentally and emotionally well enough to be able to get through the door at this children’s centre’.

    The Lefty Critique of #TimesUp Is Tired and Self-Defeating (Rinku Sen, The Nation)

    From the article: “#TimesUp is grounded in a progressive movement where racial justice, feminism, and workers’ rights meet. For years, organizations have worked to change the national narrative around work, violence, immigration, policing, and many other issues. Understanding that policy and politics were inadequate to the transformational task at hand, they added cultural change to their toolkit. Through praxis, they’ve developed a theory of how to create cultural flash points and forged strong relationships with artists. The National Domestic Workers Alliance, for example, has been doing Golden Globes watch parties for several years and has made a big investment in giving women entertainers like Amy Poehler a chance to support domestic workers. The Restaurant Opportunities Centers United has connected with foodies and celebrity chefs. Tarana Burke, who created the #MeToo hashtag a decade ago, took advantage of the current moment, to historic effect.”

    This Bristol restaurant’s tipping policy forces waiting staff to ‘pay to work’ (Bronwen Weatherby, Bristol Evening Post)

    From the article: “In Milton Keynes I saw a girl in tears at the end of the shift because she hadn’t made enough in tips to pay her three per cent and the manager was making her walk to the cash point to withdraw money to pay it.”
    [Aqua has restaurants in six UK locations.]

    Twitter thread: “Something I wish more people would realise is how alienating it is to be poor/broke when you have financially stable/comfortable friends” (Moist Towelette, @MamaGhoulette)

    People accept that I’m gay, but not that I’m disabled (Jessica Kellgren-Fozard, talking to Joan McFadden, Guardian)

    From the article: “I definitely feel that there is a desexualisation of disabled people. When I was still dating, I could see the moment in my date’s eyes when I explained my condition and suddenly stopped being an interesting potential prospect. I think disabled people are not just taboo when it comes to sex, but also dating, relationships and life in general. My wife is often told that she is a saint for marrying me or that she must be such a good person – as if I am a terrible burden and not the woman she loves. Businesses, the media and politicians need to start seeing disabled people for what we are: useful members of society who have something to bring to others.”

    You Made It Unsafe For Us To Say No And Leave (Medium)

    From the article: “I can’t tell you how many times I’ve simply had sex because it was safer than pushing the person away and saying no, or I was too tired to keep saying no, or I felt like I owed them for being kind, or I thought I was supposed to always say yes because we were in a relationship. You simultaneously teach us to trust men and distrust men all together and expect us to be able to survive when you teach cis men that non-men aren’t their equals, that we aren’t really even human.”

    Cheating and manipulation: Confessions of a gaslighter (BBC News)

    From the article: “From my experience it’s not true that it is vulnerable or insecure women who are susceptible to gaslighting. These were successful women but that came with a perception of what they thought a ‘successful’ relationship should look like and they shared that. They gave me a blueprint to what they were looking for in a man.”

    The poorly reported Aziz Ansari exposé was a missed opportunity (The Guardian)

    From the article: “The language of “a bad hookup” fails to capture the unequal power dynamics and the deep sense of disorientation and betrayal that comes when someone treats you as a hole rather than a person. Nor does it adequately measure the weight of centuries of misogyny that have shaped our most intimate moments.”

    The image is used under a creative commons license with thanks to Anita on Flickr. It is a photograph of a ‘winter landscape’ and shows a field covered in softly fallen snow.

    Weekly round-up and open thread

    by Lusana Taylor // 9 January 2018, 3:23 pm


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

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

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

    We need a domestic violence offenders’ register. Theodore Johnson is proof (The Guardian)

    From the article: “A register would add a “right to know” to the current “right to ask”. Like convicted sex offenders, men convicted of domestic violence would have to inform the police of their current address, making it much harder for them to drop off the radar. Crucially, they would also have to tell the police if they have formed new relationships. Officers would then have a duty to warn the women concerned about the offenders’ criminal records.”

    Former Mail Online columnist Katie Hopkins signed up by right-wing Canadian website The Rebel Media (Press Gazette)

    From the article: “Hopkins will be writing a weekly column for the website under the banner of her new HopkinsWorld website. The Rebel Media says Hopkins will also be writing investigative reports and producing video content for the company. She’s on a roster of contributors for the website which include former English Defence League leader Tommy Robinson.”

    This man says he was sexually abused by Jann Wenner. Then he got an amazing job offer at Rolling Stone (Buzzfeed)

    From the article: “Wells said his wife believes he was so traumatized by his experience with Wenner and working at Rolling Stone that he never fulfilled the career he could have had. ‘I could have become an agent, an editor,’ he said. ‘I turned my back, though. I didn’t want to see any of those people.’

    ‘He was a much more confident person when he was working there,’ Wells’ wife Jane said of her husband. ‘He was pretty confident and happy and it was all cool and fun when I started dating him [in 1985]. Immediately when he got fired and sued things got very heavy for him.’

    Wells shared his experience with a few people at the time he felt wouldn’t judge him or make assumptions about him. He didn’t want people in the book publishing world to find out and think his encounter with Wenner was the reason he was hired to work at Rolling Stone.

    Three longtime friends, his sister Alice, and his lawyer from the time all told BuzzFeed News that Wells discussed the events with them around the time they happened — from the night at Wenner’s apartment to when he was fired. He later told his wife Jane about them before they married in 1986.”

    Remember Obiamaka (Medium)

    From the article: “To work in media is to accept that every job, work function or networking event will be peppered with some supremely shitty men, their offenses all different and of varying degrees but all centered on one central fact: They deeply disrespect — and probably even hate — their female colleagues. To make matters worse, many of these men publicly brand themselves as male feminists, and most dangerously, serve as true gatekeepers for the women who work for them, able to either help make their careers or steal their ideas to make their own.”

    Vice UK staff warn that sexual harassment has overshadowed journalism careers of young women at the media brand (Press Gazette)

    From the article: “Full-time and freelance staff in the UK and other markets are also now required to take part in sexual harassment training which is run by third-party providers. The ramping up of its HR capabilities comes amid Vice Media launching a probe into sexual harassment and improper workplace conduct, after revelations in the US. It has suspended two senior executives – president Andrew Creighton and chief digital officer Mike Germano – following a New York Times report detailing sexual harassment allegations against them.”

    2017’s best writing by sex workers (Tits and Sass)

    On Liking Women (Andrea Long Chu, n+1)

    From the article: “What’s striking here is not Solanas’s revolutionary extremism per se, but the flippancy with which she justifies it. Life under male supremacy isn’t oppressive, exploitative, or unjust: it’s just fucking boring.”

    Women Are Being Left To “Bleed Out” When They Have Their Periods In Police Cells, A Watchdog Says (Hazel Shearing, Buzzfeed News)

    From the article: “BuzzFeed News can reveal the ICVA has today written an open letter to the Home Office, calling for it to conduct a review of the situation and introduce minimum standards of sanitary provision for women in police custody, after shocking reports from unannounced visits. The situation violates “basic human rights” and could be in breach of the Human Rights Act, according to lawyers working with the group who spoke to BuzzFeed News.”

    This YouTube Series Explains Almost Everything Wrong With “The Big Bang Theory” (Gianna Folz, Bust)

    From the article: “Over 11 seasons, The Big Bang Theory has repeatedly reinforced the idea of #YesAllMen. The main men of the show are albeit unusual to mainstream television as they are all dorky, well-educated and lack social skills and conventional male beauty standards, such as being physically fit or above a certain height. But these “lovable nerds” still somehow aggressively objectify women. That objectification is the crux of the jokes on the show. Nerds can sexualize women to the same extent as jocks.”

    Speaking to media can be ‘distressing’ and ‘daunting’ – public should consider using lawyers or PR company, government guidelines say (Press Gazette)

    “While the guidance offers details of the remit of IPSO, which most newspaper have signed up to, the only details it discloses about Impress, the state-approved press regulator, is its address and a link to its website.

    Times writer David Brown wrote on Twitter: ‘When we were reporting the awful disaster at Grenfell Tower the survivors and families of missing were desperate to speak with journalists. Many were highly critical of the authorities who are now seem to be advising them not to speak to the media.'”

    Carrie Gracie’s dispute with the BBC isn’t about money – it’s about integrity (The Guardian)

    The image is used under a creative commons license with thanks to Eugene on Flickr. It is a black and white photograph of a person with short hair wearing a jacket and jeans. They are sitting with their face turned away from the camera and one hand brought up to their temple as if easing a headache or thinking. Their facial expression appears sombre.

    Welcome to our new fiction editor

    by Joanna Whitehead // 8 January 2018, 5:58 pm


    While Lusana has been doing excellent work on our non-fiction section, our fiction editor role has remained vacant for a number of months. I am, therefore, delighted to announce that we now have a new fiction editor: Sarah Kiddle! Please join me in giving her a warm welcome. Here is some more information about Sarah, in her own words:

    Sarah Kiddle is an intersectional feminist and is particularly interested in stereotyping in popular culture (especially in fiction and children’s books), the pornification of society, language, education, mental health and feminist parenting. In between studying for an MA in Creative Writing and nurturing a love of books and nature in her toddler, Sarah is a freelance copywriter, copy-editor and proofreader. She also worked for nine years as an English teacher and believes that innovative educational initiatives could help tackle many feminist issues. In any spare moments, Sarah can be found either eating cheese, daydreaming about travel, enjoying the great outdoors or escaping into a book – which may or may not be particularly literary. She is humbled by the wit and wisdom of other feminists on a daily basis, and is thoroughly thrilled to be working at The F-Word. She can be found on Twitter at @sckiddle

    You can pitch Sarah with ideas for the section at You can also find out more about pitches and other fiction-related info in The F-Word fiction Facebook group.

    Sarah elaborates on the kind of themes she is particularly interesting in hearing about below:


    I’m very excited – and honoured – to be The F-Word’s new fiction editor. As a lifelong reader and feminist (before I even knew the word!), I believe that fiction is a vital window onto the world we live in: it gives us access to lives we might have had, or aspire to have, or imagine having, increasing our knowledge and empathy and wisdom as it does so.

    Fiction is also a tool for inspiring, educating and simply entertaining us. I’d like the F-Word’s fiction section to reflect the many roles that stories play in our lives – from comforter to catalyst – and what they tell us about women as they are and as they are perceived, particularly the experiences of marginalised groups whose voices often go unheard elsewhere.

    With that in mind, I’d love to hear your ideas, so if you have something you’re burning to say or explore about books – reviewing a particular author, series or seminal work; looking at issues women face in the publishing world; or exploring an aspect of women’s lives in fiction.

    While I have many ideas for a broad and dynamic section, two areas I’d love submissions for in the first instance are:

    * Feminist and intersectional critiques of well-known books of any genre – perhaps looking at how the women portrayed reflect the society of their time, or surprising role models (or the opposite!) in literature. Can a feminist reader justify enjoyment of certain books? Does the book hold a particular relevance to your feminist life?

    * Reviews of children’s and young adult (YA) books from a feminist standpoint, and explorations of feminist and intersectional issues within them. What lessons and assumptions do young children absorb from the books we read to them? Should we continue to read childhood ‘favourites’ with gender stereotypes to our children? What books provide children from marginalised groups with inspiring role models they can relate to?

    I’m also keen on hearing from women from minority or marginalised groups – and pitches about books which reflect those experiences.

    Finally, it would be great to keep up with current releases. You may want to focus your review on how female characters are represented, how a male author writes women, or a relevant feminist or intersectional theme that has been explored – or something else! But these should be books from 2018, to give us bookworms a priority list for great new books (or a warning for those to avoid!).

    I look forward to hearing from you!

    The picture at the top of the page is a close-up shot of the right-hand side of a red typewriter. The brand ‘Royal’ can be seen on the top of the typewriter and the keys on the far right-hand side are somewhat blurred, which is an intentional stylistic choice by the photographer. Image shared under a Creative Commons licence.

    Language matters, Virgin

    by Joanna Whitehead // 3 January 2018, 4:18 pm

    Tags: , , ,

    Earlier this week, it was reported that a woman using the Virgin East Coast mainline train service had been called “honey” by a male member of train staff in response to a grievance she had. The passenger, who was understandably disgruntled after being given misinformation on a busy train service, complained to an “older male train manager”, who she said dismissed her “with that hideously patronising word that women shudder at in contexts such as this: “honey””. Dissatisfied, the passenger took to Twitter to highlight her frustration, tagging the Virgin Trains account.

    Virgin Trains’ response?

    There are two corresponding elements to this remarkable fail. Firstly, that a woman looking to resolve a grievance was referred to as “honey” and, secondly, the subsequent response to this by the Virgin Trains employee in charge of their Twitter account. The actual details of the incident are almost irrelevant.

    Being referred to as “honey”, “sweetheart” or “darling” is something many women and femme-presenting folk are familiar with. What’s important to note is that these terms are context dependent. A close friend or lover referring to us in this way will most likely get a very different response to a stranger shouting this at us in the street. And, for many of us on the receiving end of this, we know what that latter experience feels like and what it intends to do.

    In the wrong context, these words can be used to undermine and belittle women. They’re the verbal equivalent of a pat on the head. They serve to remind women that they are lesser – that their roles are those of eye-candy or playthings. They are not words to use when you want to denote respect.

    Words are powerful. They can soothe, reassure and inspire, but they can also harm, humiliate and wound. Civilisation has progressed far enough for almost everyone to recognise this. When a person speaks up to say that they are offended by a word being used to refer to them, we should listen, rather than shouting them down or telling them that they’re being oversensitive.

    Would a man raising a complaint with a male train manager expect to be called “honey”? I very much doubt it

    Virgin is one of the world’s most profitable companies. Figures on their website indicate that they make £16.6 billion globally in revenue (“and growing”). They employ over 69,000 people worldwide. The Twitter account that published the post above has 149,000 followers. That someone thought it was amusing or appropriate to respond to customer feedback with the above response is baffling.

    A further post was then published by the company:

    Comments in response to this exchange have been predictable, with some stating that using terms such as “honey” to refer to other people is characteristic in some northern parts of the country. This may be true but, again, I would argue that context is key. Would a man raising a complaint with a male train manager expect to be called “honey”? I very much doubt it and suspect that the train manager may be at risk of a black eye if this occurred. As someone born and bred in Yorkshire, I can also safely say that I have never witnessed a cis, heterosexual man seriously refer to another cis heterosexual man as “honey”.

    For those commentators who believe that it’s impossible to focus on an incident like this when they are other “more important” issues to concentrate on, I would direct them to this excellent video by Riley J Dennis. Focusing on incidences perceived as “smaller” in the grand scheme of things does not mean we are unable or incapable of also paying attention to society’s larger issues. The two are not mutually exclusive.

    And, if you’re struggling to know what the appropriate context is to use such words, I suggest using the person’s name. It’s really that simple.

    Do better, Virgin.

    The picture at the top of the page shows a upper-body shot of a white, stone statue of a man with his head in his hands against a perfect blue sky. It’s meant to represent the face-palm moment I felt when I first read the report in relation to this story. Image taken by Alex Proimos and shared under a a Creative Commons licence.

    The first Virgin Trains Twitter screenshot reads, in response to the woman’s complaint about being referred to as “honey”: “Sorry for the mess up Emily, would you prefer “pet” or “love” next time?^MS” The second Virgin Trains Twitter screenshot reads: “We apologise unreservedly for this tweet and for the offence caused. To avoid causing more offence we have deleted the original post^SH

    Weekly round-up and open thread

    by Lusana Taylor // 2 January 2018, 1:32 pm

    Tags: ,

    Happy New Year to all F-Word readers. The weekly round-up has been on hiatus over Christmas but it’s back now with (what we see as) the most interesting and important articles from the previous couple of weeks. We’d love to hear your thoughts on any of the issues covered in our chosen links.

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

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

    #WokeCharlotte: the meme clapping back at dated Sex and the City moments (Dazed)

    Young women ‘almost invisible’ from Government strategy on mental health, report claims (i News)

    Who Gets to Identify as ‘Femme’? (Vice)
    From the article: “While not everyone in queer circles believes “femme” should be a term used exclusively by queer people, to some, using it outside queer contexts feels like an erasure of contributions femmes have made to queer liberation movements. “To use the term without resonating with that longer history could be seen as […] potentially doing a disservice to queer identified people,” said Gomez-Barris. Others contend that when the term is used by straight people, they contribute to femme invisibility—the idea that femme queer women are often mistaken as straight by society, thus perpetuating an erasure of their identities.”

    At Vice, Cutting-Edge Media and Allegations of Old-School Sexual Harassment (New York Times)

    From the article: “The settlements and the many episodes of harassment the women described depict a top-down ethos of male entitlement at Vice, where women said they felt like just another party favor at an organization where partying often was an extension of the job.”

    Noel Gallagher thinks that the music industry is less misogynistic than film (NME)

    From the article: “‘You know you can’t afford to be a misogynist in the music business,’ said Gallagher. ‘I mean, I write songs about the glory of women all the time, you know what I mean? I’ve gotten my career out of that. I love being around women, and not to objectify them, they’re funnier than most men half the time … I’ve never understood misogyny.’”

    In response to this article, the music writer Lucy O’Brien, tweeted “What about those festival bills then?” ( a comment which relates, amongst other things, to a report the BBC did in June 2017 revealing the lack of female festival headliners:

    Lorde called a bigot in Washington Post ad over cancelled Israel concert (The Guardian)

    From the article: “The decision also came after an open letter written by two New Zealanders argued the concert would show support for Israel’s occupation of Palestine.

    ‘I have had a lot of discussions with people holding many views, and I think the right decision at this time is to cancel the show,’ Lorde wrote at the time. ‘I’m not too proud to admit I didn’t make the right call on this one.’

    The ad says Lorde’s decision showed how a ‘growing prejudice against the Jewish state’ in New Zealand was ‘trickling down to its youth’.

    It cites New Zealand’s choice in December to vote, along with 127 countries, in favour of a UN resolution calling for the US to withdraw its decision to recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.”

    Music has ‘gotten very girly’ says Bono from U2 (The Guardian)

    From the article: “Bono cited streaming as a factor in the supposed feminisation of music. ‘Right now, streaming is on the ad-based model,’ he told Rolling Stone. ‘And that is very, very young, and it’s very, very pop. It’s dominated by frequency of plays, but that is not actually a measure of the weight of an artist … If you are a teenager and you are listening to whatever the pop act is, you’re probably listening to them 100 times a day. It’s a teenage crush, but in a year’s time you won’t care about that.'”

    The Year of Hurricane Harvey (The Economist)

    From the article: “The signs are that the #MeToo movement has reached a delicate stage. The buffeting of the past few months has certainly been cathartic. It has also brought abusers in a bewildering range of industries kicking and screaming into the open. But the novelty of seeing famous men brought down will soon fade. Before that happens, both men and women need to come to a shared understanding of what sexual harassment is and what to do about it. If too many of them conclude that complaints are being exaggerated or exploited, they will not stop in to stop backsliders. Minor transgressions will be allowed to carry on. That will make it more likely that rape and sexual assault will go unpunished too.”

    Erica Garner, Black Lives Matter activist, dies aged 27 (The Guardian)

    From the article: “Erica Garner became an activist and writer, including for the Guardian. In July 2016, she met privately with Barack Obama, after protesting during a town hall event on race. She also campaigned on behalf of Sanders in his bid for the Democratic presidential nomination. In his statement, Sanders said: ‘Erica Garner was an exceptional young woman. She was a loving daughter, sister, mother, friend.’ He added: ‘I had the honor of getting to know Erica and I was inspired by the commitment she made working towards a more just world for her children and future generations. She was a fighter for justice and will not be forgotten.'”

    My vagina was badly injured after giving birth. Why was getting help so hard? (Christen Clifford, Guardian)

    Black Women and Femmes Will Lose Visibility If Net Neutrality Goes (Liz Brazile, Reclaiming My Time)

    From the article: “Black women have been the driving force behind social justice movements for many decades—centuries even. But the reach of social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter has afforded us a much larger platform than we’ve ever had access to in the mainstream media. As a grossly underrepresented demographic, many of us rely on social media to bring awareness to our experiences, causes, talents, and businesses.”

    The real story behind the “drunk women” headlines (Zoë Beaty, The Pool)

    Milo Yiannopoulos’s draft and the role of editors in dealing with the far-right (The Guardian)

    From the article: “Such comments do not constitute a rejection of the Yiannopoulos agenda. Rather, they’re efforts by a professional editor trying to make that agenda more palatable for the book’s perceived readership.”

    Some mental health services are telling patients: ‘If you really wanted to kill yourself, you would have done it’ (Jay Watts, Independent)

    From the article: “I am writing this article in awareness that most mental health services do a fantastic job, and with the wish that people continue to seek help. I cannot emphasise enough how many people I have met who have made multiple attempts on their life, often over many decades, and come to thrive.”

    “But I write too with a desperate request that we not only fund crisis services better, that we not only skill mental health staff to be able to contain suicidal despair, but that we change attitudes around suicide within psychiatric services which block people from care. It is inexcusable that mental health services make people feel like a burden for continuing to struggle, that we take away from them the possibility of help and therefore hope.”

    Dear journalists, as an A&E consultant I am writing to ask for your help (Rob Galloway, Facebook)

    Palestinian girl filmed slapping Israeli solider is charged with assault (The Guardian)

    From the article: “The case has raised complex questions over the prominent role of minors in Palestinian activism, not least in violent confrontations with Israeli security forces. Concerns have also been raised over the treatment of minors in the Israeli military court system, and how the media – both local and international – interpret such images from the conflict.”

    ‘We’re extremely sorry’: Murdered Iranian refugee Bijan Ebrahimi failed by police and council’s ‘institutional racism’ (Independent)

    Blue passports could send UK citizens to back of queue, EU officials say (The Guardian)

    From the article: “David Lammy, the MP for Tottenham, said Brexit was ‘turning us into a laughing stock’. ‘We’re swapping the right to live and work in 27 countries for new passports,’ he said. ‘But don’t worry, when we’re all stood in the airport for four hours we can stand in the queue and look at just how blue they are.'”

    George Michael’s Goring neighbours share memories one year on (BBC)

    Bono Is Sad Men Have No Outlet For Their Anger Now That They Let Women Make Music (Rebecca Fishbein, The Muse, Jezebel)

    Time’s Up: Hollywood women launch campaign to fight sexual harassment (The Guardian)

    From the article: “In a sense, Time’s Up is being launched as a companion to the #MeToo movement that grew out of the spontaneous response to revelations about Hollywood’s ‘casting-couch’ system of sexual predation and enduring gender-pay disparities.

    While attention has largely focused on show business and the media, Time’s Up seeks to include the plight of working-class women.

    The organization arose from informal gatherings of female talent agents in Los Angeles who starting meeting after the issue of sexual harassment landed like a bombshell on the entertainment industry in October. The group rapidly expanded and now includes meetings and workshops for participants in New York and London.”

    The image is used under a creative commons license with thanks to Sandrine on Flickr. It shows a lake surrounded by trees at sunset; the low hanging sun is reflected in the water.

    Weekly round-up and open thread

    by Lusana Taylor // 19 December 2017, 1:53 pm


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

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

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

    For everyone celebrating Christmas, have a good one! We’ll be back with another round-up in the new year.

    Sexual harassment ‘rife’ in schools but largely unreported, study says (The Guardian)

    From the article: “More than one in three girls (37%) in mixed secondary schools told a survey they have been sexually harassed while at school and 24% have been subjected to unwanted physical touching of a sexual nature.

    The use of sexist, misogynist language is also widespread with 66% of female sixth-form students complaining they have either experienced or witnessed the use of sexist language in schools.”

    ‘Harvey Weinstein is my monster too’ (NY Times)

    Alarm over restraint of NHS mental health patients (The Guardian)

    Dad’s hilarious letter to daughter’s school perfectly sums up modern-day sexism (Stylist)

    From the article: “According to Stephen Callaghan (otherwise known as, amazingly, @Grumplestiltskin), his 12-year-old daughter, Ruby, was recently ushered into the school library with all the other girls in her class to get a makeover. The boys, meanwhile, went on a field trip to their local hardware store, Bunnings. Yes, really.”

    ‘Chinese burn? We just say burn’: comics on joking about race and immigration (The Guardian)

    Why Debbie McGee’s Strictly success is so important for women everywhere (Stylist)

    From the article: “When I started comedy I didn’t want to talk about being Chinese. I thought the only way to make jokes about it was to reinforce stereotypes, because those were the only jokes that I heard growing up. Chinese people are good at maths, they are martial arts experts with broken English, or they’re running laundromats and have no real depth of character, and sometimes they are portrayed in a racist way by Mickey Rooney.
    But on stage you end up talking about what frustrates you. It has been a struggle to find a way to talk about being Chinese in a meaningful way.”

    It’s Time to Embrace Feminism’s Anger. Let’s Use it Even More in 2018 (Bitch Media)

    Under Irish law, a woman who seeks an abortion after rape can face a longer prison sentence than her rapist – but this could be about to change (The Guardian)

    “Bad Sex,” Or The Sex We Don’t Want But Have Anyway (Ella Dawson)

    From the article: “Bad sex isn’t even necessarily coercive. I’m talking about having a sexual encounter you don’t want to have because in the moment it seems easier to get it over with than it would be to extricate yourself.”

    More work to be done in fight for gender equality: Aware’s Jolene Tan (TNP) [Singapore]

    From the article: “These women thought they were alone, that it was shameful to talk about their experiences or maybe it was partly their fault, and they could not receive help. Many of these ideas are being overturned because they are seeing others say, ‘It is not my shame, it is his shame.'”

    Jolene Tan used to write for the F-Word. You can read more of her work HERE.

    On 17th December it was International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers (IDEVASW). We have chosen some relevant links on the subject:

    MPs, we urgently need to talk about – and to help protect – Britain’s sex workers (The Guardian)

    From the article: “Decriminalisation of sex work will not undo centuries of stigma any more than the criminalisation of marital rape in 1991 instantly redressed gender inequality or ended sexual violence. The world doesn’t work like this. What legislation can do is offer recourse, the backing of the criminal justice system; it makes a crime visible by drawing a line between what is and is not morally acceptable.”

    Stop ignoring the evidence: client criminalisation endangers sex workers’ (International Committee on the Rights of Sex Workers in Europe (ICRSE)

    What unites sex workers’ rights and abortion rights movements? (Abortion Rights Campaign and Sex Workers’ Alliance Ireland)

    Everyone has the right to work without fear of violence, so why should sex workers be any different? (Laura Connelly, Independent)

    MPs, we urgently need to talk about – and to help protect – Britain’s sex workers (Frankie Mullin, Guardian)

    From the article: “Sunday 17 December is International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers (IDEVASW) and, worldwide, sex workers will gather to mourn and to call for change. In London, the English Collective of Prostitutes (ECP) and the Sex Worker Advocacy and Resistance Movement (SWARM) will hold a vigil outside parliament on 18 December. We will build a memorial for the sex workers who’ve lost their lives, and have invited MPs to come out and speak to us. We are calling for full decriminalisation of working with another person for safety, and acknowledgment that the UK’s piecemeal legislation, which criminalises such working, contributes to violence.”

    The image is used under a creative commons license with thanks to PokemonaDeChroma on Flickr. It shows the branch of a rather bare looking pine or ‘Christmas’ tree. The branch is sharply in focus and jutting out onto what appears to be a residential street; a road, traffic lights, houses and a person walking can be seen in the background.

    Austerity and mental health

    The mood in the room is serious yet upbeat; well-dressed delegates take their seats around tastefully laid-out breakfast tables, exchanging polite networking chat. The people in this room are senior decision makers, and they are about to be debriefed on what the 2017 Autumn budget means for health and social care.

    I am also in this room and seem to be one of the few members of press. But I don’t need to be here to know that things are dire.

    Health services, particularly the NHS, have borne significant and damaging budget cuts beneath Tory austerity. From 2015-2016, the public health budget was cut by £200m, a gap set to grow to £331m by 2021.

    The Care Quality Commission reports that while the quality of care has been maintained in the NHS, the system faces unprecedented pressure. There are increasing numbers of older patients and those with more complex conditions, which can translate into longer waits in A&E and more planned operations being cancelled. The amount of NHS hospital beds in England has more than halved over the last 30 years.

    Back in the room, the speaker notes that realistically, there won’t be anything substantial done to improve social care until the end of the decade.

    Meanwhile, it is women — especially working class, disabled and BAME women — who are most affected by austerity. And they have felt, and will feel, the sting of cuts to public health and social care the most.

    The growing shortage of beds relies on the idea that people will seek the care they need from the community, a King’s Fund report notes. This means that more people will be required to take on caring roles, the burden of which chiefly falls on women. The latest ONS data shows that nearly 60% of carers are women, with women taking on a higher share of the unpaid care burden in a similar proportion across England and Wales. The general health of unpaid carers was found to deteriorate incrementally as the amount of unpaid care provided increased.

    A 2015 Carers UK policy briefing notes that BAME carers are less likely to receive practical and financial support and to receive support for longer periods of time. This, they suggest, is down to difficulties accessing culturally appropriate services and a general lack of available advice and information. The same report references a previous analysis by the University of Leeds that suggests that BAME families are more likely to provide care for older or disabled loved ones.

    And the disproportionate effects of austerity itself compounds the strain on families, creating a vicious circle of increased need and demand versus increasing access barriers.

    “In terms of losses to income, mothers are particularly badly hit,” Dr Mary-Ann Stephenson, co-director of the Women’s Budget group, told The Femedic. “This is because of freezes to benefits and tax credits, cuts to child benefits, and cuts to the child element of tax credits. Additional payments after the first child are cut, and from April this year there’s the two child cap.”

    This will particularly affect larger families and those who rely on benefits. As Shirley Cramer, RSPH chief executive notes, health access and outcomes in the UK are ultimately tied to socioeconomic status. And it is women who lose out both individually where it comes to net income and on behalf of a family for whom they have become the shock absorber.

    Then, there’s the impact poverty has on maternal mental health, creating a catch-22 when it comes to austerity, explains Dr Stephenson. “Where mothers do develop mental health problems as a result of cuts, the services aren’t in place to support them,” she said. Women living in poverty are four times more likely to develop postnatal depression than those within the highest income bracket, according to Psychologists Against Austerity.

    Back in the room, the speaker reminds us that austerity is due to continue into the next two parliaments. For the most part, the following discussion is earnest, and considers how to boost productivity and try to remedy some of the strain felt by both the sector and the people that work within it.

    Ultimately though, it’s clear that the root of all these problems are the structures of discrimination that austerity has exacerbated.

    “This is the consequence of the failure of austerity and the lowest productivity since Napoleon invaded Russia,” the speaker says. The room is silent.

    Featured image by Jonas Kakaroto, from Unsplash. Used under creative commons zero licence.

    Image is of a pregnant woman lying on a bed. Her face is not visible in the frame. She wears a cropped, white top that allows her belly to stick out and white leggings. The bed sheets are candy pink.

    Mother and daughter

    Laura Cooke is December’s monthly guest blogger

    Amal Clooney, Georgina Rodriguez, Ferne McCann, Danielle Lloyd, Serena Williams, Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, Binky Felstead, Beyonce and Cheryl — what do these nine women all have in common?

    The answer is that within the last three months they have all shown off/flaunted their incredible/sensational post-baby bodies. At least, that is, according to the Daily Mail.

    But in amongst the seemingly endless celebrity baby-body stories on the Mail website, there is a feature about six women who talk candidly about their postpartum bodies, from stretch marks to saggy boobs. The headline reads: ‘What pregnancy did to our bodies: Six brave mothers reveal the toll having a baby has taken on their figures’.

    I take issue with one word in particular in that headline — brave.

    The use of the word brave in this context is so patronising it may as well be accompanied by a pat on the head.

    I’m a stone and a half heavier than I was pre-pregnancy; I can’t pull my old jeans up much past my knees. Bits of me wobble that never used to wobble before. I am not brave. I have only done what hundreds of thousands of other women around the world do on a daily basis. I have had a baby.

    And it’s not just the Daily Mail telling me what a brave little soldier I am. The mums recently featured in The Sun have been branded brave because they have dared to show their postpartum stomachs in a national publication. Meanwhile, The Metro had a good stab at a positive article about postpartum bodies, until the ‘b word’ rears its head a few paragraphs down and spoils things.

    In comparison, none of the women mentioned in the list above are branded brave. The Mail enthuses over them, calling them sensational, a vision of beauty, ravishing, sizzling and so on. While this language sexualises and objectifies the celebrity mums, it’s a sharp contrast to us mere mortals being told that we are brave; our postpartum bodies are ‘nothing to be ashamed of’. It feels like participating in a school sports day and receiving a certificate for taking part.

    Rather than empowering mothers by reassuring us that we are all normal, all these ‘positive’ postpartum articles do is provide yet another opportunity for people to pass judgement on women’s bodies. Having a body is something that really isn’t newsworthy. Or, at least in a perfect world, it shouldn’t be.

    These two types of articles invite unfair comparisons. You cannot compare most women with someone like Serena Williams, one of the finest athletes of her generation. Most of us mums have never had the body of a grand slam winner pre-pregnancy, so we’re hardly likely to have one postpartum.

    Comparisons like this create ideas of ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ post-baby bodies: the former of which some women might not ever have, for no reason of their own failing. Why should they be made to feel bad or guilty about it?

    Right from the off, The Sun invites the reader to compare its group of mothers to one new celebrity mum with the headline: ‘We speak to four brave mums who proudly show off their post-baby tum just like Cheryl’. What follows is an image of a postpartum Cheryl, followed by a series of pictures of the ‘normal’ mums in the same outfit, recreating the same pose. It is impossible not to compare the two, which begs the question: what was the real point of this article if not to judge the women featured?

    After giving birth, it can be difficult to get your head around what has happened to your body. Not only the obvious physical changes, but it can also feel like your body doesn’t belong to you anymore because your baby calls the shots. For nine months your body has been devoted to keeping your baby alive. Once they enter the world, your body is left with physical reminders of what happened that, in most cases, stay with you for the rest of your life. And if you are able to breastfeed, your relationship with your breasts changes because they suddenly serve a new purpose.

    When a mother is possibly at a low ebb following the birth of her child, celebrity baby-body articles are great at feeding insecurities and have the potential to be particularly harmful if she is suffering from a mental health illness, such as postnatal depression.

    But a ‘positive’ postpartum story, peppered with condescending language, can also be harmful as it implies that the average woman’s post-birth body is something out of the ordinary which needs highlighting and is worthy of comment. It isn’t. It’s just a body.

    All women who have given birth — vaginally or by c-section — have done an amazing thing which will have affected their bodies to various degrees.

    We do not need to be told we are brave for bearing the physical effects of childbirth and existing within those bodies afterwards.

    Featured image by London Scout, from Unsplash. Used under a creative commons zero licence.

    Image is of a mother and daughter on a city street. The mother crouches down to her child’s height and has her arms around her in a loose embrace. The child looks at the camera. Mother and daughter are both wearing smart white shirts and black skirts.

    Inadequate pay and exploitation at work disproportionately affect migrant women. In the last 10 years, numerous stories have been uncovered about groups of migrant women being exploited to benefit large companies. In 2015, for example, groups of Polish women were found working at the rate of £6.50 a day for hospitality giant Hotelcare who required them to clean 13 rooms in eight hours, every day, five days a week.

    Migrant women face difficulties such as feeding their families and are prevented from reaching their professional potential due to inadequate pay, excessive work hours and often difficult working conditions.

    In 2016, Virginia Mantouvalou, reader in Human Rights and Labour Law and Co-Director of the UCL Institute for Human Rights, conducted an empirical study which included a series of interviews with 24 migrant women who arrived in the UK on a domestic worker visa. She found that “The workers interviewed recounted shocking stories of abuse and exploitation, fear and isolation”.

    When being interviewed for Hidden Hope, a project by the charity Home Alone which fights to end domestic slavery, a migrant woman said that “There was a time I was about to kill myself because it really was too much stress and everything”.

    Social mobility is on the decline in the UK, which means that escaping poverty is becoming increasingly difficult. If you are being exposed to multiple oppressions — i.e. gender, race, nationality — the opportunities to elevate yourself are even harder, especially when considering the negative attitudes the UK seems to be adopting towards migrants, refugees and people of colour. After Brexit, hate crimes spiked to 41%. Prejudice is growing and migrant women in the UK need legal protection now more than ever.

    Poor pay is a huge part of this exploitation and traps many migrant women into poverty. Officially, on the UK government website, the national minimum wage and national living wage are set at £7.05 per hour for 21-24-year-olds and £7.50 per hour for over 25’s. Even in cases where migrant women are being paid these wages, neither can cover the actual costs of living when considering the rising costs of rent, food, household goods, services, transportation and any additional fees immigrants may have to pay the UK government or their employers.

    At the beginning of November, the charity Living Wage Foundation set the real living wage at £8.75 per hour for anyone over 18-years-old, which rises to £10.20 for those living in London. This was independently calculated by both the Living Wage Foundation and Citizens UK, based on what people need to reasonably get by. This is the only wage rate that is based on what people need to live above the poverty line, dependent on the average cost of a basket of household goods and services. When compared to the government’s minimum and living wage, this makes a massive difference to someone’s quality of life.

    Over 3,500 businesses around the UK are accredited real living wage employers, yet this positive engagement and respect for employees are not being given enough attention.

    The state is effectively subsidising industries, enabling big business to provide low pay to increase profits whilst the taxpayer makes up the difference by contributing to benefit payments. Earlier this year, there were 360 businesses which failed to pay either the national minimum or living wage. Offenders included Subway, Debenhams and Lloyds Pharmacy.

    The United Nations Fund for Population Activities (UNFPA) warns that Western governments are not doing nearly enough to protect migrant women from employment abuses, especially when, “more women are migrating on their own than ever before. Women now constitute almost half the international migrant population, and in some countries, as much as 70 or 80 per cent”.

    Through encouraging businesses and organisations to adopt the real living wage, we can work towards ending poverty for those who are already being treated unfairly by society. I believe that if people were paid the real living wage the demand for benefits would undoubtedly decline.

    A fair wage affords women the opportunity to provide for themselves and their family, and rely less on benefits, pay-day lenders or working excessive hours in bad establishments. It has been found to reduce absenteeism and brings a significant improvement in staff morale and the quality of work being produced.

    Everyone deserves the chance to live with economic stability, no matter what our background. A person’s immigration status should not be something which businesses and governments use as a way to maintain cheap labour.

    Featured image was found on the BBC Radio Five Live website and is used here under fair dealing.

    Featured image is a pile of pound coins overlapping each other.

    Weekly round-up and open thread

    by Lusana Taylor // 11 December 2017, 4:14 pm


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

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

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

    Six-week consultation starts on new rules which allow UK state to spy on journalists and their sources (Press Gazette)

    The afro is a great symbol. It speaks volumes but it doesn’t and can’t say everything about who you are and what you think. (gal-dem)

    Transphobia is the latest weapon in a raging culture war (Red Pepper)

    JK Rowling is complicit in domestic abuse (Another angry woman)

    UK universities accused of complacency over sexual misconduct (The Guardian)

    Doctor Who Showrunner Steven Moffatt on Why He Never Cast a Woman as the Doctor (The Mary Sue)

    From the article: “This isn’t a show exclusively for progressive liberals.”

    The Unbearable Whiteness of Indie (Pitchfork)

    From the article: “Whiteness is the very ideal for which art is made in Western culture, be it the cinema of Wes Anderson or, say, the artists on Merge Records.”

    Why You Should Think Again About Workless Young Women (Huff Post)

    Douchebag Decree Kate Winslet, WYD? (Bitch Media)

    From the article: “Winslet’s complicity is the worst kind: It’s the selfish and uncaring kind. In her choosing to do what’s right for her (work with an acclaimed film maker who is also a sexual predator), she is supporting Allen and his work. Winslet wants to be the self-protecting, ignorance-is-bliss star—the one who gets to separate the art from the artist, the work from the worker, the brilliance from the abuse. For survivors, no such separation is possible.”

    A women’s refuge saved my family. Would we be given that chance today? (The Pool)

    Ferris Bueller Confronts His White Privilege (Alison Lowenstein, McSweeney’s) [Satire]

    Inequalities among older people, especially women, ‘shameful’ (The Guardian)

    The Spirited Debate About Ghosting (Kitty Stryker, Medium)

    This Co-Founder Walked Away From Her Conferences At Their Peak. Here’s Why (Girlboss)

    Article standfirst:” If you’re a woman/non-binary writer, chances are you’ve heard of The Binders Facebook group. But growing it from a 40,000-strong online community to a nationwide conference and nonprofit? It wasn’t as easy as hitting “like,” that’s for sure…”

    The woman behind ‘Me Too’ knew the power of the phrase when she created it — 10 years ago (Washington Post)

    From the article: “Tarana Burke was watching as #MeToo became an Internet phenomenon Sunday. Soon, she started to panic. By the time celebrities were tweeting #MeToo, encouraging every woman who had survived sexual harassment or assault to do the same, Burke knew she had to do something. She didn’t know where to start.

    “’If this grows big’, she recalled thinking at the time, ‘this is going to completely overshadow my work’.”

    Most women in prison victims of domestic abuse (Russell Webster)

    The Mail Online is asking if a six-year-old is “the most beautiful girl in the world” (The Pool)

    The image is used under a creative license commons and was sourced through Flickr. It shows snow-laden tree branches.

    Pregnancy should be about birth, not body hair

    by Guest Blogger // 9 December 2017, 10:29 am

    Tags: , , , ,

    Pregnancy and body hair
    Laura Cooke is December’s monthly guest blogger

    “I’m thinking about getting waxed beforehand — how about you?”

    My friend was talking about pubic hair, but she wasn’t thinking about de-fuzzing in preparation for a holiday. She was considering whether to wax her pubic hair just before she was due to give birth a few months later.

    As the weeks of my own pregnancy ticked by, I had constantly worried about the labour and mine and my baby’s health, but concerns about the state of my own hair had never entered my mind.

    A woman’s choice to have or remove her pubic hair is entirely hers, but becomes political and potentially problematic when removal is done to appease others. In this case, my friend didn’t want to appear ‘unkempt’.

    For some time now, there has been an expectation that Western women, particularly younger women, should remove their pubic hair in order to be seen as sexually desirable.

    Of course, types of mainstream pornography have a lot to answer for, with unnaturally hairless stars teaching a generation of men to expect minimum hair on their real-life partners, heaping pressure on said sexual partners to conform to these ideals.

    Some cultures also have particular beliefs and practices where it comes to body hair that enforce certain codes of conduct. Writing for Vice, Busra Erkara describes her experiences growing up in Turkey, where women waxing their body hair is deeply entrenched within tradition. This throws Western society’s obsession with Brazilians and Hollywoods into sharp relief.

    While the preoccupation with waxing for bedroom purposes is now fairly commonplace in the West, the fact that this has spilled over into the delivery suite is pretty depressing.

    How has it got to the stage where some women feel they have to be immaculately groomed at a time when getting a razor anywhere near your vulva requires some serious bodily contortions?

    Female body hair has become something that some people view as unnatural, ugly or disgusting. We feel obliged to be perfectly groomed when our bits are given a new ‘audience’ (in this case the midwives and doctors) to avoid evoking these feelings in others.

    An extreme example of this is the case of Swedish model and artist Arvida Byström. Byström appeared in the recent Adidas Superstar campaign with visibly hairy legs and was met with a barrage of negative comments, including rape threats.

    Model Amber Rose posted a semi-nude photo of herself on social media earlier this year to promote The Amber Rose Slutwalk, a festival dedicated to addressing and raising awareness of slut shaming, sexual violence, victim blaming, and more.

    The image was censored by Instagram, as well as the various media outlets which reported on the ‘Rose bush’ story. This included The Sun, which, in a spectacular display of double standards considering its dogged defence of page three, pixelated Rose’s groin. However, it wasn’t just The Sun which chose to edit Rose’s picture. Even publications aimed specifically at women, like Cosmpolitan and Elle, didn’t feature the uncensored picture, despite writing glowing editorials about it.

    The mainstream media’s reluctance to carry the uncensored image helps to reinforce the message that pubic hair is not just unsightly, it’s affronting to the point where people may feel entitled to threaten or harass others.

    But with Rose’s rallying cry and other celebrities opening up about their personal grooming regimes, perhaps the tide is turning.

    One can only hope this filters down to the delivery room, a place where birthing women often feel as if they have little or no ownership over their own bodies.

    Pregnant women are put under enormous amounts of pressure to achieve the ‘perfect birth’ and often find themselves judged on everything from their choice of painkillers to method of delivery. Not to mention the huge amount of self-inflicted pressure to produce a healthy baby.

    None of this pressure supports a woman’s health, happiness, or enhances her birthing ability. It attacks her sense of self and worth, telling her which is the ‘correct’ way to bring a child into the world. And worrying whether her pubic hair is unkempt can only add to this stress.

    Featured image by Omar Lopez, from Unsplash. Used under creative commons zero licence.

    Image is of a visibly pregnant woman holding her belly while standing in a park. Her eyes and below her knees are not visible in the frame, focusing the picture on her torso. She wears a pale blue and white striped dress and has thick brown hair.

    Weekly round-up and open thread

    by Lusana Taylor // 5 December 2017, 6:24 am


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

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

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

    Graham Norton’s rehabilitation of Mel Gibson is impossible to watch (The Pool)

    From the article: “Mel Gibson’s prime-time appearance says a lot about who we’re willing to laugh with right now – and who we’re prepared to disregard in the process. Over the last fortnight, Graham Norton’s show has amplified certain voices at a time when women are still asking to be heard. For viewers like me, the symbolism isn’t just uncomfortable – it’s actually impossible to watch.”

    “I’ve run out of tears”: inside London’s temporary housing crisis (The Guardian)

    Where are the Female Music Producers? (Cuepoint, via Medium)

    From the article:”Performer, writer, and producer Grimes went down a similar path, producing all her own music, after coming up against industry sexism. In an interview with Fader, she recounts how she had been infantilized by male producers who instantly doubted her chops. ‘Going into studios, there’s all these engineers there, and they don’t let you touch the equipment. I was like, “Well, can I just edit my vocals?” And they’d be like “No, just tell us what to do, and we’ll do it.” And then a male producer would come in, and he’d be allowed to do it. It was so sexist. I was, like, aghast.’ Like Lazar, Grimes decided to take control of her music by learning and undertaking every step of production herself.”

    The ‘arm vagina’ – Hollywood’s latest form of female self-flagellation (The Guardian)

    Cultural Appropriation in Alternative Subculture: Does it Matter? (Medium)

    From the article: “Like the mohawk, some cultural elements have become associated with alternative people. In fact, subcultures form through cultural borrowing. European Lolitas followed the Japanese, who themselves were inspired by the 18th century European Rococo movement and the Victorian era. Where music is concerned, several metal bands name African American R&B musicians as their primary inspiration. Exchange is a natural part of growth. Without it, alternative culture would have no flow.”

    Why is the #MeToo movement sending shockwaves through Sweden? (SBS)

    I’m working on a new startup… for the 100 million women like me (Medium)

    From the article: “Dammit — I used to be a punk rocker! I had purple hair and wore Doc Martens and raged against the machine! I used to have an entire “costume night” wardrobe that included vintage cocktail dresses, a Russian fur hat, gogo boots and a full dominatrix outfit with working utility belt! I will NOT go silently into the night…at Chicos…but finding my new and authentic ‘mature’ style is apparently not easy to do.”

    Despite What You May Have Heard, “Believe Women” Has Never Meant “Ignore Facts” (Elle [This is a response piece to a New York Times piece entitled ‘The Limits of “Believe All Women”‘]

    tove lo opens up about the culture of sexual abuse in the swedish music industry (Vice)

    From the article: “Like most women, female artists, and most of my friends, I’ve been put into a situation or backed into a corner and had to make a choice. I’ve had to deal with the the consequences of not wanting to sleep with someone, or of how you reacted to someone putting their hand on your ass. It’s something that we’re taught how to avoid, but it’s not supposed be part of the job.”

    Rape in the storage room. Groping at the bar. Why is the restaurant industry so terrible for women?​ (The Independent)​

    “The body positive movement is being commodified. It’s time to fight back” (Stylist)

    From the article: “And like feminism, any approach to body positivity that refuses to acknowledge hierarchies of privilege – that refuses to learn from those who are more oppressed, and that neglects to fight for those more marginalised – is missing something crucial.”

    Has Hollywood changed? Mel Gibson’s bulletproof career would suggest not (The Guardian)

    From the article: “Alcohol and drugs are seen by many, still, as incriminatory in a woman but exculpatory in a man: a woman who was drunk can’t be trusted if she says she was raped; but a man on the lash can’t possibly be held responsible for his actions. This partly explains the bizarre double standards [Winona] Ryder has endured in her career… It takes a hell of a lot for a straight white man to destroy his own career. And to be honest, it somewhat undermines all the promises I’ve read about the new no-tolerance attitude towards assault, claiming that men have “learned their lesson”, when Gibson is there, grinning unapologetically from my local multiplex.”

    I Want A Wife – why a 46-year-old essay is still shockingly relevant (Daisy Buchanan, The Pool)

    8 Things That Happened to my Body After I Stopped Shaving (Ella Mendoza, the body is not an apology)

    Hey, It’s Me, a Woke Misogynist Sliding Right on into Your DMS (McSweeney’s) [Satire]

    What I need from the men I love (Your Fat Friend, Medium)

    From the article: “I need you to bear witness. I know this is nowhere in your training. I know no one has taught you to sit quietly, feel the texture and fullness of someone else’s pain. I know the itching impulse to argue, to debate, take the issues of the day head on. But this isn’t an issue debate. This is grief — slippery, messy, wily. Half the world is reliving wounds and losses. Offer us condolences. Don’t play devil’s advocate when there are devils all around us.”

    Stop Demanding Women Fit Into a Feminazi/Forgiveness Binary (The Mary Sue)

    From the article: “Ijeoma Oluo, editor-at-large at The Establishment, shared a Twitter thread earlier this week detailing a troubling conversation with a major newspaper, later revealed to be USA Today. Read through the whole thread here, but in short, the newspaper, with whom she had never worked, contacted her to write a ‘rebuttal’ to a piece they were planning to write. Their piece (now published here) argued that ‘it’s great that women are coming forward, but that we need to treat each case individually and remember due process’…”

    Beam Is Like Kickstarter, for Homeless People (Vice)

    From the article: “Years of austerity have stripped away the safeguards meant to protect society’s most vulnerable. Local authority budgets have been slashed, homeless hostels have closed and the benefits cap has plunged thousands into poverty and precarious housing situations … Now, crowdfunding is put forward as part of the solution. The state has failed and the people most savagely affected are invited to post the tragic details of their personal histories online, in an attempt to secure the help to which they should be entitled. Is this the future we want? A future where state support is non-existent and homeless people must compete for assistance like X-Factor contestants?”

    The image is used under a creative commons license with thanks to Alexey Kljatov on Flickr. It is a close-up image of a snow flake.

    F-Word monthly guest bloggers

    The F-Word is recruiting a new crop of monthly guest bloggers for 2018. Each of our bloggers will have a monthly residency on our site, during which they will work with our team of editors and blog to their feminist heart’s content on any feminist-related things they like.

    Ideally, we would love to receive one blog post a week, but understand that as this is a labour of love for all involved that isn’t always possible. The idea is more that each month, we welcome a new voice to share their views, thoughts, and perspectives.

    We are particularly interested in views and positions that are under-represented on the blog. This could be older women, disabled women, working-class women, sex workers, women of minority ethnicities (including Black, Asian, migrant or refugee women and women of dual or multiple ethnic heritage), trans* women, lesbian, gay, bisexual or queer women, male feminists and/or socialist feminists or just someone keen to write about a topic that you think we should feature more frequently.

    We are also especially interested in reactive content that offers a feminist perspective to things happening in the news and popular culture.

    This is not intended to be an exhaustive list – please don’t be put off from emailing us if you’re interested but don’t identify with the perspectives above, particularly if you feel your perspective 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 at this point, we can offer permanent volunteer roles only. We are not paid for our work either so there is no hierarchy or differentiation between paid and unpaid positions.

    To apply please email with a short introduction and some article ideas. Send along any examples of your writing if you’ve got them, but please note that this is not essential for you to be considered.

    The deadline for applications is December 23rd, 2016.

    The F-Word is an online magazine about and for contemporary UK feminism so we are concentrating on contributions relating to this. Contributions are encouraged from UK feminists, people living in the UK, or UK feminists currently living elsewhere. If you are unsure about this you can email us to check.

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

    Image is of a woman working on a laptop from a cafe. Her eyes are not visible in the shot. She wears a smart grey blazer, white blouse and a long, golden, beaded necklace

    December monthly guest blogger The F-Word

    As we race towards the end of 2017, it’s time to welcome Laura Cooke as this year’s final monthly blogger.

    In her own words:

    “Laura is a journalist, writer and blogger based in the south of England. Laura has been writing for local newspapers for 15 years and has developed a special interest in writing about women’s health, fertility, parenting and autism, particularly the issues faced by the parents of autistic children. Her work has featured in a number of national publications.

    When Laura was chosen as a monthly blogger for The F-Word, she was coming to terms with her own infertility and the impact it had on her mental and physical health. Twelve months later, she is mother to a bouncing baby feminist and life has been turned on its head.

    When she is not writing or changing nappies, Laura sits on the management committee at her local branch of Samaritans where she is responsible for fundraising. During her maternity leave, as well as discovering a renewed love of reading thanks to late night breastfeeding, Laura has also developed an obsession with Stranger Things on Netflix and she has yet to fully come to terms with the ending of feminist sci-fi drama Orphan Black. Laura loves going to gigs and travelling around Europe, and fully intends to continue doing so with baby in tow. Follow Laura on Twitter at @lauracooke21″

    Welcome, Laura!

    Featured image by All Bong, from Unsplash. Used under Creative Commons Zero licence.

    Image is of three stacks of books that are leaning against each other for support, with an overall artistic effect. They appear to be in the display window of a shop

    Weekly round-up and open thread

    by Lusana Taylor // 27 November 2017, 5:59 pm


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

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

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

    My Life as a Little Brown Girl Growing up in Scarborough, UK (Dawn)

    Trans women need access to rape and domestic violence services. Here’s why (The Guardian)

    From the article: “But the reason I want to be able to access women’s spaces is because I now exist as a woman and I am treated as one in a misogynist society. Trans women are at least at the same risk as many other women from gendered violence. The tone of recent media coverage has erased this, suggesting that we simply want affirmation of our identity. I don’t care about affirmation of my identity – I care about whether I could go to a rape crisis centre if I had been raped. Or a domestic violence shelter if a boyfriend beat me up.”

    The young women who refuse to stay quiet (BBC)

    From the article: “It’s very similar to being a woman in any other industry. You have to push twice as hard for people to just listen to you, instead of looking for the man they assume is standing behind you. It maybe lonely at the start, you may annoy some people who don’t like to hear the word ‘no’ come out of a woman’s mouth, but you will find people who don’t just accept your independence but who support it and are motivated by it.”

    Katie Hopkins leaves Mail Online by ‘mutual consent’ as column is axed after two years (Press Gazette)

    Rape and no periods in North Korea’s army (BBC)

    From the article: “Juliette Morillot and Jieun Baek say Lee So Yeon’s testimony accords with other accounts they have heard, but warn that defectors have to be treated with caution. ‘There is such a high demand for knowledge from North Korea,’ says Baek. ‘It almost incentivises people to tell exaggerated tales to the media, especially if that comes with nice pay cheque. A lot of defectors who don’t want to be in the media are very critical of “career defectors”. It’s worth keeping this in mind.’ Information from official North Korean sources, on the other hand, is liable to be pure propaganda. Lee So Yeon was not paid for her interview with the BBC.”

    The Fragility of Body Positivity: How a Radical Movement Lost its Way (Bitch Media)

    From the article: “Slapping a body-positive sticker on a capitalistic venture does not it make body positive if it’s not about upending the dieting industry or protecting fat, trans, and disabled people from discrimination, and instead recenters the very people who have always been centered. Body positivity can’t focus on thin, white women and simultaneously tackle discrimination against fat, trans, and disabled people. Expanding legal protections must be the focus, otherwise the outcomes of our lives will continue to be determined by fatphobia, transphobia, and ableism.”

    ‘You’ll never work again’: women tell how sexual harassment broke their careers (The Guardian)

    From the article: “By removing talented, capable, willing people from the workforce, we are hindering our ability to capitalize on the full potential of our entire society. When large portions of the population feel unsafe or completely remove themselves or they’re involuntarily removed from the workforce, we’re limiting our potential. On a large scale.”

    Historically, men translated the Odyssey. Here’s what happened when a woman took the job (Vox)

    From the article: “Recent events have led to a widespread debate over how audiences should consume the work of people we know to be abusers of women. This is intertwined with the question of how we should consume art that has racist, sexist, or otherwise bigoted elements. Often elided from this conversation is the fact that people of color and women of all races have been consuming racist and sexist art in America for generations (in many classes on Western literature, for instance, they have had little choice), and developing their own responses to it, responses that are often deeply nuanced.”

    “Middlemarch” is now a queer coming-of-age web series (i-D Vice)

    From the article: “I think that a lot of my work stems from my frustration with the absence of or erasure of LGBTQ+ histories – pages torn out of diaries, poems destroyed before publication, sexualities conveniently left out of history textbooks, etc. I often find myself wishing for that whole world of LGBTQ+ images and stories and poems and films that should exist. When I catch myself feeling this way, I try to channel that frustration into making these films that, bit by bit, try to help fill up that gap.”

    I wore a dress for the first time in 20 years (Buzzfeed) [Video]

    From the video: Tan tries wearing a dress for the first time in 20 years: “It just reminded me how much of a performance clothing is.”

    What do we do with the art of monstrous men? (The Paris Review)

    Watch out, manspreaders: the womanspreading fightback starts now (The Guardian)

    From the article: “It is something that I’ve been doing for years. After spending my childhood and teenage years being told to “sit properly, for God’s sake”, I decided to rebel by reclining in as unladylike a manner as possible. Ever since I left home, I’ve been sitting how I want to: legs wide apart, feet pointing out, and hands resting on my knees. It’s comfortable, it’s stabilising, and it makes me feel powerful in a way that crossing my legs never does.”

    Former GQ reporter Rupert Myers writes in ES of help from Samaritans after media interest around his actions towards women (Press Gazette)

    What I learned from a year of dumpster diving in Australia (Medium)

    Girl Scouts Issues Bold Warning to Parents to Not Force Girls to Show Affection (Advocate)

    From the article: “’Telling your child that she owes someone a hug either just because she hasn’t seen this person in a while or because they gave her a gift can set the stage for her questioning whether she “owes” another person any type of physical affection when they’ve bought her dinner or done something else seemingly nice for her later in life,’ the piece reads.”

    I work with women facing domestic and sexual violence: it’s devastating to see how much progress is unravelling (The Guardian)

    Nazis Are Just Like You and Me, Except They’re Nazis (The Atlantic) [Satirical response piece to an article appearing in the New York Times entitled ‘A Voice of Hate in America’s Heartland’]

    From the article: “Steve Stevenson dispenses wisdom freely, though he is not a chef. He is 32 years old, and he drinks whole milk, and his tattoos are nonviolent. The kitchen spice rack contains only garlic powder. He wears jeans made of denim. The t-shirt on his back has a tag sticking out, and I read it as he leans in to eye the pot of water: ‘100 percent cotton.’
    ‘What can I say,’ jokes Stevenson, as he sees me taking note of the spice rack. ‘I like garlic powder.'”

    Have we reached peak mansplaining? (Emily Baker, The Pool)

    Now it’s official: the less you have, the more austerity will take from you (Frances Ryan, Guardian)

    From the article: “I can’t decide what’s worse. That for the best part of a decade, this government and its predecessor have brought in a relentless string of cuts, and lined up the most marginalised members of society to take the burden; or that they are doing so while deliberately failing to monitor the damage it’s causing.”

    Fuck that (The Overtake)

    From the article: “For every teenage boy who is freely allowed to go about their daily business by society, there’s a teenage girl who gets pulled up every time she says ‘shit’, ‘fuck’ or in Millie Bobby Brown’s case ‘bitchin’. When she tweeted that word last week she was publically called out by Netflix’s official US Twitter account.”

    We have another music video to include this week! Check out ‘Et2YT’ by Giant Kitty (YouTube via Amara)

    The image is used under a creative commons license with thanks to Julien on Flickr. It shows small green shoots of a plant growing through wooden slats of what could be a bridge or a pathway. The background is out of focus but mountains and blue sky are visible.

    Weekly round-up and open thread

    by Lusana Taylor // 20 November 2017, 6:38 pm


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

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

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

    Saffiyah Khan: anger is an energy (Dazed)

    Lady justice: is the judiciary ready for Brenda Hale? (Prospect Magazine)

    How mid-2000s emo groomed underage girls and poisoned teen boys (Medium)

    Lena Dunham & weaponised white feminism (Danielle Dash)

    From the article: “The truth is Lena Dunham’s feminism is exclusively for white women and white men. When she tweeted back in August ‘things women don’t lie about: rape.’ she meant white women don’t lie about rape and furthermore white men don’t lie about not raping women of colour. Why else would she tweet so thoughtfully then, but today fix her Becky fingers to tweet ‘I believe in a lot of things but the first tenet of my politics is to hold up the people who have held me up…’? This sentiment would be all well and good if in upholding Miller, she didn’t shit all over Aurora Perrineau and expose her glaring hypocrisy. Murray Miller doesn’t need Lena Dunham’s support. Murray Miller doesn’t need Jenni Konner’s support. These two women thought so little of the wellbeing of Aurora Perrineau they weaponised their white feminism and targeted a woman who at this time requires either your support or for you to shut the entire fuck up. An opportunity to be quiet and mind her motherfucking business never passes Lena Dunham by without her failing to grasp them, and more often than not the least represented in society are the victims when her unseasoned, unfettered hot takes hit the fan.”

    Women are happier being single than men because relationships are hard work (Rachel Hosie, Independent)

    The Culture of Alcoholics Anonymous Perpetuates Sexual Abuse (Elizabeth Brown, Tonic, Vice)

    The Production of Ignorance (CN Lester, A gentleman and a scholar)

    Taking to Task Left Liberal Opposition to Greening’s Gender Recognition Reforms (Alex Shar, Inherently Human)

    From the article: “In decades to come we will look back on this Governor George Wallace type moment and we will ask after those who opposed reform, including those on the liberal and libertarian left. What we now have is an opportunity to help history unfold in ways which contribute to human flourishing.”

    Maeve Higgins 2016 Unedited – interview from Des Bishop [podcast]

    Irish-American comedian, Des Bishop, interviews another comedian Maeve Higgins. During the interview he first of all disagrees with her view of the comedy world, and then becomes very defensive when she reminds him of a sexist thing he once said to her. It’s a very uncomfortable listen and includes him talking over her, gaslighting her and suggesting that she just didn’t get the joke. There’s no transcription.

    Why Men Aren’t Funny (Lindy West for the New York Times)

    From the article: “In his ‘apology’ he mentions his anatomy multiple times, but the words ‘I’m sorry’ not once. On the surface, he convincingly telegraphs contrition and a deep disgust at his own weaknesses, but disarming self flagellation has always been his art. The careful message is ‘I, one man, made one mistake,’ not ‘I, among many others, preyed upon vulnerable women in my industry, on purpose, because I am both a defender and a beneficiary of an entrenched system of oppression.’ It’s easier to get your old job back if the power structure that gave it to you in the first place stays intact.”

    And to finish off our weekly round-up for this week, here’s a song by Dream Nails which feels particularly timely.

    Dream Nails – Tourist (YouTube)

    Lyrics to ‘Tourist’:
    You’re just a tourist
    Take your pictures and leave
    You want somewhere to stay?
    Stay away from me!

    I’m not your story
    I’m not your novelty
    I’m not here for you to be a hero

    I’m not your story
    I’m not your novelty
    I’m not here for you to be a hero

    You’re just a tourist
    Take your camera and leave
    You only want

    I’m not your story
    I’m not your novelty
    I’m not here for you to be a hero

    I’m not your story
    I’m not your novelty
    I’m not here for you to be a hero

    You’re just a tourist
    You’re just a tourist
    You’re just a tourist
    I hope you had a nice trip!

    You’re just a tourist
    You’re just a touri-ist
    You’re just a tourist
    You’re just a tourist!

    I’m not your story
    I’m not your novelty
    I’m not here for you to be a hero

    I’m not your story
    I’m not your novelty
    I’m not here for you to be a hero

    The image is used under a creative commons license with thanks to Richard Walker on Flickr. It is a photograph of a small fishing boat out at sea, silhouetted against a beautiful golden sunrise.

    Dr Emma Byrne is a scientist, journalist and public speaker. Her BBC Radio 4 ‘Four Thought’ episode was selected as one of the ‘Best of 2013’ by the programme’s editors. She has been selected as a British Science Association Media Fellow and for the BBC Expert Women Training, and is published in CIO, Forbes, the Financial Times and e-Health Insider. Swearing is Good For You is her first book

    Content note: This article refers to Harvey Weinstein and Donald Trump, and misogyny in general. It also contains strong language (including several uses of the c-word in its unexpurgated form)

    While I was doing the research for my book Swearing is Good for You I read so many papers that asked (in one case, right in the title) why women swear. The news from the last few weeks might go some way to answering what we’ve known for a long time: we swear because there’s a fuck of a lot to swear about. But what galls me is that in the approximately 600 papers I read on the subject, not a single psychologist or neuroscientist thought to ask why men swear. When it comes to words, male power and female purity are the unexamined norms.

    In English-speaking countries at least, this naive belief about women’s language dates back almost entirely to one particular arsehole with one particular book. In 1673, the chaplain to King Charles II, Richard Allestree, wrote the patronisingly titled (and it goes downhill from there, frankly) The Ladies’ Calling. Drawing on his entirely empty reserves of medical and scientific knowledge, he insisted that women who swear undergo “a metamorphosis, becoming decidedly masculine”. According to Allestree, “there is no noise on this side of Hell can be more amazingly odious [to God than] an oath out of a woman.” A hungry child may cry or a sick person may groan. What really pisses God off is a woman using a four letter word, though.

    Since that time, women have lost the knack of inventive swearing, which is a damn shame. Swearing has a huge emotional impact. And we know through research that swearing is just as likely to be used as the result of a positive emotion as a negative one: we swear just as much in excitement, elation or sympathy as we do in anger or frustration. If women curb their tongues, we lose the most powerful linguistic tool there is. It makes no sense.

    I was trying to digest the misogynist censorship of Allestree and his adherents in the humanities reading room of the British Library and, given that leaping up on my table and yelling “Fuck this utter shit!” would probably have got me barred, I ended up writing the following to my editor:

    It’s not men going through the rigours of pregnancy and childbirth (which, by definition, involve fucking, shitting and bloody cunts!) but we’re supposed to know nothing about bodily functions?

    The joys of having a supportive woman as an editor – that rant made it into the book practically unaltered.

    But, as I continued with the research, I realised that the c-word had started to take on shades of its American meaning. I’ve used it intimately, when writing erotica, when bemoaning the bloody irritations of menstruation. But in the United States, the c-word is almost exclusively used as a misogynistic slur. And the more women I’ve spoken to in the UK, the more it seems that the gynophobic baggage of that usage is creeping into our understanding of it too.

    Nowhere is this more apparent than in the allegations from women in the film industry about the abusive behaviour of Harvey Weinstein. Kate Beckinsale, for example, relates how this petulant man, for all his power, would completely lose control when she said no to him: “[it] ended up with him screaming at me calling me a cunt.”

    But it isn’t the c-word itself that is the problem. That arrangement of letters means what we, as a society, allow it to mean. And tellingly, that same meaning comes through even when the speaker can’t quite allow themselves to use the word. Like when Donald Trump called Hillary Clinton “a nasty woman” during the presidential election debates.

    Because that is exactly what the c-word means when it’s used as a slur: nasty woman. Women who have found the resources not to silently acquiesce to the demands of some man for power, sex or position. When it’s used like this, the c-word is meant to shame us. To remind us who is meant to have the power.

    Used like that, the c-word is thrown around by mewling gynophobes in an attempt to intimidate and silence women; particularly women who want to live in a world where it’s the perpetrators of sexual assault who feel shame, instead of their victims. It’s hurled at women who will speak out rather than remain silent when they see injustice. In the minds of these men, a cunt is a woman who refuses to put the insatiable needs of an entitled man ahead of their own. If that is what it means to be a cunt, then I’m a cunt and proud.

    Swearing Is Good For You by Emma Byrne is published by Profile and is available to purchase in both paperback and eBook format from a variety of book retailers and eBook platforms.

    The image is the cover of the book Swearing Is Good for You by Emma Byrne, used with permission. It is a simple cover with bright yellow background and block capital text. The title appears in black font, punctuated with asterisks and exclamation marks. The sub-title ‘The Amazing Science of Bad Language’ appears the same way except in pink font. There is also a quote from Lucy Kellaway, who describes the book as ‘a gloriously uplifting read’.

    Weekly round-up and open thread

    by Lusana Taylor // 13 November 2017, 4:33 pm


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

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

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

    The sexualisation of the Stranger Things kids needs to stop (The Pool)

    80 books no woman should read (Lit Hub)

    Brave enough to be angry (The New York Times)

    From the article: “I did not call myself a feminist until I was nearly 20 years old. My world had taught me that feminists were ugly and ridiculous, and I did not want to be ugly and ridiculous. I wanted to be cool and desired by men, because even as a teenager I knew implicitly that pandering for male approval was a woman’s most effective currency. It was my best shot at success, or at least safety, and I wasn’t sophisticated enough to see that success and safety, bestowed conditionally, aren’t success and safety at all. They are domestication and implied violence.

    To put it another way, it took me two decades to become brave enough to be angry. Feminism is the collective manifestation of female anger.”

    Mum dies alone in her cold house – wrapped up in a coat and scarf (Liverpool Echo)

    Johnson under fresh pressure over Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe error (The Guardian)

    Louis C.K. Is Accused of Sexual Misconduct by 5 Women (The New York Times)

    Reading ‘Girl, Interrupted’ on the Psych Ward (Electric Literature, via Medium)

    From the article: “Kaysen’s account of her years spent in a mental hospital may seem like a strange choice for someone actually facing time in one, but to me it seemed like the most natural thing in the world. If I’d been traveling to Greece I would have brought a Lonely Planet guide or whatever, something that would give me the lay of the land and help me understand the local customs. Since no one has seen fit yet to print a patients’ guidebook to psychiatric wards, Girl, Interrupted — the first chapter of which is titled Toward a Topography of the Parallel Universe — would have to do.”

    Drag Priti Patel for trying to fund genocide, not for being ‘diversity hire’ (gal-dem)

    The bigoted British media is actively endangering trans people (Huck Magazine)

    From the article: “The idea that being trans is easier in society than being gay is a total canard; neither is a walk in the park, homophobic violence is still common and largely unpunished by police forces that dismiss homophobic and racist violence, and any form of sexual assault. Being trans is far harder: it’s far more acceptable to be transphobic in modern Britain, the risk of physical violence is far higher, and even the most self-avowedly polite members of society will happily question and dismiss your life choices, gender presentation and right to self define, whether in the work place or in newspaper columns.”

    Diana Nyad: My Life After Sexual Assault (The New York Times)

    When Sia shared her own naked picture she made a stand for women everywhere – but she shouldn’t have had to (Pip Williams, Independent, (via Women’s Media Center))

    Keep Your TERF; We’ll Make Our Own Movement (Steph Farnsworth, Stand Up Mag)

    From the article: “It is not lesbophobic to support trans women. Transphobic feminists have co-opted the identity and oppression of lesbian women, who are targeted because of their exclusive attraction to other women. Lesbianism is a sexuality. It is not an ideology of hate. It does not deserve to be corrupted by those seeking to oppress other queer people. It’s a disservice to all lesbians in the queer community who simply want all queer people to be supported.”

    Modest Dressing, as a Virtue (Naomi Fry, New York Times)

    From the article: “Modest fashion might come across as a humblebrag: You have to be a pretty stylish, pretty good-looking woman to claim ownership of such radical dowdiness. (The style seems especially popular among women in their 20s and 30s — trumping the received wisdom that one should flaunt one’s body before it is marked by the supposed scourges of childbearing or menopause.) It can also sometimes seem like an elitist project of sociocultural self-positioning: By embracing the covered-up look, you declare yourself part of a particular psychographic tribe, one whose members don’t just dress for other women, but for a particular subset of other women — those who get it, who are sophisticated enough to understand that opting out of conventional beauty standards makes for its own kind of conceptual, better-than-thou fashion. It also, however, has the feel of a real dare.

    “Observing this version of feminist signaling, which conflates the rebel, haphazard spirit of a Bloomsbury Group-like smockishness with traces of early ’90s grunge and a dash of post-bellum Sunday best, we might begin to ask ourselves: What happens when women start dressing in ways that are less than conventionally flattering? Why are they doing it? And what does it look like when fashion choices that might have been linked to female oppression perform in the service of liberation?”

    No, Giles Coren, being overweight isn’t the worst thing in life (The Pool)

    From the article: “I’m really bored of fatphobia. It still hurts initially, but eventually I just get frustrated that we’re still doing this. I’m bored of the arguments with strangers who feel they have the right to comment on my body and whether I have the right to exist in the same way a thin person does. I’m bored of meeting a new person or watching a new TV show/film and being hit by a joke about how fat people are lazy or unattractive within the first five minutes. And I’m bored of tired, stale rent-a-gobs like Giles Coren and Katie Hopkins making fun of fat people when they want attention but can’t think of anything original to say.”

    Gender pay gap widening for women in their 20s, data shows (The Guardian)

    The image is used under a creative commons license with thanks to Jill Bazeley on Flickr. It is a photograph of a beach scene, taken at sunset. The sun is hanging low in the sky and casting a yellowish-orange glow over the wet sand and rocks.

    CN: Links to posts about sexual assault.

    I suppose that I must start this month’s post by addressing some of the events in the comedy and theatre worlds that have followed on from the Harvey Weinstein horrors. I will admit to a certain amount of cynicism; the Old Vic signed this Joint Statement from the Theatre Industry and yet their old Artistic Director, Kevin Spacey, is one of first people to have accusations made against him. It is right that the Charity Commission are asking questions of the venue’s Board. And Spacey absolutely will not be the only Artistic Director of a major theatre or theatre company who has abused his power to abuse others.

    However I am pleased about what Vicky Featherstone and her team are doing at the Royal Court. They have published a code of behaviour and a policy that won’t be perfect but are at least a start. What I particularly like about their suggestions are that they say there should be at least three structures for reporting behaviour and they recognise that for complainants “experiencing harassment can be complex and that thoughts and feelings around a particular incident may change during this process”. Both of these elements can be overlooked in company policies.

    It will be interesting to see what, if anything, happens next.

    Now let’s move on to the fun stuff, lots of which is happening this very week!

    Damsel Develops is a new festival committed to helping emerging female directors develop work. It runs from Monday 13 until Sunday 19 November at the Bunker Theatre in London. Damsel Productions’ Artistic Director Hannah Hauer-King says: “The shift we’ve seen in the industry towards supporting female writers has been fantastic and we now want to see it opened up into all creative roles […] Our hope is that the pieces across the festival will have a future life and bring success and inspiration to the women involved.”

    The Funny Women Awards are currently in process. There are still a fair few heats to come including this Monday 13, Wednesday 15, Monday 20, Wednesday 22 November at the Betsey Trotwood in London; Sunday 19 November at Phoenix Arts Club in London; Saturday 25 November at Komedia in Brighton and Saturday 2 December at the RADA Studios in London. They will be collecting for UN Women and the HeForShe movement on the night.

    Diamond at Soho Theatre from Monday 13 to Saturday 18 November explores LGBT+ history spanning the 60-year period from 1957 to 2017 through the personal biography of David Hoyle. Mary Paterson wrote this cracking review for The F-Word of a previous show of Hoyle’s so this will definitely be worth a watch.

    Also at Soho Theatre later in the month will be Wild Bore by Adrienne Truscott, Ursula Martinez and Zoe Coombs Marr. “Wickedly self-deprecating of their own avant-garde artistic practice and ready to throw some punches, the three have teamed up for the first time to delve into the torrent of critical fury that each have attracted throughout their careers, to prove they too are not afraid to talk out of their arses.” It runs from Tuesday 21 November until Saturday 16 December.

    Marking the 100th anniversary of the Russian Revolution, Inside Pussy Riot, a new immersive production by Les Enfant Terribles at the Saatchi Gallery in London, encourages audiences to pull on the balaclava and stand up for what they believe in with themes including censorship, patriarchy and pollution. It runs from this Tuesday 14 November until Sunday 24 December.

    HOME in Manchester has Hot Brown Honey from Tuesday 12 December to Monday 18 December. I cannot recommend this show highly enough; here’s what I had to say about it last August. They’re not wrong when they say: “this posse of phenomenal women smash stereotypes, remix the system and dare to celebrate our similarities and differences.”

    And lastly, check out this episode, ‘Smile’, from Kate Jessop’s Tales From Pussy Willow, a satirical web series which combines animated cut outs with live actors. It really made me laugh.

    There probably won’t be a blog post in December, but I’ll be writing again in early 2018. See you then!

    Image one is Damsel Develops’ logo. The company’s name is in white capitals over an explosion of yellow powder.

    Image two is the logo of Inside Pussy Riot. A stylised figure wearing a pink balaclava is on a yellow background. The words “Inside Pussy Riot” are overlaid in pink and black. Very faintly over the background the words “Hail Mary, Expel Putin”, the name of Pussy Riot’s punk prayer, can be seen. The whole image looks as if it has been crumpled.

    Quentin Tarantino

    Constanze Wilson is an intersectional feminist based in Cambridge. As someone with chronic health issues her particular interests include health as a social issue, especially the relationship between systems of oppression, physical/mental health and the stigmatisation of certain health problems

    Following the recent stream of sexual abuse allegations against Harvey Weinstein, the producer of many Tarantino films, Quentin Tarantino relayed this message through actress Amber Tamblyn:

    On reading this, I was incensed by the fact that Tarantino hadn’t automatically condemned what had been revealed as a decade-long affair involving more than 40 women. It also seemed problematic that his statement centralised his personal hurt over the issue itself.

    I reminded myself that we didn’t yet know Tarantino’s position: part of me excused his statement on the premise that the idea of a close friend being a serial abuser must be highly distressing. But it turns out that this was not, in fact, new information to Tarantino.

    In an hour long-interview with The New York Times, comments from which were published about a week after his by-proxy statement, he admitted to having been aware of Weinstein’s actions for decades. I expected the interview to serve as an public condemnation of Weinstein and an apology for Tarantino’s own lack of action, yet this didn’t happen. Rather than presenting himself as committed to improving the safety of women in Hollywood, he reveals the existence of a mindset underscored by the sexism he seeks to distance himself from.

    From The New York Times’ article:

    “I knew enough to do more than I did,” he said, citing several episodes involving prominent actresses. “There was more to it than just the normal rumors, the normal gossip. It wasn’t secondhand. I knew he did a couple of these things.”

    The NYT then considers the true extent of this awareness and Tarantino’s willingness to confront it:

    But Mr. Tarantino said he had failed to consider whether the women he knew were part of a larger pattern of abuse. Though he continued to hear alarming stories over the years, he proceeded to make film after film with Mr. Weinstein, his greatest champion — a decision he now regrets

    I believe that this depiction of Tarantino as the unwilling bystander who failed to connect the dots somewhat obfuscates his complicity, taking away his responsibility for hearing story after story of abuse and refusing to see a pattern.

    There were, however, some aspects of Weinstein’s conduct Tarantino was forced to engage with. Tarantino explains that he knew that his then-girlfriend Mira Sorvino had been a victim of Weinstein’s advances; he explains his shock but that he considered the problem “resolved” as he was dating her at the time: “I’m with her, he knows that, he won’t mess with her, he knows that she’s my girlfriend.”

    As Sorvino was now “with” Tarantino, any further assault would be directly offensive to him as it would represent another man intruding on his property. He could see nothing wrong with her safety being directly dependent on the protection his power afforded as opposed to it being a function of the right to a safe existence.

    Here, women are conceptualised only through their relationships to other men. Tarantino is himself guilty of perpetuating the systemic oppression that enabled and tolerated Weinstein’s actions.

    At the end of the interview, Tarantino seems to ask the public to see his films as stand-alone entities, a privilege that has been granted to numerous other major players in Hollywood who have been involved in sexual assault allegations: Roman Polanski is still revered as a genius and Woody Allen’s films continue to attract well-known stars such as Elle Fanning. From the NYT:

    Asked how the news about Mr. Weinstein would affect how the public views his own record and body of work, Mr. Tarantino paused. “I don’t know,” he said. “I hope it doesn’t”

    If we, as a society, continue to give platforms to such individuals then we send the message that directorial vision can be placed above the bodily autonomy and safety of women.

    However, hope may be gleaned from the fact the recent weeks have also been marked by collective social action. We’ve seen a clear backlash, especially in the #metoo campaign and in the vast numbers of individuals now empowered enough to speak out. The impunity granted to these men should not be inviolable. Tarantino and his colleagues would do well to take note.

    Featured image from Wikipedia Commons, used under Creative Commons Zero licence.

    Image is of Quentin Tarantino. He is looking slightly past the camera and appears to be laughing. He is wearing a green and black hooded sweatshirt

    In a (sort of) continuation of August’s playlist, this month’s playlist began with an idea to mark the anniversary of the election of the 45th US President by exploring the reinvigoration of the protest song if, for no other reason, than him having inspired a lot of its most recent output.

    Somewhere along the line, however, a newer and equally vital musical story reared its head, namely the simultaneous bemoaning of the death of rock by a number of key (largely male) sections of the music industry, and the accompanying rebuttal of such sentiments by a number of (largely female) musicians and critics.

    As such, it seemed a good opportunity to shine a light on the likes of Lola Pistols, Rews, Skating Polly, Honeyblood, Pale Honey, Gothic Tropic, Miya Folick, Vagabond and EERA, to name a few. In a nod to both the protest arm and the guitar rock arm of this playlist, you will also hear HAWK’s harrowing take on Irish abortion laws, and at the poppier end of the protest spectrum, MALKA’s ode to the NHS. It also needs to be added, as in August, that this is quite a sweary playlist. You have been warned…

    We begin with Those Darlins ‘Oh God’, a sentiment much in my mind on 9 November 2016. The song that follows it, Aimee Mann’s ‘Can’t You Tell?’ should really have been subtitled ‘The resistible rise of Donald Trump’. It was released prior to that November and is a well observed satire of the whole campaign. Will Varley’s thought provoking ‘To Build A Wall’ was also released pre November 2016, whereas both Arcade Fire and Mavis Staples’ blistering ‘I Give You Power’ and Allred and Broderick’s ‘The Ways’ were released on 20 January 2017: Inauguration day. There followed a series of songs released to raise money for Planned Parenthood, including Estelle’s excellent ‘Woman’s World’, which I wanted to include in the playlist but couldn’t make fit. There was also, more generally, the angst, anger and despair of Grace Mitchell’s ‘Kids (Ain’t Alright)’, a song that should have been subtitled ‘WTF just happened?!?’ Most recently there has been the brooding sonic introspection of EMA’s Exile In The Outer Ring.

    The question of political pop is a complex and contentious one, much discussed, most recently by Dave Randall’s excellent book Sound System: The Political Power of Music, an imaginative, innovative and inspiring book that thoroughly explores the relationship between music and politics (for good or for ill) from every possible angle. His final chapter, written from his viewpoint as a musician and activist, is the ‘Rebel Music Manifesto’ in which he speaks directly to musicians, and fans, about their roles and responsibilities in 2017.

    “My contention throughout this book is that culture matters” he writes

    more than many people realise. But it does not change the world on its own. The more removed an artist is from other sites of political struggle, the less relevant their artistic output will be.

    Similarly, the historian Carol Dyhouse, in her history of the moral panic from a female perspective, Girl Trouble, wrote in 2013:

    The historian bent on taking the long view may discern clear signs of progress, but this is not in any way the surrender to complacency. For history also demonstrates the ever-present possibilities of backlash, reaction and new oppressive forces. Young women need feminism as much as ever, if they are to see their lives in context and to live them fully.

    Dyhouse’s words feel very timely in 2017, and relate to the latest twists and turns in the women and rock debate as much as they do to the lives of women in Trump’s US. The surging flood of new protest music also seems to reflect this hard learned lesson, and to heed Randall’s message to the musicians of today.

    Image shows a pair of flowery Converse trainers flanked (on the right) by Dave Randall’s book Sound System and (on the left) by Carol Dyhouse’s book Girl Trouble. Image by Cazz Blase. All rights reserved

    Video is the fanzine/lyric video made to accompany Grace Mitchell’s ‘Kids (Ain’t Alright)’. The video begins with a group of unidentified young adults making a fanzine in what looks like a bedroom. The fanzine is called ‘Kids Ain’t Alright’ and the lyrics to the song are shown in the video using pages from the fanzine. There’s also inserts of kids skateboarding at night, setting fire to things, breaking bottles and generally running amok. Grace’s picture appears at the very end of the video, on the contributors page at the end of the fanzine.

    Weekly round-up and open thread

    by Lusana Taylor // 6 November 2017, 4:21 pm


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

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

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

    Tackling the ‘boys’ club’ of political cartoons (BBC)

    Complicity in the sexual abuse of women is built in to the heart of our politics (The Guardian)

    Women aren’t ruining food (Jaya Saxena, Taste)

    From the article: “This isn’t the first time a pink beverage has been ruined, nor is it the first time a food or beverage has become so popular that it invites an inevitable backlash. This is how capitalism works: Consumers enjoy something, brands notice demand and turn the product into a lifestyle, and consumers dutifully recoil. But instead of being angry at the free market, the ire toward #rosé is directed at the population widely believed to be responsible for its downfall: women. It’s ‘lady petrol,’ according to BBC host Jeremy Clarkson. It’s ‘exhausting,’ according to Eater. It’s unsophisticated. It’s over.”

    Speaker Bercow calls for zero tolerance of harassment (BBC)

    This striking new zine is dedicated to normalising black art (Dazed)

    Theresa May to crack down as sex harassment allegations grow (The Guardian)

    Women don’t need to learn to take a joke – men need to stop acting like one (The Sydney Morning Herald)

    From the article: “The reality of sexual harassment and abuse has also been absorbed into a cultural lexicon that has almost entirely allowed male creators to reflect their version of reality. We think women respond coquettishly and positively to the raffishness of these men because that’s what men’s stories have always told us. Where we are perhaps seeing the shift now is in how many women are taking back power when it comes to the portrayal of their own lives.”

    19 Things Pop Culture Gets So, So Wrong About Depression (Buzzfeed)

    Disability Should Be Integral to the #MeToo Conversation (Rewire)

    Attitudes to same sex relationships around the world (The Economist)

    From the article: “In the West, few civil-rights movements have prevailed so quickly and comprehensively as the campaign for gay rights. In America, support for same-sex marriage has shot up from 27% to 64% since 1996—faster than the rise in acceptance of interracial marriage beginning in the late 1960s. Ireland has gone from having few openly gay public figures to legalising gay marriage and having a gay prime minister. But what about the rest of the world? How do Chinese or Peruvian people feel about gay rights? For that matter, what about the inhabitants of Angola? The International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association (ILGA) has released some numbers that provide a tantalising hint, if not much more than that.”

    Teacher who took “upskirt” photos of his students at a London school *might* face a ban (The Pool)

    From the article: “Andrew Corish, a teacher from an all-girls school in Croydon, admitted he used his phone to film up pupils’ skirts and stored the images and videos for sexual gratification. As a punishment for preying upon young girls and taking advantage of his position as an assistant headteacher, he potentially faces a classroom ban. That’s it. That’s all. That is the full extent of his punishment. He will not go to prison, because what he did technically, incomprehensibly, does not constitute a criminal offence.”

    A glossary of sexual harassment cliches – what does ‘good-natured groping’ really mean? (Arwa Mahdawi, Guardian)

    Women of color have always had a place in punk. Big Joanie is here to remind you of that (Owen Myers, The Fader)

    Jo Brand silences all-male panel on Have I Got News for You with perfect explanation of why sexual harassment isn’t funny (Harriet Agerholm, Independent)

    I Tried Out Being A Stock Image Model (Sara Yasin, Buzzfeed)

    The Big Picture: Confronting Manhood After Trump (Lisa Wade, Public Books)

    From the article: ” If we’re going to survive both President Trump and the kind of people he has emboldened, we need to attack masculinity directly. I don’t mean that we should recuperate masculinity—that is, press men to identify with a kinder, gentler version of it—I mean that we should reject the idea that men have a psychic need to distinguish themselves from women in order to feel good about themselves. This idea is sexist on its face and it’s unsettling that we so rarely think of it that way.

    In fact, we should be as suspicious of males who strongly identify as men as we are of white people who strongly identify as white. We should understand, in hindsight, that one of the reasons women were so keen to embrace masculinity in the first place was because it feels good to feel superior. And we should recognize, as well, that it is men’s belief that they should be superior to women and other men that is the cause of so much of their rage, self-hatred, and suffering.”

    Fun Home creator Alison Bechdel on turning a tragic childhood into a hit musical (Rachel Cooke, The Guardian)

    Men behaving inappropriately (language: a feminist guide)

    From the article: “Recent media reports have been full of expressions which trivialise the issue of sexual harassment and–let’s not mince our own words here–sexual violence. ‘Sleaze’, for example. And ‘lewd’. But to my mind, ‘inappropriate behaviour’ is the worst, most insidious offender. Because it isn’t just a tabloid cliché. In fact it’s more like the opposite– a formula that makes its user sound educated, serious, and free from the combined prurience and moralism with which the tabloids approach anything to do with sex.”

    We bailed out the bankers. And yet we’re ready to throw care workers to the wolves (Sonia Sodha, The Guardian)

    However You Identify We Must All Be Trans Allies (Ruth Hunt, Huffington Post)

    From the article: “Dressing ‘like a boy’, wearing a suit, having short hair, is my way of being a woman. It does not mean that I’m trans. Most people who are trans have an innate sense that the sex they were assigned at birth does not match their gender identity – it’s not about dressing like how you would expect a boy or a girl to dress, and frankly it’s insulting to suggest it is. In fact, what clothes you wear has nothing to do with your gender identity.

    In recent weeks and months, we’ve seen endless headlines about trans people. Headlines that make ludicrous statements about how more people than ever are ‘turning trans’.

    You cannot make someone trans any more than you can make them a butch catholic lesbian with dyslexia (I didn’t mention that in the opening paragraph, did I?). Being trans is an innate part of who someone is and what they know to be true about themselves. This is exactly the same thing as me knowing I’m not trans, and frankly it’s exactly the same for sexual orientation. People used to ask me how I knew I was a lesbian. My answer: how do you know you’re straight?”

    The image is used under a creative commons license with thanks to “>Or Hiltch on Flickr. It is a photograph of heart-shaped biscuits which are lightly dusted with icing sugar and are placed inside, what looks to be, a red tissue-paper lined basket or tin.

    Further Reading

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